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After Malachi

After Malachi

Bible Study Notes

 

Table of Contents

 

After Malachi 1

Judea After the Old Testament Prophets. 2

Why Malachi may have been the last Prophet 2

The Geopolitical Importance of Palestine. 3

Cyrus to Alexander 4

The Roll of Daniel 4

Submission to Alexander, the Great 5

Seleucus Forms an Empire when Alexander Dies. 5

The Spread of Hellenistic Culure. 6

Persecution Under Antiochus IV.. 6

The Maccabean Revolt 6

Mattathias Leads a Revolt 7

The Rise of the Sadducees and Pharisees. 7

Judea Under the Romans. 8

Herod the Great Becomes King. 8

After the Death of Herod the Great 8

The Jewish Revolt and Diaspora. 9

The Great Revolt 9

The Bar Kokhba Revolt 10

The Diaspora. 10

Centuries Without a Homeland. 10

The Zionist Movement and Founding of Modern Israel 11

The Zionist Movement 11

Israel Again Becomes a Nation. 12

 

 


Judea After the Old Testament Prophets

 

The Old Testament closes with the words of Malachi (445-432 B.C.), a contemporary of Nehemiah, who delivered his message a century after the return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile.  In the nearly four centuries between Malachi and the commencement of the New Testament, life for the Jews was different in many fundamental ways than it was before the Babylonian exile.  Never again would Israel be ruled by the House of David.  (In fact, shortly after rejecting governance by the House of David the Jews would be forced to leave Palestine for nearly two millennia.)  Never again would the Jews readily mix and intermarry with people from other faiths, cultures, and races.  In consequence of their post-exilic xenophobic polices, never again would the House of Israel practice idolatry.

 

The Bible speaks of two great orders within the priesthood: the Levitical priesthood and the Melchizedek priesthood.  The Levitical priesthood (also called the Aaronic priesthood) performed the various sacrifices specified in the Law of Moses as well as other tasks such as caring for the temple and tabernacle.  The Melchizedek priesthood held the presiding keys.  Christ (see Hebrews 7:21Hebrews 7:21
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

21 without...: or, without swearing of an oath  

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) and the Old Testament prophets who preceded him held the Melchizedek priesthood (as did the apostles who Christ left to watch over his church).  As stated in Hebrews chapter seven and elsewhere, the Levitical priesthood was subordinate to the Melchizedek priesthood and was supposed to the guided by those holding the higher priesthood.  (When reading the scriptures care should be taken not to confuse the high priest of the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood with a high priest of the Melchizedek priesthood.  There was one high priest of the Levitical priesthood, whereas the Melchizedek priesthood has an office called high priest hence there can be more than one high priest in the Melchizedek priesthood just as Christ had more than one apostle.  Most Biblical references to the high priest mean the high priest of the Levitical priesthood.)

 

 

Why Malachi may have been the last Prophet

The answer to the question why there were no more prophets—and holders of the Melchizedek priesthood–after Malachi is unknown.  I will, however, provide a very speculative answer to that question.

 

The number of Melchizedek Priesthood holders had never been numerous in Ancient Israel as a result of the people rejecting the first covenant that Moses brought when he descended from Mount Sinai.   When, following the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jews were taken captive the Melchizedek priesthood went with the people to Babylon.  We see it present in the prophet Ezekiel during the exile.  Only a small number of Jews actually retuned from captivity to rebuild Jerusalem and it appears the governing priesthood—what today we would consider “Church Headquarters”—remained among the captive peoples.  (Somewhat as Salt Lake became the seat of priesthood authority following the explosion of the Saints from Nauvoo.)   To me it is noteworthy that prophets such as Haggai and Zechariah came to preach in Jerusalem from Babylon following the return of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon.   It is generally thought the Magi who visited Jesus in the manger were from Babylon.  Based on the gifts they brought it is obvious the Magi had an excellent understanding that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  This might indicate they were righteous holders of the Melchizedek priesthood.  Following the death of Christ, the majority of the Apostles went into the lands that had comprised the Babylonian empire to preach the Gospel.  It is reasonable to assume that the Melchizedek priesthood holders in these lands accepted the gospel and became numbered among the Christians following contact with the Apostles.  (These Christians together with their records were later destroyed by persecution, first by the Parthians at the time of Constantine and later during the formation of Islam.)  The Bible, of course, contains little information about events that transpired outside of Palestine.  (For example, look at how little we know about Jethro, who ordained Moses, or the Midianites, who had the Melchizedek priesthood in their midst.  Even information about Melchizedek himself is limited to the statement that he received tithes from Abraham.)  Hence it would not surprising if there were prophets and Melchizedek Priesthood holders in the lands of Babylon after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon that they are not mentioned in the Biblical record.  As mentioned above, when the Jews returned from Babylon they adopted xenophobic practices.  It is also very possible that due to these practices in time the Jews ceased to be receptive to visits by prophets who resided in Babylonian lands.  (Malachi’s confrontational style, unique among the prophets, might result from friction between the Jews in Jerusalem and priesthood leadership elsewhere.)  Of course, this is a highly speculative answer to a question that history has failed to answer and should be treated accordingly.

