For many years after the United States (Christianity) achieved independence from Great Britain (Judaism), the country remained unified on the surface, but deep divisions
festered even as early as the presidency of George Washington (Peter Bar Jonah). Eventually Jefferson Davis (Martin Luther) initiated events that grew out of control and led to secession (Reformation). After the South (Protestantism) won the Civil War, soldiers (Jesuits) from the Union (Catholicism) won back the state of Missouri (Poland) from the rebels.
In the years following this counter-reformation, the Southern states (such as the State of Presbyterianism) broke away from cooperation with Jefferson Davis’ home state (the State of Lutheranism). The State of Texas (Anglicanism) even began to break up into smaller states such as the State of Methodism and Wesleyism. The individual counties of West Texas (Baptists) in turn each went their own way.
Each tiny county in Texas, sometimes with no more than seventy citizens (parishioners), declared they alone were the true United States of America with the same politics (doctrines) as the Founding Fathers (Apostles). In many cases these counties even divided and subdivided into individual townships, often over issues such as what color hymnal to use or whether womenfolk can wear jeans, but each township affirmed that they alone bore the true faith and allegiance to the original intent of the founders.
Over in Utah the Quorum of the Thirteen Colonies kept alive what they considered to be Joseph Smith’s restoration of the politics of the Founding Apostolic Fathers,
which they said was lost for many decades.
Meanwhile in Washington D.C. (Rome) the citizens of the original Union (Catholicism) continued to elect their presidents (popes), and preserved the original founding
documents at the Bureau of Archives (Vatican vaults).
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL
Upon the death of Solomon in 931 BCE, after a reign of forty years, the united Kingdom was split into two separate states, with the ten northern tribes of the Kingdom of Israel moving its capital to Shechem, while the two southern tribes of the Kingdom of Judah retained its capital at Jerusalem.
In 922 BCE Jeroboam I became the first king of the rump state called Israel. He built his capital first at Shechem, but them moved his court to Penuel east of the Jordan River.
To prevent the people from going to the temple in Jerusalem to worship, Jeroboam broke with Yawhist religion by introducing the worship of the golden calf at Bethel and the region of Dan, telling the people the golden calf was their own god El all along, and the feast days for the golden calf were timed to coincide with the feast days in Jerusalem.
After reigning for nearly two years, King Elah drank to excess and was slain by General Zimri, who commanded half of his charioteers. Zimri destroyed the whole house of Baasha, leaving no male heir alive, and ascended to the throne himself in a kind of military coup in 876 BCE.
But when the army heard that Zimri had killed the king and set himself up in his stead, they proclaimed General Omri as the true king of Israel and marched from Gibbethon to lay seige to Tirzah. When the wall of Tirzah fell, Zimri set fire to the palace and let it burn around him rather than be captured alive. And he had reigned a total of seven days.
King Ahab married Jezebel, daughter of the king of the Sidonians, and converted to her religion of Baal worship. He built a temple to Baal in Samaria, and during his reign of twenty-two years the prophet Elijah arose to preach in opposition to the worship of Baal introduced by King Ahab and his wife Jezebel of Tyre.
King Joram was wounded in battle against the Arameans at Ramah, and retired to Jezreel to recuperate. Then in 842 BCE, Elisha, who succeeded Elijah as the greatest prophet in Israel, anointed Jehu, lieutenant of Joram and son of Jerhoshaphat, as king over Israel. Elisha commissioned him to destroy the entire house of Ahab. Jehu formed a conspiracy against Joram, and drove his chariot to Jezreel where Joram lay ill from his wounds, and there he slew Joram and his ally Ahaziah king of Judah.
When Jehu drew near to the gate of Jezreel to slay Jezebel, he saw the woman standing on the rampart of the wall, together with a number of court eunuchs. Jehu told them to throw her off the wall, and when they did, Jehu rode over her body with his horse to ensure she was dead. Dogs ate the remnants of her body, so that no one could ever point to a tomb and say, “There lies Jezebel.”
And the heads of seventy sons of Ahab was sent to Jehu in baskets.
King Jehoahaz was defeated by the Arameans, and much of Israel was occupied until the end of the his reign. At one point, the kingdom’s power was reduced to fifty horsemen, ten chariots, and ten thousand foot soldiers.
Under King Jeroboam II’s long reign the Northern Kingdom reached the pinnacle of its wealth and power and territorial extent. The population of Israel exceeded 350,000 and the border of the nation extended from the river Orontes to the Mediterranean Sea. For a time, it was the leading power of the region.
