Prepared by Ill\Bro Ken E. Goard 32° Dist NSW Southern and ACT


1. Introductory History


The Genesis accounts describe the travels of Abraham and his descendants to the times of Jacob and the Twelve Tribes of Israel as they settled in Canaan and became the victims of drought. They moved to-and-fro with trips into Egypt to seek relief from famine. Their longest stay of some hundreds of years ended with their Return through the Wilderness, the crossing of the Jordan River, and their occupation of the Promised Land. The Judges were appointed for military, judicial and administrative purposes and by popular demand that they copied their less godly neighbours clamouring for a king. Saul was anointed king. David was next in line, and government became centred in Jerusalem after some years.
Solomon, David's son, laid the foundations for a new Temple at about 1000 BC, gathered together wealth, a strong army, chariots and horses, acquired a reputation for wisdom, and despite this, accumulated a wide selection of local and foreign-born wives.
The Temple was completed and dedicated by Solomon. Power and wealth corrupted this prominent international figure and his autocratic manner led to unpopularity. On his death the United Kingdom of Israel fractured. Rheoboam his son became king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, and Jeroboam, an important supervisor in the Temple building program, of the Tribe of nearby Ephraim became King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
Successive invading tides brought in armies from the south, north and west, Egypt, Syria, Assyria and later Babylon. Each incursion took Hebrews away, bringing in residents from outside. The Exile of Judah to Babylon during the Sixth Century BC left few Hebrews behind in Jerusalem and the countryside.
The Temple was destroyed, its wealth stolen, and not for about 50 years did the people return from the Euphrates Valley to view the desolation. With the blessing and assistance of their captors, Cyrus and Darius, the backbreaking task of rebuilding commenced. Zerubbabel, as governor appointed by Babylon, supervised the restoration. Later, with encouragement from the prophets Nehemiah and Ezra, the walls were again put into place. This is considered to be the end of Old Testament history as read from the Authorised Version of our Scripture is concerned.




2. Intertestamental Times
The time between the Testaments was one of ferment and change - a time for the realignment of traditional power blocks and the passing of a Near Eastern cultural tradition that had been dominant for almost 3,000 years.

In Biblical history, the approximately 400 years that separate the time of Nehemiah from the birth of Christ are known as the Intertestamental Period (c. 432 BC - 5 BC). Sometimes called the "silent" years, they were anything but silent. The events, literature and social forces of these years would shape the world for the New Testament times.'

The contents of the Intermediate Degrees may be noted at this time. The assistance provided by Cyrus an4 Darius in the rebuilding process is explained in The Council of Princes of Jerusalem, but the Ritual has a wider span. The Lodge of Knights of the East and West takes some Old Testament words as secrets, but with the symbols, there is an enormous leap across the centuries with the inclusion of the Saint Andrew's Cross. Then there is revealed a divergence in teaching, On the one hand, these Intermediate Degrees continue the teachings of Symbolic Freemasonry.

On the other, the Principles of Christianity are explained in the next, the 18th Degree and to a lesser extent in the 30th Degree.
3. The Historical Detail
With the Babylonian captivity, Israel ceased to be an independent nation and became a minor territory in a succession of larger empires. Very little is known about the latter years of Persian domination because the Jewish historian Josephus, our primary source for the intertestamental period, all but ignores them.

With Alexander the Great's acquisition of Palestine (332 B.C.), a new and more insidious threat to Israel emerged. Alexander was committed to the creation of a world united by Greek language and culture, a process known as Hellenization and a policy to be followed by his successors.

This process had a dramatic impact on the Jews. At Alexander's death (323 B.C.) the empire he won was divided among his generals. Two of them founded dynasties. The Ptolemies took over in Egypt and the Seleucids, Syria and Mesopotamia. This would control Palestine for over a century.



The rule of the Ptolemies was considerate of Jewish religious sensitivities, but in 198 B.C. the Seleucids took control and paved the way for one of the most heroic periods in Jewish history.

The early Seleucid years were largely a continuation of the tolerant rule of the Ptolemies, but Antiochus IV Epiphanes (whose title means "God made manifest") and who ruled 175- 164 B.C. changed that when he attempted to consolidate his fading empire through the policy of radical Hellenization. While a segment of the Jewish aristocracy had already embraced Greek ways, the majority of Jews were outraged.

Antiochus's atrocities were aimed at the eradication of Jewish religion. He prohibited some of the central elements of Jewish practice, attempted to destroy all copies of the Torah (the Pentateuch) and required offerings to the Greek god Zeus. His crowning outrage was the erection of a statue of Zeus in the Temple and the sacrifice of a pig on the altar within its the sanctuary.  

