The period from the book of Malachi at the end of our Old Testament to the opening of Matthew at the beginning of our New Testament comprises about 400 years. These 400 "silent years" were only silent in the sense that there were no prophets from God who were writing Scripture. They were years which brought about dramatic and sweeping changes throughout the ancient world. These changes began with the arrival of a conqueror from the west known as Alexander the Great.



Alexander was the son of King Philip of Macedon. It was a tiny backwoods kingdom, considered barbaric even by the neighboring Greeks of Athens and Thessaly. But from his earliest childhood, Alexander seemed destined for greatness. Even as a child he dreamed of world conquest. The Iliad was his Bible and Achilles was his hero. Alexander had grey eyes and a slight build. His hair was blond and he kept his face smooth-shaven.

1. Childhood.

When Alexander was 7 years old, a group of Persian envoys came to the palace while Philip was away. Alexander came in and proceeded to cross-examine the guests about the size and morale of the Persian army, the distance to Susa, and the condition of the roads leading there.

Another tradition tells of an account when Alexander was about 9 years old. He had gone with his father. Philip, to buy a stallion. However, the king’s grooms were not able to manage the horse who defied every attempt to ride him.

Philip was on the verge of giving the horse back when Alexander offered to ride him. Philip accepted. Alexander took the horse s bridle and turned him so that he was facing the sun and could not be spooked so easily. Then, after calming him down, he mounted and was able to ride him.

The horse, whose name was Bucephalas, was given to Alexander as a present and became his favorite, carrying him into almost every major battle Alexander fought.

In 343 B.C. Philip commissioned Aristotle to be the tutor of Alexander. Aristotle was a boyhood friend of Philip who had studied under Plato. Alexander picked up much of Aristotle’s scientific curiosity, his interest in medicine, biology and rhetoric, and even certain of his political ideas. In fact, when Alexander finally set out on his conquest of Persia, he took with him a whole group of geologists, biologists, and experts in other fields of science.

Alexander commanded the Macedonian Heavy Cavalry under Philip at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 B.C. Alexander was only 16 years old, and yet it was his responsibility to hold the entire left flank against the Theban Band who held the Athenian right flank.

When a gap opened up between the Allied Greek Infantry and the Theban Band, Alexander personally led a charge through and opened up a huge hole in the enemy line, breaking down all organized resistance.

Thus, when Alexander came to the throne of Macedon in 336 B.C. he was already used to the responsibility of authority, even though he was only 20 years old.

2. Conquest of Asia.

Alexander’s ascension to the throne of Macedon galvanized him to action. Within his first year, he conquered all of Achaia, leaving only the Peloponnesian Peninsula out of his league of Greek nations. He then crossed over the Hellespont and into Asia Minor. The Persians were waiting for him and he defeated them at the battle of Granicus. This left all of Asia Minor open to him and he wasted no time in consolidating his hold upon that land. 

3. The Battle of the Issus.

A second Persian army had been assembled on the plains of Syria to await Alexander’s coming. As he moved through the gates of Cilicia and southward down the coast of the Mediterranean, this Persian army moved in behind him, cutting off his supply lines. Alexander was forced to turn and attack.

This time Alexander not only defeated the Persian army, he captured the wife and daughters of the Persian king Darius III who was forced to flee the field. Alexander was left free to make his way southward virtually unopposed.

4. Tyre.

Early in January 332 B.C. Alexander came Tyre, the most powerful naval port in the Mediterranean at that time. The city of Tyre stood on rocky island about a half mile off the coast. It was surrounded by massive walls that rose to a height of 150 feet. The city was considered invincible.

Nebuchadnezzar had attacked Tyre in 586 B.C. and had finally destroyed the mainland city. Even after a 13 year siege he had not been able to capture the island city.

Alexander sent envoys asking that the city come to terms with him. The envoys were murdered and their bodies thrown into the sea. Alexander settled down in what was to be the longest siege of his career.

Alexander had no navy and so he decided to bring the island to him. He began by demolishing the ruins of the mainland city and using the rubble to construct a causeway across the water which separated the island from the coast. It was grueling work and further hampered by constant raids that the people of Tyre made in their swift warships.

Alexander went to Sidon and Byblos and confiscated a fleet of ships which could bottle up the fleet of Tyre. The causeway was finally completed and Alexander launched a three-pronged simultaneous attack.

The city of Tyre fell to Alexander on July 29, 332 B.C. The siege had taken 7 long months. Thousands of the inhabitants were slaughtered. The 30, 000 remaining survivors were sold into slavery while 2000 captured troops were crucified.

Writing at some time between 592 and 570 B.C., the prophet Ezekiel gave the following predictions concerning the overthrow and eventual destruction of the city of Tyre.

Behold, thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves.

"And they will destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; and I will scrape her debris from her and make her a hard rock.

"She will be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken," declares the Lord God, "And she will become spoil for the nations." (Ezekiel 26:3-5).

Beginning in verse 7, we are given a more detailed picture of the destruction that will come against Tyre in the person of Nebuchadnezzar. However, in verse 12, there is a change as Ezekiel turns from what "he" will do to those whom he simply refers to as "they."

"Also they will make a spoil of your riches and a prey of your merchandise, break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses, and throw your stones and your timbers into the water.

"So I will silence the sound of your songs, and the sound of your harps will be heard no more.

"And I will make you a bare rock; you will be a place for the spreading of nets. You will he built no more, for I the Lord have spoken," declares the Lord God. (Ezekiel 26:12-14).

There are a number of points to this prophecy. Let’s list them:

The fulfillment of this prophecy was not the product of blind chance. There is not another city in all of the ancient world that had the same kind of destruction which Alexander brought against Tyre.

Alexander was the unwitting servant of the Lord, bringing Divine judgment against the pagan city.

If you go to site of ancient Tyre today, you will find a place for the spreading of nets. A small fishing village occupies the site while, several miles down the coast, a modern city had taken for itself the name Tyre.

5. Alexander and Jerusalem.

Following the destruction of Tyre, Alexander continued south, finally coming to the Philistine city of Gaza. Gaza was positioned on the top of a steep hill which rose 100 feet above the surrounding plain. Therefore, an enemy attacking Gaza faced walls that were 150 feet high, the bottom part of which was solid mountain.

