When and Why was the Second Temple Rebuilt?

In his current article, Dr. Ralph W. Klein responds to Diana Edelman’s proposal (The Origins of the ‘Second’ Temple: Persian Imperial Policy and the Rebuilding of Jerusalem, Equinox Publishing, 2006) that the Second Temple was actually built during the reign of Artaxerxes I (465-425 B.C.E.) rather than Darius I (516 B.C.E.). Edelman asks the question: “What benefit would have accrued from rebuilding the temple under the reign of Darius while Jerusalem remained unoccupied and in ruins?” By answering the question, Edelman proposes a prominent hypothesis that “Artaxerxes I initiated a single project to rebuild the temple and to fortify Jerusalem at the same time” [my emphasis]. Klein summarizes Edelman’s evidences for her attempt to a late date of the Second Temple as follows:

In support of her hypothesis she discounts the eight dates in the prophets Haggai and Zechariah that link them to the reign of Darius I (Hag 1:1, 15; 2:1, 10, 20; Zech 1:1, 7; 7:1), arguing that they were calculated secondarily, based on the prophecy in Jeremiah of restoration after seventy years (Edelman, ch. 2). She also calls into question the historicity of the account of the building of the temple in Ezra 1-6, arguing that it is based only on what could be learned from a series of biblical passages (Ezekiel 40-48; Second Isaiah; Haggai and Zechariah, including their dates; and 1 Chronicles 22-2 Chronicles 7; Edelman, ch. 3). Two additional chapters investigate the size of Yehud in the fifth century (ch. 4) and the archaeological data that support her hypothesis (ch. 5). Chapter 6 contains her description of the pragmatic issues that led Artaxerxes to fortify Jerusalem and rebuild the temple at the beginning of his reign (Klein 697-98).

Klein argues that Edelman’s “late date for the Second Temple is not plausible” (Klein, 701). He explains the chronological problems with Joshua and Zerubbabel, and clearly states that Joshua, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah are not contemporaries at all. Thus, Klein’s disagreement with Edelman’s hypothesis is based on his literary analysis of the chronological account for Joshua and Zerubbabel. I also think that Edelman “must resolve the chronological problems with Joshua and Zerubbabel” (Klein 701).

But I’m interested in the social context for rebuilding of the Second Temple. It is reasonable to go back to her initial quesitons: “How would either king (Cyrus or Darius) have benefited from a pilgrimage site in a destroyed city in an underdeveloped? Why was the Second Temple rebuilt?

In chapter 5, Edelman discusses the archaelogical data for her hypothesis. She argues that “the settlement patterns within its boundaries in the Persian period at large shows that a series of administrative sites were established on S-N and W-E lines leading from the coastal plain and Beersheba Valley to Jerusalem, the new provincial seat.” In chapter 6, Edelman also discusses the pragmatic issues that the rebuilding of Jerusalem as the provincial seat should have included the rebuilding of the temple so that the local population could honor their native deity and pay their taxes in annual festivals at the site.

If the provincial seat as the Persian policy, which was taken under Artaxerxes I, is the reason why the Second Temple was rebuilt, then her proposal for a late date for the Second Temple is plausible. For the review of Edelman’s book click here

Reference List

Klein, Ralph W. “Were Joshua, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah Contemporaries? A Response to Diana Edelman’s Proposed Late Date for the Second Temple.” JBL 127/4 (2008): 691-702.


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