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THE PERIOD BETWEEN THE TESTAMENTS
From the time we leave Malachi, approximately 400 years pass before the opening lines of the New Testament. In that time many important historical events and transitions occur. Combined, these conditions constitute the "just the right time" for the coming of Jesus Christ. (cf. Roman 5:6)
But first what happened to the Jews, and the entire Mediterranean world during the period between the testaments.
I. The Babylonian Empire
A. The following major events occurred after the reign of King David:
1. Solomon, his son, becomes king in 970 BC.
B. During the seventy years of Babylonian captivity, several permanent, significant changes took place in Judaism.
2. Upon Solomon's death in 930 BC the kingdom was divided.
a. The Northern Kingdom (i.e.-Israel) consisted of ten tribes under the leadership of Jeroboam.
3. Just as Jeremiah prophesied Judah returned home in 536 BC - 70 years after being taken captive.
b. The Southern Kingdom falls to Babylon in 606 BC.
 Daniel and others were taken to Babylon. (Daniel 1:1-7)
 Other captives were taken in later deportations - 597 and 586 BC.
1. The synagogue became the dominant place of worship and instruction.
II The Medo-Persian Empire
2. The scribe replaced the priest as the men of greatest spiritual influence.
3. The exile to Babylon also created the Diaspora, scattered Jew as many of the Jews never returned to Palestine.
A. Under King Cyrus Persia conquered Babylon in 539 BC.
B. In 536 BC Cyrus issued a decree allowing the Jews to return home and rebuild the Temple.
C. A later Persian King (Xerxes or Ahasuerus) married a Hebrew woman (480 BC) who was used by God to save her people. (cf. Esther)
D. Still another Persian King - Antaxerxes I - allowed more Jews to return to their homeland.
1. Ezra was in this group and became a great teacher of the Law. (cf. Ezra 7-10)
E. As the Jews returned, animosity grew between the people who had settled in the land during their absence - the Samaritans, Jews who married gentiles.
2. Nehemiah received permission to return and rebuild Jerusalem's wall in 445 BC.
F. Under Ezra, Nehemiah and the prophet Malachi revival took place.
G. This takes us to the end of the Old Testament (ca. 400 BC).
H. Persia continued to be the main world power until the coming of the Greek empire.
III. The Greek Empire
A. While the Greek empire had been predicted by the prophet Daniel (cf. Daniel 2) the time of its domination was not reflected in the scripture.
B. Greece came to power as Philip of Macedon was successful in unifying the Greek city states under one rule.
1. He reigned from 359 BC to 306 BC.
C. Alexander the Great succeeded his father in 336 BC and ruled for thirteen years.
2. His son, however, became one of the most famed world leaders in history.
1. Alexander was a military genius.
D. After Alexander's death, the world wide Greek influence continued, but fighting broke out among his generals, and the empire fragmented into four parts:
2. Tutored by Aristotle he was consumed with the idea of conquering and unifying the world under the Greek culture.
3. As nation after nation fell, Greek architecture, Greek sports, the Greek language, Greek customs, etc. spread through the Mediterranean world.
4. Alexander and his troops conquered Palestine in 332 BC.
a. The Jews offered no military resistance.
b. Like the Persians, the Greeks allowed the Jews religious freedom.
1. Ptolemy controlled Egypt.
E. Eventually, two powers, Ptolemy and Seleucus, prevailed.
2. Antipater controlled Greece and Macedonia.
3. Seleucus ruled Babylonia.
4. Lysimachus ruled Thrace.
IV. The Post-Greek/Pre-Roman Years
A. The Ptolemies had political and military control over Palestine from 323BCto198 BC.
1. Under their rule, Greek influence continued to grow stronger.
B. The Seleucids under Antiochus III, wrestled control of Palestine from the Ptolemies in 198 BC. (cf. I Maccabees 1:15)
2. The increased use of the Greek language led to the need for a translation of scripture into that language.
a. The Septuagint (LXX) was produced about 250 BC.
b. It was the Bible for the Jews of the Diaspora and later.
1. Thirty years later, his son Antiochus IV Epiphanies was on the throne.
C. A Jewish priest named Matthias and his five sons led a revolt against the Seleucids in 166 BC.
2. Antiochus Epiphanies tried to conquer the Ptolemies in Egypt but was forced out by upstart Rome.
3. He retreated through Palestine and vented his embarrassment and anger upon the Jews. (I Maccabees 1:20-53)
4. For two years, he murdered, plundered, and enslaved.
a. He desecrated the temple, stripping it of her treasures.
b. On December 16, 167 BC, Antiochus Epiphanies even offered a pig on the holy altar. (I Maccabees 1:54-64)
1. From the hill country, they organized guerilla fighters. (I Maccabees 2:1-70)
V. The Roman Empire
2. Matthias died the following year and the leadership of the revolt passed to his son Judas.
a. His nickname was Maccabeus, (i.e. - the hammer).
3. Judas Maccabeus took control of Jerusalem.
b. He was a brilliant military strategist.
a. He constructed a new altar and refurbished the temple.
4. Under Maccabean leadership, Palestine ridded itself of Syrian (i.e. - Seleucid) influence, particularly through a treaty made with Rome in 139 BC.
b. He rededicated the temple to the Lord on December 14, 164 BC.
c. Hanukkah (Feast of Lights) is the annual Jewish holiday season that celebrates this event.
5. During the Maccabean reign, three groups came to prominence that would have great influence on Palestine in Jesus' day.
a. The Maccabees (priests) became the Hasmoneans Priest.
b. The Hasidim became the Pharisees.
c. The Hellenists became the Sadducees.
A. Rome took control of Palestine under Pompey in 63 BC.
B. While Roman power dominated the civilized world throughout the period of time covered by New Testament literature, Rome basically allowed conquered territories to govern themselves.
C. After Pompey's conquest of Palestine, the rule of Palestine was given to Antipater.
1. Antipater was an Idumean, not a Jew.
D. After Antipater, Herod the Great reigned over the Jews from 37 BC to 4 AD.
2. A cunning manipulator, he managed to secure this position.
3. He was the beginning of the Herodian dynasty.
1. He was called Herod "the Great" because of his great building projects.
E. After Herod's death, Palestine was divided to three of his sons - Philip, Antipas, and Archileus.
2. But Herod was a cruel, ruthless man. (e.g. - Matthew 2)
F. Under the Roman empire, several things were in place for the "fullness of time."
1. A common language.
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2. General worldwide peace.
3. Widespread poverty among conquered peoples.
4. Slavery was enforced.