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Message: The Din of Silence Part 4
The Din of Silence Part 4
Tonight we wrap up our teachings on the Intertestamental Period.
There was much turmoil and upheaval during this time, not only for the Jews but for the entire middle east. In some ways this was likely another design of the Father, Who in His sovereignty set the stage for Messiah in many ways so as to grab the attention and solicit a longing from restless souls. By the time Jesus arrived, that part of the world was finally beginning to experience peace, but there was still an overarching unrest of heart which I believe is beautifully captured in the words of a first century pagan writer who said,
“While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy; he cannot give peace of heart, for which man yearn for more than even outward peace.” – Epictetus
So this intertestamental time of unrest set the stage for Messiah. This unrest was not so much caused by God directly as it was affected by His silence in the world. Into the Din of this Silence God spoke His final word which was Jesus – Who in His frail and infant body rested the peace of all mankind. God had broken His silence… forever!
In order to appreciate this broken silence, one has to comprehend the depth, duration and nature of that silence which is one of the many reasons we have taken this time to cover the time between the testaments which the scriptures are silent about.
As I said in our charter teaching on this subject, the reason why we know the historical accounts of this time period, though helpful, are not inspired is because if they had been inspired, then God was not in fact silent at all!
Where we left off…
The Grecian world following Alexander the Great
You remember that over 100 years following the reign of Alexander the Great, his four military leaders divided up his empire.
Two of those groups largely presided over Judah, namely the Ptolemies and the Seleucids.
Something I neglect to mention last week which served to further divide the Jews took place about this time in 300B.C. under Seleucus I.
He opened Antioch up to Jews, offering them a “societal equality” with the Greeks. Meanwhile many other Jews decided to settle in Alexandria, Egypt which was under the Ptolemaic branch of Greek control.
It was from this event that the Septuagint arose.
Another note regarding the Septuagint
I’ve always understood that the Septuagint was a mere practical consideration of the 70 elders (or local Sanhedrin) resident in Alexandria, Egypt. That it was due to the fact that these resettled Jews in Egypt became so hellenized that Greek replaced Aramic as the common language making them even further removed from their native Hebrew language.
In my recent studies however I ran across another version of history which may either happily coincide with the one I’ve always known or entirely replace it. In any case, in this version of history, Ptolemy I had a rather famous library in which they sought to obtain a copy of every known literary work in the world. So his son Ptolemy II is said to have commissioned a High Priest to men who were well versed in both languages and who were of solid reputation in understanding the Hebrew scriptures. He was to gather exactly 6 men from each tribe thus having 72 elders working on the translation. He had them translate the scriptures into Greek and supposedly rewarded their work handsomely.
It is a matter of some disagreement as to which books were initially included. The earliest fragments of that era reveals proofs of it including the Pentateuch and the Twelve Minor Prophets. All archeological proofs aside however, it seems highly unlikely in the case of either version of history, that any Hebrew writing considered inspired and canonical would have been omitted. Such an act would make the Greek library less than complete and to overlook the Historical & Poetic books along with the Major prophets would have missed the entire point for the Jews since the entire work was for future generations not to lose their spiritual and natural history.
Now this was a true translation made by those who knew both languages intimately. It was the version of the scriptures in most common use during Jesus’ life and New Testament times.
History leading up to and including these Jewish Sects
It would serve you well at this point to pull out the handouts I gave you which show the family tree in visual form making it a little easier to follow what I am saying.
By the early part of the 2nd century, just before Antiochus IV, his brother and predecessor Seleucus IV had been defeated by the Romans, but allowed to keep control over his portion of the Greater Grecian Empire. His brother and natural successor Antiochus IV was taken hostage as a type of further assurance that the Seleucid Empire would continue to pay the enormous tax imposed upon them by Rome. Seleucus IV did so for a span of about 15 years at the expense of those under his rule.
As I told you last week this created a spiritual/moral dilemma for the Jews who were among those who helped pay this taxation. This eventuated in a division among the Jews that is central to the development of these final groups I am going to introduce to you tonight. Two of the primary Jewish groups which emerged were the Oniads (those who supported the current High Priest in Judah and who was ardently against Seleucids rule due to its pagan influence.
The other group was headed by his brother Jason who claimed to believe it was in their best interest to conform. He and those who followed him set out on a campaign of slandering his brother Onias the High Priest before Seleucus IV. To his credit Seleucus largely ignored him.
