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Author: Ron Graham

History of IsraelTimes of Israel series

The Grecian Empire
—and the silent years

Time ~ 9. Prophecy Unfolding
Span ~ 400 years
Books ~ Secular history only, except some mention in prophetic books eg Daniel 2
Figures ~ None in Bible
Begins with ~ Completion of OT scriptures
Ascendant empire ~ Greece

The ninth period in the Times of Israel —Prophecy Unfolding— spans 400 years.

The Greek empire is the third empire of the four successive superpowers represented in the dream image of Daniel 2. Greece is symbolised by the Belly and thighs of brass.

1 The Silent Years

The prophets fell silent, and four hundred years passed without the Messiah appearing. In that time, Jerusalem and its temple were again destroyed, when the Greek empire, especially under Alexander the Great, dominated the world. Later the Roman empire took over the world. For all their iron rule, the Romans did allow the temple to be rebuilt once more. It was being finished when the Messiah came.

No scripture was written in the course of the Grecian empire. For that reason, the period is sometimes called "the silent years". However we should not take that to mean that the Bible has nothing to say about the Grecians. The Bible is by no means silent about the Greek empire, as this lesson shows.

Even about a time when no scripture was written, scripture might have something to say. Sometimes the scriptures look back on a particular time and speak of it. Sometimes the scriptures looking forward to a particular time and speak of it predictively in prophecy. This was the case with the Greek empire. In this lesson we examine the link between the Greek empire and the Bible.

2 The Bible and Greece

The Old Testament, although completed before the time of the Greek empire, speaks of it predictively in prophecy.

The New Testament, although written after the time of the Greek empire, is still influenced by it because Greek culture lived on strongly even after the empire fell. The Greek language was chosen by God as the tongue in which every book of the New Testament was written. The New Testament sometimes even calls all non-Jews "the Greeks" because in New Testament times a lot of the world spoke Greek and borrowed its culture.

The distant goal

God planned that Greece (Javan) would be among the nations that one day would hear of him and see his glory through Christ (Isa 66:18-19). We have to remember that all through the "silent years" God went on preserving his remnant for the sake of bringing Christ into the world as a descendant of Abraham and David just as he had sworn to do.

The belly of brass

The third empire in the dream image (Daniel 2:31-45) was Greece. When Philip of Macedon (359-336 BC) was assassinated, his son Alexander the Great took the throne. He had been schooled by Aristotle. It was in the days of Alexander the Great that the Persian empire fell. [Incidentally, the Bible also fortold the destruction of Tyre (Zechariah 9:3, Ezekiel 27:32) which Alexander carried out before he captured Jerusalem].

The mighty princes

War between Greece and Persia involved princes not only of this world but also the archangels, notably Gabriel and Michael (Daniel 10:5-6,11-13,20-21). One of these angels told Daniel, that the prince of Greece (Javan) was about to come (Daniel 10:20-21) and Persia's fourth king after Darius the Mede would be aroused against Greece (Daniel 11:2).

The shaggy goat

The beasts of Daniel 7 and 8 tie in with the parts of the image in Daniel 2. The ram represents Medo-Persia and the shaggy goat Greece, as explained by the angel Gabriel (Daniel 8:20-21).

The four horns

After Alexander the Great's death, the empire was fragmented by his four strongest generals. (Lysimachus took Thrace, Seleucus Nicator took Syria, Ptolemy took Egypt, and Cassander took Macedonia and Greece). The goat with a large horn replaced by four horns represents this (Daniel 8:8,22). So does the four-winged four-headed leopard described earlier (Daniel 7:6).

The abomination of desolation

The angel says that later an arrogant king would arise who would destroy God’s people (Daniel 8:8-14,22-25). History tells us that, in the 153rd Olympiad (167 BC) Antiochus Epiphanes (the name means god manifest) persecuted the Jews. He robbed the temple treasures, set up idolatrous abominations in the temple, flogged and crucified thousands of Jews. The Jews dubbed him "Epimanes" (madman). No wonder the sons of Zion would be stirred! (Zech 9:13).

This foreshadowed another (even worse) persecution and destruction which the Romans would perpetrate over 200 years later, in AD 70 (Daniel 9:26-27 cf Mtt 24:15-22).

The Septuagint

A couple of centuries before Christ, During the Greek period, the Old Testament was translated into the Greek language. This translation is called the Septuagint meaning "seventy" —because about seventy scholars translated it. This translation is quoted many times in the New Testament. This enabled people who could not understand Hebrew, including dispersed Jews, to have access to God's word. In this we see God's providence at work to bring about his will.

The Dispersion

After the Greek empire had fallen and the Roman empire held sway, many Jews and Israelites were still scattered around the world. These were collectively known as "the Dispersion among the Greeks" (John 7:35) —the term "Greeks" referring to Gentiles in general (Romans 1:13-15). Greek influence was still strong in the time of Christ and the early church. Even our language and culture today is heavily influenced by the Greeks —both ancient and modern.

Seeking Wisdom

Paul characterises the Greeks in this way: "the Greeks seek after wisdom" (1Corinthians 1:22). But Paul knew the wisdom they had was not the wisdom they needed, but rather what they regarded as foolishness —the wisdom of the gospel of Christ crucified.

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