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  • Writer's pictureEric Cline

400 Years of Prophetic Silence

Updated: Apr 9, 2023

—INTERTESTAMENTAL PERIOD—A Diaspora

Summary. Between the Old Testament and the New Testament, there existed a prophetic silence that lasted over 400 years. The books of many versions of the English-ordered Bible end with Malachi around 400 BCE and do not resume until after the birth of Christ. However, the writing instruments were not idle during this time.[1] Generations of Greek-speaking Jewish translators worked to compile the books that constitute the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament.[2] Septuaginta is the Latin word for seventy, a legendary group of seventy or seventy-two translators. A wide variety of books reflecting the beliefs and interests of Greek-speaking Jews in the eastern Mediterranean help make up the overall corpus of the Septuagint such as the Pentateuch, 1 Maccabees, and the Wisdom of Solomon.[3]

During this intertestamental period, the Jews were scattered. Not all the Jews returned to Jerusalem. Many stayed in Persia, others settled in Egypt and other regions around the Mediterranean Sea. Imagine the cultural changes that would naturally occur over a period of four centuries. After Cyrus the Great gave the Jews permission to return to Israel, Alexander the Great defeated the Persians, and his impact ushered in Greek influence. This Hellenistic period referred to as the Seleucid Empire, lasted from 312 BCE to 63 BCE, and included the Maccabean revolt and the Hasmonean rulers. The Romans take control in 64 BCE, and we enter the New Testament era under Roman rule. Forces commanded by the Roman general Pompey occupied Jerusalem. The unrest led the Roman Senate to appoint Herod I the king of the Jews who ruled efficiently and initiated the rebuilding of Solomon’s temple, the temple would be referred to as the second temple. Herod the Great, or Herod I as he was known, was egotistical, jealous, and distrustful.[4] And he was an Edomite who were enemies of the Israelites. He was a madman who ordered the slaughter of all male children from two years and under (Matthew 2:16). Herod I dies and his son Herod Archelaus reigned over Judea. God sent an angel to warn Joseph and Mary not to return to Judea, where Herod Archelaus reigned (Matthew 2:22). Jesus grew up in Galilee, though, under the reign of Herod Antipas.

According to his biographer, Josephus, who lived around 37 CE to 100 CE, Herod I had 10 wives and 14 children, including 9 sons. Josephus recorded that in Herod’s dying days, his condition deteriorated over several weeks with the appearance of shortness and foulness of breath, pruritus, convulsions of every limb, and gangrene of the genitalia. Just before he died, he ordered dozens of the leading men of his kingdom imprisoned and instructed his sister to kill them all after he is gone.[5] Herod reigned until his death in 1 BCE, 4 BCE, or 5 BCE, scholars are uncertain, in part, because it depends on whether Josephus was using inclusive or noninclusive counting, and whether he started the years for Herod in Nisan (the spring) or in Tishri (the fall).[6]

[1] Neither were the revolts. The Maccabean revolt occurred from 167-160 BCE. [2] Alison Salvesen, “The Septuagint.” Bible Today 60 (5): 273. [3] Alison Salvesen, “The Septuagint.” Bible Today 60 (5): 272. [4]Herod the Great died in 4 BC, leaving his son Archelaus to reign over Judea and another son Antipas, to be the tetrarch of Galilee. It was Herod Antipas who had John the Baptist imprisoned and beheaded and it was he before whom Jesus appeared in his trial before Pilate. In 39 AD Antipas was accused by his nephew Agrippa I of conspiracy against the new Roman emperor Caligula, who sent him into exile in Spain, where he died. So, thus far we have seen three Herods. There are two more, both named Agrippa. [5] Josephus. Jewish Antiquities. Books XV-XVII. Marcus R, Wikgren A, trans. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press; 1963:439-461. [6] Andrew E. Steinmann, and Rodger C. Young “Elapsed Times for Herod the Great in Josephus.” Bibliotheca Sacra 177 (707): 308-9.

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