We are covering the time of the return to the first century in our study, so let’s go over a few things in a brief review. This subject has many concepts and these will be essential in our understanding of the Prophets, the Writings, the Gospels and the Epistles. The exile is called the “Galut” and the return is called the “Aliyah.” From the first galut to the third aliyah, it will be 70 years. From the end of the third galut to the beginning of the first aliyah, it will be 39 years.
Going back to the first galut and this 39 year period we will have two major prophets who will be ministering, Jeremiah (May Yehovah exalt) and Ezekiel (God will strengthen). Both will be priests from two different families of priests. At the time of David we have two high priests. We will have Zadok (righteous) and Abiathar (excellent father). Because we have the Mishkan at Gibeon in the north and we have the Ohel David (tent of David) in the south that housed the Ark near the Gihon Spring, two high priests were required.
When David flees into the wilderness both are loyal to David, but as he ages, his son’s compete with each other as to would be king. Absalom and Adonijah try to take the throne, and Abiathar sides with them. Zadok sides with David against Absalom and will also support Solomon.
The family of Abiathar can no longer minister in the Temple but they can still function as a priest (1 Kings 2.26-27). The family of Zadok can minister in the Temple (Ezek 44.15). Jeremiah, who is related to Abiathar, will stay in the land to minister to the people, but Ezekiel, who is related to Zadok, will go to Babylon with the exiles.
The Babylonians will set up a Jewish governor in the land named Gedaliah (Yah is my greatness). He will be killed by Ishmael and ten friends, and this alludes to the False Messiah and the ten kings with him. The Babylonians aren’t real happy with this because it was seen as an attack on Nebuchadnezzar himself who appointed him, and they come back and some of the people flee to Egypt (2 Kings 25.22-26), taking Jeremiah with them. Jeremiah will tell the people to stay in the land and surrender to the Babylonians because God has sent them for judgment, but they don’t listen. Nebuchadnezzar also comes to Egypt and conquers them, so they really didn’t get away. A few people escaped, including Jeremiah, who then went to Babylon to join the exile. This brings us to the end of the First Temple period with the murder of Gedaliah. Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed and the people are exiled to Babylon. So, the third deportation came after the murder of Gedaliah, and now we will be setting the stage for the return.
There is a book called, “The History of the Jewish People:Second Temple Period” by Mesorah Publications , p. 16, and it says, “Within seven years of Gedaliah’s murder the land turned into a barren desert.” In the Tosefta, Bava Kama 7.2, it says that Yochanon Ben Zakkai said that Israel was exiled to Babylon because Abraham came from there. Ben Zakkai was the Av Beit Din (vice president) of the Sanhedrin at the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70.A.D. He restructured the “Judaisms” of the first century with his brand of Judaism (Beit Hillel) into what became known as Rabbinic Judaism. Many regard him as one of their favorite rabbis, and many believers think so, too. However, he was not a believer and opposed a Torah-based faith in Yeshua. One can gain some insight into the Judaism of the Pharisees in the first century, but he didn’t follow Moses or Yeshua, and that should be at least considered when reading his rulings.
So, in being taken back to Babylon, we have the Jewish people being taken back to their roots with Abraham. There will be certain things there that they were familiar with, as opposed to being sent to Greece or other places. After all, their ancestors walked on the same land as they were now and had some deep roots. Jacob fled there and lived there for 20 years while his sons (the tribes) basically grew up there. The Jewish community in Babylon will be the longest Jewish community in the world for hundreds of years. Peter even wrote to them in 1 Pet 5.13.
God had spared the nation but destroyed the buildings. Being sent to Babylon was like Yehovah saying, “You want to worship idols, then I am going to send you right into a land full of idols.” They were humiliated but built their lives back up again. The rulers allowed the exiles to be independent, but there were many adjustments that had to be made. There was no Temple, no Jerusalem, no festivals and much of their religious life centered around the Torah. With the Temple gone, much of the Torah didn’t apply, but it wasn’t like they were following it to begin with, or they would not have found themselves in Babylon. But it was going to be an adjustment, as we shall soon see. They learned Aramaic, which was similar to Hebrew. They also had help from their countrymen who were already in Babylon from before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. They would help their newly arrived brethren to adapt.
About a decade before the destruction of the Temple and the city, the Babylonians exiled about ten thousand Jews and many of these were some of the righteous of the nation, like Daniel, Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Some will know them by their Babylonian names of Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednago. God would display his power through them over the years as we all know.
