May 27, 2020 – Wednesday
Verses from Why I love Bible Studies (Part 2 of 3)
Zechariah 9:5-8 NIV
5 Ashkelon will see it and fear; Gaza will writhe in agony, and Ekron too, for her hope will wither. Gaza will lose her king and Ashkelon will be deserted.
6 A mongrel people will occupy Ashdod, and I will put an end to the pride of the Philistines.
7 I will take the blood from their mouths, the forbidden food from between their teeth. Those who are left will belong to our God and become a clan in Judah, and Ekron will be like the Jebusites.
8 But I will encamp at my temple to guard it against marauding forces. Never again will an oppressor overrun My people, for now I am keeping watch.
Today some of the comments are about the verses above as they provide the context for the in-depth historical remarks. Let’s begin with verse five. What will Ashkelon see and fear? First of all Ashkelon was an ancient seaport and in the course of its history it has been ruled by Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Phoenicians, Hasmoneans, Romans, Persians, Arabs, and the Crusaders until it was finally destroyed in 1270 AD by the Muslim Mamluk caliphate. It was about 45 miles from Jerusalem.
However, we are interested primarily in two time periods. That of Alexander the Great and that of the prophet Zechariah. The latter was specific about his writing being in the time period we now define as being 520-518 BC. Alexander the Great was born 356 BC and died 323 BC, he only lived 33 years. So what links Alexander the Great and Zechariah? Great question!
Alexander the Great, commanding Greek armies, is the one who conquered Ashkelon, Gaza, and Ekron among many others along the Eastern Mediterranean coast that we read about in verses five and six in the years 332-331 BC. This is what Zechariah prophesied and it occurred as history clearly records. However, many thought for Zechariah to be this accurate it had to be a forgery or an addition well after Alexander the Great conquered all these territories and somehow left Judah and Jerusalem alone. At least that was the theory until they discovered the prophecies of Zechariah were written in a form of Hebrew only known for the time period in which he lived and prophesied.
Then comes an even greater mystery, or miracle if you prefer, on how God ensured Jerusalem would avoid the expected sacking by Alexander and his army. It has to do with two dreams and a meeting between Alexander the Great and the High Priest of Israel as recorded in Josephus’ Antiquities (11.8.4-5). David Guizk, Peter Pett, and John MacArthur among others refer to Josephus’ account. We will look at Guzik’s retelling of what Josephus wrote.
From Josephus’ Antiquities: 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 agony, and under terror, as not knowing how he should meet the Macedonians, since the king was displeased at his foregoing disobedience. He therefore ordained that the people should make supplications, and should join with him in offering sacrifices 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, adorn the city, and open the gates; that the rest appear in white garments, but that he and the priests should meet the king in 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 the dream he acted entirely, and so waited for the coming of the king. (underlining added for emphasis)
If that is not strange enough, then the following happened as Josephus continued: 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 in 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, 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 on which 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 to be disordered in his mind.
Using the same source, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges adds the following details: It was at the sunrise of a winter morning, long afterwards observed as a joyous festival, when they stood before the king. To the astonishment of the surrounding chiefs Alexander descended from his chariot and bowed to the earth before the Jewish leader.
Returning Josephus according to Guzik we read how this came to be: However, Parmenio [Alexander’s second-in-command] 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 has honored him with that 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 dominion over the Persians; whence it is, that having seen no other in that habit, and now seeing this person in it, and remembering my vision and the exhortation which I had in my dream, I believe that I bring this army under 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.” (underlining added for emphasis)
Thus two dreams from God saw to it that Zechariah’s prophecy came to be and Jerusalem was spared. For more details you may wish to go here and scroll down to the comments on verse eight or here and scroll down to Guzik’s comments on the same.
Once again I hope I have whetted your appetite for Bible studies and the in-depth information you can discover therein as well as making you aware of how God can speak to you in your dreams.
Riley D. Driver-Pastor
Calvary Chapel of Dayton