The Pursuit of God

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Know Your Bible Lesson 42: Between the Testaments

KYB 42

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Between the last book of the Old Testament (Malachi) and the first book of the New Testament (Matthew), there is a time gap of 400 years. Some call this “400 years of silence” because we don’t have any records of God speaking through prophets during this period. Now just because we have no written records, does that mean God really didn’t speak through anyone? Of course not. Don’t let Jewish superstitions fool you: God didn’t abandon Israel or anyone else for 400 years. But after spending 41 lessons learning about how rotten Israel has been treating God, can we blame Him for not gifting her with more prophets?

Now when the Bible falls silent, we can turn to other historical documents to get an idea of what was happening in and around Israel during these 400 years. But first, let’s do a quick review. Way back in King David’s time, Israel was a pretty impressive little empire in her own right. She was never huge in a global sense, but she had a pretty decent chunk of territory and she was managing to keep her neighboring nations in line. But eventually Yahweh broke the empire up into two warring kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. He then destroyed each of those kingdoms—first the north, and then the south. He caused all of Israel’s territory to become the property of large, land gobbling empires. First the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, then the Persians. At the end of the Old Testament, Persia is still in charge. That lasts for about 170 more years before an unstoppable Greek warrior crashes onto the scene: Alexander the Great.

Alexander is obsessed with conquering the world. He just can’t stop. He has to have everything. He’s on such a conquering rampage that he never stops to organize and rule the empire that he’s forming. So when Alexander dies, things are a bit of a mess. All of the land he has conquered is divided up among his top generals. Ptolemy is the name of the general who gets the chunk of land that includes Israel. But that only lasts until another of Alexander’s generals (Seleucus) steals the land away from Ptolemy. At this point, Israel is no longer being called Israel. Palestine becomes the new name for the region of land bordering the Mediterranean Sea that once belonged to the Jews alone—a land given to them by Yahweh. See what happens when you disrespect Yahweh? He takes your stuff away.

Well, the Jews hate this situation. They are still a fiercely patriotic people and they can’t stand seeing icky foreigners being the kings of their heritage. Of course if the Israelites actually read their Covenant with Yahweh, they’d remember that He said He’d take their land away from them and make their lives miserable if they rebelled against Him. They rebelled, alright, and now here they are in a major mess with icky Greeks telling them what they can and can’t do.

What do you do when you just can’t stand the thought of being controlled by someone else? You rebel. The Jews rebelled a lot against their foreign conquerors. At long last, Yahweh let their rebellion succeed under the leadership of a Jewish family known as the Hasmoneans or Maccabees. Let’s hear it for those Maccabees—at last the Jews have some sweet independence back in a small section of Palestine which is called Judea. They immediately set to work to expand their territory and in eighty years, they’ve got quite a nice homeland carved out for themselves. Hurray!

Eighty years fly by too quickly and then General Pompey of Rome comes onto the scene. He conquers Judea for the glory of the empire, and the entire Palestine region becomes part of the new world power: Rome. This empire is so massive and so well organized that swiftly breaking free of them is not an option. Sixty-three years grind by and the Jews are more than a little bitter by the time we open up the New Testament. They hate the Romans. They hate being oppressed. They hate not being free. They need another set of heroes like the Maccabees to rise up and lead them to freedom. They need Yahweh to send His Messiah. Someone has got to come and free them from these pagan bullies.

PROPHECY FULFILLED

Let’s do a quick review of all the major empires we’ve come across in our study of Israel:203

Now back in Lesson 29, we learned about a strange dream that Yahweh had given to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. In the dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw a frightening statue of a man that was composed of different materials. The prophet Daniel had explained that the different sections of the statue represented different kingdoms that would rise up and become world powers after Babylon. It’s very important to note that “the world” in Bible times just meant the area around the Mediterranean Sea. Anyone who managed to control this region was considered a “world power.” The world feels like a very small place when your fastest mode of transportation is riding on the back of an energetic horse.

Let’s refresh our memories about what the dream statue looked like. As we work our way down from the head, we’ll see that Yahweh has fulfilled most of this prophetic dream. At the end of the Old Testament, we were to the silver chest and arms. During the 400 years between the Testaments, we’ve worked our way down to the iron legs. (You can click on any image in this series to make it larger.)

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The Bible ends before we reach the statue’s toes, which represent the final phase of the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire is considered the last great world empire, but that’s only because when we talk about Rome, we define “world” to mean a very small region of land. If we define world to mean the whole planet—which is how we use the term today—then the Roman Empire become a lot less impressive. Certainly they were an impressive empire, but considering how many people and continents they never touched, they weren’t that impressive.

Biblical history only gives us a glimpse into Yahweh’s interactions with people who lived in one little corner of the world. What about all the people who lived on the continents we now call North and South America? In Bible times, the whole globe was populated. There were people living in China, Russia, Africa, and Australia. Country names were different than they are today, but these souls mattered just as much to Yahweh as the ancient Jews did. How did He teach the rest of the world about who He was and what He wanted? We don’t know the details, but we know He did something. It was probably different than a formal Covenant of Laws, but it was still enough to show souls the way to salvation. Since the start of this creation, Yahweh hasn’t overlooked or forgotten about any human being. No matter where people live on the planet, He loves them, and He wants a relationship with them.

THE SADDUCEES: PRIESTLY, RICH & ARROGANT

Religion and government were inseparable concepts for the ancient Jews. This was quite appropriate when we remember that Yahweh was supposed to be their King. It was Yahweh who had outlined civil laws and a justice system for them way back in the time of Moses. Records of the extensive body of Laws that Moses jotted down on Yahweh’s behalf were still being preserved. But Moses lived centuries ago, and the laws he recorded didn’t address every question the Jews have. Like us today, they found their written Scriptures to be insufficient–extra interpretation was needed to provide practical moral guidance for situations that Moses never had to deal with. But who would provide those interpretations? The voices of ancient prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah were helpful, and records of their messages were still being preserved as well. But more was needed. The Jews needed human teachers to help guide them in their interpretation and application of Yahweh’s Law. They also needed human teachers to tell them what His Law even said, because at this time, the common Jew didn’t have a convenient copy of the Torah available for quick reference at his house. This is where the Sadducees and Pharisees come into the picture.

The Sadducees were made up of society’s elite: high priests, aristocratic families, wealthy merchants, etc.. Sadducees were a priestly sect who played a major role in Jewish society for about 200 years before the destruction of the second Temple in 70 AD. They took a more conservative view on religious matters, and they had enough political smarts to keep decent relations with the Roman rulers of Palestine. Why should anyone listen to the Sadducees? Because of their superior family lines and social situations.

The Pharisees were rivals to the Sadducees. Although they weren’t the cream of society, the Pharisees argued that they had superior credentials in piety and religious knowledge. These two groups fought as constantly as the Democrat and Republican parties fight in America today. One of their main points of contention was over the validity of Scripture. The conservative Sadducees refused to go beyond the writings of Moses, which means the first five books of the Bible (known as the Torah). Because they felt like issues such as the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the dead, and the existence of angelic spirits are not explicitly discussed in these books, the Sadducees adamantly rejected these things as false doctrines.

Now at this point in history, the Jews had collected quite a bit of oral law which was rather like our modern day commentaries. Some respected Jewish teacher pontificates about what he thinks the Torah means, someone writes his thoughts down, and those thoughts along with the thoughts of a bunch of other “experts” become like a second bible to the Jews. Well, the conservative Sadducees would have none of these shenanigans. They stuck to the Torah, but the Pharisees argued that oral law was just as important as the Torah. This major difference in views led to differences in every area of life. When it came to handing out the death penalty, for example, the Sadducees pushed for a swift and merciless execution. This makes sense, for if you read through Moses’ writings, Yahweh orders a swift execution for many different crimes. The Sadducees also believed in a literal application of “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” This means if you run over my leg with an ox cart and break it, I get to break yours. If you accidentally slingshot my eye out, you have to lose your eye as well.

Now wealth has a way of making people snooty. The fact that the Sadducees strutted around acting better than everyone else plus the fact that they schmoozed the Romans to make their own lives easier caused common Jews to hate them. Plus the Sadducees had a major weak point. Their priestly role in Jewish society was so married to Temple activities that when the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 AD, the Sadducees vanished from history.

THE PHARISEES: SUPERIOR IN RIGHTEOUSNESS

As a group, the Pharisees sprang up after the great Maccabean revolt. Back then the Jews were being oppressed by icky pagan Greeks. Naturally the Greeks were trying to shove their religious views on the Jews. One group of purists known as the Hasideans found this pagan influence utterly unbearable. When the Maccabeans revolted for political freedom, the Hasideans added their muscle to the team in order to get religious freedom. As soon as the pagans were forced back, the Hasideans stopped helping the resistance—a fact that made them disliked by the Maccabeans.

The Hasideans were legalism personified. They obsessed over keeping every jot and tittle of Yahweh’s Laws. And as always, when we get hyper-focused on the letter of the law (its technical requirements), we lose sight of the spirit of the law (the basic moral principles it is teaching us). For example, Yahweh commanded that His people rest on the Sabbath day. But suppose your elderly mother is very ill and needs you to care for her. A super legalistic interpretation of the Law would lead you to feel justified in saying, “I’m not helping you, Mom. For me to cook you meals and help you up and down to the bathroom would count as work, and God commands us not to work on the Sabbath. Far be it from me to violate God’s holy Law.” But clearly when God gave His Sabbath Laws, He was not saying you ought to abandon all compassion and concern for others. God would want you to help your ailing mother on the Sabbath. God wants us to apply the spirit of His Laws, not get hung up on their exact wording. There must always be room for things like mercy, compassion, and love. Legalism quickly turns into an arrogant little game by which one uses the wording of God’s Laws as an excuse to get out of doing what he doesn’t want to do, while pretending he is more righteous than everyone else.

The Pharisees considered themselves to be spiritual descendants of the Hasideans. They took the same holier-than-thou approach to life, priding themselves on perfectly meeting all of the requirements of Yahweh’s Laws while their heart attitudes remained evil. This is why we will hear Jesus constantly calling this group hypocrites as we get into Period 7. He knows the game they are playing, and He knows how righteous they think they are while they go around shafting people and refusing to submit to Yahweh in their hearts.

The Pharisees were commoners and scribes who rose up to oppose the snooty Sadducees. The wealthy Sadducees might have more money, but no one could outdo the Pharisees when it came to being righteous in the sight of Yahweh. The Pharisees considered themselves to be the ultimate example of holiness. In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul boasts of his Jewish credentials by saying:

If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless. (Philip. 3:4-6)

Along with pure Hebrew bloodlines, Paul claims to be an expert of Yahweh’s Laws and to have kept those Laws perfectly. Before becoming a Christian, Paul had been a Pharisee. Pharisees really thought they were blameless in the eyes of Yahweh. Their arrogance knew no bounds, and even though Paul has learned that all of his so-called righteousness was garbage to God, he isn’t entirely over his superiority complex.

Now the fact that the Pharisees didn’t limit themselves to the Torah gave them a lot of room for maneuvering around any unpleasant things that Yahweh required. By the time they were done “discerning” the real meaning of God’s Laws, they came up with versions that were far more pleasing to them. They also came up with a lot of variations on God’s Laws which enabled them to re-label blatant sin as super righteous acts. For example, they had cooked up a nice little concept called Corban. Suppose your elderly parents fall on hard times through no fault of their own. Clearly Yahweh would want you to help them out, for one of the main underlying principles of His laws was “love others as yourself.” Well, you don’t want to treat your parents the way you’d want them to treat you if you were down and they had money. You’re greedy and you want to keep all your money for yourself, so you declare that it is Corban, or “devoted to God”. Now you can say, “Gee, sorry Dad. I would help you, but I’ve dedicated my money to Yahweh. I certainly can’t spend His sacred stuff on you.” Not only do you come away looking righteous for having generously dedicated so much to Yahweh, but you still get to enjoy your stuff because who’s going to make you account for it? It was these sorts of shenanigans that made Jesus very angry. In Matthew 15, Jesus is talking to a group of Pharisees when He snaps:

“Why do you break the command of Yahweh for the sake of your tradition? For Yahweh said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother to be Corban (which means ‘devoted to God’), then they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition!

You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’” (Mt. 15:3-9)

Unlike the close-minded Sadducees, the Pharisees claimed to apply the spirit of Yahweh’s Laws. Yet in reality what they really did was force Scripture to say whatever they wanted to hear. The Pharisees were admired as scholars and great examples of morality by the common people. People didn’t realize what major hypocrites they were in the sight of God, so Jesus spent a lot of time teaching His disciples to unlearn what they’d been taught by the Pharisees. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy,” He says in Luke 12:1. But of course the Sadducees weren’t any better. “Watch out and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” He warns His disciples in Matthew 16:6. When yeast is added to dough, it spreads all throughout it. You only need a little yeast to make bread rise up into a fluffy loaf. You only need to accept a few critical lies to end up with a totally wrong view of who God is and what He demands. Like our false shepherds in the Church today, the Pharisees and Sadducees were going around trying to turn people away from God by feeding them clever deceptions. “Watch out. Beware. Don’t listen to them,” Jesus says.

SCRIBES

In the Old Testament, Jewish scribes were scholars who educated the people about Yahweh’s Laws. Ezra was the first of these types of scribes. But around 200 BC, the traditional function of scribes was taken over by the Pharisees. When we find the term “scribe” being used in the New Testament, it is referring to officials in the justice system—educated experts who judges relied on for guidance in legal matters. Scribes hung out with both the Sadducees and Pharisees, and we often find reference to Jesus being questioned by “the scribes and the Pharisees.”

THE SANHEDRIN

When you’re taken over by foreigners, it’s easy to end up with two systems of government: yours and theirs. Under Roman rule, the Jews maintained their own legal system of laws and judges. Their version of the American Supreme Court was the Sanhedrin (aka, the Great Sanhedrin).

In Yahweh’s original Laws, priests also functioned as judges in the land. They handled both religious and legal matters. In the Gospels, we find that the current high priest is heading up the group of Jewish judges that make up the Sanhedrin. Specifics about exactly how the Sanhedrin worked and how many other lower ranking governing bodies there might have been is unclear. The bottom line was that you didn’t want to ever get yourself in a position where you had to face the Sanhedrin—that would mean you were in big trouble with the Jewish government. Paul found himself standing before the Sanhedrin in Acts 23, but when he noticed that the council of judges was part Sadducee and part Pharisee, he started a major fight by using their theological differences against them.

“Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees! I am being judged because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead!” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, and no angel or spirit, but the Pharisees affirm them all. (Acts 23:6-8)

Paul’s father had been a Pharisee and he was a Pharisee. In this scene, he is trying to find a way to get out of standing trial, so he lies about why he was arrested. He makes it sound like the Sadducees are harassing him for believing in the resurrection of the dead. By making this claim, he knows all the Pharisees will rush to his defense, and they do. A major fight breaks out and Paul is escorted out of the room by soldiers before the Sanhedrin can come to any official ruling about him.

SYNAGOGUES

The Pharisees wanted to control Jewish religion. To control the religion was to control the people. But the Sadducees were already controlling the religion as the priests who worked in the Temple. The Sadducees insisted that one could not worship Yahweh beyond the Temple—the Temple had to be the center focus of the devout Jew’s relationship with God. If they were going to gain supremacy over the rich and snooty Sadducees, the less rich but just as snooty Pharisees needed to get the people to stop revolving around the Temple. Why not just meet in homes? Why not worship Yahweh outside of Jerusalem where the influence of the Sadducees was weak and easy to override. It’s during this period between the Testaments when the tradition of meeting in synagogues began. There were no synagogues in the Old Testament. They are strictly a New Testament tradition that was started by Pharisees who were pretending to help commoners connect with Yahweh, when in reality they were just looking to increase their own influence over Jewish society.

So what is a synagogue exactly? Just a common house of worship for Jewish men. There were no women allowed. The word comes from the Greek word “synagein” which means “to bring together.” Remember, the Jews were ruled by the Greeks for quite a while, so a lot of Greek culture has infiltrated their society. The Pharisees wanted to move the people away from a focus on ritual sacrifices (which only Temple priests could perform) and get them to prioritize prayer and the study of God’s Law. Well, actually, the mangling of God’s Law Pharisee-style. Once the people were meeting together, they’d want some scholar to help guide their study and discussion. Who better than a know-it-all Pharisee? The more the people looked to the Pharisees to guide them in truth, the more influence the Pharisees gained over them.

Yahweh used the Pharisees and their structure of synagogues and schools to help Judaism survive after the fall of the Temple in AD 70. From our vantage point today, we can look back and see how God strategically used the Pharisees to prepare His people for the Temple’s absence. Though the Pharisees did a lot of damage with their teaching, they did help the Jews think of themselves as being less reliant on the Temple and Jerusalem as a means of communicating with Yahweh. Of course none of this would have been necessary if the Jews hadn’t wandered so far from Yahweh’s original teachings. It was never God’s intention that His people think of Him as only being accessible through a physical building. Yes, the Temple was significant, but Yahweh has always drawn near to souls who sincerely sought Him. Accessing God has always been a simple matter of reaching out to Him with your soul, not needing to travel to some particular building. Souls who really knew Yahweh, like King David, understood how close He was to His people. This is why we find David saying things like:

The eyes of Yahweh are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry for help… The righteous cry out, and Yahweh hears, and delivers them from all their troubles. Yahweh is near to the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit. (Ps. 34:15, 17-18)

David understood that God was right there, all the time. Yahweh has never been a distant God, or One who pushes certain souls away based on irrelevant details like the gender or ethnicity of their earthsuits. From the beginning, Yahweh called all people to come to Him. A true Jew in God’s eyes was any soul who sincerely wanted to please Him. It’s never been about bloodlines or ancestry. But when we harden our hearts against God, we turn away from truth and we embrace deceptions instead. God never authorized His people to treat other humans like untouchable scum, yet this is a mindset which is very prevalent among New Testament Jews. The Jews in Jesus’ day were taught to never associate with Gentiles, and Gentile was a generic term for a non-Jew. They were also taught to view women and children as inferior. Jewish men were raised to be bigots—viewing themselves as superior in God’s eyes to non-Jews or Jewish women. This arrogant mindset was reflected in the structure of the New Testament Temple.

THE TEMPLE

The Temple was supposed to be a close replica of the Tabernacle that Yahweh ordered to be built by Moses during the wilderness period. Yahweh’s original design was very basic. It had one large courtyard where sacrifices were done. Here priests mingled with all kinds of Yahweh worshipers: men, women, Jews, and non-Jews. Anyone who was a follower of Yahweh was welcome to bring his or her sacrifice into the courtyard to give to a priest. The priest would then process that sacrifice in the outer courtyard according to the rules Yahweh specified.205The special tent structure inside the courtyard was off-limits to regular people. Only authorized priests could enter that tent and perform special rituals. We learned about those rituals back in Lesson 5 and Lesson 6. But the important thing to notice is the simplicity of its design: there was only one courtyard into which all serious worshipers were welcome.

Now it takes a whole lot of supplies and equipment to run Yahweh’s sacrificial system. So if you’re going to turn the tent Tabernacle into a permanent building, it makes sense to make a few modifications. It would be very convenient for the priests to have some storage rooms built into the Temple’s structure where they could keep their stuff. These additions were made when Solomon constructed the first Temple. Suddenly we start hearing about the Temple treasury and the Temple storage rooms. These are practical modifications. We hear the same modifications returning when the second Temple is constructed in the book of Ezra. But when we get to the New Testament, someone has made some major alterations to the Temple’s design. Suddenly we find a system of courtyards which serve to prevent women and non-Jews from being able to come as close to God’s Presence as Jewish men. Is this an idea that Yahweh smiled on? Not hardly. The New Testament Temple is an atrocious mangling of Yahweh’s original idea.

Now no one knows exactly what any of the Temples looked like, and every artist draws them a bit differently based on biblical descriptions. Here is one artist’s depiction of the Temple in Jesus’ day:

206So what shady character is responsible for these distortions of Yahweh’s original design? His name is Herod, aka Herod the Great, and he fancies himself to be the king of Judea.

HEROD THE GREAT

Now when you’re ruling a land that is really being ruled by someone else, the title “king” starts sounding a bit phony. Herod is more like a supervisor—a peacekeeper. The Romans make him king of Judea about 37 BC. If the Jews feel like one of their own is governing them, it should help them stay less agitated.

We have to appreciate this situation from the Roman perspective: it’s extremely complicated trying to run an empire. Suppose you were to go take over all of Europe. All those different nations become part of one massive empire which you are now the supreme ruler of. It sounds good in theory, but in real life you have a nightmare on your hands. Italians have their own way of living, and it’s different than how Germans live. The French and the British have a long history of despising each other. How do you get so many different cultures to get along with each other and with you? Naturally you want them all to obey your laws and embrace some of your own cultural values. But if you try to shove too much down their throats, the people will revolt. If you come across as a spineless wimp, they’ll revolt. You have to come across as a powerful authority figure while still remaining a bit flexible.

Now while the Romans were smart enough to choose their battles, they weren’t softies. Instead, they believed that going overboard with the discipline today would save a major headache later on. The smallest infractions against the empire were met with violent, over-the-top disciplinary measures. If you were perceived as a threat to the empire, the Romans would publicly trash you in a way that would hopefully scare anyone else from daring to follow your rotten example. Crucifixion was a favorite Roman execution method. It was horrifying, it was public, and it said “Don’t mess with Rome.”

Now let’s get back to Herod. During his reign as a buffer between the Jews and Rome, Herod totally rebuilt the Temple, turning it into a very grandiose structure. Bigger was better, as far as Herod was concerned. Fancier was more fun. But his Temple facelift project was not all that he had hoped it would be. Politics got in the way. By this time, the pompous Pharisees were a powerful influence and they didn’t approve of Herod. This Jewish “king” didn’t have the right bloodlines. He was the son of an Edomite—a descendant of Esau. He was an icky foreigner. But what Herod lacked in pedigree, he made up for in family connections. His father had begun zealously supporting Rome the moment General Pompey invaded Palestine in 63 BC. Thanks to his father’s political smarts, Herod’s family enjoyed the favor of several powerful Roman figures. It was Herod’s father who was first put in charge over Judea, and later he helped Herod get appointed as governor of Galilee.

In 40 BC, Palestine was invaded by the Parthians, and Herod fled to the city of Rome for safety. It was there that he was nominated by the Roman senate as the king of Judea and given an army for backup. In 37 BC, a 36-year-old Herod returned to Judea to stake his claim, and he ruled for 32 years. To help smooth the political waters, he dumped his first wife and son and married a woman from the Hasmonean family instead. Remember that the Hasmoneans were heroes to the Jews—they were the family line that won the Jews their freedom from the Greeks. Herod didn’t get off on the right foot with the Hasmoneans, and when you’re trying to win over your enemies, it’s a smart move to marry one of their daughters.

The Romans liked Herod. They trusted his loyalty to the empire. They rewarded him with more land and prestige. They had even bigger and better plans for him, but as Herod grew older, a dark side of him emerged. He became mentally unstable, deeply affected by drama among his family members. He really loved his Hasmonean wife Mariamne, but he was also plagued with a paranoid jealousy that she was being unfaithful to him. His sister Salome knew this and tried to vex her brother even more so that the marriage would be ruined. His mother-in-law also got in on the fun, helping Salome work her evil schemes to make Mariamne look unfaithful. Finally Herod couldn’t take it anymore. In a fit of rage, he murdered Mariamne, her two sons, her brother, her grandfather, and her mother. So there. Now Herod was left with his eight other wives and fourteen children. But he had lost one of the true loves of his life.

Herod came down with arteriosclerosis in his later years. He ended up in constant pain, both mentally and physically. After changing his will three times, he finally killed his firstborn son. This is the same Herod who is responsible for the famous slaying of Jewish boys in Bethlehem. After a botched suicide attempt, Herod finally died right about the time that Jesus was born, leaving his kingdom divided among his sons. Archelaus would be the king of Judea and Samaria. Philip and Antipas would be tetrarchs over the rest.

As we dive into the Gospel books in our next lesson (the start of Period 7), we will be in the last years of Herod’s life. His behavior has caused him to lose the favor of Rome. He’s hurting, paranoid, violent, and unpredictable. He’s dangerous.

UP NEXT: Know Your Bible Lesson 43: Two Miracle Boys

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