At the close of the Old Testament, we saw the Jews partially restored but under Persian rule. The New Testament opens with the Jews still dwelling in the land but greatly multiplied. They are under Roman rule but have an Edomite king who had jurisdiction over part of their land. From the end of Malachi to the birth of Christ was around 400 years; often called the 'silent years'. We know it was a dark time for the people during the days of Malachi. The people had separated themselves from the external evils, yet their hearts remained very far from the Lord. Faithfulness and obedience could be seen but relationship was rare. Harry Ironside said this:
Separation from, may end in mere Pharisaism. Separation to, will result in practical godliness, and be evidenced by devotedness, with brotherly love and unity.
Then, four hundred years later, it remains spiritually dark and faithfulness and obedience could still be seen and relationship rare.
For four hundred years there were no prophets; no 'thus sayeth the Lord!' or any new word from God. Think about it, Israel had not heard from God the entire time. America is not yet 250 years old and think of how much has changed religiously, politically, technologically and culturally. While there was no new prophetic word, God's word was still at work in the world. The prophecies of Daniel were coming about across the ages.
The Persians had ruled about 200 years when they fell to Greece. This was about 90 years after the end of the Old Testament. At the hand of a young Alexander the Great, Greece became a super power. But Alexander died at 33 years old after ruling 13 years. There was no descendant to sit on his throne. In time his generals divided up the kingdom, fought amongst themselves and struggled to grab land and power. During this time, 'Hellenism' (Greek culture) was brought to Israel. The Old Testament was translated to Greek; known as the Septuagint.
As the Greek culture came about, many Jews chose to remain 'orthodox' and fight against these changes. These pollical and cultural changes had their effect on their religion. For a long time there were two factions in Israel:
- The weaker of the two were those clinging to the law and its observance. However, they were adding to it and becoming more legal all the time. This party eventually became the Pharisees.
- The dominant party was the faction driving Hellenizing. They sought to abandon the old ways and take on the Greek culture; including its philosophy and religions. The high priest during these days tried to remove the wall of separation at the temple that marked the separation between the Jews and gentiles. These folks are the predecessors of the Sadducees.
- A third party came about, the appellation party. They were the feeble, poor and afflicted that rejected the heathen Greeks and their ways but also refused the legalisms of the Pharisees. They clung tightly to God's word and looked for their messiah. These folks became the Essenes.
- Another group came to prominence during the intertestamental time, the Scribes and Rabbis. Many believed the previous scattering of the Jews came about because a lack of knowledge and obedience to the law. The Scribes became experts in the law. The rabbis were the teachers of this knowledge.
Another religious change that came about was the presence of the synagogue. This was the place of worship and teaching during the diaspora, when there was no temple. Even after Zerubbabel rebuilt the temple, the synagogue continued to be used because not all Jews returned to Israel.
The priesthood was marked by fighting and politics. The position of High Priest was bought and sold; it became an appointment and no longer filled by those of the priestly line. Antiochus Epiphanes was the source of much intrigue during his days. Antiochus became king at the death of his brother. He took the throne intended for another. He gave himself the name Epiphanes meaning 'the illustrious'. Ironside notes:
He is called by an opposite designain Daniel 11:21, R. V., namely, "a contemptible person." His own courtiers evidently concurred in this last appellation, for they changed one Greek letter in this self-assumed name, which made it Epimanes (the madman).
In 170 B.C. it was rumored that he had died which brought a celebration among the orthodox and nationalists who held tightly to their priesthood and the law.
News that Jerusalem had been overjoyed to hear of his death reached Antiochus in Egypt and threw him into a fury. The troubles between Jason and Menelaus were reported as though there had been a popular uprising and a revolt against the royal authority. In a paroxysm of rage he led his armies like an overwhelming flood through the land, and assaulting Jerusalem with wrathful energy, took the city by storm, upon which followed a fearful sack and carnage. Over 40,000 persons were slain in three days, and an equal number torn from their homes and led away as captives. Nor was this all. Guided by the wretched apostate Menelaus, he forced his way into the Holiest of all, carried off the golden candlestick, the table, the incense altar, and other vessels; destroyed the books of the law, and set up the "abomination of desolation" by erecting an idol-altar upon the holy altar of burnt-offerings, upon which he sacrificed a great sow, and with a broth made of its unclean flesh, sprinkled and defiled all the temple.
This was a horror to anyone calling themselves a Jew. It was desecration beyond imagination; an act associated with the man of sin; the one we know as the anti-Christ. Antiochus was a type of anti-Christ. His actions fanned the flames of rebellion bringing on the Maccabean revolt.
It was 63B.C. when Rome stepped into the scene and became the authority in Palestine. The Greek powers were too segregated and became their own power and authority over a wide region. They weakened and Rome was coming to power, another fulfillment of Daniel's prophecies.
The darkness remained. Evidence was piled on evidence that mankind was incapable of ruling himself. Sin always intervened; pride got in the way, greed for money and lust for power were constant sources of trouble. What the world needed was a new kind of king; a king who would rule and reign in perfect justice. The world needed a king with insight, love, compassion but also a warrior, courageous and strong. Some understood He was coming. They waited and longed for Him and watched.
The Good News
- Matthew wrote his gospel to the Jews and opened with genealogy to establish Christ as the messiah.
- Luke wrote his gospel focusing on the Son of Man; he records the Saviour's human birth and His humanity.
- John's gospel focused on the eternality of Christ; He was from the beginning and will be forever!
- Mark is writing to Romans. He shows them Christ the servant who came to give His life as a ransom for many (10:45).
This book has the feel of a roller coaster ride. It's activity, fast and furious from beginning to end. Mark doesn't get longwinded; it's written like a short story, using minimal descriptions and telling only what's necessary to make the point. The author is believed to be John Mark and tradition holds that he wrote of Peter's account of Jesus. (See 1 Peter 5:13). Mark wasn't one of the 12 apostles; he would have been a youth during Jesus' ministry. The gospel of Mark was the earliest of the four. John Mark was a failure in ministry early on (Acts 15:36-41).
©2018 Doug Ford
 Ironside, H. A. (1914). The four hundred silent years (from Malachi to Matthew) (p. 9). New York: Loizeaux Brothers.
 Ironside, H. A. (1914). The four hundred silent years (from Malachi to Matthew) (p. 36). New York: Loizeaux Brothers.
 Ironside, H. A. (1914). The four hundred silent years (from Malachi to Matthew) (p. 40). New York: Loizeaux Brothers.
Testing in the Wilderness
The Beginning of Jesus' Ministry
Lord of the Sabbath
Blasphemy of the Spirit
Parable of Growing Seed
Parable of the Mustard Seed
Jesus Calms the Storm
Jesus Heals Issue of Blood
Jesus Restores Little Girls Life
Jesus Sends Out the Twelve
Herod Kills John the Baptist
Feeding the Five Thousand
Walking on Water