The prophet Isaiah made note of an alliance between King Pekah and King Rezin of Aram that threatened King Ahaz of Judah. But this was the time the Assyrians made their bid for great power. Under Pekah’s reign the kingdom of Israel was reduced to solely the lands of Ephraim and parts of Manasseh. Then in 732 BCE King Pekah was slain by Hoshea, son of Elah.
In the fourth year of his reign, Hoshea was summoned to the court of Shalmaneser to explain his failure to pay the 1,000 talents of tribute required of him. He was imprisoned, and the Assyrians attacked Israel from 727-725 BCE. The province of Samaria became, for all intents and purposes, a vassal of Damascus governed by military officers.
In 721 the Assyrian army was withdrawn to secure the succession of Sargon II after the death of Shalmaneser.
In 720 Sargon II occupied all of Israel and deported the people to the east, where they soon lost their identity forever as separate tribes through intermarriage with the Medeans, which was the standard procedure of the Assyrians at the time to quell possible uprisings. If they had done the same thing to the southern Kingdom, there would be no Jews or Christians today.
THE SILENT YEARS
Protestant Christians, who acknowledge only 39 books in the Old Testament, call the four centuries between the close of Malachi and the opening of the gospel of Matthew the Silent Years, where the Bible says nothing about the events taking place in and around the Holy Land, and without a good grasp of what happened (and a great deal did happen), it is more difficult to understand the culture that Jesus was immersed in as he brought his healing ministry and message of the immanent reign of God to the people of Judea. My hobby is to try to make complicated subjects simple to understand, so in this post I cover this period of time in the Levant.
Philip II, king of Macedon, conquered the Thebans and Athenians at Chaeronea in 338 BCE and brought all of Greece except Sparta under Macedonian rule. When he died in 336 BCE, his twenty year-old son Alexander succeeded him and freed all the Greeks in Asia Minor from Persian rule. For the next twelve years, Alexander forged the largest empire the world had ever known.
After defeating King Darius at Issus in 333 BCE, Alexander subdued Egypt and founded the city of Alexandria. The following year, all of Palestine fell under his domination. But Alexander left no heir, and upon his death in 323 BCE, his generals, called the Diadochi, divided the empire between themselves and became rivals. The Diadochi put on royal crowns, and so did their sons after them.
Ptolemy I Soter, one of the Diadochi, claimed Egypt for himself and defended Alexandria from the other generals. He also founded the Library of Alexandria and became the first Egyptian king of the Macedonian Dynasty of Ptolemies.
Ptolemy II Philadelphus succeeded him in 283 BCE and brought Alexandria to its peak of power and influence. The Pharos lighthouse was constructed during his reign.
Ptolemy III Euergetes extended the Ptolemaic Empire to embrace Palestine, Asia Minor, and the islands of the Aegean. But after his death the empire gradually began to decline.
A rival Diadochi named Seleucus I Nicator founded a like empire centered in Asia Minor that ruled the lands conquered by Alexander from Thrace to India. 13 As the Ptolemies weakened, Palestine gradually fell under the rule of this Selucid Dynasty.
At this time many Jews began to adopt the ways of the Greek gentiles who dominated them. They tried to covered the marks of their circumcision, and built gymnasiums, and no longer observed the ordinances of the Mosaic Law. With some support of these secularized Jews, Antiochus IV Ephiphanes declared Judaism abolished, and dedicated the temple in Jerusalem to Zeus.
Many of the Jews were ready and willing to abandon their old religion and accept the doctrines of the Syro-Macedonian king. The priest Mattathias began a set of terrorist acts to deter Hellenized Jews from sacrificing to Zeus. In a kind of proto-Sharia law situation, Jews who were caught breaking the 613 precepts of the Law of Moshe were killed, and boys were forcibly circumcised.
Eventually this campaign, which was based out of hiding places in the desert outside of the cities, became a full-scale revolution to return to the fundamentalist Yahwhist doctrines instituted by Ezra.
Upon the death of Mattathias, his third son Judas Maccabeus took over leadership of the revolt. He defeated Apollonius and Seron, and turned back Lysias who came with half of the army of King Antiochus IV Ephiphanes, and also he repurified the temple in Jerusalem. But Judas Maccabeus was killed on the field of battle confronting governor Bacchides.
Jonathan, fifth son of Mattathias, then led the revolt. He renewed battle against Bacchides and defeated Apollonius. After that Jonathan became the high priest of the Jews. Jonathan Maccabeus was taken prisoner and killed after an invitation to meet Trypho for peace negotiations.
Simon Maccabeus, brother of Jonathan, then began to lead the Jews. He too was the high priest, as was his son and grandson after him. Simon obtained independence for Judea from Demetrius II. He battled Antiochus VII and defeated him. Then Simon was betrayed and killed by Ptolemy the son of Anubus, governor of Jericho, at a banquet in the stronghold of Dok.
