Detailed History Written in Advance
CAN you imagine anyone’s writing a detailed history in advance? Were a man to do so, we could hardly expect it to coincide with reality. But what if the Most High God inspired men to foretell happenings centuries in advance? In that case we should expect things to take place exactly as foretold. Is this true of Bible prophecies?
Viewed in the light of the fulfillment, the details included in these prophecies are simply astounding. They provide convincing evidence that the Bible is the Word of God.
In the eleventh chapter of Daniel, we find a remarkable example of history written in advance. The information was revealed to Daniel “in the first year of Darius the Mede,” about 538 B.C.E. (Dan. 11:1) But the fulfillment of what was then made known spanned a period of many centuries. Consider the portion of the prophecy fulfilled within a period of about 300 years.
Daniel was told: “Look! There will yet be three kings standing up for Persia, and the fourth one will amass greater riches than all others. And as soon as he has become strong in his riches, he will rouse up everything against the kingdom of Greece.” (Dan. 11:2) Note that no mention is made about the end of the Medo-Persian Empire. The prophecy simply looks forward to the all-out effort that the fourth king would put forth against Greece. Just who were the four Persian kings?
The first king was Cyrus the Great, the second Cambyses (II) and the third Darius I (Hystaspis). Since Gaumata usurped the throne by falsely claiming to be Smerdis (Bardija) the brother of Cambyses, his brief reign is reasonably not taken into consideration in the prophecy. The fourth king was Xerxes I, evidently the Ahasuerus mentioned at Esther 1:1.
Xerxes I did indeed “rouse up everything against the kingdom of Greece,” that is, the independent Grecian states collectively. The Greek historian Herodotus of the fifth century B.C.E. writes that “no other expedition compared to this seems of any account.” (Book VII, sec. 20) His history states that the sea force “amounted in all to 517,610 men. The number of the foot soldiers were 1,700,000; that of the horsemen 80,000; to which must be added the Arabs who rode on camels, and the Libyans who fought in chariots, whom I reckon at 20,000. The whole number, therefore, of the land and sea forces added together amounts to 2,317,610 men.” (Book VII, sec. 184) Despite the support of this huge war machine, Xerxes I suffered defeat.
ALEXANDER THE GREAT AND THE DIVISION OF HIS EMPIRE
Next the prophecy focuses on Greece. We read: “A mighty king [Alexander, the first son of Philip (king of Macedonia), according to the rendering of the Syriac] will certainly stand up and rule with extensive dominion and do according to his will. And when he will have stood up, his kingdom will be broken and be divided toward the four winds of the heavens, but not to his posterity and not according to his dominion with which he had ruled.”—Dan. 11:3, 4, and marginal reading.
In fulfillment of these words, Alexander (III) the Great became the undisputed ruler over the tremendous area extending from the Adriatic Sea on the west to India on the east. After his death, however, his posterity did not succeed in establishing themselves in the kingship. Both the legitimate son Alexander IV and the illegitimate son Heracles were assassinated within a period of about fourteen years after their father’s death. Soon the empire that Alexander (III) had built up passed into the hands of four of his generals (1) Seleucus (I) Nicator, (2) Cassander, (3) Ptolemy Lagus (Ptolemy I Soter) and (4) Lysimachus. In this way it was “divided toward the four winds of the heavens.”
PTOLEMY I AND SELEUCUS I
The dynasties founded by two of these generals, Seleucus I and Ptolemy I, had a greater effect on the land of Daniel’s people than did the others. Evidently for this reason the prophecy concentrates on developments in their respective realms. The account continues: “The king of the south will become strong, even one of his princes; and he [Seleucus I] will prevail against him [Ptolemy I] and will certainly rule with extensive dominion greater than that one’s ruling power.”—Dan. 11:5.
Upon the death of Alexander the Great, Ptolemy I received Egypt and other nearby lands. Since Egypt lay south of the land of Daniel’s people, Ptolemy filled the role of the “king of the south.” Earlier he had been one of the “princes” of Alexander the Great, in fact, one of the most capable generals. Yet the “king of the north,” Seleucus I, was to rule with extensive dominion greater than Ptolemy’s “ruling power.”
Alternatively, the original Hebrew text can be understood to mean that Seleucus I was a “prince” of the “king of the south.” This nicely fits the facts of history. After the death of Alexander the Great, Seleucus served as senior lieutenant to Perdiccas, who later attempted to invade Egypt. At that time Seleucus led a revolt against his superior, and Perdiccas was assassinated. As a reward for his part in bringing about the downfall of Perdiccas, Seleucus was given the Babylonian satrapy. Then he sided with Antigonus I in warfare against Eumenes. However, Antigonus did not trust Seleucus and, therefore, put pressure on him. Seleucus then fled to Egypt and, in the ensuing conflict with Antigonus, served as commander of Egyptian naval squadrons. The defeat of the son of Antigonus at Gaza in 312 paved the way for Seleucus to return to Babylonia. In time, Seleucus expanded his dominions so that they became greater than those of Ptolemy. So, the one who served as a military commander under Ptolemy did become greater than his superior.
BERENICE AND HER AVENGER
“At the end of some years,” the prophecy continues, “they will ally themselves with each other, and the very daughter of the king of the south will come to the king of the north in order to make an equitable arrangement. But she will not retain the power of her arm; and he will not stand, neither his arm; and she will be given up, she herself, and those bringing her in, and he who caused her birth, and the one making her strong in those times.”—Dan. 11:6.
That part of the prophecy began to be fulfilled when Ptolemy II reigned as “king of the south” and Antiochus II as “king of the north.” This is evident from a comparison of the prophecy with history. The Encyclopædia Britannica (11th edition, Vol. XXIV, p. 604) says: “About 250 peace was concluded between Antiochus and Ptolemy II, Antiochus repudiating his wife Laodice and marrying Ptolemy’s daughter Berenice, but by 246 Antiochus had left Berenice and her infant son in Antioch to live again with Laodice in Asia Minor. Laodice poisoned him and proclaimed her son SELEUCUS II CALLINICUS (reigned 246-227) king, whilst her partisans at Antioch made away with Berenice and her son.”
As the prophecy indicated, a marriage alliance was formed, with Berenice, the “daughter of the king of the south,” becoming the wife of the “king of the north.” However, the death of her father Ptolemy II deprived her of needed support, the “power of her arm.” She lost out to her rival Laodice. Even Antiochus II, her husband, did not stand but died from poisoning. In this way “his arm,” or power, also did “not stand.” Later, Berenice was “given up,” put to death, as were her infant son and evidently her attendants who had accompanied her from Egypt at the time of her being brought as a bride to the “king of the north.”
Who would avenge the death of Berenice and her son? The prophecy answers: “One from the sprout of her roots [her parents] will certainly stand up in his position, and he will come to the military force and come against the fortress of the king of the north and will certainly act against them and prevail.” (Dan. 11:7) The “sprout” proved to be Ptolemy III, the brother of Berenice, who staged a successful military campaign against Seleucus II, the successor of Antiochus II.
Truly the marvelous way in which these prophecies were fulfilled confirms that they were from a divine source. They are part of the wealth of evidence proving the Bible to be the Word of God. Moreover, these prophecies give us assurance that no part of the inspired Scriptures will fail to be fulfilled. This should encourage us to investigate Bible prophecy to make sure that we are living in harmony with God’s will so as to share in the blessings that his prophetic Word promises.
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Alexander the Great
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