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The Origin Of The Essenes, Sadducees And Pharisees
The corrupt kingdom of Judah (see The Southern Kingdom) was taken into captivity by the Babylonians (see Ancient Empires - Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar's Dream) as a punishment from the LORD (see 'Before Abraham Was, I AM'), where they would remain for seventy years:
"36:15 And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had Compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: 36:16 But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his Prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy. 36:17 Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand. 36:18 And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the LORD [see Raiders Of The Lost Ark], and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon. 36:19 And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof.
"Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men"
"1:1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia [see Ancient Empires - Persia], that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,
After the people of Judah rebuilt the city and the Temple, they pledged themselves to the LORD.
"8:1 And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD [i.e. Christ - see 'The God Of The Old Testament'] had commanded to Israel. 8:2 And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. 8:3 And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law." (Nehemiah 8:1-3 KJV)
It was during the many years after that return from the Babylonian exile (and later, from the time of the original abomination of the Temple - see Abomination of Desolation - Where?) that the Essenes, the Sadducees and the Pharisees were established. The people's original pledge to obey God's Law, as we read in the verses quoted above, was very good, but in their zeal to obey God's Law, over time they added many of their own "laws" and traditions that eventually overshadowed and contradicted the pure Law of God. By the time that the Messiah came, they blasphemously accused Him of being a sinner because He obeyed God's Law, rather than their traditions.
In this example, they found fault with the Son of God because He ate with "unwashen hands" - not meaning that He ate with unclean hands, but rather that He didn't make the simple task of handwashing into an elaborate ceremony as they did.
"7:1 Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. 7:2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. 7:3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. 7:4 And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables.
Fact Finder: Did some of the Pharisees later repent and become Christians, including Saul (later known as the apostle Paul) who may have been among those who had Christ put to death?