 

It is often thought the Jews suffered during the Babylonian captivity, but in fact the reverse is true.  Only 50,000 of the one to two million Jews forced into exile by the Babylonians chose to return from captivity when Cyrus allowed the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple.  During the Intertestamential Period the Jews were seen as an educated, enterprising, hard working people and were generally considered to be an asset to the nation in which they resided.  (Compare this attitude with nearly the universal sentiment the Jews have endured following their expulsion from Palestine by the Romans shortly after the death of Christ when they became a worldwide “hiss and byword.”)  During Christ’s mortal ministry more Jews lived outside of Palestine than within the borders of the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  (The apostle Paul, for example, was born in what today we call Turkey, and more Jews lived Alexandria of Egypt then lived in Jerusalem of Judea.)

 

During the first three centuries following the end of the Babylonian captivity, Judea was ruled by governors sent from Babylon.  (Often Jews with political influence in the Persian court were placed in positions of political power.  Men such as Ezra and Nehemiah used their political power to forcibly encourage the Jews to obey the Law of Moses.)  Although the Jews longed for their lost independence, their subjugation by foreign powers ensured their survival.  They were too few in number and too weak militarily to have survived without the protection of a stronger power.  Had they obtained their independence they would easily have been conquered by many of their traditional enemies and probably would have been destroyed as a people.

 

 

The Geopolitical Importance of Palestine

The land of Palestine had great geopolitical importance during Biblical times because it was the crossroads for many trade routes.  In his farewell address, George Washington counseled the American people to “avoid entangling alliances.”  Biblical prophets gave the Israelites similar warnings, which when ignored lead first to fall of the Kingdom of Israel to the Assyrians and later to the fall of the Kingdom of Judah to the Babylonians.  Following the Babylonian captivity the Jews wisely refrained from seeking their independence by entering into political alliances with other powers.  This fundamental change in attitude was a key element in their survival as a people.

 

During the centuries when the Lord sent prophets to minister to Israel the people persecuted the prophets and ignored their messages.  Strangely, during the centuries before Christ when Israel lacked prophetic guidance the people revered the words of the prophets and mourned their loss.

 

Once the true prophet has been duly rejected and passed to his reward, swarms of experts descend upon his words to begin the learned business of exegesis [drawing meaning out the written word].  (Hugh Nibley, The World and the Prophets, pp.24-25.)

 

The scribes played an integral part in this newly found reverence for the scriptures.  Ezra is usually considered the first of the scribes.  Without his efforts to collect and preserve what we know as the Old Testament it is likely that much or all of these scriptures would have disappeared.

 

The Jews were taken into captivity by the Babylonians speaking Hebrew.  In captivity they learned to speak Aramaic; and they continued to speak Aramaic following their return from captivity.  Hebrew was a dead language (similar to Latin in our era) long before the birth of Christ.  To understand the scriptures the people needed somebody to translate Hebrew into Aramaic, giving rise to the class of people called scribes in the New Testament.  (It is curious that the Jews in Egypt translated the scriptures into Greek while their kinsmen in Judah refrained from translating the scriptures into Aramaic.)

 

The ability to translate was one of many reasons for the rise in power and prestige of the scribes.  Their importance is seen in the titles they acquired:  lawyers, doctors, elders, and rabbis.

 

Although it was necessary to translate the scriptures from Hebrew to Aramaic, there was a lack of agreement among the scribes upon the proper translation of numerous passages of scripture.  These differences in interpretation would eventually contribute to the formation of various religious sects, such as the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes.

 

 

Cyrus to Alexander

From the time Cyrus conquered Babylon (536 B.C.) until Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire (336-331 B.C.) the Jews were ruled by the Persian Empire, by governors sent from Babylon.  This was a period of relative peace and prosperity.

