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A rough stone wall Jerusalem in ruins          

After the people of Jerusalem were conquered by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon, the Temple was sacked and the people deported to Babylon. The long Exile began.

This might have been the end of it. The Jewish people might have disappeared forever.

But in 538BC Cyrus II of Persia reversed the orders of Nebuchadnezzar and allowed the Jewish population to return to their homeland, and to Jerusalem. 

The once magnificent city was a sorry sight.

Where once there had been a Temple, palaces, houses and commercial buildings, now there were ruins. Nothing  remained except a few small buildings and a demoralized peasantry living in huts. They must start again.

Bit by bit the people began to rebuild Jerusalem, determined to re-establish their sacred city.

By 515BC they had restored the Temple, though it was a more modest building than Solomon's. 

The diagram on the left of the page shows a plan of the Second Temple

 The Second Temple (left)

There is no exact description of it,  but we know it was surrounded by two courtyards with chambers, gates and a public square.

At least it had some of the ritual objects of the First Temple. Nebuchadnezzar had returned the sacred vessels looted from the First Temple. But apart from that, it cannot have been as grand as Solomon's Temple - and money was short.

To compensate for this ritual became even more elaborate, and was conducted by hereditary families of Levites. 

Jerusalem once more became the center of the Jewish world.


Centuries passed, and the world saw the brilliance of Alexander the Great.

In this tumultuous period Jerusalem was a cautious bystander.

Coin with the head of Ptolemy I

Coin with head of Ptolemy I 

After Alexander's death, Palestine was ruled by his marshal Ptolemy I, who occupied Egypt and made Alexandria his capital.

In 198 BC Jerusalem was taken over by the dynasty descended from Seleucus I, another of Alexander's marshals.

The new rulers promoted Greek culture and religious ideas and tried to suppress Jewish practices.

The Jewish people vigorously resisted.

In retaliation, Antiochus IV deliberately desecrated the Temple by offering a sacrifice to Zeus on the High Altar. A revolt broke out, led by the Maccabees, who expelled the Seleucids. Judas Maccabaeus cleansed and rededicated the Temple, an event celebrated in the annual Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

Jerusalem regained its position as the capital of an independent state, now ruled by the priestly Hasmonean family.

But the power of Rome was growing, and Roman eyes turned towards Jerusalem.


See HEROD'S JERUSALEM  at the time of Jesus........


Jerusalem, city plan at the time of Nehemiah

            Jerusalem in the post-Exilic period     

Photos of Jerusalem at GALLERY PAGE


Solomon's Palace in Jerusalem - BIBLE ARCHAEOLOGY: PALACES

King Herod's story - BIBLE PEOPLE: HEROD

Mad, bad and dangerous -  Herod in BIBLE TOP TEN VILLAINS

The Temples of Solomon and Herod -  BIBLE TOP TEN BUILDINGS

For Gospel stories about the Temple of Jerusalem:  

Zechariah and the Angel - BIBLE WOMEN: ELIZABETH

Jesus is lost at the Temple - BIBLE TOP TEN YOUNG PEOPLE

Jesus and the woman taken in adultery - THE ADULTEROUS WOMAN

Architecture of Jerusalem in later centuries - ISLAMIC ARCHITECTURE



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