Now, you may remember that I told you that Antiochus IV, was the son of the Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great and brother of Seleucus IV. As one of the most likely successors to the throne, Antiochus IV became a pawn in the hand of Rome to assure loyalty and the ongoing payment of a heavy taxation. Later his nephew Demetrius I was sent to Rome as hostage in exchange for Antiochus IV.
In 175B.C Seleucus IV’s was assassinated by his minister Heliodorus and so it was that Antiochus IV assumed control of the empire .
Upon taking power he is said to have immediately accepted Jason’s monetary offer, removing his brother Onias from the office of High Priest.
As I told you last week, this treason was later perpetrated by Jason’s younger brother Menelaus upon him in 171B.C..
So up until 171B.C. all of these takeovers of the position of High Priest were descendents of the family of Zadok who himself descended from Aaron – so the lineage was unbroken.
Antiochus IV wanted cultural uniformity throughout his division of the Empire and as a result persecuted the Jews. This all came to a head on December 25th of 168B.C.. That was when Antiochus placed an altar to Zeus and offered a pig on it within the temple.
Thus began what is known today as the Maccabean Revolt.
Last week I left you with the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt which resulted from the anti-Semetic and tyrannical intrusion into the spiritual practices of the Jews from Antiochus IV.
This nationalist group was headed by Mattathias who, as I have told you, was of the rural priestly family of Modi’in. Mattathias was the grandson of Simeon the Hasmonite which is where we get the name Hasmonean. Mattathias, along with his son Judah Maccabee sparked the revolt against Seleucid rule.
NOTE: Judah Maccabee is also sometimes referred to as Judas Maccabee in history.
There was a second group which arose, who were forerunners of those we have always known as the Pharisees. Their beginning and the development are very hard to tack down and quite honestly the story reads differently based upon what source you consult.
With that in mind, there is really very little that can be said regarding their beginnings with any confidence. So let’s just start with the fact that they came into prominence (if not existence) around the middle of the 2nd century B.C..
I wanted to set the record straight however. Last week I told you that the Pharisees were initially known as the Chasidim. This is not correct. The Chasidim are a separate group who arose in the 1800’s in Poland so my source information regarding this was incorrect and I wanted to clear that up for the record.
The Pharisees were against not only the Seleucid government like the Maccabees but on their overall hellenizing influence over the Jewish nation.
If there was a prominent theological difference between the two groups it developed later and was focused more upon what family of Levi should occupy the position of the Priesthood and upon what portion of the Hebrew scriptures the Jewish nation should rely for their spiritual laws and guidance.
Now as I told you last week I will not get into the details of the Maccabean war itself. Suffice it to say that the revolt was successful, Jerusalem was retaken and finally the temple was rededicated on December 25, 164B.C..
This was not the end of the conflict however because even though Antiochus IV was now dead, Judah was still under Seleucid control. Antiochus V, Ephiphanes’ son and successor, was merely a child at the time and so much of the control of the empire fell to a commander named Lysias [Lee-see-us].
Lysias was no friend to Judah. He assembled a large army against Judah in 162B.C. which resulted in greater success than a former attempt he had made at the direction of Antiochus IV while he was still alive.
Eleazar Maccabee was killed in this conflict and his better known brother Judas temporarily retreated to the safety of the mountains.
Lysias is said to have torn down a wall in Jerusalem in order to lessen the chances of future revolts. However, he also repealed the tyrannical and anti-semitic laws formerly imposed by Antiochus IV presumably to reduce tensions. He also ordered the execution of Menelaus the High Priest.
You may remember that I told you last week Antiochus IV, was the son of the Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great and brother of Seleucus IV. As one of the most likely successors to the throne, Antiochus IV became a pawn in the hand of Rome to assure loyalty and the ongoing payment of a heavy taxation. Later his nephew Demetrius I was sent to Rome as hostage in exchange for Antiochus IV.
So it was that in 162B.C. this Demetrius, who was the nephew of Antiochus IV and who had been exchanged for Antiochus IV as hostage in Egypt since the beginning of Antiochus IV’s reign – returned to Syria.
Upon his arrival he was received by the people and assumed the throne, killing both Antiochus V, his nephew, and Lysias Antiochus V’s supporter.
After taking control Demetrius encountered the resistance of Judas Maccabee. This brings in the last pieces of the puzzle leading to thedevelopment of the Sadducees, the Pharisees, Zealots and the Essences.
