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Inter-testament Period

Inter-testament  Period


I.  Persian Period – 537-332 BC


The Reign of Cyrus and his descendants

1.    1st group – 537 BC – Zerubbabel was Prince of Judah and Jeshua was high priest.


2.    2nd group – 458 BC – Ezra, the scribe.


3.    3rd group – 444 BC – Nehemiah – Rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem.


4.    420 BC – Malachi, the last prophet, wrote the last book of the prophets.


5.    Events :  Return of Jews from Babylon, rebuilt the Temple, re-establishment of worship of Jehovah, elevation of the high priesthood to political authority, rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and completed the Old Testament Canon.


II. Greek Period – 332-320 BC (Impact on the Jews)

1.   Alexander the Great 332-320 BC


2.   Egyptians:  332-30 BC 302 years  – Ptolemies of Egypt


3.   Syrian:  312 – 64 BC 248 years – Seleucids of Syria


4.   Syrian:  175-168 BC (27 years) – (Antiochus Epiphanes)


5.   Events:

a.    Under Alexander: Peace, protection, privilege and favor.  Built Alexandria, transported a colony of Jews to the city.

b.    Under Ptolemies – Ruled from Alexandria, Egypt – Continuation of Alexander’s policies.  Under the Ptolemies, The Old Testament Canon was completed and during the third and second centuries BC, the Jews translated the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek (called the Septuagint).

c.    Under Seleucids or (Antiochus) – Ruled from Antioch of Syria – Persecution, forced Hellenization, heavy taxation, and political priesthood.

III. Period of Independence – 168-63 BC

1.     Maccabbees: A priestly family leading a Jewish revolt begun in 168 BC against Hellenism and Syrian rule and reigning over Palestine from 142 to 63 BC.

2.     Mattathia and five sons:  Johanan (killed in battle); Simon, statesman and administrator; Judas, Noblest leader; Eleazor (killed in battle) and Judas won military victories.  Judas was in charge from 166-160 BC.

a.    Jonathan won favorable compromises.  Was in charge from 160-143 BC.

b.    Simon won full independence and became the absolute sovereign. Was in charge from 143-135 BC.


3.   Hasmonean dynasty (family name of Maccabbees)


a.  John Hyrcanus – 135-106 BC – 30 years – Against the Pharisaic doctrine, combined in one person both the royal and priestly dignities.  Converted from Pharisee to Sadducee.  When Hyrcanus passed away, what remained was only the sad tale of outward and inward decay

b. In 105 BC John Hyrcanus’ wife assumed royal title.

c. Judas called Aristobulus –  Reigned 1 year (Son of John Hyrcanus – became high priest).  Had his mother killed and assumed the royal throne.  Judas was the first to put a diadem on his head.

d. Janneus Alexander (Son of Aristobulus),  Reigned 27 years (105-78 BC). – Alexandra, wife of Aristobulus, elevated Janneus Alexander, oldest of the surviving sons, to the throne and married him.  Alexander also assumed the office of high priest.  Affiliated himself with the party of the Sadducees and the Pharisees aroused a widespread sedition against him.  Ruling only by brute force, he made the last years of his reign dark and gloomy

e. Alexandra (Wife of Aristobulus and Alexander) – Reigned 9 years (78-69 BC). Elevated to the throne and made her son, John Hyrcanus II high priest. (Only woman ruler).

·         Loved and respected by Jews

·         Formed alliance with Pharisees

·         Pharisees given supervision of the Sanhedrin

·         Pharisees never lost this advantage

·         John Hyrcanus II – continued as high priest.

·         Aristobulus (67 BC) – Made war against his brother Hyrcanus and assumed the throne and office of high priest.  Supported the cause of the Sadducees.  Rome removed him from office.

IV.   Roman Period 63 BC – 70 AD  (Actual end of Roman Empire in West, 476 AD and in East, 1453 AD)

1.    Conquest by Pompey –

a.    John Hyrcanus  II (62-22 BC) – son of Alexandra    Rome restored the high priesthood to Hyrcanus, and made him governor of the nation, but forbade him to wear a diadem.

b.    Hyrcanus was the last of the Hasmonean high priest.  He was a mild man. When Herod the Great came to power, certain men that were of no eminent families became high priest (See Josephus).

c.    Herod Antipater  (47 BC) (friend of John Hyrcanus II) of Idumea, political governor. Antipater was appointed Procurator of Judea by Caesar.  Herod’s son, Phasaelus, was made Governor of Jerusalem, and Herod (the Great) was made Governor of Galilee.  In 43 BC, Procurator Herod Antipater was poisoned by the Sadducees.

Two sons: 

·         Phasaelus (committed suicide after Herod the Great gained power.)


·         Herod the Great (38 BC), reigned 34 years, died about 4 BC. Note: Herod married the daughter of Alexander, the son of Aristobulus.

·         Hasmonean rules ends 126 year after it begins – End of the Hasmonean priesthood.

2.    Herod’s three sons share a divided kingdom (Tetrarchy)

·         Herod Antipas – Galilee and Perea

·         Philip – Trachonities

·         Archelaus – Judea


Note:  We see that the Pharisees and Sadducees are active during these years.  The Bible  dictionary on NETBible makes this statement about the Pharisees: “They were probably the successors of the Assideans (i.e., the “pious”), a party that originated in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes in revolt against his heathenizing policy. The first mention of them is in a description by Josephus of the three sects or schools into which the Jews were divided (B.C. 145). The other two sects were the Essenes and the Sadducees. In the time of our Lord they were the popular party (John 7:48). They were extremely accurate and minute in all matters appertaining to the law of Moses (Matt. 9:14; 23:15; Luke 11:39; 18:12). Paul, when brought before the council of Jerusalem, professed himself a Pharisee (Acts 23:6-8; 26:4, 5).”

The Bible dictionary has this to say about the Sadducees: ” The origin of this Jewish sect cannot definitely be traced. It was probably the outcome of the influence of Grecian customs and philosophy during the period of Greek domination. The first time they are met with is in connection with John the Baptist’s ministry. They came out to him when on the banks of the Jordan, and he said to them, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matt. 3:7.) The next time they are spoken of they are represented as coming to our Lord tempting him. He calls them “hypocrites” and “a wicked and adulterous generation” (Matt. 16:1-4; 22:23). The only reference to them in the Gospels of Mark (12:18-27) and Luke (20:27-38) is their attempting to ridicule the doctrine of the resurrection, which they denied, as they also denied the existence of angels. They are never mentioned in John’s Gospel.”

Author’s Note: If we study the Sadducees during the Hasmonean dynasty we will observe that the Sadducees were more political and many times were lax in keeping the Levical law concerning the role of the High Priest.