September 9, 2006

Year-by-Year: Way Before 9 BC...

From Nebuchadnezzar sacking Jerusalem in 586 BC until Caesar punishes Herod in 9 BC... everything that happened "In-Between the Testaments".
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God sent the Angel Gabriel to Earth only twice.

Four times, actually. (It was two pairs of closely related trips.)

Gabriel visited Daniel the Prophet in Babylon twice near the end of the Old Testament period (539 & 537 BC). Then, five centuries later, Gabriel visited Zechariah the priest & Mary the virgin, in Israel (9 & 8 BC).

To Daniel, Gabriel told what had to happen before Messiah would come. To Zechariah and Mary, Gabriel said He was coming. The history of those 530 years in-between is a record of what Gabriel told Daniel was going to happen. The events of that era changed the whole world, and created the setting of the New Testament Story.

Here is a short account of everything that happened, in-between Gabriel's visits.

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First of all, it was in 586 BC that Nebuchadnezzar, King of New Babylon, conquered Israel. He destroyed the city of Jerusalem. He destroyed the temple of Solomon. He dragged thousands of Jews back to his kingdom as captives.

In Babylon, the Jews developed new customs for troubled times.

But the Lord was working on the future.

In 554, 552, 539 and 537 BC - Daniel had a series of visions about the future. He saw Persia conquer Babylon. He saw Greece, under Alexander, conquering Persia. He saw the Roman Empire conquering everything in its path! He saw it all before it came to pass.

In 539 & 537, It was the Angel Gabriel who explained many of Daniel's visions to him.

In 539 BC, the year that Daniel met Gabriel, the Kingdom of Persia conquered Babylon. It was also the year Daniel saw a vision of the rebuilding and the future re-destruction of Jerusalem.

In 538 BC - the following year, Cyrus, King of Persia, let many Jews go back to Jerusalem. Cyrus let Zerubbabel and the Jews rebuilt their temple, but not the walls.

In 480 BC - Xerxes, King of Persia, killed 300 lots of Spartans at Thermopylae, but lost the war against Greece. Back home in Persia, three years later, he married a Jewish wife, named Esther. She comforted him, after his loss.

In 458 BC - Artaxerxes, King of Persia, let a Jewish man named Ezra lead a new group of exiles back to Jerusalem. Ezra read the law, and the people decided to follow it. That autumn, they dedicated the next twelve months (and every 7th year after) as a Resting-Year to the Lord.

(It just so happens that, about this time, a Greek named Pericles was leading Athens into their famous "Golden Age".)

In 445 BC - Artaxerxes decided to let Ezra and Nehemiah rebuild their whole city, and even the walls of Jerusalem. He gave this decree mid-way through one of Israel's 7-year cycles.

(That cycle - when the walls were rebuilt - was the first cycle out of 69 cycles that Gabriel told Daniel about. The 64th cycle is when Jesus gets born. The 69th cycle is when Jesus does his work.)

About 430 BC - while Nehemiah was away in Persia - Malachi, the last Old Testament Prophet, warned Israel about their behavior. Five years later, Nehemiah came back and dealt with their problems.

(In another pure coincidence, the Greek Philosopher Socrates was teaching in Athens at just about the same time as Malachi was preaching in Israel. In 430, Socrates was 39 years old. Also, while Socrates was teaching, a Greek historian named Thucyddides was recording the events of the ongoing wars between Athens and Sparta. Those wars ended in 404, and Socrates died in 399.)

The period of the Old Testament ends with Malachi and Nemiah. Israel is still a part of the Persian Empire - the second of the four empires that Daniel saw.

In 342 BC - Philip II, King of Macedonia, hires the Greek Philosopher Aristotle as a tutor for his young son, Alexander. Philip goes on to conquer all of Greece by 338, but dies two years later.

In 334 BC - Alexander the Great begins his conquest of the East. Israel, and all of Persia, become part of the Macedonian-Greek Empire. Alexander dies in 323, and his leading Generals begin fighting with each other for rule over parts of his Empire.