Alexander built huge movable towers which could he rolled up to the walls of the city, allowing his archers in the tower to pick off the defenders. Even so, it was two months before the city of Gaza could be taken.

While the siege of Gaza was underway, Alexander took a small force and rode east to Jerusalem. Josephus relates how that the High Priest of Jerusalem led a procession of priests out to meet Alexander. The High Priest brought with him a scroll of the book of Daniel.

And when the book of Daniel was showed him, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended; and he was then glad. (Antiquities 11:8:5).

Alexander was so impressed by the Jews and their Bible that he allowed Jerusalem to remain semi-independent and the Jews to practice their distinctive worship as long as they remained politically loyal to him.

6. The World of Alexander.

During the next eight years, Alexander drove his armies all the way to India. It was only when they refused to go any further that he finally agreed to turn back toward home. Returning to Babylon, he became sick and died. He was only 30 years old.

Alexander had reigned twelve years when he died. His servants succeeded him, each in his own domain. After his death they all put on crowns, as did their sons after them. for many years, and they did much evil on the earth." (1 Maccabees 1:7-9).

When Alexander died in 323 B.C. he had conquered almost the entire known world. From Macedonia in the west to India in the east; from the mountains of Armenia in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south were all under Greek dominion.

The only direction where Alexander had not extended his realm was to the west where lay the growing kingdoms of Rome and Carthage.

Although Alexander’s military empire would quickly shatter apart upon his death, many of his ideas and accomplishments would remain to show their effect upon future generations.

a. Cultural Interchange from East to West.

Alexander stimulated trade between the east and the west. This brought about prosperity as well as a change of cultures. Both Alexandria and Antioch became important trading centers.

b. Scientific Learning.

Alexander encouraged scientific investigations. Specimens of plants and animals had been collected by biologists who had accompanied his army. This brought about a renewed interest in science into the ancient world.

c. Hellenization.

Alexander began Hellenizing the Persian Empire. By bringing in Greek settlers into the east and encouraging them to intermarry with the Persians, he was able to indoctrinate the conquered peoples with Greek ideas.

He tried to advance the idea that all men — whether Macedonian, Greek or Persian — should feel a sense of brotherhood.

He was largely successful in this endeavor with one important exception — the Jews. Alexander accomplished this in several ways.

d. Language.

Perhaps one of the most significant changes was in the area of language. Following Alexander’s conquests, Greek became the common language of the ancient world.

It was for this reason that when the authors of the New Testament sat down to write, they wrote in Greek and not in the Hebrew of the Old Testament.



Alexander had left no heir to the throne when he died. After his death, a son was horn to his wife Roxanna. but both she and her son were eventually murdered.

As he lay on his deathbed, Alexander’s generals and friends had asked to whom he was going to bequeath his kingdom. Alexander had answered, — "To the strongest." These words guaranteed a power struggle among his generals. After seven years of war, several leaders emerged.

1. Antigonis.

Antigonis, also known as the "One-Eyed," was 59 years old at the death of Alexander. He took control of Anatolia. Northern Syria and Mesopotamia.

2. Ptolemy.

It is generally believed that Ptolemy was an, illegitimate half-brother to Alexander through their father, Philip. He had been one of Alexander’s seven bodyguard generals.

Ptolemy took over Egypt, Palestine, Phoenicia, and Southern Syria. Ptolemy’s number one general was a man named Seleucus. would play a very important role in ancient history.

3. Cassander.

Cassander was only 31 years old at the time of Alexander’s death. His father, Antipater, had been left as regent of Macedonia during Alexander’s absence. When his father died, Cassander took the throne of Macedonia, allying himself with Ptolemy. To form a tie with the royal family, he married Alexander’s half-sister.

4. Lysimachus.

Lysimachus had also been one of the bodyguard generals. He was given the governorship of Thrace to the east of Macedonia.

Of these four men, Antigonis was the strongest. His intention soon became known — he sought to reunite the empire, setting himself up as the sole ruler. He might have succeeded in taking over the empire if he had been allowed to attack his enemies one by one. However, in 315 B. C. Ptolemy, Cassander and Lysimachus formed an alliance against him.

The next 15 years saw a series of wars that left two major powers still standing — Ptolemy in the south with Egypt and Seleucus holding the north lands of Syria, Mesopotamia, Media and Persia. Between these two giants lay the tiny kingdom of Judah.



The Ptolemaic dynasty was to rule over Egypt for the next 300 years, culminating in the infamous person of Cleopatra.




Ptolemy I Soter

323-284 B.C.

One of Alexander’s generals; originally ruled in the name of Alexander’s half-brother and Alexander’s son.

Ptolemy II Philadelphus

284-246 B.C.

Organized Library of Alexandria. Erected the Pharos Lighthouse; Septuagint translated.

Ptolemy III Euergetes I

246-222 B.C.

Major building programs in Egypt.

Ptolemy IV Philopator

222-205 B.C.

Battle of Raphia in 217 B.C. stopped Seleucid incursion.

Ptolemy V Epiphanes

204-180 B.C.

Ascended throne as a child; lost Palestine to Antiochus III.

Ptolemy VI Philmetor

180-145 B.C.

Also ascended throne as a child; Antiochus IV invaded Egypt.

Ptolemy VII, Neos Philopater

145 B.C.

Only a child at his father’s death; replaced on throne by his uncle.

Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II

145-116 B.C.

Uncle to Ptolemy VII

Ptolemy IX, Soter II

116-80 B.C.

Ptolemy IX ruled 116-110 and was ousted by his younger brother, Ptolemy X who ruled for a year. The two brothers went back and forth, bringing a series of revolts to Egypt.

Ptolemy X, Alexander I

Ptolemy XI, Alexander II

80 B.C.

Lasted only 19 days before being murdered after he had murdered his own stepmother.

Ptolemy XII, Auletes

80-51 B.C.

Illegitimate son of Ptolemy IX; bribed Romans to retain throne.

Cleopatra VII

50-30 B.C.

Took throne from her brother, Ptolemy XIII. Had a son by Julius Caesar, but lost to Octavius at Actium.