 

 

The Roll of Daniel

It is well known that Cyrus permitted the Jews to leave Babylon and rebuild Jerusalem.  Also, that he was very tolerant of other religions throughout his empire.  The roll that Daniel and the Jews played in the fall of Babylon is not contained in Biblical history; however, secular historians have recorded their role, although the extent to which Daniel was involved is not known.  Cyrus the Great had besieged Babylon, but was unable to breach its walls.  Furthermore, it appeared he would be unable to starve the city into submission because the Euphrates River flowed through the city and Babylon had quantities of food that were sufficient to outlast the siege.  While the city was besieged, the Medes and Persians under the leadership of Cyrus had cleared the Pallacopas, a cannel that carried floodwater from the Euphrates into Lake Nitocris, thereby diverting the Euphrates River.  On the eve of the feast of one of the Babylonian gods, Cyrus ordered the cannel gates opened and made a show of withdrawing his army.  (It is easy to understand the intense revelry at Belshazzar’s feast described in Daniel 5 when one understands they were celebrating the lifting of the siege.)  The Babylonians had followed the practice of the Assyrians by which they deported large numbers of people from their conquered territories, and consequently Babylon and its provinces contained what today we would call various ethnic minorities each desiring to worship gods from their homelands.  Cyrus let it be known that if the city fell he would not seek retribution nor terrorize the inhabitants.  He also let it be known that he would change various Babylonian policies, such as those preventing captive peoples from returning to their homeland and worshiping the gods of their native lands.  That night when the cannel was opened diverting the Euphrates River into Lake Nitocris the soldiers of Cyrus’s army marched down the Euphrates riverbed and under the walls of Babylon, where they were hauled into the city by Jews with ropes and buckets.  As hewers of wood and drawers of water, the Jewish captives were required to draw water from the Euphrates River and carry it throughout the city filling the public cisterns.  In exchange for the promise they would be allowed to return to Jerusalem that night the Jews hauled up Cyrus’s solders instead of water.  Cyrus was received more as a liberator than a conqueror by the people of Babylon who did not oppose his troops.  What role, if any, Daniel played in negotiations between Cyrus and the Jews is not known.  We do know that Daniel received a very senior administrative position in Cyrus’s new government so it is likely he played an active role in Babylon’s downfall—especially since after interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream he knew the Babylonian Empire would not endure.  (His almost contemptuous remarks to Belshazzar while interpreting the writing on the wall are easier to explain if Daniel had foreknowledge of the conspiracy to admit Cyrus’s army into Babylon.)  It is likely that Nebuchadnezzar’ dream and Daniels visions played a role in the willingness of the Jews to assist Cyrus.  Cyrus honored his promise by allowing the Jews to return to Palestine and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.  Furthermore, he restored to them the treasures of temple that had been seized by Babylonians when they conquered Jerusalem.

 

 

Submission to Alexander, the Great

As mentioned above, the Jews had learned from past misfortunes to avoid political intrigue in attempting to regain their independence.  As Alexander’s army advanced many of the provinces within the Persian Empire revolted accepting Alexander as their new king.  (Alexander the Great had a well-earned reputation for treating people who voluntarily submitted with leniency.  Most nations quickly came to prefer being ruled by the Greeks to the Persians.)  The failure of the Jews to abandon their Persian allegiance in favor of Alexander nearly resulted in their destruction.  Alexander advanced on Jerusalem with the intention of making an example of Jerusalem of what happened to peoples who resisted submitting to his rule.

 

Due to the prophecies of Daniel (see Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel chapter two and even more importance the prophecy of the ram and he-goat in Daniel chapter eight) the Jews correctly recognized Alexander and the Greeks as the next world kingdom foreseen by Daniel.  Instead of resisting, Jerusalem opened its gates and the High Priest, led a procession of priests—all clothed is white robes—to greet the coming of Alexander.  Daniel’s prophecies were explained to Alexander and they played a significant part in averting his anger.  Tradition also holds that Alexander recognized Jaddua, the High Priest, as the person who in a dream told him he would conquer Asia.  Instead of punishing the Jews for being tardy in submitting to his rule, Alexander extended to the Jews great leniency and preference throughout his life.

 

Today we view Daniel’s prophecies as being delivered for the benefit of those living in the latter days.  We often fail to understand the important role they played in Jewish history.  First, the Jews recognized Cyrus as the person who would overthrow Babylon.  Consequently they assisted him in his conquest by admitting Persian soldiers into the city so that by treachery he was able to conquer Babylon.  In exchange, Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.

 

Next the Jews averted certain destruction by submitting to Alexander, as described above.  Had the Jews been a righteous people in Christ’s time they would have recognized the Romans as the next world power and averted the destruction of Jerusalem and their expulsion from Palestine by the Romans under Titus in A.D. 70 which resulted from their revolt against Rome.

