At this point, we’ve only got about 58 years left before the end of the Old Testament. Daniel has been dead for about 70 years—he died in Babylon around 92 years old before the Temple was rebuilt. It’s about 458 BC and seven years ago, King Xerxes I of Persia was assassinated by Artabanus, the commander of the royal bodyguard. (Just when you think you can trust someone.) Artabanus then blamed crown prince Darius for killing his father, and his accusation stuck. Darius was killed, and his younger brother Artaxerxes I was put on the throne. Artabanus then began making plans to kill Artaxerxes, but the new king was warned and he took on Artabanus in hand-to-hand combat and won.
Now Artaxerxes is a very nice guy. His nickname is Longimanus, which means “Long Hand”, and the name suggests that the king’s right hand was longer than his left. But who cares? He’s kind and caring. Of course he’s known to lose his temper when someone acts presumptuous and doesn’t wait for his kingly okay before doing something, but hey, that comes with the territory of being a monarch. Overall, Artaxerxes is a winner and we like him.
EZRA THE PRIEST
Artaxerxes plays critical roles in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. In the seventh year of his reign, Babylonian Jews ask that a certain priest named Ezra be dispatched to Jews in Palestine with total authority over them, so that he might enforce Yahweh’s Book of Law with the king’s full support. Artaxerxes agrees. Artaxerxes is another Persian king who has a reverent attitude towards Yahweh. How refreshing. In Ezra 7, we find a copy of the letter that Artaxerxes gave to Ezra which enabled him to carry out his mission.
I issue a decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including their priests and Levites, who want to go to Jerusalem, may go with you. You are sent by the king and his seven counselors to evaluate Judah and Jerusalem according to the law of your God, which is in your possession. You are also to bring the silver and gold the king and his counselors have willingly given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, and all the silver and gold you receive throughout the province of Babylon, together with the freewill offerings given by the people and the priests to the house of their God in Jerusalem. Then you are to buy with this money as many bulls, rams, and lambs as needed, along with their grain and drink offerings, and offer them on the altar at the house of your God in Jerusalem. You may do whatever seems best to you and your brothers with the rest of the silver and gold, according to the will of your God. You must deliver to the God of Jerusalem all the articles given to you for the service of the house of your God. You may use the royal treasury to pay for anything else needed for the house of your God. (Ezra 7:13-20)
This is just part of Artaxerxes’ long decree. But now listen to how it ends:
And you, Ezra, according to God’s wisdom that you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to judge all the people in the region west of the Euphrates who know the laws of your God and to teach anyone who does not know them. Anyone who does not keep the law of your God and the law of the king, let a fair judgment be executed against him, whether death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment. (Ezra 7:25-26)
Wow. Yahweh is really educating the whole biblical world about who He is and what He wants. This is a time of great spiritual revival. Ezra is excited. He says:
Praise Yahweh the God of our fathers, who has put it into the king’s mind to glorify the House of Yahweh in Jerusalem, and who has shown favor to me before the king, his counselors, and all his powerful officers. So I took courage because I was strengthened by Yahweh my God, and I gathered Israelite leaders to return with me. (Ezra 7:27-28)
THE SECOND WAVE OF RETURNING EXILES
About 1,700 Jews return with Ezra to Jerusalem. By now, this region is a melting pot of ethnicities. A variety of bloodlines is all fine and well, but not when they come with a variety of religious beliefs. Idol worshiping is rampant in the area, and Ezra is appalled when he returns to his homeland only to discover that the Jews who came back in the first wave have intermarried with their idol worshiping neighbors and taken up their detestable practices. In addition, the Levites who were God’s special priestly line are also mixing it up with the idol worshipers. This would be like you returning to a church you used to love and finding out that the pastor, the staff, and most of the people in the congregation have all married Buddhists, Wiccans, Hindus, Muslims, and New Agers. You walk into the service on Sunday morning and people are praying to Allah, talking about becoming one with the universe, and chanting spells. How terribly shocking that would be. Ezra is appalled at the terrible news he receives.
When I heard this report, I tore my tunic and robe, pulled out some of the hair from my head and beard, and sat down devastated. (Ezra 9:3)
That tearing out of the hair is painful business, but Ezra is so upset that he feels tearing his clothes just isn’t enough. And sitting down in a stunned stupor isn’t worth much attention if you just hop right back up again, so Ezra stays on the ground for hours.
