Alexander the Great Was Prophesied in the Bible—and He Knew It!
The civilization-altering life of Alexander the Great is well known to most students of history. But there is one chapter of his saga that is as seldom discussed as it is fascinating: Alexander’s reign was predicted in the Old Testament long before he was born, and when he visited Jerusalem, the high priest showed him those Bible prophecies about his reign.
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If you’re not familiar with this intriguing chapter of history, you may be astounded to learn how Alexander reacted to being told that those scriptures were written about him.
An Unusual Upbringing
Alexander was born in 356 b.c. in the city of Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia. His parents were Philip ii and Olympias of Epirus. From his father, Alexander learned the art and science of warfare, but historians agree that his mother was far more influential in his life. From her, Alexander inherited a profound love for learning, and also a fiery, sometimes ruthless nature.
During his early years, Alexander’s mother constantly told him that he was part god. Her family had long claimed to be descendants of Achilles the demigod. At one point she even told him that his true father was Zeus—the king of the Greek gods.
Of course, Achilles was a myth, Zeus was fiction, and Alexander was a mortal man like any other. But nonetheless, these teachings affected young Alexander.
He believed he was the descendant of Achilles. This prompted him to study everything he could about the mythological demigod, his supposed ancestor. In his adult years, Alexander even carried a copy of Homer’s Iliad, which chronicles Achilles’s conquests. He slept with the book under his pillow every night, and he carried it with him into every battle.
Another important detail of Alexander’s upbringing is that he was personally taught by the famous Aristotle. And among the subjects Aristotle taught him was the Hebrew language.
Campaigns of Conquest
In 336, Philip ii was assassinated. Alexander ascended the throne of Macedonia at the age of 20 and took command of the massive army his father had spent his life assembling and training.
Almost immediately, Alexander embarked on the great military crusade that his father had spent years preparing for: the conquest of the Persian Empire.
For several generations before Alexander, the Persians had dominated much of the known world—including some Greek cities. Many in Greece and Macedonia felt that it threatened the very existence of the Greek way of life.
After entering Asia Minor, Alexander first conquered the city of Baalbek, which he renamed Heliopolis. He then liberated Ephesus from Persian rule and defeated the Persian army’s main force at the Battle of Issus. Next he sacked the cities of Sidon and Aleppo, besieged Tyre and razed Gaza to the ground.
At 24 years old, Alexander was undefeated. His notional invincibility appeared to prove that his mother had always been right: Divine blood was coursing through his veins.
Around this time, Alexander set his sights on the city of Jerusalem.
Josephus, the Jewish historian who lived in the first century a.d., said that when Alexander was just about to enter Jerusalem, the Jewish high priest at that time, Jaddua, met him on the outskirts of the city. Jaddua led a procession of affluent residents of Jerusalem. They hoped to convince Alexander not to make Jerusalem the next city he destroyed. The sight gave Alexander pause. Josephus records that Alexander had had a dream of this high priest and took this as a sign from God. He entered the city peacefully.
Once inside, Jaddua brought Alexander to the temple and showed him passages from the book of Daniel.
‘This Ancient Prophecy Is About You!’
About 180 years before Alexander was born, the Prophet Daniel wrote his book, canonized in the Bible. Daniel 10:1 states that he wrote it in the third year of the reign of Cyrus the Great, which historians agree was around 535 b.c.
Jaddua would have showed Alexander such passages as Daniel 11:2-3, describing the Persian Empire pushing against Greece and eventually being conquered by a powerful Greek ruler: “Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia. And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.”
Jaddua also likely showed Alexander the passages in Daniel 8 that give more details about this “mighty king” of Greece who would defeat the Persians. These passages truly are about Alexander the Great, and they were written around 200 years before his reign began!
You can imagine Alexander standing in the temple next to the priest. You can imagine him being shown an ancient scroll of Daniel’s words. Thanks to the education he had received from Aristotle, he could read the Hebrew Daniel had written. He needed no translation.
He had also been told by his mother his whole life that he was no ordinary man, but someone of divine blood and origin. This passage in Daniel, of course, did not say he was divine in any way. But Jaddua would have explained to Alexander that the book had the true God’s fingerprints all over it.
We can only speculate about what Alexander thought after reading for himself the words of God recorded by Daniel. But it may be that his mother’s words made him more open to believing that these ancient, holy Scriptures were about him. Or maybe he was just compelled by the clear language about a “mighty king” from Greece overthrowing the Persian Empire—especially since he had already made such stunning progress toward that end before his visit to Jerusalem.
Whatever the reasoning, Alexander the Great believed that he himself was the man being discussed in these passages. He believed that it was a true prophecy, and that he was in the process of fulfilling it!
Josephus wrote about Alexander’s reaction to Jaddua in Antiquities of the Jews: “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. 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 entreated 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” (Book 11, Chap. 8, Sec. 5; William Whiston translation, 1981).
(Hecataeus of Abdera, a contemporary of Alexander, is also said to have written about Alexander’s visit to Jerusalem, but his writings on the topic did not survive into the modern era.)
Alexander had pillaged and plundered many cities, often renaming them and requiring them to adopt the Greco-Macedonian culture. But not so for the city of Jerusalem. Alexander not only believed the prophecies in Daniel were about himself, but because of that belief, he granted great favor to the Jews. He allowed them to keep their own laws and culture, and gave them a massive break from paying tribute.
This glimpse back into a seldom-discussed chapter of Alexander’s life shows how prophecy and history intersected in a dramatic way. It also adds a layer of authenticity to the biblical record.
Many scholars have tried to discredit Daniel’s writings because if he wrote his book when he said he did in the sixth century b.c., then the Bible would have to have been divinely inspired. The scholars who reject this argue that the book of Daniel was written after Alexander died. But Josephus was a meticulous and well-respected historian, thorough in his efforts to separate fiction from fact, and to only record the latter. His detailed record of Alexander reading the prophecies about himself by Daniel adds powerful support to the sixth century date Daniel gave to his book. It shows that, as Daniel wrote, “[T]here is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets”—and can bring them to pass!
To understand those astounding prophecies God inspired Daniel to record, please request our powerful, free booklet History and Prophecy of the Middle East.