Old Testament Worlds
The Geography of the Old Testament World
The Tribes of Israel
The United Kingdom
The Two Kingdoms
After the Jews had spent seventy years in exile the Babylonians were conquered by the Persians and the Persian king allowed many of the refugees from Judah to return and rebuild Jerusalem. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah record this return and rebuilding.
Judah and the rest of the Persian Empire would later be conquered by Alexander the Great. When Alexander died in 323 B.C., his empire was divided among his generals. Judah was eventually controlled by the Seleucid Empire, the eastern segment of Alexander's territories (I Maccabees 1-8).
The Jewish rebellion that overthew the Seleucid Empire (167-160 B.C.) is told in the books of the Maccabees.
In 63-64 B.C., Judea (previously called Judah), along with Samaria and Galilee, came under Roman rule when Pompey intervened in a Jewish dynastic dispute. He was welcomed into Jerusalem by Hyrcanus II, a descendant of the Maccabean family which drove the Seleucid Empire's armies out of Israel generations before and had been allies with the Romans rather than their subjects. After several generations of occupation, The Jewish people revolted against the Romans, and in retaliation, the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 A.D.
The Cultures of the Old Testament World
The earliest stories in the Old Testament that lend themselves to dates are the stories of Abraham and Sarah. We usually locate the events of their lives in the Nineteenth Century before Christ. Among the last events recorded in the Old Testament would be the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple after the Exile in about 500 B.C.
Things change a lot in thirteen centuries. Customs, traditions, even languages change. Many biblical scholars archaeologists, and linguists spend their lives sorting out the distinctions among the different periods and accurately dating the stories in scripture. As you study the Bible, try to be aware of the time period the story is set in and of the date of the writing of the passage. Good study Bibles provide information about the date of the event and of the writing in the introductory articles at the beginning of the passage and in margin notes and footnotes.
The events recorded in the Old Testament took place in several countries and different cultures. Keep in mind the setting of each story as you read scripture. Is this a time Abram was wandering in Egypt? Is this set in a unified Israel or during the exile in Babylon? Good study Bibles also provide information about the cultural context in the introductory articles at the beginning of the chapter or book and in margin notes and footnotes. Please use them as you pursue your own Old Testament study.
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