Developments in Judaism under Persian Occupation (430 – 332 BC)

Read Nehemiah 8-13

Nehemiah was written around 430 BC.  Persian kings continued to rule over the Jewish people for the next hundred years.  During this time there were concerted efforts to re-establish Jerusalem as the centre of Jewish religious life.  To this end, groups of Torah scholars were set up in Jerusalem to help establish it as the hub of Torah authority, as well as the epicentre of the sacrificial system. They let it be known that all important questions of Jewish law should be sent to Jerusalem and there is historical evidence of a faraway group of the Jewish diaspora writing to the High Priest with questions about how they should practise the Torah (1).   

The elaborate garments worn by the priests are described in Exodus 28, and again in Exodus 39:1–31. Four of these garments are worn exclusively by the High Priest. They alone are called בִּגְדֵי הַקֹּדֶשׁ, the holy garments. The ephod’s precious stones, inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes, are said to serve as אַבְנֵי זִכָּרוֹן “stones of reminder” to remind God of Israel, and the same is true of the twelve stones on the breastplate. Thus by his very person, the High Priest personifies the whole of the Israelite people לִפְנֵי ה’ “before YHWH,” (Exodus 28:12, 29; 39:7). The Urim and Thummim, connected with the breastplate, enable the High Priest, each time he enters the sanctuary, to inquire of God for His judgment on matters (Exodus 28:30). The robe is “worn” for its bells, their sound alerting the divine presence to the High Priest’s approach as he enters the sanctuary “so that he not die” (Exodus 28:35). Finally the diadem on Aaron’s head is said to remove from God’s abode any wrongdoing connected with Israel’s offerings and to ensure, by means of the inscription proclaiming that Israel’s worship is קֹדֶשׁ לַה’ “Holy to Yhwh,” that God graciously accept their sacrifices (Exodus 28:38). Thus the High Priest’s garments transform him who “wears” them into a walking embodiment of the whole nation of Israel, and they play indispensable roles in the worship that he enacts on Israel’s behalf. Having such a High-Priest, we come boldly to the throne of grace.

There remained, however, significant Torah schools in Babylon and the role of the synagogue in Jewish life did not diminish with the re-establishment of temple worship.   Jews now had two centres of spiritual authority and worship – the central authority of the temple in Jerusalem and the local authority of the synagogue. Influencing both of these were the Torah schools in both Babylon and Jerusalem.

Several of the innovations of the Babylonian exile were continued and built upon in Jerusalem, and throughout the diaspora, after the temple was rebuilt. These were attributed to Ezra’s highly respected leadership in Torah study and teaching. Being a scribe, Ezra also produced copies of the Torah and other Jewish religious books (notably the Nev’im (Prophets) and K’tuvim (Writings) that would come to be accepted as part of the Hebrew Scriptures). The practises further developed during this period included the prominent use of the singing of Psalms, prayer and instruction as part of the Synagogue service. Synagogue worship and rabbinical teaching continued to operate alongside the temple worship and reading of Torah (2). Formalised prayers that had been developed to replace temple worship during the exile continued to be used and a universal Jewish prayer service was established (3).  To give these prayers a clear framework the wording of the Shemoneh Esrei, Eighteen Blessings, was standardised as well as the blessings before and after food, before and after performing a mitzvah (good deed done within a religious duty and keeping of the commandments), and before and after the Sabbath (Kiddush and Havdalah) (4).

When Yeshua Blessed Food What Did He Say?

Before partaking of any food, a brachah rishonah (preceding blessing), is said. There are six different blessings, each beginning with the same words: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam, (Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the Universe), and concluding with a few words related to the type of food eaten.

For any meal that containes bread the blessing is: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam hamotzi lehem min ha’aretz. (Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.)

For wine or grape juice the blessing is: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam borei p’ri hagafen. (Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the
Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.

A longer grace (Birkat-HaMazon) is said after the meal. Thanking God for what has been received and appreciated. Reciting the blessing after the meal is a mitzvah written in the Torah, Deuteronomy 8:10 states, “And you shall eat and be satisfied, and bless Adonai your God for the good land which God has given you.”  This blessing (which is actually a series of four blessings) is mandated for use following any meal in which bread has been eaten, since according to Jewish law, eating bread officially constitutes a meal.
I. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, Who feedest the whole world with goodness, with grace and with mercy. Blessed art Thou, O, Lord, Who feedest all.
II. We thank Thee, O Lord, our holy God, that Thou hast caused us to inherit a goodly and pleasant land, the covenant, the Torah, life and food. For all these things we thank Thee and praise Thy name forever and ever. Blessed art Thou, O, Lord, for the land and for the food.
III. Have mercy, O Lord, our God, on Thy people Israel and on Thy city Jerusalem, and on Thy Temple and Thy dwelling place and on Zion Thy resting place, and on the great and holy House over which Thy name was called, and the kingdom of the house of David mayest Thou restore to its place in our days, and build Jerusalem soon. Blessed art Thou, O, Lord, who buildest Jerusalem.
IV. Blessed are You, O Lord, the Good and Who does good, our Father and our King.

