Between The Testaments

BETWEEN THE TESTAMENTS

The Old Testament closes with disappointment, yet hope. Disappointment because even after the Lord brought the formerly captive remnant within Judah back from Babylon to Jerusalem, they never seemed to fully grasp His heart. Instead, they quickly slipped into complacency, futile religious ceremonies, heartless worship and rigid legalism. These germenating seeds of religious adultery bloomed around the time of Christ with two prominent sects- the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The former were the perpetuators of Ezra's teachings, while the latter represented the posterity of priests, around the the time of Ezra, who abandoned the true worship of Yahweh and compromised with liberalism.

The last book of the Old Testament is by the prophet Malachi. His book closes with the words:

"Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord."

Malachi 4:5, see also 3:1

After this prophecy there appears to have been prophetic silence for about 400 years. We have no Scriptural account of God moving any man to utter the words "Thus says the LORD..." until Malachiís prophecy was fulfilled. The period between these times is correctly referred to as the Intertestamental Period. To adequately grasp the New Testament, some background information will help the Bible student to appreciate it more fully.

REDEFINING ISRAEL

There appears in Scripture a progression in defining Israel. Firstly it referred to a man (Gen. 32:28; 35:10). After his death it was used to describe his descendants as God formed them into a nation within Egypt (see expression like Gen. 32:32; and Ex. 1:1, 7). After the twelve tribes of Israel took possession of Canaan, the land endured tension between the ten northern tribes (known as Ephraim) and the two southern tribes (known as Judah). This came to a head when Rehoboam, the successor to king Solomon, attempted to oppress the united kingdom of Israel with stiffer taxes and penalties. The northern tribes rebelled and formed their own monarchy. They became known as Israel (or Ephraim) while the southern tribes (predominently Judah and Benjamin) became known as Judah. Around the eighth century B.C. (about 722 B.C.) these northern tribes were punished by God and sent into exile by the Assyrians. Judah from that point on was also occasionally called Israel by various prophets (eg. Mal. 1:1 etc.). About one hundred and thirty six years after the northern tribes were exiled, Judah was similarly exiled to Babylon. This took place in three stages-

1. The exile mentioned in Daniel 1:1 around 605 B.C.;

2. The second exile of Good Figs (Jer. 23:3) around 597 B.C.,

3. The final exile referred to by Jeremiah as the bad figs in 586 B.C. (Jer. 23:5). From the first exile, Judah was in captivity for seventy years as prophesied by Jeremiah. During the exile the Babylonians nick-named the captives from Judah: Jews (being short for Judeans). Those who returned became known as Israel even though the ten northern tribes never officially returned apart from those involved in the Judean exile (NB. Luke 2:36). These ten northern tribes are today known as the "Lost Tribes of Israel".

 

map of Judean and Israelite exile

In the New Testament, Israel is initially referred to the same way as the closing Old Testament writers saw it. It also became a geographical reference point as well as a secular indentification of a nation of people. But a new definition emerges in the writings of Paul. He begins to see Israel as God's people- whether Jew or Gentile. His arguements for this will be covered in our study on the Book of Romans (especially chapters 9-11).

Sixty years prior to Malachi's book three men had by this time left their mark on history by bringing Israel back to spiritual renewal as well as back to their homeland. The first was Daniel. After studying the book of Jeremiah, he realised that God's time had come for Israel to return (Dan.9:1-2; Jer.25:11). He began to seek his God contritely as recorded in Daniel 9:3-5:

"So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fastings, sackcloth and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, 'Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly, and rebelled, even turning aside from Thy commands and ordinances' "

The second man was Ezra who became a scribe of the Law (Ezra 7:10). He brought Israel back to strict obedience to God's Law. The third man was Nehemiah who administered much of the practical rebuilding of Jerusalem. All three men were extraordinary men of prayer.

 

Year

Event

Scripture

605 B.C.

First exile of Judah

Dan. 1:1; (Prophesied Jeremiah 25:8-11)

597 B.C.

"Good figs"

Jer. 23:3

586 B.C.

Final exile- the Temple in Jerusalem is totally destroyed, consequently the Old Covenant is ended, and New is about to be.

Jer 23:5; 2Kings 25; 2Chron. 36:18

539 B.C.

Cyrus and Darius share empire control (Babylonian control ends)

Dan. 5:31; 1:21; Ezra 5:13

536 B.C.

The first captives return to Jerusalem- 49,897 in all, sacrifices are made upon the rebuilt altar. 70 years of first exile completed.

Ezra 2:1ff; Nehemiah 7:5ff; Ps. 126

516 B.C.

Temple completed- 70 years of Temple absence ended.

Ezra 6:15-22

480 B.C.

The events of Esther

 

470 B.C.

Birth of Socrates

 

458 B.C.

Ezra sent to Jerusalem/ decree to rebuild the walls

Ezra 7:6-10; Nehemiah 1 ff

415 B.C.

Nehemiah written

 

397 B.C

Malachi written

 

5 B.C.

Birth of Jesus

 

Of special interest is the date: 458 BC. According to Daniel 9:25 there would be 7 weeks and 62 weeks from then until the appearance of the Messiah. In this reference a week is equal to seven years. This totals to 483 years, which if Christ was born in 5BC and publicly appeared at age 30 in AD 25, this is exactiy 483 years from when God told Daniel the Messiah would appear.

