Before the destruction of the First Temple, Jeremiah had famously prophesized (Jeremiah 29:10), "For so said G‑d: For at the completion of seventy years of Babylon I will remember you, and I will fulfill My good word toward you, to restore you to this place."

And indeed, that is what happened. A little more than fifty years after the destruction of the First Temple, the Babylonians, who had destroyed the First Temple, were vanquished by the rising Persian Empire. The Persian king, Cyrus the Great, soon authorized the Jews to rebuild the Temple, but construction ground to a halt due to interference by the Samaritans. In 353 BCE, exactly seventy years after the destruction of the First Temple, the Jews began building again—at first independently, but King Darius soon ratified their effort. The Second Temple was completed in 349 BCE. Under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, the community in Judea became vibrant and secure.

The Second Temple era spanned 420 years, ending with the Romans' destruction of the Holy Temple in 70 CE.1 For much of this period, Judea was under foreign domination. First the Jews were ruled by the Persians, and then, after the conquests of Alexander the Great, they were ruled by the Greeks. The Hasmonean revolt in 140 BCE brought about a period of Jewish monarchy. But the Hasmoneans did not rule for long.