The period between the Old and New Testaments covers a span of about 400 years. Depending upon which timeline you consult, the period can begin as early as 424 BC or as late as 408 BC. Personally I consider the date of 408 BC to be the starting point of the inter testament period. This is because the book of Malachi was written in 408 BC. One may ask why we should study History in the 1st place. If we consider the 1st answer to the Westminster Confession of Faith, (What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man’s chief end to glorify God and enjoy him forever) History is in reality God’s Story. The story of how God would glorify Himself throughout time by calling a people to Himself that those people might enjoy Him forever. So our learning objectives for this class will be:
- Examine the political events and how God would use pagan rulers in the ancient world to bring Glory to himself.
- Examine how God sovereignly used this period of time to prepare the coming of the Lion of Judah.
- Have a deeper appreciation for Galatians 4:4-5 (But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.)
A great source for any Christian Reformed Library is “The Illustrated Guide to Biblical History” by Kendell H. Easley. Normally I would need 4 weeks to teach this portion of Biblical History, but with God’s Grace, we will attempt to cover this information during the next 45 minutes. Note sheets will be available along with a copy of the Power Point Presentation. Should there be an interest for an extended study in Old Testament and New Testament History, I do have a 26 week course offering. Any desire to have that course taught should be addressed to the Elders of the Church. If the desire is there, then with their guidance and care, we will offer the entire course. Be forewarned though, there will be examinations given should the entire 26 week offering be made available.
After Cyrus allowed the Jews to return from captivity in Babylon, as period of two rulers would oversee the Persian Empire from 530 BC to 522 BC. Darius would rule the Persian Empire from 522 to 486 BC. It was during this time that Darius would allow the Temple to rebuilt (Ezra 4:24-6:22). Darius was burdened with two notorious satraps one by the name of Aristagoras and the other by the name of Histiaeus. These two men would instigate the Greco-Persian wars by their oppression of the area known as Ionia or modern day Turkey. In 498 BC, the Greek city states of Athens and Eretria would come to the aide of the Ionians and would burn Sardis. After Darius’ reign, Xerxes would rule Persia. Esther would eventually be his wife and queen. (Esther 2: 4-17). Esther was born in Susa Persia. God would sovereignly use this Jewish maiden to not only capture the heart of Xerxes but also use her to save the Jewish people from treachery of Haman. (Esther 7:1-10). Xerxes, like all men had a heart that often contemplated revenge. He wanted to punish the Greeks for the burning of Sardis during the Ionian revolt. The Greeks had successfully prevented his father Darius from conquering Greek at the battle of Marathon in in 490 BC. Xerxes would begin his campaign to conquer Greece in 480 BC. The Greek city states of Athens, Sparta, Thespia and Thebes would unite together to attempt to stop Xerxes. In 480 BC two battles would take place in Greece. One was the battle of Thermopylae and the sea battle of Artemisium. At the battle of Thermopylae, 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians and 400 Thebans would battle the Persian Army. Under the leadership of the Spartan king Leonidas, the 1400 Greeks would stand against Xerxes to the last man. They would hold the pass to Athens for two days. During this same time, the Athenian General Thermisticles would inflict significant damage to the Persian Navy during the battle of Artemisium. These two battles would allow time for the city of Athens to be evacuated before Xerxes army could reach the city. Xerxes would burn the city, but he could not burn the idea and seeds of democracy. This portion of the Greco Persian conflict would later be recounted by Aristotle to one of his charges by the name of Alexander, son of Phillip of Macedon. One other Persian king would have great influence on the Jewish people. The son of Xerxes was Artaxerxes I. He would be the king when Nehemiah was the cup bearer of the Royal Court. It would be this king would order the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:1-8).
The effects of Persia on the Jewish People:
- Cyrus would allow the people to return to the Land.
- Xerxes would be influenced by Esther and thereby save the Jewish People
- Artaxerxes I would allow the rebuilding of the wall.
- The native language of Aramaic of Persia would become the common language of the Jews in
Galilee and Judea.