For about a hundred years, there are many wars. There are many changing boundaries and mini-empires. Macedonia, Egypt, and Syria are the three main powers during this period. All three, of course, are being ruled by Macedonian Greeks!

In 227 BC - the city of Rome makes the island of Sicily its Province. All of Italy is now unified under the Romans. Rome - the 4th Empire Daniel saw - is on its way!

In 198 BC - the Selucid Kings (Syria) capture Jerusalem. Israel changes hands, from one Macedonian-Greek empire to another!

About this same time, through many wars and activities, Rome is extending its influence over Spain, NW Africa, Greece and W Asia Minor.

In 175 BC - the Syrian King Antiochus IV tries to force Jerusalem to accept Greek culture. Two years later, the Maccabean Revolt begins. By 167, Antiochus IV has put down the revolt and put an end to Temple worship in Jerusalem. In 164 - Judas Maccabeus takes back the Temple and rededicates it.

During these revolts in Israel, the Romans were busy conquering Greece. The Macedonian homeland fell to Rome at the Battle of Pydna, in 168. All of Macedonia (including Southern Greece) became a Roman Province in 146.

In 142 BC – after decades of struggle and war, the Maccabees win independence for Judea. The Jews are now ruled by a high-priest in Jerusalem. This begins the Hasmonean Dynasty, which lasts for about a hundred years.

Not much happened in Israel, for most of the Hasmonean Dynasty.

But Roman affairs were just heating up!

In 123 BC - Rome officially makes "Asia" (West Asia Minor) their newest Province. Rome’s power now reaches into the East. And Daniel’s Fourth Empire is getting closer to Israel!

For the next fifty years, Rome worked hard to strengthen their hold over Asia Minor and Greece. They actually fought a whole series of wars in that region. Of course, Rome won every war, and their power kept growing stronger.

In 82 BC - at the end of this period, a Roman man named Sulla defeated his enemies in something called the Italian Civil War. After so many wars, Sulla becomes dictator of Rome and its provinces. But Sulla was not popular, and died in 79, a dictator for only three years.

Sulla's chief man, Pompey, grew into a great General in those years. Unlike Sulla, Pompey became very popular – the Romans called him "Pompey the Great". After Sulla's death, Pompey became a powerful politician, but Pompey was never a dictator.

In 71 BC - a Roman General named Crassus crucifies hundreds of slaves in Italy after one slave, named Sparticus, led them all to revolt against the Romans. Soon after, this Crassus becomes a close ally of Pompey the Great.

In 67 BC - Pompey began several years of wars in the East. First, the General took the Eastern parts of Asia Minor. Then he stepped in to claim Syria, which had killed off all of it's own strongest leaders, during decades of civil wars.

At this time, Israel had also been fighting a civil war. So when Pompey took control in Syria, the Judeans called to him for help. Pompey sided against one man, Aristobulus, and gave all his support to another man, named Hyrcanus.

In 63 BC - Pompey took Jerusalem and put Hyrcanus in charge. Officially, Israel still ruled itself, but Pompey demanded Hyrcanus pay "tribute" each year. Rome was “allowing” Israel to stay independent… technically... for now.

Pompey did one other very interesting thing in Jerusalem. He walked right into the holy of holies, in the temple that Ezra rebuilt. (All of the Jews were amazed when God chose NOT to strike Pompey dead, over this.)

In 60 BC - Pompey and Crassus formed an alliance with a strong, popular young Roman named Julius Caesar. The three men ruled Rome together for a while, until Crassus died in battle. Then, Caesar moved against Pompey, who died shortly after losing a key battle in Greece.

So in 49 BC - Julius Caesar became the sole Dictator of Rome. Of course, Caesar refused to be called “King” and no one thought to call him “Emperor”, but a century later, ancient historians were unified in calling Julius Caesar the very first Emperor of Rome.

