Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A short history of Jerusalem and the temple

Before His ascension, Jesus told the apostles that they would be His witnesses “in Jerusalem”, and the events of Acts 3-4 describe one of these instances. King David established Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and built his palace there. Later the temple was also built there. When the northern tribes split from Judah and Benjamin, Jerusalem remained the capital of Judah. After the Jews returned from exile, they rebuilt Jerusalem’s wall. In Jesus’ time, the Jews occupied the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding region of Judea, although it was then part of the Roman Empire.

The temple was the centre of Jewish religious practice. The first temple was built by King Solomon , but destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 587BC when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. When the Exiles returned, they rebuilt the temple and it was known as Zerubbabel’s Temple. This temple was actually torn down by King Herod the Great, to make way for his own architectural masterpiece. Herod began work in 20BC and it was essentially completed within a decade, a few years before Jesus’ birth and Herod’s subsequent death in 4BC. However, the temple was still having finishing touches added until AD64. It was finally destroyed by the Romans in AD70.

[Image of 1:100 scale model of Herod's Temple, from]

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