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The Fullness of Sin: Part VI

Updated: Mar 21

Ancient Israel had three different kingdoms. The first one was comprised of all 12 tribes of Israel and lasted for 120 years. This kingdom had three different kings, Saul, David, and Solomon; and they each reigned for 40 years (actually David reigned for 7 years over Judah while Saul’s son, Ishbosheath, reigned over the northern tribes for those 7 years until his death; then David reigned over all 12 tribes for 33 years). After Solomon’s death, the 10 northern tribes rebelled against Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, who was now king over Israel. They created a separate kingdom called Israel and made Jeroboam their king.

The two remaining tribes under Rehoboam called their kingdom Judah.

Israel (10 northern tribes) lasted for 207 years as a kingdom before they were conquered by the Assyrians. Judah (Judah and Benjamin) lasted for 344 years as a kingdom before they were conquered by the Babylonians. Judah had some righteous kings who obeyed and worshiped God and some evil kings (and one queen) who did not obey God’s commandments and statutes and worshipped idols. Israel had 20 kings who were all evil and worshipped idols or the pagan gods of the neighboring heathen kingdoms in the land of Canaan.

The average age of empires is 250 years, according to Sir John Bagot Glubb, a specialist on the subject, who wrote a short treatise called “The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival.” If you add Solomon’s reign of 40 years (as the 21st apostate king, for he worshipped the gods of the Sidonians and Ammonites in his old age), you get 247 years for their duration as a strictly apostate kingdom. If you average the three kingdoms’ (united Israel, 10 tribes Israel, and Judah) lifetimes, you get 225 years.

In 605 BC, the first year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar as king of Babylon, Jeremiah the prophet relayed the word of the Lord to the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem regarding their fullness of sins. He told them that he had been speaking to the children of Israel for 23 years (along with other prophets) about their apostasy. All this time, Jeremiah warned them to not go after other gods to serve and worship them, and to not provoke the Lord God in this manner. Since the people had stiffened their neck and not listened, God would send the king of Babylon and his host to destroy them and “make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations.”

Jeremiah then told them they would serve the king of Babylon for 70 years. After 70 years were completed, the Lord would then punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity; and He would make it a “perpetual desolation” (Jeremiah 25:12). “Therefore all those who devour you shall be devoured; and all your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity. Those who plunder you shall become plunder, and all who prey upon you I will make a prey. For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds, says the Lord, because they called you an outcast saying: This is Zion; no one seeks her” (Jeremiah 30:16-17).

In 598 BC, Jeremiah prophesied (by way of a letter) to the first groups of Jews that were deported to Babylon and told them to stay in Babylon and to go about their lives in a peaceful manner. He told them not to listen to the false prophets who were telling the people to rebel against their new lords.

Jeremiah wrote:

“For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive” (Jeremiah 29:10-14).

Jeremiah’s first prophecy came true on October 12, 539 BC when the Medes and Persians, led by Darius the Mede (not the king) conquered Babylon. The Neo-Babylonian empire only lasted for approximately 74 years before they were conquered by the Medes and Persians. Cyrus II, known as Cyrus the Great, was the king of Persia at this time. The Persians took ownership of Babylon, and it became a part of their empire. Initially, the surviving Jews from Judah remained in Babylon. Cyrus ruled over his defeated foes much different than the Assyrians and Babylonians who had gone before him. He made a priority of restoring people to their native lands and appointed governors to represent Persian rule.

In 538 BC, Cyrus proclaimed that the Jews could return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple. This fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy from the Lord that he announced more than 150 years earlier. This prophecy actually named the king who would accomplish God’s will in this matter. “I am the Lord who says of Cyrus, he is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem ‘You shall be built,’ and to the temple ‘Your foundation shall be laid” (Isaiah 44:28).

In 537 BC, 40,000 Jewish exiles returned to their homeland and began rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. The work on the Temple was stopped many times due to opposition from neighboring nations and lack of interest from the people. The Temple was finally finished in 516 BC. It was much smaller and simpler than Solomon’s Temple; however, it remained standing for about 500 years, which was longer than either Solomon’s or Herod’s.

The walls of Jerusalem had been in ruin ever since they were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s army in 586 BC. In 444 BC, Nehemiah, the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia, was granted permission from the king to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and gate of the city. The project was complete in only 52 days thanks to Nehemiah’s leadership. The year 444 BC is believed to be the start of Daniel’s prophecy of seventy ‘sevens’ or 490 years as recorded in Daniel 9:1-27).

Malachi, the last Old Testament prophet, preached after Haggai, Zechariah, and Nehemiah in about 430 BC. The Temple had been rebuilt for almost a century, and the people were losing their enthusiasm for worship. Apathy and disillusionment had set in because the exciting messianic prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah had not been fulfilled. Many of the sins that brought the downfall of Jerusalem in 586 BC were still being practiced in Judah. Malachi confronted the hypocrites with their sin by portraying the relationship between a righteous God and his hardened people. The Jewish people would not hear from another prophet of the Lord for another 460 years until John the Baptist appeared upon the scene.

