Summary: Reading Josephus’ intriguing story about Alexander the Great.
Note: This is the first article in a series on Alexander the Great.
PREMISE: Alexander the Great was predicted in the Bible.
PURPOSE OF ARTICLE: To present an intriguing story from Josephus’ Antiquities regarding Alexander the Great, the Jewish priests, and a prophecy in the book of Daniel.
Alexander the Great needs no introduction. He was the mighty king of Macedonia, a fierce warrior, a determined conqueror, and a legendary figure in history. Presiding over one of the greatest empires in ancient times, he revolutionized the world by introducing Greek culture and language to nations that he subjugated. He defeated the mighty Persian Empire at the Battle of Gaugamela, traveled to India, and sought to conquer the known world. But his life was cut short in Babylon at the young age of 32.
Some believe that the Bible predicted Alexander’s rise (in Daniel 8) long before Alexander existed. As usual, critics and scholars have stepped up and protested that this is impossible – that Daniel 8 was written long after Alexander lived, thus constituting a “prophecy after the fact”.
If you follow our articles, you know that there are many possible responses to these critics. But today, I want you to read a story from Book 11, Chapter 8 of the Antiquities of the Jews, penned by the famous Jewish historian Josephus. The entire story has been reprinted here (translation by William Whiston)1. Read it for yourself and decide if it’s true or not.
So when Alexander besieged Tyre, he sent an epistle to the Jewish high-priest, to send him some auxiliaries, and to supply his army with provisions; and that what presents he formerly sent to Darius, he would now send to him, and choose the friendship of the Macedonians, and that he should never repent of so doing.
But the high-priest answered the messengers, that he had given his oath to Darius not to bear arms against him; and he said that he would not transgress this while Darius was in the land of the living. Upon hearing this answer, Alexander was very angry; and though he determined not to leave Tyre, which was just ready to be taken, yet as soon as he had taken it, he threatened that he would make an expedition against the Jewish high-priest, and through him teach all men to whom they must keep their oaths…
Now Alexander, when he had taken Gaza, made haste to go up to Jerusalem; and Jaddus the [Jewish] high-priest, when he heard that, was in an 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 sacrifice 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, 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.
And when Jaddus understood that Alexander 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 into Greek, signifies a prospect, for you have thence a prospect both of Jerusalem and of the temple.
And when the Phoenicians and the Samarians 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 whereon 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 disordered in his mind.
However, Parmenion alone went up to him [Alexander], 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 his highpriesthood; for I saw this very person in a dream, in this very habit, when I was at Dion 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.”
And when he had said this to Parmenion, and had given the high-priest his right hand, the priests ran along by him, and he 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. 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 asked 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.
You be the judge. Is this story true, or did Josephus include a myth in his historical record? Should you agree with critics who insist that Daniel was written well after Alexander came to Jerusalem, thus making this story false?
Or, is it possible that Alexander the Great really met with the Jewish high priest and read about himself in the book of Daniel? And if so, would that not prove that one of the Bible’s prophecies is, in fact, legitimate?
Let that be something to ponder this week.
 Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 11.8, translated by William Whiston
Probably not true…josephus was a jew, so wouldn’t he be biased? Guess we’ll find out next week.
Oh it’s definitely true. Classical Historians don’t include myths in their midst as to risk their reputation as a credible source. Plus there’s more than just Josephus out there to confirm Alexander’s Judean excursion. See what Arrian and Strabo have to say. You might find more to compare than to contrast.