HOUSMAIL Number HM#008 - A TEMPLE TIMELINE                                                              23 October 1998

There have been many recent reports that preparations are under way for construction of a Third temple in Jerusalem. There have also been other spectacular claims that the location of many of the vessels from earlier Temples is now known, and that The Ark Of The Covenant has been found. And of course, there is the Red Heifer discussed in HOUSMAIL No. HM#007

In the course of investigating these reports , I spent some time studying the Biblical history of the FIRST and SECOND Temples. Some of this information may be interesting to those who like to have a picture of events in their historical setting. For some of us, it may also be helpful to our evaluation of whether the reports mentioned above, are relevant to the fulfilment of Bible Prophecies about the THIRD Temple. It is summarised below.


The first temple in Jerusalem was built by Solomon. It was commenced in the fourth year of his reign, and dedicated in the eleventh year (About 1004BC) and continued for about 418 years. It was constructed with FORCED LABOR. There were 30,000 slaves, drawn from amongst the descendants of the people who had occupied the land before Israel. (1 Kings 5:13, 9:15,21)

Over the centuries, under evil kings, the temple was often in disuse, or defiled by idolatry. (Indeed, although it is not directly stated, there is a possibility that Solomon may have been the first to defile his own temple, when he burned incense, and sacrificed to the foreign gods of some of his many wives!)

Under the rule of good kings who walked in the ways of God, it was restored and cleansed.

The table below summarises some of the history of the two previous Temples in Jerusalem. Dates shown are based on Ussher's chronology. However, please note that dates followed by a question mark are mere GUESSES. They do fit into the time frames indicated by Ussher, for the reigns of the various kings, but they have been "estimated" and shown here, only for the purpose of indicating an approximate historical setting for the events listed. (If anyone has does have more accurate dates, or better guesses, please let me know.)

BC1004 Temple dedicated by Solomon. Ark Of The Covenant transferred to Temple. (1 Kings 8:1)

BC971 5th year of Rehoboam - Shishak, king of Egypt, took away all Temple treasures.
            (1 Kings 14:26, 2 Chron 12:9

BC940? Treasury emptied by Asa - tribute to Benhadad king of Syria. (1Kings 15:18)

BC856? Joash repaired temple, and made new vessels. (2 Kings 12:6-12, 2 Chron 24:14)

BC842? Treasury emptied by Joash - tribute to Hazael king of Syria. (2 Kings 12:18)

BC825? During reign of Amaziah, vessels of temple seized by Jehoash king of Israel. (2 Kings 14:14)

BC772? Uzziah is King. EARTHQUAKE does major damage to temple.
              (Amos 1:1, Zech 14:5, Josephus Antiq 9,10,4)

BC740? Treasury emptied by Ahaz - tribute to Tiglath-pilesar, king of Assyria. (2 Kings 16:8)

BC738? Ahaz replaced bronze altar with a design copied from Damascus. (2 Kings 17:10-16)

BC730? Ahaz destroyed the vessels of the temple, closed its doors, and stopped sacrifices.
               (2 Chron 28:24, 29:7))

BC726 Hezekiah reopened the doors, cleansed the temple, restored sacrifices, and Passover.
             (2 Chron 29:1, 30:1)

BC713 Treasury emptied by Hezekiah - tribute to Sennacherib, King of Assyria. (2 Kings 18:15).

BC680? Manasseh built altars in the temple, for foreign Gods. (2 Kings 21:3-7, 2Chron 33:7))

BC644? Manasseh repented and removed idols (2 Chron 33:15-16)

BC623 Josiah's 18th year - purged and repaired temple, restored ark to its place. (2 Chron 34:8, 35:3)

BC606 Jehoiakim's 11th year - Nebuchadnezzar takes part of the temple vessels to Babylon.  (2 Chron36:6)

BC598 Jehoiachin's short reign - more vessels taken to Babylon. (2 Chron 36:10)

BC598-586 Temple polluted by Zedekiah. (2 Chron 36:14)

BC586 Temple finally destroyed and burnt by Nebchadnezzar. All remaining temple vessels
             carried of to Babylon. Jerusalem almost totally destroyed. (2 Chron 36:18-19)


The second temple was built by Zerrubabel, after the return from the Babylonian captivity. It was commenced about BC536, and dedicated in BC516. From the dimensions given in Ezra 6:3, it appears to have been slightly larger than Solomon's Temple. However Haggai says that it was much inferior in construction. (Hag 2:3)

The temple vessels taken by Nebuchadnezzar, were handed back by Cyrus (Ezra 1:7, 5:14, 6:5) and used in the rebuilt temple. However, the Bible does not mention the Ark Of The Covenant in relation to this Temple. If it did still exist, it was not returned from Babylon. However, it may have been lost when the FIRST Temple was burned. Secular history confirms that the second temple did not contain the Ark.

Over the next 500 years, Zerrubabel's temple was also ransacked and defiled several times. The most notable of these events was in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, BC169-165. The sanctuary was defiled by the blood of the many who were slain there. The sanctuary itself was laid waste. Jewish sacrifices were forbidden, and the altar was defiled by pagan sacrifice. The Temple was abandoned and lay derelict until restored and cleansed under the Maccabees.

