Pick Your Poison

Pick Your Poison: Throughout the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) we read of Israel’s on-again-off-again relationship with God. When they leaned toward God things went along well, but when they turned away, the situation became dire.

The Syrians, the Babylonians and others conquered their land. Even when there was no foreign adversary, the children of King David wanted his throne. Century after Century, the give and take took place.

Pick Your Poison: How did Rome come to rule Israel?

So how did Rome come to be the conquering occupier of Israel? It began with the Greeks. Israel was conquered by Alexander the Great in 329BC. At the time, the Kingdom of Judah, was the only remaining Hebrew-ruled kingdom, as the other 11 tribes broke away. When Alexander died in 323 BC, the Greek empire was divided among his four most prominent generals.

There were two generals, Seleucid and Ptolemy, who would rule Israel, one after the other, back and forth. Both allowed the Jews to continue their religious practices, but the emphasis was on Greek culture, which caused problems with the religious leaders.

The Seleucids invaded Israel beginning in 201 BC and their rule was established by 198 BC, under the leadership of Antiochus III. That rule would not last long. He encouraged the Jewish people to rebuild their temple.

Maccabees Capture Jerusalem

However, money was an issue and Antiochus owed the Romans a great sum of money. Long after the death of the two generals, the groups competed for control over the region. In 164 BC, the Maccabees captured Jerusalem.

You can read an account of this struggle in the Books of First and Second Maccabees in the Roman Catholic Bible. It was a significant victory, as the capture and cleansing of the temple is the basis for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, a holiday Jesus would have celebrated.

Rome took over Israel by 68 BC

By 68 BC, the Romans entered into and took over Israel. It did not get better for the Jewish people. While they allowed the Jewish culture to continue, they were harsh overseers.

The Romans were worse than their predecessors. A hundred years later, in 70 AD, the Romans destroyed the temple. The huge stones were toppled. The gold that adorned the walls was melted down and taken.

The gold seeped into the cracks between the stones, so the temple was literally dismantled to get to it. What was left over was the Western wall and to add insult to injury, when the Muslims moved in six centuries later, they built a mosque on top of the temple mount.

Jews looking for a Messiah to rescue them

The Jews had a history of being conquered, they were looking for the Messiah, the one who would come and liberate they from captivity. But, unlike Moses, who went before Pharaoh to proclaim God’s demand to “Let my people go,” Jesus was not that kind of a leader. Nor was he a military man, who would lead an army against the Romans.

But that was what the Jews wanted and expected. Herod the Great ordered the slaying of male children four and under, just because he was told of the birth of a new king. He had to eliminate any challengers, even though Jesus wanted no part of Herod’s throne or the Roman authority. Jesus explained that to the Jews. Jesus came to save, not to judge. But he continued:

“You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world . I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:23-24)

Jews killed Jesus partially because He didn’t deliver them from Rome

So what occupier did the people want? The Jewish people were scattered around the world and it wasn’t until 1948 that a Jewish state was recreated. The land of milk and honey that God had given over to them was now a brokered arrangement and not a popular one at that. We are still seeing the affects, with Hamas attacking Israel.

The Jews wanted to kill Jesus, because they thought He was a heretic. They talked the Romans into helping. Pilate just wanted to keep the peace, so he allowed the crucifixion to take place. It was all a part of God’s plan. Nothing happened by accident, back then or now.