The Christian History of the Four Beast Empires--Part 3
Apr 15, 2013
During the third year of King Cyrus of Persia, Daniel fasted and prayed for 21 days. At the end of that time, he received an angelic visitation, who gave him revelation. The angel said that he had been sent as soon as Daniel had begun praying, but that he had been delayed by spiritual opposition in the heavens. Here we have our clearest Old Testament insight into spiritual warfare, matched only by Revelation 12 in the New Testament.
The angel said that he had finally received assistance from Daniel’s “prince,” known as Michael. His assistance allowed the nameless angel to come and impart the necessary revelation. As we see, the angel came to reveal truth about the Prince of Greece and the course of Grecian history in the centuries to come.
The angelic message begins this way in Daniel 10:20 to 11:2, which I will quote from the Ferrar Fenton Translation:
20 Then he said, “I will teach you what will come to you.—But now I must return to fight with the Prince of Persia—and when I am gone, you will see the Prince of I’on [Ionia, i.e., Greece] come. However, I will inform you of the record in the book of Truth—for there is no one who helps me about these things except Mikal your prince, and I stood up in the first year of Dariush, the Mede, to encourage and strengthen him. But now I will inform you of the fact. There will yet be three kings stand up in Persia, and a fourth, rich, far richer than all of them, and he will embolden himself in his wealth. The whole will excite the Kingdom of I’on. Then a powerful king will arise….
The angel says that he had already “stood up” to strengthen Dariush (Darius the Mede), no doubt to inspire him to pick Daniel as a first of three governors (Daniel 6:2). But now, the angel says, he has come to give revelation to Daniel, because Daniel’s angel (Prince Mikal, or Michael) had come to help him in the heavenly warfare. This revelation was taken directly from “the record in the book of Truth.”
These are the official records in the courts of heaven. We may think of them as the divine plan, written from the beginning, determining the course of world history—or we may think of them as being a record being continually written of what happens during the course of world history. Yet because heaven is not subject to time, God does not have to wait for events to happen on earth, for He knows the end from the beginning. The book of Truth has recorded all things from the beginning of time. Therefore, from God’s perspective, it is the book of the Divine Plan, and its pages contain things yet future as well as all past events.
The angel was commissioned to give Daniel a peek into the divine plan about the third beast empire that was yet to arise. Keep in mind that this visitation occurred during the third year of Cyrus of Persia. Darius took Babylon in 537 B.C. and organized the kingdom for about three years while Cyrus continued fighting with his army elsewhere. Cyrus then arrived in Babylon in 534 on a white horse in October (feast of Tabernacles) in order to fulfill the type of the coming of the Messiah.
It is unclear whether the first year of Cyrus was 537 or 534, for it could be either, depending on one’s perspective. But since Cyrus set the captives free in his first year (Ezra 1:1), it is clear that the Scriptures mean to tell us that Cyrus’ first year was 534, for this was the year of Judah’s release.
We know this because Judah then resumed its Sabbath-year cycles in 534. This is proven by history, which tells us that 163-162 B.C. was also a Sabbath year (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XII, ix, 5). He mentions another Sabbath year that occurred in 37 B.C., when Herod took Jerusalem from Antigonus. Likewise, the siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. took place in a Sabbath year. If we chart all of these Sabbath years in cycles of seven, we can see that the cycles began in 534 B.C., the year that Judah returned to their land, having been set free by Cyrus. (For further details, see chapter one of my book, Daniel’s Seventy Weeks.)
At any rate, the angel in Daniel 10 arrived in third year of Cyrus, 532 B.C., to give the prophet revelation from “the book of the Truth.” The entire revelation is recorded in Daniel 11, and it focuses primarily on two of the four heads of the Grecian Empire. These were the four generals of Alexander the Great, who divided his Empire between them after Alexander himself had died in 323 B.C.
First, a little background… Persia lasted two centuries from 537-332 B.C. Persia was pictured as a “bear” in Daniel 7:5, and Greece was pictured as a leopard (Daniel 7:6). A leopard runs very fast, and so we see that Alexander the Great conquered very quickly. But his life also ended very quickly, for he died drunk in Babylon on June 10, 323 B.C.
When he died, his four generals—known in history as The Diodochi, “the successors”—fought each other for control of Alexander’s kingdom. The civil war ended in 311, when they all agreed upon the borders of each general’s kingdom.
In Daniel 8, the prophet gives further details in another vision of these beast empires. He sees Persia—this time as a ram—and then sees Greece as a strong goat moving so fast that his feet did not even touch the ground. “The goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes,” (Daniel 8:5), which referred to Alexander himself. The goat shattered the two horns of the ram (Persia) and trampled him down. Then verse 8 says,
8 Then the male goat magnified himself exceedingly. But as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken; and in its place there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.
