A 'period of silence' in Israel

While Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament, the canon's historical record actually ends with the books of Nehemiah, Ezra and Esther. These three books give a historical account for about 100 years - from about 536 to 432 B.C. - after the decree of Cyrus, king of Persia, permitted the Jews to return to their homeland.

Zerubbabel, a Jew born in Babylon during the Exile, was appointed governor of Judah by Cyrus. Zerubbabel then led a group of Jews to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple. (Ezra 3:2, 8; 4:2-3; 5:2.) The temple was dedicated in 515 B.C.

Alexander the Great is said by Josephus to have defiled the temple by offering sacrifices in it, making it necessary for the high priest to "repair" the house again. Also, it was to this temple that Ptolemy Philopator, in 272 B.C.) insisted upon entering the Holy of Holies upon his conquest of Palestine. (See other article on this page.)

Few periods in Israel's history since the time of Moses are as sparsely documented than the time between the Old and the New Testaments. This segment of history is sometimes called "the period of silence."

However, many events significant to world history that occurred during that time span 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. (See other articles on this page.) Others of influence were the Syrian kings, the Maccabees and the Romans.

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