The Life of Jesus in Harmony
Almost five hundred years had elapsed since the Second Temple (Zerubbabel's)
had been built by those who returned from the Babylonian Exile. After that the
Temple had no doubt been repaired and enlarged, but it remained essentially the
old building, inferior in beauty and grandeur to some of the pagan temples
which were around. Not only was it contrary to Herod's love of architecture to
permit the Temple of his own God to remain so modest, but he thought to show his
piety to the Jews by making their Temple grander than the rest. The leading scribes
at first opposed his plan (suspicious). They actually believed that once he
pulled the old building down he would never replace it. Herod had to promise
that he would not touch the old building until he had built the new one around it.
Under no circumstances were the services to be interrupted. Herod hired
workmen by the thousands. Among them were many priests to build those portions not
accessible to ordinary Jews. The work was started by leveling larger portions of
the Temple Mount, so that the new building might be erected on a broader base.
It was also made much taller, so that the white stone gleamed in the bright
Palestinian sun and could be seen from miles away.
On the northern and southern sides of the building were the enclosed halls or
rooms where the priests prepared for the service, and where the Sanhedrin
met. The large open court on the east, facing the Temple proper, was divided
into several parts. Closest to the Temple was the portion set aside for the
altar and the officiating priests. Next to it was the court for the Israelites who
came to watch the service. By the side of that was the gallery for the women,
and behind it was the court of the Gentiles
. The whole area was surrounded by a wall. This is the wall, part of which
remains to this day, known as "The Wailing Wall," to which Jews have gone on
pilgrimage during the recent centuries of exile.
The Temple took many years to build. Begun in 19 BC, it was not finished till
long after Herod's death. The Jews prided in Herod's accomplishment until Herod
placed a huge Roman eagle over the most important gate of the new Temple.
Before long there was a conspiracy to pull the eagle down. When rumor circulated
that Herod was dying, a group of young men gathered before the gate on which the
golden eagle was set and began to pull it down. The soldiers interfered and
forty of them. Herod was so enraged at this sign of insubordination and
insult to Rome, that he had the "rebels" burned alive.