The decline of the Persian Empire would begin in 423 BC and be conquered by the Alexander the Great in 330 BC. The last king of the Persian Empire would be Darius III who would reign only 6 years. His reign was from 336 BC to 330 BC.
Alexander the Great
Alexander’s Father Phillip was born 382 BC. Phillip was both a brilliant manipulator/politician and a brutal conqueror. Phillip’s assent and legitimacy to the throne of Macedon was secured both through political marriages and the development of the Macedonian Phalanx. The Macedonian infantry was equipped with a 6 meter spear (19 ½ feet)
This new development in warfare would give the Macedonians a decisive edge over the Greek infantrymen known as Hoplites. The other factor that enabled Phillip to raise and maintain such an effective military force was that Phillip was able to secure two natural resources; the forests and silver mines of Amphipolis. Phillip consolidated his power and brought the Greek City States under Macedonian rule after the decisive battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC. The Greek army consisted of 35000 Greek infantry. The Hoplites carried the Dory ( a 10 foot spear). The Greeks had 2000 Calvary. The Macedonian infantry consisted of 30000 infantry armed with the 20 foot Phalanx along with 2000 Calvary. During this battle, Phillip had his son Alexander, who was 18 at the time serve as one of the Generals. On August 2nd 338 BC, the Macedonians defeated the Greek army and effectively brought Greece under Macedonian rule. Phillip, in the peace terms, formed what he called the Greek League. Under the terms, the Greeks would consolidate their armies under the control of Macedonian Generals. Athens would suffer the greatest number of losses during the battle. Phillip had his sights set on Persia. Officially, he had stated that he wanted to punish Persia for the burning of Athens, but in reality, he wanted to be the ruler of the world. Tens of thousands of Greeks sailed from Greece to Asia to align themselves with Persian in 337 BC. The only Greek City state that refused to come under Phillip’s control was Sparta. Greece would not regain their independence until the 19th century. After the armistice with the Greeks, Phillip would make a strategic blunder in both diplomacy and local rule. Up to this point, Phillip had married women from other countries to secure his political allegiance, After the conquest of Greece, Phillip would marry a woman from Macedon named Cleopatra. At the wedding feast, her uncle under the influence of strong drink, made a rash public statement that now Phillip could sire a legitimate Macedonian heir to the throne. Phillip’s son Alexander took personal offence and threw his wine at the man. Phillip demanded Alexander apologize. When Alexander refused, Phillip drew his sword and lunged at Alexander. Phillip lost his balance and collapsed on the floor. Alexander is quoted as having said, “Here is the man who was making ready to cross from Europe to Asia, and who cannot even cross from one table to another without losing his balance.” In 336 BC, Phillip would be assassinated at a wedding feast by a young nobleman from Macedonia. Alexander and his mother were rumored to have been part of the plot, mainly because Alexander’s friends would kill this young man after giving chase. Because the assassin was not captured alive, Alexander was rumored to have taken part in the assassination.
