|Volume 21 Number 4 April 2019||
David R. Kenney
It may seem strange to have an article on Alexander the Great. However, there were reasons why Alexander was referred to as “the Great,” and these reasons influenced the New Testament world. The fact that both the Old Testament was translated in and the New Testament was written in Koine Greek demonstrates the great influence of Alexander the Great.
Alexander was born to King Philip II of Macedon (382-336 B.C.) and Olympias. His teacher was the philosopher Aristotle. In 336 B.C., Philip II was assassinated by Pausanias, who stabbed Philip as he stood between his son Alexander and his new son-in-law Alexander at his daughter’s, Cleopatra, wedding celebration. Philip had decided to invade Persian territory in Asia Minor in retaliation for their alliance with foes of Greece. There was a force of 10,000 on the march when Philip died. Alexander would take this force and begin empire expansion like it had never been seen before.
Alexander defeated Darius III and the Persian Empire at the Battle of Issus in 333 B.C. Darius was murdered before Alexander could catch him in pursuit. Alexander treated Darius’ family, whom he had abandoned to flee, with compassion. In fact, Alexander did this with many of the nations he conquered. His conquest of the island portion of Tyre was incredible. Although Alexander is not named in the Bible, there are prophecies relating to his conquest and the rise of Greece as a world power (Ezekiel 26:1-14; Daniel 2:1-45; 8:18-22; 10:20-11:4).
According to Josephus, Ant. 11:317-335, Alexander was about to conquer Judea after their refusal to send him reinforcements at Tyre. When he approached Jerusalem, he was met by High Priest Jaddus and an entourage paying homage. According to Josephus, they made such an impression on Alexander that he left them to be self-governing. Scholars contest aspects of Josephus’ account, even some doubting Alexander ever came to Jerusalem. Alexander certainly had “bigger fish to fry” with the Persians, but Alexander was known to leave some to govern themselves if they were friendly toward him.
Alexander the Great, unlike the Roman Empire to follow, forced his subjects to learn Greek and to express themselves in Greek conventions. He encouraged cities to follow the Greek model called polis. The term Hellenism refers to those who adopted the Greek way. Even though the Jews resisted assimilation, there were those who embraced Greek ways. Recall the Hellenists who were Greek speaking Jews in Acts 6:1. Alexander the Great began his conquest at the age of 20, and he continued his conquest even into parts of Egypt, India and beyond until his death at the age of 33 in 323 B.C. The psalmist wrote “God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne” (Psalm 47:8 NKJV). God used Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander the Great and others, whether they realized it or not, to accomplish His divine plan to bring salvation to the entire world through the work of Jesus, the Son of God.
Works Cited or Consulted
Bell, Albert A. Exploring the New Testament World. Nashville: Nelson Publishers, 1998.
Ferguson, Everett. Backgrounds of Early Christianity. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993.
Overton, Basil. Gems From Greek. Abilene: Quality P., 1991
Woe to the Land!
There is trouble in the land when our leaders have the philosophy to “party first, work later.” This is because there is usually no time to work later. Those who watch out for our welfare need to be hard at work. We are depending on them.
Solomon was not giving a lesson in “Political Science 101” in Ecclesiastes 10:16, which reads, “Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, And your princes feast in the morning!” (NKJV). He was talking about the wise use of one’s time. Notice the following lessons.
First, our work ethic affects others. The laziness of the king has a direct impact upon the land. Equally, the slothfulness of parents will encourage the same in their children. A poor work ethic on the job pulls down the company and frequently requires other employees to do more than their fair share. It has been frequently noted that approximately 80% of the work done by the church is done by only 20% of her members. This is not fair. Just as our body has members that all contribute, so also must all the members of the church (the body of Christ) contribute (1 Corinthians 12:11; Romans 12:3). Solomon had earlier said, “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (9:10). He said in 11:6, “sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening…” The point? Work! Work often, work hard and work whenever you can.
Second, our work ethic affects us. If we don’t have a good work ethic, then we will suffer. Solomon observed that “through indolence the rafters sag, and through slackness the house leaks” (10:18). We reap what we have sown! Who is to blame that we have to watch the rain come into our house and ruin our furniture? Solomon also notes that the lazy man will reap very unpleasant results (Proverbs 6:9-11).
Third, our work ethic effects God. We were created so that we might do good works (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14; James 2:14-26). Laziness will activate the wrath of God. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked: For whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Hosea noted that sometimes we’ll reap even more than we have sown (Hosea 8:7)!
It is generally recognized that affluence brings apathy and laziness (Ecclesiastes 5:11f). In our wealth, have we grown complacent? The Christian must set the pace of diligence in work—at the workplace (Colossians 3:23) and in the Lord’s work (2 Timothy 2:15).