The Gospel of Luke Series
March 11, 2012 #42.4 Luke 1:5, 78-79, Malachi 3
Charles e Whisnant, Expositor, Historian, Pastor/Teacher
Between The Testaments The Four Hundred Silent Years[i]
78through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us,
79to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high79 to give light to)those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way o )peace.” esv
- Starting with Abraham, a history of exile in Egypt for 400 years, wandering 40 years in the wilderness, the conquest of the land of Canaan, the occupation of the land of Canaan, the captivity, the northern kingdom taken captive in 722 BC then the southern kingdom taken into Babylon in 586 BC. The northern kingdom never returning, the southern kingdom 70 years later trying to rebuilder. Only to be oppressed by the Greeks, then the Romans. Israel has had a dark and long history.
- Its interesting in the last book of the Old Testament, a prophet named Malachi promised that the SUN if righteousness would arise with the healing of its ray.
- It had been 400 years since Malachi wrote that promise. Malachi was the last prophet and he said the Sun of Righteousness will rise. And 400 years had passed since God spoke. There was no prophet in Israel. There was no prophet in Judah. There was no revelation from God, Indeed it was dark.
- Israel was deep into depression, oppressed by the Greeks whose ruler Antiochus Epiphanes
1B Significant Changes in the Holy Land During the 400 Silent Years
As the pages of the New Testament are opened, it soon becomes apparent that many things have changed since the close of the Old Testament. It would he a mistake to assume that the world in which Jesus and the apostles lived was the same one that Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi lived in. Things were quire different. It is important, therefore, to note some of these changes before entering into a study of the text of the New Testament.
2B Relationship Between the Old Testament, 400 Silent Years and the New Testament
The Old Testament is promise and expectation, the New Testament is fulfillment and completion. Below table illustrated the relationship between them.
3B The End of the Old Testament
The Old Testament recorded the spiritual failures of the nation of Israel. Israel repeatedly violated the commands of God until God disciplined His people by sending them into Babylonian captivity. After seventy years in captivity, God allowed His people to return to their land and to function as a nation again. Men like Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Malachi were instrumental in this return and restoration. However, as the Old Testament came to a close with the historical hook of Nehemiah and the prophetic book of Malachi, once again the spiritual life of Israel began to deteriorate. God’s final word, through the prophet Malachi, was primarily a rebuke fur Israel’s sinfulness. But included in that message was the promise that the Lord and His messenger would someday come (Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6). That promise would not be fulfilled for about four hundred years, when John the Baptist (the messenger) would announce the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2A. BRIEF JEWISH HISTORY OF THE INTER-TESTAMENT PERIOD
1B The Persian Period (539 – 331 B.C.)
An independent Jewish state came to an end when the armies of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon overran Judah in 605 B.C. For about twenty years after that the Jews did have a king, but he was clearly under the authority of the Babylonians. In 586 B.C. the Jews attempted to revolt against Babylon, but failed in that attempt. That resulted in the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, the plundering and burning of the Temple, and the deportation of many to Babylon. And for the next fifty years the Jews remained under the domination of the Babylonians (cf. 2 Kings 24:1-25:30; Jeremiah 39:1-18).
2B The Greek Period (331 – 143 B.C.)
1C Alexander the Great (331 – 323 B.C.)
Alexander’s conquests caused the rapid and thorough spread of Hellenism (Greek culture). This culture permeated life everywhere, including Palestine. The Greek language became the common trade and diplomatic language and by New Testament times it was the language of the common man. This factor of a nearly universal language would come to have a significant impact on the rapid spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ in New Testament times. By Jesus’ day many Hellenized Jews had adopted the Greek ways, customs, and speech and had been freed from an exclusive spirit of Hebrew tradition and ancestry.
An important event occurred in the reign of Ptolemy Phitadelphus (285-247 B.C.). He had the Hebrew Old Testament translated by Jewish scholars into the Greek language in order to meet the needs of Jews who had been reared in Greek culture.
