The Destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem

The destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem was a turning point in Jewish history. Despite their flaws, the Jewish people internalized the lessons of the devastation and rebuilt their physical and spiritual existence.

King Solomon built the First Temple in Jerusalem based on exact drawings that God had provided to his father, King David, via the prophet Nathan.

On the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, two temples existed in succession.

The details of the devastation are straightforward. Jeremiah has foretold the coming calamity for many years. Judea had an erroneous feeling of security. They believed they could rebel against Babylon’s might and maintain the resistance. They deceived themselves into believing that Egypt would defend them, believing their southern neighbour preferred to engage Babylon north of Jerusalem rather than battle them on their territory’s boundaries. However, Egypt was unwilling to shed even a single drop of Egyptian blood for Judea.

Another misconception was that the Babylonians would somehow forget about them. However, the king of Babylon would not allow Judea to escape his circle. He arrived with his entire force to crush the insurrection and did it with cruelty, fury, and finality. He desired to teach the Jews a lesson and dispel the notion that anybody may traverse the Babylonian Empire without consequence.

Nebuchadnezzar assaulted the fringes of Judea from the north. By the beginning of summer, his army had set up camp around Jerusalem, and he cut Jerusalem off and methodically tightened the noose around the city. On the ninth day of the month of Tammuz, the Babylonian army broke the city’s defences and poured inside.

Within a month, all pockets of Judean resistance were eliminated. Tens of thousands perished during the siege, which caused starvation and plague, followed by death by sword and fire. Those that were able to flee, however, the Babylonians anticipated this and collected fugitives into massive slave camps, from which they were taken to the Babylonian exile.

Nineteenth of Av for Destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem

At nightfall on the first day of the ninth month of Av, the Babylonians set the Temple on fire. According to the Talmud (Taanis 29a), the fire began at night shortly after the conclusion of the Sabbath. In other words, the ninth of Av fell on a Sunday in that particular year. By Sunday evening, it had been entirely demolished.

The ninth of Av was designated as a day of fasting on the Jewish calendar. The Second Temple would also be demolished on the same date, the ninth of Av, four centuries later. What use did the Temple have if the Jewish people did not behave as a nation supposed to symbolize God – to be a kingdom of spiritual leaders and a holy people (Exodus 19:6)? Only stone, bricks, and mortar were used.

The protecting hand of God, which directs all of history, was gone. After its removal, the Temple was a mere shell. “If the house’s owner is no longer there, then thieves can loot” This is what Jews lament.

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