Why is there a 400 year gap between the Old Testament and the New Testament?
There are roughly 400 years between the last prophetic word from Malachi to the birth and ministry of John the Baptist as the forerunner of Jesus. For these 400 years God is silent. During this time between the two Testaments, there were historical books written but they were not considered inspired by God.
We call these books the Old Testament Apocrypha. They contain history and stories written by Israelites, although we do not know who wrote them because some of them use the names of famous people in the Old Testament that were long since dead by the time of these writings.
It may surprise you to know that there is another time span of 400 years that God was silent in Israel’s history before this. During the time that Israel was enslaved in Egypt, God did not speak for 400 years between the time of Joseph when they went to Egypt and the time of Moses when God brought them out of Egypt by a powerful, miraculous hand.
So why does God seem to be silent for 400 years at will time? The Israelites needed to learn certain lessons throughout their history with God. It’s clear from the prophetic books written after the exile that the Israelites were not quite there yet.
Malachi 4:5-6 tells us that Elijah will return, and perhaps God was waiting to release John the Baptist, a man in the spirit of Elijah the prophet in his ministry. During these years, history continued to be made and prepare them for what God was going to do next.
But why he waited for 400 years is somewhat of a mystery. Kingdoms came and went, some of them fulfilling prophecies like in the book of Daniel. God raised up people to help Israel against their enemies, like the Maccabees.
All of the things that happened between the time of the Old Testament prophets who spoke God’s words to Israel and the coming of John the Baptist and Jesus had to happen before Jesus could come.
The best I can say is that God was preparing Israel, and the world, for the coming of Jesus and his ministry. John the Baptist’s ministry was the final preparation before Jesus was unleashed against the darkness of this world. But before all of these things everything had to be just right for God to send his son Jesus to us (Galatians 4:4-5).