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2. The Time Between The Testaments | History Of The Holy Land

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The Script

After exploring the vibrant and pivotal Biblical Era of Israel, it's time to turn our attention to an equally fascinating and crucial chapter: the Intertestamental Period. This stretch of time, nestled between the well-known tales of the Old and New Testaments, is like a bridge connecting two significant landmarks in history. During these years, the Jewish community experienced a whirlwind of change, from returning to their homeland after exile to encountering various powerful empires that left their mark on the land and the people. In this upcoming episode, we’ll uncover the stories of daring revolts, the rise and fall of dynasties, the blending of diverse cultures, and the emergence of different groups and ideas within the Jewish faith. So, let's get to it.

Persia, in modern day Iran, was the ruling power of the time. King Cyrus of Persia, who was in power around 539-537 BC, made a surprise pivot and allowed the Jews to return to their homeland, Judah, after a long and difficult period of exile in Babylon. They could finally go back to their homes and rebuild their lives. 

From 537 to 516 BC, the Jewish people put incredible effort into rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians years earlier. This new structure, known as the Second Temple, took the place of Solomon's Temple. It was also a symbol of renewal and hope for the Jewish community after returning from their 70 years in exile. 

The next big event for the region would come charging across the land like a wild ram. His name: Alexander the Great. A Greekward shift would follow Alexander's conquests from 331 to 323 BC. This military genius from Greece conquered and spread his influence over a vast area, including the Holy Land where the Jewish people lived. 

After Alexander the Great died, his massive empire was divided among his generals, with the Ptolemies taking control of Egypt and the Seleucids grabbing Syria, both ruling over different areas where the Jews lived. This change brought exposure to Greek ways of life, a process called Hellenization. 

This meant that the local Jewish population started speaking Greek, following Greek customs, and incorporating Greek ideas into their daily lives. While some Jews embraced the new influences, others wanted to preserve their traditional practices and beliefs. This difference in opinion led to tensions within the Jewish community.

Starting in 175 BC Antiochus IV was the Seleucid ruler who was in charge of the Jewish homeland. He had a grand vision of unifying his empire under the banner of Greek culture and religion. To achieve this, he imposed harsh policies on the Jewish people, including banning traditional Jewish practices like circumcision, Sabbath observance, and kosher dietary laws. 

The last straw came when he desecrated the Second Temple in Jerusalem by installing a statue of a Greek god and allowing pig sacrifices—two acts that were deeply offensive to Jewish beliefs. This blatant disrespect for Jewish traditions and religion enraged many and was the tipping point.

In 167 BC, a group of Jews, led by a leader named Judah Maccabee, decided to revolt against the Seleucid ruler named Antiochus IV. The Maccabean Revolt lasted until 160 BC, resulting in a victory for the Jews. 

After the Maccabees, led by Judah Maccabee, successfully recaptured Jerusalem and the Second Temple from the Seleucids, they found that the Temple had been desecrated. They wanted to rededicate it and relight the menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum), but they could only find a small amount of uncontaminated olive oil, enough for just one day. 

Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, which was the time needed to prepare and consecrate fresh oil. This miracle is celebrated annually during the festival of Hanukkah, where Jews light a menorah for eight nights to commemorate the miracle of the oil and the triumph of the Maccabees over the oppressive rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

After this success, a new Jewish ruling family called the Hasmoneans, took charge from 140 to 63 BC. This dynasty strengthened and expanded the territory of Judea, the name for the Holy Land at the time. During Hasmonean rule, the Jewish community experienced a period of growth and increased power in the region.

We'll be right back with more of The History Of The Holy Land, but first, this:

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Welcome back! Previously, the Maccabees recaptured Jerusalem, leading to Hanukkah's miracle, and a generation of self-governance. After nearly a hundred years, things in Judea were not looking good. Let's get back to it now. 

Sadly, by 63 BC, Judea was embroiled in a civil war between two brothers, Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, each vying for control of the kingdom. In a bid for support, both turned to Pompey the Great, a Roman General who was in the region following successful military campaigns. 

Seeing an opportunity, Pompey intervened and laid siege to Jerusalem and eventually captured it. During his conquest, he entered into the Temple's Holy of Holies, a sacred space where only the High Priest was permitted to enter, and that just once a year on Yom Kippur. 

The Jews saw Pompey's act as a desecration. Despite this bold move, Pompey neither looted nor destroyed the Temple but left its treasures intact. He then reinstated Hyrcanus II as High Priest, although he stripped him of his kingly title and powers. This pivotal moment marked the beginning of Roman rule in Judea.

With this takeover, the Jewish land came under the control of the mighty Roman Empire, introducing a new set of rulers and laws to the region. The Roman conquest ended a century of Jewish self-governance in the Holy Land. 

In 37 BC, a ruler named Herod the Great came into power, starting a dynasty that would bear his name until 6 AD. Though Herod and his family were in charge in these years, they still answered to the Roman Emperor. 

Herod the Great, who ruled as a client king under Rome, undertook an ambitious project to renovate and expand the Temple in Jerusalem. This endeavor transformed the Temple into an architectural marvel, enhancing its grandeur and making it one of the most magnificent religious structures of its time. 

The renovation was not just a tribute to Jewish faith but also a display of Herod's political acumen, as he sought to secure his legacy and gain favor both with his Roman overlords and his Jewish subjects.

Herod was famous for his grand construction projects. However, he would become infamous for one of the most dastardly deeds in history. As the New Testament narrative opened, Herod was on the throne when he ordered the massacre of the innocents in a small town called Bethlehem. 

Around 4 to 6 BC, a pivotal moment in history occurred with the birth of Jesus, marking the end of the Intertestamental Period. 

The Intertestamental Period is a crucial era that shaped the cultural and religious landscape into which Christianity emerged. Understanding this period provides context for the New Testament and illuminates the broader historical backdrop of early Jewish and Christian history. 

Thank you for listening to The History Of The Holy Land: From Abraham To Hamas, Created by Lucas Kitchen, and produced by Free Grace International. For previous episodes, video and audio versions of this podcast, and transcripts go to freegrace.in

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