There were a number of cities named Alexandria in the ancient world. The most famous is the one which resides on the western edge of the Nile Delta. It was here that Ptolemy II Philadelphus had a great library/museum constructed.

Aristeas (180-145 B.C.), a Jewish scholar who later worked in this Library, tells of the building of the great library. This massive production was commissioned by Ptolemy Soter and delegated to Demetrius, the former tyrant of Athens, who had studied under Aristotle along with Alexander the Great.

According to Aristeas, Demetrius recommended that Ptolemy gather a collection of books on kingship and ruling in the style of Plato's philosopher-kings, and furthermore to gather books of all the world’s people that he might better understand subjects and trade partners.

The following description has been given as to the library’s interior:

They consisted of pigeonholes or racks for the scrolls, the best of which were wrapped in linen or leather jackets. Parchment skins--vellum-- came into vogue after Alexandria stopped exporting papyrus in an attempt to strangle its younger rival library, set up by the Seleucids in Pergamon. (Ellen N. Brundige, The Library of Alexandria, Perseus Project).

As the head of the Library, Demetrius had the job of gathering books and scrolls, as well as supervising a massive effort to translate other cultures’ works into Greek. This process began with the translation of the Old Testament into Greek, for which project Ptolemy hired and housed 72 rabbis. Because of this, the translation was known as the "Septuagint" (Latin: "Seventy") and is often abreviated by the Roman numberal LXX. This was to become the most popular and widely used translation of the Bible. It meant that people of every culture could now read the Scriptures in a common language.



Seleucus had been one of the sub-commanders under Ptolemy. He had captured Babylon in 311 B.C. and had set himself up as a sovereign independent of Ptolemy. The dynasty which he founded has become known as the Seleucids.




Seleucus I

311-281 B.C.

Carved out an empire extending from Phoenecia to India.

Antiochus I

281-261 B.C.

Founded the city of Antioch in Syria

Antiochus II

261-246 B.C.

Married Bernice, the daughter of Ptolemy II to form a temporary alliance.

Seleucus II

246-226 B.C.

His stepmother Bernice was mudered, sparking war with Egypt.

Seleucus III

226-223 B.C.

Older brother to Antiochus III - he was poisoned after 3 years.

Antiochus III (the Great)

223-187 B.C.

Pushed Egypt back to the Sinai; conquered Anatolia and Parthia. Invaded Greece at the urging of Hannibal, but was defeated by the Romans at Magnesia (190 B.C.).

Seleucus IV

187-175 B.C.

Older brother of Antiochus IV; he was murdered.

Antiochus IV (Epiphanes)

175-163 B.C.

Invaded Egypt, but retreated under threat from Rome. Set up abominations in Temple which led to Jewish war for independence.

When Antiochus III was defeated by Rome at Magnesia in 190 B.C., he was forced to surrender his navy, his war elephants, and his youngest son, Antiochus IV was taken to Rome as a hostage. In order to pay the enormous tribute demanded by Rome, he was forced to raise taxes throughout his empire, plunder the treasuries of the various cities, and even plunder temples. It was as he was going into one temple for this purpose that the citizens rioted and murdered him.



When his father, Antiochus III, lost the Battle of Magnesia to the Romans, Antiochus IV was sent as a hostage to Rome where he spent 12 years.

Antiochus IV was treated well in Rome and sent to Latin schools where he roomed with a young Roman named Popilius. While he was here, he learned to respect the power and the endurance of the Romans.

When Antiochus III was killed in 187 B.C. Seleucus IV came to the throne and reigned for 12 years until he was murdered in 175 B.C. By this time. Antiochus IV had escaped from Rome and returned to Syria so that, at the death of his brother, he was able to take the throne.

Antiochus IV knew that an eventual confrontation with Rome was inevitable and so he began to prepare for it. He knew that the Romans would have to come by sea, and so they would need a place to land. He reasoned that if he controlled all of the coast lands in the eastern Mediterranean. he might be able to prevent a Roman landing.

He already possessed the coasts of Anatolia, Syria and Palestine. He next decided to try to bring Egypt under his control, thereby strengthening his southern flank against Roman invasion.

Judah was also of interest to him, not because it posed a military threat, but because it was that part of his territory which lay closest to Egypt. He had also heard that Egypt was making offers to Judah to turn against him, so he decided to make sure that his hold there remained undisturbed.

In order to stabilize his position in Judah, he appointed men whom he could trust to positions of responsibility. One of these positions was that of high priest.

In doing this, he touched the Jews at their most sensitive spot — their religion. He created the very explosive situation which he had sought to avoid. Judah became a powder keg, waiting for a spark to set it off.

1. First Invasion of Egypt (170 B.C.).

Antiochus invaded Egypt in 170 B. C. Although he failed to capture the capital city of Alexandria, he succeeded in gaining possession of almost all of Upper Egypt. He even marched south to Memphis where he had himself crowned as Pharaoh.

2. First Revolt in Judah.

While Antiochus was in Egypt, a rumor reached Jerusalem to the effect that he had been killed. To celebrate the news, the Jews took all of the Seleucid officials and threw them off the walls of the city.

Antiochus, still very much alive, heard the news of the rebellion while he was still back in Egypt. He promptly left Egypt and marched into the city of Jerusalem. In three days he killed 80,000 people and led an equal number away as slaves. He also entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple and set up pagan idols there and sacrificed pigs upon the altar.

Before returning to Syria, Antiochus established the following laws in Jerusalem.

These laws were designed to extinguish the religious faith of the Jews. The penalty for breaking any of these laws was DEATH.

3. Second Invasion of Egypt (168 B.C.).

The Seleucid control over Egypt did not last long once Antiochus left. He returned to Egypt in 168 B.C. to complete the job. Once again, he was victorious. Only the capital city of Alexandria stood against him.

Rome at this moment was heavily engaged in Macedonia in a war with Perseus, son of Philip V. Aritiochus had calculated that the Romans would be able to do nothing to stop his Egyptian venture. What he did not know was that the Roman Senate had sent an emmisary to meet him.

As Antiochus marched on Alexandria, who should come out of the city to meet him but his old friend Popilius at the head of a small embassy.