Now not everyone in Israel has fallen away. God always has a few good guys left and they quickly gather around the distraught Ezra. Now comes a very long prayer in which Ezra reviews his people’s rotten history for Yahweh’s benefit. He feels terrible about the whole mess. He owns that the Jews have been impossibly defiant and that God has been unreasonably gracious. Now Ezra is putting on quite a show during this prayer. He’s probably shouting the words out and as he stands in front of the Temple, weeping and wailing, and throwing himself down on the ground. He soon draws a large crowd of onlookers, and soon all of them are taking part in the dramatic confession session. How many of them are actually sincere? Not many. Most of them are just getting caught up in the mood of the moment, much like Christians today get together in worship frenzies and make themselves all misty eyed with their deep “worship” of God. As soon as we start with the mass hysteria, sincerity quickly disappears. This is why God tells us that self-control and sober minds are far better than wigging out with those tear ducts. But, hey, the Jews (and the rest of us) love their drama.
Now in the middle of all the chaos, a man named Shecaniah pipes up with an idea. It’s true that they’ve all messed up pretty bad, but what if they started fresh? What if they all made a new covenant with Yahweh right then and there to clean up their act? Oh, goodie. Making God a bunch of promises. This usually goes south. But Shecaniah wants action and he’s tired of watching Ezra rolling in the dirt.
Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, an Elamite, responded to Ezra: “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the surrounding peoples, but there is still hope for Israel in spite of this. Let us make a covenant before our God to send away all the foreign wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the command of our God. Let it be done according to the law. Get up, for this matter is your responsibility, and we support you. Be strong and take action!” (Ezra 9:2-4)
At last Ezra gets up and he makes everyone swear to do what Shecaniah has suggested. Then he goes back into drama mode and fasts all night over the unfaithfulness of the exiles. Not eating doesn’t do anything to correct these kinds of problems, but the Jews in the Bible don’t ever mature past this kind of behavior. They like to fast and they like everyone to know when they fasted. Ezra wrote the book of Ezra and he is sure to tell us all about his personal sacrifices. It all comes across as rather egotistical, but there it is.
Now a proclamation is sent out ordering all Jews to gather together in Jerusalem in exactly three days or else they’ll have all their stuff taken away and they’ll be kicked out of Israel. With such a harsh warning, everyone shows up. It’s interesting that God picks that day to make it rain heavily on everyone’s heads as they sit shivering on the ground listening to Ezra scold them about their unfaithfulness.
“You have been unfaithful by marrying foreign women, adding to Israel’s guilt. Therefore, make a confession to Yahweh the God of your fathers and do His will. Separate yourselves from the surrounding peoples and your foreign wives.”
Then all the assembly responded with a loud voice: “Yes, we will do as you say! But there are many people, and it is the rainy season. We don’t have the stamina to stay out in the open. This isn’t something that can be done in a day or two, for we have rebelled terribly in this matter. Let our leaders represent the entire assembly. Then let all those in our towns who have married foreign women come at appointed times, together with the elders and judges of each town, in order to avert the fierce anger of our God concerning this matter.” (Ezra 10:10-14)
Four men oppose this suggestion—we can only assume it’s because they felt obeying God was more important than getting dry. But the majority vote wins and everyone rushes home. Ezra closes his book with a list of the names of all the men who had gotten it on with idolatrous women. Again, the crime here is not marrying a non-Israelite, but marrying someone who does not revere Yahweh and then joining her in her idolatrous practices. The book of Ezra ends abruptly with this statement:
All of these had married foreign women, and some of the wives had given birth to children. (Ezra 10:44)
Well, what a mess. According to the vow the people made to God, these women and children would be driven away while the Israelite men stayed back to try again. If possible, these outcasts would return to their own families in the area. What a mess, and so much for Ezra converting the whole region over to obedience to Yahweh.
Now this shunning of foreigners results in some very hostile feelings between the Jews and the other natives in the land. After all, a man doesn’t appreciate you dumping his daughter and grandchild by the side of the road with the excuse of “I’m too superior to be married to you because I’m a Jew.” The Jews in Jerusalem are now sitting ducks. They have a Temple, but no fortress walls around the city to protect themselves. Now when Ezra sees that he has made enemies, he tries to start rebuilding the city’s walls. Well, this isn’t something that Artaxerxes gave him permission to do, and when news reaches the royal palace that Ezra is trying to refortify Jerusalem, it sounds bad. Ezra’s enemies make sure it sounds bad, and the king orders the project to cease. We find his command in Ezra 4 (like the prophetic books, some of the chapters in this book are out of time order). The neighboring people take advantage of this situation to attack Jerusalem and trash the walls that Ezra had begun to build. They also burn the city gate that Ezra had built, so all progress is lost. Bummer.
