By Karen Thompson
Second in a Three-Part Series
This is our second post in a three-part series on Alexander the Great in prophecy. It’s surprising to people just how often Alexander the Great pops up in prophecy. Actually, Alexander and his Grecian Empire are very important to end time prophecy. We’ve been looking at a prophecy about Alexander the Great in Zechariah chapter nine. In the previous post, we talked about how Zechariah prophesied the Grecian invasion of Persia by Alexander the Great. We went through the eight-verse prophecy and defined some of the phraseology and went over some of the facts and history of the cities. Today we’re going to see how Alexander’s invasion of Persia is a fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy.
Three Keys to Understand End Time Prophecy
There are three keys necessary to open up the secrets and mysteries of end time prophecy. First, you must have the “mind of Christ” as stated in 1st Corinthians chapter two: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. … but we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:12–16). Simply put, it is impossible for the natural mind to understand the hidden mysteries of end time prophecies. They must be spiritually discerned. God Himself must reveal them to us by His Spirit.
Secondly, you must crack what I call the “symbol code.” Prophecies contain many symbols, and in order to rightly interpret the prophecy, you must understand what the symbols represent.
Thirdly, you must know a little of the history of the nations in Daniel’s prophecies. All the dreams and visions in the book of Daniel predict historical events. Some of these events have already come to pass, but some events are still future events waiting to unfold. Trust me, without a familiarity of the historical events of the nations involved in Daniel’s prophecies, it is impossible to discern the mysteries in Daniel.
Alexander the Great
To refresh your memory about Alexander the Great, let’s go over a few basic facts. 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. Barely escaping with his life, 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 determined his navy wasn’t strong enough to go up against the navy of the Great King, so he changed his war strategy to a land-based campaign. That meant he would have 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. Let’s look at Zechariah’s prophecy again:
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)
Zechariah’s prophetic ministry was between 520 and 480 BC. That means Zechariah prophesied Alexander’s war strategy approximately 150 to 180 years before Alexander’s first battle with the Persian king. Let’s start our examination of Alexander’s invasion of the Persian Empire and see how it is a fulfillment of Zechariah’s eight-verse prophecy. In these verses, the cities are listed in the exact order in which Alexander conquered them, starting with the city of Damascus and going south all the way down the Mediterranean coast.
Author Peter Green writes in exciting detail about Alexander’s war on Persia in his book, Alexander of Macedon. Most, but not all, of the following information is taken from his book.
Verse 1: “The burden of the word of the Lord in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof…”
After Alexander’s victorious battle of Issus which resulted in the Persian king fleeing to Susa, Alexander sent his general, Parmenio, to Damascus to confiscate all of the Persian king’s treasure stored there. When Parmenio was about four miles away from Damascus, he was met by a messenger sent from the governor of Damascus to surrender the city to Alexander. Damascus was an ancient city even then, and its governor knew it could not withstand an attack, so he sent word to Alexander that he could come and take the treasures of Darius. The treasure was significant: it took 7,000 pack animals to carry all of it away.
Verse 2: “And Hamath also shall border thereby…”
Hamath was a city located in western Syria on the banks of the Orontes River in close proximity to Damascus.
Verse 2–4: “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.”
Next, Alexander came to Sidon, which was a great commercial port on the coast in what is now present-day Lebanon. Those in the city of Sidon welcomed Alexander for they hated their Persian rulers. Consequently, Alexander captured this city without having to do battle.
After that, Alexander came to Tyre. The people of Tyre were loyal to the Persian Empire and refused to surrender. Tyre was a powerful and wealthy city, located on an island about a half mile from the coastal shore. Its navy was formidable. The original city of Tyre was located on the banks of present-day Lebanon. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it. Afterward, the survivors of Tyre relocated to the rocky island just a half mile out and, in time, the city grew in power and wealth. The walls surrounding it were 150 feet tall. They refused to surrender to Alexander, because they trusted in their natural and manmade defenses and believed they were impenetrable. The one-half mile channel between the island and the shore was 20-feet deep and was subject to devastating winds. Without ships, they assumed Alexander would never be able to scale Tyre’s walls. They thought they were safe from attack.
Alexander came close to abandoning the idea of invading Tyre, but he changed his mind after they murdered the ambassadors he sent to negotiate peace. After that, Alexander was determined to gain control of the city no matter how long it took. He decided upon building a structure in the water called a mole, from the shore to the island upon which Alexander’s army would cross over. The mole Alexander’s engineers created was an immense structure made up of stone, trees, and other objects placed in the water to create a pier of sorts. It would be the longest and most arduous military operation of his career. He began by having his men gather the stones and timber from Old Tyre’s ruins to begin building his structure. His engineers began by dumping the stones and pouring sand in the water. On top of the stones and sand, they placed the timbers. This fulfilled Ezekiel’s prophetic word in chapter 26:12 that said, “…and they shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the water.”
When they first began their building project, the Tyrians mocked and laughed at them. They would row boats close to Alexander’s builders and make rude comments to them. But after a while, they stopped laughing when they saw Alexander’s building project beginning to take shape. They began to evacuate the women and children from the city and engaged in attempts to stop the project before it could be completed.