On their first approach he [Antiochus] saluted them and held out his right hand to Popilius; but Popilius put into his hand a written tablet containing the decree of the Senate and desired him first to read that. (Livy).

The Senate’s message was a crisp order to Antiochus to put an end to his Egyptian campaign and retreat. Antiochus replied that he would call his advisors together and consult them on what was to be done. Popilius responded by taking a swagger stick that he had been carrying and using it to draw a circle around Antiochus on the sand. He told Antiochus not to step out of the circle until he had given his decision concerning the contents of the letter. Antiochus hesitated for a few moments, astonished at the authoritative attitude of Popilius. Then he agreed to leave.

4. Second Revolt in Judah.

As Antiochus left Egypt, he received news that the Jews had rebelled again. He was furious. To let out his frustrations, he sent an army under his general Apollonius to Jerusalem.

Apollonius entered Jerusalem under the guise of peace and was therefore unopposed. On the Sabbath day when the Orthodox Jews would not fight, the Seleucid army fell upon the Jews, killing thousands and carrying off the women and children as slaves.

Antiochus now began an intense persecution of the Jews. He set up a statue of Zeus in the Temple and forced the Jews to worship it. The statue had an uncanny resemblance to Anitiochus.

Two women were brought in for circumcising their children and they led them publicly about the city with their babies hanging at their breasts, and then threw them down from the top of the wall. (2 Maccabees 6:10).

There is another story told of one woman and her seven sons who were dragged before the king. They were commanded to reject their faith and to worship Antiochus. They refused and were killed one by one in agonizing torture.

The spark had been set to the powder keg. It was oniy a matter of time before the explosion was set off.



The Maccahean Revolt started in 166 B.C. in the small, village of Modi’in, 17 miles to the northwest of Jerusalem. A Seleucid officer arrived in the village early one morning with a few soldiers. They proceeded to erect an altar in the middle of the town square.

Assembling the villagers, the Seleucid official ordered that Mattathias, a Jewish priest, slaughter a pig upon the altar and offer it to Zeus. The villagers would then eat of the pig’s flesh, signifying their acceptance of the Greek religion. When Mattathias did not respond, the old man was offered wealth and honor if he would obey. Mattathias refused.

Suddenly one of the villagers stepped out of the crowd and walked up to the altar, announcing that he was willing to make the sacrifice. Mattathias was enraged. Grabbing the sacrificial knife from the villager, he slit the villager’s throat and then turn and killed the Seleucid official. Before the astonished soldiers could take in what was happening, the five sons of Mattathias attacked them and slaughtered them.

The villagers banded together under the leadership of Mattathias and his five sons, stripping the soldiers of their weapons and uniforms and hiding the bodies. The handful of rebels moved out into the hills. The revolt had begun.

In the following months, Mattathias and his sons created a small guerrilla force, attacking small Seleucid troops by night in ambush. The resistance movement grew as small villages began to join. The decision was made to fight on the Sabbath day if necessary. When Mattathias became sick and died, one of his sons, Judas, took his place as leader.



Judas was given the nickname of Maccabee, meaning "Hammer" because of his hammer strikes against the Seleucids.

1. Initial Attacks.

The first attacks of Judas were made against patrols that went out from the Seleucid garrison in Jerusalem. These patrols failed to come back. The Seleucid commander set out a second series of patrols when the first did not return. These were also ambushed and wiped out.

Worried, the Seleucid commander in Jerusalem now sent out a larger force to encamp in the hills north of Jerusalem to begin a systematic search of the villages for the rebels. At the same time, he sent a report to General Apollonius who was headquartered in Samaria.

2. Defeat of Apollonius.

General Apollonius marched south to attack the rebels. He had 2000 infantrymen marching in traditional Greek phalanx formation. He also had a small cavalry detachment.

Judas ambushed them with 800 men as they marched through a narrow gorge. The Jews closed in on all four sides, trapping the Seleucids and massacring them. Apollonius was killed in the battle.

3. Defeat of Seron.

Back in Syria, Anitiochus heard the news of the revolt, but he had more important business at hand. The Parthians in the east had rebelled and so Anitiochus was forced to take the greater part of his army there to put it down.

Seron, the commander of the Syrian forces in the west, was given the job of restoring law and order in Judah.

General Seron marched south along the coast of the Mediterranean with 4000 infantry and a small cavalry. Judas ambushed with a force of 1000 men. His force attackeded while the Seleucids were marching up from the coast through the pass at Beth Huron. Seron was killed and the surviving troops fled back to the plains in disarray.

4. Campaign of the Three Generals.

Lysias had been left as regent in the absence of Anitiochus. He now appointed three generals to lead an expedition against Judah.

This expedition was made up of 40, 000 infantry and 7000 cavalry. The Seleucids marched south along the Mediterranean coast until they came to Jaffa, then turned east to Lod, setting up camp in the same place where Seron had several months before. They brought slave traders with them and even set the price for Jewish slaves who would be taken after Judas was defeated.

Meanwhile Judas had established his base at Mizpeh, several miles northwest of Jerusalem. He had 6000 men. Both armies waited, the Seleucids on the plains, the Jews in the hills.

One night, a portion of the Seleucid army moved out, marching up into the hills to the camp of the Maocabees, intent on surprise. Judas had learned of this move and so the Jews had left their camp with the campfires still burning.

The Seleucid ambush force crept into the Jewish camp, only to find it deserted. The Seleucids concluded that the Jews must have retreated in fear. They began to fan out, searching for escaped fugitives.

At daybreak, the Jews were down on the plain, ready to attack the main Seleucid camp. As the Jews attacked, the Seleucids quickly pulled into phalanx formation. However, the Seleucid cavalry did not have time to organize itself for protective duty on the flanks.

Therefore as the Seleucid army attacked, the Jews fell back before their main thrust and concentrated on attacking their flanks which had been weakened by the disorganized cavalry. As the flanks broke up, the Seleucids were forced to retreat.

The Jews came in and burned the Seleucid camp. When the Seleucid ambush patrol saw their own camp in ruins, they also fled.

5. The Campaign under Lysias.

Finally, in 164 B.C. Lysias himself marched south from Antioch with 60,000 infantry and 5000 cavalry. By this time, Judas had raised his force to 10,000 fighting men.

