Alexander the Great in Prophecy

By Karen Thompson
Third in a Three-Part Series

The Lord Has His Eye on Israel

This is the last post in a three-part series on Alexander the Great in prophecy. We’ve been looking at an eight-verse prophecy by Zechariah about the invasion and conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great. So far we’ve discussed how Alexander the Great fulfilled Zechariah’s small eight-verse prophetic word in Zechariah chapter nine. The only verse we have not yet discussed is the very last verse—verse eight. It is a prophetic word about the protection of Israel, and like the first seven verses, it too has already been fulfilled. With regard to the prophetic word in verse eight, there is a very interesting and strange addendum. We’re going to look at that too. History has the best stories!

A Review of How Alexander the Great Conquered the Persian Empire

Let’s do a little recap of the first two posts concerning Alexander the Great in prophecy. 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 huge blow for Darius. If he had stayed on the battlefield, he would have been defeated and most likely killed. He had no choice but to flee from the battle and go 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 prophesied about Alexander’s war plan.

We saw how Alexander fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy when he captured all the port cities in preparation to face the Great King in battle once again. This strategy worked. After capturing all the coastal cities, Alexander went on to fight the Persian king, Darius, in one more great battle. Alexander defeated the Persian king and became ruler of the Persian Empire.

There is only one verse we have yet to study in this eight-verse prophecy. Let’s look at Zechariah’s entire prophecy again:

1 “The burden or oracle (the thing to be lifted up) of the word of the Lord is against the land of Hadrach [in Syria], and Damascus shall be its resting place, for the Lord has an eye upon mankind as upon all the tribes of Israel, 2 And Hamath also, which borders on [Damascus], Tyre with Sidon, though they are very wise. 3 And Tyre has built herself a stronghold [on an island a half mile from the shore, which seems impregnable], and heaped up silver like dust and fine gold like the mire of the streets. 4 Behold, the Lord will cast her out and dispossess her; He will smite her power in the sea and into it and [Tyre] shall be devoured by fire. 5 [The strong cities of Philistia] shall see it and fear; Ashkelon, Gaza also, and be sorely pained, and Ekron, for her confidence and expectation shall be put to shame, and a king [monarchial government] shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited. 6 And a mongrel people shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will put an end to the pride of the Philistines. 7 And I will take out of [the Philistines’] mouths and from between their teeth the abominable idolatrous sacrifices eaten with the blood. And they too shall remain and be a remnant for our God, and they shall be like chieftains (the head over a thousand) in Judah, and Ekron shall be like one of the Jebusites [who at last were merged and had lost their identity in Israel]. 8 Then I will encamp about My house as a guard or a garrison so that none shall march back and forth, and no oppressor or demanding collector shall again overrun them, for now My eyes are upon them.” (Zec. 9:1–8 Amp.)

The Eyes of the Lord

I want us to focus on the last part of verse one when it says the eyes of the Lord “…being upon mankind as upon all the tribes of Israel” (Zec. 9:1 Amp.). It says the Lord had His eyes on the nations and Israel. Then the prophecy lists the various cities the Lord had His eye upon—Damascus, Hamath, Tyre, Sidon, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, Ashdod. These cities were all taken by Alexander the Great. But what is missing in this list of cities is Jerusalem. Remember, verse one said God’s eye was upon mankind and Israel. Yet we didn’t read anything about Israel in Alexander’s battle plan. Well, now we come to verse eight where we read about Israel. Let’s look at it again:

“Then I will encamp about My house as a guard or a garrison so that none shall march back and forth, and no oppressor or demanding collector shall again overrun them, for now My eyes are upon them.” (Amp.)

Here the Lord says He is going to camp around His house, which is to say His temple. The temple is in Jerusalem, so we know this phrase is talking about Jerusalem. And then it tells us the reason the Lord will encamp around Jerusalem is “so that none shall march back and forth,” meaning the armies passing back and forth during that time. What armies? The armies we’ve been reading about—the armies of Alexander the Great and the armies of the cities he invaded.

During that time, the Lord kept Jerusalem safe when there were a lot of battles taking place in that part of the world. The Lord Himself was encamped around His temple. I’m sure if we could have seen into the unseen realm, we would have been able to see the Lord’s army of angels surrounding Israel. Jerusalem was kept safe from all the wars going on all around it. Jerusalem escaped all the turmoil. What was happening to the other cities did not come near Jerusalem. Alexander never invaded Jerusalem. No other armies came near it. They were kept out of the fighting, kept out of having to join sides. Jerusalem was, indeed, kept safe because God had His eye upon Jerusalem.

