Today we finish the Return Era by hearing from Malachi and Joel; and we will briefly cover the Silent Era.
Malachi – Malachi addresses: 1) marriage, 2) the coming messenger and Messiah, 3) tithing and offerings, and 4) the coming judgment.
- Malachi calls marriage “The Lord’s holy institution which He loves.” He warns against intermarrying outside of the faith because this would lead the people away from the Lord. He also says that marriage is to be a lifetime commitment between a man and woman.
- Malachi speaks of the coming messenger and Messiah – “‘Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,’ says the Lord of hosts.” John the Baptist, the messenger, will come and announce the arrival of Jesus Christ, the Messiah (Luke 7:27).
- Malachi says the people have robbed God by not being generous with their tithing and offerings. The people should give to God willingly and with joy since all they possess is from the Lord anyway.
- Malachi concludes by saying, “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” The Lord is sending Elijah (a reference to John the Baptist) to call the people to repentance before Jesus comes on the scene with His ministry. John the Baptist will come in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17) but “they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands” (Matthew 17:12). John the Baptist will be killed by man just as Jesus will have to suffer by the hands of man. Jesus will bring the world salvation through His death and resurrection; and He will return a second time bringing judgment upon the entire world.
Joel – Scholars disagree on when Joel prophesied. Some place him earlier in the story, as a prophet to Judah during the Divided Kingdom Era, but Tyndale’s One Year Chronological Bible places him here, at the end of the Return Era.
Joel’s ministry is during a great locusts plague; however, Joel says that an even more horrific time is coming. “For the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as destruction from the Almighty.” Joel tells the people to turn their hearts (not just an outward act) to the Lord, for there they will find hope – “Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness… Then the Lord will be zealous for His land, and pity His people.” Joel says the Lord will pour out His Spirit on males and females, young and old, slave and free – “ I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…That whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Later in the story, Peter will quote Joel when this prophecy is fulfilled on Pentecost (Acts 2:14-21). Fifty days after the resurrection of Christ, the Holy Spirit will be poured upon the disciples of Jesus causing them to speak in foreign languages and enabling them to testify of Christ and the salvation only He can provide.
Joel concludes by saying that the Lord will judge all the nations. “But the Lord will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel. So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, dwelling in Zion My holy mountain. Then Jerusalem shall be holy, and no aliens shall ever pass through her again… But Judah shall abide forever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation. For I will acquit them of the guilt of bloodshed, whom I had not acquitted; for the Lord dwells in Zion.”
Silent Era – From Chronological Bible Teaching 14-Era Booklet by Iva May, excerpt written by Stan May, PhD:
The last era before the coming of the Messiah claims the title, “Silent Era,” because the Hebrew canon closed after the writing and preaching of the prophet Malachi. For over 400 years, God did not speak to His people, either through the prophets or through other Scriptures; yet His silence did not equal inactivity. God providentially worked to prepare the way for the King through various empires that ruled even as He fulfilled the words of Amos 8:11.
History of the Silent Years (430 B.C.-4 B.C.)
Just as Daniel predicted (Daniel 2, 7), four major empires rose and fell. Nebuchadnezzar conquered the known world during Daniel’s day, but his empire lasted only about a century (626-539 b.c.) before it fell to the “Medes and the Persians” (Dan 5:28). The Persian Empire spread from Egypt to India and northward toward Greece; this empire survived for about two centuries, but eventually Alexander the Great defeated the Persians as he extended the third kingdom of Daniel—the Greek empire—into the world. His early death brought about a division of his territory, but not before the process of Hellenization influenced the known world. The universal use of the Greek language, the Greek standards of weight and measurement, and Greek coinage affected even Israel.
The Seleucids, successors of Alexander who eventually ruled Israel, succeeded in alienating the Jewish people, especially when the Syrian Antiochus IV Epiphanes offered a pig to the Olympian god Zeus in the Holy of Holies. His actions ignited the Maccabean revolt that resulted in a period of independence. This freedom survived until Rome—the fourth empire—sent her armies to capture Jerusalem and to establish Roman rule through governors granted power by the Emperor.