 

Although the Jews escaped destruction by Alexander’s army, they faced a new danger, which came from Greek culture that followed Alexander’s conquest.  Greek became the lingua franca of the age, just as English today dominates international travel and commerce.  Hellenistic culture spread, becoming an international standard.  (Much like American culture—everything from McDonalds to Levis—is present if not dominate throughout the world.)  The Greeks looked upon Middle-Eastern cultures, including Jewish culture, as primitive and barbaric.  The Greeks set out to enlighten the world by spreading Hellenistic culture.  (Much as America in the post World Ware II era has encouraged the world to adopt its values on a multitude of issues ranging from the only acceptable form of government [democracy] to the role of women in society.

 

 

Seleucus Forms an Empire when Alexander Dies

After the death of Alexander the Great (323 B.C.) his empire was divided, through warfare, among his leading generals, with Ptolemy ruling in Egypt, Seleucus in the Middle East, Lysinmachus in Thrace, and Antipater in Macedonia. (These are the four kingdoms that came out of the great horn [Alexander’s kingdom] as prophesied by Daniel.  See Daniel 8:22Daniel 8:22
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

22 Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.  

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.)  Initially control of Palestine alternated between the Ptolemies and Seleucids; several times they fought for control over this strategically important land, with the Jewish people suffering all the tragic consequences of war.  In 301 B.C. the Ptolemies prevailed and for the next century the Jews would be ruled by Egypt until 200 B.C. when the Seleucids would finally (after as series of wars) wrest control of the land from the Ptolemies.

 

Seleucus was the founder of Antioch, which became the western capital of his kingdom.  In time nearly all of Asia Minor came under the control of the kingdom he founded.  Seleucus recruited Jews as settlers in his kingdom.  Antioch would in time become one of the principle Christian cities.

 

 

The Spread of Hellenistic Culure

During the rule of the Ptolemies a significant number of Jews migrated to Greek and later Roman dominated lands.   Egypt in particular saw a huge influx of Jews; at the time of Christ more Jews lived in Alexandria than in Jerusalem.   The Ptolemies treated them well.   About 285 B.C. during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphia the Jewish scriptures were translated into Greek, which today is known as the Septuagint version of the Bible.

 

Hellenistic culture spread to Judea under both the Ptolemies and Seleucids, subtly under the Ptolemies and by force under the Seleucids.  The Greeks considered their culture to contain the answer to the world’s problems (in much the same way the United States feels it can solve numerous world problems by spreading American democratic values).  To facilitate the spread of their culture the Greeks built cities with libraries and universities where learning displaced old customs.  Retired Greek soldiers received land grants in conquered land thus became a significant factor in the Hellenization of the ancient world.

 

In 200 B.C., after a series of wars, the Seleucids wrested control of Palestine away from the Ptolemies.  The land was valuable for its trade routes; furthermore, it had strategic importance for both powers.  For Egypt it provided a buffer zone against the Seleucids.  The Seleucids viewed an Egyptian Palestine as an emanate threat to their security.  (Similar to the way in the 1960s that the United States viewed the placement of missiles in Cuba by the USSR as a threat to its national security.)

 

 

Persecution Under Antiochus IV

Under the Ptolemies the Hellenization process had been subtle and relatively voluntary.  This changed under Seleucids.  When the Seleucid king Antiochus IV came to the throne in 175 B.C. an era of active persecution began.  Antiochus feared the growing power of Rome.  The Jews were traditionally a difficult people to rule who were prone to revolt.  No doubt he foresaw the possibility that a Jewish revolt might appeal to Rome for assistance costing him either a province or his entire kingdom.  Antiochus wanted a stable and loyal Palestine and felt that Hellenizing the Jews would achieve the end.

 

Consequently Antiochus tried to extinguish Jewish religious practices and force the Jews to adopt Greek idolatry.  In 169 B.C. he plundered the temple in Jerusalem.  The temple was closed to the worship of Jehovah while an altar to Zeus was erected in the temple on which pigs were sacrificed.   (This, of course, was an extremely offensive abomination to the Jews.)   Numerous measures were taken to stamp out the worship of Jehovah.  Among these measures, under penalty of death, the practice of circumcision and the observance of .the Sabbath were forbidden.  Great brutality was used in the effort to extinguish Jewish religion.  For example, children found to have circumcised where killed and their dead bodies were hung around the mother’s neck.  Many of those who refused to eat pork were executed.

