Between The Testaments
The Four Hundred Silent
By George Kirkpatrick
Vital Words to the Body of Christ
Proclaiming the Everlasting Gospel of the Kingdom
Vital Words to the Body of Christ
Freely We Have Received, Freely We Give
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God has given us His - Story in the Bible. Some of His - Story He gave in great detail. Some of His - Story is very sketchy and part of His - Story He left out of His Word all together.
In order to understand the part of His - Story not found in the Bible, we must depend on men who kept historical records of these times. This is true of the four hundred years between the Old and New Testaments, from Malachi to Matthew.
The following article is only a thumbnail rendition of those four hundred silent years, but perhaps it will clear up some understanding of what seems to be a complete change of events from the time we close in Malachi and open the New Testament in Matthew.
In order to proceed we must digress to look at the dream Nebuchadnezzar had of a great statute in the book of Daniel. Daniel interpreted this dream and informed Nebuchadnezzar he was the head of gold.
The next part of the statute was the breast and arms which were silver. This was the Medo-Persian Empire
As we open the four hundred silent years we discover the Medes and Persians are in control of the known world. This is as far as the Old Testament records.
The next part of the statute was the belly and thighs made of brass. Around 335 B.C. Alexander the Great defeated the Medes and Persians. Alexander the Great is the belly and thighs made of brass.
The priesthood remained in power in Israel, but during Alexander's reign the priesthood tried to Grecianize Israel. This is called the Hellenistic movement. During this time the priesthood became corrupt and power mad.
During the four hundred silent years, and after Alexander's death several nations had rule over Palestine: the Syrians, the Egyptians, the Macabees (Asmoneans), the Parthians, and the Edomites.
Toward the last of the four hundred silent years, the last kingdom to rule Palestine were the Romans. Rome was the legs of iron and feet, part of iron and part of clay.
This completed the giant statute in Nebuchadnezzar's dream.
Daniel completed his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream with the following prophecy:
"Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them in pieces." Daniel 2:34
The stone cut out without hands is Christ Jesus. Then Daniel continues:
"Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floor; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth." Daniel 2:35
Thus, the kingdoms represented in Nebuchadnezzar's dream come to their end, and Jesus Christ, our Saviour is born.
Mountains in the Bible represent kingdoms, so the stone cut out without hands became a great kingdom and filled the whole earth. This fulfills the word given by Jesus to all His disciples:
"And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Luke 24:47
With the birth of Jesus and the end of the four hundred silent years, we open the New Testament era in His - Story. Truly, as Jesus prophesied, the gospel of repentance has been preached to all nations.
I pray this short version of His -Story of the four hundred silent years between the testaments helps in your understanding of God's Word and His wonderful plan of complete salvation for His creation man.
The book of Malachi was the last book of the Old Testament and the book ended with a curse.
"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." Malachi 4:5-6
These were God's last anointed words until the heavens opened and the angels spoke:
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 2:14
Some four hundred years passed between the curse that flowed from Malachi's pen and when the angels split the heavens singing glory to God in the highest.
When we close the Old Testament and begin in Matthew nothing seems to be the same. The religious order of the day was the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians of which no mention was made in the Old Testament. Rome was in power and the Jews were under a vice king, Herod the Great, which was an Edomite, a descendant of Esau.
Malachi, whose name means "The messenger", was contemporary with Ezra and Nehemiah. By Malachi, Ezra and Nehemiah's writings we know the temple was restored and the ritual sacrifices had begun again.
From this point on, we must rely on the writings of the historian Josephus and the writing of the Maccabees. In this study we will also look to the book "The Four Hundred Silent Years" by H.A. Ironside, printed around 1914.
At the close of the Old Testament Israel was still under the rule of the priesthood. At this time in history the priesthood had become compromised with the things of the world, much like the church system has become in our day.
Nehemiah traced the priesthood from Joshua, Joiakin, Eliashib, Joiada, and Jonathan to the last priest mentioned in the Old Testament Jaddua. It was the high priest, Joiada's son, Jonathan that Nehemiah chased from the temple because he married the daughter of Sanballat the Horonite who was the enemy of the rebuilding of the temple. From this point the priesthood fell into disarray and from the grace and blessing of God.
