GREECE

THIS ARTICLE DEALS with a nation well known to many people which is now a member of the European Union. It is also a country visited by thousands of holiday-makers because of the fine weather it enjoys for most of the year.

Greece is about the same size in area as England and it lies at the southern tip of the Balkan peninsula. Four fifths of the land is mountainous, and it is only in the North of the country that it has land borders with other nations – Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey. Elsewhere it is bordered by three seas, the Ionian, the Mediterranean and the Aegean. The country lies at the junction of two continents - Europe and Asia. There are therefore a number of influences which have affected its history, development and culture.

Many Greek words have come into the English language and are familiar to us today. For example, the word ‘democracy’ is from the Greek word demokratia which is derived from ‘demos’, meaning common people. The word ‘marathon’ commemorates an event in Greek history when a messenger ran many miles and reported the Greek victory over the Persians at the place called Marathon. ‘Olympia’ was a Greek city and the site of the temple of Zeus where the ‘Olympic’ games were first held. These are just a few of the many words of Greek origin that have entered the English language.

The Greek language is one of the ancient languages that together with Hebrew and Latin form the basis of the English translation of the Bible. The Greeks, having been taught their written language by the Phoenicians, added vowels. At the time of Jesus, although the Romans were in power, the most common language in the ancient world was Greek and so the New Testament was written and preserved in the Greek language.

But what of Greece as a nation? Surprisingly, it is only mentioned a few times in the Bible. In the Hebrew language, the word Greece was known as Javan ; he was a grandson of Noah who was saved from the flood by the hand of God. The Bible records that from Javan and his descendants ‘were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.’ (Genesis 10.5) From Javan came the Greek nation, in the Hebrew bene-hayyevanim meaning the sons of the Javanim.

Nations and events in the Bible can be of a historical character and also the subject of prophecy and Greece fulfils both of these categories. In the book of the prophet Daniel it was recorded of him and his three companions:

‘…in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king (Nebuchadnezzar) enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.’ (Daniel 1.20)

The Greek Empire which was to succeed the Babylonian & Medo-Persian Empires

NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S DREAM

Daniel and his three friends were among the Jewish captives in Babylon. The king of Babylon had a dream which troubled him and in his anxiety he wanted to know the meaning of it. He ordered his wise men to remind him of the dream and to tell him the meaning of it. Of course they could not do this and to avoid punishment they went to Daniel for help. The book reveals how Daniel was told the details of the dream and given its meaning by God. Then Daniel said:

‘I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and...hast now made known unto us the king’s matter.’ (Daniel 2.23)

Darius lll and the Persian troops in full flight from Alexander (far left) at the battle of Issus.. Depicted in a Roman Mosaic found in Pompeii in the late 2nd Century BC, from a 4th Century Greek painting. The mosaic is in the National Archaeology museum, Naples

Daniel revealed to the king details of his dream; how he had dreamed of an image whose head was made of gold, it’s breast and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of brass with legs of iron and feet part iron and part clay. Daniel told the king ‘Thou art this head of gold;(Daniel 2.38) so the Babylonian Empire was symbolised by the golden head. After Nebuchadnezzar would come a power represented by the breast and arms of silver. History reveals it was the Medo-Persian Empire that in turn would be followed by the Greek Empire represented by the belly and thighs of brass. Finally, the fourth power was the Roman Empire represented by the two legs of iron.

Here then is a prophecy concerning four empires - one already in existence and three to occur in the future as far as Daniel was concerned. We note that each metal in the image was on a descending scale in preciousness – from Gold to Iron. In contrast, in terms of strength each metal was on an ascending scale – iron being the strongest.

It is the third of these empires that interests us now, the empire of brass. Let us look at another dream and its meaning.

DANIEL’S FIRST DREAM

This dream is recorded in the book of Daniel chapter seven. It was given to Daniel during the first year of the reign of Belshazzar and the dream referred to four beasts. In the following table, the beasts can be easily related to the four parts of the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

The Beasts The Image The Meaning
Lion with eagles wings Golden head Babylonian Empire
Bear raised on one side Breast and arms of silver Medo-Persian Empire
Leopard with four heads Belly and thighs of brass Greek Empire
Beast with ten horns Legs of iron Roman Empire

As we consider the Greek Empire, we note that Daniel describes its characteristics in this way:

‘…I beheld, and lo another (beast), like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.’ (Daniel 7.6)

THE GRECIAN EMPIRE

From about 340 BC, Philip of Macedon united the various Greek tribes into a nation, helped by his son Alexander. Alexander was born in 356 BC and from a youth he was a soldier. Philip was assassinated when Alexander was 20 years old and Alexander became the undisputed king. He continued to unite Greece and prepared an army. It is said that when he consulted the Delphic Oracle, the seeress told him ‘My son, thou art invincible’, to which Alexander replied ‘That’s all the answer I require.’ In the next 13 years he fulfilled that statement by extending his power over all or part of the following countries - Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Tyre, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Cyprus, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Soviet Central Asia and parts of Pakistan and India.