During this period the Levites translated the Torah into the Aramaic vernacular and explained it so the people could understand.

“The Levites … instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there.  They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.” Nehemiah 8:7–8  

This made it much more accessible to the diaspora for many of whom Aramaic was now their mother tongue.  For those in Judea, and especially in Jerusalem, Hebrew was emphasised even though many still used Aramaic as a trade language.  Everything in the Temple and synagogues of Judea was in Hebrew, as was the learning in the synagogue schools. (5)

Origins of the Sanhedrin and Recognising the inspiration of all the TaNaKh (OT)

Ezra is credited by rabbinical Judaism with having brought like-minded Torah scholars together for what became called the “Great Synagogue,” or Sanhedrin following on from the Nehemiah 8-10 gathering, although there is no historical evidence of a Sanhedrin existing at this time. Ezra certainly engendered a grass-roots movement of Torah study and public Torah reading and explanation, which was much needed because many of the population were now Aramaic speakers who lacked understanding of the finer nuances of the Hebrew language.  With like-minded scholars and students he is said to be responsible for the canonisation of the Prophets (Nev’im), and Writings (K’tuvim) into the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible – what Christians refer to as the Old Testament). (6) (7) (8).   

TaNaKh is an acronym referring to the traditional Jewish division of the Bible into Torah (Teaching), Nevi’im (Prophets) and Kituvim (Writings). The Tanakh that Ezra and his disciples compiled, and that Yeshua and all the original apostles grew up with, and is still used by Jews today, consists of twenty-four books.  This is less than the usual Christian count of thirty-nine because each of the following are considered to be a single book: 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, the twelve Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi), and Ezra-Nehemiah.   The order, groupings and names of books are also different to the Christian Bible.  The TaNaKh is divided into:
1. Torah (Law/ Teachings) – consisting of the five books of Moses;
2. Nevi’im (Prophets) – consisting of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel & the twelve minor prophets;
3. K’tuvim (Writings) – consisting of Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles. 

In Christian Bibles, following Greek tradition, the books are named according to their main theme, but in Jewish Bibles the books were named according to their first words.  What we call Exodus (the book about the Jewish exodus from Egypt) the Tanakh calls Sh’mot (Names), because it starts with “These are the names…”.  Hence we do not see Yeshua or the B’rit Hadasha (New Testament) writers using the same referencing of the Tanakh as Christians do today.

Not all priests were in agreement with the Canonisation of the Nevi’im and K’tuvim, giving them the same status as the Torah, although they generally saw great spiritual value in these works.  Thus a division started appearing in Jewish religious thought and practise between those who believed that their lives should be based just on the Torah or just the Torah and the Nevi’im, and those who believed that their lives should be based on the whole Tanakh.

Yeshua would endorse all three sections of the Tanakh in Luke 24:44 “that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Torah of Moses and the Nev’im (Prophets) Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (by “Psalms” Yeshua was using the Jewish convention of stating the first to refer to the whole. The K’tuvim (Writings) section in the Tanakh begins with the book of Psalms, not Job as in our OT).  It was not until much later that the dispute was settled unequivocally in Jewish circles. Only after the Sadducees had lost all power and influence with the Roman destruction of the Second Temple did Rabbi Yochanan Ben-Zakki convene the Council of Yavneh, in about 90 C.E., to conduct a final Jewish review of the canon where the whole Tanakh at last was confirmed as the Jewish canon.

The Jewish “Oral Law”

Halakhah also continued to be developed and passed down orally from sage (rabbi) to talmidim (disciple / student) after the restoration of the temple and sacrifices. They taught: “Be deliberate in judgment; raise many disciples; and make a fence around the Torah” (Avos 1:1). This fence around the Torah consisted of rules and practises deemed necessary to keep the people from straying away from Torah observance, or their cultural heritage, and becoming in any way like their heathen neighbours.   

Halakhah – הֲלָכָה, the Way – is the collective body of Jewish religious laws derived from both the “written Torah” and the “oral Torah”.  As such it consists of:
* Mitzvot D’Oraita (an Aramaic word meaning “from the Torah”) – the 613 commandments (mitzvot מִצְווֹת, plural of mitzvah מִצְוָה) that Jewish rabbis and sages had reasoned from the Torah; plus
* Mitzvot D’rabbanan (Aramaic for “from the rabbis”) all three categories of rabbinic commandments, which also became known as the “Oral Torah” and came to be attributed to Moses’ revelation on Mount Sinai, thus giving them, according to many pharisees, the same status as the Written Torah (ie. books of Moses, first 5 books in the Bible). :
~ Gezeirahlaws instituted by the rabbis to prevent people from accidently violating a Torah Mitzvot.  Commonly referred to as a ‘fence’ around the Torah.
~ Takkanotlaws unrelated to the Biblical commandments that were created by the rabbis for the public welfare, to ‘make the world a better place’. 
~ Minhag – all long-standing customs of the community.

