The Book of Zechariah
ALEXANDER THE GREAT IN BIBLE PROPHECY - PART 2
1. I mentioned last week that although he is never mentioned by name, there are several OT prophecies concerning Alexander the Great.
2. Alexander is considered by many to be the most brilliant political and military leader the world has ever seen; yet after conquering the entire known civilized world, he drank himself to death at the age of 33.
3. Alexander was born in 356 BC in Macedonia, and his father, Philip, was the king. From the age of 13 to 16, Alexander was tutored by the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle. When Philip was assassinated in 336 BC, Alexander, at the age of 20, became king.
4. Alexander overthrew the mighty Persian Empire, and stretched his kingdom all the way to India (cf. Daniel 8:3-8, 20-22; 11:1-4).
5. Here in Zechariah 9, the Holy Spirit, through the prophet Zechariah, draws a contrast between the great human conqueror and warrior Alexander the Great, and the righteous Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ.
6. In contrast to Alexander, our Lord appeared in meekness and humility at His first advent (cf. Zech. 9:9).
7. Later, the Lord will return to establish His kingdom of peace and righteousness. This is the theme of the book of Zechariah (cf. 14:1-4, 9).
8. Alexander’s kingdom was broken up right after his death. But concerning our Lord, the Bible says, “and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:33).
I. GOD USED ALEXANDER TO PUNISH ISRAEL’S ENEMIES (9:1-4).
1. When Alexander would be conquering one nation after another, and everyone would be watching, Zechariah points out that they would actually be watching the hand of God at work (9:1). Alexander was God’s instrument of wrath and judgment.
2. After Alexander’s victory over the Persians at Issus in October of 333 BC, his armies swept into Syria and Palestine. Zechariah envisioned these conquests and the defeat of Israel’s historic enemies 150 years beforehand.
3. In Zech. 9:4, God is said to have destroyed the city of Tyre but historically Alexander the Great is known to have done so. Alexander was, unwittingly, God’s servant, just as Nebuchadnezzar had been, and just as Cyrus had been, and just as Caesar Augustus had been, etc. (cf. Jer. 25:9; Isa. 44:28; 45:1; Luke 2:1-4).
4. Zechariah 9:4 says it was God who cast Tyre out. “He will smite her power in the sea” (9:4; cf. Ezek. 26:1-5). “And she shall be devoured with fire” (9:4b; cf. Ezek. 28:18).
5. Alexander the Great was used by God to effect His purposes, so that through these conquests the earth would be prepared for the first coming of Christ (9:9).
6. Even the unregenerate understand this. For example, the Encyclopedia Britannica says, “It is not untrue to say that the Roman Empire (and) the spread of Christianity as a world religion…were all in some degree the fruits of Alexander’s achievement (Fifteenth edition, 1990).
7. For 13 years, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, tried to take the city of Tyre, and he finally did reduce the mainland fortress, but the island city remained free, protected by a large fleet of ships.
8. For over 200 years it looked like Ezekiel’s prophecy would not be completely fulfilled, until 332 BC when Alexander the Great totally destroyed the island city of Tyre.
9. It was Alexander who took the island city (and fulfilled Ezekiel’s prophecy) by constructing a road from the mainland to the island. He used rubble from the mainland to construct his causeway.
10. When Tyre resisted Alexander, he scraped the ruins of the old city into the sea and built his causeway, a bridge, out to the island. Then he besieged the city for seven months. He finally captured the city, slew thousands of the people, enslaved many others, and then set the city on fire (cf. Ezek. 26:4-12; 27:27).
11. God said Tyre would be completely destroyed and never rebuilt and it never has been rebuilt (26:19-21).
II. ALEXANDER DESTROYED THE CITIES OF THE PHILISTINES (9:5, 6).
1. After Alexander destroyed Tyre, he moved southward and attacked the Philistine cities of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Ashdod (9:5, 6).