 

 

The Maccabean Revolt

 

 

Mattathias Leads a Revolt

In 167 B.C. in the small village of Modin a group of Seleucidian soldiers ordered an elderly priest named Mattathias to offer sacrifices to the Greek gods.   Although the penalty for disobedience was death he refused.   At which time another priest stepped forward to comply with the demands of the soldiers.   An enraged Mattathias seized a sword killing both the priest and the Syrian official in charge.   Mattathias and his five sons then fled to the hills rallying all Judah to revolt against the Seleucids.

 

Mattathias was from the Asmonean family, which is often anglicized as Hasmonean.   He died soon after the revolt began and was succeeded by his oldest son, Judah.   Judah, commonly known as Judas Maccabeas, proved an able military commander.   The revolt succeeded and for the first time in centuries the Jews again had an independent nation.

 

The Hasmonean revolt is more frequently called the Maccabean revolt.   There is debate among scholars about the meaning of the word Maccabeas.   The most common view is that it comes from the Hebrew word for hammer in reference to the successful tactics employed by Judas Maccabess.  Some, however, believe it comes from the standard Judas used which contained the abbreviation Mi Camo-ka Beaelim Jehovah  meaning “who is like unto thee among the gods O Jehovah” taken from Exodus 15:11Exodus 15:11
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

11 Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? gods: or, mighty ones?  

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.

 

 

The Rise of the Sadducees and Pharisees

It was during this period that the groups later known as the Pharisees and Sadducees gained prominence.  The Pharisees supported the revolt and gained favor with the common people.   The Sadducees in contrast lost favor with the common people due to their lack of support.

 

The Sadducees gained great support among the ruling class as a result of a blunder by the Pharisees.  Hyrcanus, the current king and grandson of Mattathias, was initially a devote follower of the Pharisees, requesting they correct him in the event they found him doing something not in compliance with the law.   At a public banquet Eleasar, a Pharisees, told him he should lay down the high-priesthood and confine himself to being ruler.   When asked why, Eleasar repeated a (false) rumor that Hyrcanus was the illegitimate son of Antiochus Epiphanes resulting from a time in which his mother was a Syrian captive.   The rumor was false, and Mattathias was incensed.  When he asked the Pharisees what should be the punishment of Eleasar they responded “stripes and bonds” which only further incensed Mattathias as he believed Eleasar merited death.

 

The net result was Mattathias broke with the Pharisees and forbade the observance of their pronouncements.  Mattathias subsequently became a Sadducee and thereafter the ruling class favored the Sadducees.

 

As stated above, Mattathias who started the Maccabean revolt died soon after it began.  He was succeeded by his son, Judah commonly known as Judas Maccabeas.   Judas became governor of Palestine and restored the religious worship of the Jews.  The Jewish festival of Hanukkah (usually in December) commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem under Judas Maccabeas.   Judas was killed in battle.  At his death the leadership went to his brother Jonathan, who was assassinated shortly thereafter.

 

Jonathan was succeeded by his brother Simon.   Simon, perhaps in fear that he too might be assassinated by dissidents, appealed to Rome for recognition of his right to rule.   This Rome granted.  Sadly, however, it would lead to the Jews losing their independence to Rome.

 

Simon was succeeded by his son, John Hyrcanus.   Under Jonathan, Simon, and John Hyrcanus the Hasmonean line of priest-rulers was established.   The Jews, of course, were supposed to be ruled by the House of David and the Hasmonean line was not of the House of David.   They finessed this requirement by emphasizing the importance of religious rule, which was in part responsible for fanaticism of the Pharisees seen during Christ’s mortal life.   During this period many of the House of David were given posts of minor importance in outlying areas or forced into exile.  This practice may account for Joseph and Mary living in Galilee, not Jerusalem, when they became espoused.

 

 

Judea Under the Romans

A disputed erupted between Aristobulus and Hycranus, the grandsons of John Hyrcanus, over who should be king.   The claim was submitted to Pompey for Roman adjudication.   When Pompey ruled for Hyrcanus, Aristobulus began a civil war.  This was suppressed by Roman troops, and thereafter Rome became the ruler of Palestine.

 

In 63 B.C. Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus formed the First Triumvirate.  The Jews were given full religious liberty, but were required to pay a yearly tribute.  Hyrcanus was made king and Antipater was appointed procurator of Judea by Julius Caesar.  In 47 B.C. Julius Caesar appointed Herod, the son of Antipater and an Idumean, governor of Galilee.

 

 

Herod the Great Becomes King

Following the assassination of Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire was split and entered a period of civil war.  Mark Antony gained control of the Eastern part of the Empire.  Herod married Mariamne, the granddaughter of Hyrcanus and was made king by Antony and he appointed Mariamne’s brother, Aristobulus III, as high priest.  This is the Herod–called the great–who was king when Jesus was born.

