The common language at the time of Jesus

After the Babylonian captivity, Aramaic replaced Biblical Hebrew as the everyday language in Israel.  However, Biblical Hebrew was still used for religious purposes.  After Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies and the Seleucids ruled Israel for almost two hundred years.  Thus, the Jewish culture was heavily influenced by this Hellenistic culture.  Koine Greek was used not only for international communication, but also as the first language of some Jews.  This development was furthered complicated by the fact that the largest Jewish community in the world lived in Ptolemaic Alexandria, Egypt.  Many of these diaspora Jews would have Greek as their first language.  Thus, first the Torah, and then other Hebrew scriptures, were translated into standard Koine Greek, the Septuagint.

Yahweh will be a guard (Zech 9:8-9:8)

“Then I will encamp

At my house

As a guard.

Thus,

No one shall march to and fro.

No oppressor

Shall again overrun them.

Now I see

With my own eyes.”

Yahweh was going to be the guard of his house.  People would not be able to move around or overtake it.  Perhaps, this is an allusion to a visit of Alexander the Great to Jerusalem on some of his exploits.  He obviously spared the city.  Thus, no oppressor would be able to overrun them.  Yahweh was going to see all this with his own eyes.

The king of the south (Dan 11:5-11:5)

“Then the king of the south

Shall be strong.

But one of his officers

Shall grow stronger

Than he.

He shall rule

A realm greater

Than his own realm.”

The king of the south was Ptolemy I (305-283 BCE), a general who had served with Alexander the Great. He took over Egypt and Hellenized it with the important Greek speaking city of Alexandria. Seleucus I Nicator (305-281 BCE) was his officer who grew stronger than Ptolemy. He then became known as the king of the north.

The great Greek king (Dan 11:3-11:4)

“Then a warrior king

Shall arise.

He shall rule

With great dominion.

He shall take action

As he pleases.

While still rising

In power,

His kingdom

Shall be broken.

It shall be divided

Toward the four winds of heaven,

But not to his posterity,

Nor according to the dominion

With which he ruled.

His kingdom

Shall be uprooted.

It shall go to others

Besides these.”

This warrior king was Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE), who had great power. He died while still young, only 32 years old. When he died, his great kingdom was divided into 4, like the 4 winds of heaven. Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy became the 4 rulers, none of whom were his children.

Gabriel explains the vision (Dan 8:19-8:22)

“Gabriel said.

‘Listen!

I will tell you

What will take place later

In the period

Of wrath!

It refers

To the appointed time

Of the end.

As for the ram

That you saw

With the two horns,

These are the kings

Of Media and Persia.

The male goat is

The king of Greece.

The great horn

Between its eyes

Is the first king.

As for the horn

That was broken,

In place of which

Four others arose,

Four kingdoms

Shall arise

From his nation,

But not with his power.’”

Gabriel told Daniel to listen to what he was going to tell him. This all would take place at a later appointed end time, when the wrath of God would be displayed. Then he went into details about the vision. The ram with the two horns represented Media and Persia. The male goat was the king of Greece. His broken horn represented the 4 people who took over after the death of Alexander the Great, Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy, the successors of Alexander. However, these 4 kingdoms would not be as strong as the first kingdom of Greece under Alexander.

The great power of the goat decimated (Dan 8:8-8:8)

“Then the male goat

Grew exceedingly great.

But at the height

Of his power,

The great horn

Was broken.

In its place,

There came up

Four prominent horns

Toward the four winds

Of heaven.”

This male goat became exceeding great, Alexander the Great. However, at the height of his power, at the age of 32, he died. Thus, the great horn was broken. Instead of one leader, there were 4 horns or leaders, equivalent to the 4 winds of heaven. These were Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy, the successors of Alexander.

The goat attacked the ram (Dan 8:6-8:7)

“The goat came toward

The ram

With the two horns,

That I had seen

Standing

Beside the river.

It ran at him

With a savage force.

I saw it

Approaching

The ram.

The goat was enraged

Against it.

The goat struck

The ram,

Breaking

Its two horns.

The ram

Did not have power

To withstand it.

The goat threw

The ram down

To the ground.

The goat trampled

Upon the ram.

There was no one

Who could rescue

The ram

From its power.”

Next Daniel witnessed the attack of the goat against the ram. The goat was angry, so that it struck the ram, breaking its 2 horns. Here is an indication that Alexander the Great, the goat, had attacked the Persians and Medes, the 2-horned ram. The ram could not recover, as the goat threw the ram to the ground and trampled over it. There was no one there to rescue the ram from the power of this goat.