Many Jews, such as those who were born and reared in Alexandria, Egypt, understood Greek far better than Hebrew. This version, which is called the Septuagint, became a significant document to the Jewish community living outside of Palestine. During this period the first copies of the Greek Septuagint were distributed (Pentateuch, 280 B.C.).
3B The Seleucids (198 – 143 B.C.)
It is interesting to observe that during this period, by 180 B.C., all the books of the Old Testament were translated into Greek by the Alexandrian translators. Later, it was the Bible of the early church
1C The wicked Antiochus IV or Epiphanes (175 – 163 B.C.)
4B The Maccabean Wars
These victories were gained by Judas with greatly inferior forces, due to his strategy and his religious enthusiasm. Three years after Antiochus IV had desecrated the temple in Jerusalem, Judas and his forces soundly defeated the Syrians and were able to recapture Jerusalem and cleanse and rededicate the temple (December 165 B.C.). On the 25th day of Chislev, 164 B.C., the temple was rededicated to the worship of the LORD. The Feast of Lights (Hanukkah) is a perpetual reminder of the victory over Antiochus (1 Maccabees 4:52-59).
5B The Hasmonean Period (143 – 63 B.C.)
Simon’s reign was short but beneficial to the Jews. “A treaty was negotiated with Rome which was confirmed in 139 B.C., recognizing the independence of the Jewish state and commending it to the friendship of Rome’s subjects and allies. Economic conditions improved, justice was ably administered in the courts, and Jewish religious life was revived
6B The Roman Period (63 B.C. – New Testament Period)
For the most part there was little interference by Rome in the religious life of Palestine. The Jews paid taxes to Rome and were subject to the rulers appointed over them by Rome. The conflicts and struggles of the Jews of that day were mainly of the heart, and the darkness and sin were overwhelming.
3A . THREE CENTERS OF JUDAISM DURING THE INTER-TESTAMENT PERIOD
Changes in Judaism that originated in Babylon were carried over into Jerusalem during the silent years, because there was a continuing program of migration of Jews from Babylon to Jerusalem, which had begun under Ezra and Nehemiah.
Theology. Worship. Culture and Educationl.
Since Alexandria was a Greek-speaking city, the Jewish population gave up its Palestinian Hebrew vernacular as it began learning Greek. Eventually the Jews were without Scripture in their new vernacular, so the need arose for a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. Such a translation (later called the Septuagint) was soon made — the Pentateuch by 280 B.C., and the whole Old Testament by 180 B.C.
Approximately 450 B.C. Ezra and Nehemiah had led about 50,000 Jews back to Judea from exile in Babylon. Those remained in the land, rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and trying in small measure to preserve their religious heritage.
4A. INFLUENCE BY GREEK DURING THE INTER-TESTAMENT PERIOD
1B An Attempt to Hellenize Palestine
2B Greek Philosophies
3B Greek Mystery Religions
4B Greek Language
Greek had become the international language of the time. How providential that the books of the New Testament were written in Greek, thus making the gospel available to the world population! Scholars generally call this language Koine (common) Greek, distinguishing it from the literary Greek of the day.
5B Greek Bible
Alexandrian scholars translated the first five books of the Law (Pentateuch) by 280 B.C., and by 180 B.C. all the books had been translated. Over the next two centuries that “modern version” (later called the Septuagint) of the Old Testament was circulated around the Greek empire, so that by the time of Jesus and the apostles it was widely used. Very many of Jesus’ quotes of Old Testament passages are from the Septuagint version. This is true also of the New Testament authors.
6B Greek Influence in the New Testament
5A. INFLUENCE BY ROMAN DURING THE INTER-TESTAMENT PERIOD
Unity and political stability of the Roman Empire at the time of Christ’s birth was one of the bright aspects of the Roman background of the New Testament. However, the Greek influence had not died away, however. The Roman Empire was like a reservoir of the Hellenistic culture, which had spread throughout the Mediterranean world from the time of Alexander the Great.
[i] BETWEEN THE TESTAMENTS: The Four Hundred Silent Years:
In 171 B.C. Antiochus Epiphanes invaded Egypt. When word reached Jerusalem that Epiphanes had been killed in the battle, there was much jubilation in Israel with celebrating in the streets. The Jason Party, the sons of Tobias, sieged this opportunity to try to again take back the priesthood and the right to collect the hated tribute. Menelaus was driven into the castle, but was able to obtain the upper hand against Jason. Jason retreated and died in a strange land, hated by all.
What the inhabitants of Jerusalem did not know was the report of Epiphanes’ death had been falsely reported. When Epiphanes returned to Jerusalem and found the people rejoicing over his death, he went into a rage, attacking the populace and killing 40,000 and an equal amount were carried away captive.
Menelaus continued his vile ways. Once again, he entered into the Holy Place and stole the Golden Candlestick, the Table of Shewbread, and the Altar of Incense. He also destroyed the Book of the Law, whereupon he set up an altar and sacrificed a “sow” hog upon it. He made a broth from the sow and sprinkled and defiled the temple.
In 169 B. C., Antiochus again made another attempt to attack Egypt, but was rebuffed. After leaving Egypt, he took out his rage again on Palestine. He sent his army, under the leadership of General Apollonius, and once again Jerusalem became a ruin. The walls were broken down and the city was burned. The people were slaughtered by the thousands. The women and children were taken captive.
Then Antiochus demanded all the people to worship his god. He made the temple a place of worship for Jupiter Olympus. His rage against the people knew no end. Mothers who circumcised their children were thrown from the city walls along with their children. Those who observed the sabbath were burned alive.
A woman, and her seven sons were taken before the king, where they were demanded to abandon their faith and serve Antiochus’s god. When she refused, her eldest son was taken, whereupon his tongue was torn out, his members cut off, and he was burned alive for his refusal to serve the king’s heathen god. The woman was forced to watch as her other six sons, in like manner, were killed. She was the last to die. This is the time Paul wrote about in his letter to the Hebrews:
“And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:” Hebrews 11:36-39
Mattathias the Maccabean
When Israel faced their darkest hour, God sent a deliverer. A man by the name of Mattathias from Modin who had five sons became the Maccabean .
The name Maccabee means “the hammer of God.” Mattathias was of the house of Asmonaeus. They hated the violence and corruption taking place in their beloved Israel.
At this time the king sent Apelles, his commissioner, to Modin to set up an altar to, what he termed the Maccabee’s false god. Because Apelles recognized Mattathias as leader of the people, he demanded Mattathias and his sons to worship their god. When they refused, a renegade Jew broke through the crowd to offer a sacrifice to the heathen god. This so enraged Mattathias, that he slew the Jew and proceeded to kill Apelles also.
Mattathias, who openly, disobeyed the king’s order fled to the mountains, leaving all his earthly belongings behind. He declared to the people, “Whoever is zealous of the Law and the Covenant, let them follow me.” Whereupon, the devoted men in Israel and Mattathias’s five sons followed.
A spark of life came again to Israel. To put down this rebellion, the Syrians dispatched an army who fell on the Jews on the Sabbath Day. Because the Jews would not fight on the Sabbath, thousands were unmercifully killed. A lesson was learned, and the Jews made a rule in the future to defend themselves no matter what day it was.
The Jews who joined Mattathias were known as the Assidaeans (The Pious). Mattathias and his sons led their band through the country, destroying idols, overthrowing heathen temples, and circumcising the children to keep the Law.
Mattathias died in 166 B.C. But before he died he commissioned his sons to continue the fight until the land and the temple were cleansed of the pollution of the heathen. His son, Judas, became the leader of the Maccabees after the death of his father. The second son, Simon, became a counselor to Judas. Judas led his army to great victories. He would surprise his enemies by attacking in the middle of the night. He spread terror and confusion among the enemy until he became greatly feared by all.