Opposition to Antiochus was led by Mattathias, an elderly villager from a priestly family, and his five sons. Mattathias destroyed a Greek altar set up in his village, and killed Antiochus's emissary who ordered the offensive sacrifice. Mattathias' eldest son Judas Maccabeus led dedicated Jews to triggered the Maccabean revolt, a 24-year war (166-142 B.C.) that resulted in some years of independence until the Romans took control in the year 63 B.C.!

The victory of Mattathias's family was a hollow one, however. The priesthood and ritual observance were maintained, but with the death of his last son, Simon, the Hasmonean dynasty (that is, the wider Jewish family) that they founded soon evolved into an autocratic, Hellenistic regime sometimes hard to distinguish from that of the Seleucids.

During the reign of Simon's son, Jon Hyrcanus as High Priest, the orthodox Jews who had supported the Maccabees fell from favour. With only a few exceptions, the rest of the Jews supported the Jewish Hellenizers. Hyrcanus extended the borders of Judah, by taking in Samaria and destroying the temple at Mount Gerizim. Forcible conversion of the Edomites (from whence Herod the Great was later to arise) extended his power to the southeast. This campaign, the invasion of Edom, in 164 BC brought into his control the town of Hebron. This city had been the focal point for Abraham, to become the site for his altar at Mamre nearby, and as a burial site for the patriarch and his family in the Cave of Machpelah within the town.


It is this site that has been in contention between Jews and Palestinians in recent years. Hyrcanus' successor, his son and friend of the Sadducees, Alexander Jannaeus not to be outdone crucified hundreds of the leading Pharisees, while pursuing his ambitious path of lust, cruelty and self -aggrandisement. !

The Hasmonean dynasty ended when, in 63 B.C., an expanding Roman empire intervened in clashes between the two sons of Janneus (Aristobulus II and Hyrcamus II.) Pompey, the general who subdued the East for Rome, took Jerusalem after a three-month siege of the temple area, massacring priests in the performance of their duties and entering the Most Holy Place.
This sacrilege introduced Roman rule in a way that Jews could neither forgive nor forget. 2

4. Social Developments
The Judaism of Jesus' day, was to a large extent, the result of changes that came about in response to the pressures of the intertestamental period.
Diaspora.The Diaspora (Dispersion) of Israel begun before the exile in the 700's BC, accelerated during these intertestamental years of our present interest until a writer of the day could say that Jews filled "every land and sea".
Jews outside Palestine, cut off from the Temple, concentrated their religious life in the study of the Torah and the life of their local synagogues. The missionaries of the early church began their Gentile ministries among the Diaspora, using the Greek Translations of the Old Testament.

Synagogues.During the exile, Israel was cut off from the Temple, divested of nationhood and surrounded by pagan religious practices. Her faith was threatened with extinction. Under these circumstances the exiles turned their religious focus from what they had lost to what they retained - the Torah and the belief that they were God's people. They concentrated on the law rather than nationhood, on personal piety rather than sacramental rectitude, and on prayer as an acceptable replacement for the sacrifices denied to them.

When they returned from the exile, they brought with them this new form of religious expression, as well as the synagogue (its centre), and Judaism became a faith that could be practiced wherever the Torah could be carried. This emphasis on personal piety and a relationship with God, which characterized synagogue worship, not only helped preserve Judaism but also prepared the way for the Christian gospel.


Sadducees.In Palestine, the Greek world made its greatest impact through the party of the Sadducees. Made up of the wealthy, the aristocrats, they became the temple party. Because of their position, the Sadducees had a vested interest in the status quo. Relatively few in number, they wielded disproportionate political power and controlled the High Priesthood. They rejected all religious writings except the Torah, as well as any doctrine (such as any thought of a resurrection) not found in those five books.

Pharisees.As the party of the synagogue on the other hand, the Pharisees strove to reinterpret the law. They built a “hedge" around it to enable Jews to live righteously before God in a world that had changed drastically since the days of Moses.
They were also comparatively few in number, the Pharisees enjoyed the support of the people and influenced popular opinion if not national policy. They were the only party to survive the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 and were the spiritual progenitors of modem Judaism.
Essenes. An almost forgotten Jewish sect until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Essenes were a small, separatist group that grew out of the conflicts of the Maccabean age. Like the Pharisees, they stressed strict legal observance, but considered the temple priesthood corrupt and rejected much of the temple ritual and sacrificial system. Mentioned by several ancient writers, the precise nature of the Essenes is still not certain, though it is generally agreed that the Qumran community that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls was an Essene group

Because they were convinced that they were the true remnant, these Qumran Essenes had separated themselves from Judaism at large and devoted themselves to personal purity and preparation for the war between the "Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness." They practised an apocalyptic faith, looking back to the contributions of their "Teacher of Righteousness" and forward to the coming of two and possibly three, Messiahs. The destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, however, seems to have delivered a death blow to their apocalyptic expectations
Attempts have been made to equate aspects of the beliefs of the Qumran Community with the origins of Christianity. Some have seen a prototype of Jesus in their "Teacher of Righteousness," and both John the Baptist and Jesus have been assigned membership in the sect. There is, however, only a superficial, speculative base for these conjectures, unremarkable considering their common origins from Hebrew teaching and tradition.

