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The Four Hundred "Silent Years" - the Inter-testamental Period

Unknown author

Related articles

Greek Empire and Alexander the Great 400 Silent Years - Inter-testamental History
Ptolemies and Seleucids Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Fall of Jerusalem and exile in Babylon

Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah and captured city after city, then came to Jerusalem. He laid siege against it for eighteen months, with the Jews strongly defending it. In July 587 BC, the Babylonians broke through the walls. Nebuchadnezzar made huge mounds of earth as high as the city walls on which he placed war machines. The Jews, in turn, invented machines to fight back. When at last a breech was made, Zedekiah tried to escape, but some deserters informed Nebuchadnezzar who killed his sons and gouged his eyes out, then put him in chains and took him to Babylon with many of the Jewish people (2 Kg 25).

Jeremiah wrote to the Jews in exile and told them to build houses, plant vineyards and gardens, and live normal lives (Jer 29). The Jews were allowed to maintain some community organisation headed by their own elders. Some Jews went into business and prospered. Jeremiah and Ezekiel encouraged the Jews to wait because they were going back into their land.

In 539 BC, Cyrus, king of Persia, conquered the Babylonian empire. Two years later, a Jewish prince, Sheshbazzar, led a group back to start building the temple. Ezra and Nehemiah followed and the temple and walls were rebuilt.

Alexander the Great

In 332 BC, Alexander the Great, on his way to Egypt, assumed control over Jerusalem from the Persians, thus inaugurating its Greek period. The defeat of the Persian empire, formed the Macedonian / Hellenistic empire, the largest empire in history, consisting of the whole Persian empires, plus Afghanistan and western Pakistan. Nine years later, in 323 BC, Alexander died in mysterious circumstances. Antigonus, one of his generals, gained control. The empire did not survive politically, but the influence of Greek culture dominated in the ancient Near East for over a thousand years until the rise of Islam in the 7th cent AD.

The Seleucids

The empire was divided into four, under four of Alexander's generals, including Ptolemy I, ruling in Alexandria, Egypt and Seleucid I, ruling in Antioch in Syria. Judea initially came under the control of Ptolemy.

The Jews ran a temple state around Jerusalem, ruled by the High Priest and regulated by the Torah. The High Priest was always from the family of Zadok, the High Priest under Solomon. The leaders of the return from exile were Zerubbabel, a descendent of David and Joshua the High Priest, a descendent of Zadok.

In 198 BC, Antiochus IV conquered Judea from the Ptolemies and was welcomed into Jerusalem because the Jews thought he would give them greater freedom to practice their religion. This was not to be so. Antiochus, desiring greater ease in controlling his kingdom, tried to impose Greek culture and worship on them.

The Seleucids clashed with Rome in 190 BC and were beaten at the Battle of Magnesia in Asia Minor. They lost territory and had to pay indemnity for twelve years. While Onias IV was High Priest, his brother Jason who wanted to be High Priest, tried to bribe Antiochus IV, to help him pay the indemnity to the Romans, promising that he would help the Hellenisation of the temple state.

Antiochus IV, who wanted to expand his empire and his income, took the name "Epiphanes", meaning "glorious one", saying he was an incarnation of Zeus. Menelaus, not from the family of Zadok, offered a higher bribe and promised to do more to help the process of Hellenisation. Antiochus removed Jason and replaced him with Menelaus in 171 BC.

Antiochus marched to Egypt to fight the Ptolemies, but discovered the Romans there, who had been invited in to help defend Egypt. Antiochus was defeated and embarrassed by the Romans. The Jews took this opportunity to restore the High Priesthood to the family of Zadok, but replacing Menelaus by Jason.

Antiochus was furious. In December 167, he restored Menelaus and banned the practice of Judaism, introducing a new constitution in Jerusalem of a Hellenistic state. Circumcision was banned with the punishment of execution. He burned the Jewish Torah. He converted the temple to a temple to Zeus, called "Baal Shamen" (the Lord of Heaven), which is "Abomination of Desolation" in Hebrew, or appalling sacrilege. He set up an altar to Zeus in the temple, where he sacrificed swine, and sought to make Jews worship it. This fulfilment of Daniel's prophecy lasted three years, an period of intense persecution and martyrdom.

There is more information about Antiochus Ephipanes on another page.