An example of how this developed is in one of the dietary laws.  The Torah states: “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk” (Exodus 34:26).  The Mitzvot D’Oraita derived from that verse decrees: “Do not eat flesh with milk” – the 164th commandment in their list of 613 commandments “from the Torah”.  This is then explained by the rabbis to be a prohibition on consuming any meat with any dairy products – a cheeseburger would be “illegal” for an observant Jew to eat.   Then, to prevent the people from accidently consuming any meat and cheese together Gezeirah were instituted which included declaring that any utensils, pots and pans with which they are cooked, plates and flatware from which they are eaten, and anything used in cleaning such as the towels with which the utensils that have come in contact with meat are dried, cannot be used with dairy, and vice versa.   The only “safe” way to run the household is to have two sets of pots, pans and dishes – one for meat and one for dairy.  In addition to all that, one must wait a significant amount of time between eating meat and dairy (different schools dictated different amounts of time) because fatty residues or meat particles could cling to the mouth and therefore still be present when the dairy was consumed if enough time had not lapsed between the two.

These rabbinical teachings came to be considered of equal authority to the Torah and by around 100 BC were starting to be referred to by some scholars as the Oral Law.   This elevation of cultural practises and rabbinic reasonings to the same status as the Torah was again not accepted by all priests or Torah scholars.  Among those who espoused the Oral Law there was considerable debate over what the correct practises, interpretations and laws were. (4). Even the mitzvot d’oraita (Torah commandments) contained differences in listings of commandments between the different schools (9).

There was, however, little dispute over the number of commandments (mitzvoth) because of the significance attached to the number 613.  The Talmud notes that the Hebrew numerical value (gematria) of the word “Torah” is 611, and there’s a midrash that says the first two of the Ten Commandments were heard by the Jewish people directly from God, so 611+2 = 613. These are divided into 365 negative commandments (do not do) “like the number of days of the sun”; and 248 positive commandments (do this) “like the parts of a person”. Other significances have also been given to the numbers 613, 365 and 248, all pointing to the overriding importance placed on the keeping of mitzvot d’oraita. (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) 

Many of the mitzvot cannot be observed apart from the temple in Jerusalem, although they still retain religious significance. According to one standard reckoning, out of the total 613 mitzvoth, there are 77 positive and 194 negative commandments that can be observed today, of which 26 apply only within the Land of Israel. (15) (16)

Development of the Permanent Jewish Calendar…

A major accomplishment of the Torah scholars of this period was the development of a permanent Jewish calendar.  The Jewish calendar is based on the cycle of the moon. However, if it were a strict lunar calendar then every year would be 11¼ days less than the solar year. The problem then would be that in three years an entire month would be lost.   Therefore, the Jewish sages added a leap month to the Jewish year. The solar and lunar years line up exactly every 19 years so seven times every nineteen years an entire month, Adar I, is added.

Jewish leadership under the Persians…

Torah scholars who gained renown were generally referred to as sages during this period, but sometimes the term of honour, rabbi (‘master/teacher’), was used – this term gained increasing popularity over the centuries that followed.

The High Priests during this period included men of noble character and those corrupted by power and greed. Although the First Temple saw only 18 High Priests throughout its 400 years, over 300 served during the Second Temple’s 420 years! Several were righteous, and their combined service accounts for around 141 of those years. Soon after Nehemiah the position of governor faded from view and the High Priest was left as the single governing authority over Judea under the Persians.

After Eliashib, who was High Priest during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, his son Joiada (Nehemiah 12:10) held this position from 433-410 BC.  As the sole leadership position, the High Priesthood ceased to be determined purely on a religious hereditary basis and became subject to Persian appointment.  Joiada’s son, Joshua, was promised the High Priesthood by Bagoses, general of Artaxerxes II.  He was killed by his brother, Johanan, in the temple during a quarrel.  Bagoses, being horrified that Johanan as a priest would perpetrate murder in the temple, forbade him from entering its holy precincts again.  Johanan justified his act, took up the High Priest’s office and entered the temple for the duties of that office from 410-371 BCE. Bagoses had the Persians respond by attacking the temple and imposing a tribute on the Jews. 

Johanan’s son Jaddua (also known as Shimon Ha Tzaddik / Simion the Just) served as High Priest from 371-320 BCE.  He restored the temple, rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and earned the respect of all.  Tradition has it that Simion met Alexander the Great on his way to attack the Temple. Alexander prostrated himself and promised to treat the Jews benignly, explaining that before every battle he would see a vision of Simion leading his troops to victory. Simion is also traditionally considered to be one of the last members of the Great Assembly, and there are claims that after his death men ceased to utter the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) aloud. (17) (18) (19)

Developing Messianic Expectations…

This was also a time of developing Messianic expectations in the aftermath of exile and cessation of the Davidic dynasty.  In the light of what God had promised King David, hope arose that He would someday restore a godly king to Israel: 

Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”          2 Samuel 7:16 NASB

 “I will save my flock; they will no longer be prey; and I will judge between sheep and other sheep. I will raise up one shepherd to be in charge of them, and he will let them feed — my servant David. He will pasture them and be their shepherd. I, Adonai, will be their God; and my servant David will be prince among them. I, Adonai, have spoken.”                                Ezekiel 34:22-24 CJB

