A Bible Study
by Jack Kelley
We touched on this topic briefly in our recent Bible study on Daniel 8. For those of you who were there, or will download the soon-to-be released MP-3 here’s the rest of the story. But even if you weren’t there or aren’t following our Daniel study, I think you’ll agree that this is a fascinating account of how God used a Prophet, a Priest, and a King to prepare the world to receive the Gospel. Alexander The Great was born in 356 BC to Philip, King of Macedonia, and Olympias, his wife. As a boy he saw how his Greek countrymen, a loose knit group of autonomous tribes, experienced impossible difficulties in uniting together into a strong cohesive force. Because of this the Persians, rulers of the known world, kept them under subjugation. Alexander was particularly incensed when the Persians defeated and humiliated his father, treating his people cruelly.
He determined that their problems were due primarily to an inability to communicate clearly with one another due to the many individual dialects they had developed. This caused misunderstanding and distrust, which resulted in a reluctance to fully commit to one another.
With the help of his father Phillip, Alexander invented a new language, later called common Greek or Koinonia, taught it to the tribal chieftains and convinced them to use it when communicating with each other. Soon their disagreements were resolved and their mutual trust restored. What had been a rag-tag mob of self-interested tribal factions was on the road to becoming a powerful cohesive army.
When Phillip was killed through the treachery of the Persians, Alexander at age 20 became King of the now unified Greece, and vowed revenge. Bringing his newly trained army onto the battlefield at Issus, Alexander first defeated the Persians in 333 BC. Two years later he crushed the 100 thousand strong Persian army with just 40 thousand of his own men, giving him access to all of Asia Minor or what we would call the Middle East. This fulfilled a prophecy in Daniel 8:5-7.
Before his death, King Phillip had told his son that Macedonia was too small for him, and that he should set his sights on Persia and then the entire world.
Having defeated the Persians, Alexander set about accomplishing the rest of his goal. He quickly gobbled up Antioch, Damascus and Sidon and found himself outside Tyre, a formidable target that great generals of the past had been unable to subdue. To fortify itself this mainland Phoenician city had literally been dismantled and rebuilt on a small island offshore. The Phoenicians (modern Lebanese) were accomplished sailors and had no trouble defending themselves from the weaker navies of their would be attackers. Replenishing themselves by sea, they could endure endless siege from land forces as well. The Assyrians had spent 5 years in a failing effort to defeat them, and even the Great Nebuchadnezzar gave up after a 13 year siege. (As a reward for his noble effort, the LORD gave Nebuchadnezzar all of Egypt (Ezek. 29:17-20) as a consolation prize.)
So powerful and rich had the city of Tyre become that its King presumed himself to be the personification of the Phoenician god Melkarth, ruler of the seas. This so angered the LORD that He declared destruction on Tyre (Ezek. 28:1-10) and chose the Greeks as His instrument. Alexander scraped up the remains of the dismantled mainland city and began building a causeway out to the island. Within 7 months he had completed his land bridge and defeated the island fortress in fulfillment of Zech 9:1-4. The Philistine coastal cities named in Zech 9:5-8 fared no better.
Now Alexander set his sights on Jerusalem. The High Priest Jeduah had refused his earlier demand for provisions and men to help him conquer Tyre claiming that a treaty with Persia prevented Israel from helping the Greeks. Alexander was now intent upon showing the Jews who they should have made treaties with. In terror Jeduah and all of Jerusalem sought the LORD in prayer and sacrifice. The Lord told them not to worry, but to get dressed in all their finery, open the gates and go out to greet Alexander when he arrived.
They did just that. In all their white linen, purple robes and golden headdresses the priests gathered behind Jeduah, threw open the gates to the city, and went to meet Alexander. Stunned by this greeting, Alexander dismounted and bowed down before Jeduah. The Jews couldn’t believe their eyes! When they asked him about it, Alexander replied, “I didn’t pay homage to Jeduah, but to the God Who made him His High Priest.” Then he went up to the Temple and made sacrifice to the LORD, sparing the city. At the Temple he told them the reason for his actions.
“One night several years ago when I couldn’t sleep for thinking about how I might defeat the Persians I had a vision in which I saw this man (pointing to Jeduah) and all his priests dressed and gathered before me just as I saw them today. In my vision Jeduah told me the LORD would guide my armies and would lead me to victory against all my enemies including the Persians. He told me not to delay but to proceed immediately. A short time later I defeated the Persians and today outside Jerusalem the vision became reality.”
Then Jeduah brought out the scroll of Daniel written 200 years earlier and pointed to the portion we would call chapter 8 in which Daniel’s vision of a one-horned goat defeating a ram represents a king from Greece defeating the Persians. The angel Gabriel had personally explained this to Daniel (Daniel 8:20-21), and Alexander understood that he was that king. From that time forward Alexander gave the Jews great privilege in his kingdom often appointing them as administrators over cities he conquered. As for these cities, many of them flung open their gates just as the LORD had commanded Jeduah, hoping for similar favor. And so Alexander conquered many of them without a fight.
Remembering the success he had in unifying the Greek tribes with a common language, Alexander enforced the use of his common Greek wherever he went. It was his way of assuring peace in his kingdom. Within a short span of time all of the known world could read and speak Greek no matter what their native tongue. It was the world’s official language even during Roman times several hundred years later.
And so it was that when the Gospels were first written and circulated, and when the Apostle Paul wrote and spoke to audiences from northern Africa around the Eastern end of the Mediterranean and all the way up into middle Europe, the language in which the Good News was shared and understood was Alexander’s common Greek.
The Prophet Daniel had foretold it, the Priest Jeduah had enacted it, and the King Alexander had fulfilled it. But long before the foundations of the world were laid, the One Who is all three, Prophet, Priest, and King, had decreed it.