Story 10 of 12: REVOLUTION AND OCCUPATION
There was a time of Jewish peace, until the arrival of Alexander the Great! After the Greeks conquered the Persians militarily, it could be said that they conquered the Jews culturally. The hellenist influence brought advances in philosophy, but also detracted many Jews away from God to worship the Greek gods.
One day a zealous Jew named Mattathias killed another Jew for offering sacrifices to Zeus. When the Greek king sent his commissioner to investigate, Mattathias killed him too, and the Maccabean revolt began! In time the Maccabees (the sons of Mattathias) beat the Greeks in spite of being outnumbered. They then purified the temple and rededicated it to God. But at the same they also yearned for God to send them another prophet to guide them, but no prophets appeared this time. The Jewish nation eventually grew stable enough to become the Hasmonean Dynasty, a Jewish kingdom almost as large as the Davidic Kingdom of old.
But because there were no prophets at this time, the Hasmonean Dynasty was more a political state than a religious people that preceded it. In light of this, many Jews, weary of losing the promised land ever again, clung to the Mosaic Law to the extreme, trying to follow it to the letter. The concern for the Jewish religion gave rise to three new factions: (1) the Essenes, a simple religious community which isolated itself from society in preparation for a Messiah or deliverer; (2) the Pharisees, the scribes who felt that they were the rightful interpreters of scripture in the absence of the prophets; and (3) the Sadducees, the priests who considered themselves, not the Pharisees, as the rightful interpreters of Scripture.
The Pharisees, adopting Plato's concept of the separation of body and soul, began teaching the resurrection of the dead, answering the problem of evil in this life by pointing to justice in the next. The Sadducees did not believe in Resurrection, and stuck only with the first five books of Moses.
The books of Wisdom and Sirach speak of the righteous ones ultimately resting in the hand of God, while the wicked ones would suffer in "Sheol", previously describes as the shadowy underworld, but now described as a place of torment.
Though the Greeks never did ultimately conquer the Jews militarily, the same could not be said of the Romans! The Roman family of Antipater casually swept away what was left of the Hasmoneans, the land of Judea (now called Palestine) found itself occupied by Pompey, Julius Caesar, Cassius, Mark Antony, and Augustus. One of Antipater’s sons, Herod the Great, was appointed as a puppet king of Emperor Augustus. Herod was bent on killing any of his rivals, including any wannabe "Messiah"s that the Jews hoped for.
After Herod’s death, Palestine would be ruled on and off by Roman procurators, never totally successful in dealing with the determined Jews. A new nationalistic group, the Zealots, grew from what was left of the dying Hasmonean dynasty, anxious for a king to lead them to military victory over the Romans. Inspired by the memory of the Maccabees, they often resorting to terrorist tactics against the Romans.
And so, between the Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots, all under the yoke of the Roman Empire, the “fullness of time” had been reached.
The origin of the menorah used during Hannukah comes from the time of the Maccabees. One day when repurifying the temple, a single day's worth of oil was said to burn for 8 whole days.
Around this time the enigmatic Book of Daniel tells the story of a Hebrew boy and his friends willing to die for God instead of obeying a king’s order to worship a golden idol. Daniel was thrown into a lion's den, but God kept the lions' mouths shut.
Daniel also had visions of a great "Defender of the people", revealed in apocalyptic visions to be kept secret in a sealed book until the end times, when wickedness would increase and many would have to be purified.
The Sadducees only accepted the Torah (the first five books of the Scriptures), were influenced by Hellenism than Greek philosophy, and did not share the Pharisees’ belief in the resurrection that was hinted by the Prophets. The Essenes for their part took great care in copying the Scriptures into scrolls, many of which we found as recently as the 1950s in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
What Jewish factions arose from the Hasmonean Dynasty?
What Greek and Jewish beliefs developed into the belief in resurrection?