For many, the expectation went beyond just a godly Davidic descendant to reign over Israel and extended to one who would also rule justly over all the gentile nations.  Such expectations were fuelled by scriptures such as these that hinted that the coming anointed one, the Messiah, would be God Himself:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might,the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord – and He will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what He hears with His ears; but with righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth.  He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth; with the breath of his lips He will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be His belt and faithfulness the sash around His waist.   Isaiah 11:1-5 NIV

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.  Daniel 7:9-14 NIV

Other scriptures that were interpreted in the light of the Messianic hope during this period included (20):

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.  Genesis 49:10 NIV

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.   Numbers 24:17 NIV

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.    Zechariah 9:9 NIV

Developing Understanding of the World to Come…

Associated with this development of doctrines of the Messiah were also those of Olam Ha-Ba (The World to Come), which included immortality of the soul and resurrection of the dead in an age to come.  While the focus of Judaism remained on living and doing the best in the here and now, the present troubles and injustices were not seen the end of the story; there was a reward, an inheritance, still to come for those who lived in obedience to Yahweh.  As Daniel had prophesied that so many troubles would come to the Jewish people in the foreseeable future, it was comforting to know that was not all there was to come.(21)           

As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”    Daniel 12:13 NIV

Your dead will live, my corpses will rise; awake and sing, you who dwell in the dust; for your dew is like the morning dew, and the earth will bring the ghosts to life.   Isaiah 26:19 CJB

At that time, your people will be delivered, everyone whose name is found written in the book. Many of those sleeping in the dust of the earth will awaken, some to everlasting life and some to everlasting shame and abhorrence. But those who can discern will shine like the brightness of heaven’s dome, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever. Daniel 12:1b-3 CJB

 These doctrines were not developed in any systematic way during this period, as it was before the systematic thinking of Hellenization had impacted this part of the world and the Torah scholars were organic rather than systematic thinkers.  The general picture that emerged was firstly of the state of the soul in heaven after the death of the body, followed by the Messianic age here on earth “at the end of days” and then the resurrection of the dead which embraced a nationalistic hope of the resurrection of all Israel. (21)

Enlightened by these revelations in the Nev’im (Prophets) and K’tuvim (Writings), many sages and scholars also saw evidence of existence after death in the Torah.   Several noteworthy people are referred to as being “gathered to their people”, which they understood as a separate event from the physical death of the body or the burial.  Examples included: Gen. 25:8 (Abraham), 25:17 (Ishmael), 35:29 (Isaac), 49:33 (Jacob), Deut. 32:50 (Moses and Aaron), and II Kings 22:20 (King Josiah).  Genesis 17:14 and Exodus 31:14 refer to sins for which the punishment is being kareit “cut off from his people”, which they saw as referring to the soul losing their position in Olam Ha-Ba (The World to Come). (22)                     

Reference List

1. Jewish The Men of the Great Assembly. Jewish History. [Online] [Cited: 27th Aug. 2016.]
2. Dell Markey, Demand Media. What Effects Did the Babylonian Exile Have on the Jewish Religion? The Classroom. [Online] 18 Aug 2016.
3. Astor, Berel Wein adapted by Yaakov. The Beginning of the Second Commonwealth. Jewish [Online] [Cited: 27th Aug. 2016.]
4. The Sanhedrin English. Historical Overview. The Sanhedrin. [Online] [Cited: 27th Aug 2016.]
5. Keyser, John D. Hebrew and Aramaic – Languages of First Century Israel. Hope of Israel. [Online] [Cited: 25th Aug 2016.]
6. Encyclopedia Judaica: The Great Synagogue. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] [Cited: 28th Aug. 2016.]
7. Hirsch, Emil G. Ezra the Scribe. Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] 1906. [Cited: 28th Aug. 2016.]
8. Mindel, Nissan. Ezra the Scribe. [Online] Kehot Publication Society. [Cited: 28th Aug. 2016.]
9. Levine, Jason. Judaism: The 613 Mitzvot (Commandments). Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] [Cited: 29th Sept. 2016.]
10. Hartman, Osher Chaim Levene & Rabbi Yehoshua. 613: Your Wish is My Command. Aish. [Online] [Cited: 28th Sept. 2016.]
11. dlevy. Lies We Were Taught in Hebrew School, or why 613 is a Meaningless Number. Jewschool – Progressive Jews & Views. [Online] [Cited: 28th Sept. 2016.]
12. The Number 613: Properties and Meanings. VirtueScience. [Online] [Cited: 28th Sept. 2016.]
13. McGough, Richard Amiel. The Number 613. The Bible Wheel. [Online] [Cited: 29th Sept. 2016.]
14. Rich, Tracey R. A List of the 613 Mitzvot (Commandments). Judaism 101. [Online] [Cited: 29th Sept. 2016.]
15. Chaim, Chofetz. Sefer HaMitzvot HaKatzar (in Hebrew). Jerusalem : Feldheim., 1990.
16. HaCohen, Yisrael Meir. The Concise Book of Mitzvoth: The Commandments which can be Observed Today. s.l. : Feldheim, 1990.
17. God’s Secret. 2nd Temple History and More – Persian and Hellenistic Periods (538-142 BCE). [Online] 19th Sept. 2008. [Cited: 19th Sept. 2016.]
18. The Jewish Temples – High Priests of the Second Temple Period (516 BCE – 70CE). Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] AICE. [Cited: 14th March 2020.]
19. Gniwisch, Leibel. The High Priest in Jewish Tradition. Chabad. [Online] [Cited: 14th March 2020.]
20. Evans, Craig A. A Closer Look: Messianic Expectations. Christianity Today. [Online] 7th March 2012. [Cited: 5th Nov. 2016.]
21. Jacobs, Rabbi Louis. Jewish Resurrection of the Dead. My Jewish Learning. [Online] [Cited: 6th Nov. 2016.]
22. Rich, Tracey R. Olam Ha-Ba: The Afterlife. Judaism 101. [Online] [Cited: 6th Nov. 2016.]
23. Palley, Kate. What is Birkat Hamazon, or Benching? My Jewish Learning. [Online] [Cited: 6th May. 2023.]
24. Staff. Laws of Blessings After Eating. Chabad. [Online] [Cited: 6th May 2023.]
25. Ben C. Smith. The Jewish food blessing and the Didache eucharist. Biblical Criticism & History Forum . Thu Oct 01, 2020 [Online] [Cited: 6th May 2023.]