The governor of Syria put together a great army to come against Israel, but his army was defeated and he, himself, was killed. His army was scattered, and their weapons became the weapons of Judas and his band.
Another army was sent by Antiochus, led by Seron. The two armies met at Beth-Horon. When Judas’ army questioned how they could defeat this vast army, Judas replied, “With the God of heaven. It is all one to deliver with a great multitude or a small company.” Encouraged by Judas’ word, the small army threw themselves with seemingly reckless abandon, and defeated the great army of Antiochus.
When the news of his defeat came, Antiochus flew into a rage. Determined to annihilate the Jews, he assembled another army which he would lead himself, but the lack of money squashed any such plans.
Antiochus then sent to Persia to collect his tribute to finance his army. His army this time was sent to Palestine, headed by Lysias his most powerful general. He had 40,000 foot soldiers and 7000 horsemen to assure certain victory.
Judas with his 6000 camped at Mizpeh. They put ashes on their heads, and sackcloth on their bodies and made their appeal before God. After fasting and prayer, their battle cry became “The Help of God.” With fear conquered, and the faith of God in their hearts, they attacked the huge army. It only took a few minutes until the army of Antiochus was scattered. The battle was won decisively, and Israel gathered the spoil and rested the Sabbath Day, praising God and giving thanks.
The next year, 165 B.C., Lysias again attacked Israel. This time with 65,000 troops. Judas’ army had grown to 10,000. Again the results were the same. Antiochus died a year later, in 164 B.C. It was a humble death, raving in madness, with a foul disease that rotted his flesh. He had ruled for eleven long years.
After the death of Epiphanes, the temple at Jerusalem was cleansed, and the ancient services were reestablished, although Jerusalem was in shambles. The temple had been disfigured, the temple court was overgrown with shrubs, and the beautiful gate burned. They believed the altar was too defiled to be used again, so they built a new one. The cleansed temple was rededicated in 165 B.C. This began the celebration of “The Feast of Dedication.” The next three years were dedicated to the cleansing and rebuilding of Jerusalem.
Epiphanes was succeeded by his nine year old son, known as Antiochus Eupator. Again Lysias assembled a great army and attacked Jerusalem. Judas’ brother Eleazar was killed when he saw an elephant bedecked with jewels, thinking the elephant was ridden by the boy king, he thrust his spear into the great beast’s belly, and the elephant collapsed on Eleazar, crushing him under its weight.
Being discouraged, Israel retreated to Jerusalem. Lysias laid siege to the city, cutting of all supplies, and threatened the inhabitants with starvation. But God intervened again. Lysias was informed that a rival of Lysias named Philip had rebelled against the government of Syria and was attempting to overthrow the government. Lysias was forced to retreat. He did this after making peace with Israel and guaranteeing them protection.
The hated high priest Menelaus was still in office. He continued to hold this office through the stormy years of rebellion, but he was blamed for the rebellion and was slain by the Syrians.
In 163 B.C. Menelaus was replaced by Alcimus, who was as vile, if not more vile, then Menelaus.
Before Judas’ death, the supposedly deliverer of Israel, he formed an alliance with Rome which led to Judea becoming a Roman province. Judas negotiated a peace treaty with Rome, but the Syrian monarch raised another army and attacked Judas. Since the peace treaty with Rome, the people no longer depended on God as their defense. Now they fought, but were defeated, and Judas, the hammer of God, was killed. Jonathan, Judas brother, took his place in the same year, 161 B.C. The next year, 160 B.C., the hated and wretched high priest Alcimus died.
There was continual war between Syria and Palestine. In 158 B.C. a peace treaty was drawn up between Syria and Palestine. In 153 B.C., Jonathon the Maccabean was made high priest. Everything seemed well. The foreign power was crushed, a Roman puppet Alexander Balas was on the Syrian throne and a Jewish Roman alliance was in force.
What more could secure peace and prosperity? The only thing lacking was a simple trust in the living God. Israel completely depended on the arm of the flesh.
