At the time when the Old Testament narrative closes, the Jews were under the rule of Persia. The Persian control continued for about one hundred years more, and then gave way to the empire of Alexander the Great. Alexander was king of Macedonia, a country to the north of Greece; but the language and culture of his court were Greek. After Greece proper had been conquered by Alexander's father, Philip, Alexander himself proceeded to the conquest of the East. The Persian Empire fell in 331 b.c., and with the other Persian possessions Jerusalem came into the hands of the conqueror. In 323 b.c., when Alexander died, his vast empire, which extended around the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and to the borders of India, at once fell to pieces. But the kingdoms into which the empire was divided were to a large extent Greek kingdoms. Short-lived, therefore, as Alexander's empire was, it had the permanent effect of spreading the Greek language and Greek civilization over the Eastern world. It became thus, as will be seen, one of the most important factors in the divine preparation for the gospel.
After the death of Alexander, the country of Judea became a bone of contention between two of the kingdoms into which Alexander's empire was divided—the Greek kingdom of Syria and the Greek kingdom of Egypt. At last, however, the Syrian kingdom, with its capital at Antioch, near the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea, gained the upper hand. Judea became part of the territory of the Syrian monarchs.
In the reign of Antiochus IV of Syria, called Antiochus Epiphanes, 175–164 b.c., the Jews began a war for independence. Antiochus Epiphanes had desecrated the Temple at Jerusalem by setting up an image of a heathen god in the Holy of Holies. The result was the glorious revolt of the Jews under Mattathias and his sons—the family of the Maccabees. The Maccabean uprising, of which a stirring account has been preserved in the First Book of the Maccabees, an apocryphal book attached to the Old Testament, certainly constitutes one of the most glorious chapters in the history of liberty. The uprising was successful, and for about one hundred years the little country of the