 

Herod’s family was originally from Idumea (Old Testament Edom).  Following Jewish conquest of Idumea, they had converted to the Jewish faith, moved to Jerusalem, and gained both great wealth and political power.  His father, Antipater started as an advisor to kings and later was appointed by the Romans as governor of Galilee.  Both Antipater and Herod were very able administrators (in contrast to the Maccabeans) a fact greatly appreciated by the Romans.

 

Herod, however, lived in fear of a Maccabean revolt.   He murdered his wife’s brother, then Hyrcanus, and finally his wife, Mariamne.  (His fears of political intrigue and assassination were not without some merit.)  Later Herod would murder some of his sons, as his fears were always active.  He was responsible for many public works, a new temple, and period of prosperity among the Jews.  In many ways he merited the title of Herod the great.

 

Following Herod’s death and approval by Rome of his will, his kingdom was split between three of his surviving sons.   Herod Antipas ruled Galilee and the east bank of the Jordan as a tetrarch; Philip became the tetrarch of the Golan Heights in the north-east; and Archelaus became the ethnarch (national leader) of Samaria and Judaea.   Herod Antipas is the Herod who had John the Baptist killed and before whom Christ was taken shortly before his crucifixion.

 

 

After the Death of Herod the Great

Archelaus ruled so badly that the Jews and Samarians appealed to Rome for relief.  In 6 A.D. Rome banished Archelaus to Vienne in Gaul following a revolt led by Judas the Galilean.  Judah was then made a province of the Roman Empire.

 

It is usually stated that Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.  My notes on “Christ’s Birth, Death, and Resurrection Dates” provide considerable information regarding why this statement in incorrect.  Briefly, Heard the Great had another son, Antipater.   In 4 B.C. Herod appointed Antipater as co-regent.   Antipater, however, died before his father, Herod the Great, and is largely forgotten and little studied by historians.  The date of Herod’s death is often confused with the beginning of Antipater’s rule producing the incorrect date of 4 B.C. for the death of Herod the Great.

 

On April 6, 1 B.C; Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judah.   He was crucified on Friday, April 1, 33 A.D., and was resurrected on Sunday, April 3, 33 A.D.  (For more information on this matter please see my notes on Christ’s Birth, Death, and Resurrection dates and also the excellent work of the astronomer John P. Pratt referenced therein.)   There are thus far no Jewish holidays commemorating these dates; nevertheless, they are of the greatest significance for the House of Israel—and all mankind.

 

The period of Herod’s reign and the years during and immediately after the mortal life of Jesus of Nazareth was a time of relative peace and stability.   There was, of course, an underlying discontent both with the lack of Jewish independence and the heavy taxation under which the people lived.  All of which contributed to a revolt against Roman rule lead by the Zealots.

 

 

The Jewish Revolt and Diaspora

 

 

The Great Revolt

The years of 66 to 70 A.D. comprise the Great Revolt of the Jews against Rome.  Discontent had been brewing among the Jews since they lost their independence to Rome in 63 B.C. as a result of high taxation and interference in religious worship.  For decades the Zealots had advocated revolt.  When Caligula declared his divinity and ordered a statue of him be placed in all temples located in the Roman Empire the Jews refused to comply.  Only Caligula’s sudden death saved the Jews from destruction during his reign.  The incident, however, served to unite Jews in opposition to Rome, with moderates joining hardliners in their distaste for Roman rule.

 

In 66 A.D. Florus, the last Roman procurator stole a substantial quantity of silver from the Temple in Jerusalem igniting a riot. The Jews wiped out the relatively small garrison that Rome maintained in Jerusalem itself.  Cestius Gallus, the Roman ruler in Syria, send a larger force to quash the revolt, but it was defeated.  The ranks of the Zealots grew as a result of these initial Jewish victories.

 

The Romans returned with a force of 60,000 well trained troops.  They first attacked Galilee, a hotbed of revolt, killing or taking as slaves over 100,000 Jews.  The Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, believing nothing could stand against Roman power, did nothing to assist the Jews in Galilee.  The rebels who survived fled to Jerusalem where they put to death the (moderate) Jewish leadership.   By 68 A.D. all moderate leaders, who might have brokered a peace, had been killed by Jewish radicals.

 

The Roman soldiers besieged Jerusalem, which was in the midst of a power struggle for leadership control.  The impact of these internal disputes were as disastrous to the inhabitants of Jerusalem as the acts of the Romans soldiers.  (For example, one group of Zealots burned all the food stored to withstand the siege to force the people to take up arms against Rome.)  Those advocating peace negotiations were put to death by the Zealots.