Lysias marched along the same route as his previous generals, coming down to Jaffa and then across to Lad. From here, Lysias moved south, thinking to surprise Judas by coming at Jerusalem from the south. Judas was waiting for him at the pass near Beth Zur. Lysias was defeated and forced to retreat.

6. Judas Takes Jerusalem.

Judas now moved into Jerusalem. The Temple was purged of all idols and rededicated to the Lord. To this day, the Jews continue to celebrate the Feast of Hanukkah which commemorates that victory. It had been just over two years since the revolt at Modi’in.

7. Death of Antiochus IV.

Anitiochus IV died in 163 B.C. while returning from his eastern campaigns which had been largely unsuccessful. His son, Antiochus Eupator, was only 9 years old. Before he died, Antiochus IV named Philip, one of his leading generals, as regent.

Back in Anitioch, Lysias had Antiochus Eupator crowned king and set up himself as the real power behind the throne.

Philip decided to continue his campaigns in the east before returning to Antioch to battle Lysias for the regency.

8. Battle for the Jerusalem Garrison (162 B.C.).

Even though Judah controlled Jerusalem, the Seleucids still maintained a heavily fortified garrison within the city. Judas now decided to take the Seleucid garrison. He calculated that Philip and Lysias would not attempt to attack with the shaky political situation at its present state in Antioch. He was wrong.

An all-out assault was made against the garrison and it failed. The Jews were compelled to fall back on a siege. Unknown to Judas, messengers from the garrison escaped through underground tunnels and arrived at Antioch appealing to Lysias for help.

Lysias and the young king Antiochus Eupator set out with a huge array made up of 100,000 infantry, 5300 cavalry and 22 war elephants. Marching down along the coast, they passed to the west of Jerusalem and then swung around, coming up toward Jerusalem from the south.

Judas and his army made their stand at Beth Zechariah, 11 miles to the south of Jerusalem. The Jews were decisively defeated in the following battle and Eleazer, the younger brother of Judas, was killed when he tried to attack an elephant.

9. Siege of the Temple Mount.

Now Lysias and the boy-king marched to Jerusalem where they entered without resistance. Only a small hand of Jews opposed them and these had fortified themselves in the Temple. Lysias could do nothing by a direct attack and so he laid a siege to the Temple Mount.

As the siege continued, the Jews in the Temple began to suffer greatly. Their food had been limited from the beginning since this was the Sabbatical Year. Soon they were starving. However Lysias did not know this.

At the last moment, news reached Lysias that Philip was on his way back from his campaigns in the east and that he was seeking to take over the government.

Anxious to return to meet this new threat, Lysias offered a peace treaty with Judas which guaranteed religious freedom in Judah. He then pulled his army out of Jerusalem and returned to Antioch, but not before pulling down the walls of Jerusalem and establishing Alcimus, a Hellenistic Jew, as high priest.

10. The Rise of Demetrius.

In the following conflict between Lysias and Philip, Lysias emerged as the victor. However, that same year Demetrius, son of Seleucus IV, escaped from Rome and sailed to Syria where he was proclaimed king by the population.

Lysias and the boy-king Antiochus Eupator were put to death. Demetrius confirmed the selection of Alcimus as high priest of Jerusalem, sending him with general Bacchides to rule over the temple.

11. Alcimnus.

What the Seleucids had not managed to do by force of arms, they succeeded for a time in the person of the renegade Alcimrius. Because he was both a Jew and a descendant of Aaron, he was at first accepted by the Jews.

He began an intense Hellenization program, ordering the execution of those who did not go along with it. His popularity quickly fell and Judas expelled him from the land.

12. The Death of Judas.

In 161 B.C. Judas sent delegates to Rome to negotiate an alliance. He hoped that if Judah had an alliance with Rome the Seleucids would be more hesitant to attack. It had just the opposite effect. Demetrius reckoned correctly that the Senate, although willing to become allies on paper, was not about to enter into a costly war over the tiny kingdom of Judah.

Therefore he sent General Bacchides to attack Judah with a force of 20, 000 infantry and 2000 cavalry. Bacchides took Jerusalem without any opposition. Making his base there, he marched north to confront Judas.

It was here that Judas made the greatest tactical mistake of his entire career. Rather than retreating and melting away into the hills under the overwhelming odds, he met the Seleucids with a direct frontal attack. It was a disaster and Judas was killed and his army destroyed.


JONATHAN (160-143 B.C.)

The Maccabean veterans now chose Jonathan, the youngest of the brothers of Judas, as their new leader. The Maccabean rebellion was little better off than when it had begun under Mattathias 5 years earlier.

1. Renewed Operations.

Jonathan moved the remnants of the Jewish army into the desert regions of Tekoa, 10 miles to the south of Jerusalem. Here they began to rebuild their scattered forces.

Jonathan waited for an entire year until Alcimus died and Bacchides and his army returned to Antioch before he resumed his guerrilla operations.

As the rebellion began to renew itself in intensity, the Seleucid garrisons in and around Jerusalem sent to Antioch, requesting that Bacchides return and restore order. By this time, Jonathan had re-fortified the ruined fortress of Beth-basai, less than a mile to the southeast of Jerusalem.

2. The Battle of Beth-basai.

In 156 B.C. Bacchides marched to Jerusalem and then down to lay siege to Beth-basai. Jonathan had been expecting this and had split his forces in two, taking one to hide in the desert and the other to hold Beth-basai.

On an appointed signal, Jonathan attacked with his hidden forces while the Jews in Beth-basai rushed out and attacked, catching the unsuspecting Seleucids in a trap. Bacchides was forced to retreat to Jerusalem with the remnants of his army.

3. Peace.

Jonathan dispatched envoys to Bacchides to negotiate for peace. Bacchides agreed and the terms were drawn up. Independence was not granted to the Jews, since Bacchides did not have the power to do this. However, he did agree to the following terms.

4. Rise of Balas (152 B.C.).

In 152 B.C. a man named Balas arose in Syria who claimed to he the son of Antiochus IV. Calling himself Alexander Epiphanes, he enlisted the support of both Anatolia and Egypt.

