Old Testament History

By Henry Preserved Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
THE REBUILDING OF THE TEMPLE

THE occupation of Babylon by Cyrus came late in the year 539 B.C.1 It would be reasonable to expect a clear account of the history of the Jews from this time on, for we should suppose the literary tendency powerful enough to put on record what actually occurred. But the expectation is grievously disappointed. No period of the people's history is more obscure than that which comes between the advent of Cyrus in Babylon and the mission of Nehemiah to Jerusalem, unless it be the period which immediately follows the work of Nehemiah.

According to the account given in the Biblical book of Ezra, and until recently commonly accepted, Cyrus had no sooner established himself in Babylon than he issued a distinct decree that the Jews in Babylonia should be permitted to return to their own city. The decree gives the rebuilding of the Temple as the special purpose of the return; and the king has no hesitation in avowing his motive, namely, that Yahweh, God of Israel, has given to him all the kingdoms of the earth and has commanded him to build Him a house in Jerusalem. The decree is dated by the Biblical author in the first year of Cyrus, by which he means the first full year of the possession of Babylon, in our calendar 538 B.C.

The difficulties in accepting this account as it stands, are of the most serious character. The proclamation which Cyrus is said to have issued declares that Yahweh2 has given into the king's hands all the kingdoms of the earth. We have already seen that Cyrus claims Merodach, Bel, and Nebo as his patrons, and the incon

____________________
1
On the date see an article by E. Meyer in the Zeitschr. f. d. Alttest. Wissenschaft ( 1898), p. 339 ff.; and the same author's Forschungen zur alten Geschichte, II, p. 468 ff.
2
Yahweh, God of Israel, we should probably read with the Greek Esdras. See Guthe's text in Haupt's Sacred Books of the Old Testament ( 1901). The passage is Ezra I1-4.

-344-

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Old Testament History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Chapter I - The Sources 1
  • Chapter II - The Origins 11
  • Chapter III - The Patriarchs 35
  • Chapter IV - Egypt and the Desert 52
  • Chapter V - The Conquest 73
  • Chapter VI - The Heroes 87
  • Chapter VII - The Early Monarchy 106
  • Chapter VIII - David 129
  • Chapter IX - Solomon 156
  • Chapter X - From Jeroboam to Jehu 177
  • Chapter XI - The House of Jehu 198
  • Chapter XII - The Fall of Samaria 219
  • Chapter XIII - Hezekiah and Manasseh 238
  • Chapter XIV - Josiah and His Sons 260
  • Chapter XV - The Exile 301
  • Chapter XVI - The Rebuilding of the Temple 344
  • Chapter XVII - Nehemiah and After 382
  • Chapter XVIII - The Greek Period 413
  • Chapter XX - The Priest-Kings 470
  • Appendix - Chronological Table 499
  • Index of Subjects 503
  • Index of Scripture Passages 510
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