False Story About Alexander and Jerusalem

Now we come to the very curious addendum to this story. With regard to Zechariah’s prophecy that no armies would come near Jerusalem at this time, Peter Green made an interesting comment about this time in history in his book, Alexander of Macedon 356-323 B.C.: A Historical Biography. There has long been this story that “Alexander made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.” Mr. Green said this claim is “mere pious legend.” I’ve read about this same claim in other books about Alexander. The authors all bring up this legend that Alexander made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and made an offering to the God of the Jews. They all say it’s malarkey. Didn’t happen.

The story goes that while Alexander was besieging Tyre, he sent a message to the high priest in Jerusalem to send him men for backup and provisions for his army. Alexander said that whatever monies they were giving to the Persian king they should now give to him. The story goes that the high priest responded to Alexander’s demands by saying they had made an oath not to bear arms against Darius, the Persian king. They were going to stay loyal to that oath. Upon hearing the message, Alexander became angry. He vowed that when he was done with Tyre, he would go to Jerusalem and teach them to whom they should keep an oath.

True to his word, Alexander marched with his army toward Jerusalem, determined to teach them a lesson. When he was close to the city, the high priest came out in procession to meet Alexander, with the priests and citizens following. But when Alexander saw the high priest, the strangest thing happened. Alexander approached the procession alone, without his army. And, astonishingly, instead of tearing into him, he was respectful to the high priest.

Later, one of his generals asked him why he showed respect to the high priest. Alexander said before he ever began his war with Persia, he saw the high priest in a dream and the man in his dream told him not to delay going forth to war because he would be victorious over the Persians. As the story goes, Alexander went inside the city and sacrificed to the God of the Jews. Then they showed him Daniel’s prophecies revealing that a Greek would destroy the empire of the Persians. And, of course, as the story goes, Alexander presumed he was that man. Then Alexander asked them what favors they wanted from him and he magnanimously granted them.

They say the best lies are the ones that have a lot of details. Well that makes this story a good lie, because there are many more details to the story. But as far as history goes, the most important detail is that it was an entire fabrication. Alexander never demanded help from the high priest, and he never even came near Jerusalem.

Whoever manufactured this story didn’t realize they were actually contradicting Zechariah’s prophecy that the Lord said He would “encamp about My house as a guard or a garrison so that none shall march back and forth, and no oppressor or demanding collector shall again overrun them, for now My eyes are upon them.” (Amp.) No armies came near Jerusalem during that time, because the Lord was protecting Jerusalem with His own army in the unseen realm.

Zechariah Wrote His Prophecies in Circles

I want to leave you with a Fun Fact. Did you know that Zechariah wrote his prophecies so they began and ended in the same place, making circles? You can see that in this little eight-verse prophecy. For instance, his prophetic word began in verse one with the eyes of the Lord: “The burden or oracle (the thing to be lifted up) of the word of the Lord is against the land of Hadrach [in Syria], and Damascus shall be its resting place, for the Lord has an eye upon mankind as upon all the tribes of Israel, (Amp.) And it ends in verse eight with the Lord’s eyes: “Then I will encamp about My house as a guard or a garrison so that none shall march back and forth, and no oppressor or demanding collector shall again overrun them, for now My eyes are upon them” (Amp.).

When something begins and ends in the same place, it’s called a full circle.

Another example is in Zechariah chapters seven and eight. These two chapters actually contain one long prophetic word. It begins by talking about two Jewish men, Sherezer and Regemmelech, coming to Jerusalem to seek the Lord in prayer. And at the end of chapter eight, it talks about people coming to Jerusalem for the purpose of seeking the Lord in prayer: “Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts.” (Zec. 8:21)

Another example of Zechariah writing in circles is in his eight visions, which are contained in chapters one through six. The first vision describes multi-colored horses (red, speckled, white) that the Lord “sent to walk to and fro through the earth,” for the purpose of scouting the nations. Their report: “We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.” (vv. 8–11) Then in chapter six, the last vision also involves multi-colored horses (red, black, white, grisled) who were also sent “to and fro throughout the earth” (vv. 2–7). It says about the mission of the black horses, “These that go toward the north country have quieted my spirit in the north country” (v. 8).

There are other examples, but I’ve run out of space! It’s one of those little tidbits that makes Bible study fun and interesting.

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In agony, the little email cried out, “Please don’t send me to an early grave! Please forward me on!”

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