Trends of the Silent Years
Judaism changed dramatically during the silent years. The former idolatries that had driven the nation into exile were no longer tolerated. Chasidim (“separate ones”) began to demand purity and a return to God’s Word; they may have been the precursors of the Pharisees. Synagogues became the mainstay of spiritual life in the villages, though the Temple held priority in Jerusalem. Courts called Sanhedrin consisting of 23 wise men (an uneven number to guard against a tie) adjudicated in the smaller towns, and the great Sanhedrin (council of 70 plus the high priest) ruled over the nation in Jerusalem. The Jewish historian Josephus noted that the Sadducees and the Pharisees had existed since the time of the Maccabees.
The Pharisees devoted themselves to the Law, led in the synagogues, and seemed to have the support of the majority of the nation. They believed in angels (in fact, angelology—the study of angels and the resultant belief in their mediatorial work —became a major characteristic of Judaism4), resurrection, and the coming Messiah. The Sadducees allied themselves with the governing powers, ruled the Temple, accepted only the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures, believed in neither angels nor spirits, and denied a future resurrection. The controversy between these two groups occasionally spilled out into the open, but always existed as a subtext for all that transpired in the nation. The Herodians were a Jewish political party allied with the family of Herod (four generations ruled in the land), usually siding with the Sadducees to protect Rome’s interests and to preserve Rome’s peace (and their position of authority).
The Mishna and the Talmud began to develop during this era as an extended commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures. These books increased the actual commands to which the people were subject; each interpreter added his accretions to the whole, and the resultant weight of the laws burdened the people with over 600 regulations for daily conduct.
Importance of the Silent Years
This tenth era prepared the way for the coming Messiah in several ways. After the Babylonian captivity, the Jews began to speak Aramaic; Hellenization brought a common language for the world, and the Jews of the Diaspora (those scattered throughout the world) spoke Greek. These linguistic changes relaxed the Jewish attitude toward the Scripture and necessitated the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into the Septuagint (LXX). The Septuagint (“Seventy”) supposedly was translated by 70 scholars in 70 days, hence the name.
Rome paved the way by building the Roman road system and establishing the Pax Romana, the Roman peace. Apostles and missionaries could travel unimpeded swiftly throughout the empire, preaching the good news in a language (Greek) that the common people could understand.
Judaism produced a “vast bulk of intertestamental literature,” but “divine guidance kept the right books within the compass of Scripture. Eventually and gradually, Judaism manifested itself in the ‘Three Pillars of Judaism’: the tripartite OT canon of Law, Prophets, and Writings; the synagogue, with its new, liturgical, and entirely nonsacrificial worship; and Rabbinism, which culminated in the Talmud and Midrash.” The religious minutiae of the law created an unbearable burden that convinced men of their failure but offered no hope for true freedom. The temple became a place of corruption and the synagogue became a place of condemnation.
These religious trends and cultural changes came not as accidents but rather under the providential hand of God to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. It is no wonder that Paul could write to the Galatians that Christ was born “in the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4).
That’s a wrap on the Old Testament. The Gospel Era starts tomorrow, so keep reading! ✝️
(Malachi 2:10-4:6 Joel 1:1-3:21)
Creation Era (Gen 1:1-11:26)✅
Patriarch Era (Gen 11:27-50:26 and Job)✅
Exodus Era (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) ✅
Conquest Era (Joshua) ✅
Judges Era (Judges, Ruth) ✅
Kingdom Era (1 & 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles 1-9, 1 Kings 1-11, various Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) ✅
Divided Kingdom Era (2 Chronicles 10-36, 1 Kings 11-22, 2 Kings, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, and some of Jeremiah) ✅
Captivity Era (the rest of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel) ✅
Return Era (Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) ✅
Silent Era (Inter-Testament period) ✅
Gospel Era (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) is up next!
Eras to follow:
Church, Missions, and End Time/New Beginning