 

In 70 A.D. Roman soldiers (initially commanded by Vespasian and later by Titus) breached the walls of Jerusalem.  The temple was destroyed and Roman revenge was savage.   Between starvation during the siege and the violence that occurred when the city was looted, it is estimated that over one million Jews died.  Thereafter, Rome prohibited Jews from living in Jerusalem, although they were still permitted to live in the Judean countryside.  (Many Christians had foreseen the destruction that would soon arrive and had left Jerusalem.  Ephesus became the capital of Christianity following the destruction of Jerusalem.  For this reason the Apostle John went to Ephesus following his release from the Isle of Patmos where he spent the remainder of his mortal years.)

 

 

The Bar Kokhba Revolt

When Hadrian became the Roman emperor in 118 A.D. he was initially sympathetic to the Jews.  He allowed them to return to Jerusalem and granted them permission to rebuild the Temple.  Jewish expectations rose as preparations to rebuild the temple began.  Hadrian, probably sensing a danger from the increasing nationalist spirit exhibited by the Jews, went back on his word.  He requested that the site of the Temple be moved from its original location and began deporting Jews to North Africa.  (The final result of this policy was the Jews were expelled from Palestine resulting in the second great Jewish Diaspora.  The first Diaspora occurred during the Babylonian captivity.)

 

The Jews organized guerilla forces and, in 123 A.D., began launching surprise attacks against the Romans thus starting the Bar Kokhba Revolt.  Hadrian brought an extra army legion, the “Sixth Ferrata” into Judea to deal with the revolt.  He also forbade the Jews to perform circumcisions.  He began to establish a city in Jerusalem called Aelia Capitolina, the name being a combination of his own name and that of the Roman god Jupiter Capitolinus where he began building a temple to Jupiter in place of the Jewish Temple.

 

While Hadrian remained near Judea, the Jews were relatively quiet. When he left in 132 A.D., they began their rebellion on a large scale. Under the able leadership of Shimon Bar-Kokhba, the Jews captured approximately 50 strongholds in Palestine and 985 undefended towns and villages, including Jerusalem.

 

The turning point of the Bar Kokhba Revolt came when Hadrian sent to Judea one of his best generals from Britain, Julius Severus, along with former governor of Germania, Hadrianus Quintus Lollius Urbicus. By that time, there were 12 army legions from Egypt, Britain, Syria and other areas in Palestine. Instead of waging open war, Severus besieged Jewish fortresses and held back food until the Jews grew weak. Only then did his attack turn into outright war.  The Romans demolished all 50 Jewish fortresses and 985 villages. The main conflicts took place in Judea, the Shephela, the mountains and the Judean desert, though fighting also spread to Northern Israel.

 

The final battle took place in Bethar, Bar-Kokhba’s headquarters, which also housed the Sanhedrin.  Bethar was a vital military stronghold because of its strategic location on a mountain ridge overlooking both the Valley of Sorek and the important Jerusalem-Bet Guvrin Road. Thousands of Jewish refugees fled to Bethar during the war. In 135 C.E., Hadrian’s army besieged Bethar and when the walls of Bethar were breached, after a fierce battle, every Jew in Bethar was killed. Six days passed before the Romans allowed the Jews to bury their dead.

 

Following the battle of Bethar, there were a few small skirmishes in the Judean Desert Caves, but the war was essentially over and Judean independence was lost. The Romans plowed Jerusalem with a yoke of oxen. Jews were sold into slavery and many were transported to Egypt.  Judean settlements were not rebuilt. Jerusalem was turned into a pagan city called Aelia Capitolina and the Jews were forbidden to live there.  Hadrian changed the country’s name from Judea to Palestina.

 

 

The Diaspora

 

 

Centuries Without a Homeland

 

For centuries the Jews did not have a homeland, and, because of Hedrians expulsion orders, few were found in what was once their homeland.   Nearly two millennia would pass before the Jews would again establish an independent nation.

 

In the centuries that followed the Bar Kokhba Revolt the Jews wondered the world as a stateless people.  This is usually called the Diaspora.  During the Diaspora the Jews did not attempt to arm themselves for self defense, so strong was the legacy of brutality and despair resulting from the Great Revolt and the Bar Kokhba Revolt.

 

In time the Jews would divide into two major groups:  Ashkenazi and Sephardic.   The Ashkenazi are the largest and are located in Europe.   In contrast the Sephardic Jews are those of North Africa and the Middle East, including those European Jews remaining in Spain and Portugal following the expulsion of the Jews from those counties.   (One of the most significant events of 1492 was the final expulsion of the Jews from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabel.)

