The Old Testament ended with Cyprus of Persia conquering Babylon and decreeing that all the Jews can return home (Ezra 1:1-4).See our study on Ezra for more details.
The last king of Persia was Darius III. Persia was finally destroyed by Alexander the Great, King of Greece (331-323BC).
For 13years Alexander ruled Greece, changing the course of history by spreading Greek ideals and customs across the world. He established cities, which became centres for art, science and Greek philosophy.
Alexander died leaving no heir to the throne. His Generals, Seleucids and Ptolemy took over much of the empire. Seleucid?s successors, known as the Seleucids, ruled in Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and Syria while Ptolemy ruled Egypt. From 320 - 198 BC the Ptolemies also ruled Judah.
The Seleucids took control of Judah in 198BC. This eventually led to the antagonism of the Jews by the Greeks. In 167BC Antiochus made the practise of Jewish religion illegal. He also set up an altar to Zeus, chief Greek god in the Jerusalem temple. He disrupted their offering of sacrifices and demanded they worship Zeus.
A period of resistance by the Jews followed, mainly by guerrilla warfare. During this period a Jew called Judas, nicknamed Maccabeus (the hammer) destroyed the altar to Zeus in the temple. The temple was rededicated in 164 BC. The Maccabeans became the recognised rulers and leaders in Judea.
The Roman Empire
After political freedom by the Maccabeans, 80 years of peace ensued from any external interference on Israel. However, the period following the Maccabeans witnessed serious struggles for power among the Jews. One of the rival factions eventually appealed to Rome for help and in 63BC general Pompey entered Jerusalem to settle the dispute.
From then on all Jewish rulers were approved by Rome. The most famous of these was Herod the Great, the Herod who was King when Jesus was born.
This brings us neatly into the New Testaments
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