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Herod's Temple

Julian Spriggs, M.A.

The building of Herod's Temple started in 19 BC and it replaced the temple built by Zerubbabel after the return from exile. It was built as an attempt by the King Herod the Great (who was half Idumaean rather than Jewish) to reconcile the Jews, rather than through any desire to glorify God. To avoid the workmen profaning the temple during its construction, Herod trained some priests as stone-masons and carpenters. The Rabbis continually praised the splendour of the temple, but never mentioned in their writings that it was built by Herod.

The main structure was finished within ten years, but work continued until AD 64, only six years before its destruction in AD 70. It was still under construction during Jesus's ministry (Jn 2:20). Jesus predicted its destruction in the Olivet Discourse. From the Mount of Olives, they would have looked across to the temple complex, seeing the glory of the Beautiful Gate and the golden entrance to the Holy Place. Titus' arch in Rome commemorates the destruction of Jerusalem and has reliefs showing the removal of the temple equipment, including the lampstand and trumpets.

This series of photographs are of the model of First Century Jerusalem in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Position of the Temple

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To provide a flat area to build the temple, a large area on the top of Mount Moriah, measuring almost 300m (1000ft) square, was cleared and levelled. In places the rock surface was cut away, and a large area was built up with rubble supported by columns and enclosed by a wall of massive stone blocks (1m by 5m) (3ft x 16ft). These were the stones whose great size so impressed the disciples (Mk 13:1).

Some of this wall still remains today and is revered by the Jews as the Wailing Wall. At the south-eastern corner, above the Kidron Valley, the court was about 45m (150ft) above the rock.


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