By Karen Thompson
First in a Three-Part Series
Alexander the Great
I’d like to begin posting about Daniel’s visions he had about end times. When believers decide to start studying end time prophecy, they almost always start with the book of Revelation. But that’s a mistake. Why? Because it’s impossible to understand the book of Revelation unless you have a firm grasp on the book of Daniel. Daniel’s end time visions lay the foundation for what the apostle John saw in his revelation of end times. But before we study Daniel’s visions, it would be beneficial to do a little study on one of the prophet Zechariah’s prophecies. It’s a small prophecy about Alexander the Great, just eight verses long. You would be surprised at how often the prophets prophesy about Alexander the Great. Especially Daniel. In fact, the Grecian Empire plays an important part in Daniel’s visions. As I’ve said before, in order to interpret end time prophecy, one has to know the history of the nations involved. For that reason, we’re going to look at the rise of the Grecian Empire, more specifically, its first king—Alexander the Great. That’s where Zechariah comes in. Astonishingly, Zechariah prophesied the actual war plan of Alexander the Great approximately 180 years before Alexander’s first battle with Darius, Persia’s king, ever took place. The accuracy is amazing! Studying this prophecy is a great opportunity to get to know the details of Alexander the Great. It will help you better understand Daniel’s visions.
Having a basic knowledge of the Grecian Empire is key to understanding particular end time prophecies, so let’s go over some basic facts about Alexander the Great. At 22 years of age in the year 334 BC, Alexander the Great led an army of 50,000 men into battle against the Persians. In just 10 years of military campaign, he conquered the entire Middle East. Alexander fought and won his first battle against Darius III, the king of Persia, in May of 334 BC at the Granicus River in northwestern Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). He fought and won his second battle in November 333 BC at the Battle at Issus (present-day Turkey). This was a devastating loss for Darius. With just the clothes on his back, Darius fled from the place of battle and went back to Susa, the capital of Persia (Iran).
Alexander figured it would take the Great King about a year to muster up another army, so he began to make preparations for when that time came. Alexander realized he didn’t have enough ships to engage in battle the Great King’s formidable navy, so he changed his war strategy to a land-based campaign. He knew he had to take control of all the port cities along the Mediterranean coast in order to cut off Darius’ ships from bringing backup and supplies. It’s at this point where the prophet Zechariah began to prophesy about Alexander’s taking of the port cities.
Zechariah’s Prophecy About the Rise of Alexander the Great
Let’s begin by looking at Zechariah’s eight-verse long prophetic word regarding Alexander’s taking of the port cities along the Mediterranean coast.
1 The burden of the word of the Lord in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the Lord. 2 And Hamath also shall border thereby; Tyrus, and Zidon, though it be very wise. 3 And Tyrus did build herself a strong hold, and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets. 4 Behold, the Lord will cast her out, and he will smite her power in the sea; and she shall be devoured with fire. 5 Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful, and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed; and the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited. 6 And a bastard shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines. 7 And I will take away his blood out of his mouth, and his abominations from between his teeth: but he that remaineth, even he, shall be for our God, and he shall be as a governor in Judah, and Ekron as a Jebusite. 8 And I will encamp about mine house because of the army, because of him that passeth by, and because of him that returneth: and no oppressor shall pass through them any more: for now have I seen with mine eyes. (Zec. 9:1–8)
This prophetic word has long been fulfilled. You might wonder, “Why bother even studying it if it doesn’t have anything to do with end times”? There are three reasons. First, all prophecy should be interpreted and understood. Second, when people don’t realize this prophecy is about past events that have already been fulfilled, they try to interpret it as a future event. (I’ve seen it happen.) And lastly, the event of the rise of the Grecian Empire is critical to understanding Daniel’s prophetic words regarding end times. The more you understand about the Grecian Empire, the better.
In these eight verses, Zechariah prophesied Alexander’s invasion of the Persian Empire. The accuracy of his prophecy was so precise that no Bible scholar would ever try to apply this prophetic word to anything other than Alexander’s plan to capture the port cities.
Before we go over this portion of scripture to examine Alexander’s invasion of Persia, I want to first go through these eight verses and define some of the phraseology and go over some of the facts and history of the cities.
A Preliminary Review of the Prophecy
Verse 1: “The burden of the word of the Lord in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof…”
We’ll go verse by verse, starting with verse one. The prophecy starts out by saying, “The burden of the word of the Lord…” This phraseology is used to express an oracle, or utterance, that foretells a message that is unpleasant. In this case, the burden, or unpleasant prophetic word, is for the cities listed in these eight verses.
