Herod the Great’s refurbishment and rebuilding of the temple was the result of his wish to endear himself to the Jewish people, to enforce and underline a name for himself as a great builder, and to gain glory for himself. When looking at his background, we see that he was an Edomite (of the lineage of Esau, not Jacob), and there was not much positive friendship with the Jews (see Ps.137:7 and Obediah 1:11-14). Herod was not popular with the people in his role as King of the Jews, being appointed by the Roman Senate and not being of the line of David. By bringing about the improvements and new buildings of the Temple of Zerubbabel, he was making a name for himself and aimed to win/buy the favour of his Jewish subjects, so that they would be placated politically and hopefully not bring the wrath of Rome upon himself. He initiated the building program around 20 BC, in such a way that the temple would only be taken down a little at the time and enlarged at the same time. The main renovations were finished in about 18 months. The temple was finally finished in 64 AD by Herod Agrippa II. The final result was that the temple complex became about 3 times as large, complete with rooms and other buildings that the former temple did not have. The temple court was enlarged and expanded. There were two courtyards, an inner courtyard, being 500 x 100 cubits (750 x 150 feet) and an outer courtyard which had 4 gates, while the inner courtyard had 2 gates. There was a large women’s area which included an upstairs gallery so that the women could view the sacrifices from a distance, and a smaller men’s section. Various chambers surrounded the temple in both courtyards, most of them in the outer courtyard being used for storage of tithes, equipment, vessels etc. Also, extra doors were installed for easier entry into the temple, rather than passing through the one entrance by the altar and laver used for sacrifices and cleansing. There were many money booths installed all around the temple to raise funding by charging exchange rates for ‘holy money’ that could be used for offerings and tithes. All in all, the temple became a paid spectators’ event and a commercial business ( Matt 21:13 and Luke 19:46).
The temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and has never been rebuilt. This ended the temple worship and its accompanying sacrifices for the Jewish people. This temple was in great contrast to the temple of Zerubbabel which had its focus on God and the worship of Him and concentrated primarily on the religious dogma of law-keeping. Today the site is being used for Muslim worship, though the Jewish people desire to build a temple suitable for their faith there.
The main idea for us today is that we have God within us and no longer need an outward focus on the existence of God. There is no need to make a name for ourselves. There is the challenge for believers that others should see God in our oneness as we live our daily lives. In other words, “all to the glory of God”, “with Christ I have been crucified, and live no more do I, and Christ doth live in me; and that which I now live in the flesh – in the faith I live of the Son of God, who did love me and did give himself for me;” (Gal.2:20). There is no need anymore for a paid and outward show of glamour and splendour as practiced by religion. Our ‘entrance fee’ was ‘paid’ at the cross. Now instead of us entering into God’s presence, He has entered into our presence. We are now authorised and commissioned (Matt 28:16-20) to speak and show this good news (Gospel) in our actions and deeds to the people who haven’t heard the news that we are ALL restored through Christ as His (God’s) children, created in His image and likeness and with His authority. There is no longer any need for sacrifices or any other religious requirements!