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Message: The Din of Silence Part 2
The Din of Silence Part 2
We are currently covering the intertestamental period of God’s judgment of silence with Israel. Again I emphasize that this was a NATIONAL judgment of silence, not one that extended to each individual regardless of their hunger and seeking for God.
God has NEVER withheld His presence or the ability to know Him from ANYONE who would seek Him in sincerity! Last week I offered to you both Simeon and Anna as examples of this, who both heard from and were led by the Spirit of God regarding Messiah and His birth.
We left off last week with Israel under Grecian rule. Alexander the Great had conquered Persia and was now governing over Palestine. Remember that upon the death of Alexander the Great his vast empire was divided among four of his top generals into quadrants which fought against each other for more of the others territory. This was ALL in accordance to Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 8:5-8 given over 300 years prior.
Two of these four sub-rulers within the greater Grecian Empire, were the ones who fought over that segment of Palestine which also included Judah. So it is upon them that we focused our attention. These were the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt, the Seleucid Empire of the East. When we ended, the son of Antiochus III was taken into captivity by Rome in 190B.C.. His son remained in captivity in Rome for nearly 15 years. Late his brother, King Seleucus IV, exchanged him for Demetrius son of Seleucus. When Anitochus IV returned home he took control of the Seleucid Empire, such as it was and this ushered in a very dark time in Israel’s history for this young man was Antiochus IV otherwise known as Antiochus Epiphanies who was foreshadowed in Daniel’s prophecy as a pre-fulfillment of the prophecy regarding the abomination of desolation which defiles the temple.
Now before I move forward with THAT branch of the story let’s circle back and get a better understanding of the spiritual temperament of Israel since the time of Malachi until Antiochus Epiphanes.
Back under Persian rule when the former inhabitants of Judah were given leave to return to Jerusalem, we need to remember that Judah had not been left totally desolate during this time.
If you remember, Nebuchadnezzar had left the poor of the land behind as is recorded in Jeremiah 39:10. Over the course of the 70 years of exile, many of these Jews were were left behind, intermarried with others who had drifted into the area when the greatest portion of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were driven into exile. Among these newcomers were Samaritans and the “half-breed” Samaritan-Jews who were of the former Northern Kingdom. Remember that the Jews of the Northern Kingdom had intermarried with the Samaritans during their Assyrian Captivity around 733 B.C..
When Cyrus the Great gave the exiled Jews of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin permission to return to their land, you can imagine that those who had drifted into the region in their absence were none too happy to see them return.
By this time, the Samaritans had been among the Jews long enough that they had included the partial worship of God into their various forms of idolatry. As such they had a “type” of respect for the God of the Jews, but did not worship Him exclusively. We see this in 2Kings 17:32-33,
“(32) So they feared the LORD, and from every class they appointed for themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. (33) They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods—according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away.”
So, upon the return of the exiled Jews back to their homes in Judah they began work on the rebuilding of the Temple and these Samaritans, who were in all honesty hostile to them, offered to help construct the temple.
You may remember this from Ezra 4.
“(1) Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the LORD God of Israel, (2) they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers’ houses, and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.” (3) But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the fathers’ houses of Israel said to them, “You may do nothing with us to build a house for our God; but we alone will build to the LORD God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.” (4) Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, (5) and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.” – Ezra 4:1-5
When their efforts to stop the rebuilding of the temple by the returning Jews to Judah failed, some of these Samaritans and “half-breed” Jews returned to Samaria and built their own temple to Yahweh on Mount Gerizim.
Now you may remember this mountain and its significance from when we covered the blessings and the curses which were pronounced on the people of Israel when we covered Deuteronomy 27-28 way back in August 2019. The lesson was entitled, “Choices have consequences, in BOTH Covenants”. Later in August of 2021 when we were covering Jeremiah 4 we talked at length about Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal in a lesson entitled, “Two Mountains, Two Choices and 800 years of Mercy”.
These two mountains represented choosing man’s way versus God’s way.
God had divided the tribes of Israel upon each mountain. Those tribes who were of the Rachel and Leah, the actual wives of Jacob were on Mount Gerizim and represented the keeping of the Law. Those who were of the handmaidens of Jacob’s wives were on Mount Ebal and represented those who rejected God’s law.
So ironically it was upon the mountain that corresponded to OBEDIENCE to the law that these Samaritan’s built their version of the temple.
As you no doubt recall from the New Testament, that these Samaritans continued as a people well into church age.
Jesus acknowledged that they were not true Jews, but He also acknowledged that they were connected to the Jews by telling the disciples to take the message of the Gospel FIRST to Jerusalem, then to Judea and THEN to Samaria before going to the rest of the world.
