“From Malachi to Matthew,” Ensign, Sept. 1974, 18
After Babylonia was conquered, Persia’s king, Cyrus, decreed (538 B.C.) that the exiled people of Judah could return to their homeland. This was accomplished in three migrations according to the scriptural record. However, apostasy and Persian domination still are evident as the Old Testament comes to a close.
459 B.C. Ezra directs return of second major group of exiled Jews to the Promised Land. (Ezra 7:1, 6–29.)
c. 450 B.C. Malachi, the Prophet, warns of violations of the covenants. Apostasy taking root among the people.
445 B.C. Nehemiah appointed governor, leads return of another group. (Neh. 2:1–11; Neh. 5:14; Neh. 7:5–73.) The records are assembled and directed to be read to the people—Ezra appointed scribe. (Neh. 8:1–8.) The roots for the establishment of the synagogue began here.
c. 432 B.C. After an absence, Nehemiah returns to institute reforms to fight the growing apostasy. (Neh. 13.)
Here ends the Old Testament record. No known prophets worked among the people of Judah during their struggle as a people until the time of the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
332 B.C. Macedonia’s Alexander the Great conquers Palestine and installs the Greeks as vassal lords over his new territory, introducing the Greco-Macedonia period of domination.
The Greco-Macedonian dynasty over Judah began with Alexander’s conquest. This introduced the Hellenistic influences to the people of Judah. After Alexander’s death the leadership of his empire was slowly divided. Eventually Judah fell to the vassalship of the Greco-Egyptian kings, who were called the Ptolemies. (301–199 B.C.) In time the control of the provincial nation was assumed by the Greco-Syrian kings, known as the Seleucids.
323 B.C. After the death of Alexander, the vast empire was eventually divided between four of the claimed “successors” of Alexander; Palestine during this period was a buffer nation between contending portions of the empire.
301 B.C. The Ptolemy Era of control over Judah in Palestine begins with their final conquest of the land. The Ptolemies were the Greek rulers of Egypt. Little is known of their rule over the people of Judah.
c. 283 B.C. The influence of Hellenization of the people of Judah produced the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as The Septuagint (LXX). At the direction Ptolemy II Philadephus, and officially sanctioned by the chief or high priest in Jerusalem, the work was completed by authorized elders of the people in Alexandria, Egypt.
198 B.C. The Greek rulers of Syria, known as the Seleucids, conquered the land and intensified the Hellenistic domination of the vassal nation.
175 B.C. The exploitation and forced adaptation of the Greek culture by the rulers brought great stress upon the people. The temple was sacked, the ordinances of sacrifice and offerings, circumcision, feasts, and sabbaths were forbidden. The scriptures were ordered destroyed and many books of the law were burned. The priesthood of leadership was corrupted by the sale of the office of high priest to the highest bidder.
Revolt against the vassal Lords and the destructive influences of the Hellenization of Judah.
168 B.C. Revolt erupted only to be savagely put down. In addition, the Syrians built a fortified citadel called Acra at Jerusalem to enforce their domination. Opposition grew—a group known as the Hasidim (the Pious) passively resisted by practicing the Mosaic Statutes in secret or in the wilderness. (This group in general is considered the movement from which the Pharisees emerged.)
167 B.C. The temple was desecrated and used as a sanctuary for the Greek god Zeus. The death penalty was decreed to enforce the prohibition of Mosaic observances. The worship of heathen gods became compulsory.
In the village of Modin, Mattathias, of the family name of Hasmon, later given the name Maccabee, resisted a Syrian officer’s attempt to enforce the decrees against his people. This precipitated rebellion throughout the land. After his death, his son Judas continued in his father’s stead.
The Hasmonean family held the leadership, obtaining independence for Judah which continued until the conquest of the Romans in 63 B.C. (See the chart of the Hasmonean family. The numbers indicate their successive order of leadership.)
164 B.C. The temple was cleansed and rededicated under Judas Maccabeus’ leadership. This day has been annually celebrated as Hanukkah or the Feast of Dedication (sometimes called the Festival of Lights).
The Hasmonean (more often called the Maccabean) family lead the people of Judah as an independent nation. This period is also known as the “common era.”
142 B.C. Continued conquests by the people of Judah finally secured most of the land including the Fortress Acra at Jerusalem and the independence of the long providenced state.
129 B.C. The Samaritans and the Idumeans (Greek for Edomites) subjugated to the people of Judah and made part of the kingdom.
63 B.C. Pompey and the Roman forces having conquered the Greco-Syrian kingdom of the Seleucids, took control of Jerusalem, and the nation of Judah returned to a vassalship, now under Rome.
Beginning with the submission to Pompey (63 B.C.), Roman rule over Judah was established to continue during the life time of Christ and until 73 A.D.
37 B.C. Herod, having won the commission through favor from the Roman senate as vassal king of the people of Judah, ruled tyrannically over a people who called him “Half-Jew!” Through rigid measures, order was established throughout the region and his reign promoted Greco-Roman culture among the people.
20 B.C. Herod began the reconstruction of the temple and temple complex in Jerusalem. The work on the temple itself was primarily completed within about eight years, but the project lasted many years past his death, even past the time of Christ, until its completion.
Traditionally Herod died in 4 B.C., only about a year after the birth of Christ (thought to be about 5 B.C. by most scholars).