The Maccabean revolt

The Hasmonean family started armed resistance, led by Mattathias, an old man. His son, Judas Maccabeus, was a military genius. With only a few people in a guerilla army, in 167 BC, he led a revolt and had some brilliant victories over the larger and better Greek armies. In 165 BC, Judas Maccabeus cleaned the "abomination of desolation" (as Daniel put it), the altar to Zeus, out the temple and they eventually regained the religious freedom they had lost. The Maccabean line became priest-kings. In December 164 BC, Antiochus retracted the ban on Judaism.

The Hasmonean rulers

The Maccabees continued to fight for political independence, Jonathan succeeded his father Judas in 160 BC, becoming High Priest in 152 BC. He was not a legitimate Zadok priest, but a political and military leader. Simon, the son of Jonathan, won complete independence from the Seleucids in 142 BC. This period is described in the book of 1 Maccabees.

John Hyrcanus, the son of Simon, expanded the small city state into Samaria, Galilee and Idumea, to almost the area of David's kingdom. He died in 104 BC, and was succeeded by his son Aristobulus, for one year, before Alexander, the brother of Aristobulus declared himself king.

Alexander extended the empire into the Transjordan, making the empire bigger than David's kingdom. He was both king and high priest, a complete unprincipled vandal. He died in 76 BC, and was succeeded by his wife, Salome as queen until 67 BC.

The Roman empire grew and consolidated their power over the Mediterranean as the Greek empire collapsed. They made the first son of Alexander, Hyrcanus II the high priest and the 2nd son, Aristobulus II the general of the armies. When Salome died, there was civil war between the two brothers and their followers. Each sought support of the Romans to establish power and to settle the civil war, inviting the Romans to come. Approximately 63 BC, Hyrcanus, was displaced by his brother, Aristobulus.

Roman rule of Judea

The leading Roman general of the area was Pompey, based in Damascus. When he arrived at Jerusalem, Aristobulus resisted and Hyrcanus surrendered. Aristobulus made the temple his fortress and destroyed the bridge between the city and temple. This was over a valley and it was at this place that he held out for three months. Pompey captured the temple by filling in the valley, killing about 12,000 Jews, taking many off to slavery, and levelled the walls of the city. Pompey, out of curiosity, walked into the Holy of Holies, and was surprised to find nothing there. The Glory of the Lord never returned after 586 BC, until Jesus walked in the temple.

Because of Hyrcanus' surrender, he was allowed to continue to be high priest by Pompey, but more and more power went into the hands of the Edomite (Idumaean) administrator (chieftain) called Antipater, hired as a wise counsellor of Pompey. Antipater was made a tax-free Roman citizen and procurator in 47 BC. He was assassinated in 44 BC. Antipater had two sons, Phasael, who was made Tetrarch of Judea, and Herod, who was governor of Galilee, both until 40 BC.

In 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated, Anthony took over the Eastern part of the Roman empire, and Augustus, a nephew of Julius Caesar, the Western part.

In 40 BC, the Parthians from Persia attacked and plundered the city and carried off Hyrcanus to Babylon. They chopped off his ears, so he could no longer be High Priest. Phasael was killed, and Herod fled to Rome. The Hasmonean Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus was made priest/king by the Parthians.

Rome then appointed Antipater's son Herod as a client king over Israel and in 37 BC, Herod, using Roman troops, brought Jerusalem under siege again and with greater slaughter set himself up as king, conquering Judea from the Parthians.

Related articles

Greek Empire and Alexander the Great 400 Silent Years - Inter-testamental History
Ptolemies and Seleucids Antiochus IV Epiphanes

The Bible

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Also included are lists of the quotations of the OT in the NT, and passages of the OT quoted in the NT.

Why These 66 Books?
Books in the Hebrew Scriptures
Quotations in NT From OT
OT Passages Quoted in NT
History of the English Bible
Twelve Books of the Apocrypha
The Pseudepigrapha - False Writings
Lost Books Referenced in OT

Old Testament Overview

This is a series of six pages which give a historical overview through the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period, showing where each OT book fits into the history of Israel.

OT 1: Creation and Patriarchs
OT 2: Exodus and Wilderness
OT 3: Conquest and Monarchy
OT 4: Divided kingdom and Exile
OT 5: Return from Exile
OT 6: 400 Silent Years

New Testament Overview

This is a series of five pages which give a historical overview through the New Testament, focusing on the Ministry of Jesus, Paul's missionary journeys, and the later first century. Again, it shows where each book of the NT fits into the history of the first century.