In a struggle for popularity, both Balas and Demetrius sought to gain Jonathan’s support which could very well have been the deciding factor in the struggle.

At this point, everyone got into the picture, offering Jonathan titles, lands, governorships and even the high priesthood. Jonathan took it all and then sided with Balas.

5. Jonathan as Governor (150 B.C.).

Balas and Demetrius met in battle in 150 B. C. In the following battle, Demetrius was killed. Jonathan was officially appointed governor of Judah because of his support. For the next three years, the Jews prospered under Balas.

6. The Battle of Antioch (147 B.C.).

In 147 B. C. Demetrius II, the teenage son of the late Demetrius, managed to take over the Phoenician coast and part of Syria. Egypt turned her support from Balas to Demetrius II. Egypt’s policy was always to support the weaker of any two rivals to the Seleucid throne. She thought that in this way the Seleucid Empire would grow weak.

In the following Battle of Anitioch, Balas was killed and Demetrius II took the throne.

7. Antiochus VI and Tryphon.

When Balas was killed, he left an infant son named Antiochus VI. One of his former officers named Tryphon now sought to place this infant son on the throne.

Tryphon made an alliance with Jonathan in which his brother, Simon, was made military commander of all the coast lands between Egypt and Tyre. In the following conflict, Tryphon was able to take all of the lands as far north as Galilee and made successful campaigns all the way to Damascus.

8. Murder of Jonathan.

Tryphon decided that Jonathan was becoming too powerful and so he tricked him into coming to Ptolemais where he had him killed. Under the rulership of Jonathan, the Kingdom of Judah had grown to be very strong, and, although it was not yet independent, this was only a matter of time.



Simon, the only remaining son of Mattathias, now became the leader of the Jews. Tryphon decided that, if he were ever to defeat the Jews, now would be the time. He marched south along the Mediterranean coast and then moved inland to come up at Jerusalem from the south, outmaneuvering Simon and the Jewish army which waited for him west of Jerusalem.

Just a few miles away from Jerusalem, Tryphon was caught in a snowstorm and forced to retreat to the warmth of the Jordan Valley. Jerusalem was saved.

In May 142 B.C. Simon entered into negotiations with Demetrius II who still held all of northern Syria. In the following agreement. Judah was recognized as an independent state. Judah was once more a free nation.

The last king of Judah had been Zedekiah, son of Josiah. Since the Babylonian Exile, Judah had been ruled by governors and prophets. The Maccabees were seen as military rulers, but did not take for themselves the title of king. Jonathan was given the position of high priest. This position continued to be held by the ruling sons of Mattathias.

For a time there was prosperity and a continued spiritual awakening. But as the period of prosperity continued, the religion of the Jews began to take on more of a ritualistic attitude. At the same time, the rulers of Judah became greedy. Simon, the last of the sons of Mattathias was murdered by his son-in-law in 135 B.C.

1. John Hyrcanus (135-104 B. C. )

In 135 B. C. both Simon and two of his sons were murdered by an ambitious son-in-law. A third son managed to escape and take the leadership of Judah. His name was John Hyrcanus. He went on to reign for 31 years.

During his rule Hyrcanus hired foreign mercenaries and plundered the tomb of King David. He conquered Samaria, taking the city after a year-long siege and burning it to the ground. He also conquered the Idumeans and the Galileans and forced them to convert to Judaism. This would have major repercussions. It would make it possible for an Idumean to ascend to throne of Israel. It also served to polarize the Jews into two distinct parties:

a. The Hasidim.

The term Hasidim literally means "the pious ones." This group came to be known as the Pharisees, the separated ones because they sought to retain the separation of their culture from the Greek influencess of Hellenization.

b. The Hellenists.

These were Jews who embraced Greek influences. They came to be known as Sadducees. The name is taken from the High Priest Zadok because this view was popular among the priests as well as the aristocracy.

2. Aristobulus (104-103 B.C.).

The death of Hyrcanus started a dynastic struggle for the leadership of Judah. Aristobulus, the eldest son, emerged as the victor and promptly threw his mother and four brothers into prison where all but one of the brothers died.

Not content with the office of High Priest, Aristobulus crowned himself as king. This is significant because he was the first to carry the title of king since the Babylonian Captivity.

3. Alexander Jannieus (103-76 B. C. ).

Aristobulus was married to a remarkable woman named Alexandria. When Aristobulus died, she immediately freed his one surviving brother and married him, effectively placing him upon the throne of Judah.

Alexander Janneus was not much better than his murderous brother had been. Civil war broke out during the Feast of Tabernacles when he took a libation that was to be poured out on the altar in the Temple and instead poured it on the ground at his own feet. The Jews responded by pelting him with fruit. Janneus called in his soldiers and put 6000 Jews to death.

This action led to six years of civil war. The Pharisees looked to the Seleucids for military aid and managed to drive Janneus into hiding for a time. Realizing that they might be handing over the independence of their nation, they made peace with Janneus. Instead of keeping the peace, Janneus crucified 800 Pharisees.

In the following years, he extended his kingdom all the way to the borders of Egypt, eastward into the Trans-Jordan lands, and north to Lake Huleh.

4. Salome Alexandra (76-67 B.C.).

When Alexander Janneus died in 76 B. C. his wife, Salome Alexandra, took the throne for herself. She was nearly 70 years old. Her brother was the leader of the Pharisee Movement and she was a religious conservative. The nine years of her reign were to be the golden age of Israel.

a. Public school system.

Alexandra started a public school system in Israel and brought in compulsory education. The result was that years later in the time of Jesus, almost everyone could read.

b. Her two sons.

As a woman, Alexandra could not officiate as High Priest, so she appointed her oldest son to this position. Her younger son was made general of the armed forces.

(1) Hyrcanius II.

Being the oldest and the heir to the throne, he was appointed to be High Priest. He was by nature a peaceful man, following the teachings of the Pharisees.

(2) Aristobulus II.

As general of the military, he was popular with the Sadducees who envisioned an imperial Jewish state.

The differences between these two sons would eventually make Israel a house divided.

c. Strife between Pharisees and Sadducees.