Verse one continues: “…in the land of Hadrach and Damascus….” Both Hadrach and Damascus were ancient cities in modern-day Syria. The city of Damascus still exists today and is the capital city of Syria.
Let’s look at the next phrase: “…and Damascus shall be the rest thereof.” The NIV says, “and will come to rest on Damascus.” This means the oracle will go as far as Damascus.
The next phrase reads, “…when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the Lord.” It’s difficult to know for sure what this verse means as it’s one of those phrases about which translators don’t agree. A few other translations translate the phrase “the eyes of man” to “the eyes of the Lord.” For instance, the Amplified version of the Bible translates it as the Lord’s eyes will be upon mankind: “for the Lord has an eye upon mankind as upon all the tribes of Israel…” The Darby version says, “for Jehovah hath an eye upon men, and upon all the tribes of Israel.” Because of the context of the verses that follow, I prefer the translations that say the Lord’s eyes will be upon mankind.
Verse 2: “And Hamath also shall border thereby; Tyrus, and Zidon, though it be very wise.”
Verse two says, “And Hamath also shall border thereby….” Hamath was an ancient city conquered by Solomon (2 Chron. 8:3). No one is sure of its exact location, because it no longer exists. But since it says it’s on the border of Damascus, it was most assuredly located in Syria as well.
The last part of verse two says, “Tyrus, and Zidon, though it be very wise.” Tyrus and Zidon are different spellings of the cities of Tyre and Sidon; both were located on the coast of present-day Lebanon with Sidon located north of Tyre.
The city of Tyre is well known in the Bible. Both Ezekiel and Zechariah prophesied its destruction. Its destruction would come in two stages, first by Nebuchadnezzar and then by Alexander the Great. The city of Tyre was immensely wealthy and had gotten its wealth through its seafaring merchants (Isa. 23:8). The phrase “though it be very wise,” is a reflection of the attitude of the king of Tyre. He had a prideful heart. Ezekiel prophesied about the prideful attitude of the king of Tyre, who thought of himself as a god: “I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas” (Eze. 28:2). The city’s wealth was a contributing factor to the king’s overwhelming pride: “With thy wisdom and with thine understanding thou hast gotten thee riches, and hast gotten gold and silver into thy treasures…” (Eze. 28:4).
Verses 3 and 4: “And Tyrus did build herself a strong hold, and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets. 4 Behold, the Lord will cast her out, and he will smite her power in the sea; and she shall be devoured with fire.”
In these verses, Zechariah prophesied the wealthy city of Tyre would be destroyed. Zechariah’s prophecy about the destruction of Tyre would be fulfilled by Alexander the Great. The prophet Ezekiel also prophesied about Tyre’s destruction, but his prophecy would be fulfilled by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar.
Originally, Tyre was located on the coast line. Ezekiel’s prophetic word came true when Nebuchadnezzar came against Tyre and brought it down after a 13-year campaign (585–572 BC). After that, Tyre was never rebuilt or inhabited, fulfilling Ezekiel 26:14, 20. The citizens that escaped Tyre moved out to an island about a half mile from the shore. They built that up and it became the New Tyre, and it was just as wealthy and powerful as the Old Tyre. New Tyre was very famous for her power on the sea. Zechariah’s prophetic word against New Tyre would be fulfilled when Alexander the Great came against it and burned it down in 332 B.C.
Verse 5: “Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful, and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed; and the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited.”
Let’s look at verse five. When Tyre is destroyed, the news of it will go out and terrify the surrounding cites. Upon hearing of Tyre’s destruction, Ashkelon will be frightened. Gaza will also hear about it and become very sorrowful. It says Ekron, “for her expectation shall be ashamed,” which means she, the city, will lose all hope in being able to dispel the army that took down Tyre.
The city of Tyre was considered to be unconquerable. So when these other cities saw Alexander was able to take down the mighty and powerful city of Tyre, they realized they didn’t have a chance against Alexander.
Verse 6: “And a bastard shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines.”
Verse six says, “a bastard shall dwell in Ashdod…” which means an alien (or foreign) people will take over Ashdod.
The last part of verse six says, “I will cut off the pride of the Philistines.” The pride of the Philistines was its five prominent city-states: Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath, all located on the Mediterranean coast. Gath is the only city not mentioned in this passage as it no longer existed at that time. (Fun fact: Gath is where the giant Goliath was from [1st Sam. 17:4]).
In the next post, we’ll see how Zechariah’s prophecy is a fulfillment of Alexander’s taking of the port cities.
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