Alexander the Great
Alexander was Phillip’s son and at the age of 20, he ascended to the thrown of Macedonia. After Phillip’s death, he had to quell rebellions at home and in Greece. After securing his right to rule, he set out on the endeavor to conquer Persia. There were two battles in Persia for the kingdom. The 1st battle was at Granicus (May-June 334 BC) near the ancient city of Troy. 40,000 Persians along with 20000 Greeks would come up against Alexander’s army of 34600 Macedonians, Greeks and Thracians and Illyrians. The Historian Arrian writes “the cavalry charged in a wedged formation. [The Persian cavalry was arranged in a line 16 deep; the Macedonian phalanx was arranged 8 deep; Alexander’s cavalry unit was arranged 10 deep.] Alexander led the cavalry in an oblique attack across the water so that the army would not get flanked: oblique to the current. This enabled him to prevent a flank attack as he emerged from the water and to engage the enemy with a front as solid as he could make it. The Persians were arranged with mounted troops in front and infantry to the rear…it was a cavalry battle with, as it were, infantry tactics: horse against horse, man against man, locked together. The Macedonians did their utmost to thrust the enemy once and for all back from the river bank and to force him into open ground; whereas, the Persians fought to prevent the landings or to hurl their opponents back into the water.” In the heat of the battle, the Greek’s who fought on the side of the Persians fought to the last man. 2000 of the surviving Greeks under the command of the Persians would be sold into slavery and forced to work in Macedonia. Darius’ wife and family would be captured by Alexander. Alexander would treat the Persian queen and her children with dignity and respect. The decisive battle for Persia would be the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC but prior to that battle Alexander would make his way to Egypt. This would take him through Israel, Tyre and Sidon. At 1st Alexander offered peace to Tyre if they would allow him to make a sacrifice in their temple. The people or Tyre scoffed at Alexander would reply by Building a causeway to the island city and burn the city with the exception of the temple. Alexander would make his sacrifice there. This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah in Chapter 23 and Amos 1:10. There is no record about how Alexander was received by the Jews when he was on his way to Egypt. Neither Plutarch or Arrian record anything about Alexander’s encounter with the people of Israel, but Josephus does (Parmenio alone went up to him, and asked him how it came to pass that, when all others adored him, he should adore the high priest of the Jews? To whom he replied, “I did not adore him, but that God who hath honored him with his high priesthood; for I saw this very person in a dream, in this very habit, when I was at Dios in Macedonia, who, when I was considering with myself how I might obtain the dominion of Asia, exhorted me to make no delay, but boldly to pass over the sea thither, for that he would conduct my army, and would give me the dominion over the Persians; whence it is that, having seen no other in that habit, and now seeing this person in it, and remembering that vision, and the exhortation which I had in my dream, I believe that I bring this army under the Divine conduct, and shall therewith conquer Darius, and destroy the power of the Persians, and that all things will succeed according to what is in my own mind.” And when he had said this to Parmenio, and had given the high priest his right hand, the priests ran along by him, and he came into the city. And when he went up into the temple, he offered sacrifice to God, according to the high priest’s direction, and magnificently treated both the high priest and the priests. And when the Book of Daniel was showed him (23) wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended. And as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present; but the next day he called them to him, and bid them ask what favors they pleased of him; whereupon the high priest desired that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers, and might pay no tribute on the seventh year. He granted all they desired. And when they entreared him that he would permit the Jews in Babylon and Media to enjoy their own laws also, he willingly promised to do hereafter what they desired. And when he said to the multitude, that if any of them would enlist themselves in his army, on this condition, that they should continue under the laws of their forefathers, and live according to them, he was willing to take them with him, many were ready to accompany him in his wars. Flavious Josephus Antiquities Book 11 Chapter 8) Indeed Alexander the Great did fulfill God’s Revelation to the prophet Daniel concerning the kingdom of the Greeks. This prophecy is fulfilled in Daniel Chapter 8.
After Alexander’s conquest of Egypt, the final battle for Persia occurred at Gaugamela in 334 BC. It was here that one of Darius’ generals would kill Darius. Alexander was furious. He pursued the assassin into Bactra. After dispatching the individual who had robbed Darius of the honor of battle, Alexander would marry a beautiful oriental princess named Roxanne. She would eventually bear him a son. Alexander would order his men to marry Asian women. This did not set well with the Macedonians. Some historians have even speculated that this might have caused his generals to secretly poison Alexander. Alexander would press his campaign into India. At the battle of Hydraspes (326), the Macedonians would battle against Elephants. The Indian king, Porus would lead his forces against Alexander. The Macedonians would win the battle. According to the Roman historian Arrian, Porus would be honored by Alexander because of his bravery and loyalty to his men. Porus would be allowed to continue to rule. The place of the Battle is part of modern day Pakistan. Bactra is part of Afghanistan. It is noteworthy that the ancient city of Kandahar receives part of its name from Alexander. Alexander would lose his faithful war horse Bucephalus during this battle. The Macedonians would found a city in honor of Alexander and Bucephalus. . The Macedonians were war weary and wanted to return back to their homeland and their families, but Alexander wanted to press on further into India. Finally Alexander agreed but not without making a great many enemies within his ranks. The Macedonians would march back to Babylon but this long trek was through the dessert and during summer. In June of 323 BC, Alexander would be stricken with a high fever. When it became apparent that the King was about to die, his generals gathered around his bed and according to legend, he was asked, to whom will you leave the kingdom, to which he replied “to the strongest”
Some parting thoughts about Alexander the Great:
- For all his brilliant achievements in Battle, Alexander was a poor ruler. Often he governed more with emotion rather the reason.