In this command, Jesus was honoring the Jews, then the half-breed Jews of the Samaritans before going to the Gentile nations.
Jesus of course, used this distaste for the Samaritans among the Jews, as well as their superior attitude regarding themselves in His parable of the Good Samaritan. In that parable you can see all the groups who were part of that initial division back when the temple was being rebuilt in Judah.
The first person to fail to help the wounded Jewish traveler was a Priest, then a Levite, and then finally a Samaritan who alone was moved with compassion for this wounded Jew. You can imagine the tension which would have built up in the crowd as He laid out this parable and its moral.
Of course, Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman found in John 4 was an act of God’s mercy. Well worn was the road which led not THROUGH but AROUND Samaria since Jews would not even travel the shorter path through it.
Jesus had come to a well in Sychar which was what Shechem was called in His day. Shechem was the valley which passed between the two mountains of Gerizim and Ebal. So it was that Mount Gerizim and very likely even the temple itself was visible throughout their discussion.
In Jesus’ dialogue with her, we see this whole division of the two temples being constructed – each claiming superior adherence to God and His law.
Let’s read it in John 4:19-26,
“Sir,” replied the woman, “I see that you are a Prophet. (20) Our forefathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”
(21) “Believe me,” said Jesus, “the time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. (22) You worship One of whom you know nothing. We worship One whom we know; for salvation comes from the Jews. (23) But a time is coming–nay, has already come–when the true worshippers will worship the Father with true spiritual worship; for indeed the Father desires such worshippers. (24) God is Spirit; and those who worship Him must bring Him true spiritual worship.”
(25) “I know,” replied the woman, “that Messiah is coming– ‘the Christ,’ as He is called. When He has come, He will tell us everything.”
(26) “I am He,” said Jesus— “I who am now talking to you.“
Now, due to this division among the Jews and the construction of an entirely different temple in worship of the God of Israel, the Jews became divided and fragmented in their worship of God. Of course, this was just a few short generations before the beginning of the 400 years of silence so in short order these people also lacked the prophetic voice of God as well.
So it was that this time period became a ripe environment for religious divergence within the Jewish communities. This led to a corruption of the worship of God. Challenges to the authority of the priesthood and distortions to a clear understanding of the law and the prophets.
All of that BEGAN during the Persian rule, it was the spiritual environment of Israel throughout the entire time of the Grecian rule leading to the rule of Rome.
It was during the time of Grecian rule that the creation of Synagogue most likely came about as well as the formation of the Sanhedrin, though both of these had their previous or forerunning manifestations. The term “Sanhedrin” as well as many of its formal rules of operation developed over the years, but there origin is owed to the command of God given to Moses as recorded in Numbers 11:16-17. We will address this more next week.
It was also during this time of upheaval that the sects of the Maccabeans, the Hasmoneans, the Pharisees and the Sadducees came about. Later the sects of the Zealots to which it appears that Peter belonged arose as well as that of the Essences.
So it is that now we are going to turn our attention to the introduction of each one of these things beginning with the Synagogue which no doubt developed during this intertestamental time.
Luke tells us in the book of Acts that these Synagogues had been around for many generations by the time of the early church.
“For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” – Acts 15:21
Notice the passage does not say for thousands of years, but rather for generations which would indicate a development AFTER the giving of the law and the construction of the temple.
Nowhere from Genesis on through to Malachi is the first mention of a Synagogue. So we are left to conclude therefore that they came into existence and common use during the intertestamental period.
It very likely was a natural development from the time when Ezra would read the law before the people and the Levites would give the understanding of it as we read in Nehemiah chapter 8.
“(1) all the people gathered together at the square in front of the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses that the LORD had given Israel. (2) On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding. (3) While he was facing the square in front of the Water Gate, he read out of it from daybreak until noon before the men, the women, and those who could understand. All the people listened attentively to the book of the law. (4) Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform made for this purpose. Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah stood beside him on his right; to his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hash-baddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam. (5) Ezra opened the book in full view of all the people, since he was elevated above everyone. As he opened it, all the people stood up. (6) Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and with their hands uplifted all the people said, “Amen, Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. (7) Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah, who were Levites, explained the law to the people as they stood in their places. (8) They read the book of the law of God, translating and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was read.” – Nehemiah 8:1-8.
