Topical Studies

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What the Bible says about Alexander the Great
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Daniel 7:6

The leopard, a predator, is the among the fastest of carnivores, and with the addition of four wings, becomes especially swift. This illustration describes the astounding pace of Alexander's conquest from Greece to Egypt to India. In twelve years (334-323 BC ), he subjugated by conquest or voluntary submission the entirety of the Persian Empire and then some. This feat becomes especially astounding when it is known that this period included a seven-month siege of Tyre and three years subduing Bactria. Along with his military victories came Greek or Hellenistic culture and language, which later paved the way for the spreading of the Gospel throughout the world.

When Alexander suddenly died without an heir, his generals divided the empire into four primary kingdoms (the "four heads"). Ptolemy took Egypt and nearby lands. Seleucus received Syria, Asia Minor, and the conquered eastern nations. Lysimachus ruled Thrace and surrounding territories, and lastly, Cassander controlled Macedonia and Greece.

Thrace was later absorbed by the Seleucid Empire, and Macedonia's power was checked by the rising power of Rome. Thus, both prophecies in Daniel 2 and 7 speak of the same divided empire, the former showing political and military dominance, as well as prophetic relevance to the Holy Land, and the latter the initial governmental situation after Alexander's death.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Nebuchadnezzar's Image (Part Three): 'Belly and Thighs of Bronze'

Daniel 7:23

This fourth beast—the one that struck the most terror in Daniel's heart—is described as devouring the whole earth, trampling it, and breaking it into pieces. The Aramaic phrase translated as "the whole earth" is comprised of two words: kol (Strong's #3606) and 'ara' (Strong's #772). Considering the basic meaning of these two Aramaic words, "the whole earth" is a correct literal translation. However, this same word-combination appears in a number of other places, and it does not consistently mean the entirety of the globe or even the entirety of the civilized world.

We can see this in Daniel's explanation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream: "But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth" (Daniel 2:39, emphasis ours throughout). We understand this third kingdom to be the empire of Greece under Alexander the Great. His empire stretched from the Ionian Sea to the Himalayas, and included Anatolia, Syria, Phoenicia, Judea, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. Some would say that Alexander conquered the "known world," but this is a misnomer. Every part of the world is known to those living in it, and there were peoples living in essentially every part of the world at this time.

During Alexander's time, substantial civilizations existed in the rest of Europe, and in particular, the descendants of Israel had settled there. Unconquered tribes lived throughout Africa, Arabia, Tibet, Mongolia, not to mention the civilizations in the Americas—all were completely untroubled by Alexander. Also, ancient cultures inhabited India, the South Pacific, and the Far East. The third kingdom in Nebuchadnezzar's vision encompassed the Middle East and the Near East, but it did not rule over "all the earth," as most English-speakers would interpret the phrase. It was a "world-ruling" kingdom only for a specifically defined "world."

Therefore, if we are on the lookout for a kingdom that can devour "the whole earth," we have to understand that the scope of that Aramaic phrase can be significantly limited, and in most cases, it is. This phrase is also found in Daniel 4:1, 11, 20, where it describes the scope of Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom (which was also not truly global), and in Daniel 6:25, where King Darius writes "to all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth"—yet Darius did not have a global audience.

The one place where the phrase "the whole earth" actually does imply the entire planet is Daniel 2:35, where "the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth." This great mountain represents Jesus Christ's rule on earth, which will certainly be a world-ruling Kingdom in the fullest and truest sense of the word (see Revelation 11:15).

David C. Grabbe
The Whole Earth

Daniel 8:7

The entire Persian Empire collapsed in six years (336-330 BC) under the relentless onslaught of Alexander's troops, who never lost a battle against the larger Persian forces. It was certainly "cast down . . . and trampled" in remarkable fashion.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Nebuchadnezzar's Image (Part Two): Chest and Arms of Silver

Daniel 8:21

Daniel 8 also contains a prophecy of Greece, highlighting two major eras of the Greek Empire: its rise under Alexander and the career of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. A goat with an unusually impressive horn between its eyes—later identified as Greece and its first king, Alexander—flies powerfully out of the west and smashes against a ram with two horns, Persia. The ram, with its two horns broken, cannot fight and is trampled by the goat.

The prophecy then accurately records that Alexander died at the height of his power. Some historians contend that his drunken debauch and subsequent pneumonia, which led to his death, came as a result of there being no more lands to conquer. Others opine that though he could conquer and rule the world, he could not rule himself. Notwithstanding, since he had named no clear successor, his generals ("four notable ones," Daniel 8:8; 11:3-4), after years of intrigue and war, parceled the world among themselves.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Nebuchadnezzar's Image (Part Three): 'Belly and Thighs of Bronze'


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