In 48 BC – Julius Caesar invaded Egypt and “allowed” Cleopatra (the last Macedonian Monarch) to keep ruling it, for an annual fee. But on his march back to Rome, Caesar freed Israel from it's payment on their Resting-Years. (Naturally, they still paid during the other 6 years of each cycle.)

In 44 BC – after five years of rule, Julius Caesar was killed on the Senate floor of Rome, and a new civil war began. Caesar's nephew, Octavian (who will later be called 'Augustus') began ruling with two partners. Again, Rome was being ruled by three men together! Octavian's partners were named Lepidus, and a very popular Roman named Marc Antony.

In 42 BC - Marc Antony & Octavian Caesar defeated Brutus & Cassius (Caesar's killers) in Macedonia, at a battle near Philippi. They split the Roman World into three parts to rule it separately. Octavian took the North and West. Lepidus got a small part in the middle. And Marc Antony took the East, where he soon became very close with Cleopatra.

In 40 BC - John Hyrcanus was still ruling Israel, but he was attacked by a Jew named Antigonus (the son of his old enemy, Aristobulus). Antigonus took Jerusalem with the help of the Parthian Empire (Iraq). Hyrcanus was taken captive, and most of his generals fled.

One of those generals, a young Idumean Jew named Herod, son of Antipater, fled as far as Rome. In Italy, Herod gained the fast loyalty of Marc Antony himself (who was in town). Antony pushed Herod to Octavian & the Senate as their best choice for the next King of Israel!

Eager to get the Parthians away from "their" Sea, the Romans backed Herod, and began planning an invasion.

In 37 BC - Marc Antony and his Legions helped Herod defeat Antigonus and his Parthian allies. And that's how Herod took Jerusalem and became King of Israel.

Now, Herod the Great was half-Arab, half-Idumean, but he was still a Jew! Even so, he would never have become King of the Jews without the power of Rome behind him. Thus, Daniel's fourth Empire was increasing its hold on Israel.

Outside Herod’s new Kingdom, events in the rest of the Empire marched on…

In 36 BC - Lepidus turned against Octavian. When his troops deserted him, Lepidus begged for his life, so Octavian let him live in exile, under guard. Now the whole world was ruled by just two men... and they didn't like each other!

In 31 BC - Marc Antony and Cleopatra tried to defeat Octavian in a naval battle. Fighting on the seas between Italy and Greece, near a Greek city called Actium, Octavian's forces won the battle. Antony & Cleopatra fled to Egypt, chased by Caesar. But once they got back there, they both killed themselves.

Octavian Caesar is now the sole ruler of Rome, and all its lands.

In 28 BC - Octavian Caesar was given the title of 'Augustus' by the Roman Senate. The word "Augustus" means "Honored One" or "Reverend".

A year later, the Honored One decreed that the whole world should be counted.

In 27 BC - Augustus Caesar (Octavian) decided Rome should take a census of every Province in the Empire, and update it every decade or so… just like they had been doing for some time in Italy.

And so, all over the Empire, Roman Governors began counting their Provincials. But this new, "worldwide" census didn’t affect the Kings of “client kingdoms” like Herod’s. So Israel wasn’t a part of Augustus’ registration drive… at least, not for the first 20 years.

But one day in 9 BC, King Herod made Augustus so angry that he wanted to punish Herod. So Caesar ordered the Governor of Syria to prepare a Census in Israel, too.

By this, Augustus basically proved he could take over any time he wanted.

Rome had proven it wanted full power over Israel.

And in that very year, Gabriel came back!

It was 9 BC when God sent the Angel Gabriel to a priest named Zechariah, in the Temple of Jerusalem. This was the first time Gabriel had visited any man, since Daniel in Babylon, over 500 years earlier. Some months later, Gabriel spoke to Mary, and he hasn't returned ever, since.

So tht - all of THAT - is what happened in-between the Gabriel’s two (pairs of) visits to Earth.

During the period of history that might be called, "The Time Between the Testaments”.

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Now, Begin the Story with "9 BC".

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