*Israel in the time of Christ

The Life of Jesus Christ - Chapter 1 - The Birth of a *Saviour - Part 1

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The history of *Israel

Jews lived in *Israel at the time of Christ. They probably did not feel very safe. Once their country had been very powerful. David and Solomon had been their kings. That was 1000 years ago. Now they were not powerful. The people had done wrong things. They had not obeyed God. God had spoken to Abraham and Moses. He had given them a Covenant (made a special agreement with them). But the people did not obey God's rules. God punished them. He made them leave their country. He had told them that he would do this. In 586 BC, enemies burned down the *Temple of Solomon. This *temple was one of the most wonderful buildings in the world. The enemies took away everything that was inside the *Temple.

After 70 years, some of the Jews returned to *Israel. But it was very difficult to live there. While the Jews were away, many foreigners had come to live there. After some time the Jews did build the *Temple again. This was much smaller than Solomonís *Temple. It was not so beautiful.

At this time, there were very strong rulers in the world. There were very strong countries. People from Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia and Greece were very powerful. Their armies marched into many countries.

Armies from Greece enter *Israel

Alexander the Great (from Greece) entered *Israel and many other countries. Alexander was not only a military leader. He also introduced new ideas to these countries. He made the Greek language and customs popular. Some Jews began to serve false Greek gods. After Alexander's death, his Generals (important officers) fought against each other. Each one wanted to rule parts of his lands. Some of these battles were in *Israel. Then one General spoilt the *Temple, which the Jews had rebuilt. This General did some evil things in the *Temple. He killed people who would not serve his false Greek gods. So, some Jews became very angry.

The Maccabees

The Maccabees were a family. They wanted the Jews to serve the true God only. And they opposed the false Greek gods. The Maccabees encouraged the Jews to fight their enemies. The Maccabees ruled *Israel for a short time.

The Romans

The Jews began to argue with each other. Then the *Romans came and ruled *Israel. They were very strict. The Jews wanted to be free. But the Roman *Empire became very strong. The *Romans ruled many countries. Their power was very great. It seemed impossible for the Jews to be free.

King Herod's *Temple

At the time of the birth of Jesus, the Romans had made Herod to be king over *Israel. Herod was not a Jew. He was a foreigner. Although he was a Jew by religion, he did not obey the laws of the Jews. He was a strong and cruel man. He became king by a plot. He wanted to control the Jews. So he built the *Temple again. He made it much bigger. His workmen began to build the *Temple in 20 BC. They continued until about AD 64. Herod's *Temple was a very beautiful building.

But what happened in the *Temple was not always good. People did not always behave in the right way:

  A Jew might want to kill an animal as a sacrifice (as a gift to God). He had to buy the animal from a special shopkeeper. The rulers in the *Temple chose the shopkeepers. The shopkeepers could ask for big prices. People could not bring any other animals, even if they were good animals!

  The Romans appointed the *high priest. But one family gave money to the Romans. So the Romans always chose men from that family to become the *high priests.

Sadducees and Pharisees

One group of Jews were called Sadducees. They had different ideas from other Jews. They did not believe in the *supernatural. They had very different ideas. Some people also have such ideas today. Really the Sadducees were a political party. They wanted to please the Romans. This group was very powerful. They did not care what they did. They wanted to remain powerful.

Another group were Pharisees. They studied the law of Moses. They did not always know its true meaning. Later, Jesus spoke to them about this. The leaders of the Pharisees were rich and powerful.

There were also some good Jews. These people wanted to please God. And they wanted to know more about God. They read the books of the *prophets. So, these people believed that God would send a *Messiah. The *Messiah would be a good king. He would rule over them well. They desired that the king would come. But they had waited for a very long time. There had been no *prophet for more than 400 years. Some people probably thought that God had forgotten them. Or, that God had left them. So, they were not sure that the words of the *prophets would come true.

In the next section, we will consider what the *prophets wrote about a *saviour. And in later sections, we will see how their words came true.

 

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