In 148 B.C. trouble loomed large on the horizon. An alliance was formed between Syria and Egypt. The son of the ousted king of Syria, Demetrius, known as Nicator, in order to regain his position as king, attacked Jonathon because he supported Balas the Roman puppet, but Ptolemy, King of Egypt led an army to Palestine to aid his son in law, Alexander’s cause to help the Jews against Nicator. Ptolemy learned of a plot against his life by one of Alexander’s officers, and demanded his daughter back, and the Syro-Egyptian alliance ended. Ptolemy demanded the officer be delivered up to him, but Alexander refused. Ptolemy concluded Alexander was part of the plot, and had him slain and his wife given to Demetrius.
With Egypt’s help, Balas was defeated and Balas was slain in 146 B.C. Demetrius was proclaimed King of Syria. There was a weak compact between Demetrius Nicator and Jonathan.
In 144 B.C., Antiochus, the son of Balas, arose to contest the crown of Demetrius. Jonathan severed all relationship with Demetrius, and sided with the son of Balas. Jonathan remained high priest and led his army against Demetrius and defeated him. Jonathan renewed his alliance with Rome, but Antiochus, the son of Balas’ reign was short, and a treacherous commander overthrew the son of Balas, and took the crown for his own.
The alliance Jonathan had had with, Antiochus, the son of Balas would mean his death. A traitorous commander named Tryphon desired to be king. Tryphon invited Jonathan to what was to be a friendly conference. Jonathan had less than 1000 troops with him. The troops were massacred, and Jonathan was imprisoned and was later cruelly murdered.
In 144 B.C., Jonathan’s brother Simon took his place as head of the army. The deposed King Demetrius Nicator was still alive, and raised an army to regain his crown. To Simon, it seemed Demetrius was a better choice then Tryphon, so Simon who had taken the high priesthood position, sided with Demetrius. Demetrius befriended Israel. At this same time Rome confirmed their former league with Palestine. This agreement made Israel safe from all outside forces.
Simon was made governor of Palestine, and Israel was declared a free people. This ended the 170 year rule of Syria over Palestine. This was in the year 143 B.C. Peace reigned, through Simon’s wise leadership, the cities were rebuilt, the lands tilled, and the general economy restored. The people were so pleased with Simon’s leadership that in 141 B.C. the people confirmed the priesthood and the government upon him and his heirs forever. They engraved this on brass plates and fixed them on pillars on Mount Zion.
Israel had a period of peace, but were constantly threatened by those nations around them. Simon, the last of the Maccabean brothers, was assassinated with his two sons in 135 B.C. Although the Maccabees had been valiant leaders in Israel, they had lost their godly separation and their reliance on God as their provider and defender. They turned to the heathen and the arm of the flesh for their defense. What a picture of the modern day church who no longer have a personal relationship with their God. Their fear is not of God, but of the government.
John Hyrcanus, the son of Simon, succeeded his father into the high place of honor his father had held. The Syrians again tried to regain power in Israel, but they were defeated. Many were taken captive. In 126 B.C., John Hyrcanus compelled the captive people to be circumcised and follow the Jewish beliefs, thus adding to the number of the Jews. If they did not accept the Jewish faith, they were threatened with death. This only made more enemies for the Jews.
Since God was grieved, and the Jews no longer had a relationship with God, they began to rely on their past glories. How like the church system of today.
The Decline of the Macabees
It was during the reign of Hyrcanus, that the complete separation of the Pharisees and the Sadducees took place. The Pharisees, who thought all divine counsel centered in themselves, had become intolerant of anyone who disagreed with them. And the pleasure loving Sadducees were indifferent to all that was vital to having a relationship with God. This was the beginning of the decline of the Maccabees.