NT 1: Life and Ministry of Jesus
NT 2: Birth of the Church
NT 3: Paul's Missionary Journeys
NT 4: Paul's Imprisonment
NT 5: John and Later NT

Introductions to Old Testament Books

This is an almost complete collection of introductions to each of the books in the Old Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Genesis Exodus Leviticus
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Matthew's Gospel Mark's Gospel Luke's Gospel
John's Gospel

Book of Acts

Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians
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Colossians 1 & 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy
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Information about the different nations surrounding Israel, and other articles concerning Old Testament history and the inter-testamental period.

Canaanite Religion
Israel's Enemies During the Conquest
Syria / Aram
The Assyrian Empire
Babylon and its History
The Persian Empire
The Greek Empire
The 400 Silent Years
The Ptolemies and Seleucids
Antiochus IV - Epiphanes

Old Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for OT studies. These include a list of the people named in the OT and confirmed by archaeology. There are also pages to convert the different units of measure in the OT, such as the talent, cubit and ephah into modern units.

More theological topics include warfare in the ancient world, the Holy Spirit in the OT, and types of Jesus in the OT.

OT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Jewish Calendar
The Importance of Paradox
Talent Converter (weights)
Cubit Converter (lengths)
OT People Search
Ephah Converter (volumes)
Holy War in the Ancient World
The Holy Spirit in the OT
Types of Jesus in the OT

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Are chapters 1-11 of Genesis historical?
Chronology of the Flood
Genealogies of the Patriarchs
Table of the Nations (Gen 10)
Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9)

Authorship of the Pentateuch
Chronology of the Wilderness Years
Names of God in the OT
Covenants in the OT
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle and its Theology
Sacrifices and Offerings
The Jewish Festivals
Balaam and Balak
Highlights from Deuteronomy
Overview of Deuteronomy

Studies in the Old Testament History Books (Josh - Esther)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the history books. These include a list of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah, a summary of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and studies of Solomon, Jeroboam and Josiah.

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Dates of the Kings of Judah and Israel
King Solomon
The Kings of Israel
King Jeroboam I of Israel
The Syro-Ephraimite War (735 BC)
Sennacherib's Invasion of Judah (701 BC)
King Josiah of Judah
Differences Between Kings and Chronicles
Chronology of the post-exilic period

Studies in the Old Testament Prophets (Is - Mal)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the OT prophets. These include a page looking at the way the prophets look ahead into their future, a page looking at the question of whether Satan is a fallen angel, and a page studying the seventy weeks of Daniel.

There are also a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of two of the books:
Isaiah (13 pages) and Daniel (10 pages).

Prophets and the Future
The Call of Jeremiah (Jer 1)
The Fall of Satan? (Is 14, Ezek 28)
Daniel Commentary (10 pages)
Isaiah Commentary (13 pages)
Formation of the Book of Jeremiah

Daniel's Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24-27)

New Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for NT studies. These include a list of the people in the NT confirmed by archaeology.

More theological topics include the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

NT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Kingdom of God / Heaven
Parousia (Coming of Christ)
The Importance of Paradox

Studies in the Four Gospels (Matt - John)

A series of articles covering various studies in the four gospels. These include a list of the unique passages in each of the Synoptic Gospels and helpful information about the parables and how to interpret them.

Some articles look at the life and ministry of Jesus, including his genealogy, birth narratives, transfiguration, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the seating arrangements at the Last Supper.

More theological topics include the teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete and whether John the Baptist fulfilled the predictions of the coming of Elijah.

Unique Passages in the Synoptic Gospels
The SynopticProblem
Genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1)
Birth Narratives of Jesus
Understanding the Parables
Peter's Confession and the Transfiguration
Was John the Baptist Elijah?
The Triumphal Entry
The Olivet Discourse (Mark 13)
Important themes in John's Gospel
John's Gospel Prologue (John 1)
Jesus Fulfilling Jewish Festivals
Reclining at Table at the Last Supper
The Holy Spirit as the Paraclete

Studies in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters

A series of articles covering various studies in the Book of Acts and the Letters, including Paul's letters. These include a page studying the messages given by the apostles in the Book of Acts, and the information about the financial collection that Paul made during his third missionary journey. More theological topics include Paul's teaching on Jesus as the last Adam, and descriptions of the church such as the body of Christ and the temple, as well as a look at redemption and the issue of fallen angels.