After the High Priest Melenaus was killed in 163B.C. a man named Alcimus [Al-si-mus] who was most likely from in the high-priestly lineage. He, like those before him, expressed great desire for the office of High Priest. So with some effort he secured it from Demetrius I by no later than 162B.C..
Alcimus sided with the Greek’s hellenizing influence and strongly opposed the Revolt of the Maccabees. The little that is known of him comes from 1st & 2nd Maccabees and Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews. It is worthy of note that none of these sources are inspired and they all come from a point of view which would be naturally hostile to Alcimus.
The Jewish army was no match in terms of size and natural strength against the support Demetrius granted Alcimus and so those opposing the hellenizing influence of this High Priest fled from Jerusalem.
It was in response to this Judah Maccabee returned and waged guerrilla warfare against Seleucid control. An army led by Nicanor [Nic – a – nor] against the Maccabean Revolt was defeated on Adar 13th 161B.C. To commemorate this victory an annual Jewish Feast was instituted called “Day of Nicanor”.
Judah Maccabeas died in 160B.C. which reversed some of the victory for a time but the further resistance of Judah’s brother Jonathan Apphus along with internal issues in the Seleucid empire allowed for later full independence for the Jewish people in Jerusalem in 141B.C. under the leadership of Simon Thassi, Mattathias’ second son.
As for the Hasmonean dynasty, they were the descendants of the Maccabee family. As by now you remember it was Mattathias who began this revolt. He was the grandson of Simeon Maccabeus who was a Hasmonite which is where we get the name Hasmonean.
Somewhere between 143-142B.C., Simon Maccabeus who was the son of Mattathias and younger brother to both Judah & Jonathan succeeded Jonathan as leader of the Maccabean revolt.
Later under Roman rule he became the High Priest and political leader of Judah. As such Simon was the first of the Hasmonean dynasty.
The last Hasmonean to serve as High Priest was Antigonus, who was deposed and executed by the Romans under Mark Antony in 37B.C.. There was a brief reign of another member of the family in 35B.C.. but that was the end of the Hasmonean dynasty.
It is VERY important to the accuracy of this historical narrative and to supply the primary reason behind the development of the Jewish sects which developed that the Hasmonean Dynasty combined the offices of both king and High Priest. This was NOT what God had ordained and was completely unprecedented in Jewish history.
As you no doubt remember, the position of King for the southern Kingdom was supposed to be filled by a descendant of David. Also the position of the High Priest was supposed to be a descendant of Zadok of the lineage of Aaron. The Maccabeans, being neither, stirred much resistance due to this unnatural and ungodly blending of power.
All of the known sects which arose in response to this agreed on the authority of the Law of Moses and the books of the Prophets but diverged either in belief, or focus or both on nearly all other matters.
One of the sects were the Zealots.
The word ‘zealot’ comes from a Hebrew word and essentially means those who are “zealous on behalf of God“.
The Zealots were latecomers if you will because they do not appear to have formed as an official movement until the beginning of the 1st century A.D. which was after Judea was conquered by Rome and tensions with Rome began to mount.
The Zealots were more of a nationalistic movement, rather than a religious one.
They “zealously” opposed Roman rule and counted anyone who cooperated with Roman rule as enemies. This included their fellow Jews who were seen as either sympathizers or collaborators. In fact they believed that death was preferable to being under Roman control.
Perhaps the most famous example of the Zealots was the defenders of Masada. They held their fortress against the Roman Tenth Legion for months. In the end they are said to have all committed suicide rather than surrender to their Roman oppressors.
Within the sect of the Zealots was a lesser known subgroup, called the Sicarii (dagger-men). These took their opposition to Rome to another level, frequently attacking the Romans and those who took sides with them. The sica was a small, short-bladed dagger, which was easily concealed. So the Sicarii, used these against Roman convoys, tax collectors and others.
Josephus, claims the movement began with Judas of Galilee, who, along with Zadok a Pharisee, founded the sect.
One of Jesus’ disciples was Simon the Zealot, but he is listed as separate from Simon Peter in Luke 6:14-15.
The Sadducees were a conflicted bunch with several inconsistencies.
On the one hand they rejected any part of the Old Testament outside of the Written Law – otherwise known as the Law of Moses and the Pentateuch. On the other hand they wanted to maintain the priestly caste, as associated with Zadok, whose ancestry dated back to Aaron. The reason this is a conflict is because the only way they knew of the person of Zadok, as well as his having descended from Aaron, was due to the Historical books of 2Samuel, 1Kings, 1Chronicles and Ezra and the prophetic books of Nehemiah and Ezekiel.