The priesthood had become mixed with the heathen nations around Judea. When Jonathan fled from Nehemiah he fled to the Samaritans. With the help of Sanballat, his father-in-law, they established the Samaritan system. They are accredited with the building of the rival temple on Mount Gerizim in Samaria. Later historians claim, permission was given to Manasseh by Alexander the Great to build the temple. Jonathan further degraded the priesthood, resorting to murder in order to secure his position as high priest.
The next high priest was Jaddua. He was the last high priest mentioned in the Old Testament. He was a priest highly thought of by the people. Jaddua was the high priest when Alexander the Great defeated Darius the Persian king, and when Alexander the Great began his empire which included Palestine around 335 B.C.
With the defeat of the Medo-Persian Empire and the victory of Alexander the Great, we can witness the fulfillment of Nebuchadnezzar's dream interpreted by Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold. The breast and arms, or the silver kingdom was the Medo-Persian Empire. The belly and thighs were of brass. Alexander was the Brass Kingdom in Nebuchadnezzar's dream.
Before the four hundred silent years ended, we witnessed the coming of the fourth kingdom who had legs of iron with feet of part iron and part clay. This was the Roman Empire.
During the reign of Alexander the whole world changed, especially the priesthood in Israel. Alexander Grecianized or Hellenized the whole known world. The Hellenistic system was one of ease and pleasure. Alexander's kingdom only lasted twelve and one-half years. He died in 323 B.C. at the age of only thirty-three. He left no successor or heir. His kingdom fell into disarray.
Agreement was made between his four main generals to divide his kingdom. Antigonus was Alexander's most powerful general. He and his son Demetrius seized Syria. Antigonus sought to control Palestine, but Ptolemy Lagus, another of Alexander's generals, controlled it. When the people favored Antigonus, this led to a bloody conflict.
Ptolemy's son Soter led an army into Jerusalem to punish its inhabitants for their treasonable actions and massacred vast numbers of people. He led as many as one hundred thousand captive to Egypt. In Egypt the Jews were given many freedoms. Many were assimulated into the Egyptian culture. Many other Jews followed their predecessors to Egypt to escape the war-torn city of Jerusalem. This war continued between Antigonus and Soter until the land of Palestine was completely devastated and Jerusalem lay in shambles.
Israel had peace for a few years, until 301 B.C. when, in the battle of Ipsus, four of Alexander's generals, namely Ptolemy, Seleucus, Lysimachus and Cassander attacked Antigonus and defeated him. Antigonus' son Demetrius fled and was later captured and died in captivity.
Jaddua remained as high priest during this time and died around 301 B.C. He was followed by Onias I. Not much is written of Onias. He was followed by his son, Simon the Just. He was called this because of his kindness toward his people.
Simon repaired the house of God and fortified the temple wall. He was a good man who sought to stop the Hellinization of the priesthood and the people. Simon held to the Scriptures and the ceremonies, but he put all his trust and beliefs into the ceremonial worship of God instead of the true worship of God. He became exclusive, believing he was the only one. This has been the hazzard that has crept into every denomination of our day.
As Paul wrote to Timothy, "They have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof . . ." II Timothy 3:5.
The priesthood form religion and the exclusivism led to the formation of the religious sect called the Pharisees. The Pharisees were called the Separatists. This same Pharisaical spirit reigns in the church system today.
Simon the high priest became the head of the Sanhedrim, the high court of the Jews. He was the first of the great rabbis who embraced the oral teachings of the Mishna, which is from the Babylonian Talmud which the Jews had brought with them from the Babylonian captivity. The Mishna superceded the Word of God, and has been used as the Jewish gospel ever since. Jewish laws, Jewish worship and Jewish beliefs come from the Mishna.
Those who were not part of the separatists movement continued in their Hellenistic beliefs of ease and comfort no matter what the true Word of God said. These later became the Sadducees (the righteous ones). These became righteous in their own eyes and forsook the righteousness of God. So with the Pharisees and the Sadducees, we discover the formation of the religious sects of the days of our Lord.
Simon the Just, died in 291 B.C. His brother Eleazar became the high priest and ruled for fifteen years until 276 B.C. During this time Ptolemy Soter ruled Palestine. Soter died in 284 B.C. His son Ptolemy Philadelphus took his place. It was during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, that the first five books of the Old Testament were translated into Greek which is called the Septuagint, still used today in some Bible translations. This was the first time the Bible was available in the language of the common man.
