03.05.33 Summary of the Messianic Expectations and Political Tensions Among Various People Groups At the Time of Jesus.
While there were a wide diversity of opinions among the various Jewish groups and sub-groups, a generalization can be made from segments of chapter 17 of the Psalms of Solomon, which was written about 40 B.C. or shortly thereafter. While some verses are clearly an exaggeration, the overall tenor of these passages reflects the common Jewish opinion.
Concerning the Roman Empire, most Jews believed that
11 The lawless one (Rome) laid waste [to] our land, so that on one inhabited;
They massacred young and old and children at the same time,
12 In his blameless wrath he expelled them to the west,
And he did not spare even the officials of the country from ridicule.
13 As the enemy [was] a stranger
And his heart alien to our God, he acted arrogantly.
14 So he did in Jerusalem all the things
That gentiles do for their gods in their cities
Psalms of Solomon 17:11-14
Concerning their Jewish neighbors, the Jews believed that
No one among them in Jerusalem acted [with] mercy or truth (cf. Ps. 14:3).
16 Those who loved the assemblies of the devout fled from them as sparrows fled from their nest (cf. Ps. 11;1).
17 [They became] refugees in the wilderness
To save their lives from evil.
The life of even one who was saved from them was precious in the eyes of the exiles.
18 They were scattered over the whole earth by these lawless ones.
Psalms of Solomon 17:15-18
As a result, when considering their plight with the Romans (vv. 11-14) and the apostasy of fellow Jews (vv. 15-17), pious Jews presented their pleas to God that included the coming of the son of David. Notice the similarities of their requests to the message presented later by John the Baptist.
21 See, Lord, and raise up for them their king,
The son of David, to rule over your servant Israel (cf. Isa. 42:1-4; 49:1-6)
In a time known to you, O God (cf. Isa. 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12).
22 Undergird him with the strength
To destroy the unrighteous rulers (cf. Ps. 18:33),
To purge Jerusalem from Gentiles
Who trample her to destruction;
23 In wisdom and in righteousness to drive out
The sinners from the inheritance.
To smash the arrogance of sinners
Like a potter’s jar (cf. Ps. 2:9);
24 To shatter all their substance with an iron rod;
To destroy the unlawful nations with the word of his mouth;
25 At his warning, the nations will flee from his presence;
And he will condemn sinners by the thoughts of their hearts.
Psalms of Solomon 17:21-25
The term son of David is clearly an appeal to God for the coming of the eschatological king – the eternal king of the proverbial “end times.” Therefore, the common Jews believed God would send a messiah who would be a son of David who would restore Judaism and the Holy City. That included, but was not limited to the following:
26 He will gather a holy people
Whom he will lead in righteousness
And he will judge the tribes of the people
That have been made holy by the Lord their God
27 He will not tolerate unrighteousness [even] to pause among them (cf. Ps. 101:7),
And any person who knows wickedness shall not live with them.
For he shall know them
That they are all children of their God.
28 He will distribute them upon the land
According to their tribes (cf. Isa. 49:6; Ezek. 45:8; 47:13, 21);
The alien and the foreigner will no longer live near them.
29 He will judge peoples and nations in the wisdom of his righteousness.
30 And he will have gentile nations serving him under his yoke,
And he will glorify the Lord in (a place) prominent (above) the whole earth.
And he will purge Jerusalem
[And make it] holy as it was even in the beginning.
31 [For] nations to come from the ends of the earth to see his glory (cf. Isa 55:5);
To bring as gifts her children who had been driven out.
And to see the glory of the Lord.
With which God has glorified her.
32 And he will be a righteous king over them, taught by God.
There will be no unrighteousness among them in his days (cf/ Jer. 23:5),
For all shall be holy,
And their king shall be the Lord Messiah.
Psalms of Solomon 17:26-32
Those who understand the future thousand-year reign of Christ will recognize this amazing narrative. It is unknown if all people groups anticipated the coming of a messiah who would bring peace, but clearly there was a vast majority who did. Furthermore, many other within the entire Mediterranean and Middle Eastern areas expected the birth of a profound ruler. Messianic anticipations are as follows:
- The Cumaean people expected a messiah (see 03.05.24)
- 63 B.C. In Rome the Romans anticipate the birth of a king who would rule the earth (see 03.05.15)
- 50 B.C. Rabbi Nehumias predicted the birth of a messiah in 50 years (see 03.05.19)
- 42-38 B.C. The Roman poet Virgil predicted the birth of a messiah (see 03.05.24)
- The Parthians, who sent the magi, obviously expected a messiah.
- The Samaritans expected a messiah they called the Taheb.
- The Persian Zoroaster holy book Bahman Vasht mentions a messiah and star.
However, within the Jewish communities there was another serious issue of concern – hatred and bitterness between various religious sects. While the cultural influences of this era have been listed elsewhere, it is important to summarize the social and political tensions. It has often been said that this was a time of Pax Romana. While there was limited military conflict, the social-political tension was worse than what exists today in the Middle East. The hatred between various groups was as follows:
The Jews hated the Samaritans because:
- For theological reasons, the Samaritans altered the Torah and rejected the rest of the Hebrew Bible
- The Samaritans kept their old alphabet while the Jews adopted the Aramaic square script of Babylon (it is today’s “Hebrew” alphabet).