The book of Nehemiah opens with Nehemiah receiving news of this attack on Jerusalem. Nehemiah is serving as cupbearer to Artaxerxes, and when he hears that his beloved Jerusalem has been assaulted and is currently sitting there like a charred duck, he gets super bummed. Like Ezra, he then goes into a multi-day fast and mourning session. He records his prayer to God for us, in which he acknowledges that the Jews have been a bunch of punks, but then he asks God to have mercy on them yet again.
Now Artaxerxes is a nice king and when he notices that his cupbearer looks down in the dumps he asks Nehemiah what is wrong. It’s now the twentieth year of Artaxerxes’ reign. Nehemiah replies:
“May the king live forever! Why should I not be sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
Then the king asked me, “What is your request?”
So I prayed to the God of heaven and answered the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, send me to Judah and to the city where my ancestors are buried, so that I may rebuild it.” (Neh. 2:3-5)
Artaxerxes responds with surprising generosity. He sets Nehemiah up with a military escort, gives him letters so that he can get the supplies he needs, and sends him back to Judah with the rank of governor. It’s “help the exiles” take two.
THE THIRD WAVE RETURNS
Now when Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem with another batch of returning exiles, he is met with a mixed response. Some of Ezra’s enemies are hanging around ready to make more trouble, but the rest of the Jews are eager to get to work. After all, living in an unwalled city is a very unsafe proposition in these times.
Despite opposition and many threats, the walls are rebuilt in a miraculous amount of time. But new walls don’t fix the corruption that’s going on in the hearts of the people. As he mingles with the people, Nehemiah learns that a lot of social injustice is going on. Rich Jews are oppressing their poor brothers—seizing their land and taking their children as slaves. It’s a bunch of brothers gouging brothers and Nehemiah is outraged when he finds out that all of the leaders of the city are involved in this shady activity. He gives them a stern talking to and makes them swear they’ll return the stuff they’ve taken. They return it, but they’re not sorry.
Nehemiah’s first term as governor in Jerusalem lasts twelve years. Seven months into his stay, Ezra finally gets around to breaking out the Book of Law and reading it to everyone. Everyone weeps and wails over what rotten little sinners they’re being. A grand ceremony is held in which everyone gathers together for a big group confession session. Get ready for more drama. People show up in their sackcloth with dust on their heads. Everyone lets everyone else know that they’ve been fasting. Then they all stand around confessing their sins and the sins of their fathers. What a waste of time. If each man would stop talking about his ancestors and do some sincere repenting in the privacy of his own heart, things would massively improve. But these grand shows are full of false pretenses. First they listen to the Book of the Law being read—for hours. Then they stand around confessing—for hours. Then they stand around worshiping—for hours. And all the while a group of eight men stand on a raised platform crying out extra loud. Really? What is this, the professional wailing team? How nauseating. We can just imagine these guys standing up with their dusty heads really giving it all up for Yahweh in front of a huge sea of people. And what is the point of standing on a stage? Oh, that’s right, because we’re showing off. Don’t be impressed by the long flowery prayer that is recorded in Chapter 9, or by the subsequent vow of faithfulness. If these people spent less time vowing and more time actually doing what they’re always vowing to do, God could get them down the road. But as it is, God has to keep listening to a bunch of lip service from these little jerks and when He looks down, He can see their hearts are as hard as stone.
Now in the long list of things the Israelites are vowing to do, they aren’t vowing to do anything new. It’s more like Yahweh has given them 100 laws and their vowing to do 10 of them. What happened to the other 90? These people are ridiculous, and we’re rather tired of hearing them make vows to take care of Yahweh’s Temple—which means performing sacrifices and giving tithes to the priests—just so they can go right out later and break their vows yet again.
Now didn’t we just get done breaking up a bunch of intermixed families and driving out foreign women and their kids? Remember the big meltdown Ezra had in his book and how the men all vowed to God that they’d stop getting it on with idol worshipers? Well, they’re at it again. So much for that vow. When someone reads the section of God’s Law that talks about not intermarrying with pagans—whoops—suddenly the Jews look around and realize that they aren’t keeping that one very well. Once again, wives and children get the boot because you can’t very well keep that form of rebellion hidden from the public eye.
Now while the Jews are busy driving off their pagan wives and then jumping into bed with new ones, Nehemiah is back at the royal palace doing his cupbearer thing. A while later, he asks for a second leave of absence so he can go back and see how things are going in Jerusalem. The king agrees, and when Nehemiah returns, he finds that everything has fallen apart. The Temple is not operating because the Levites all left in a huff because the people stopped bringing the appointed tithes. The tithes that Yahweh commanded people to bring constituted the Levites’ salary while they worked full time keeping the sacrificial system going.