The Pharisees were dominant during the reign of Alexandra. They used their dominance to seek revenge upon the Sadducees for the persecutions that they had suffered under Alexander Janneus. Leaders from the Sadducees were put to death, bringing the nation to the brink of civil war.

5. Hyrcanus II (67 B.C.).

When Alexandra died, Hyrcanus, being the oldest and therefore the heir, was placed upon the throne. Aristobulus gathered an army of Sadducees and marched on Jerusalem. Hyrcanus surrendered without a fight.

6. Aristohulus II (67-63 B.C.).

Hyrcanus gave up the office of High Priest and Aristobulus became both King and High Priest. The two brothers swore eternal friendship and even sealed their alliance by the marriage of their children. For a time there was peace.

After a time, Aristobulus became jealous of his older brother and Hyrcanus was forced to flee to Aretas, king of the Nabatean Arabs. It was here that he met a young ldumean prince named Antipater who would change the course of Jewish history.



Antipater became good friends with Hyrcanus and encouraged him to make an attempt to regain his kingdom. Enlisting the aid of King Aretas, they led a force of Nabateans against Jerusalem, catching Aristohulus by surprise and besieging him within the city.

Meanwhile, far to the north. the Roman general Pompey the Great had just conquered the Seleucid Empire and was marching south toward Jerusalem.

1. Solicitations to Pompey.

As Pompey marched down from Syria, both Hyrcanus and Aristobulus sent ambassadors to try to gain his favor.

As they both came before Pompey, Nicodemus began accusing Pompey’s two commanding generals of accepting a bribe from Hycanus. In this way, Pompey’s military advisors advisors turned against the cause of Aristobulus from the very beginning.

2. The Peace of Pompey.

Pompey ordered that the two brothers should make peace with each other and that Hyrcanus should lift the siege. Hyrcanus agreed and was withdrawing his army when Aristobulus gathered his forces and attacked those of Hyrcanus, iniflicting a crushing defeat.

3. Pompey’s Judgment.

Pompey was angry at this breech of trust and he ordered both the brothers to appear before him. When they did, Pompey indicated that Hyrcanus should rule over the Jews.

4. Pompey Takes Jerusalem (63 B.C.).

Although Aristobulus had surrendered to Pompey, his followers did not. They had taken control of the Temple Mount and the Old City. Pompey marched to Jerusalem and besieged the defenders, throwing up a wall around that portion of the city.

The siege lasted three months. Pompey took advantage of the Jewish reluctance to attack on the Sabbath day and each Sabbath had his work crews out building great ramps up to the Temple Mount. Finally, an assault took them through the defenses.

And no small enormities were committed about the temple itself, which, in former ages, had been inaccessible, and seen by none; for Pompey himself went into it, and not a few of those that were with him also, and saw all that which was unlawful for any other men to see, but only for the high priests. (Antiquities 14:4:4).

Josephus goes on to say that, though Pompey entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple, he did not touch anything and ordered the priests to cleanse and restore the Temple.

5. Pompey’s Territorial Arrangements.

Pompey annexed all of the lands of Israel to the Roman Empire. With this annexation came a number of changes.

a. The province of Judea.

The Kingdom of Judah was placed under the authority of Scaurus, the governor whom Pompey had placed over Syria. The name of Judah was changed to "Judea."

b. Liberation of Greek cities.

Pompey "liberated" the Greek cities along the coast and granted the Samanitans a measure of independence. The Greek cities on to the east of the Sea of Galilee were organized into a federation known as the Decapolis.

c. Hyrcanus was reinstalled as High Priest.

Although he held no official position, Antipater remained a dominant power in Judea.



Antipater had married the daughter of an Arabian noble. By her he had four sons and a daughter. Of these children, one was destined to go down in history as "the Great."

1. The Roman Civil War.

For a time there was peace and prosperity under the Roman rule. Then in 49 B. C. the entire Roman Empire was plunged into a civil war. The civil war which erupted at this time pitted the two greatest military leaders that Rome had ever seen.

Hyrcanus and Antipater naturally sided with their friend and benefactor, Pompey.

2. Antipater and Caesar.

In 48 B.C. Caesar defeated Pornpey at the Battle of Pharsalus on the east coast of Greece. Pompey managed to escape and flee to Egypt. Caesar followed Pompey to Egypt, but when he arrived, he found that Pompey had been murdered by some of the Egyptians who were trying to curry favor with Rome.

Now Caesar found himself in trouble. In his haste to capture Pompey, he had come to Egypt with a very small force. To make matters worse, he had stepped into the middle of another civil war between the son and daughter of Ptolemy 12th. Caesar soon found himself besieged within the royal palace at Alexandria.

It was Antipater who came to the rescue with a large force of Nabateans. In gratitude, Caesar made Antipater a Roman citizen with exemption from taxation and appointed him procurator of all of the lands of Israel. Hyrcanus was confirmed as High Priest and given the title of Ethnarch of the Jews.

3. Antipater as Procurator.

Antipater set about quelling the revolts that had flared ur during the Roman Civil War. He then set up two of his sons into positions of responsibility.

a. Phasael was made governor of Judea.

b. Herod was made governor of Galilee.

On March 15, 44 B. C. Julius Caesar was assassinated as he was entering a meeting of the Senate. He died at the feet of the statue of Pompey. This brought about a new power struggle as the Senate, led by Brutus and Cassius, sought to overthrow an alliance made up of the friends of Caesar, notably Marc Antony and Octavius.

4. Alliance with Cassius.

Cassius, one of the murderers of Caesar, came east and took the governorship of Syria. In order to finance his war with the pro-Caesar faction, he demanded heavy taxes from Anitipater. Antipater appointed Herod to collect these taxes and he did such a good job that Cassius promised him the kingship of Judea.

5. Death of Antipater (43 B.C.).

Antipater was poisoned by his butler, leaving Phasael and Herod in charge of the kingdom.



The death of Antipater left Hyrcanus in the position of authority in Israel, but Phasael and Herod were the real power behind the scenes. Herod at this time was nearly 30 years old. He is described as being tall and handsome with curly black hair and golden skin.