In 332 BC, Alexander III, known as Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia and the Greeks, conquered the island city of Tyre and then Syria and Palestine (the new name for the land of Israel). He then went south into Egypt and conquered the Pharaoh and his forces. On October 1, 331 BC, Alexander entered the land of the Persians on the plain of Gaugamela near Nineveh (originally an Assyrian city and later a Babylonian city) and defeated Darius III and the Persian army. The Persian army had fallen, and all of Babylon was under the rule of Alexander the Great and the Greek Empire.

Alexander died in 323 BC, and four of his generals divided up his kingdom among themselves. Lysimachus took Thrace and much of Asia Minor. Cassander controlled Macedonia and Greece. Ptolemy I Soter gained control of Egypt and Palestine initially. He established the Ptolemaic dynasty, which would last for 300 years. In 319 BC, he captured Jerusalem and took many Jews back to Egypt.

These exiles would become the Jewish population of Alexandria, Egypt. Seleucus I Nicator rose to power in Babylon and established the Seleucid dynasty over the eastern provinces of the former Persian Empire. In 301 BC, Seleucus took control of Syria. He built the capital city of Antioch.

The Seleucid dynasty would prove to have a major influence on Jewish history. In 250 BC, Ptolemy II requested that the high priest of Jerusalem send 72 men (six from each of the 12 tribes of Israel) to Alexandria to work on a Greek translation of the Hebrew Pentateuch. Their work was entitled the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX – Latin for 70) and became the official Scriptures for Greek-speaking Jews scattered around the Middle East. The New Testament authors quoted from the Septuagint, and its usage continued throughout the early church era.

In 203 BC, Antiochus III, the Seleucid king and his Greek/Syrian army defeated Ptolemy V and his Greek/Egyptian army for control of Palestine. At first, the Jewish community welcomed the new Seleucid rulers. However, the good relations were not to endure as Seleucid rulers sought to impose more and more Greek culture on the Jews. Religious quarrels ensued and tension mounted until the Jewish revolt of the Maccabees in the mid-second century BC. The first abomination of desolation occurred on Kislev 24, December 11, 167 BC. On that date, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid king, ordered that an altar to Zeus be built on top of the altar of burnt offering in the Jerusalem Temple. He then offered swine flesh to Zeus on the altar.

Daniel 11:31 prophesies of this as “setting up the sacrilegious object that causes desecration.” This act led ultimately to the Maccabean revolt.

The Maccabean revolt was led by an aged priest named Mattathias and his five sons. The third son, Judas, won control of Jerusalem after three years of fighting the Greek/Syrians. He cleansed and rededicated the Temple from the abomination of desolation that Antiochus IV Epiphanes had committed three years earlier to the exact day on the Jewish calendar, Kislev 24, 164 BC. The eight-day celebration was the beginning of Hanukkah, the Jewish Feast of Dedication, or Lights. In 161 BC, Judas Maccabeus defeated the Seleucid general Nicanor, who was killed in the battle.

“As the years passed, the Maccabean dynasty became less noble in their purposes; the independent nation they established lasted until 63 BC when Pompey established a Roman protectorate over Palestine. In 63 BC, Roman general Pompey, who recently had arrived in the new Roman-controlled territory of Syria, swept into Palestine. Pompey conquered Jerusalem after a three-month siege. The Roman rule that Pompey subsequently established over Palestine would last more than seven centuries. When civil war erupted between Pompey and Julius Caesar in 49 BC, Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was assassinated in 48 BC.

“Julius Caesar, emperor of Rome, was assassinated in 44 BC. Before his death, Caesar named his grandnephew, Gaius Octavian, his heir. He was later known as Caesar Augustus. In 40 BC, the Parthians conquered Jerusalem, and Herod I, the Judean governor, fled to Rome to seek help from Octavian and Mark Antony. They declared Herod the rightful king. In the spring of 37 BC, Herod laid siege to Jerusalem with the aid of two legions of Roman soldiers commissioned by Mark Antony. By the summer of 37 BC, the Roman army proved too strong, and Jerusalem fell to Rome.

“Herod embarked on a building program of remarkable magnitude throughout Palestine. Among the impressive roads, fortresses, and palaces, the highlight for the Jews was the restoration and renovation of the Temple, which commenced in 19 BC. The Temple grounds were expanded to 36 acres, and the Temple itself reached its culmination of beauty. This unparalleled structure served as the Temple throughout Jesus’ life.” {1}

This author believes Jesus was born in 5 BC, as do many other students and scholars of the Bible.