Hyrcanus rapidly lost power, and the Pharisees openly opposed Hyrcanus. Many troublesome years followed, and Hyrcanus died in 107 B.C. His son, Aristobulus succeeded Hyrcanus, leaving a short, but bloody record. He imprisoned and then slew his brothers. He even imprisoned his own mother and let her starve to death. He died in 106 B.C.
His eldest son Alexander Janneus took his place. All the Hyrcanus had Greek names. Alexander, as his father, embraced the Sadducee’s religion, even though the Pharisees had become the dominant party in Israel. Alexander enraged the people when he poured water from the Pool Siloam on the ground instead of on the altar at the Feast of Tabernacles, which was Jewish tradtion. Alexander called in his foreign troops to quell the riots, 6000 people died. This was only the beginning of the rebellion, and insurrection broke out. Before it was over some 50,000 people were killed. To crush the rebellious spirit, Alexander exorted to the heathen practice of crucifying and mutilating the people. His reign was 27 years and he died in 79B.C.
During his reign the husband of Anna (the prophetess in the temple when they brought Jesus to be circumcised) died. In his will, Alexander desired his wife to take his place, even though he had two sons. Alexander’s wife was declared Queen Regent. She had the title, but the Pharisees held the reins of power. Alexander’s wife made her son Hyrcanus, high priest, but the Pharisees would not accept him, and he fled the country.
Alexander had another son, Aristobulus who desired the throne for himself. He amassed an army, and was determined to overthrow the power of the Pharisees and take the crown his mother held. But she became seriously ill and died. Hyrcanus made an agreement with his brothers. Aristobulus would be king and Hyrcanus would remain high priest. This brought peace to Israel for a short time.
Another man would enter the scene to undo the peace. His name was Antipater. He was the father of Herod the Great. He was not a Jew, but was an Edomite, a descendant of Esau who sold his birthright to Jacob.
Alexander had appointed Antipater governor of Idumea. Antipater and Hyrcanus were close friends. Antipater became possessed with great power and authority. Hyrcanus and Antipater plotted with Aretas, the king of Arabia, to overthrow Aristobulus with an army of 50,000 troops. Because of this, Aristobulus fled to Jerusalem. There the Sadducees refused to open the gates to the city. Upon this refusal, Aristobulus laid siege to Jerusalem, which lasted four months. The city was in dire circumstances.
Pompey, the Roman general, sent forces under Scaurus and Gabinius into Syria to restore order there. The Sadducees sent emissaries to Pompey for help, and Pompey attacked the forces of Hyrcanus, Antipater, and Aretas, and the invading force was routed.
But Antipater contacted Pompey and was graciously received. He convinced Pompey that neither Hyrcanus or Aristobulus were worthy of their positions, and Pompey sided with Antipater. An attach was made, and Aristobulus surrendered and offered a large amount of money to Pompey for his life. He was held hostage, and an agent was sent into the city to collect the promised money. But the soldiers of the city refused to pay, and prepared the city for the siege of the Roman army.
Eventually the lower part of the city surrendered, but a band of zealots held the temple hill for over three months. Battering rams destroyed the main tower and 12,000 people perished by the sword and by fire. This brought an end to any independence Israel had, and Judea became a Roman province.
Judas Maccabeus had no idea what his allegiance with Rome would bring to his people. Pompey allowed Hyrcanus to remain high priest and the temple service to continue. He took Aristobulus and his two sons, intending to take them as prisoners, but they escaped before reaching Rome. Aristobulus tried to retake Judea, but Gabinius the Roman general in charge of Judea defeated him in 57 B.C. Aristobulus escaped and was later recaptured and taken in chains to Rome.
At this time, Galinius governed Judea. He restored order in the land. Hyrcanus submitted to the Roman rule. He became friends with Antipater, who had the confidence and goodwill of Pompey. Israel had peace and prosperity for a short time.
Crassus became co-counsel with Pompey. Needing money, he marched into Jerusalem to capture the temple treasury. An effort was made to divert Crassus’ plan, but Eleazar took the treasure, a quantity of money and jewels valued at ten million dollars. This so roused the Jews, that once again they revolted.
