The Second Temple Period marked a time during which significant changes occurred through the Jewish rule and foreign tenure. The weeping of Zion did not last for long since soon after the Babylonian kingdom had collapsed to the newly established empire of Persia, Cyrus, king of Persia declared a policy of religious freedom. This was at about 536 BCE that came about 520 years after the country had been destroyed. Cyrus at this time allowed the people who had fled from Judah to return to their homeland and rebuild their Temple. This saw only a small group of people return as the first years were a bit difficult. Those who returned were faced with many challenges that ranged from lack of power or even the resources to build the Temple. They only had to persevere with an altar at the time. However, despite the hardships, the Temple was eventually built but was a bit poor as compared to the initial one.
The returnees fell into the leadership of Ezra the Scribe and the high official Nehemiah who had come to Judah about a hundred years after the first returnees had managed to curb the hostility of their neighbors. They also managed to adhere to the new religious codes that were developed during the foundations of the Jewish religion as it developed. Hence, due to these events Jerusalem became fortified and the temple was rebuilt as a semi-independent Jewish state emerged within the Persian Empire. This marked the beginning of the Second Temple of the history of the Jewish people.
The Persian Rule did not last for long as it fell in 332 BCE when Alexander the Great conquered the Orient and ended their tenure. However, soon after Alexander the Great came to die and his kingdom was divided among Ptolemy, who became the ruler of Egypt, Judah and other neighboring regions such as Seleucus, who ruled over the vast areas from Asia Minor to the border of India and Antigonus who ruled over Greece. Soon after, the rule fell into the Ptolemaic rulers. This was at a time when heroic victories on the battlefield ended with the creation of an independent Jewish state ruled by the Hasmonean dynasty. The effects of the creation of the Temple are thus celebrated until date in the festival of Hanukkah.
This was followed by a fierce competition between two Hasmonean princes in 63 CE over the throne. In this instance one of the contestants invited Rome to intervene where the Roman General Pompey sided with one prince and fought against the other. Consequently these events led to Judah falling under the rule of Rome. However, the last Hasmonean left standing was succeeded by Herod in 37 CE. During this time Herod had braced the rule of Rome through friendship as he was the son of a convert and thus never considered a true worth in the Jews. He replaced the Hasmonean royals despite being rejected by the people. This was followed by criticism from the religious authorities.
His leadership brought about a period of security and prosperity as well as the construction of a number of palaces across the country. He would later retreat to them in the face of growing hostility against him. Following these events, Herod later rebuilt the Temple Mount and later in developed extreme suspicion over the people around him including his immediate family. Herod’s fears escalated to such an extent that he even ordered the assassination of his wife, Miriam, who was a Hasmonean princess, and his two sons.
Herod was later to die in 4BCE at a period when there much unrest and upheaval in Judah. The Romans appointed governors to rule the country firmly. This saw the rise of various leaders who emerged and preached against the political and religious situation of the country and promised a better future. During this time the Hellenistic cities could well have evoked bitter memories of the Hasmonean conquest under Jannaeus who were involved in Herod’s administrative and martial policy. Herod had established two cities on the King’s land namely Phasaelis for his brother Phasael in the Jordan valley north of Jericho. The other one was named Antipatris in the Yarkon Basin for his father Antipater. He intended Phasaelis to become an important economic centre that supported the plantation farms of Jordan Valley.
All this time the Jews were planning to attack and thus targeted during the outbreak of the Great Jewish Revolt. During this period the military colonies in Gabe and Heshbon contributed to the establishment of Jewish Sectors such as Jezreel Valley and Peraea. This was done to defend the Jewish settlement sectors from attacks by their neighbors. The period in office of the sons of Herod as well as his replacements also tend to show his dead occurred in 4 BCE. Herod.
After the death of Herod, the massive lands that he had amassed were divided among his sons where the eldest son, Hero Archelaus got half of the kingdom, Judea, Idumea and Samaria. Herod Antipas got the leadership of Galilee and Peraea while Philip received Gaulanitis and Ituraea in the North East. However, Archelaus was regarded as an incompetent leader through a deputation of Jews and Samaritans raised complaints against his rule. He was later banished by Emperor Augustus to Gaul and the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate was raised to power. He had mandate over Judea but the council of the Sanhedrin had more authority over certain civil matters such as the practice of religion which was attributed to the oversight of the Romans.