Another theological belief of the Sadducees was their disbelief in spiritual beings such as angels, cherubim & seraphim and the existence of the human spirit allowing them a continued existence following physical death.
Again this is another source of their inconsistency in that the Pentateuch at least mentions the existence of angels and Cherubim.
To top it all off, these strong adherents to the Mosaic Law somehow found it consistent to make allowances for the incorporating of Hellenistic views into their lives.
As a result the primary focus of Sadducean life was surrounding rituals associated with the Temple. As such it is no wonder that the Sadducees disappeared from history along with the destruction of the temple around 70 A.D..
I am uncertain if the Sadducees ever committed any of their views to writing, and that is to be expected since to them the only sacred writings were entirely confined to the Pentateuch.
In fact, most of what we know about them only survived due to the New Testament and the writings of their opponents the Pharisees. Otherwise they may have been entirely lost to history – and wouldn’t that have been poetic?
The Pharisees had no official standing like that enjoyed by the Priests or the Sadducees. They were simply men of touted religious devotion and piety who claimed strict adherence to the law of Moses and the oral traditions. Therefore it could be said that their position in Jewish society fit somewhere between that of the Sadducees and the common man.
They did hold a position of some status among the Jews and their approval or disapproval carried social, though not legal weight.
The main distinguishing characteristic of the Pharisees was their belief in an Oral Law that God allegedly gave to Moses at Sinai along with the 10 commandments. Since there is absolutely NO biblical mention or proof of this we reject this as real history.
What is real history is the fact that the Pentateuch, or Written Law, was literally given to Moses by God and constitutes not only the 10 commandments written on stone but also over the course of time the full five books of the Pentateuch were also written.
In addition to this the Pharisees believed that God also gave Moses the knowledge of what these laws meant and how they should be applied. This is probably true to some degree, yet we know for certain that Moses still had future questions regarding how to interpret and apply some of the laws. The Pharisees however believed that this verbally transmitted understanding of the written law was codified and written down roughly three centuries later in what is known as the Talmud.
Another belief of the Pharisees which distinguished them from the Sadducees was that they maintained belief in the after-life. That at death, God judged all people, punishing the wicked and rewarding the righteous. They also believed in the prophesied Messiah who was to come and herald an era of world peace with the Jews at the center of the hub of power.
They did NOT believe the Messiah would be divine nor that his kingdom would be a spiritual one – only physical.
This was a place where their beliefs were inconsistent, because one of the reasons for rejecting Jesus when He came was that He died and they believed Messiah would reign forever. If this were a mere human that would be impossible. So on the one hand they believed in the full humanity of the Messiah while rejecting it at the same time.
Finally, the Pharisees also strongly supported laws and institutions which developed after the Babylonian exile like the rules surrounding the assembly in synagogues.
The fourth and final Jewish faction was that of the Essenes. It could be argued that their emergence was out of a distaste for the Sadducess and the Pharisees. They believed, with some accuracy, that these had corrupted Jewish society at large, the sacred city of Jerusalem as well as the Temple itself.
As a result they moved out of Jerusalem and in the surrounding deserts and small communities throughout Judea.
Writers such as Pliny, Philo and Josephus all record them as living a monastic lifestyle being very pious, committed to communal living along with the rejection of personal ownership of property and money.
They were strict keepers of Sabbath. They ate together, prayed together, studied the scriptures and other writings they considered sacred. They were devoted to benevolent acts of charity. They practiced ritual immersion in water every morning. They rejected all expressions of anger and evidently maintained a record of the names of angels mentioned in the writings they considered sacred.
We owe a great debt to them in one respect since it seems that it was from among their dwellings in Qumran, near the Dead Sea that we obtained both ancient artifacts and jars containing manuscripts describing their beliefs and events of their times. But most importantly that is where we found the Dead Sea scrolls. These contained the earliest known copies of the Old Testament. The overwhelming amount of symmetry between these scrolls and the manuscripts of the Old Testament scriptures we had relied upon from antiquity confirmed the authenticity of the Bible we have today.
As we mentioned earlier, the Jewish Nationalist group called the Zealots came on the scene around in the 1st century A.D. So it is that our study of the Intertestamental Period ends right at the time of the birth of Messiah Jesus the Lord, thus ending the Din of Silence!