Before King Solomon built the first temple the ark of the covenant was housed in a moveable structure and moved with the people. When King Solomon completed the building of the first temple in 957 BC and brought the ark of the covenant, all the holy furnishings in the tabernacle into the completed the holy of holies, “a place for God to dwell in forever.” (1 Kings 8) The Temple’s two main purposes became to house the Ark of the Covenant and provide a place for people to worship. Jerusalem Temple was a very important to the Jewish identity but was raised to its highest level of importance when King Josiah abolished all other forms of sacrifice and only Solomon’s Temple was accepted as the Kingdom of Judah’s place for worship and sacrifice. “Now Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the chief fathers of the children of Israel, to King Solomon in Jerusalem, that they might bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the City of David, which is Zion. Therefore all the men of Israel assembled with King Solomon at the feast in the month of Ethanim, which is the seventh month. So all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark. Then they brought up the ark of the Lord, the tabernacle of meeting, and all the holy furnishings that were in the tabernacle.” (1 Kings 8:1-4).
King Solomon’s Temple was destroyed and looted by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and the Jews were taken into Babylonian Exile. “And he carried out from there all the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house, and he cut in pieces all the articles of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord, as the Lord had said. Also he carried into captivity all Jerusalem: all the captains and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land.” (2 Kings 24:-13-14).
Then the Jerusalem Temple was rebuilt again with Cyrus the Great as he allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild their Temple. The Temple was ready for consecration in the spring of 516 BC without the ark of the covenant or any other ritual objects, though smaller in grandeur its primary roles conducted by the priests and Levites though they were subject to a foreign power. The Temple was more or less respected over the centuries until Antochus IV Epiphanes desecrated the Temple and commanded sacrifices be made to Zeus inside the Temple. This sparked a revolt by the Jews and its victory is still celebrated today during Hanukkah.
Herod the Great of Judea began to reconstruction of the Temple in 20 BC and completed it 26 AD after the birth of Jesus. Herod’s Temple was a massive expansion of the original size of the Temple Mount with fortified retaining walls, gates and a series of courts. The Temple became the headquarters of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court of law during this time period.
The destruction of the Second Temple through years of Jewish rebellion against Rome and was completely destroyed by 70 AD except a portion of the Western Wall. Over the years ahead the Jews would be banned from entering their Holy city of Jerusalem.
Today, On the eastern side of the city wall are two gates can be seen two large gates, close to each other, walled up. They are called the “gates of mercy” according to the Massecheth Soferim (Talmud) and are said to have been built by King Solomon. According to Jewish tradition, the Shekhinah (Divine Presence) used to appear through this gate and will appear again when the Messiah comes (Ezekiel 44:1–3). A new gate replaces the present one; that is why Jews used to pray for mercy at the former gate at this location. Hence the name the Gate of Mercy. It is also said that Jesus passed through this gate on Palm Sunday. It is also known as the Gate of Eternal Life and as the Beautiful Gate. “Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces toward the east, but it was shut. And the Lord said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut. As for the prince, because he is the prince, he may sit in it to eat bread before the Lord; he shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gateway, and go out the same way.” (Ezekiel 44:1-3).
And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve. (Mark 11:11).
Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. (John 2:13-22).
Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then they all forsook Him and fled. (Mark 14:48-50).
Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25).