In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and some of the following questions…

* What were some of the changes in Judaism during this time?
* What happened with the high priests became both the civic and spiritual leaders of the Jewish community?
* How can we prevent church leaders becoming corrupted by money and/or power?
* What are some of the similarities and differences between Jewish culture during this, and your culture?
* What “oral laws” has your community, church or denomination developed?
* What did the OT scriptures say about the coming Messiah?

Author: Anita

"For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption." 1 Cor. 1:26-30 ESV These verses are the story of my life. A shy, introverted woman who didn't know how to relate to others and had a fear of anyone in authority - foolish, weak, low and despised. The most unlikely candidate for any position of leadership. But God delights to choose such, to take those who are not and make them something in Christ, to do the impossible through the unlikely. In 2006 Jesus sent me to the nations with His glorious gospel to set the captives free and prepare His bride for the wedding of the Lamb.

4 thoughts on “Developments in Judaism under Persian Occupation (430 – 332 BC)”

  1. * In religious terms, priests were consecrated persons, subject to laws of purity and restricted in all matters, including marriage and the performance of funerary functions. Priests managed the business of the Temple, which involved accounting, assessing the value of donations in various forms, maintaining the Temple, and carrying out periodic inspections and purification. The high priest had overall charge of Temple finances and administration, and in the early period of the Second Temple he collected taxes in royal outposts and maintained order as the recognized political head of the nation. The high priest’s unique privilege and duty was to enter the Holy of Holies once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement according to Leviticus 16:1-34; to burn incense and sprinkle sacrificial animal blood to atone for his own sins and the sins of the people of Israel. Generally, it was difficult to separate the religious and administrative roles of the high priests. The High Priests were both secular and religious leaders of the Jewish community. They were responsible for the upkeep of the Jewish Temple and for maintaining good order among the Jewish community.

    During this period the High priests included men of honorable character, and there were also those corrupted by power and greed. Soon after Nehemiah the position of governor faded from view and the High Priest was left as the single governing authority over Judea under the Persian authority. In the post-exilic period of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, after the status of the city had changed from a national capital ruled by native kings to a temple city under foreign imperial domination, the priests of Jerusalem assumed political functions as well. They managed community affairs, while leading priests represented the Judean community to the Persian imperial authorities. There were allegations especially in the post-exilic period and earlier as well, that showed that priestly families amassed independent wealth and owned large estates. Corruption, greed, and power struggle characterized the office of the high priest; which led to several re-appointments. Because of that, the sole high priesthood leadership position ceased to be determined purely on a religious hereditary basis and became subject to Persian appointment. The position of high priest of Israel was abolished with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.

    * I think all church leaders have to deal with the issue of being corrupted by money and power, because of our fallen nature. Money and power are big issues for many churches, which is surely why the Bible addresses them so often. Many leaders have totally given in and live out these issues as a lifestyle of choice. As church leaders, we must diligently lead our churches wisely in these important matters of Kingdom ministry. Ultimately, every good leader would want to protect his reputation and the church from any questions or doubts in relations to money and power. As such, the church needs to be managed properly to have the greatest impact on the world around it. As pastors, we have to remain “above reproach” and that’s especially true in this area of finances. This helps to guard our own heart because the temptation is huge in the area of money. Below are some strategies that can help prevent church leaders from becoming corrupted by money and power:

    – The pastor should not handle the finances of the church. It is good to have a finance team in place to handle the finance responsibilities. The senior pastor can provide oversight over that team.