John Hyrcanus I, son of Simon Maccabeus, battled Ptolemy, the murderer of Simon, avenging his father’s death. He rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and also battled Antiochus VII. Under his reign, Judah prospered much.
Aristobulus I Judah, son of John Hyrcanus, annexed the territory of Iturea to Judah. During his reign, some of the Jews began to teach a doctrine that everyone who ever lived on the earth would be raised to life again in a simultaneous general resurrection to witness to sovereignty of God, and after that, all life on earth would come to a violent end.
Alexander Jannaeus, brother of Aristobulus, was the first high priest of the House of Mattathias to call himself King, thus founding the Hasmonean Dynasty. An aggressive warrior, he died in battle. Under his reign the movement of the Pharisees came into existence, which means the “Separated Ones”. The Pharisees opposed the Hasmonean innovation of combining the kingship with the high priesthood in one person. They also believed that the dead would be raised again, but they denied the world would end in a final apocalypse. The Pharisees built synagogues in every Jewish city and town where the people could study the Torah under the tutelage in the scribes, or Sopherim, and also offer prayers for the return of the House of David to power in Israel.
After that, Queen Alexandra, wife of Aristobulus, enjoyed a benevolent reign of nine years. During Queen Alexandra’s reign a high priest was chosen from the landed aristocracy of Judea, also known as the Sadducees. His policy was to avoid rebellion at all costs, even to the watering-down of Jewish traditions with Hellenistic and Roman ideas, and this policy to accommodate with the world was much criticized by the Pharisees.
King Aristobulus II, son of Alexander Jannaeus, reigned until the intervention of Pompey after his conquest of Syria for the Romans.
King Hyrcanus II, son of Alexander Jannaeus, was named ethnarch of the Jews by Pompey and elevated over his brother. Thus Pompey maintained the Hasmonean Dynasty on the throne, but only has his clients.
King Antigonus, son of Aristobulus II, was decapitated by a pretender to the throne named Herod who was favored by Marcus Antonius and Queen Cleopatra after they defeated Pompey. Herod was subsequently declared king of the Jews by Mark Antony acting in his role of triumvir.
King Herod the Great conquered Joppa and Medeba and captured Jerusalem after a seige of three months. He occupied Samaria and restored the temple to the glory it had been purported to possess during the time of King Solomon.
In Egypt the last Pharaoh was Ptolemy XV Caesarion, son of Gaius Julius Caesar and Queen Cleopatra VII. Following the suicide of his mother in the wake of the battle of Actium, Caesarion was executed by Gaius Julius Caesar Octavius and Egypt was simply annexed by Rome.
Herod soon became a client of Octavius, who was later called Caesar Augustus, the First Citizen of Rome. It was during the reign of Augustus and Herod the Great that Yosef son of Heli, betrothed to Miriam daughter of Yochim, found that she was already with child…
THE KINGDOM OF JUDAH
The ten tribes of the northern kingdom had many grievances they left unvoiced during the reign of Solomon, but after he died they demanded many reforms from his son and successor. Instead, Rehoboam promised to lay an even heavier yoke upon them than his father had. Apparently none of Solomon’s wisdom was imparted to his son. So the kingdom went into a permanent schism, with the greater part of the tribes of Israel in rebellion against the house of David, but the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to King Rehoboam.
So the northern tribes refused to acknowledge Rehoboam and anointed Jeroboam as their king instead. The officials that Rehoboam sent to Israel were murdered when they came north. And so war broke out between the northern and southern kingdoms where once they had been ruled as one, and the war continued all through the reign of Rehoboam.
King Abijam permitted a cult of male prostitutes to flourish in Judah.
King Asa reigned forty-one years over Judah, banishing all the temple prostitutes allowed by his father and even destroying all the idols set up by Solomon, Rehoboam and Abijam. After that Yahweh alone was worshiped in Judah. And there was war between Asa king of Judah, and Baasha, king of Israel, as long as they both reigned.
King Jehoshaphat stepped up to the throne when he was thirty-five years of age, and he reigned for twenty-five years in Jerusalem. When Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab of Israel and daughter of King Ethbaal of Tyre, brought priests of Baal into Israel, none of these priests were allowed to enter Judah during the whole reign of Jeshoshaphat. He began a campaign of judicial reform that installed fair judges across the land of Judah and set up a court of appeals in Jerusalem to watch over those judges.
Jehoram was thirty-two years of age when he became king of Judah, and he reigned for eight years in Jerusalem. Athaliah, daughter of King Ahab of Israel, became his wife. During his reign, Edom, a vassal province of Judah, revolted and named their own king.
After the death of her son, Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah had the entire royal line murdered except Joash, who was an infant spirited away by Jehosheba the sister of Ahaziah. For six years Joash remained hidden in the temple of God while Athaliah ruled Judah. She introduced the worship of Baal to Judah but was killed seven years later in a coup orchestrated by the high priest Jehoiada, the husband of Jeho-Sheba. And Joash, who was only seven years of age, was proclaimed king of Judah in 837 BCE.
Uzziah ascended to the throne of Judah when he was sixteen years of age. Uzziah restored Jerusalem to its former glory and built up many farms across the land. He reconquered territory formerly belonging to the house of Judah in the Negev region and regained control of restive Edom. But near the end of his life Uzziah became a leper and retired to a house apart from the palace while his son Jotham ruled Judah as regent.
Ahaz ascended to the throne of Judah when he was twenty years old. The capital city of Jerusalem survived a combined seige by the Arameans and King Pekah of Israel. Simultaneously, however, the Edomites conquered Elath, on the Red Sea, and drove the Judeans out of it. Ahaz paid the Assyrians to attack the Arameans and the northern kingdom.
At this time the Assyrian Empire seized Damascus and put King Rezin to death. After that, King Ahaz caused a copy of the pagan altar of bronze oxen he had seen in occupied Damascus to be constructed in Jerusalem, thus reintroducing polytheism to Judah.
Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he began to reign. He removed every vestige of polytheism in Judah, including the high places that had existed under every king since Rehoboam. He even destroyed the bronze serpent made by Moses, because it too had become an idol.
Hezekiah refused to serve the Assyrian king Sennacherib the son of Sargon II, the Assyrian king who destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel. Sennacherib therefore laid siege to Jerusalem and forced Hezekiah to pay a tribute of thirty talents of gold, eight hundred talents of silver, gems, antimony, and many jewels. Also paid in tribute was carnelian, couches and chairs inlaid with ivory, elephant hides and tusks, ebony, boxwood, and other rich treasures, along with Hezekiah’s daughters, his wives, his musicians, men and women. All of these things were taken by King Sennacherib to Ninevah.
Later, to prepare Jerusalem in the event of another seige, Hezekiah constructed an aqueduct to bring fresh water into the Pool of Siloam inside the city.
King Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign. During his reign, the high priest, Hilkiah, reported to the king that he “found” a book hidden in the temple which restated the precepts of the law. This book later became the fifth book of the Torah, known as Deuteronomy.
Josiah used the occasion of the finding of the book to call the people to renew their covenant to God. And Josiah commanded all the religious items made for Baal, Asherah, and other gods to be burned outside the city. He tore down the apartments of the prostitutes in the cult of Asherah. He also destroyed the altar to the golden calf built in Beth-El by King Rehoboam.
When Pharaoh Neco went toward the River Euphrates to link up with the Assyrians in 609 BCE, Josiah went out to confront him, but he was slain at the plains of Megiddo. And his son Jehoahaz succeeded him.
Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he began to reign, and he reigned only three months in Jerusalem. Pharaoh Neco took him captive at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and demanded a tribute of much silver and gold. Jehoahaz died in captivity in Egypt, the first king of Judah to die in exile.
Neco then appointed Eliakim, another son of Josiah, as king of Judah. Eliakim changed his name to Jehoiakim. And Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he began to reign over Judah in 609 BCE.
After his defeat at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and serving as his vassal for three years, Jehoiakim revolted against Babylon. But Johoiakim died before the combined armies of Chaldeans, Arameans, Moabites and Ammonites could reach Jerusalem. He was succeeded by his son Jeconiah.
Jeconiah was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned only three months in Jerusalem. During his reign, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, personally laid siege to Jerusalem. Jeconiah surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BCE and was taken captive to Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar took all the treasures of the temple and deported the army, the craftsmen, and all the leading citizens of Jerusalem. Only the very poor remained behind to till the land. Nebuchadnezzar appointed Mattaniah, the uncle of Jeconiah, as king and changed his name to Zedekiah.
Zedekiah was twenty-one years of age when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. So Nebuchadnezzar and his whole army advanced against Jerusalem and laid siege to it.
King Zedekiah attempted to escape the city but he was captured in 587 BCE and brought before Nebuchadnezzar. The sons of Zedekiah were slain before his eyes, and then Zedekiah was blinded, bound in chains, and taken to Babylon.
The Babylonians burned the temple of God, the palace of the king, and every other house in Jerusalem. The walls of the city were torn down and the surviving people of the city were taken into exile in Babylon. From that day forward the kingdom of Judah ceased to exist.