August 04: destruction of the Temple

2012/08/04 § Leave a comment

On this day in 70 the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.

The first temple was built by Solomon in the tenth century BC.  In 587 it was ruined by Nebuchadnezzar II, who inaugurated the Babylonian Captivity.  After the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem under the Persian king Cyrus, the Temple was rebuilt and completed by Darius in 516 BC.

The temple sparkled with only a hint of the glory accorded to the first temple, and it held none of the extraordinary original liturgical objects that are described in Scripture and ruined or scattered with its destruction.  Still, it was the center of Jewish heritage for centuries, respected by more foreign rulers than not.  Around 20 BC it received a facelift and expansion under Herod the Great.  It was Herod’s temple that was the setting for episodes from the life of Christ recorded in the New Testament, and later the target of Titus.  Responding to a Jewish revolt that began in 66 AD, the Roman army attacked and flattened most of the temple (and city), leaving only a portion of the western wall.  The destruction and delivery of its spoils to Rome are commemoratied in the relief panels in the Arch of Titus in Rome, but its actual remnants are the greater memorial to this vandalism.  The ruins of the temple are perhaps more commonly known as the Wailing Wall, which defines the world’s most important and well-known open-air synagogue.

Image: the Western Wall (from this site)

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