“Solomon began to build the temple for the Lord in the four hundred eightieth year after the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 6:1) and … “he built it in seven years” (1 Kings 6:38).
At the dedication service, Solomon “knelt down in front of the entire congregation of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven. He said: Lord God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven or on earth… Will God indeed live on earth with humans? Even heaven, the highest heaven, cannot contain you, much less this temple I have built… When Solomon finished praying, fire descended from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple” (2 Chronicles 6:13-14, 18; 7:1).
If the Exodus began in 1446 BC as many scholars believe, then the temple construction began in 966 BC and was dedicated in 959 BC. Solomon’s temple stood for three-hundred, seventy-three years, until 586 BC when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and its temple and carried the nation of Israel into captivity.
Later, during the days of Ezra, Zerubbabel built a new temple in Jerusalem, completing construction in 516 BC. Zerubbabel’s temple wasn’t as ornate as Solomon’s, but it served God’s purpose. Having returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile, the impoverished Israelites worshipped in “the house of God with joy” (Ezra 6:16).
In 37 BC when Herod the Great assumed control in Judea, he demonstrated his power and wealth by enlarging and enhancing Zerubbabel’s temple. Magnificently transformed, it became known as Herod’s temple. It was here, in Herod’s temple, that Jesus walked, worked, and worshipped. In 70 AD, the Romans destroyed the temple. The retaining wall on the western perimeter of Herod’s temple is all that remains today.
Surrounding the temple, Herod constructed a spacious courtyard called the Court of Gentiles. The Court of Gentiles became known as the Bazaar of Annas. It was here that Annas the High Priest sold doves, lambs, and calves acceptable for sacrifice. Of course, Annas got wealthy by demanding that all worshippers purchase his over-priced livestock. Currency was also exchanged in the Court of Gentiles, because only temple currency was acceptable. And again, the High Priest established the exchange rate, much in his favor.
During the Passover celebration, the Court of Gentiles sounded like the midway at the state fair and smelled like a West Texas feed lot. It was certainly not a prayerful place of worship!
Jesus came into the Court of Gentiles, “and began to throw out those buying and selling. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple. He was teaching them: ‘Is it not written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of thieves!’ ” (Mark 11:15–17). Jesus was passionate about His Father’s house!
Today’s temple is not made of brick and mortar. Every Christian is “God’s temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16) and Jesus is still passionate about His dwelling place. “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you … You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).