1. Herod and Cassius.

When Cassius left Syria to lead his armies westward against Antony, he left Herod in charge of all of southern Syria. Herod had already shown his ability by capturing an executing an infamous robber and his band out outlaws.

Cassius met Antony and Octavius at Philippi in 42 B. C. Cassius was defeated and committed suicide. This put Herod and Phasael in a bad light because they had backed Cassius and Brutus.

2. Herod and Marc Antony.

When Marc Antony came to Damascus, the Jews brought official complaints to him against Herod and Phasael. Antony summoned Hyrcanus and asked him who was the best qualified ruler. Hyncanius answered in favor of Herod and Phasael. Antony therefore appointed Herod as Tetrarch of Judea and Phasael as Tetrarch of Galilee.

3. The Jewish/Parthian Revolt (40 B.C.).

Some of the Jews who were in opposition to Herod and Phasael now made an alliance with the Parthians, requesting them to come down and assist them in a revolution. Their forces arrived at Jerusalem on the Feast of Pentecost and were admitted into the city.

Phasael was captured and thrown into prison where he eventually died. Hyrcanus was captured and his ears were bitten off so that he would be unsuitable to hold the High Priesthood under the Levitical Law.

Herod barely managed to escape with his family to the fortress of Masada. From here, they moved across the Dead Sea and then to Petra, the Nabatean capital.

4. King of the Jews (40 B. C.).

Herod made his way to Rome where he was warmly received by Marc Antony. Antony and Octavius took him before the Senate where he was appointed King of the Jews, also awarding him the lands of Samaria and western Idumea.

Herod was now officially a king, but he was a. king without a country. The Parthians had placed Mattathias Antigonus, a Hasmonean, upon the throne as a puppet king.

5. Conquest of Israel (39-37 B.C.).

Herod landed back in Palestine with a Roman legion in 39 B. C. It took two years of fighting to wrest the kingdom from the rebels. Jerusalem was finally taken in the summer of 37 B.C.

Herod moved in and ruthlessly took control, murdering almost the entire Sanhedrin. To secure his position upon the throne, he married Maniamne, the last living Hasmonean.

6. Antony and Cleopatra.

Meanwhile Antony had fallen in loved and married Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemies of Egypt. Together they now attempted to secure Egypt’s independence. They were opposed by Octavius and the Roman Senate.

Herod sided with Antony and remained loyal to him, even though Cleopatra hated him and wished to add Judea to her possessions.

7. The Battle of Actium (31 B.C.).

Antony and Cleopatra were defeated by Octavius in the naval battle of Actium, off the west coast of Greece. Antony and Cleopatra escaped to Egypt where they both committed suicide.

Herod was summoned to appear before Octavius and to account for his alliance with Antony. Herod came before Octavius at Rhodes and admitted to having been a close friend and ally of Antony. He went on further to say that he would have been at Actium to fight for his friend had it not been for troubles from the Arabians. Then he promised that he would now be as faithful to Octavius as he had been to Antony.

Octavius confirmed Herod as King of the Jews and even added certain lands to his domain.

8. Herod’s Building Projects.

Herod embarked on a fantastic series of building projects which were rivaled only by those in the days of Solomon.

a. Herod’s Temple.

The Temple in Jerusalem had been rebuilt in 520 B.C. by Zerubbabel after the Babylonian Captivity. However Zerubbabel’s Temple had assumed the proportions of a fortress. Herod now decided to expand it to greater dimensions than had existed even in the days of Solomon.

Construction began in 20 B.C. and continued throughout the remainder of Herod’s reign. This construction was still underway during the ministry of Jesus (John2:20) and would not be completed untih 63 A.D. The result would be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world.

b. The Antonia Fortress.

The Hasmoneans had originally built a fortress which overlooked the Temple Mount. Herod rebuilt it and named it after his old friend, Marc Antony. It was located at the northwest corner of the Temple Mount and had two set of stairs descending down into the Temple compound.

This later became the base of the Roman garrison at Jerusalem. It was here that Jesus was taken to stand before Ponitius Pilate. It was also here that Paul was initially taken after his arrest in the Temple.

c. Other Fortresses.

Herod built a long line of forts stretching from Galilee all the way down to Masada. These fortresses gave Herod a strict control over Israel. Among these were Herodium and Masada.

d. Caesarea.

Israel did not possess any good natural harbors so Herod decided to build one on the Mediterranean. He constructed a 200 foot wide breakwater to enclose the harbor so that it was only open to the north. This city took 12 years to build.

These were only a few of the fantastic building programs of Herod. The finances were managed so that the people were not heavily taxed as they had been under Solomon.

9. Herod’s Domestic Troubles.

In spite of the financial prosperity of Israel under Herod, there was much dissension in the land. It is said by historians that Herod made two mistakes during his reign. The first. was to marry Mariamrie, the last of the Hasmnoneans. The second was to fall in love with her.

Herod began to uncover numerous assassination plots against his life which involved placing his two sons by Mariamne on the throne in his place. Eventually he killed Mariamne in a fit of rage.

Later he murdered Mariamnie’s two sons for conspiring to take over the throne. It was this act that brought about the comment by Octavius:

It is better to he Herod’s hus [pig]

than to be Herod’s huios [son].

Herod would not kill a pig and eat it because he followed the Jewish dietary laws, but he had killed his own sons.

Herod never fully recovered from the death of Mariamne. From this time on, he was moody, jealous, and suspicious of everyone.

10. The Death of Herod.

Following the slaughter of the children of Bethlehem, Herod became very sick and was afflicted with a horrible disease. Josephus describes his condition.

There was a gentle fever upon him, and an intolerable itching over all the surface of his body, and continual pains in his colon, and dropsical tumors about his feet, and an inflammation of the abdomen, and a putrefaction of his privy member that produced wonms. Besides which he had a difficulty of breathing uponi him, arid could not breathe hut when he sat upright, and had a convulsion of all his members. (Wars of the Jews 1:18:5).

As Herod lay on his deathbed, he commanded that all notable Jews from all parts of the nation come to him. When they arrived, he had them all locked up with orders that all of these leaders should he killed at the moment of his death. Fortunately his orders were not carried out and Herod died a miserable death in the spring of 4 B.C. He died only five days after having put to death Antipater, his oldest son.

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