- They confronted the Jews in the days of Nehemiah and Ezra.
- They fought with the Syrian-Greeks against the Jews during the Maccabean Revolt
- They denied their Jewish background and worshipped Greek gods to avoid persecution from Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
- They persecuted, and sometimes killed Jews traveling through Samaria toward Jerusalem.
- They desecrated the temple by throwing human bones in the sanctuary during Passover.
The Samaritans hated the Jews because:
- Theological reasons: they believed the Jews altered the Torah and accepted the rest of the Hebrew Bible
- Jewish leader John Hyrcanus destroyed the Samaritan temple in 128 B.C.
- The sons of Hyrcanus captured and sold many Samaritans into slavery in 108-07 B.C.
- The Jews won the Maccabean Revolt
- The Jewish temple was well-known for its corrupt Sadducean leadership
Leading Pharisees hated the Sadducees because:
- For theological reasons, the Sadducees believed only in the Torah and rejected the rest of the Hebrew Bible
- The Jewish temple was well-known for its corrupt Sadducean leadership
- In the 90-88 B.C. Civil War, the Sadducees crucified 800 Pharisees and, as they hung dying on crosses, their wives and children were slaughtered in front of them.
- All Jews hated the descendants of the Hasmonean (Maccabean) Dynasty because murder, corruption, bribery, and total corruption existed in nearly every leader except Queen Salome.
The Sadducees hated the Pharisees because:
- For theological reasons, the Pharisees believed in the Torah, and other Scriptures, but held the Oral Law in higher authority.
- The Pharisees required the Sadducees to perform ceremonial rituals according to their traditions, otherwise the people would have rioted.
- The fact that the Pharisees controlled the synagogues throughout the land and overseas was a point of jealousy for the Sadducees.
- The Sadducees hated the Pharisees, especially those who did not have formal religious training. In 63 B.C., the Sadducees killed Honi; the miracle worker did not attend any formal school in Jerusalem and dared to speak of righteous living.
The Essenes hated non-Essenes:
- For theological reasons, the Essenes believed all other Jews left the orthodox faith of Judaism.
- The Essenes believed they were God’s chosen remnant and everyone else would eventually be destroyed by the messiah. They were, however, open to have Jews join their group after a three-year initiation period.
Orthodox Jews hated the Hellenists because:
- For theological reasons, the orthodox Jews (mainly the Pharisees and Essenes) were passionately angry with the Hellenists for abandoning Judaism and accepting the Hellenistic culture of sexuality and materialism.
- The Hasidim (Pharisees) Jews hated the Hellenists for killing 60 of their members in 162 B.C. (see 03.05.03).
Jews hated the Idumeans because:
- The long history with the descendants of Ishmael (Esau/ Edomites/ Idumeans) was one of constant warfare with the Israelites/Jews (see the book of Obadiah).
- Nearly all the Jews hated Herod the Great because he was an Idumean. The Romans placed him in the position of King of the Jews because he was an effective administrator and military leader. The Romans wanted a governor with whom the Jews would not join and start a revolt. Herod was the perfect candidate.
- Herod was the ideal agent of Hellenism, but skillfully respected and manipulated Jewish sensitivities to prevent riots.
The Herodians hated the orthodox Jews and Zealots because:
- They opposed the Herodian dynasty and Roman Empire.
- They were nationalistic and opposed Rome.
Into this quagmire of human conflict Jesus came to teach the principles of the Kingdom of God. Clearly the Sermon on the Mount was absolutely stunning to His audience – a message they had seldom heard except from an occasional small-town rabbi.
. Quotations from Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. 2:666-67.
. This statement suggests the erection of idols and possibly the introduction of temple prostitutes.
. The word rabble means a large disorderly crowd; a gang; throng; those who are socially inferor.
. This statement clearly points to the Hellenistic Jews who replaced their Jewish faith with the Hellenistic lifestyle.
. Saperstein, Essential Papers on Messianic Movements and Personalities in Jewish History. 93.
. The Jews did not comprehend the possibility that the messiah could be God – as Jesus was.
. The term son of David to mean a descendant of King David is well established in biblical and extra-biblical literature. The full term is not capitalized because no one expected the son of David to be Deity.
. Some Jewish writings, such as the biblical book of Psalm, occasionally have the word Pause, suggesting a time to reflect upon what was written.
. Barclay, Jesus. 231.
. Lee, The Galilean Jewishness of Jesus. 72-73; Mellowes and Cran, Executive Producers. From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians. (DVD). Part 1; See “Pax Romana” in Appendix 26.
. The author’s doctoral dissertation was a study on the differences of 20th century Israelis and Palestinians. For more information, download his book REALITY DENIED: The Inconvenient Truth About the Middle East Conflict.
. See 03.05.10; Josephus, Antiquities 13.14.2 and Wars 1.4.1, 6. See also Dead Sea Scroll Fragment 4QpNahum.
. See 03.05.14.
. See 03.05.26 and the Old Testament book of Obadiah.