Persian Rule – 430-332 B.C. When the Old Testament closes (about 430 B.C.), Judea was a Persian province. Persia had been the world power for about 100 years, and remains so for another 100 years. Very little is known about this period of Jewish history.
Greek Rule – 331-167 B.C. Around 780 B.C., the Greek city-states came together, organizing to fight the Persian threat around 500 B.C. The wars with Persia went on from 500-331 B.C. In 336 B.C., Alexander the Great – at 20 years old – swept over the east. He conquered all the areas formerly held by the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian empires. He established Greek cities, along with Greek language and culture. After Alexander's death, his four generals each took over. Syria to Seleucus, Egypt to Ptolemy.
Israel was between the two. After 20 years attached to Syria, Israel then stayed under Egypt's control from 301 B.C. Until 198 B.C. Antiochus the Great III reconquered Israel in 198 B.C. It was then again under the control of Syria – the Seleucid kings.
Antiochus Epiphanes IV (175-164 B.C.) ruled violently over the Jews. He tried to exterminate them and their religion. In 168 B.C., he devastated Jerusalem, defiled the Temple, offered a pig on the alter, put up an alter to Jupiter, and forbade circumcision with a death penalty. Thousands of Jews were sold as slaves. He destroyed all copies of Scripture that could be found. He tortured Jews to force them to renounce their religion.
This led to he Maccabean revolt, also called the Asmonean or Hasmonaean period. In the face of the devastation and violence against the Jewish nation, a priest named Mattathias courageously gathered a group of loyal Jews, and his 5 warlike sons began a revolt. They reconquered Jerusalem in 165 B.C. The Temple was purified and rededicated. Mattathias' son Judas was priest and ruler, and his heirs governed an independent Judea for the next 100 years. They became weaker and weaker.
Roman Rule – 63 B.C. Israel was conquered by the Roman army under Pompey. Antipater, an Edomite (descendant of Esau), was appointed as ruler of Judea. His son Herod the Great succeeded him as king from 37-3 B.C. To please the Jews, he had the Temple rebuilt lavishly. He was king when Jesus was born, and the one who had the children of Bethlehem killed.
This article was written by my father T.O.D. Johnston, who was licensed to preach the Gospel by Paran Baptist Church in Lake City, SC, on May 26, 1979. He has been a student of Scripture since 1972. Be sure to visit the author's full list of Bible Study Lessons by book for all of his free lessons.