There are a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of five of the books:
Romans (7 pages), 1 Corinthians (7 pages), Galatians (3 pages), Philemon (1 page) and Hebrews (7 pages)

Apostolic Messages in the Book of Acts
Paul and His Apostleship
Collection for the Saints
The Church Described as a Temple
Church as the Body of Christ
Jesus as the Last Adam
Food Offered to Idols
Paul's Teaching on Headcoverings
Who are the Fallen Angels
The Meaning of Redemption
What is the Church?
Paul and the Greek Games

Romans Commentary (7 pages)

1 Corinthians Commentary (7 pages)

Galatians Commentary (3 pages)

Philemon Commentary (1 page)

Hebrews Commentary (7 pages)

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the study of the Book of Revelation and topics concerning Eschatology (the study of end-times).

These include a description of the structure of the book, a comparison and contrast between the good and evil characters in the book and a list of the many allusions to the OT. For the seven churches, there is a page which gives links to their location on Google maps.

There is a page studying the important theme of Jesus as the Lamb, which forms the central theological truth of the book. There are pages looking at the major views of the Millennium, as well as the rapture and tribulation, as well as a list of dates of the second coming that have been mistakenly predicted through history.

There is also a series of ten pages giving a detailed commentry through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Introduction to the Book of Revelation
Characters Introduced in the Book
Structure of Revelation
List of Allusions to OT
The Description of Jesus as the Lamb
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
The Nero Redivius Myth
The Millennium (1000 years)
The Rapture and the Tribulation
Different Approaches to Revelation
Predicted Dates of the Second Coming

Revelation Commentary (10 pages)

How to do Inductive Bible Study

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study the Bible inductively, by asking a series of simple questions. There are lists of observation and interpretation questions, as well as information about the structure and historical background of biblical books, as well as a list of the different types of figures of speech used in the Bible. There is also a page giving helpful tips on how to apply the Scriptures personally.

How to Study the Bible Inductively
I. The Inductive Study Method
II. Observation Questions
III. Interpretation Questions
IV. Structure of Books
V. Determining the Historical background
VI. Identifying Figures of Speech
VII. Personal Application
VIII. Text Layout

Types of Literature in the Bible

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study each of the different types of book in the Bible by appreciating the type of literature being used. These include historical narrative, law, wisdom, prophets, Gospels, Acts, letters and Revelation.

It is most important that when reading the Bible we are taking note of the type of literature we are reading. Each type needs to be considered and interpreted differently as they have different purposes.

How to Understand OT Narratives
How to Understand OT Law
Hebrew Poetry
OT Wisdom Literature
Understanding the OT Prophets
The Four Gospels
The Parables of Jesus
The Book of Acts
How to Understand the NT Letters
Studying End Times (Eschatology)
The Book of Revelation

Geography and Archaeology

These are a series of pages giving geographical and archaeological information relevant to the study of the Bible. There is a page where you can search for a particular geographical location and locate it on Google maps, as well as viewing photographs on other sites.

There are also pages with photographs from Ephesus and Corinth.

Search for Geographical Locations
Major Archaeological Sites in Israel
Archaeological Sites in Assyria, Babylon and Persia
Virtual Paul's Missionary Journeys
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
Photos of the City of Corinth
Photos of the City of Ephesus

Biblical Archaeology in Museums around the world

A page with a facility to search for artifacts held in museums around the world which have a connection with the Bible. These give information about each artifact, as well as links to the museum's collection website where available showing high resolution photographs of the artifact.

There is also page of photographs from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem of important artifacts.

Search Museums for Biblical Archaeology
Israel Museum Photos

Difficult Theological and Ethical Questions

These are a series of pages looking at some of the more difficult questions of Christian theology, including war, suffering, disappointment and what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel.

Christian Ethics
Never Heard the Gospel
Is there Ever a Just War?
Why Does God Allow Suffering
Handling Disappointment

How to Preach

These are a series of pages giving a practical step-by-step explanation of the process of preparing a message for preaching, and how to lead a small group Bible study.

What is Preaching?
I. Two Approaches to Preaching
II. Study a Passage for Preaching
III. Creating a Message Outline
IV. Making Preaching Relevant
V. Presentation and Public Speaking
VI. Preaching Feedback and Critique
Leading a Small Group Bible Study

Information for SBS staff members

Two pages particularly relevant for people serving as staff on the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in YWAM. One gives helpful instruction about how to prepare to teach on a book in the SBS. The other gives a list of recommended topics which can be taught about for each book of the Bible.

Teaching on SBS Book Topics for SBS