In other words, the great king of Greece would be “broken” at the height of power, and in his place would raise four lesser kings. This had already been revealed to Daniel in chapter 8. When these events were finally fulfilled, Alexander’s four generals each had their own portion of the kingdom. Seleucus ruled Syria, Babylon, and eastward to India. Ptolemy ruled Egypt. Cassander ruled Macedonia and Greece. Lysimachus ruled Thrace and Pergamum.
In Daniel 11, two of these generals stood out in the angelic revelation to Daniel, because they continuously fought over control of Judea and Jerusalem. The Seleucids of Syria in the north fought against the Ptolemaic kings of the south (Egypt). Their conflicts are given in great detail in Daniel 11, but this is too much detail for our present study.
Our present purpose is to show how God dealt with each of the four beast empires. God dealt with the head of gold (Babylon) by exposing the heart idolatry of the king, who had fancied himself to be sovereign over his kingdom. God next dealt with the arms of silver (Media-Persia) by showing them that their arms were helpless, while the arm of God was strong to deliver Daniel.
Thirdly, Alexander the Great was swift, but God brought him to an end just as swiftly, showing the transient nature of all flesh and the enduring power of God.
Alexander the Great was just twenty when his father was assassinated in 336 B.C. He then inherited the throne, a strong kingdom, and an experienced army. His father had dreamed of conquering Persia and had already made preparations to do so. Alexander thus prepared himself to fulfill his father’s ambitions. He crossed the sea into Asia Minor in 334 and never lost a battle.
In 332 he marched to Jerusalem, where he found himself welcome. The priests had read and understood the prophecies of Daniel, and so they knew that Alexander had been given the divine mandate. The high priest, Jaddua, was afraid of Alexander, but Josephus tells us…
“… 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.” (Antiquities of the Jews, XI, viii, 4)
The high priest’s dream proved to be genuine, for when they welcomed Alexander to their city and gave him honor, they received honor in return.
Alexander’s response, honoring the high priest, surprised his own troops and their leaders, because they thought Alexander would plunder the city and torture the high priest to death. But instead, he approached the high priest at the temple and greeted him with reverence. The priests all responded in the same manner, saluting him with a loud voice. When Alexander was asked by his own generals why he acted with such respect, he replied (as Josephus tells us):
“I did not adore him, but that God who hath honoured 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.” (Antiquities, XI, viii, 5)
In other words, while Alexander had been contemplating whether or not to go to war with Persia, God had given him a dream, where in the high priest of Jerusalem was telling him to do so without delay. In that dream, the man was dressed in strange garments, and when he arrived in Jerusalem, he recognized the high priest as that man, dressed in the robes of the high priesthood.
Josephus then tells us what Alexander did:
“… [H]e 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, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended…”
As a result, Judea was allowed to continue observing the law of God, along with all other Judeans who lived abroad, including those who yet lived in Babylon. Hence, they did not have to pay tribute (tax) during the Sabbath years.
What does this tell us? The great “horn” of the third beast empire made sacrifice to the God of Daniel when he came to Jerusalem. He thus recognized the God of Heaven and even deferred payments of tribute on the Sabbath year and did not attempt to force the Judeans to conform to his own laws. In making the sacrifice to God, Alexander did what any true believer might have done in those days to obtain forgiveness of sin. The lamb that he sacrificed represented the true Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who died for the sin of the world—including the third beast empire.
So we see that God revealed Himself a third time to the beast empires. In each case, the idols of men’s hearts were overthrown, as the Creator of Heaven and Earth was revealed. The great image that Nebuchadnezzar saw in Daniel 2 is the ultimate idol in the hearts of men and nations. But with each new kingdom, God made the point of bringing each into submission to Him at some point in their history.
Of course, in each step it was too soon for the Stone Kingdom to arise, and so after making His point, God seems to have stepped back and allowed those kingdoms to revert back to their previous “beast” ways. These nations, after all, yet had the heart of beasts. But God’s interventions proved that He is able to subdue them all in the end. This gives us hope, confidence, and faith even today, for we know that God is able to overthrow Mystery Babylon and the final banking beast that has dominated the world in the past two centuries.
When that Stone Kingdom arises, Daniel 7:27 tells us, the authority will be given to the saints of the Most High. God is raising up a new Cyrus and a new Darius as His agents of change to do the earthly work of overthrowing the last of the beast oppressors. We see from Scripture that God will give the overcomers favor with those kings, even as the high priest, Jaddua, received favor from Alexander the Great.
This is the third part of a series titled "The Christian History of the Four Beast Empires." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones