Malachi was the last prophetic voice in Israel before the time of Jesus. Between his time, and the time of Christ was a span of about 400 years. Significant events happened in world history that helped set the stage for the coming Messiah.
“During this time, [God] rearranged the scenes of history, much as a stage crew will rearrange the stage sets after the curtain has fallen, and when the curtain rises again there is an entirely new setting” (Ray C. Stedman, raystedman.org). During these 400 years, the Middle East had become under the control of several other nations—the Medes, the Persians, the Greeks and—by the time Jesus arrived on the scene—the Roman Empire.
Therefore, Israel had no more kings, which could have had a part to play in the silence of the prophets. Prophets were usually the voice of God to the nation. During the prophetic era, “the nation” was represented by a king. So prophets were usually the oracle from God to kings.
During the “silent era” Israel’s religious leadership split between three parties: The Pharisees (conservatives), Sadducees (liberals) and the Essenes (a smaller sect which later gave us the Dead Sea Scrolls).
Throughout the social, political and religious upheaval of this time, a greater expectancy for the promised Messiah had developed—people were watching, waiting and expecting Him to come—the warrior Messiah who would save Israel from its enemies and rule on David’s throne in Jerusalem and give Israel peace and prosperity forever.
Apologeticspress.org states that another significant item had to develop: a way for the Gospel to spread among the Gentiles. Romans built road systems that united the Roman Empire, which made it easier for Christians to eventually spread the Gospel to the Gentiles. The Greek language spread throughout the world which gave a unified language to the world, making it easier for the Apostles to spread the Gospel.
We can reiterate what Paul the Apostle said about the time in which Jesus came: that it was “the fullness of the time” (Galatians 4:4), which indicates that these 400 years had to occur, and its history had to unfold as it did for the Messiah to make his move and for these prophecies to be fulfilled.