In 538 B.C.E., Cyrus, The King of Persia, who had conquered Babylonia, allowed The Jews to return to Eretz Yisrael. A third of The Jews choose to come back to Eretz Yisrael and the rest stayed in Babylonia under Persian rule. Among some of the Jews who returned to Eretz Yisrael were Ezra and Nehemiah who were born in Babylonia. They put together The Bible and started to form relgious traditions and culture. They started the weekly reading of The Torah. The Jews that stayed in Babylonia under Persian rule are the Jews that the story of Purim happened to. They also introduced alot of Persian names into Hebrew including Mordechai, Esther, and the names of the months of The Jewish Calendar. Cyrus allowed The Jews to create The Commonwealth of Judea and gave them autonomy, allowed religious freedom, and allowed the reconstruction of The Temple. Cyrus is the only Non-Jew in The Bible referred to as Meshiach since he allowed The Return to Zion. The Second Temple was built in 515 B.C.E.. The Commenwealth of Judea was a theocratic regime ruled by The Kohanim who held all relations with the Persian rulers. Judean coins were issued that said Yehuda in ancient Hebrew letters. It says the same thing today on the back of 1 shekel coins.
A couple hundred years later, The Greeks under Alexander The Great conquered Eretz Yisrael. When Alexander died, his territory was divided between 3 of his generals. Eretz Yisrael was ruled by The Ptolemaic Dynasty out of Egypt between 300 B.C.E. to 200 B.C.E.. The Greeks spread their language, culture, art, and architecture. Starting in 250 B.C.E., Jews started translating The Bible into Greek for other Jews. They did this since some Jews moved to Alexandria, Egypt, and only spoke Greek, which was the language of Egypt. This translation is called The Septuaguta because 70 people translated it. When Jews translated The Bible, they had to learn Greek and therefore came into contact with Greek culture, which outside of Greece was called Hellenistic culture. The polytheistic Hellenistic culture clashed with monotheistic Jewish culture. Some Jews wanted to adopt Hellenistic culture and didn't want to follow Judaism while others wanted to preserve Jewish tradition.
After the end of Ptolemaic rule out of Egypt, Eretz Yisrael was ruled by The Seleucid Dynasty out of Antioch, Syria. There were a number of kings named Antiochus. Antiochus IV defiled The Temple to steal the valuables to sell and he put pigs and a statue to Zeus in it. He made it illegal to study Torah, perform brit milah, and to declare Rosh Chodesh. The Hasmoneans, a family of Kohanim, also known as The Maccabees, led by Judah Maccabee decided that that was enough of Greek rule. They led a revolt against Antiochus and Syrian-Greek rule. In 166 B.C.E., Jerusalem was liberated and The Temple was rededicated on 25 Kislev. The holiday of Hanukkah was made for 8 days starting on 25 Kislev to comemmorate the victory. It was originally celebrated to compensate for the 8 days of Sukkot left uncelebrated that year. Judah Maccabbe and his colleagues made this decision and it was immidiately accepted with the rededication of the altar and they even urged upon the Jewish communities of Egypt to embrace as well. As the 8 days came to a close that year, another resolution was accepted. That resolution was to celebrate 8 days of the rededication of the altar on an annual basis as a means of eternalizing this sanctuary based holiday. When they rededicated The Temple, they only found enough pure oil to last for one day, but there was a miracle and the oil lasted for the full 8 days of the original Hanukkah. This miracle was recorded in The Talmud.
In 140 B.C.E., the war was over and there was an independent Jewish Kingdom ruled by The Hasmonean Dynasty. Some of the kings were Alexander Yannai and Yochanan Hircanus. When Alexander Yannai died, his wife Shlomtzion became queen. Independence ended when The Romans entered Eretz Yisrael in 63 B.C.E..
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