Joe Butta & Steve Daskal
Christian Messianic Analysis and Apologetics
The Prophets Daniel, Ezekiel and Obadiah were all sent to the exiles in Babylon but a Persian King Cyrus was sent to defeat the Babylonians and permit the Jewish exiles to return to the Promised Land. During these years the Jewish exiles did learn from the past. They stopped worshiping foreign gods. God used several of the Persian Shah-en-Shah’s [King of kings], starting with Cyrus, paused under Xerxes I [Ahasuerus], renewed under Darius and Artaxerxes I, to provide protection to the Jewish people and encouragement for them to return to the Promised Land, rebuild Jerusalem, and re-build and restore worship to God Almighty in His Temple. This was a fulfillment of God’s promises through the prophets that the exile would extend roughly seventy years, and that during that time, the Jewish people were to submit to their new rulers [first the oppressive Babylonians, and then the more tolerant Persians and Medes], serving them loyally, sowing crops and building homes. During that time they would learn to set aside their idolatries and recommit themselves to the LORD Almighty, the God of the Patriarchs, the God who spoke to them through the smoking cloud over Sinai.
Idolatry was perhaps the most egregious sin of the Jews prior to the Babylonian conquest, as it was for the Northern Kingdom of Israel prior to their destruction by Assyria. The idolatry of the Jews opened them to all sorts of sinful secondary behaviors — human sacrifice, sexual sin, stealing from and defrauding the weak [the poor, widows, orphans], etc. The captivity, the struggles to re-establish Jerusalem and the Temple, and the preaching of the prophets all worked to redirect the Jewish people’s focus back to God and the Torah. However, while this ensured the Jews would know God, acknowledge their sin, and seek atonement through the Temple sacrifices, it did not provide a complete, durable salvation — only a temporary covering. There was a constant need for more sacrifices, because the people continued to sin, and there was no ultimate, once-for-all-time perfect sacrifice — yet.
From 520-518 B.C. Haggai was sent to the Jews during the immediate post exile period to encourage completion of the Temple. From 520-486 Zechariah spoke of a coming pierced one and His ultimate victory.
From 500-490 B.C. Hadassah [Esther] acted to save the Persian Jews. Hadassah was not a prophet; nor was her uncle & guardian Mordecai. Mordecai provided the wisdom and encouragement to Hadassah to act and speak on behalf of her people. She wisely sought prayer and fasting by the Jews to seek God’s intervention [though God’s name is never mentioned in the Book of Esther]. Ezra in 458 and Nehemiah in 445 were also sent to play roles in DOING the work, Ezra being a priest [a Kohan of Levi]; Nehemiah being Artaxerxes I’s cupbearer and an able administrator. Ultimately their goal was to ensure completion of the Temple.
In 420 Malachi and Joel were sent to the Jews. Most of Malachi’s writing was to chastise the Jews for their greedy corruption, offering defective animals, divorcing their wives without cause to marry foreign women, doubting the Lord’s judgment, cheating with false weights and measures, and shortchanging the tithe that provides for the poor. However in Chapter 3 the Lord almighty stated that the Lord [Messenger of the Covenant] will appear in the Temple. This is Yeshua who came declaring the New Covenant that he would seal with the shedding of his blood and His death for the remission of sin. Chapter 4 speaks of how Elijah will come before Him. This future coming will bring harmony to the faithful and retribution to those who willfully reject His provision for repentance. He promised heart-felt repentance would be followed by reconciliation. Ultimately global judgment was coming and at the end of it the Lord would be King of all.
As for the Prophet Joel he preached about famine and the Day of the Lord [Judgment Day], but it is not an encouraging or positive prophesy, but a dire warning of impending disaster unless there is repentance. The Lord promises the outpouring of His Spirit for the truly repentant, but the world at large will not accept it because wickedness will abound in the nations.
Conclusion: For 100 years after the return of the Jews from Babylon in the Persian Empire two themes emerge. One was the insistence on building a new Temple and the other was the coming of a wounded one. He would bring an ultimate victory, the filling of the Temple with His brilliance, a universal Judgment and He would be proclaimed as Lord of all. What was the significance or importance of building another Temple? What part would the ‘pierced one’ play in His ultimate victory? What kind of victory is being mentioned? If judgment was coming did this mean the Lord would deal with the Sin problem? How could the Lord be King if Sin continued to be a problem? This has implications for our personal lives in the here and now but also an ultimate fulfillment globally in the not too distant future.