Natural historical clues would seem to indicate an early development of synagogue following the time or Malachi since the inscriptions found in nearly 85% of these synagogues were in the Aramaic and Greek languages. Aramaic, being a language which began to infiltrate the Jewish community during the Babylonian exile, and the Greek language during the later Grecian rule. These clearly continued to be built throughout Palestine at least until the time of Christ and the architecture of many of these Palestinian synagogues were influenced by Roman design.
As the passage in Luke indicates, Synagogue was a place for teaching and hearing the Law on the Sabbath and was NOT limited to Jewish attendees. The rules governing Synagogue were loosely based upon those of greater Jewish society and the Temple all of which God ordained through Moses. This is why Paul clearly supported the rules of synagogue for the Christian churches he helped to establish.
A condition for establishing a synagogue was simply if there were at least ten men in a town who so desired one.
By New Testament times, the normal practice of synagogue was to read from the scriptures and discuss it among the men who were present. Only men were allowed to read and teach the law. Whether this was always allowed or not, we know for certain that at some time women were allowed to attend, though they sat in a separate area and were not allowed to read, teach or even ask questions in synagogue. Whereas the men were allowed to even interrupt the speaker or teacher if they had a challenge to the interpretation of the scriptures which was being brought forth. We see this in the life and ministry of Jesus [See Luke 4:16-30. Also this completely agrees with the New Testament rules of conduct given by the Holy Spirit through Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 [See 1Cor. 14:29-30; 34-37].
So strong is this command that Paul said,
“If anyone considers himself a prophet or spiritual person, he should acknowledge that what I write to you is the Lord’s command.” – 1 Corinthians 14:37 [Also see 1 Timothy 2:11-14]
The gatherings of Jewish believers under the New Covenant simply retained the word synagogue as we see in Acts 13:43 [cf. Matthew 4:23; Matthew 6:2; James 2:2; Revelation 2:9; Revelation 3:9]).
In Hebrew 10:25, however, when the gathering of Christians is referred to, it is called episunagōgḗ, (sunagōgḗ with the prep. epí) which is translated “the assembling together.”
The Christian community was designated for the first time as the ekklēsía to differentiate it from the Jewish community, sunagōgḗ (Acts 2:47). The term ekklēsía denotes the New Testament community of the redeemed and later became the near universally accepted term we use today being the word “church” or “assembly” in English.
Now we will look at the more familiar groups of the Sadducees and the Pharisees.
According to Spiros Zodiates, following the resettling of the Jewish people in Judea on their return from the Babylonian captivity, there were two religious groups among them.
One party contented themselves with following only what was written in the Law of Moses. These were called Zadikim, the righteous. From them came the Sadducees and the Karaites who we are not going to address.
The other group added the constitutions and traditions of the elders, as well as other rigorous observances, to the Law and voluntarily complied with them. They were called Chasidim or the pious from them came the Pharisees and the Essenes.
The Sadducees were members of a Jewish priestly sect that came about sometime after the time of Malachi and before the time of the Maccabbean revolt. They faded from history following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70A.D..
Sadly, not much is known about their origin but there are some educated guesses.
Their name may arise from that of Zadok the Priest and if so, then they may well be the people God ordained into the priesthood.
Zadock was the High Priest during the time of King David and Solomon around 1000-960B.C..
Ezekiel says by prophecy that God honored the sons of Zadok because of their faithfulness to Him when the rest of Israel went astray.
Ezekiel 44:9-16 & 48:10-12 the later reference I will read now,
“(1) This holy donation will be set apart for the priests alone. It will be eight and one-third miles long on the northern side, three and one-third miles wide on the western side, three and one-third miles wide on the eastern side, and eight and one-third miles long on the southern side. The LORD’s sanctuary will be in the middle of it. (11) It is for the consecrated priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept My charge and did not go astray as the Levites did when the Israelites went astray. (12) It will be a special donation for them out of the holy donation of the land, a most holy place adjacent to the territory of the Levites.”
So it was generally held that the Zadokites formed the Temple hierarchy down to the 2nd century B.C..
The Sadducees were composed of these high priests, some aristocratic families, and businessmen. In other words they were made up of the wealthy and influential portions of the Jewish population.
During Geician rule and in particular the time of the Seleucids, the Sadducees became more and more Hellenized (meaning they were more and more influenced by the Greek culture). They had and maintained decent, perhaps even somewhat friendly relations with the Romans when they came into power.
By the time of Christ, they were considered the more conservative of the religious powers within Judaism and dominated the positions related to the temple and the priesthood.
The Sadducees comprised the majority of the members of the Sanhedrin and so also controlled the official political structures within Judaism.
Now, knowing what we do of the Pharisees and their ongoing attacks against Jesus in His ministry, one would be inclined to think that they were the party which was the strictest in terms of holding to the Law, but that distinction belongs to the Sadducees.