There were unrests and riots that emerged during this period based on morality and ideological aspects. During these riots most of the charismatic leaders emerged to preach against the political and religious situation of the country. Among the better days promised during the riots were those of Jesus of Nazareth in the Galilee. He would move to various villages spreading the gospel of love, peace and performing miracles. Jesus had emerged from Palestine where there was much complication and division as well as tension between the people and their Roman overlords. The Zealots in the regions were militant groups who perceived the rule and presence of the Romans as a blasphemy. They thus wanted to throw them out of the region. The actual presence of the Romans signified the presence of Jewish life in Palestine.
These events were followed closely by the capture of Jerusalem in 63 BCE under the tenure of General Pompey. This led to the collapse of the independent Jewish state of Palestine, and the 80 years of Hasmonean dynasty’s rule of high priests. The Roman dynasty initiated the appointment of the high priests to serve the Temple in Jerusalem. They were mandated to regulate the religious interests of Jews as well as the political interests of Rome. This led to much opposition from the Jews where they disregarded the Roman laws related to the census, taxation, and heathen traditions. The particularly despised the imposition of a census on property for tax purposes. This occurred because the Jews feared that their ancestral land would be appropriated by the Romans.
The unrests that emerged during this time led to the crucifixion of more than 2,000 Jewish insurgents while about 20,000 more Jews were sent to slavery. Most of the opposition emanated from a place called Galilee in Palestine where the Zealots were forming their armed resistance. This saw the Romans regard to the Jewish nationalism as a threat to law and order. Similarly, there emerged two significant movements in Palestine under the rule of Herod Antipas the ruler of Galilee. These movements revolved around the imposition of heavy taxes on the poor people who lived in Tiberius. The first significant movement was engineered by the apocalyptic visionary, John the Baptist. He had called upon his followers to repent and live according to righteous ways in preparation for the vengeance of God. This occurred through a purification process where he immerge the people into the Jordan River as a symbol of cleansing.
The events of John the Baptist became so popular and they reached the leader Herod Antipas. Antipas called for the arrest of John the Baptists in the fear of any riots that would emerge due to his actions. He later ordered for his execution though beheading. This characterized the motivation of Jesus through the modification of the ways of John the Baptist. Jesus initiated his teachings in the year 28-29 BCE, where he described an ideal world where the existence of God was more ideal as opposed to that of Caesar or the high priests. He advised the people to transform their ways there and then, and not rely on the vengeance of God later. This largely challenged the ways of the Roman leaders and the Temple officials.
At this such activities brought about by the ways of Jesus had several criminal activities. The Roman leaders keenly watched over the activities of the Temple and any forms of threats were treated with much harshness especially when a group of 40 young men climbed on top of the roof and destroyed the golden eagle that was symbolic to the Romans in terms of their control. These men were punished severely through being burnt alive while others were executed. Through such events, the Roans had to keenly analyze the potential risks posed by activities such as the celebration of the Passover Festival. It was perceived a threat in that large numbers of Jews were streaming in to commemorate their former freedom especially at a time when they were under new oppression.
It was during this event that Jesus of Nazareth came to Jerusalem about a week before the Passover festival to bring about the message of the forthcoming Kingdom of God. During this time Jesus took part in the protests that emerged against the commercial activities that went on at the Temple. The Jews felt offended by these activities and Jesus complained about them to an extent that he overturned the tables belonging to the people changing money with the image of the emperor. At this moment in time Jesus was arrested at garden of Gethsemane at night by the Temple police under the orders of Caiaphas the high priest and Roman commanding officials. After his arrest, Jesus was brought to trial before the presence of Jewish, Romans and Herodias officials. Jesus was tried before Sanhedrin due to his rising popularity which led to the uprisings that provoked a violent response from Rome.
Jesus was later taken to the Roman prefect of Judea Pontius Pilate simply because the death penalty was not available for the Sanhedrin under the Roman law. Jesus had been apprehended due to envious actions from the high priests about his rising popularity. He was charged with various allegations where Pilate allows him to be executed in order to curb the upheavals of the crowd. He later washed his hands to signify he was not involved in the crucifixion as according to him Jesus had not committed any crime. After this his disciples went round spreading the gospel and after a short time there was the birth of a new religion, Christianity. Similarly, after these events, there was a wide spread anti-Roman revolt that started in the Galilee and eventually spread to Jerusalem. The Second Temple thus came to an end in a disastrous way for the Jewish people and ever since they lived in exile.
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