Temple of Zerubbabel
For the fifty-two years that succeeded the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar that city saw nothing but the ruins of its ancient Temple. Out in the year of the world 3468 and 536 B.C. Cyrus gave permission to the Jews to return to Jerusalem, and there to rebuild the Temple of the Lord.
Forty-two thousand three hundred and sixths of the liberated captives ret urned under the guidance of Joshua, then the High Priest, Zerubbabel, the Prince or Governor, and Haggai, the Scribe, and a year later they laid the foundations of the second Temple. They were, however, much disturbed in their labors by the Samaritans, whose offer to unite with them in the building they had rejected. Artaxerxes, known in profane history as Cambyses, having succeeded Cyrus on the throne of Persia, forbade the Jews to proceed with the work, and so the Temple remained in an unfinished state until the death of Artaxerxes and the succession of King Darius to the throne.
As in early life there had been a great intimacy between this sovereign and Zerubbabel, the latter went to Babylon, and obtained permission from the monarch to resume the labor. Zerubbabel returned to Jerusalem, and notwithstanding some further delays, consequent upon the enmity of the neighboring nations, the second Temple, or, as it may be called by way of distinction from the first, the Temple of Zerubbabel, was completed in the sixth year of the reign of Darius, 515 B.C., and just twenty years after its commencement. It was then dedicated vith all the solemnities that accompanied the dedication of the first Temple (see the two amounts of this rebuilding of the Temple in Ezra and Haggai).
The general plan of this second Temple was similar to that of the first. But it exceeded it in almost every dimension by one-third. The decorations of gold and other ornaments in the first Temple must have far surpassed those bestowed upon the second, for we are told by Josephus (Antiquities xi, 4) that the Priests and Levites and Elders of families were disconsolate at seeing how much more sumptuous the old Temple was than the one which, on amount of their poverty, they had just been able to erect.
The Jews also say that there were five things wanting in the second Temple which had been in the first, namely, the Ark, the Urim and Thummim, the fire from heaven, the Divine Presence or Cloud of Glory, and the spirit of prophecy and power of miracles.
Such are the most important events that relate to the construction of this second Temple But there is a Masonic legend connected with it which, though it may have no historical foundation, is yet so closely interwoven with the Temple system of Freemasonry, that it is necessary it should be recounted.
It was, says the legend, while the workmen were engaged in making the necessary excavations for laying the foundation, and while numbers continued to arrive at Jerusalem from Babylon, that three worn and weary Sojourners, after plodding on foot over the rough and devious roads between the two cities, offered themselves to the Grand Council as willing participants in the labor of erection Who these Sojourners were, we have no historical means of discovering; but there is a Masonic tradition, entitled, perhaps, to but little weight, that they were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, three holy men, who are better known to general readers by their Chaklaie names of Shaclrach, Meshach, and Abednego, as having been miraculously preserved from the fieldsy furnace of Nebuchadnezzar
Their services were accepted, and from their diligent labors resulted that important discovery, the perpetuation and preservation of which constitute the great end and design of the Royal Arch Degree. As the symbolism of the first or Solomonic Temple is connected with and refers entirely to the Symbolic Degrees, so that of the second, or Temple of Zerubbabel, forms the basis of the Royal Arch in the York and American Rites, and of several advanced Degrees in other Rites
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