536-350 BCE - Jews Return from Exile
The Babylonian empire falls to Cyrus the Great of Persia. Cyrus invites
the Jews to return to Judah and Jerusalem in order to rebuild the city.
Of the 150,000 Jews in Babylonia, 25% return to Jerusalem in four waves
of immigration to join the remnant living in the city.
Sheshbazzar of the Davidic line leads the first wave of immigration. He
and his followers reestablish sacrificial worship on the site of the destroyed
More important is the second wave of immigration led by Zerubbabel the appointed
governor of Judah and the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak (Haggai 1:12).
In 515 BCE, 71 years after the destruction, Zerubbabel and Joshua restore
From the former capital of the northern tribes, Shomron (Samaria), the non-Jews
try to hinder the rebuilding of the Temple and the reestablishment of an independent
Nehemiah, the appointed governor of Judah (440 BCE), is mainly responsible
for rebuilding the city. He organizes the defense of the inhabitants against
unruly neighbors – particularly the Samaritans. Because of enemies, Jerusalem
cannot pursue an independent course while the defensive walls are incomplete
and the gates are open to enemies. First the wall is repaired (in 52 days)
around the City of David and the Valley Gate. The upper city is not yet fortified.
The Temple is finished and purified, mixed marriages dissolved and the class
of scribes (experts in Mosaic Law) is given equal status with the nobility
and priesthood. The scribes reestablish Jerusalem as the undisputed spiritual
center of Judah and the entire Jewish Diaspora in Egypt, Babylonia and Asia
Jews returning from Babylonia continue their practice of using a particular
building as a place for prayer (Beit Tefilla), learning (Beit Midrash) and
assembly (Beit Knesset). This change leads to standardized prayers and liturgy,
universal education, freedom of assembly and self-government in all Jewish