A detailed rendition of the 400 silent years is found in the first two books of the Maccabees, as well as in the History of the Jews by Josephus. This period is part of what our Lord described as “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24), but the present format does not permit a detailed exposition of this period of Jewish history, briefly:
After Malachi (B.C. 400), major events begin with the overthrow of the Persian Empire by the young Macedonian (Greek) king, Alexander the Great (“Alexander the Terrible” to the Persians, even to this day). Jerusalem surrendered to Alexander with no resistance. The Jewish historian Josephus records a visit to Jerusalem by Alexander in what would be late summer of 332 B.C. Some credence may be given to the reported deferential respect Alexander showed at the temple and high priest at Jerusalem. However, it was his policy to offer sacrifice at every major temple in the lands he conquered. The Josephus account includes the Jewish priesthood reading the book of Daniel to Alexander and noting the prophecies of Greece’s rise to power and then its subsequent history.
Following Alexander’s death ten years later, the Alexandrian general Ptolemy I seized power in Egypt and Judea. At this time, Judea, a large and important Jewish community, had taken root in the newly founded city of Alexandria, Egypt. A series of five wars were fought throughout the area, and finally the Greek Seleucid Syrian kings (from Seleucus, another of Alexander’s four generals) took over Judea in 201 B.C.
With the Jewish people now spread from Babylon to Egypt, local meetings of Jews at synagogues became the accepted method of preserving Jewish community and religion. During this time the priesthood suffered an upheaval. Two Levites bribed the Seleucid king to put out the previous high priest and the battle for the office of the high priest began. Corruption followed corruption, and the temple was defiled. Thus the legitimate Aaronic line disappeared. These issues lead some Jews to reject not only the corrupt high priest but the entire Jewish religious system. They established a separate religious system in the desert at Qumran where the “Dead Sea Scrolls” were found.
God evidently did not regard the Maccabean revolt, which in 164 B.C. re-established an independent Jewish state under the Hasmoneans, as a special vehicle for divine favor. However, one impact of the Maccabean period did emerge in the New Testament. At least once, Jesus came to Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22) or Chanukah. This feast celebrated the rededication of the temple under the Hasmoneans.
The Romans took Judea away from the Seleucid kings in B.C. 63, and appointed the Herods, of Edomite descent, as their vassal kings. This line includes “Herod the Great,” and thus the stage was set for the coming of the Lord Jesus.