Crassus returned in 52 B.C. and forced the Jews to submit to his will. In 50 B.C., Julius Caesar and Pompey were at strife with each other. Caesar released Aristobulus and sent him to Judea with two legions of soldiers. It was his intention to get an advantage over Pompey, but Pompey had Aristobulus poisoned.
Aristobulus had a son by the name of Antigonus. He was the last of the Maccabeans. Julius Caesar became the dominate ruler in Rome. In 47 B.C., Caesar sent a relative, Sextus Caesar, to become president of the province. Julius Caesar returned to Rome and was made Dictator of the world.
The Beginning of the Edomite Rule
Antipater became friends with Julius Caesar, and Julius Caesar made him a free citizen of Rome, an high honor for an Edomite. Antipater was an ambitious and power hungry man, but in his quest he had grown old, and the weight of government was too heavy for him to bear. So he made his two sons, Phasael and Herod, governors of Galilee and Jerusalem – – – thus putting what is called the Holy Land under Idumean (Edomite) rule.
Looking back, John Hyrcanus had conquered Judea in 130 B.C. and had forced the people to convert to Judaism and be circumcised – – – thus the house of Esau and the hated Edomites were now religious Jews. We need to remember Esau sold his birthright in God for a bowl of lentil soup.
Israel had sold their birthright for the things of the world. They had turned their backs on God, and were now slaves under Roman rule. Their governor was a hated Edomite.
Herod was only twenty years old when he was made governor. Like his father, he was power mad. When an uprising took place in Galilee, he squashed the rebellion and put the leader to death without the Sanhedrim’s approval. For this he was called before the council. Sextus Caesar stepped in, and declared he was only acting as a faithful servant of Rome.
The aged president of the Sanhedrim spoke out as the voice of a prophet stating, “If they freed this man, he would punish them all.” The Sanhedrim sentenced Herod to death, but Herod was warned and fled for his life.
Herod, then amassed an army and persuaded them to destroy his accusers. Antipater interfered with Herod’s plans, but afterwards Herod slew the entire Sanhedrim, with the exception of Pollio and Sameas.
In 44 B.C., Julius Caesar authorized Antipater and Hyrcanus to repair the walls of Jerusalem, but the work was hindered by a variety of events. Julius Caesar was murdered by Brutus in 44 B.C. Confusion reigned, not only in Jerusalem, but in many of the Roman provinces as well.
Antipater’s authority was challenged and he was poisoned by an anarchist by the name of Malichus. Malichus was then killed by one of Herod’s agents.
In 42 B.C., the last heir of the Maccabees raised an army to regain the crown, but Herod easily defeated him, driving him into exile. Antigonus appealed to Mark Antony, who was a general and friend of Julius Caesar without success.
Herod had already secured Antony’s friendship with large sums of money. Antony appointed Phasael as tetrarch (governor) of Galilee and Herod, tetrarch of Judea, thus raising both their rank and authority. Antigonus fled to Parthia after his defeat where he made a league with the king of that country, who furnished him with an army. The promised payment for the army was one thousand talents and five hundred Jewish women. How far the heir of the Maccabeans had fallen.
With his army, Antigonus attacked Jerusalem. This time he was successful. He imprisoned Phasael and Hyrcanus and would have apprehended Herod, but he fled. Supported by the Parthians, Antigonus was declared king.
Phasael, Herod’s brother, committed suicide in prison. Herod went to Egypt and took a ship to Rome, where he had an audience with Antony, who commended him to Octavius Caesar and the senate. Octavius and the senate conferred the title of King of Judea upon Herod and sent him back to Palestine with Roman troops in 40 B.C.
Herod learned his mother’s sister and his betrothed Mariamne were imprisoned in Masada. Herod himself headed the army to free his relatives. He moved from place to place gaining many victories. He then laid siege to Jerusalem. This siege lasted two years, but Jerusalem fell in 37 B.C. Antigonus pleaded for mercy, but he was sent in chains to Antony in Rome where he was beheaded as an enemy of Rome.
