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When Alexander came into Egypt, the people out of hatred to the Persians, cheerfully submitted to his becoming master of the country, and made no opposition. He built a city, which, after his own name, he called Alexandria. He transplanted thither many Jews, and allowed them as great privileges and immunities as the Macedonians.
Under his successor, the sixth Ptolemy, the whole management of Egypt was committed to Jews, Onias and Dositheus. A temple was built in the prefecture of Heliopolis, for the service of which, Priests and Levites were appointed. It was constructed on the plan of that at Jerusalem, and continued as long.
Thus the notable prophecy of Isaiah, delivered several hundred years before, which remarkably described Alexander, became literally fulfilled: "In that day shall there be an altar unto the Lord in the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof unto the Lord. And it shall be for a sign, and for a witness unto the Lord in the land of Egypt. For they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors; and he shall send them a Saviour and a great one, and he shall deliver them."
May we not now exclaim: How astonishing are the consequences which have flowed from
the captivity of the Jews in Babylon, and in Egypt! As their fathers were delivered from Egyptian bondage, by a mighty hand, and an outstretched arm, made bare in the sight of all nations, so was the God of Israel magnified before the face of the Babylonians. As he gave to Moses and Aaron, power over all the magicians and astrologers of Pharaoh, so gave He to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, such excellency of wisdom, and to Daniel understanding in all visions and dreams, that, as we have before noted, the king found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in all his realm. *The incorruptible integrity and magnanimity of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who, though they had been set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, were not to be induced by the king's decree to swerve from the worship of the God of Israel; His marvellous interposition on their behalf, in miraculously quenching the violence of fire; Daniel's discovery and interpretation of the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar; the awful accomplishment of the one by which he was driven from the society of men, and left in a state of derangement for the space of seven years; his restoration at the predicted period, and wonderful acknowledgment of the power of the Most High; the interpretation of the hand
writing on the wall against Belshazzar; the verrification of it the same night, in his being slain, and the kingdom given to Darius the Mede; the decree of Darius upon the deliverance of Daniel from the power of the lions; these were events calculated to strike the Jews with irresistible conviction, of the great advantage and importance of faithfully serving the God of their fathers. This conviction, added to the afflictions of their captivity, so effectually wrought their reformation, that they never afterwards returned to idolatry.
But these wonderful events were not merely for the correction and reformation of the Jews; they also displayed to surrounding nations the infinitely superior power of the God of the Hebrews. As Daniel prospered in the reigns both of Darius and Cyrus, no doubt the Persians, by such displays of Divine efficacy, would be greatly strengthened in their opposition to idolatry, and in their detestation of it in all its kinds. Thus we may see how they were prepared utterly to cast down and destroy the idols of Babylon, and also of Egypt.
The Persians were the restorers of the Jews, and the destroyers of their enemies.
Shall we not conclude that in these dispensations, God, the Father and Governor of mankind, VOL. II. R
was working for the reformation and improvement of the world, in that wherein true excellency consists, and in which is the foundation of real happiness?
If we connect the history of the Jews with that of other nations, from the most remote antiquity, we shall discover that they were not chosen so much for their own benefit, as for the general benefit of mankind.
The Bishop of Llandaff says: "To all the people of the earth they were formerly, and they are still, as a beacon set upon a hill, to warn them from idolatry, and to light them to the sanctuary of a God, holy, just, and pure.”
We may distinguish prophecies into two kinds. Some were purely spiritual, and relate only to Jesus Christ and the Church. Of this sort is the first, and most ancient of all, when God, after Adam's fall, cursed the serpent, and declared that the seed of the woman should bruise his head: in other words that the Saviour of the world should one day come to destroy the power of the devil. Such also were those of Jacob, who specifies the time of the Messiah's coming; and of Daniel, who points out in a very particular manner, the express time of the Messiah's suffering, and the consequences of his
The interpretation of the image which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream, and Daniel's vision of the four beasts, had not only a spiritual but historical relation. Having, under both figures, described the four great monarchies, and the very order of their succession, he has also another prediction in the following chapter, relating to Alexander the great, which is one of the clearest and most circumstantial in the whole Scripture.
The prophet, after having expressed the monarchies of the Persians and Macedonians, under the figure of two beasts, thus clearly explains himself: "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." What, continues Rollin, can the most obstinate incredulity object to a prophecy so clear and evident as this?
By what means did Daniel see that the empire of the Persians was to be destroyed by that of the Greeks, which was so absolutely improbable? How could he know the rapidity of Alexander's conquest, which he describes so beautifully, by saying, that he touched not the earth ? How could he know that Alexander would have no son to succeed him? that his empire would be divided into four principal kingdoms? that his