You see, they were known as extremely strict on law and issues of order1.
The Sadducees and Pharisees were in continual conflict regarding many details of rituals and the Law. More importantly however, was there disagreement over what qualified for God’s official word to His people.
The Sadducees refused to include as authoritative any writing beyond that given in the Pentateuch. As such, they denied the afterlife and the immortality of the soul. This is also why they opposed Jesus’ teaching regarding the resurrection of the body.
At some point, though it is not clear when or why, they obviously came to deny the existence of angelic beings. Paul used this to his advantage when appearing before the Sanhedin in Acts 23:6-8 which says,
“(6) When Paul realized that one part of them were Sadducees and the other part were Pharisees, he cried out in the Sanhedrin,
“Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees! I am being judged because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead!”
(7) When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (8) For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, and no angel or spirit, but the Pharisees affirm them all.” – Acts 23:6-8
Now this is odd since both angels and Cherubim are mentioned in the first 5 books of the Bible.
It is also weird in that the very book which gave the sons of Zadok priestly authority to which they so tightly clung was that of Ezekiel which is clearly a post-Pentateuch book of prophecy!
To their credit however, the Oral Law, which comprised the vast body of majority of post-biblical Jewish legal tradition—meant next to nothing to them as it did to Jesus as well which we will address when we look at the Pharisees in a moment.
The Sadducees acted harshly in any case which might involve the death penalty and they carried out the Mosaic law regarding “an eye for an eye” quite literally!
In contrast to this is the very conservative way in which they dealt with matters which were more religious in nature.
Their coziness with Rome, their wealth as well as their overall arrogance caused them to be silently hated by more Jews.
They were no friend to Jesus or the church. Along with others, the Sadducees played at least some role in Jesus’ trial and crucifixion and the future persecution of Paul in the proliferation of the Gospel.
The Pharisees emerged out of some of the learned people of Israel as well as the official scribes.
The name Pharisee comes from the Hebrew and Aramaic parush or parushi, which means “one who is separated.”
They were one of the most influential religious and political parties within Judaism in New Testament times.
Also, according to Josephus there were more than 6,000 Pharisees at the time of Christ making them more in number than the Sadducees. (See Josephus, Ant. 17.2.4 [17.42]).
As indicated earlier, the Pharisees differed with Sadducees on certain doctrines and what they considered acceptable modes of behavior. They also believed in angels and in physical resurrection!
The Pharisees were both zealous adherents to the laws of the Old Testament and quite strict regarding the letter of the law as well as the oral traditions.
Among the more stringent views of the Pharisees was their belief that the purity laws which applied to the service of the temple were to be extended to and expected out of all Jews.
The Pharisees, for all their faults, attempted to hold to the laws and traditions of the Jewish people even in the face of strong Hellenizing influences.
Josephus wrote of them that in his time they were considered the most expert and accurate expositors of Jewish law. He also indicated that quite unlike the Sadducees they had the general support of the common Jew.
They held the Pentateuch in high esteem but included an equal, perhaps even greater respect for the oral traditions of the Jews. They asserted that their authority was based upon their piety. Something Jesus also alluded to in His ministry.
By the time of Jesus, the rivalry between the Pharisees and the Sadducees was more than just religious. The Pharisees had actively participated in attacking the Sadducees.
During the Roman rule of Pompey, the Pharisees appeared before him, petitioning his interference with Sadducess, abolishing the royalty of the Hasmoneans and the restoration of the old priesthood.
The Pharisees are said to have opened Jerusalem’s gates to the Romans, and were proactive in their support against the Sadducean faction.
According to a Wikipedia entry (summarized)…
When the Romans finally broke the entrance to Jerusalem’s Temple, they killed the priests who were officiating the Temple services on Sabbath.
The Pharisees regarded Pompey’s defilement of the Temple in Jerusalem as a divine punishment of Sadducean misrule.
We will go further with this next week when we introduce the Hasmoneans and the Maccabeans.
- Choice have consequences, in BOTH Covenants
- Two Mountains, Two Choices and 800 years of Mercy
- Is there One church or many?
- See Josephus, J. W. 2.8.2 [2.119], 2.8.14 [2.164-166]; Ant. 13.5.9 [13.171-173], 13.10.6 [13.293-298], 18.1.2 [18.11], 18.1.4 [18.16-17], 20.9.1 [20.199]; Life 2 [10-11]). See also Matthew 16:1-12; Matthew 22:23-34; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-38; Acts 5:17 & Acts 23:6-8.