SUMMARY OF ADDITIONAL WORLD EVENTS

549 B.C.

Cyrus becomes ruler of an expanding empire.

535 B.C.

Work on the Temple begun, and stopped.

530 B.C.

Cyrus dies in battle in the eastern regions.

529 B.C.

Cambyses or Artaxerxes, son of Cyrus (Ezra 4:7, 11, 23) is emperor. He stopped work on the Temple.

525 B.C.

Cambyses adds Egypt to his empire with extraordinary swiftness.

521 B.C.

Darius I became emperor. He authorised the completion of the Temple (Ezra ).

520 B.C.

Work recommences by Haggai and Zechariah.

485 B.C.

Xerxes (Ahasuerus) becomes emperor.

473 B.C.

Esther saves Jews from genocide

445 B.C.

Nehemiah appointed governor of Judah.

444 B.C.

Nehemiah rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem.

423 B.C.

Darius II emperor of Persia.

405 B.C.

Artaxerxes II emperor of Persia.

358 B.C.

Artaxerxes III emperor of Persia.

338 B.C.

Arses emperor of Persia.

335 B.C.

Darius III (Codomanus) emperor of Persia, eventually lost to Alexander the Great.

330 B.C.

Greece becomes the new world empire.

280 B.C.

A group of Jewish scholars began to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. This was done by 72 men over a period of 150 years. This became known as the 'Septuagint' (translation of the seventy). It is symbolised by- "LXX"

Due to the depth of Greek control, all of the then known world was swept into speaking Greek as either their main or second language. It virtually led to it becoming the international language. With the language came the culture also. Out of the Greek culture came two opposing sects of the Jews; Hellenizers and Anti-Hellenizers. A Hellenist was simply another way of describing a Greek thinking person. Consequently, Hellenizers were worldly, intellectual, sophisticated and cared little for religion. Later, they became the main influence upon Sadducees who hardly believed in anything spiritual. Yet, the early Church made good use of this universal language for spreading the Gospel. They could freely move and witness through the empire without too many language barriers. Secondly they adapted Greek philosophy into their Gospel presentation (eg. Jn. 1:1).

THE MACCABEAN UPRISING

In about 200 BC Antiochus 1 (little horn of Dan.8) wanted to make a great empire for himself. He wanted to Hellenize the world. In Palestine he replaced spiritual priests for unspiritual and desecrated the Temple by offering sacrifices to heathen gods upon the altar. He banned Judaism and encouraged sacrilege and immorality. But an old priest named Mattahias objected and killed some Syrian officers. His son, Judas Maccabeus became the Jews military leader. Thousands of Jews were killed in the conflict including Judas. His two brothers, Jonathan and Simon took up the fight to bring political independence.They formed an alliance with Rome and by 164 B.C. the Jews had cleansed and rededicated the Temple.

THE ROMAN EMPIRE

This was Daniel's fourth prophesied world empire. Civil war had broken out in Palestine led by two opposing brothers. One brother, Aristobolus was planning to lead a revolt against Rome. The Romans reacted quickly and under Pompey 12,000 Jews were killed. Under the might of the Romans the world enjoyed great peace because there was no major opposition. Some noteworthy features of the Roman Empire were-:

* Caesar Augustus established a road system through-out his empire. This enabled his troops to respond quickly to any possible uprising and also prepared the way for God to send messengers of the Gospel into all the world.

* The period under Roman rule was characterised by:

- World unity (only time in history)

- One world language (Greek)

- World peace.

- An established system of roads, making the world a global village.

- A universal taxation system.

- Citizens (with certain rights) and Non-citizens.

The fierce oppressiveness with which the Romans ruled Palestine was a constant source of aggravation for the Jews living there. They yearned for God to send the Mighty Messiah and free them from this tyranny.

THE FORMING OF THE PHARISEES

Ezra was the unsuspecting founder of the Pharisees. With the priesthood, Ezra "had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel" (Ezra 7:10) Thus Ezra became a scribe of the Law. The followers of Ezra meticulously carried out his teachings, closely following the Law and their interpretations of it. By the second century B.C. a strict sect had been formed and were known as the Hasidim (or Hasideans), meaning "God's loyal ones". The Hasidims split into two groups. The first withdrawing from public life after rejecting certain traditions and beliefs, while the majority in the other group sought to control the religion of the state. From this group the Pharisees began. Their name means "separated ones". In the Gospels they are portrayed as hard-hearted, proud and hypocritical. Yet it must be remembered that they were the most pious people of their day.

THE CLOSE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

The basis of relationship that a husband has with his wife is called marriage. The basis of relationship that God has with His people is called Covenant or Testament. These two words occur frequently throughout the Bible. A covenant was a pact between two people that contained conditions, requirements and obligations. It resulted in two parties being bound together. A testament on the other hand was an agreement made by one person to another, with all the work being done by that person, that resulted in only the other person benefiting upon the death of the testator (Heb. 9:16). Some have suggested that covenant is a much better word to use than testament when dealing with God's relationship to man. These terms will be looked at through the examination of the various New Testament Books. Suffice to say that the Covenant made at Sinai ended when the Temple was destroyed in 586 B.C., yet God still maintained His Covenant promise to David and caused the elect Jews to return to Jerusalem to await the coming Messiah. Thus, we find Matthew, who primarily addresses Jews, not concentrating on Moses, but on King David...

Amen.

New Testament Survey

Introductory Outline To The New Testament

© 2001 Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania

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