11. End Of The Old Testament Period

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From Ezra to the Maccabean Revolt


1. We know very little about the Jews during the fourth century.

2. At the end of the fifth century, Nehemiah and Ezra completed their work and Artaxerxes I died. The Persian rulers continued friendly.

3. There was a powerful colony of Jews at Alexandria. Their temple was destroyed and later rebuilt.

4. Egypt rebelled. Many satraps asserted independence. But Artaxerxes III restored the empire—for the time being.

5. Persia seemed strong—but was on its last legs. Alexander came to power in Greece.

6. During the first two-thirds of the fourth century, we know little or nothing about Jews in Judah.

7. The Samaritans build a temple on Mt. Gerizim. They are forever separated from Judah.

8. Hebrew language is passing—Aramaic is becoming the tongue of Judah.

9. The Greeks are overrunning all Asia Minor. The Hellenistic period is beginning.

10. Alexander the Great (356-323) is getting ready to take the center of the international stage.

11. Just how and when Judah came under Greek control, we do not know.

12. Alexander made a clean sweep of empire. But when he died the empire was divided four ways.

13. The Ptolemies ruled Palestine for almost a century. They made few changes in the Persian region.

14. The Jews were loyal, and they enjoyed full religious liberty.

15. The Seleucids always claimed the Ptolemies stole Palestine, and Antiochus III, after defeating Egypt, took over all of Asia Minor, including Palestine.

16. He released political captives, ordered return of refugees, and accorded the Jews full religious liberty.

17. This was the Hellenistic era. Everywhere everybody was learning Greek.


The Jews under the Seleucids

1. Antiochus III tangled with Rome and was defeated. His successor, Seleucus IV, continued Jewish privileges.

2. Antiochus IV was another story. His treatment of the Jews drove them into rebellion. He meddled with Jewish religious practices.

3. Jason bought the high priesthood from Antiochus. A Greek gymnasium was established in Jerusalem.

4. In three years one Menelus outbid Jason who fled to Trans Jordan. He began stealing and selling the temple sacred vessels.

5. Returning from a victorious Egyptian campaign, Antiochus raided the temple— stripping the gold off the structure.

6. Hearing the rumor that Antiochus had been killed in Egypt, Jason with one thousand men attempted to capture Jerusalem.

7. The general of Antiochus made a bloody raid on Jerusalem. This was in 167 B.C.

8. He left a garrison in the city for 25 years.

9. Antiochus introduced the worship of Zeus and presently forbade the worship of Yahweh.

10. How the Jews reacted to all this is shown in Daniel and the book of Maccabees.

11. Temple sacrifices were suspended. Circumcision was forbidden. The Sabbath was annulled.

12. But the cap of all was in December 167 B.C. when they set up an altar in the temple and offered a swine as sacrifice.

13. Undoubtedly this is the “abomination of desolation” spoken of by Daniel. Dan. 9:27.

14. And all this culminates in the outbreak of the Maccabean rebellion.

15. Said Antiochus: “I did not want to suppress the worship of Yahweh—I only wanted to unite it with the ‘God of Heaven’”—bring it into harmony with Greek religion.

16. The persecutions were drastic and bloody. They would kill Jews for refusing to touch pork.

17. The book of Daniel was written in the midst of all this turmoil and confusion.

18. If you put Antiochus in the place of Nebuchednezzar, you can more fully understand the immediate meaning of Daniel’s pronouncements.

19. Daniel is apocalyptic. By this date loyal Jews had begun to believe in the Messiah, the new age—the everlasting and divine kingdom.

20. Now Judas Maccabaeus swings into action—one of five sons of Mattathias, belonging to the Hasidine sect—and inaugurates effective guerrilla war on the enemy.

21. Judas wins first battle with troops of Antiochus. One crushing defeat after another was administered by Judas.

22. One thing which favored Judas was the fact that Antiochus was quite fully occupied by a major campaign against the Parthians.

23. Judas smashed the pagan altars, cleansed the temple, and established the services. Ever since, the Jews have celebrated the feast of Hanukkah in honor of this dedication.

24. The last surviving son of Mattathias was Simon, whose son John succeeded to the high priesthood—and was known as John Hyrcanus.

25. John Hyrcanus was really the last of the great Hasmonaeans. Of John’s five sons, Aristobulus imprisoned three brothers and murdered the fourth. But he lasted only one year.

26. The general and increasing confusion in Palestine led Rome to take over.

NOTE: For a review of Hebrew history as presented in the Urantia Book, see (1071.6) 97:9.1

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