    – Training church leaders: leadership training is a good step to neutralize the spirit upon power hungry leaders who are fighting with other leaders they deem a threat to their influence, or are attempting to marginalize others with faint words of praise or outright gossip and slander. Majority of leaders who receive training mature up and develop a positive attitude towards team work in ministry.

    – Employ a collaborative approach in church leadership. When the pastor is the only one who decides on all issues of the church, some problems will begin occur. Collaboration is the best approach to leadership especially when you are dealing with God and his people. If there is no collaboration, great ideas are left off the table. Secondly, there is a great temptation of the leader especially senior pastors becoming too powerful. No spiritual leader should become the “alpha and omega” of Christ’s church. If nothing is done to check the power syndrome, the pastor will make some decision no one agrees with and trouble breaks out. People will begin to mistrust the system, the pastor, and even quit the church.

    – To avoid the corruption of power, we need to encourage church leaders to share responsibilities with other ministers in the church like preaching, teaching, conducting deliverance services, etc. Our example is Christ who shared responsibility and authority with those he called to lead. Luke 9:1-2 says, he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

    – We need to help church leaders to lead from the inside out: Jesus Christ focused first on matters of personal character in leadership. And we understand that at the core of these matters of character is integrity. A person of integrity will normally operate above the deception of power and money corruption. Without integrity in leadership, no one will follow you; and if no one is following you, you are not leading. Leadership is truly an inside job. Your leadership skills will only take you as far as your character will allow. Jesus had a pure heart and unfailing character. The more church leaders work on their heart and character, the more others will want to follow them.

    – The corruption of power is completely neutralized when church leaders develop a great servant heart: In the scriptures, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples even during his most trying time. Great leaders today see themselves as serving their teams; equipping, encouraging and coaching them to realize their potential. Leadership is about others, not the leader himself. And we know that the leadership of Jesus was perfect. I know that we are not perfect, but Jesus’ model guides us towards more Spirit-led leadership that honors all those under our care. The more we follow Jesus, the more ‘perfect’ we can be in emulating and taking on the characteristics of a good leader who is not power hungry or corrupted by money.

    * These are some of the similarities between the Jewish culture and the Ankole culture;
    – The Ankole kingdom had a centralized administration system headed by the omugabe (king) who came from the nobility (Bahima clan), assisted by local chiefs and an overall appointed prime minister. During the development of Judaism, the centralized administration of Jewish people was headed by the high priest or governor.

    – In the Jewish culture, religion was a big unifying factor. People regarded the God of the Jews as the great and Almighty God. Likewise, in Ankole culture people regarded God as Supreme Being and creator. The abode of Ruhanga (God) was said to be in heaven, somewhere above the clouds. Ruhanga was believed to be the maker and giver of all things.

    – The Ankole culture esteemed virginity. The king and all officials of the kingdom could only marry virgins. Pregnancy outside marriage was punishable by death or expulsion from the home. In the Jewish culture, the officials like Pharisees would marry virgins. Also the loss of virginity and sexual immorality among the Jewish people was punishable by death.

    – In Ankole culture, monogamy was the standard practice, although polygamy was not prohibited. The king, his officials, and other wealthy Ankole people practiced polygamy. Today monogamy remains the predominant form of marriage. Similarly, in the Jewish culture, monogamy was the standard cultural practice for their officials; although polygamy was not prohibited through the generations.

    * As a church, we don’t have oral laws that govern our fellowship apart from the biblical scriptures. However, we know some churches and denominations that are governed by their laws:

    – Some churches and denominations have oral laws that do not permit any need for theological education for all their ministers and leaders, and they indeed detest it. They believe that the spirit guidance is sufficient.

    – Other churches and ministries strictly forbid the members of their congregation to speak in tongues.

    – In some churches, their law demands that only the elders of the church have executive powers to choose a marital partner for a church member; and that one must marry from their congregation, their branch church or its affiliated church.

    – Other churches prohibit their church members from being involved in any area or department of ministry until after they have fulfilled the prescribed number of years determined by the eldership.

    – Still others do not permit any male to preach in the church unless they are married matrimonially.

    * In the OT scriptures, God had promised David in 2 Samuel 7:16 that his house and kingdom shall endure before Him forever; and that his throne shall be established forever. Before the Messiah could manifest, the expectation of the people began to grow, hoping that the coming Messiah would go beyond just being a godly descendant of King David to one who would reign over the nation of Israel and also all the gentile nations. The scriptures that hinted that the Messiah would be God Himself stirred up their expectations as they anticipated the coming of their king.

    Then, Isaiah the prophet prophesied about the coming messiah (Isaiah 9:6-7). That He would reign on the throne and kingdom of David forever, and that the government will be on His shoulders. That He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace; and the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end.

    Isaiah also prophesied in Isaiah 11:1-5 that; a shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him; the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord; and He will delight in the fear of the Lord.

    In (Daniel 7:9-14), the scriptures also show how Daniel saw in his vision at night, one like a Son of Man who was coming with the clouds of heaven. That He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; and all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

    Also, the prophet Zechariah spoke about the future triumphal entry which the Messiah would accomplish in Jerusalem shortly before the end of His earthly ministry saying: Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).