Jeremiah sent them a message that what had happened in the destruction was from God and they had to deal with that fact (Jer 29.1-28). So, the Jewish people settled in places along the Euphrates River and tried to limit their contact with the idolatrous Babylonians. They established a “knesset” (Hebrew word “assembly” and for the Greek “synagogue”) and with a Beit Midrashim (Houses of Study) attached to it to teach the Torah. However, they could no longer keep the festivals or offer korbanot because there was no Temple. This will be the first time they would not have a central sanctuary to worship in since coming out of Egypt. As a result, Babylon became a spiritual center for the people and remained that way for centuries, even hundreds of years after the destruction of the Temple again in 70.A.D. until that was destroyed, too.
Several people came out of the Babylonian exile and they would influence future generations. We will have people like Nehemiah, Ezra the scribe and Zerubbabel. Some feared that living in a prosperous civilization with many cities and a rich economy would cause assimilation. There were huge temples and idolatrous paganism was everywhere. But, this did not happen. The Jewish people could see for themselves the vanity of these pagan beliefs and finally realized that all of it was corrupt and inferior.
They rejected paganism and idolatry and tried to stay away from it. However, some did assimilate because they thought that God had rejected them, so they became like their non-Jewish neighbors. Ezekiel rebuked this attitude in Ezek 20.32-33. Ezekiel gave them hope that they had a future and that God had not rejected them, as did Jeremiah (Ezek 33.1-20; Jer 31.17-20).
The idea of a “knesset” (assembly)and a Beit Midrash (House of Study) attached to it was brought back to the land by Ezra. If they did it outside of the land, how much more should they have them once back in the land. They also established what is called “Yeshivot” or “academies” where scholars could be developed. They inspired “discussions” and heated arguments called a “pilpul” there. These were done by arguing a topic until they arrived a “truth” hopefully. This does not mean “angered argument” but a “scholastic analysis.” They would discuss a topic from every angle, and they would try and control their emotions. A hard thing to do sometimes.
The Babylonian Empire will go through three significant changes, and their time to rule is very limited as far as empires go, even though the city and been there a long time. They will be overthrown by the Medo-Persians. The Babylonian Period will also be called the Persian period. The Persians will eventually dominate the Medes and it becomes the “Persian Empire.” This empire will fall to the Greeks, but the Greeks break up after Alexander dies. Persia breaks free from the Greek influence and they become the third empire called called the Parthian Empire. They will be a huge rival to the Romans leading up to the first century and the Romans never will conquer them. The Jews who remained in Babylon and did not return to Israel were allowed to flourish in Parthia and they did not have to deal with the Romans or Christianity.
In the years before Yeshua was born, the Romans had what was called the First Triumvirate (60-53 B.C.) made up of three individuals and their names were Marcus Lucinius Crassus, Julius Caesar and Pompey. Pompey will be fighting the Parthians when he is called in to help in a civil war in Judea between the two Hasmonean brothers named Aristobulus and Hyrcanus. Pompey comes in and settles the civil war, but eventually this will lead to the reign of King Herod.
Now, let’s talk about Daniel, Mishael, Azariah and Chananiah. They were exiled in the first deportation, eleven years before the destruction of the Temple. Daniel was about fifteen years old when he was tested. The king wanted the promising youths to be served food and wine from the royal Temple, but Daniel and his friends refused to eat the food because it was either unkosher or sacrificed to idols . The cook was now concerned because if they didn’t eat it would look bad on him, so he brought the matter before the overseer. Daniel says “Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be observed in your presence, and the appearance of the youths who are eating the kings’s choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see.” After ten days they looked healthier than the non-Jewish youths.
They also grew in wisdom and were appointed as officials in the king’s court. They were called “wise men” and in Hebrew “Chachamim.” The “chachamin” were scholars and when you translate this word into Greek it is “magi.” As we go into Matt 2.1 we read about the “magi” or “chachamim” coming from the “east” or Babylon, where the largest Jewish community existed. These wise men or chachamim may have been Jewish descendants of those who had been carried away into exile to Babylon. They had settled there and may have been coming to the festival of Sukkot when the “star” appeared signaling the coming of the Messiah (Num 24.17). However, the word “magi” is not restricted to Jewish sages. It was a general term, like “kohen” could mean a Jewish or a pagan priest. When Nebuchadnezzar reached his peak, God gave him a dream about the end of his kingdom and the rise of other kingdoms leading up to the coming of the Messiah (Yeshua).
We will pick up here in our conclusion.