 

 

The Zionist Movement and Founding of Modern Israel

 

 

The Zionist Movement

The rise of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century is often credited by secular historians with being the first of the events that eventually lead to the formation of the modern state of Israel.  Zionism was influenced by nationalist currents in Europe, as well as by the secularization of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, which led many assimilated Jewish intellectuals to seek a new basis for a Jewish national life. One such individual was Theodor Herzl, a Viennese journalist who wrote The Jewish State (1896), calling for the formation of a Jewish nation as a solution to the Diaspora and to anti-Semitism. In 1897 Herzl called the first World Zionist Congress at Basel, which brought together various Zionist groups into one movement. The meeting helped found Zionist organizations in most countries with large Jewish populations.

 

The first issue to split the Zionist movement was whether Palestine was essential to a Jewish state. A majority of the delegates to the 1903 congress felt that it was essential and rejected the British offer of a homeland in Uganda. The opposition, the Territorialists led by Israel Zangwill, withdrew on the grounds that an immediate refuge for persecuted Jews was needed.

 

After Herzl’s death, the Zionist movement came under the leadership of Chaim Weizmann, who sought to reconcile the “practical” wing of the movement, which sought to further Jewish settlement in Palestine, and its “political” wing, which stressed the establishment of a Jewish state. Weizmann obtained few concessions from the Turkish sultan, who ruled Palestine; however, in 1917, Great Britain, then at war with Turkey, issued the Balfour Declaration (named for Arthur James Balfour), which promised to help establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. Great Britain was given a mandate of Palestine in 1920 by the League of Nations, in part to implement the Balfour Declaration.  Jewish colonization vastly increased in the early years of the mandate, but the British later limited Jewish immigration due to Arab opposition.

 

Sources:      http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/history/A0862067.html accessed on December 6, 2005.

http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/history/A0862068.html accessed on December 6, 2005.

 

The Zionist movement was instrumental in assisting Jews to settle in what was once their homeland in Palestine.   While the numbers were few, the toehold they established would prove essential to the ultimate establishment of a modern Jewish nation.

 

 

Israel Again Becomes a Nation

One of the most significant events leading up to the formation of the modern state of Israel was the Nazi holocaust of World War II.   As stated above, for centuries following the Roman expulsion from Palestine, the Jews were afraid to forcibly oppose their persecutors.  This changed in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of World War II, when the Jews again resorted to military action to defend themselves.   The Jewish terrorist movements that later forced the British out of Palestine would probably not have occurred or been successful without the change in attitude and tactical lessons learned in the Warsaw uprising. Following the Holocaust world opinion favored a Jewish homeland.  In 1948 after the United Nations voted to create the modern state of Israel what was once a trickle of Jewish emigration to Palestine became a flood.

 

In 1947, following increasing levels of violence [torrorism] by militant [Jewish] groups, alongside unsuccessful efforts to reconcile the Jewish and Arab populations, the British government decided to withdraw from the Palestine Mandate. Fulfillment of the 1947 UN Partition Plan would have divided the mandated territory into two states, Jewish and Arab, giving about half the land area to each state. Under this plan, Jerusalem was intended to be an international region under UN administration to avoid conflict over its status. Immediately following the adoption of the Partition Plan by the United Nations General Assembly, the Palestinian Arab leadership rejected the plan to create the as-yet-unnamed Jewish state and launched a guerilla war.

 

On May 14, 1948,  before the expiring of the British Mandate of Palestine on midnight of May 15, 1948, the State of Israel was established. The surrounding Arab states supported the Palestinian Arabs in rejecting both the Partition Plan and the establishment of Israel, and the armies of six Arab nations attacked the State of Israel. Over the next 15 months Israel captured an additional 26% of the Mandate territory west of the Jordan river and annexed it to the new state. Most of the Arab population fled or were expelled during the war. The continuing conflict between Israel and the Arab world resulted in a lasting displacement that persists to this day.

 

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isreal#Establishment_of_the_State_and_the_War_of_Independence accessed on December 6, 2005.

 

Since 1948 the modern state of Isreal has been a realtity attracting Jewish immigrents from throughout the world.  It does not, however, enjoy peace and, like ancient Isreal, its survial is threatened by its neighbors.  Nor is it ruled by the House of David.  Neither will not happen until the Messiah comes to personally rule and reign on the earth urshing in a millenimum of peace and righteousness for the entire world.

 

 

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