When Eleazar died his brother Manasseh became high priest. He died in 251 B.C. and was succeeded by Onias II, the son of Simon the Just. Ptolemy Philadelphus ruled until 247 B.C. He was followed by Ptolemy Euergetes. It was during his reign that the Jewish people came under harsh treatment.
Onias II who did not follow in his father's footsteps was known as "a man of little soul" (quoted from Josephus). He had not paid the annual tribute of twenty talents of silver, or about $ 2000.00 per year to Euergetes for many years. This sum had become a sizable amount which the Jews were unable to pay. Things got so bad, Euergetes sent his officials to threaten the Jews and demand payment in full or he would destroy the Jewish state.
The Jews were panic stricken, not knowing what to do or where to turn. A nephew of Onias named Joseph, the son of Tobias, wined and dined the Egyptian ambassador. He convinced the Egyptian ambassador to plead the Jews' cause to his royal master. Then Joseph, himself, also followed the Egyptian ambassador to plead the cause of the Jews. While traveling with a caravan of merchants from Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, Joseph overheard their plans to offer eight thousand talents for the right to collect the taxes of the Jews throughout Coele-Syria, Phoenicia, Judea, and Samaria. Joseph decided to outwit them. He offered sixteen thousand talents for the privilege. He knew he could make up the difference from the taxes he collected from the people.
Two thousand men were appointed to assist him. Thus Joseph was the first of the hated publicans. The publicans were considered lower than the lowest sinner in Israel. Joseph held his position until his death. He extorted all he could from the people. He taxed their land and their goods. If they could not pay, he took their lands and all they owned. Some sold themselves into slavery to pay their tax.
This sounds like our day. Farmers, who cannot pay the high interest have had to sell out with nothing to show for their years of hard labor. People lose their houses the same way, after paying on them for years. They receive nothing for all the money and labor they put into their properties. Many become slaves to their welfare state, unable again to rise out of their poverty state.
On the death of Onias II, his son Simon II became the high priest. In his day there was peace from without, but there was constant conflict between the family of Joseph the publican (known as the sons of Tobias) and the house of the high priest.
Ptolemy Euergetes was succeeded by Ptoelmy Philopater who murdered his mother and brother. In order to regain the land of Palestine, the king of Syria, Antiochus the Great attached Ptolemy Philopater at the battle of Raphia in 217 B.C. Antiochus was defeated and suffered great loss. Philopater was hailed as a hero and gave many gifts to the temple and offered many sacrifices and oblations. Then his glory went to his head, and he insisted on entering the Holy of Holies. Upon entering the Holy of Holies, he was stricken with paralysis and was carried from the temple half dead. Because of this act, he became hated by the people, and the glory he had obtained was turned to shame. After the Philopater incident in the Holy of Holies, he left Judea with an intense hatred for the Jews.
The Ptolemies and Antiochus made a peace agreement - - - and Coele- Syria and Palestine were confirmed in the hands of the Egyptians. For a short time, Palestine had peace, but the Jews who had fled to Egypt had become resentful of the Ptolemies because the Ptolemies had persecuted them unmercifully. Philopater died in 204 B.C. and his son Ptolemy Epiphanes came to the throne at the young age of five.
After the death of Philopater, Antiochus reclaimed Palestine as his territory in 203 B.C. In 198 B.C., Scopas, an Egyptian general recaptured Palestine for Egypt. In 193 B.C. a marriage was arranged between Ptoelmy Epiphanes and Cleopatra, the daughter of Antiochus the Great. This marriage was to bring peace between Egypt and Syria. But this peace did not last long, and thus Cleopatra became queen of Egypt.
Ptolemy Epiphanes died by poison in 180 B.C. His son Philometer reigned in his stead. His mother, Cleopatra, became known as Queen Regent. She and her son Philapater had rule over Palestine and Onais III was the high priest.
The Jewish people preferred Syria to rule over them. The rule of Onais III brought peace to Palestine. Onais III hated wickedness, and Israel kept the law of God.
But it should be noted: After the Babylonian captivity, the Jews were never claimed as God's chosen people, and will not be until they receive Christ as their Messiah.
Onais III was the last priest to receive the priesthood by inheritance. He was deposed by Antiochus Epiphanes, brother and successor to Philoapater. The priesthood was done away with as far as God's appointed people, and it became a political appointed office.
The Age of the Maccabees
We now come to the time in the four hundred silent years known as the Age of the Maccabees. During the aforementioned time, the two main religious sects known as the Pharisees and Sadducees came into power. The weaker of these two sects was the Pharisees. They held strict observance to the Law, but they added to the Law.
Their self-righteousness and hypocrisy was condemned greatly by our Lord Jesus. They only held God's truths carnally. They rejected anything Spiritual in the Word. How like the modern church which have become condoners of anything they want to believe.
On the other hand Onais III hellenized the people, bringing Grecian ways and customs to the people. The Grecian ways were popular with the people. Greek philosophy, Greek games, and even Greek religion was introduced to the people, which they gladly accepted. The Jewish ways were replaced by everything Grecian.
The Sadducees became the ruling class with the people. They had an easy religion and a sporting way of life. We certainly see the Sadducees are still running the church system of today.
As the Word promises, God always has His remnant. The same was true during the four hundred silent years. They were an afflicted people who abhorred the ways of the heathen, and they refused to follow the ways of the new religious sects. These clung devotedly to the promise of God of a Messiah. From this righteous sect would spring up the Essenes who placed Spirituality above conformity.
Meanwhile, the love of power, ease, and comfort were eating away any godliness left in the people. As mentioned before Joseph, the son of Tobias, the first of the publicans held the office for many years, becoming rich and powerful until his power equaled the power of the high priest.
Joseph had a son whose name was Hyrcanus. Hyrcanus was sent to Egypt to congratulate the king and queen on the birth of their son. Hyrcanus used this time to bribe the king with money to obtain the right to collect the king's taxes east of the Jordan. This treachery enraged his father and brothers, and they sought to kill him.
During this onslaught, Hyrcanus escaped, but two of his brothers were killed. Even though Hyrcanus escaped, he later committed suicide. Wealth and power became the rule of the day.
Philopater died, his brother Antiochus was surnamed Epiphanes which means "The Illustrious One" , but the people called him Epimanes (The Mad Man). He was referred to as the Anti-Christ of the Old Testament.
Joshua, the high priest's brother, offered Antiochus four hundred and forty talents to make him the high priest. Joshua also promised the king he would do all he could to Grecianize the Jews, even changing the Jew's name to Antiochians.
Joshua, who called himself Jason after a Greek hero, built gymnasiums, adopted Greek learning, Greek fashions, and Greek games. Thus the Sadducees were in complete control of the people. This sounds like the mega-churches of today who supply all the worldly pleasures to entice the worldly people to support their opulence. They have forgotten the things of God and have turned to the world for their support and blessings.
Four years passed, and the treacherous Jason sent his younger brother Onias to Antioch with the tribute money. The Bible is very clear when it states we will reap what we have sown. Jason's brother was determined to obtain the high priesthood for himself. He offered three hundred talents more than his brother Jason had, and obtained the priesthood and the right to the tribute money. He returned to Jerusalem with the intentions of ousting his brother, but the sons of Tobias would not relinquish the office and the power. Because of this, Onias was forced to return to Antioch. He sought the aid of the king, and further promised to Grecianize the Jews more than his brother had. He changed his name from Onias to Menelaus. In order for him to make up the tribute, he robbed the golden vessels from the temple to make up the tribute money.
The senior Onias III still lived, and his righteous soul was vexed when he witnessed the deeds of the apostate priesthood. He spoke out against the priesthood's sinful ways, and for this he was murdered. Menelaus was very proud of himself because the troublemaker, Onias III was dead.
Menelaus robbing the temple, and the death of Onias III, so enraged the people that he had to flee for his life, but he retained the priesthood, and his ways became more and more vile. He again stole more of the holy vessels from the temple. Because of this, the people rose up against him. Menelaus's brother Lysimachus tried to put down the revolt, but was soundly defeated, and Lysimachus was killed, and Menelaus escaped.
Menelaus sent a delegation of the Sanhedrim, along with much gold. Menelaus was acquitted of any wrong doing, and his accusers were put to death. This sounds like the politics of our day. The gold blinded their eyes, and injustice prevailed.
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.
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