- He spread Koine Greek throughout the known world. This is the language that both the Old Testament Septuagint and the New Testament would be written.
- He would be the one who would spread Hellenism throughout the whole world.
The kingdom would eventually be divided by Alexander’s Generals. The southern Kingdom would go to Ptomely, Cassander would rule Greece, Lysimachus would rule Macedonia and portions of Turkey. And Seleucus would rule Asia. This would fulfill Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 8:8 and Daniel 8:22.
The major conflicts between the four generals would eventually affect the people in Israel. The battles between Seleucus and Ptolemy.
The Ptolemy dynasty would rule Egypt from 323 BC to 30 BC.
The Ptolemy empire and the Seleucid empire would struggle quite a bit over the land of Israel. The Seleucids would rule Syria and Asia from 311 BC to 65 BC.
Because of the struggle to control the trade routes from Asia to Europe and coupled with the fact that at this time in the ancient world, Egypt was the bread basket of the world. The effect on Judaism from Hellenism was profound. Hellenism cultivated two philosophies that would affect the Jewish People. With the increasing influence of Hellenism upon the Jewish Communities, there were two Greek Philosophies that would affect Jewish Communities throughout the Persian Empire. Those philosophies would be Stoicism and Epicureanism. The Stoics were from the thoughts of Plato and Aristotle. They tended to be fatalists. The Epicureans were believers in pleasure and happiness but not at the expense of lustfulness. The Epicureans believed that when people died, there was no afterlife and that the body and soul returned to atoms. The Stoics believed in pantheism but also believed in life after death. In resistance to this influence two forms of Judaism would arise. The 1st school would be that of the Pharisee. The Pharisees would be the ones who would add additional man-made philosophies to the Levitical Law in order to “earn more favor” with God. Their often hypocritical way of life often put them at odds with the common everyday Jew. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection from the dead and tended to accept the view of predestination. The second school of Jewish thought that developed was the school of the Sadducees. They tended to come from very wealthy families and claimed their lineage from the priest Zadok.
Ptolemy Soter would defeat the Seleucids over the land of Israel in 301 BC. Part of Ptolemy’s strategy was to have Jewish people transported to Alexandria. Most historians see this more for economic reasons rather than Political. Hellenism would creep into Jewish culture through interaction and intermarriage. It was not Ptolemy’s intent to impose Hellenism on the Jews and in fact both the Seleucids and the Ptolemies viewed Israel as a Temple State with the High Priest as its ruler. But because of the cultural interaction between the Greeks and the Jews, Hellenism became firmly entrenched in Jewish society by the time the Seleucids would take control of Israel in 201 BC.
Because of Ptolemy’s action of relocating Jews to Alexandria, he would unknowingly be part of God’s sovereign plan—to have the Old Testament translated into Koine Greek and to have a Jewish community in place where Joseph and Mary could flee with the infant Lord Jesus. (Matthew 2:13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”)
As we mentioned before, Israel would fall to the Seleucids in 201 BC. The Seleucids would continue the policy of the Ptolemies with one exception. They granted the Temple State complete autonomy including the freedom from Taxation. The Seleucid general defeating the Ptolemies was Antiochus III. He had developed a new type of armored cavalry called (cataphract) . Antiochus had set his designs on some of the Greek colonies along the Mediterranean but there was a fearsome opponent who already controlled that region. This was the Roman Empire.
