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Intertestament Period

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SILENCE WITHOUT SILENCE...……………………………………………………………..2


For many people the transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament is strange and considerably confusing. Without knowing what took place in the “silent years”, it very well can be a difficult task to make the leap from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The Old Testament world looks and sounds completely different from the world the New Testament describes, however, the same spirit inspired the writings of both canons. It must be known to the reader that the Old and New Testaments complement each other. In order to get the full understanding and the entire picture of God’s Word, you must understand them together. But, in order to understand them together, there is the time period of 400 years that are not included. This 400 year time frame plays a huge part in understanding how the two different worlds of the Old and New Testaments come together to make a comprehensive story.
The “Intertestamental Period” is a short amount of time in relativity to the rest of Biblical history, but this short time frame sets the stage for the New Testament. The period between the Old and New Testament can very well be called a transition period that introduces the “Gentile” world firmly in the Jewish culture. The Old Testament law and style of worship would never be the same, and the prophets of the Old Testament had predicted as such. This time period also encompassed the same period of the Second Temple which ranged from 530 BCE to 70AD.
At the end of the book of Malachi, (c. 420BCE) we find the nation of Israel back in the land of Palestine after the Babylonian captivity. They are not on under their own rule as the Persian and Media-Persian Empire was still in firm control of the area during this time but they are relatively free to worship as He commanded. “The fact that the Persians were Zoroastrians, worshiping the one invisible God, who they believed was Spirit and whose symbol was fire, meant that they felt a kinship with the Jews as with no other. They had, therefore, on the whole favoured the reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.” (Lambert 2010)