  2. 1. There are so many changes that took place in Judaism during this time, and some of the changes were deliberate and determined efforts to re-establish Jerusalem as the centre of Jewish religious. The Temple was cleansed and corrected all the wrongs. For example, Tobiah was removed from the Temple. This opened a way for the practices further developed during this period included the prominent use of the singing of Psalms, Prayer and tithes instructions. Groups of Torah scholars were set up in Jerusalem to help establish it as the center part of Torah authority, as well as the sacrificial system. Temple officials were appointed to take charge of their activities. During this time, the Levites translated the Torah into the Aramaic language and explained it so the people could understand.

    2. Before the captivity, the High Priests position was sacred and holy. During this period, when the High Priest became both the civic and spiritual leaders of the Jewish community, the office of the High Priest turned into power struggle. So the office of the High Priest corrupted by power and greedy. Soon after Nehemiah, the position governor faded from view and the High Priest was left as the single govering authority over Judea under the Persians. At the period of 433-410 BC, Joiada, Eliashib’s son held the position as High Priest, and as the sole leadership position, the High Priesthood ceased to be determined purely on a religious hereditary basis and became subject to Persian appointment. Joiada’s son, Joshua, was promised the High Priesthood by Bagoses, general of Artaxerxes II. He was killed by his brother, Johanan, in the Temple.

    3. Power and money can easily drive you to become corrupt. So many giants have fallen in life because of money and power. This has happened to many religious leaders and secular leaders. The Word of God talk much about money and power and warn all Church leaders to be careful not to fall into corruption because of money or power. When a Church leader drop into such corruption its bring shame to the whole Body of Christ and beyond.
    People recognise that the Church moral mandate and in the community is to defend the powerless and the oppressed. This come to understand that, when one leader misbehaves, the image of the whole Body of Christ will be tarnished. With this, we have to use all possible ways to prevent ever Church leader from becoming corrupted by money or power. Here are some of the preventive measures :
    a. Appoint reliable and able men to take charge of money and an office.
    b. All money should go to bank, not at home.
    c. At least three leaders should sign to withdraw money, including the Pastor.
    d. Pastors should not handle money, so that he can supervise the financial committee and other officers genuinely.
    e. In every committee, the church should choose able men. Every Biblical requirements must be applied well and carefully (Acts 6).
    f. Financial report is very important here, and it should be rendered to Church regularly.
    g. The Church should see to it that every money is appropriately distributed.
    i. The Church should do regularly checks in good faith to prevent any leader becoming corrupted by money or power.
    The Church should organise series of training for Church leaders. Church leaders should know that, they cannot lord over the Church or people because of their offices. The Church belong to Jesus Christ and He is the head. The Church leaders must be taught that, they are the workers in Jesus Christ’s vineyards.
    Church leaders should not take lightly this moral responsibility. At its most basic, corruption is the betrayal of trust. It is the misuse of public office for personal gain at the expense of the majority.
    All the Church leaders must renew their understanding of their calling, conceiving it according to the highest standard and understanding that they will be held accountable to that standard (2 Corinthians 5). So Church leaders, we must note that, we are in this world, but not of it; we are leaders in a Church or community that is sustained, not by worldly values, but heavenly values. Church leaders must also know that, they are the light and the salt. As they renew their commitment day by day, they rise to a high quality of living felt both in the Church and in the community at large.

    4. Some of the similarities between Jewish culture and my culture is that, at first Jewish culture does not permit foreign marriages. In my culture, foreign marriages is not allowed. How marriage is perform in both culture are the same. Intermarriages came to exist in Jewish culture and my culture in similar process.
    In Jewish culture, women were not much recognize. In my culture, women are not much recognize.
    The differences are that, animals sacrifice and burning incense are performed in the Temple as worship in Jewish culture. In my culture, animals sacrifice and burning incense is performed at shrines room for god’s.

    5. There are some “oral laws” we have in my community Church or denomination developed. And at the Church, we have “oral law” that says, “write your name in the workers book”. This is done to encourage every church member to do their maximum best to involve in all Church activities. This oral law push members of the Church to work hard.
    We also have another oral law that driven the Church to clean the community and this oral law is term as ,”clean the community”. The Church in their activities goes on in the community to clean the streets.
    Again we have an oral law which says, it is taboo to bath late.

    6. The Old Testament Scriptures directly oi indirectly point ahead in time to the coming of the promised saviour, the Messiah.
    Here are some of the sayings about the coming of the Messiah in the Old Testament.
    a. The Messiah would be the see/offspring of a woman and would crush the head of Satan (Genesis 3).
    b. He would come from the seed/offspring of Abraham and would bless all the nations on earth (Genesis 12:3).
    c. He would be a “prophet like Moses” to whom God said we must listen (Deuteronomy 18:15).
    d. He would be born in Bethlehem of Judah (Micah 5:2).
    e. He would be born a virgin (Isaiah 7:14)
    f. He would have a throne, a kingdom and a dynasty, or house, starting with King David, that will last forever (2 Samuel 7:16).
    g. He would be called “Wonderful Counselor Father,” “Prince of Peace”, and would posses an Everlasting kingdom (Isaiah 9:6-7).
    h. He would ride in Jerusalem on a donkey, righteous and having Salvation, coming with gentleness (Zechariah 9:9-10)
    i. He would be pierced for our transgression and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:3).
    j. He would die among the wicked ones but be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9).
    k. He would be resurrected from the grave, for God will not allow His Holy to suffer decay (Psalm 16:10).