Not only is no one bothering to sacrifice to Yahweh, one of Temple rooms has been turned into a public storage unit for a sleazy guy named Tobiah. Everyone knows that Tobiah hates Yahweh, so who is the clown who gave him access to the Temple? The high priest Eliashib. Terrific. Nehemiah throws everything out of the Temple room and re-dedicates it to Yahweh. Then he scolds everyone, orders tithes to start being collected again, and makes everyone stop working on the Sabbath day. And just when he thinks he has put out all of the fires of rebellion, he looks around and sees that Jewish men have once again married idolatrous women. These Jews have so completely converted over to the satanic cultures of their women that they haven’t even taught their kids how to speak Hebrew. Even the high priest has let his grandson marry an idolater, thus corrupting that priestly line. Nehemiah is livid. He yells at everyone. He calls down curses on their heads. He has some of the idolatrous men physically beaten and he pulls out tufts of their hair. Then he forces them to make a new vow to Yahweh. Someone save us from these vows. And of course we all know that when a man is coerced into making a vow, he really means it from the depths of his heart. How tiresome.
MALACHI, God’s Prophet
We now come to the very last book in the Old Testament: Malachi. After Malachi, we won’t hear about another prophet speaking for 400 years. Malachi is addressing the same crowd of rebels that Nehemiah is trying to keep in line. Once we know this we should expect the book of Malachi to have some angry sounding passages. It does.
“‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says Yahweh of hosts to you, O priests who despise My Name.
But you say, ‘How have we despised Your Name?’
You are presenting defiled food upon My altar.
But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’
In that you say, ‘The table of Yahweh is to be despised.’
But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says Yahweh of hosts. (Mal. 1:6-8)
In this passage we learn that the priests working in the new Temple are offering Yahweh a bunch of lame, diseased animals who aren’t good for anything else. Nice. In His Law, Yahweh demands that any animal brought to Him must be in perfect condition without a single flaw or known health problem. Notice how He so thoroughly calls the priests out on their hypocrisy by saying, “Would you offer this garbage to your governor and expect to get away with it? Not hardly! Yet you have the gall to offer it to Me—the God of Heaven! And as you offer Me this rot, you actually expect Me to bless you?!”
“Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should He show you any favor at all?” says Yahweh of hosts. “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says Yahweh of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from you.” (Mal. 1:9-10)
God detests hypocrisy. Here He says that He wishes someone would shut the Temple down entirely rather than keep bringing Him this garbage.
“I am not pleased with you,” says Yahweh of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from you. But My Name is honored by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of My Name. For My Name is great among the nations,” says Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies.
“But you dishonor My Name with your actions. By bringing contemptible food, you are saying it’s all right to defile Yahweh’s table. You say, ‘It’s too hard to serve Yahweh,’ and you turn up your noses at My commands,” says Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies. “Think of it! Animals that are stolen and crippled and sick are being presented as offerings! Should I accept from you such offerings as these?” asks Yahweh.
“Cursed is the cheat who promises to give a fine ram from his flock but then sacrifices a defective one to the Lord. For I am a great King,” says Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies, “and My Name is feared among the nations!” (Mal. 1:10-14)
With all the Self-promoting Yahweh has been doing throughout the Persian Empire, it’s easy to believe that His Name is being revered among the nations a lot more than it is in Jerusalem. My these Jews are an impossible bunch.
“Listen, you priests—this command is for you! Listen to Me and make up your minds to honor My Name,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “or I will bring a terrible curse against you. I will curse even the blessings you receive. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you have not taken My warning to heart. I will punish your descendants and smear your faces with the manure from your festival sacrifices, and I will throw you on the manure pile and you will be taken away with it!” (Mal. 2:1-3)
So these little jerks think they can get away with despising Yahweh in His own House? Well, He’s going to despise them right back and spread poop all over their faces. Then He’ll have them dragged off with poopy faces that everyone can see—how does that sound?
“The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies. But you priests have left God’s paths. Your instructions have caused many to stumble into sin. You have corrupted the Covenant I made with the Levites,” says Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies. “So I have made you despised and humiliated in the eyes of all the people. For you have not obeyed Me but have shown favoritism in the way you carry out My instructions.” (Mal. 2:7-9)
Priests are supposed to be speaking for God—a fact which many of our pastors and priests today have totally forgotten. Yahweh knows how to humiliate those who dishonor Him and lead His lambs astray. Today the Church is filled with teachers, preachers, apostles, prophets, and evangelists who will not hesitate to lie to you, mislead you, and give you “words” from God that He never said. You don’t want anything to do with these people.
Here is another thing you do. You cover Yahweh’s altar with tears, weeping and groaning because He pays no attention to your offerings and doesn’t accept them with pleasure. You cry out, “Why doesn’t Yahweh accept my worship?” I’ll tell you why! Because Yahweh witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows.
Didn’t Yahweh make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are His. And what does He want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce!” says Yahweh, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.” (Mal. 2:13-16)
There’s a lot of marital abuse happening: Jewish men are treating their wives like garbage and then callously divorcing them. And while they ignore the Holy Spirit’s convictions about the way they are treating their spouses, they act like they have no idea why Yahweh would be displeased with the limping, coughing, and wheezing animals that they bring to the Temple in His honor.
You have wearied Yahweh with your words.
“How have we wearied Him?” you ask.
You have wearied Him by saying that all who do evil are good in Yahweh’s sight, and He is pleased with them. You have wearied Him by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” (Mal. 2:17)
Sound familiar? We have a lot of this same talk going on in the Church today as we applaud ourselves for willfully defying the Holy Spirit, and then whining when our own sins come back on us.
“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me!
But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’
In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My House, and test Me now in this,” says Yahweh of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” (Mal. 3:8-10)
Sound familiar? This passage is quoted ad nauseam in the Church as a way of trying to guilt Christians into tithing. But now that you understand who Yahweh is speaking to, it changes the whole tone of the passage, doesn’t it? This isn’t some isolated promise that God will give you back ten times what you drop in the offering plate. God isn’t talking to you in this passage, He’s talking to rebellious brats who are bringing Him maimed animals and then going home to worship Satan with their idolatrous wives.
“You have said terrible things about Me,” says Yahweh.
“But you say, ‘What do You mean? What have we said against You?’
“You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying His commands or by trying to show Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins? From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.’” (Mal. 3:13-15)
How many Christians today think they are getting away with their willful rebellion against God? No one gets away with rebelling against God. We are such fools to think a delayed punishment means no punishment will ever come. It most certainly will come. God will not be mocked.
We’re coming up to the very end of the Old Testament now. We can see the end of Malachi is just a few short stanzas away. Wow, this is a depressing note to end on, isn’t it? But wait—someone in Judah is listening to God’s prophet.
Then those who feared Yahweh spoke with each other, and Yahweh listened to what they said. In His Presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared Him and always thought about the honor of His Name.
“They will be My people,” says Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be My own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” (Mal. 3:16-18)
What a thrilling picture: God writing down the names of those who revere Him. Would your name be added to such a list today? It would if you sincerely care about pleasing God in your life. God has never demanded perfection from us, only sincere reverence and a desire for Him to have His way in our lives. We can do that. Today some Christians are doing that. If you’re one of them, then God is very pleased with you.
“The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all.
But for you who fear My Name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says Yahweh of Hosts. (Mal. 4:1-3)
Here’s another encouraging passage for those who sincerely care about pleasing God. He knows who we are and He is going to reward our devotion to Him. But those who despise God will meet with a terrible end.
“Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.” (Mal. 4:5-6)
This is the last verse of the Old Testament, and it is a prophecy about the coming of John the Baptist. Over 400 years from now, our glorious Lord will be quoting from Malachi when He says to a crowd of people:
Jesus said, “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed blown by the wind? What did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes live in kings’ palaces. So why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, and I tell you, John is more than a prophet. This was written about him:
‘I will send My messenger ahead of you,who will prepare the way for you.’ [Malachi 3:1]
I tell you the truth, John the Baptist is greater than any other person ever born, but even the least important person in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John. Since the time John the Baptist came until now, the kingdom of heaven has been going forward in strength, and people have been trying to take it by force. All the prophets and the Law of Moses told about what would happen until the time John came. And if you will believe what they said, you will believe that John is Elijah, whom they said would come. Let those with ears use them and listen!” (Matt.11:7-15)
BETWEEN THE TESTAMENTS
As we turn the last page of the Old Testament, the Persian Empire is the world power, and Yahweh’s Name is known throughout the whole biblical world. But when we start the New Testament, a completely different empire is in power, and we have Jewish authority figures that we’ve never heard of: Pharisees, Sadducees, the Sanhedrin, and Herod. How did all of this come about? We’ll find out in our next lesson.
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