Herod learned of the birth of the “King of the Jews” from the wise men of the east who came to Jerusalem and inquired of Herod where they could find him. Herod asked all the chief priests and scribes where the Christ would be born. And they said to him: “In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet (Micah), and you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of you shall come a ruler, that shall rule my people Israel.” The priests and scribes didn’t mention the last part of Micah 5:2, as they didn’t understand it: “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

In hindsight, we can understand it. Before Jesus the man entered human history as a baby, He was the Lord God, Yahweh, who interacted periodically with mankind as recorded in the Old Testament.

Herod inquired of the wise men regarding the star they followed and the timing of its first appearance. He then sent them to Bethlehem to find the young infant so he could come and worship him. This was a lie, for Herod wanted to find this baby so he could kill him; he was afraid that this newborn king would one day take his throne. The wise men did not return to Herod as they were warned by God in a dream, so they returned to their country another way.

“Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:16-18).

This evil act of Herod’s was reminiscent of the birth of Moses when Pharaoh commanded the Egyptians to kill the newborn Jewish male babies. Moses is seen as a typology of Jesus Christ as he saved his people from a life of slavery and death. Of course, Herod didn’t kill baby Jesus, as Joseph was warned in a dream by an angel of the Lord who told him to flee unto Egypt until the Lord brings word that it’s safe to return. Herod the Great (not so) died in 4 BC of an incurable disease. His kingdom was divided into three districts, one for each son. Archelus got Judea, Samaria, and Idumea. Herod Antipas received Galilee and Perea. Herod Philip II got Trachonitis.

Archeliaus was a violent, evil man. He began his career by slaughtering 3,000 influential people of the region. An angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and told him it was safe to return to Israel, for Herod was dead. Joseph didn’t want to return to Bethlehem because Archeliaus ruled there, so they moved to Nazareth were Jesus was raised. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 21:52).

John the Baptist, the forerunner and witness of Jesus, came upon the scene in AD 30, preaching in the wilderness of Judea. He preached repentance and that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. John told the people that he was the one who was prophesied by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 40:3), saying, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness. Prepare you the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus. Jesus said this about John, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women (from the seed of a man) there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.

Shortly after John baptized Jesus, Herod Antipas had John put in prison for Herodias’ sake. Herodias was married to Herod’s half brother, Philip, but left him for Herod. John told him it was unlawful for him to have her as she was still married to Philip. Herod did not want to kill John, for the Jews considered him a prophet (the last one was Malachi about 460 years earlier).

The death of John is an account of the decadence and fullness of sin of the times and is recorded in Matthew 14: “But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter. And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus” (Matthew 14:6-12).

Jesus preached, taught, healed the sick/blind/deaf, cast out demons, defied nature, and performed countless miracles during his three-plus-year ministry. Most of the citizens believed he was merely a prophet, but the ruling religious elites of Judea and Jerusalem did not believe in him and were always testing his authority and knowledge.

Early in Jesus’ career, he told the people, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). Once when Jesus healed a paralyzed man, he told him, “Take heart, son, your sins are forgiven.” Some teachers of the law accused him of blasphemy for this remark. The Pharisees were so corrupt and afraid of Jesus’ authority, they accused him of driving out demons by the power of the prince of demons (Beelzebub/Satan).

Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed because they did not repent. He told them that if the miracles that were performed in their town had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. “But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you” (Matthew 11:24). After Jesus healed a man with a withered hand, the Pharisees became afraid that Jesus would usurp their authority, so they plotted how they might kill Jesus.

Some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus to see a sign from him showing he was the son of God – as if his healings and other miracles weren’t enough of a sign.

“But He answered and said to them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:39-42).

One time Jesus went back to his hometown of Nazareth and preached in their synagogue, and the people were amazed. They knew Jesus’ family and couldn’t understand how he had acquired this wisdom as he had no formal religious training, so they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house. Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:57-58).

Jesus told his disciples to be aware of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees, for it was the yeast (sin) of bread (the word of God). He told them their teaching was merely human rules and rituals. Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves for the people’s sacrifices. He said to them, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13).

One time Jesus was telling a parable to the people in the Temple known as the parable of the tenants. As usual, the Jews did not understand his parable and its symbolism, so Jesus told them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes. Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder. Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet” (Matthew 21:42-46).

In Matthew 23, Jesus preached to the crowds and to his disciples regarding the hypocrisy of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. It’s known as the seven woes on the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. Six times he called them hypocrites. He also called them blind guides and fools, snakes, brood of vipers, and murderers.

Jesus also prophesied of the coming desolation of Jerusalem; “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 23:37-38).

In Matthew 24, known as the Olivet Discourse, Jesus discussed with his disciples the coming destruction of the Temple and the signs of the future end times.

In part 7, we will review the fullness of sins of the Jews and Romans as they crucified the Lord Jesus. We will finish with the fullness of sins of our own generation and the Tribulation end times.

End Notes: {1} When and Where in The Bible and Throughout History by E. Michael and Sharon Rusten – Tyndale House Publishing pg.61-63

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