The book of Maccabees is part of the Apocrypha which is sometimes included in our Bible between the books of the Old and New Testaments. However it is not recognised as part of the Holy Scriptures. In it we find a record of Alexander’s conquests:

‘…it happened, after that Alexander, son of Philip, the Macedonian...had smitten Darius king of the Persians and Medes, that he reigned in his stead... and made many wars, and won many strong holds, and slew the kings of the earth, and went through to the ends of the earth, and took spoils of many nations, insomuch that the earth was quiet before him... And he gathered a mighty strong host, and ruled over countries, and nations, and kings, who became tributaries unto him.’ (1 Maccabees 1.1-4)

Alexander defeated and replaced the previous Empire by conquering and destroying the Persian army under Darius in 331 BC at Arbela; Darius was assassinated soon after. In this way Bible prophecy was fulfilled; the Persian Empire was now replaced by the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great as he became known. Daniel’s prophecy describes him as a fierce leopard with wings. The wings are translated elsewhere in the Bible as ‘corners’ showing the vast area that Alexander controlled and typifying the speed of conquest. This was completed in just 13 years, for in 323 BC he became ill and died when he was only 33 years old.

Alexander left no natural declared heir as ruler of the Empire. Within fifteen years his family was extinct - one of his two wives murdered the other, his brother was murdered by his mother and his two sons were also murdered. Again the prophecy was fulfilled for the beast had four heads. After the death of Alexander his four generals divided the Empire between them:

ALEXANDER
|
Cassander Lysimarchus Ptolemy Seleucus
(Macedonia)  (Asia Minor)  (Egypt)  (Syria)

The Agora (market-place) and restored Stoa (covered walk way) of Attalua in Athens

That once great Empire was now divided and remained so until the Roman Empire grew in strength and finally replaced it in about 100 BC, having swallowed up the provinces that formed the Greek Empire. Indeed, Alexander’s mighty Empire started to break up in less time than it had taken him to win it. The Greek Empire lasted about 300 years but never sustained a long period of peace.

DANIEL’S SECOND DREAM

Daniel Chapter 8 records another dream that Daniel had - this time a ram with two horns followed by a goat:

‘…an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.’ (Daniel 8.5)

The record tells us the meaning of this dream:

‘The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.’ (Daniel 8.20-22)

The great horn is representative of Alexander and as we have seen, he was succeeded by his four generals who divided the Empire between them. Here again is a prophecy and the meaning of the symbols is given in this prophecy. The Greek Empire was divided and slowly diminished and came to an end being superceded by the Roman Empire as Daniel had predicted.

THE INFLUENCE OF GREECE

However the Grecian people and their language remained. At the time of Christ, the Greek language was widely used and the Old Testament scriptures had been translated into Greek now known as the Septuagint version. The Apostle Paul spoke Greek as we learn from the book of Acts. When he was under arrest in Jerusalem he asked the Roman captain: ‘May I speak unto thee ? The captain replied: Canst thou speak Greek ?’ (Acts 21.37) We also learn from the book of Acts that many of the first century Christians were Greeks: ‘…a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.’ (Acts 14.1)

Some of the early Christian ecclesias (or assemblies) were in Greece. Paul visited Thessalonica and Berea, for example. He also wrote letters to Timothy and Titus who were Greeks. In New Testament times the name Greek was another name for Gentiles or those who were not Jews. Paul wrote to the Roman believers:

‘…I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.’ (Romans 1.16)

‘For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (Romans 10.12,13)

The Greek Empire came to it’s end as Daniel had predicted and after the demise of the Roman Empire, Greece was a divided country. In AD 300 Greece was divided into eight provinces. Much later Greece fell under the rule of the Ottoman Turks but today it is an independent nation again.

History therefore followed Bible prophecy. Four ‘world’ empires existed in turn- ‘world’ meaning the then known habitable part of the earth - Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman. The fourth empire was as strong as iron, represented by the two legs of Nebuchadnezzar’s image - the Eastern and Western divisions of the Empire. The toes of the image represented the divided state of Europe following the break-up of the Roman Empire. Those kingdoms were a mixture - some weak some strong, aptly described in Daniel’s words concerning the toes of ‘iron mixed with miry clay.’ (Daniel 2.43)

There has never been a lasting European based Empire since the collapse of the Roman Empire. Men like Napoleon and Hitler have attempted to achieve this but they have failed as required by the prophecy that is recorded in the book of Daniel.

THE NEXT WORLD-WIDE EMPIRE

Daniel had told Nebuchadnezzar the meaning of the dream in describing the Empires but also he went on to tell of the destruction of the image in the dream:

‘Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces...the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.’  (Daniel 2.34,35)

The interpretation followed:

‘…whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay...in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.’ (Daniel 2.43,44)

The stone that demolished the image was ’cut out…without hands’, implying it was not man made; it then grew and filled the earth. The hand of the Almighty God is revealed here. The kingdoms of men will be destroyed, and replaced by the kingdom of God which will last for ever. This is the certain hope of men and women of faith based on their understanding of the prophecies in the Bible. This is the time that Daniel referred to in the last chapter of his prophecy: ‘…at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was…and at that time thy people shall be delivered…’(Daniel 12.1)

Jesus Christ will return as promised, to establish the kingdom. The Apostle Peter wrote:

‘…he (God) shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.’ (Acts 3.20,21)

What then will happen? Daniel again supplies us with the answer:

‘…many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.’ (Daniel 12.2,3)

As Daniel was blessed with an understanding of Divinely given dreams, may you the reader, also be blessed with an understanding of God’s purpose. Next time you hear news of Greece, think about what the Bible reveals, consider how history proved the accuracy and truth of prophecy. The future is just as certain -- as God told Daniel:

‘But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.’ (Daniel 12.13)

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