The Rise of Rome
Most historians cite the founding of Rome in 753 BC. From 753 to 509 BC, Rome had been ruled by kings. In 509, the Romans overthrew their king and formed an entirely new form of Government. The Romans did not want a Democracy nor did they want a Monarchy. They decided they wanted a Republic. The Republic would have checks and balances to prevent one branch of government from overtaking the other. The Republic would have a Senate and two councils. Each counsel would have veto power over the other.
Rome intervenes in the Seleucid and Ptolemy conflict.
Antiochus III or sometimes referred to as Antiochus the Great would align himself with a General from Carthage, named Hannibal. The Romans would defeat Antiochus III in 191 BC at Thermopylae. Rome would pursue the Seleucid King and take the Tarsus Mountains in the process. The Seleucids would continue to meddle in what Rome had considered their realm of influence. The most ruthless of the Seleucid kings was Antiochus Epiphanies or Antiochus IV. He would attack Egypt in 170 BC. He would kidnap the young Egyptian king Ptolemy VI Philometer and install a regent in his place. When the regent decided to rebel, he would once again invade Egypt in 168 BC but this time, he would be met by a Roman Calvary officer by the name of Popilius Laenus. Antiochus IV knew the Roman General and had met him in Rome. The Roman General had a terse warning for the Seleucid king. Rome would no longer tolerate Syria interfering the affairs of Egypt and Rome demanded the return of young king back on the throne of Egypt. Antiochus said he would think about it. The Roman General then drew his sword and drew a circle around Antiochus IV. He then informed him that Antiochus would not be allowed to leave the circle until he had made up his mind. Antiochus yielded to Roman demands. The action by Popilius Laenus would be forever known as the line in the sand. This incident enraged Antiochus. On his way back to Syria, he vented his anger upon the Jewish People. He ordered a halt to daily sacrifice, had priests who refused to sacrifice pigs upon the altars executed. He erected a statue of Zeus in the Temple of Jerusalem and sacrificed a sow on the altar of God. This came to be known as the “Abomination of Desolation”. He outlawed circumcision and according to the apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees he had women executed along with their babies who refused to comply with the edict. He destroyed the walls of Jerusalem and employed a mercenary Macedonian garrison to enforce his decrees. This was a fulfillment of Daniel’s prophesy in Daniel 8:9-14. Jesus, himself would allude to this incident just prior to his crucifixion (Matthew 24:15) but as a future event when the Antichrist would come to power. Paul would call this future type of Antiochus IV as the man of lawlessness. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.) In 165 BC, Matthias Maccabees would begin a revolt against the Seleucid ruler. After an alliance with the Romans, Judas Maccabees would finally throw off the Seleucid yoke but not before costing him his life. The Syrians would be driven out in 141 BC. The only son of Matthias to survive was Simon. This would begin a period in Israel’s history known as the Hasmonean Dynasty.
There are three figures in the Hasmonean Dynasty that are noteworthy. One is John Hyrcanus. He would force the Edomites to convert to Judaism and he exchange ambassadors with Rome in 130 BC. The fact that John was part of the priesthood and the fact that he had been appointed ruler of Israel by Rome did not set well with the Pharisees. During this period of time a great deal of political intrigue took place. One of the interesting was the conflict between Hyrcanus II and Aristobolus. Hycranus II was aligned with an Idumean by the name of Antipater. Hycranus would appeal to one of the Roman Proconsuls named Pompey. Pompey would defeat Aristobolus and name Hycranus High Priest. This would leave Antipater the virtual king of Judea. Soon Pompey would be defeated by Julius Caesar and when the Roman Republic ended, the occupation of Israel would soon follow. This would be the world that Christ, the king of Creation would enter to redeem a people for himself so that if he would be lifted up, (on a cross), He would draw all sorts of men to himself that they may Glorify God forever.Intertestament Period 408 to 5 BC