Alexander the Great and the Old Testament



so when we think about Alexander the Great we think about a region called Macedon Macedon as you can see here is a fairly small region north of Greece it's heads toward the Balkans kind of halfway between that region it was viewed by the Greeks as a kind of backwater there was not any expectation that Macedon would be any great power or any great threat it was sort of viewed as a kind of rude and barbarian region with a fairly obscure history but it is of course Macedon that produces this great character Alexander the Great I'm going to drop into the story of Macedon in 359 that's a little bit arbitrary there had been a string of kings Macedon was a kingdom and the history as I say was somewhat obscure not well documented but about this time we begin to have much more complete and thorough records and so we'll start with the death of a king by the name of Perdiccas the third who was killed in a battle with the illyrians Illyria is north and a little bit to the west of Macedon this is 359 if you were here last week you know that that's the era of Greek history that we called philosophic remember that so we have all of these eras of history and really what had just finished throughout the year 400 was the Peloponnesian wars in which Greece had beaten itself to a pulp and then sort of woke up as if a man woke up from a stupor you know what just happened to me did anyone get the license of that truck kind of thing and the Greeks are asking what did we just do to ourselves and this calls forth the great reflective speculative thought of a guy like Socrates and then of course much more so Plato and Aristotle those great classic famous names of course the real architects of philosophy itself are associated then with this era that follows the Peloponnesian wars and were right in the middle of this and the important thing to note about it is the Greeks had lost their interest in warfare at this they'd had it they were ready for a breather and so the rise of Macedon is taking place at a time when Greece herself to the south is really not overly interested in rising in a kind of militant response to an evident threat from outside and that's part of what gives the Macedonian rise to power it's room to wiggle you might say through these years so anyway 359 is right in the middle of that century this brings the son of purchase whose name is philip ii of macedon to the throne and he rules for a little over 20 years from 359 to 336 he is of course the father as you probably know of Alexander the Great himself good-looking guy left a little statuary so we could admire him these many years later he was the one who largely expanded and consolidated the power of Macedon he really put Macedon on the map for the first time in history and so you can see even here that the perimeter of Macedon has increased rather dramatically under the influence of philip ii he did this largely by perfecting a military technique that was based on what was called the Phalanx the Phalanx was this battlefield strategy in which you had soldiers more or less shoulder to shoulder in a very tight-knit highly organized kind of machine in which they all moved in a coordinated fashion and they were virtually unconquered belong the battlefield and so there would be multiple of these phalanx is out there and it was very difficult to resist them and this was a technique that was really developed and perfected by philip ii and used to great advantage by his son Alexander just very briefly kind of the story of the expansion of Macedon it begins with the attack on the illyrians up to the northwest he then takes a city called and Phyllis and then north of that he takes a city called Crenna dace we're interested in that because he changed its name he was very impressed with himself for getting this major city and so once he conquered it he changed it to the city of Philip I and of course you know Phillipi plays prominently in the New Testament narrative we know that when Paul was on his second missionary journey and he was their intro as wondering where to go he hadn't been permitted to go to the right or to the left the Holy Spirit is sort of driven him to that city and while he's sleeping one night he has what's called a Macedonian call remember that a call from a guy from Macedon which is right across the Aegean and Paul took that to be a summons to leave Asia and go to Europe and preach the gospel so he goes there and of course the first major city he visits is Philip I so just think how much of the New Testament we did would be different if Philip hadn't changed the name to Philip I I mean we what would we do in no book of Philippians it'd be a big problem so anyway we're very happy that Philip did in fact successfully conquered this city and change its name and that gave rise then to this particular city this was the year 356 that Alexander was born so right in the middle of this great kind of empire building activity on the part of Philip we have the birth of Alexander 3:53 Philip actually pushes his control all the way down to the Thermopylae pass we talked about Thermopylae when we were dealing with the second Persian war and Xerxes and the 300 Spartans all of that he doesn't really take ownership of it as if to make it part of Macedon but in a kind of hegemony he exerts influence over and more or less controls it as a neighboring state so this is pretty pretty good sized expansion under Philip this does provoke something of a crisis in the psyche of the people in Greece and in particular one of the most important orators of the day a guy by the name of demosthenes rises up and tries to appeal to the Greek people to recognize this threat and respond to it and so demosthenes gives a series of speeches that are called philippic speeches that is speeches against Philip in which he's attempting to rally military support to go and Syst the encroachments that are continuing to pressure the borders of Greece and he doesn't have much success he's a brilliant very persuasive orator but as I say the Greeks were spent they just didn't have it in them to muster an army and go out and fight Philip even though they all had some sense of the threat it was complicated somewhat by this fact Philip never acted as if he had a concussed tutorial' attitude toward the Greeks he wanted to be viewed by them as their hero he wanted them to embrace him as someone who would represent their interests and who would innocence vindicate them against the Persians so Philip himself was trying to pass himself off as a champion of the Greeks not as a conqueror of them and some among the Greeks saw it that way and some didn't and so even among the Greeks there was a division of opinion as to how exactly Philip should be viewed and for that reason it made the task of demosthenes even more challenging in any event in 3:48 Philip takes a city called Olympus Olympus was a seaport town it was critical to the Athenians because it connected them to the grain crops of the Black Sea region and Athens