On another occasion, the Holy of Holies was defiled when the Roman General Pompey insisted on entering it about BC63. (It is recorded that Pompey said that he could not understand all the Jewish interest in the sanctuary, when it was only an empty room.)


Herod's Temple was actually a major restoration and enlargement of Zerrubabel's temple. One source says that Herod put 10,000 men to work and trained 1000 priests as masons so that they could work on the most sacred parts of the temple. The main building work commenced in BC19, and finished 10 years later. However, decoration work continued for many years after that. In the time of Jesus, the building project had been in progress for 46 years. (John 2:20) This statement must have been made about AD30. It was finally completed about AD64, six years before its final destruction by the Romans.

Herod enlarged the dimensions considerably. The main part of the Temple itself, was much the same size as Solomon's. However other associated buildings, and the surrounding courts, made the whole structure much larger.

This was the Temple to which Jesus came.

On the day of the Crucifixion of Jesus (AD30?) an earthquake shook Jerusalem, including the Temple site. Other damage is not recorded, but Matthew does tell us that the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. (Matt 28:51-2)

A generation later, in AD70, it was destroyed by the Roman army led by Titus and Vespasian. Just as Jesus said, "there was not one stone left upon another." (Matthew 24:1-2) To complete the destruction the Roman General, Turnus Rufus, had the site ploughed. (Micah 3:12)

Josephus says that, in return for a promise of mercy, some of the golden vessels and instruments of the Temple were handed to Titus by one of the priests. (War 6,8,3) They were taken to Rome, where they were installed in a "Temple Of Peace", built by Vespasian. (Josephus War 7,5,7) One source which I read claims that they are now held in the Vatican Museum.


Since the destruction of Herod's Temple, the site has continued to play a major role in world history. Besides its importance to the Jews, it has become the THIRD most important sacred site for Muslims. Jealousy over its ownership has triggered wars, influenced politics, and shaped the destiny of nations.

Some of the significant events are listed below.

AD136 A Temple to Jupiter built on the site by Hadrian, after the rebellion led by Bar Kochba.
AD325? Temple to Jupiter destroyed by Constantine. Byzantine Christianity assumes control.
AD363 Emperor Julian authorises Jews to rebuild Temple. Work stopped by fire or earthquake.

AD614 Persians conquer Jerusalem. Jews temporarily resume sacrifices on Temple Mount.

AD628 Byzantines regain control. Small octagon shaped Church built on temple site.

AD638 Muslims regain control. Byzantine church on Temple site converted to Mosque.

AD691 Abd el Malik completes The Dome of the Rock on the Temple site.
             (Also Known as the Mosque of Omar)

AD700 First El Aksa Mosque constructed of wood.
AD746 EARTHQUAKE destroys El Aksa Mosque.

AD1016 EARTHQUAKE causes structural damage on Temple mount.

AD1033 EARTHQUAKE damages El Aksa Mosque.

AD1099 Jerusalem conquered by "Christians" in the First Crusade. Knights Templar convert
               the Dome of the Rock into the "Temple Domini" church and place a cross on top.

AD 1187 Saladin reconquers Jerusalem. Cross and icons removed and Temple Domini becomes a
                mosque again.

 AD1855 First acknowledged non-Moslem visitor permitted to enter Temple mount since AD1187.
AD1917 British capture Jerusalem from Turks. Temple mount opened to Europeans.

AD1948 Rebirth of State of Israel.

AD1949 Jerusalem named as capital city of Israel.

AD1967 6 Day War. Israel captures Temple Mount, but control and stewardship returned to Moslems.

AD1996 Claimed birth of first Red Heifer in Israel since destruction of Temple in AD70.

AD1998 Reports of preparations by several militant Jewish organisations, to rebuild Temple.

Q. Are the original Ark Of The Covenant and the original Temple vessels available for use in a THIRD
A. It would seem unlikely that they have survived the repeated cycle of pillage and destruction of previous
     temples. It would seem most unlikely that any of the vessels taken to Babylon, were originals
     from Solomon's time. New vessels had already been made, long before the end of the FIRST TEMPLE
     period. (2 Kings 12:6-12, 2 Chron 24:14) The Ark of The Covenant restored to its place by Josiah, may
     well have been only the latest in a series of copies made to replace earlier versions, stolen by invaders.
     And there is a strong hint in Jer 3:16 that the Ark no longer exists, and will never be replaced.
Q. Are they essential for a THIRD TEMPLE?
A. Certainly there was no Ark Of The Covenant in the SECOND TEMPLE. There does not seem to be any
     sound reason why it would be more essential for a THIRD TEMPLE. And since a precedent has already
     been set for the use of replacement copies of the other vessels there doesn't seem to be any essential
     requirement for originals in any future temple.
Q. Will the temple be rebuilt at all?
A. I have already indicated my personal preference for the view that this seems unlikely, but not impossible.
     (A good old fashioned each way bet!)
     God willing, this vexed question, will be discussed in more detail, in the next HOUSMAIL.