Having examined the position of the high priesthood in the preexilic and exilic periods, it is now appropriate to see what effect the changed circumstances of the post-exilic period had upon the office. Certainly at first glance the circumstances of the reestablished community appear highly favourable for the development of a hierocracy, inasmuch as many of the factors which would previously have restricted or prevented the development of high-priestly power had changed. There was no longer a monarch to dictate Temple policy and act in a cultic capacity as national representative and chief priest; the Temple was by now the one legitimate shrine in the country; and the area of concern itself was effectively the province of Judah, so there was a smaller area over which to exercise control and conversely a greater chance of exercising that control. Precisely how the high priesthood developed under these circumstances is the question which will be addressed throughout the remainder of this study.
These next five chapters are devoted to a study of the circumstances and events of the Persian period, during which the exiles returned from Babylon to Judah and re-established the Temple and cult, remaining under Persian rule until they were brought under Greek sovereignty by Alexander the Great's conquest of the Persian Empire in 332 bce. The earliest sources available for the Persian period are the prophecies contained in the books of Haggai and Zechariah 1-8, 1 where some of the most specific and apparently most complimentary descriptions of the high priest-hood outside the Priestly writings are to be found. Hence, they are an obvious choice of material with which to begin an examination of the post-exilic high priesthood.