depended on those by now and Olympus was kind of that halfway point where they would be reprovision and so on and so when Philip took that city it was viewed by many in the Greek world as a rising expression of a true threat it was at this Aristotle becomes the tutor to Alexander Alexander's 13 years old Aristotle had been a student of Plato but Aristotle is Macedonian his father that his Aristotle's father had been the court physician to Philip the second nickim akka says his name Nik amaz sent his son down to Athens to be to be schooled at the most famous school of the day in Greece which was Plato's Academy and Aristotle served there and was a student that eventually became a teacher and became the most a respected teacher besides Plato himself at the academy on plato's death however he left the Academy to a cousin of his rather than to Aristotle Aristotle thought he was the heir apparent you know to the grreat to the Academy and as of as it turns out Plato left it to someone else and so kind of in a huff Aristotle left town and he traveled around and was actually hired by Philip to train on a one-on-one basis the young very bright student Alexander that's got to be the most amazing two years of education in the history of the world you know to have a one-on-one tutor named Aristotle but anyway that's what's going on and that's happening about this time as Philip is continuing to spread his control at this point he takes control of what's called a Hellespont that's a term that's it's also called the Dardanelles if you know that but it's anyway that little kind of it's that sort of waterway that connects the Aegean Sea to the Black Sea and once Philip took control of that the Greek world said okay enough already we're going to go I have to go challenge this guy and so finally demosthenes got his way and was able to muster an army of Greeks to go out and challenge on the battlefield the Macedonians and it took place at a location Konya Caronia right there kind of mid picture and as it turns out demosthenes was easily defeated by a young 18 year old military genius named Alexander and so all of a sudden the Greeks realized they had a major problem because by now of course not only Philip but his son Alexander are showing considerable military talent and indeed a great deal of military prowess well again the Macedonians are not trying to appear hostile even after this battle they treat the Greeks with a great deal of cordiality try their very best to win the PR game and to some degree they are successful and so even though there was this defeat it wasn't viewed necessarily by the Greeks as all the necessary a huge and terrible catastrophe in 336 Philip took an army of 10,000 across the Hellespont into Asia what he wanted to do was recover what the Greeks called Ionia you recall that at the Peace of Callias some hundred or so years earlier the Mediterranean had been divided and the Greeks actually control that region but during the Peloponnesian wars the Persians come back came back and reasserted their authority in Ionia or Asia Minor western Turkey and so Philip now on behalf of the Greeks you see he says I'm gonna go fight for you guys goes over and he wants to retake Ionia for the Greeks kind of make himself a hero in their perception but as it turns out before he can really accomplish that he's assassinated so Philip dies in 336 there's a whole lot of mystery surrounding his assassination probably some family politics in it Philip had married a woman named Olympia sand she was the mother of Alexander but then Philip married another woman a little later and Olympius wasn't too happy with that action and so she may have been behind at least there's some hint and some people have even suggested Alexander might have been somehow a conspirator in this I don't think so I like him too much but nevertheless it's a hypothetical possibility but this does bring for us now this character Alexander the Great just a few observations and passing about him before we look at his career is fairly brief but important career he's probably the most brilliant military genius of ancient history some people have disputed that was a Julius Caesar was it Cyrus was it somebody else but I think most would agree that probably in terms of just native military genius probably Alexander holds the that position he did bring Greek culture and philosophy to the entire Near East he was schooled by Aristotle he saw himself as a savior to the rest of the world he saw the achievements and accomplishments of the Greeks something that the rest of the world could benefit by and he himself who believed of himself that he was descended from the gods also believed that he was going to go out like a savior and give all of these wonderful achievements to the rest of the world and provide a great benefit for them and so Alexander has a a wonderful self image as misguided as that may have been he certainly believed he was doing something that would be history altering and indeed he did he's of course alluded to in the Book of Daniel as we saw from our point of view as New Testament Christians we're interested in the fact that he made the standard language of the world the Greek language and so if you really want to read the New Testament of course you need to read it in Greek his is Dave story here is David here okay well I wanted to pick on him for a minute about I don't know several years ago I offered to teach Greek here at the church and I had about 15 to 20 really enthusiastic people show up the first time you know how it is high enthusiasm and we sort of plowed through a standard Greek text and as the week's went by the numbers kept sort of winnowing and by the time we'd been at it for about six months I was down to about three or four people who were stalwart and kept hanging in there and there were two that actually finished my course in Greek and got my certificates whatever that was you know one of them was Laverne me cough and some of you know Laverne is the wife of pastor of ours from years past Don mica who's still pastoring in town at Knox Presbyterian and she hung in there and she was very competent and the other was David's story who often is here in this class I was hoping he would be here so if you ever have if you run into Dave later you can ask him a question about Greek he'll he'll be up to speed on it he's quite quite the bright Greek student but anyway we can thank Alexander the great for that he gave us this wonderful Greek language the Empire that he created was the largest to date in history actually larger even than the Roman world became he of course controlled virtually all of Greece all of Egypt all we would call Palestine all of Turkey all of Mesopotamia and really push the borders eastward virtually to the point that it touched China and so here's just the most astonishing expansive Empire to date in the ancient world and all of this takes place in about ten years so this imagery we have from the book of Daniel of a goat whose feet don't even touch the ground that's pretty