I did a search on the dedication of the Second Temple and your article came up (below). I find the whole story of the second temple fascinating because there was, like you said, no direct evidence of the miraculous as in the first temple. One thing has always intrigued me and that is the lack of the Ark of the Lord God in the second temple. I have heard many different points of view of the temple veil. Now ‘my’ understanding…at least up to this point in my life. When Jesus was crucified and the temple veil was rent in two it exposed the fact of the empty vain worship that had been going on 400 years. Jesus had some tough words for the priest of his day which further exposes the emptiness of all they were doing. In my understanding, the continual presence of God was not there – as in the first temple – mainly due to the absence of the Ark. There was no Mercy Seat. The Ark was long gone before the Babylonian captivity. Of course when Jesus came HE was the glory of God…and most missed it/Him. I think the veil split showed the emptiness of it all and the new glory of God in man’s hearts by the indwelling Holy Spirit and as Paul said "Christ in you." As you can tell I am no theologian. But I’m learning.
I did a little research into what was actually in the 2nd temple. My instinct was that Josephus might be the best source of this. Actually, there is some evidence in 1st Macabbees as well. Here is one little snippet I found: Historically, the next records come to us from the time of the Maccabees. Here is what I found:
An account of the plundering of the temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 170 BC, is given in 1 Maccabees 1:20ff and also was described by Josephus. At that time the temple contained at least an altar of incense made of gold, the table of shewbread, the lampstands, many cups, bowls, and incense holders, crowns and gold plating at the wall where the cherubim had been in days of old. Antiochus also took the "hidden treasures" of the temple site. In three days’ time he murdered 40,000 Jews and led an equal number as captives. He then desecrated the temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar.
The actual event was in 167 BC, not 170, as the author claims. I believe that it is fair to say that we are not completely sure what was found in the Holy of Holies in the 2nd temple. We have a really good idea what was in the Holy Place (remember there were two rooms, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place): the altar of incense, the shew bread table and the menorah. From the quote above, I believe that there was probably some kind of altar in the holy of holies, but I am not sure. I am prepared to guess that there may have been cherubim in there as well, but almost certainly not the ark. I doubt that there was a replica ark, both because the Jews probably would not put a replica there–knowing the Jews, and because there is no evidence that there was a replica ark.
I am in nearly complete agreement with your comments on the 2nd temple. However, I lean toward the idea that God "dwelt" in this temple as well. Perhaps it was in a qualitatively different way than in the Tabernacle or Solomon’s Temple. My theory for many years has been that God left the (2nd or Herodian) temple when the curtain was ripped in two. For theological reasons, especially using Hebrews 9 as a model, this makes a lot of sense. I cannot prove this theory, however. So, the only correction I would make is that the ripping of the curtain did not just "show" the relative emptiness of Jewish worship, it also marked the actual becoming worthless/empty as God no longer dwelt there in a special way as he had before that. Again, I cannot prove this, but other than that, your thinking and mine are identical. Thanks for your insightful comments!