As king of Judea, Herod became cruel and was hated by the people. It was said of him, “It would be better to be Herod’s pig than his son.”
Alexandra, the daughter of Hyrcanus had a son, Aristobulus. Alexandra sought to have her son Aristobulus made high priest. But Herod rejected him and appointed another high priest. This angered Alexandra and she appealed to Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, to exert her influence with Antony. Cleopatra succeeded, and Antony overruled Herod, and made Aristobulus the high priest. The Jews were elated, and Aristobulus was applauded and cheered.
Herod’s jealousy was aroused and immediately after the ceremony, Astrobulus was drowned in the king’s fish pond. Herod gave Aristobulus a grand funeral, and he was the chief mourner.
Alexandra again appealed to Cleopatra to speak for her to Mark Antony. Herod was cited, and had to appear before Mark Antony. But Herod left secret instruction that if he was sentenced to death, his wife Mariamne was to be assassinated.
Mariamne heard of Herod’s instructions, and an untrue rumor spread through Jerusalem that Herod was found guilty and was put to death. Alexandra used this to try to gain the throne for herself, but Herod returned completely exonerated. His bribes were more powerful, than Cleopatra’s influence on Antony. Herod imprisoned Alexandra, but she was later released.
Herod’s instruction to have Mariamne assassinated caused the home life of Herod to become a living hell. Herod’s sister accused Mariamne of being unfaithful with Herod’s uncle. Herod had his uncle killed without a trial, but he spared Mariamne.
In 29 B.C., Herod was called before Octavius to answer for his crimes. Herod left the same instructions concerning Mariamne. Again Mariamne learned of Herod’s instructions. Again Herod was cleared of his charge. Returning home in a jealous rage, Herod had Mariamne put to death.
From this time, Herod fell into a deep depression and became deranged. Being in this depressed state, Alexandra again decided to try to regain the throne. When Herod heard of the plot, he aroused from his deep depression, and had Alexandra put to death in 28 B.C. This was the last of the Maccabean family.
Mariamne had given Herod two sons, Alexander and Aristobulus. Herod sent them to Rome to be educated. He had another son by a previous marriage by the name of Antipater. His two sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, were put to death in 6 B.C. This was just two years before the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Herod’s other son, Antipater, was found guilty of planning to poison Herod. He, too, was put to death. Herod was given the title of Magnus or Great and was referred thereafter as Herod the Great. As general of the army, he was victorious. As a diplomat, he knew no equal. As a legislator, he displayed much wisdom. He was a lover of the arts and a patron of religion. But he was still a monster.
He built the temple in Jerusalem in unparalleled grandeur and splendor. He boasted of outdoing Solomon himself. Once he set his mind on a project, nothing was allowed to hinder his success. He was considered the wealthiest king in the east. He was king when the Magi came at the birth of Jesus. He was also the one who ordered all the newborn in Bethlehem to be killed.
As we review these four hundred silent years between the testaments, it becomes clear why Jesus was rejected by those who occupied the land, which had been given to them by their ancestors. Their hearts had been hardened by all the years of hardship. Their religious leaders had been corrupted and the high priest’s office had become a political appointment sold to the highest bidder.
At then end of the four hundred silent years, the heavens split and the angel declared:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14
This was a kingdom message to all mankind. Since Jesus came to earth, there has never been peace on earth, nor has there been good will toward men. This time of peace on earth will be when God sets up His one thousand year millennial reign. This is when the wolf and the lamb will feed together and the ravenous lion will eat straw like the bullock. The leopard will lay down with the kid. Man will have beaten his swords into plow shares and his spears into pruning hooks. Then will come to pass the words of Isaiah the prophet.
“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, saith the Lord.”
When we learn the lessons of the four hundred silent years, then we can rejoice in the presence of God’s glory and peace. Praise the Lord.
Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. | MALACHI 3:1