"A great company of the exiled Hebrews availed themselves of this opportunity to return to the lands of their fathers, though many elected to remain in the country of their captivity, preferring Babylon to Israel.
The “whole congregation” of the Jews who returned from the Babylonian exile were but “forty and two thousand three hundred and three score, beside their servants and their maids, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven.” The relatively small size of the migrating nation is further shown by the register of their beasts of burden. While those who did return strove valiantly to reestablish themselves as the house of David, and to regain some measure of their former prestige and glory, the Jews were never again a truly independent people. In turn they were preyed upon by Greece, Egypt, and Syria; but about 164–163 B.C., the people threw off, in part at least, the alien yoke, as a result of the patriotic revolt led by the Maccabees, the most prominent of whom was Judas Maccabeus.
The Temple service, which had been practically abolished through the proscription of victorious foes, was reestablished. In the year 163 B.C., the sacred structure was rededicated, and the joyful occasion was thereafter celebrated in annual festival as the Feast of Dedication.
During the reign of the Maccabees, however, the Temple fell into an almost ruinous condition, more as a result of the inability of the reduced and impoverished people to maintain it than through any further decline of religious zeal.
In the hope of insuring a greater measure of national protection, the Jews entered into an unequal alliance with the Romans and eventually became tributary to them, in which condition the Jewish nation continued throughout the period of our Lord’s ministry.
In the meridian of time Rome was virtually mistress of the world. When Christ was born, Augustus Cæsaro was emperor of Rome, and the Idumean, Herod, surnamed the Great, was the vassal king of Judea.”
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