  3. Development of Judaism Under Persian occupation (430 — 332 BC)
    Some of the changes during this time were the efforts to re- esterblish Jerusalem as the religious centre of Jews.This gave way for Torah schools to be built to produce scholars who would learn and interpret the ‘Law’.Torah schools were also established in Babylon aside the synagogue worship, The Jews got these schools that were to supervise their religious life and authority.
    After Ezra and Nehemiah,the traditional worship of the Temple changed.There were divisions among the Jews especially the priests and that gave birth to different religious sects in the history of their true worship to YHWH.

    The high priests during this time were not like the high priests before the captivity. At this time, the office of the high priest became hot cake with regards to the temple worship. After Ezra and Nehemiah.the office of the high priest moved away from religious grounds but embodied with civic responsibilities. The religious hereditary of high priesthood,ceased and was to be determined by Persian appointment This time saw a lot of corrupted power and greedin the priesthood.

    2 Corinthians 5:10 states that we shall all appear before the judgement seat of God to account for our deeds.Church leaders must understand that God’s work is not to be done through the exercise of power and greed.Church leaders should not be lords over the congregants by putting fear in them in order to gain much money from them as we see in mamy christian establishment.
    Leaders should serve with humility in the mind of christ.
    Greed and corruption take away spirituality because God is against that.

    Jewish culture had unfaithful priests who were greedy and corrupt. There are also a lot of spiritual leadres of the church today in my culture who are the same as the Jewish priests then who deviated from the laws of God and searched their own welfare.
    The differences are that the Jews did animal sacrifices, burnt incense and other worship demands that were in physical sense .
    Christian culture only focus on the holy sacrifice of Jesus that has brought righteousness to all who seek him.

    There are some form of oral laws in my culture which are adhered to by both Christians.For example, it a taboo to sing while eating or bathing. These are being observed by everybody in my culture wether a believer or unbeliever.

    The OT scriptures profess the messiah to be someone whosr kingdom will never end, he would be the Prince of peace.
    According to 2 Samuel 7:16, the messiah’s house and kingdom shall be established and endure for ever.
    In fact, there was a “christocentric” line which gave the Jews ahigh expectations in the OT.
    All the OT scriptures and all it’s priestly roles and worship were pointing to the coming of the messiah — whose kingdom is not of the world.

  4. 1. Some of the changes in Judaism during this time were concerted efforts to reestablished Jerusalem as the centre of Jewish religious life. And to this end some group of Torah Scholars were set up in Jerusalem to assist in establishing it as a hub of Torah authority as well as the epicentre of the sacrificial system. Again, during this period the prominent use of the singing of Psalms, prayer, and instruction as a part of the Synagogue. Formalised prayers that had been developed to replaced temple worship and reading of the Torah . To give these prayers a clear framework the worship of the. Shemoneh Esrei . The Levites translated the Torah into the Aramaic vernacular.
    2. The High Priests became both the civil and spiritual leaders of the Jewish community, because due to the fact that soon after Nehemiah the position of governor faded away from view and High Priests was left as a single governing over Judaea under Persian authority.
    3. This question is very vital to Christian leadership as many leaders have fallen away due to this particular aspect of ministry, therefore are many ways to prevent Church leaders from becoming corrupted by money and power.
    a. A leader should not always been allowed to handle funds
    b. There should be a trusted committee to be set up by the church
    c. There should be monthly financial reports by the financial committee to be reported to the Church.
    d. The Church have to make sure that the leaders are well taken care of.
    e. There should be check and balance, and the leaders need to taught that they are stewards for God, and therefore they will give an account of ever cent been entrusted into their care.
    And finally, they need to be taught that as leaders they are to serve others instead of others serving them.
    4. The similarities and differences between the Jewish culture and us today are almost the same especially when you come to the “Akan” culture of West Africa on marriage it is similar to that of the Jewish culture, and the how intermarriages took place in those days as the same as the one we have in our culture.
    5. We have more “Oral Laws” that the church has developed and they are as follows. a. Membership dues, it is compulsory that each member pays a monthly due or else after death the church will not bury you, the same law also applies to the community.
    b. If one is not regular in the Church activities after death or problem nobody dare to pay a visit, and the same thing is with the community.
    c. Dress code is another factor as the church wish to see that all its members are well dressed before coming to church.
    d. Church activities, like constructing a church building, it mandatory that all members should go and work, likewise the community labour.
    6. The Old Testaments scriptures said more about the coming of the Messiah in 2Samuel 7:16, Ezekiel 34:22-24, Isaiah 9:6-7,
    Numbers 24:7, Zechariah. 9:9, Genesis 49:10.

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