SILENCE WITHOUT SILENCE “It is often assumed by many people that the Jewish people in the 1st century were following Moses, and following him very strictly. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, that society in which Christ taught was the most "religious" ever known to man, but it was a far cry from the simple religious doctrines advocated by Moses.” (Martin 1986)
How in a manner of approximately 400 years did the worship of YHWH go from what Moses passed on to a religion that was nearly unrecognizable? Even though, in Biblical time, 400 years is not a long time, it was plenty of time for cultures to infiltrate the Jewish lifestyles and nearly take over everything they did, said and believed in. When the book of Malachi closed, the line of Aaronic priests were still worshiping and carrying on the rites as they had so been ordered to do by the Law of Moses.
At the height of the Persian Empire, Philip of Macedon came to power in what we know as Greece. He united all of the lands of Greece and became the ruler. The son of Philip is known as “Alexander the Great”. In 330 B.C., Alexander led the Greek armies into battle with the Persians and ultimately conquered them. A year later, Alexander the Great led his armies towards Egypt on his way planned to take hold of Jerusalem. As the Greeks approached Jerusalem, the high priest rode out to Alexander and told him about the prophecies of Daniel. The report of Josephus, the Jewish historian, says that Alexander was able to see in the predictions that he would be the one responsible for conquering the world. He promised that no harm would come to Jerusalem.
Alexander died in 323 B.C., but in the decade of his rule, he completely transformed the culture. All of the areas he ruled became “Hellenized”, meaning the Greek culture was completely united. “From then on Hellenism permeated every part of the old empire. Greek became the common and universal language, and the old Semitic languages fell slowly into a kind of disuse. Greek thought, customs and traditions were everywhere adopted. Upper class society became Hellenized. Great changes came in the fields of art, philosophy, and science, as well as religion. So Hellenized did the ancient world become, that to the true Jews, all Gentiles were “Greeks”!!” (Lambert 2010)
The four generals that led Alexander’s armies divided his empire between them as Alexander had no heir. One of the generals was Ptolemy, who controlled Egypt and the North African countries. Another general was Seleucus, who controlled Syria to the north of Palestine. The book of Daniel prophesizes with great accuracy about these events in chapter eleven verse four. Under Ptolemy, Palestine suffered being caught in the middle of many battles between the “Kings of the North”.
After the high priest Jaddua died, Onias became high priest and his son Simon the Just succeeded him. Simon the Just was very much against the Hellenization of the Jewish culture and tried to bring the people back to the true worship of the Lord. Simon the Just died in 291 B.C. and only had an infant son so Simon’s brother, Eleazar, assumed the role of high priest. It was during this time that the LXX was created and was influential in the acceptance of the Greek culture by the Jewish population. “In later days the strictly orthodox Rabbis of the Pharisaic school bitterly regretted this translation, and declared that it was "as great a calamity as the making of the golden calf." This was because some of its renderings were rather paraphrases than translations, and were of such a character as to be a great aid to the Hellenizing Jews in their efforts to introduce the new learning and to overthrow the so-called orthodox teaching.” (Ironsides)
The Greek influence was becoming stronger in the land of Palestine. A party came to power called the Hellenists, who wanted to usher in fully the Greek influence into the Jewish culture to more liberalize the Jewish laws. This party caused a split among the Jewish leaders because there were still those that wanted to hold true to the Mosaic Law. The split caused two major factions to form called the Pharisees and the Sadducees. As we know, these two groups played a very important role in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
In approximately 203 B.C., King Antiochus the Great came to power in Syria and captured Jerusalem from the Egyptians. Upon his death, one of his sons named Antiochus Epiphanes took the throne and became one of the most hated rulers by the Jews. He is often called the Antichrist of the Old Testament since he fulfilled the prophecies of Daniel as “a contemptible person” and “a vile king”. Epiphanes deposed the high priest and sold the priesthood, thus ending the line of Aaronic priests. While Epiphanes was in Egypt, it had been reported that he was killed in battle. The Jewish people attempted to overthrow the so called high priest Manelaus and when word reached Epiphanes, who was very much alive, he sacked Jerusalem with a vengeance. During the three days of battle, over 40,000 people were killed and an equal number torn from their home and led away as captives. As he regained power, with the guidance of Manelaus, Epiphanes forced his way into the Holy of Holies and defiled it by sacrificing a pig on the alter and then made a broth from the flesh sprinkling it all over the temple. The prophet Daniel predicted “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.” (Dan 8:14)
2300 days after the defiling of the Temple, a man named Judas Maccabaeus led the Jewish people in a series of battles to overtake and re-capture Jerusalem. They cleansed the Temple on the 25th day of December which is known as the Day of Dedication. On this date, the Jews still celebrate the Feast of Dedication each year.
Due to the acts of Epiphanes, a Jewish revolt began known today as the Maccabean Revolt which fulfilled another prophecy of Daniel in versus 33-35, “And they that have understanding among the people shall instruct many yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil many days. Now when they shall fall they shall be helped with a little help: but many shall join themselves to them with flatteries and some of them of understanding shall fall to try them, and to purify, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed.”
For the next three to four generations, the Maccabees ruled as the priests in Jerusalem. The entire time they were in power, they had to constantly repel the attacks of the Syrians who were trying to recapture the temple. “During the days of the Maccabees there was a temporary overthrow of foreign domination, which is why the Jews look back to this time and regard it with such tremendous veneration.” (Stedman 1966) During this time frame, one of the priests made an alliance with Rome in the hopes of providing relief when the Syrians attacked. The priest’s intentions were pure and in the best interests of Jerusalem, but this pact with Rome would ultimately usher in a new era for the Jewish people. As Syria and Jerusalem battled, a governor named Antipater, who was a decedent of Esau, made an alliance with two other kings to overthrow Jerusalem. The battle was so fierce that the Roman General Pompey was asked by both armies to intercede. When Pompey interceded, he overthrew Jerusalem and claimed the city for Rome. The Roman senate appointed Antipater as the Procurator of Judea and in turn named his two sons Kings over Galilee and Judea. The king that took the throne over Judea in 40 B.C. is known well to us as Herod the Great. “His reign was to last until the Birth of Christ, and his greatest feat was the rebuilding of the Temple into a building of magnificent proportions. The rest of his reign was a story of cruelty, compromise, murder and intrigue.” (Lambert 2011) As the Pharisees and Sadducees were the two majority parties in the Sanhedrin, and both were under the thumb of the Roman Empire, the Jewish people had no choice but to take what was given them from their “elders”. Through the years after Simon the Just died, the Hellenism of the Jewish people had so taken root into their culture that many of their beliefs were handed down as “oral laws”. It wasn’t that they threw out Jewish law but the Hellenistic influence was so overwhelming that the adoption of Hellenistic doctrines changed the way the Jewish people practiced their religion. The vast majority of these new laws were in fact pagan practices the Jews just absorbed into their culture. This is why Jesus responded in Matthew 15:3 as this “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” The Lord knew they had accepted customs and created their “laws” that were supposed to have been handed down from Moses and the Prophets. The Jewish people were being led so far astray that God determined that this was the appointed time. “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” (Mal 3:1)
Looking over the “400 Silent Years”, it is evident that they were not silent at all. There may have not been any prophets or direct action from God, but He was still ever present in laying the groundwork for what was to come. The Greek culture may have caused the Jewish people to forget their laws and traditions to a point of changing them to meet their own needs, but one thing the Greeks did was unify the people. For the first time since the Tower of Babel, over 100,000,000 people were unified in language and culture. All of these people could communicate in the same tongue and set the stage for the expansion of God’s Word. Had the Greek culture not permeated the Jews, it would have been not as easily accessed or accepted in the Gentile community when Christ came to deliver His message. Through the Hellenism introduced by Alexander the Great, the Jewish people were able to introduce God to the rest of the world. As King Herod tried to prevent the “King of the Jews” from taking his place by slaughtering the infants, The Lord still came forth. As the Romans and Jewish people attempted to snuff out the Word of Jesus Christ by crucifying Him on a tree, He still arose and came forth. As today’s culture that has branched off and grown from the same Greek culture tries to limit and expel the beliefs we hold true in God’s Word, He will still come forth to fulfill His promise, just as He has throughout history.

