Monday, February 24, 2014

Historical Notes About Malachi’s Time

Artaxerxes reigned almost forty one years.  According to Herodotus, the Greek historian considered the father of modern history, he was succeeded by three of his sons, Xerxes II, Sogdanius, and Darius II.  Fighting among themselves resulted in the others being killed, and Darius II taking the kingdom.   Because some of the subject countries do not mention Darius II at all and others only in connection with artaxerxes, some scholars suspect he may in fact have been co-regent with Artaxerxes, rather than a separated king, and there is nothing in Persian records to dispute this conclusion.  It was a fairly common practice

If true, this would place Artaxerxes’ reign as commencing about 444 BC, rather than 465 BC, and ending around 404 BC instead of 424 BC.  We know from Roman records that Herod died in 7 BC, and his son Archalaeus was named king early in 6 BC.   Matthew 2:13-16 makes it clear that Jesus birth was more probably more than two years before Herods’s death, around 9-10 BC.  “And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.  When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son."  

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.”

This places the start of Artaxerxes reign approximately 434 years before the birth of Christ, the 62 weeks of Daniel 9:26.  Combined with the forty nine years from Cyrus’ command to rebuild Jerusalem  to the Death of Darius, it explains how the wisemen were able to identify the star the followed to Jerusalem.  The record of their coming indicates that it is probably true.

Daniel 11:2-4 prophesies, “And now will I show thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia.  And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.  And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside those.”

After the end of the Peloponnesian war in 404 BC, the greek colony of Sparta began to extend Greek influence to other countries, allowing Persian kings to rule under their oversight.  Philip of Macedon would consolidate Greek power by 338 BC.  His son Alexander the great would finally depose the Persian rulers and claim the throne shortly before his death in 323 BC.

After the death of Alexander the great, the Greek empire would eventually be split among his generals, fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy that there would only be four independent kings of Persia, and how the Greek empire would be broken up.  These would become the Selucid empire, the  Antigonoid kingdom, and the Ptolemaic Kingdom, while the original Greeks formed a largely independent kingdom.  By 146 BC, all four parts would be under Roman domination although the Southern or Ptolemaic Kingdom, including Egypt would retain their own rulers until 30 BC.  

Under Greek rule, the Jews were largely left alone to worship and serve God as they pleased, and were given status as citizens.  About 300 BC. Simon the Just became leader, rebuilding and refortifying the walls and repairing the temple.

About 241 BC, the High priest Orias II  had stopped paying taxes to Ptolemy III, expecting him to be defeated.  In retaliation. Ptolemy transferred his power to Tobias family, who began to turn Jerusalem into a center of Greek Hellenism and commerce.  Simon the Just became the last high priest with an undisputed connection to the position about 221 BC.  He struggled to stop the increasing turn to Greek culture.  A couple of years later, war between the Ptolemaic kingdom and Selucid Empires resulted in serious damage to Jerusalem.  Antiochus III reduced taxes and made plans to restore the Temple, encouraging the Jews to preserve their worship of God and traditional Law.

Around 195 BC, Antiochus Epiphanies offered citizenship to Jews who would adopt the Hellenistic lifestyle and forgo their Jewish customs.  Some even tried to undo their circumcision in order to take part in their games.

Jason, a son of Orias III offered to pay increased tribute to Antiochus if he would provide a gymnasium and continue to promote Hellenistic conversion.  Menelaus bribed Antiochus to make him high priest instead, despite his lacking the proper pedigree.  Jason attempted to overthrow Menelaus, and Antiochus perceived his actions as a rebellion.  He plundered the temple, forbidding the Jews to practice Judaism and offering a pig on the altar of the temple, in 169 BC.

Both Jason and Menelaus were intent on turning the Jews toward the Hellenistic culture and religion, but they were neither one willing to allow the other to have control.  It is against this backdrop that the book of MalachI was written, although we do not know exactly when.

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