5. The Priesthood
All the priests were Levites, named from one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and membership of this Tribe gave individuals the right of participation in priestly duties. The High Priest was however a hereditary appointment, seen in the line from Aaron and his sons, Eli at Shiloh and Zadok at Solomon's coronation and dedication of the Temple. (Ezekiel reaffirms this in Chapter 40:46.) It was only the High Priest who could enter the Inner Sanctuary, into the Lord's Presence, and intercede on behalf of the people.



In the times of Genesis, the Patriachal Period (2000 - 1700 BC) the father, the head of the family offered the sacrifices. From the time of Exodus, (Moses and Aaron), the hereditary priesthood and succession became the practice. After entering the Promised Land, their worship was centred at Shiloh initially, moving on to Jerusalem with David the King.


High Priestly appointments appear to have been for life. In effect they were the heads of government until the Hasmonean Period, 165 - 63 BC. They became the aristocratic group, well educated, wealthy, and influential socially, taking leadership of the Sanhedrin in later times, and forming the nucleus of the sect of the Sadducees. There arose conflict within their ranks regarding the extent of Hellenization.

In the Hasmonean, or to use the more familiar name, the Maccabean Period, the high- priesthood became corrupted; outsiders were brought in and arbitrarily replaced. The dignity of the position, and authority became undermined when the appointments were clearly political, and even auctioned off to the opportunists. In these times, Levitical families were represented, but they also were corrupt, favouring the prevailing political masters.
Herod the Great, in the mid First Century BC sought the position from his Roman masters, combining high-priestly rank with that of king, but as a high priest he had a doubtful lineage, being of a family from Edom. From AD 6, the Roman Procurator sold the position to the highest bidder.
There is evidence that the true Levitical Zodiakite Priests were absorbed into the Qumran community and were accorded an extra measure of respect by the Essenes, to bless the food at table, and to serve with the prospect that one would become the priestly messiah alongside the promised Davidic Messiah at the end of time. Christian belief has Jesus in the role of the high priest as mediator between God and man, the eternal high priest supplanting ancient sacrificial practices. The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews explains the evolution of this aspect of faith at some length.



There are two streams to summarise, the path of Jewish life, and the flow of events, the preparation for the Coming of the Messiah

Somewhere between the completion of the Torah about the middle of the fourth century B.C. and the Maccabean Revolt in 167 B.C. there took place a subtle transfer of emphasis from the Temple to the Torah to be of momentous importance for the life of Judaism. But it is in the Maccabean age that this transfer is most noticeable, for by then the Torah had become the visible symbol of the Jewish faith. The triumph of the Maccabean Revolt and the development of the Synagogue and the Schools both in Jerusalem and in the dispersion would further enhance the reputation of the Torah. The Synagogue Torah was in no way opposed to the Temple ritual, but it fostered a deep personal religion something, which the Temple rites were unable to do.





And so there came a time when the written record could take the place of the ritual acts in the affections of the people. This explains why, on the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, Judaism was able to survive. The ritual of the Temple had been replaced by reverence for the Torah; the priest had given way to the Rabbi; the Temple was supplemented by the Synagogue. Judaism thereafter was to be essentially a religion of the Book.
The last millennium BC gives way to the first AD. Changes have been wrought to the Hebrew way of life and religious observance; a world of multiple nations is now condensed into one, the Roman Empire. The Greco-Roman culture shared an academic and common language system merging across provincial boundaries and accessible to all with artistic and literary pursuits. The Pax Romana, the Roman Peace now allowed freedom of travel over the extent of the Roman presence. Travelling: was along paved direct Roman roads providing a new measure of safety for travellers with hostelries available for overnight rest.
Two centuries before this focus onto the Roman World, the Old Testament translation into Greek was being made: the well-known Septuagint became available to all who had education. The Old Testament was now the Book of the Jewish people and available for anyone to read. A further subtle change was apparent. There were now synagogues in major centres in North Africa, along the northern Mediterranean shore, and more deeply in Europe. There were more Jews living along the Mediterranean borders than in the land of their inheritance. The Jew could travel and fulfil his religious obligations: the Christian missionary could do likewise, but with a fresh message.
It was into this context of a corrupted priesthood, and desire for power among the Jewish leaders, that the Saviour was born. The Word, in the form of the Old Testament was available in Greek to all who could read or were willing to be read to. The Four Gospels and a series of Epistles supplied an expanding treasury of writings for teaching and inspiration. A common language would carry the Word freely and widely, by road, by sea, to be preached in the synagogues, in the streets and homes in the four comers of the world.  Forever!




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