Asherah" in the temple, and "male prostitutes lived next to the temple" to carry out the homosexual acts that were part of such pagan worship rites. (2 Chronicles 34.4-7 Contemporary English Version)
God is not one to be mocked. As he had said he would a long time earlier in the law of Moses, God punished the Jews for such unfaithfulness. He used the Babylonian empire to carry out his sentence against Israel. First Judah was occupied and subjugated by emperor Nebuchadnezzar. Then, when king Zedekiah rebelled against the Babylonians, they burned Jerusalem and carried off its population as captives.
The Hebrew prophet Daniel prophesied in the royal palace of the Babylonian monarch. Later, when the Medo-Persian empire defeated Babylon, he prophesied under Cyrus the king of Persia and Darius the Mede. Finally, after a seventy year period of captivity foretold by the prophet Jeremiah, the Jews were allowed to return and rebuild Jerusalem with the blessing of the new world power. "In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: 'This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: "The LORD , the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you—may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up." ' " (2 Chronicles 36:22-23 NIV)
The restoration of the Jews to the Promised Land at the end of their Babylonian captivity gives us some insight into how God would eventually restore the Jewish people in modern times as we approach the period characterized in the Bible as the final days of this world. How did Israel manage to return to Jerusalem? Observers may not have recognized it as the hand of god. Instead, it may have appeared to be political maneuvering on the part of the world powers of the day. In fact, the Bible records those very maneuverings in considerable detail. But, it also makes it clear that these things took place as the hand of God moved behind the scenes to bring about the outcome that he had foretold through his prophets.
People who say today that the events involving Israel and Palestine are merely political events without God's intervention would probably have said the same thing back then. But God caused the seventy year captivity of the Jewish people to end precisely when he predicted that it would. And this holds great lessons for us today. Although our eyes behold only the visible maneuverings of Israeli political parties and Palestinian factions, the influence of American presidents and United Nations Secretaries General, and the climate of world opinion, behind it all the hand of God is moving again to bring about the outcome foretold in the Bible.
But, keeping that most important lesson in mind, let's return to the story of Jerusalem. The Medo-Persian empire dominated the Middle East until it fell before the armies of Alexander the Great. After Alexander's death, his empire broke into four parts. Eventually the Roman empire came to control the territory that had formerly made up the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Thus it was that Jerusalem was occupied by Roman soldiers at the time of Christ.
Jesus preached there, and he was put on trial there before Roman governor Pontius Pilate and before the Jewish Sanhedrin court. He was executed outside the city as the Scriptures about the Messiah foretold.
Shortly before his death Jesus visited the temple in Jerusalem with some of his disciples, and they pointed out to him the impressive buildings. He replied, "Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." So, later they asked him privately, "Tell us when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" (Matthew 24:2-3 NIV) The disciples actually asked Jesus a three-part question: about the destruction of the temple, about his coming, and about the end of the world, or the end of the age. In another chapter we discuss that prophecy and its fulfillment, but here we'll note that Jesus added to his prediction of the destruction of the temple, these words about the city itself: "Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Luke 21:24 NIV)
A few decades after Jesus' crucifixion, Jewish