Alexander began his project in January 332 and finished it July 332 BC. When Alexander’s men were able to penetrate one of Tyre’s walls, his men flooded into the city. Seven thousand Tyrians died in the battle. Tyre’s king, Azimilik, and many of the city’s important people were in the temple of Melkart. Alexander spared their lives. He sold the 30,000 survivors into slavery but killed two thousand men of military age. He burned the city to the ground. To this day, Alexander’s causeway still exists. Over the centuries, it grew even wider due to the river’s accumulating silt. Today, it’s buried under modern asphalt.
Verse 5: “Ashkelon shall see it, and fear … and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited.”
After the victory of Tyre, cities were quick to surrender to Alexander. Ashkelon was one of the cities that surrendered to Alexander without a fight. Being one of the famed five Philistine cities, it was a large seaport in what was the land of Canaan, present-day Israel. Ashkelon was a little over eight miles north of Gaza. The prophecy didn’t say Ashkelon would be destroyed; it said it “shall not be inhabited.” Young’s Literal Translation interprets the phrase “shall not be inhabited” as “Ashkelon doth not remain….” The prophet Jeremiah also prophesied about the destruction of the Philistine cities. In Jeremiah 47:5, he says “Ashkelon is cut off with the remnant of their valley….”
Verse 5: “Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful … and the king shall perish from Gaza…”
Gaza, another of the five famed Philistine cities, chose not to surrender to Alexander. They believed their city was sufficiently fortified and could withstand an attack. But it did, indeed, fall to Alexander and verse five tells us the consequences of its resistance: “The king shall perish from Gaza.” Very often in scripture, significant details are recorded in a matter-of-fact way when they are anything but matter-of-fact.
Gaza’s king, Batis, put up a strong fight. It took two months before Alexander was able to bring Gaza down. In the process, Alexander received a severe wound from which he nearly bled to death. When he finally penetrated the city, he killed its 10,000 defenders. He sold the women and children into slavery. The king was brought before Alexander. Batis was defiant and refused to answer Alexander’s questions or even beg for mercy. It was said he was fat and ugly. It was commonly known that Alexander openly hated ugly people. At this point, Alexander was in a bad mood after his battle with Tyre and his nearly fatal wound, and he wasn’t inclined to show mercy. Alexander ordered that thongs be passed through Batis’ ankles and then he was to be dragged behind a chariot as it raced around the walls of Gaza until he died.
Verse 5: “…and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed…” 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.”
Verse five says, “Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed….” Ekron was counting on the city of Tyre to withstand Alexander, and when Tyre fell to Alexander, Ekron’s expectation was “ashamed,” meaning disappointed. If the powerful city of Tyre could not withstand Alexander, then surely they would not be able to withstand him either.
Notice verse six: “I will cut off the pride of the Philistines.” The “pride of the Philistines” was its five prominent cities: Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath. (As noted in the last post, only four of the five cities are listed. Gath no longer existed.) Alexander had already taken out Gaza and Ashkelon. The remaining cities of Ekron and Ashdod, both coastal cities in what is present-day Israel, would also fall to Alexander. When Alexander conquered Ekron and Ashdod, he fulfilled Zechariah’s words, “I will cut off the pride of the Philistines.”
Let’s look at verse seven: “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….” The phrase “blood in his mouth and meat between his teeth” is a reference to eating the sacrifices made to false gods and idols. These sacrifices were to cease. Then we are told why these sacrifices to false gods would cease in the last portion of verse seven: “…he that remaineth, even he, shall be for our God, and he shall be as a governor in Judah, and Ekron as a Jebusite.” This passage can be better understood when you know what happened to the Jebusites.
The Jebusites were from the city of Jebus, the city that King David conquered and renamed Jerusalem. The Jebusites were never totally wiped out; they were absorbed into the Israeli community and eventually began to worship the God of the Israelites. What verse seven is talking about is that the same would happen to those in the cities of Ekron and Ashdod. The phrase “he that remaineth” means those that survived the war. Those that remained would eventually be absorbed and assimilated into the culture of Judah, thereby worshiping the God of the Israelites. This, however, didn’t happen immediately. It would happen eventually, over time.
After capturing all the coastal port cities, Alexander went on to fight the Persian king, Darius, in one more great battle. Alexander would win and become ruler of the Persian Empire. His time of being emperor of so large an empire was cut short when he got sick and died June 10, 323 BC at the age of 32. For days, he lie sick on his bed in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II in Babylon and could have bequeathed his empire to someone. But he did not. As the king’s friends were gathered around his bedside, someone finally asked the question that needed to be asked, “to whom would he bequeath his kingdom.” He answered, “to the strongest.”
If you’re serious about studying end time prophecy, then part of your study time should include reading about these ancient nations. One of my favorite books is by Peter Green: “Alexander of Macedon 356-323 B.C.: A Historical Biography.” It’s what I call a “5 p.m. book”: I couldn’t wait until 5 o’clock came so I could clock out from work and go home and read my book some more. I recommend this book.
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