When the Babylonians exiled the Jews and destroyed the First Temple, Jeremiah the Prophet promised that the exile would only last 70 years. The return of the Jews, however, was not a miraculous, overnight occurrence, but proceeded more like a slow trickle that began during the reign of Cyrus in Persia and is chronicled in the Books of Ezra and Nechemia.
Once back in Jerusalem, the Jewish people wished to resume the sacrificial service of the Temple. Without the financial resources to rebuild the grand structure of King Solomon’s Temple, they chose to complete one section at a time.
That first Tishrei (the month of Rosh Hashana), the Jews built just the altar, in order to be able to offer the many sacrifices of Sukkot, which include offerings to honor the other nations of the world. But it took another seven months (until the month of Iyar) until they were able to pour the foundation of the Temple (Ezra 3).
With only a basic foundation, an altar, and the devotion of the Kohanim (priests) and Levites who served in the Temple, the Jews lived for 15 years with on-and-off construction (more off than on), which was frequently interrupted for political reasons, both internal and external.
Finally, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius, the Second Temple was completed “on the third day of the month Adar… And the children of the exile kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month” (Ezra 6:15, 19).
This Temple was actually a modest building built by a people struggling to revive themselves. More than three hundred years later, Herod the Great rebuilt the Temple to the grandeur we see in most Temple replicas today.
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