2. Gaza was a strongly fortified city, and despite what had happened to Tyre, they too tried to defy Alexander the Great. For five months they managed to hold out, but then Alexander prevailed.
3. Alexander took the Philistine king, Batis, and had him tied up to the back of a chariot and dragged all around the city until he died (9:5).
4. Zechariah 9:6 refers to the judgment of God upon the people of Gaza. In the 7th century AD, Gaza became predominantly Muslim. In 1948, Gaza was placed under Egyptian occupation, as a result of the first Palestinian War. Gaza then became the host for Palestinian refugees.
5. With the Six-Day War in 1967, Gaza came under Israeli occupation. And in 1994, Gaza became the headquarters for the new “Palestinian Authority.”
6. Whether “bastard” (9:6) means illegitimate, lower-class, or mongrel, it is a fact that the Philistines were destroyed as a people. Their pride was “cut off.”
7. Our modern word “Palestine” comes from “Philistine.”
8. Though God would severely judge their wicked, idolatrous sacrifices (“abominations” – 9:7), a remnant would be saved. This remnant would be cleansed from those horrible defilements in order to be amalgamated with the people of God.
III. GOD MOVED ALEXANDER TO SPARE ISRAEL (9:8).
1. Just as the Bible is clear that God used Alexander to judge the enemies of Israel, it is equally clear that God moved Alexander not to attack Jerusalem (9:8).
2. God miraculously protected Jerusalem from Alexander’s army (cf. Scofield Bible, p. 973).
3. On Alexander’s march to Egypt and back (“passeth by…and returneth”), he spared the Jews.
4. After taking Gaza, Alexander planned to go to Jerusalem. According to the famous Jewish historian Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews), the conqueror had demanded from the Jews the same tribute money that they had customarily paid their Persian overlords.
5. But the Jewish high priest, Jaddua, refused to renounce his loyalty to the Persian king Darius. In wrath, Alexander threatened severe reprisals, whereupon Jaddua exhorted the people of Jerusalem to pray to God for deliverance.
6. In a dream, the Lord instructed Jaddua the high priest to take courage and go out with a priestly delegation to meet Alexander.
7. Upon meeting Jaddua and his fellow priests, Alexander had a change of heart. In fact, he said that he recognized Jaddua from a dream.
8. Josephus: “However, Parmenion (one of Alexander’s generals) alone went up to him, and asked him how it came to pass, that when all others adored him, he should adore the high-priest of the Jews? To whom he replied, ‘I did not adore him, but the God who hath honored him with that high-priesthood; for I saw this very person in a dream, in this very habit, when I was at Dios, in Macedonia, who, when I was considering with myself how I might obtain the dominion of Asia, exhorted me to make no delay, but boldly to pass over the sea thither, for that he would conduct my army, and would give me the dominion over the Persians; whence it is that, having seen no other in that habit, and now seeing this person in it, and remembering that vision, and the exhortation which I had in my dream, I believe that I bring this army under the Divine conduct, and shall therewith conquer Darius, and destroy the power of the Persians, and that all things will succeed according to what is in my own mind.’”
9. According to Josephus, the Jews then showed Alexander the book of Daniel (cf. Dan. 8:5, 8, 21; 11:3), and he was kindly disposed to them.
10. Alexander went into the temple and worshipped the God of Israel. He then left Jerusalem peaceably. Zechariah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled.
11. “History tells us that the armies of the youthful monarch passed by Jerusalem a number of times without doing harm to the city. This is remarkable, and in accord with the prophecy of Zechariah” (AC Gaebelein, Studies in Zechariah).
12. However, the complete and final fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy will not take place till the Lord Jesus Christ returns. Then it can be truly said, “and no oppressor shall pass through them any more” (9:8; cf. Scofield’s notes).
Against the prophetic backdrop of the victorious armies of Alexander the Great, who is seen as only an instrument in the hand of God to accomplish His purpose, there suddenly emerges the entrance of a far greater king (9:9).