Old Testament And New Testament



ABOUT the time Esther became queen of Persia, a good priest by the name of Ezra was sent to Jerusalem, where he taught the people the way of the Lord more perfectly. This was much needed; for the people, when in captivity, had learned many of the bad ways of other nations, and were neglecting many things, which the Lord required of them. He had the people all gathered together, and then read the word of God to them so that they might know just what was right.

A few years later, Nehemiah, another good man, who, although a Jew, was an officer in the king's court, got leave to go to Jerusalem. Nehemiah was a man of great courage, and helped his countrymen build the wall of their city, although their enemies opposed them so fiercely that a part of the men had to stand guard, with weapons in their hands, while others worked at the wall. Nehemiah, like Ezra, corrected the bad habits of the people; and about this time, the Lord put his Spirit upon Malachi, a fearless young prophet, who reproved not only the people but the priests also, and foretold the coming of John the Baptist, who was to be the forerunner of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.

From the time of Malachi, the Jews remained under the control of the Persians for about eighty years, when the Persian empire was conquered by Alexander the Great. The Persians treated the Jews kindly, leaving them, in the main, under the control of their own high priest. 

Alexander honored the Jews, and granted them many favors; but he lived only ten years after his first visit to Jerusalem. Then he died, and his vast kingdom was divided among his generals. The Jews now fell under the control of the kings of Egypt for nearly a hundred and twenty years. These kings were generally kind to the Jews; but one of them became so angry because the priests would not let him go into the most holy place of the temple that he gathered all the Jews he could find in Egypt, and when he had shut them up in a great building, called the hippodrome, he turned elephants upon them to destroy them. But the elephants, instead of harming the Jews, turned upon the people who came to see the show, and killed a great many of them.

After this, the people of God came under the dominion of the Syrian kings for a little more than forty years. One of these kings, An-ti'o-chus E-piph-a-nes, was very cruel. He killed many thousands of the people, and took many thousands more as slaves. He sent his soldiers to kill the people on the Sabbath day, when they were gathered in their synagogues to worship; for he knew they would not defend themselves on the Lord's Day. Finally, many of the people hid themselves in caves, of which there are a great many in Judea. There they fought so desperately that, by-and-by, their enemies grew weary of pursuing them. After some years of hard fighting, under the leadership of a family of brave men called the Maccabees, they gained their independence, and held it for a hundred years. Then they began to quarrel among themselves, and so fell under the control of the Romans, who appointed governors to rule over them.

Finally, Herod became governor of Judea, and by wicked plans and unjust measures at length obtained the title of king. He was one of the most cruel persons ever known. His wife's brother was high priest; but Herod had him drowned, just because the people liked him for his pleasant ways. He next put to death Hyrcanus, who had been high priest, and was now eighty years old. He finally became so jealous, and so afraid that some one would take his life in order to get the throne, that he killed Mariamne, his wife, and afterward, two of his sons.

He tried to make up for his bad actions by building cities and costly temples. But he grew more and more unhappy, and finally died a terrible death. He did one good thing, and that was to rebuild the temple, which, as it had been built about five hundred years, was now much decayed. We shall learn more of this wicked king in another lesson.