good to describe the rapidity the swiftness with which Alexander was able to sweep across the ancient world and accomplish what he did I'm going to cover rather rapidly just the high points of his career I you're probably used to some degree familiar with this anyway but just kind of the the major bullets here in 336 he put down a few minor revolts in Greece itself it wasn't a major problem but there was still a little bit of a revolutionary attitude against Macedon in 334 he crosses the Hellespont and confronts his first expression of Persian resistance at a river called the Granicus River it's a great story if you ever have a chance to kind of read this account but as the story goes there's a river and he comes up on the flat side on the other side is a hill and on the top of that hill are the Persians and so he's in a great very disadvantageous position and his commanders say to him look Alex you know this is not smart let's spread out let's go find a good place to Ford the river and meet the Persians on an even playing field on the other side if we just go straight across this river and then charge up that hill with them on the top of the hill shooting down at us they've got too much of a superior position I don't think we can win to which Alexander responded oh yes but if we charge across the river and go up the hill and do win think of the glory and that's what they did so right across the river right up the hill they took out this Persian contingency and there was glory right off the bat in the career of Alexander then he came to a place called Gordian there's a legend that was associated with Gordie on concerning a tangle of kind of a knot the so called Gordian knot and the legend that had come down was anyone who could untie the Gordian knot would rule all of Asia and as the story goes Alexander looked at this kind of big tangled mess there you know for a wild sort of a Boy Scouts nightmares he's assessing this thing and then of course Alexander unties the knot in his own inimitable style just whips out his sword and thread slice right through it you know and that's the end of the Gordian knot I don't know if that was fair or not but that's the way he did it he then meets once again the Persians this time at a battle called the battle of Issus this is the third or the second of three direct conflicts with the Persians and on the field of battle this is the north-east corner of the mediterranean it's virtually walking distance from the city of Tarsus where paul of course was born and this is the battlefield famous battlefield where Darius the third the last king of the Persians we alluded to him some weeks back meets Alexander Darius thought this was going to be a cakewalk he's going out there with hundreds of thousands of soldiers versus what amounted at this point to maybe fifty to sixty thousand on the part of Alexander Darius expected to win and he expected to be at it to be entertaining he took his whole family out there he took a lot of his wealth out there all of the kind of you know accoutrements of home and so on just to see the action well he saw action and one of the most famous illustrations of this is a mural that's actually on the floor it's the Battle of a thesis from the house of the faun in Pompeii I actually saw it this last summer this isn't my photo but it does look like this have you ever been to Pompeii you may have seen this in which here we have Darius and over here we have a very famous kind of portrait of Alexander and that's exactly what happened Alexander closes in on Darius and Darius is forced to flee the battlefield for his life and he loses at that point to Alexander his family his wife his daughters much of the court and all of the wealth that he hauled out to the battlefield all of it is taken by Alexander and so this is Joe kind of this is now telling Darius he had a much bigger problem than he was aware of and that takes place in 333 from there Alexander turns south he came down and took Phoenicia the city of Tyre and Jerusalem the city of Tyre gave him some difficulty because it's an island city and is able to withstand a siege virtually indefinitely you may remember Nebuchadnezzar had tyre under siege for some 13 years Alexander wasn't that patient and so he actually over a seven month period built a causeway from the shore out to the city amid you know all they throw at him burning arrows and all of that he built it and he actually took tyre destroyed it and he wasn't very nice to people that resisted his authority and so the Tyrians paid for this rather with rather grim payment for it but anyway that took place then he then goes down into Egypt where he was welcomed as a Pharaoh the Egyptians you may recall hated the Persians the Persians had dominated that region now for many years ever since camp Isis and can by seas had slain the APUs ball you may recall we talked about that earlier the Egyptians hated the Persians they viewed Alexander as a liberator and a savior and so they welcomed him and Alexander went around and worshipped all of the Egyptian gods and passed himself off as a true Pharaoh the the people of Jerusalem also freely gave him their allegiance they'd been under Persian control as they saw the winds shifting there they didn't put up any resistance and Alexander was very favorably disposed toward the Jews and did a very lot for them by the way in terms of him and subsequent rulers after him so that brings us to the final conflict between Alexander and the Persians it takes places Arbella further east and at this point once again the Persians are bested by the superior military tactics of Alexander who's so rapid so just just almost breathtakingly Beadie in the way that he can maneuver on the battlefield and the Phalanx was used to incredible precision and potency and once again Darius himself had to flee from the battlefield and he was indeed assassinated about two months later and that was the end of the Persian Empire and so uh Alexander takes it from there he extends his control all the way eastward through a lot of India and as I say almost butts up against China itself the death of Alexander has always been somewhat mysterious what exactly did he die of the old saying was he died because there were no more world's to conquer you know some people think he was poisoned some people think he died of a wound from battle and infection some people think he drank himself to death nobody knows but he was only just a little over thirty years old but just as the Book of Daniel had predicted there was a unexpected and really catastrophic death of this mighty horn and then the whole Greek Empire that he'd conquered was thrown into kind of chaos for about 15 years as multiple generals were fighting over pieces of the pie but eventually about four of them came up and more or less dominated the landscape from that point on and I want to pick up the story then of those four and especially the two that sandwich Israel and we'll be looking at that next week basing our conversation on Daniel chapter 11

15 comments

  1. The Bible is not history; at best it is historical fiction but that is giving the writers too much credibility because, often, they are just telling a tale and pinning some names or places to it to give some credibility…

  2. Phillip II is the younger brother of Perdiccus III not his son.Where did you get your history????Had to stop half way through…just too many errors,sad to say this person should not be teaching history.

  3. I'm a bit perplex by the title: it reads "and the Old Testament" but other than an obscure mention to some prophecy of Daniel, all references are about the New Testament (Paul and such), and even those aren't many. The speech was rather interesting-ish but not astoundingly so, he glosses over that all of Alexander's conquests were already part of Persia and that at best what Alexander added to that were the Greek city-states and putting a Greek (or rather Macedonian) elite on top of the Persian administration. He emphasizes the oh-so-great tolerance that Alexander had towards the Jews (did he ever bothered visiting that backwater place other than when marching to and from Egypt?) but ignores that the Persians were equally tolerant (actually it was probably Persian tolerance, absorbed by Alexander, what made him "great", that and the Gordian Knot episode, which is epitomic of how insoluble problems must be solved: violence solves everything… sometimes).

  4. He is not very accurate about the historical facts. In 460 thebes was just getting the most powerful citystate after the brief spartan hegemony was broken. So they didnt stop fighting, they were as warlike as ever. Also the phalanx was no invention by the macedons. They were famous for the sarissa phalanx though although im unsure they invented that weapon. Under philip the macedonian army became the most highly trained and advanced force in the hellenistic world. So thats what i have to correct after not even half the video. Thxbye

  5. The key fact that was missing, Alexander, when establishing the Library of Alexandria asked the Jews for a copy of the old testament for his library. At first, the council of 70 Jews refused. Alexander then promised to release 100,000 Jewish slaves for the copy. Lets now from that fact let's question this: if the Jewish people didn't want him to have a copy but wanted their own slaves free, who can actually say if the copy provided to Alexander is a true and correct copy of the old testament? No one can.

  6. I had been taught that the Phalanx was already well developed, and the new tactical improvement that made Alexander so successful was the addition of cavalry used in conjunction with the Phalanx and skirmishers, and was the source of his noted speed in maneuver.
    This was developed by Philip, taught to Alexander by Philip, who was the true military genius. Alexander was competent in execution of the tactics, but merely continued what his father had started.

  7. Is it reasonable to speculate that if Alexander treated the Jews well, it was because his tutor Aristotle was a monotheist in his cosmological understanding? Obviously it was also convenient politics to continue the special status the Jerusalem Temple had in the Persian imperial system, whereby they had local autonomy and the post of provincial governor was attached to the High Priesthood of the Jerusalem Temple, which had worked well for Persia ever since they had conquered Babylon and paid for the reconstruction of the Temple, but tolerating monotheism could have been problematic for the project of spreading Greek culture, including Greek polytheism, across the new empire, as it eventually become under Anthiocus IV Epiphanes.

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