Alexander the Great   (356 B.C. - 323 B.C.) as recorded by Josephus

For years the story of Alexander the Great’s visit to Jerusalem has captured my interest and it will be shared here.  In researching it, the authoritative historian is Josephus Flavius. Before we get to Alexander, there was a thought that Josephus talks about that bears recounting.

Josephus was born 37 A.D. in Jerusalem.  He died in 100 A.D. in Rome.  He was born of a wealthy family and raised as a priest.  He was well studied in Jewish Law and Traditions.  He wrote a number of books, documenting Jewish history {mostly retelling the Old Testament stories), wars and an autobiography.  

When I read some of the writings from his book “THE ANTIQUITIES OF THE JEWS “, I was amazed to learn something new….  Cyrus the Great, a Mede, overpowered the Persians and with his combined army he overthrows the Bablonians in 539 B.C..   Quoting from Josephus:

“Antiquities of the Jews - Book XI

 CONTAINING THE INTERVAL OF TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY-THREE YEARS AND FIVE MONTHS. FROM THE FIRST OF CYRUS TO THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT. CHAPTER 1. HOW CYRUS, KING OF THE PERSIANS, DELIVERED THE JEWS OUT OF BABYLON AND SUFFERED THEM TO RETURN TO THEIR OWN COUNTRY AND TO BUILD THEIR TEMPLE, FOR WHICH WORK HE GAVE THEM MONEY. 

1. IN the first year of the reign of Cyrus (1) which was the seventieth from the day that our people were removed out of their own land into Babylon, God commiserated the captivity and calamity of these poor people, according as he had foretold to them by Jeremiah the prophet, before the destruction of the city, that after they had served Nebuchadnezzar and his posterity, and after they had undergone that servitude seventy years, he would restore them again to the land of their fathers, and they should build their temple, and enjoy their ancient prosperity. And these things God did afford them; for he stirred up the mind of Cyrus, and made him write this throughout all Asia: "Thus saith Cyrus the king: Since God Almighty hath appointed me to be king of the habitable earth, I believe that he is that God which the nation of the Israelites worship; for indeed he foretold my name by the prophets, and that I should build him a house at Jerusalem, in the country of Judea."

2. This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book which Isaiah left behind him of his prophecies; for this prophet said that God had spoken thus to him in a secret vision: "My will is, that Cyrus, whom I have appointed to be king over many and great nations, send back my people to their own land, and build my temple." This was foretold by Isaiah one hundred and forty years before the temple was demolished. Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the Divine power, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfill what was so written; so he called for the most eminent Jews that were in Babylon, and said to them, that he gave them leave to go back to their own country, and to rebuild their city Jerusalem, (2) and the temple of God, for that he would be their assistant, and that he would write to the rulers and governors that were in the neighborhood of their country of Judea, that they should contribute to them gold and silver for the building of the temple, and besides that, beasts for their sacrifices. 

I had not realized that Cyrus had read Isaiah and realizing it had been written 140 years prior, with his name in the prophecy, that Cyrus decided to act!!  This was a new revelation for me.

Isaiah 45:1

“This is what the Lord says to his anointed,

    to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of

to subdue nations before him

    and to strip kings of their armor,

to open doors before him

    so that gates will not be shut:

And again :

Isaiah 45:13

I will raise up Cyrus[b] in my righteousness:

    I will make all his ways straight.

He will rebuild my city

    and set my exiles free,

but not for a price or reward,

    says the Lord Almighty.”

Cyrus freed the Jews after their 70 year captivity! That started with the King reading a 140 year old prophecy with his name, Cyrus, in it.

Again from Josephus, we read the account of when Alexander comes to Jerusalem:

“CHAPTER 8. CONCERNING SANBALLAT AND MANASSEH, AND THE TEMPLE WHICH THEY BUILT ON MOUNT GERIZZIM; AS ALSO HOW ALEXANDER MADE HIS ENTRY INTO THE CITY JERUSALEM, AND WHAT BENEFITS HE BESTOWED ON THE JEWS.

4. …..Now Alexander, when he had taken Gaza, made haste to go up to Jerusalem; and Jaddua the high priest, when he heard that, was in an agony, and under terror, as not knowing how he should meet the Macedonians, since the king was displeased at his foregoing disobedience (Alexander had requested he send troops to help him, but the priest hd refused because his allegiance was still to Darius, king of the Persians). He therefore ordained that the people should make supplications, and should join with him in offering sacrifice to God, whom he besought to protect that nation, and to deliver them from the perils that were coming upon them; whereupon God warned him in a dream, which came upon him after he had offered sacrifice, that he should take courage, and adorn the city, and open the gates; that the rest should appear in white garments, but that he and the priests should meet the king in the habits proper to their order, without the dread of any ill consequences, which the providence of God would prevent. Upon which, when he rose from his sleep, he greatly rejoiced, and declared to all the warning he had received from God. According to which dream he acted entirely, and so waited for the coming of the king.

5. And when he understood that he was not far from the city, he went out in procession, with the priests and the multitude of the citizens. The procession was venerable, and the manner of it different from that of other nations. It reached to a place called Sapha, which name, translated into Greek, signifies a prospect, for you have thence a prospect both of Jerusalem and of the temple. And when the Phoenicians and the Chaldeans that followed him (Alexander) thought they should have liberty to plunder the city, and torment the high priest to death, which the king's displeasure fairly promised them, the very reverse of it happened; for Alexander, when he saw the multitude at a distance, in white garments, while the priests stood clothed with fine linen, and the high priest in purple and scarlet clothing, with his mitre on his head, having the golden plate whereon the name of God was engraved, he approached by himself, and adored that name, and first saluted the high priest. The Jews also did all together, with one voice, salute Alexander, and encompass him about; whereupon the kings of Syria and the rest were surprised at what Alexander had done, and supposed him disordered in his mind. However, Parmenio 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 that God who hath honored him with his 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." And when he had said this to Parmenio, and had given the high priest his right hand, the priests ran along by him, and he came into the city. And when he went up into the temple, he offered sacrifice to God, according to the high priest's direction, and magnificently treated both the high priest and the priests. And when the Book of Daniel was showed him (23) wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended. And as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present; but the next day he called them to him, and bid them ask what favors they pleased of him; whereupon the high priest desired that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers, and might pay no tribute on the seventh year. He granted all they desired. And when they entreared him that he would permit the Jews in Babylon and Media to enjoy their own laws also, he willingly promised to do hereafter what they desired. And when he said to the multitude, that if any of them would enlist themselves in his army, on this condition, that they should continue under the laws of their forefathers, and live according to them, he was willing to take them with him, many were ready to accompany him in his wars. “

An incredible illustration of the Lord working in the affairs of men.  An outcome of this Greek world domination was that the Septuagint Bible was made.  When Alexander died his kingdom was divided into 4 parts.  Ptolemy the I took Egypt and Syria and overcame Jerusalem.  After 40 years his son Ptolemy II, took over and called for a Greek translation of the Hebrew books of the Law.  So Ptolemy II arranged for 6 scholars from each tribe (72 in total) to come to Alexandria and transcribe them into Greek.  It was translated about 250 B.C. The Greek Septuagint was used by the Jews as many of them knew Greek, but it became the basis of the Old Testament for the Christians in the the Second and Third Century, who mostly spoke Greek.

I am in awe of how our Lord has prepared things before they are needed.  He looks from His place in eternal time and determines within a couple of hundred years, His Church will need the “Old Testament” in an understandable language.  And so, He puts things in place to ensure it happens.  

He has always working on our behalf, to ensure that before we ask; the provision is on its way!!

  Lord we love learning about  HisStory!