Bradley P. Nystrom, David P. Nystrom. The History of Chrisitianity. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004.
ESV Bible. Wheaton, Il: Crossway Bibles, 2011.
Ironsides, H.A. The 400 Silent Years. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, Bible Truth Depot, 1914.
Lambert, Lance. "400 Silent Years? Anything but Silent! (Part 1)." Why Isreal?, December 2010.
Martin, Ernest L. The Intertestamental Period. 1986.
Stedman, Ray. THe 400 Years Between the Old and New Testaments. 1966.

[ 1 ]. Wikipedia, “Intertestamental Period”, Accessed 4 October 2013
[ 2 ]. Lambert, Lance, “400 Silent Years? Anything But Silent! (Part 1)” Dec 2010
[ 3 ]. Martin, Earnest, “The Intertestamental Period”, 1986
[ 4 ]. Stedman, Ray, “The 400 Years Between The Old and New Testaments”, Oct 1966
[ 5 ]. Lambert, Lance, “400 Silent Years? Anything But Silent! (Part 1)” Dec 2010
[ 6 ]. Ironsides, H.A., “The 400 Silent Years”, March 1914
[ 7 ]. Ironsides, H.A., “The 400 Silent Years”, March 1914
[ 8 ]. Stedman, Ray, “The 400 Years Between The Old and New Testaments”, Oct 1966
[ 9 ]. Ibid.
[ 10 ]. Nystrom, Brad, “The History of Christianity”, 2004, 11
[ 11 ]. Lambert, Lance, “400 Silent Years? The Post Maccabean Period (Part 11), 2011
[ 12 ]. Martin, Earnest, “The Intertestamental Period”, 1986
[ 13 ]. Lambert, Lance, “400 Silent Years? The Post Maccabean Period (Part 11), 2011

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