Jewish history contains 'silent period'

The "Period of Silence" could be the name of the time between the Old and the New Testaments since no period in Israel's history since the time of Moses is more poorly documented.

Although Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament, the canon's historical record ends with the books of Nehemiah, Ezra and Esther. These three books give historical accounts for about 100 years - from about 536 to 432 B.C. - after the decree of Persia's king Cyrus that permitted the Jews to return to Judah and rebuild the temple at Jerusalem.After the books of Nehemiah, Ezra and Esther, no prophets or inspired writers are known to have written of the religious events of the period between the Old and the New Testaments. However, many events significant to world history occurred during that span that had a direct effect upon Jewish practices and, eventually, Christianity. Among other events, the Jews were influenced by the reigns of the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies and Selecuids. Others of influence were the Syrian kings, the Maccabees and the Romans.

Persia had been the reigning power for about 100 years by the time the Old Testament era closed. Persia's King Xerxes, to whom Esther was married, led an army across the Hellespont, the narrow strait joining the Aegean and Marmara seas between Asia and Europe, now called the Dardanelles.

After having gained a foothold in Europe, Xerxes moved west to Thermopylae in 480 B.C. to defeat the Spartans and their allies. He then burned Athens and was about to take possession of all Greece when the Athenians, who had fled to the island of Salamis just east of their city, forced him into a naval battle. The Persian ships were defeated and most of Xerxes' army fled back into Asia.

One of the countries that Xerxes crossed was Macedon, or Macedonia, the mountainous area north of Greece. Philip of Macedon had seized the throne in 359 B.C.; during the next 20 years, he brought the Greek states under his rule.

In 337 B.C., Philip was elected commander of the allied Greek forces gathered to invade Persia and seek vengeance for Xerxes' plundering of their lands.

Xerxes was assassinated in 336 B.C.; he was succeeded by his 20-year-old son who became known as Alexander the Great. In 334 B.C., Alexander crossed the Hellespont into Asia with some 30,000 foot soldiers and about 45,000 cavalry for the first of many victories over Persian forces. In 333 B.C., he defeated Darius III at Issus in Syria, 75 miles east of Tarsus. He conquered Tyre and Jerusalem in 332 B.C.

The leading citizens of Jerusalem, headed by the temple high priest, sent representatives to Alexander, asking that the city be spared from destruction. He granted the request and, it is said, appreciated the intelligence, industriousness and steadiness of the Jews.

By the end of 332 B.C., Alexander had control of Syria, Judah and Egypt. In 331 B.C., he moved across Mesopotamia and defeated the remnants of Darius' forces at Gaugamela. He occupied Babylon, Susa and Persepolis in 330 B.C., and in 326 invaded India to extend his empire to the Indus River.

Alexander's conquests ended in 326 B.C., when his troops, who had completed an unprecedented 14,000-mile military expedition, refused to go on. In 323 B.C., while making plans for transporting his troops by sea around the Arabian Peninsula, he fell sick of fever and died in Babylon at age 32.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed