The town of Byblos

Byblos was the Greek name for an important ancient Phoenician city sometimes called Gebal.  Today the town of Byblos is 25 miles north of Beirut, Lebanon, in the Mount Lebanon area on the Mediterranean seacoast.  There have been inhabitants in this town continuously for over 5,000 years.  Byblos had a major papyrus trade between Greece and Egypt.  Thus, the Greek name of Byblos came to dominate.  In fact, some Byblos written inscriptions that were discovered in the 20th century, date from around 1,700 to 1,400 BCE.

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The return of the prisoner captives (Zech 9:11-9:13)

“As for you also,

Because of the blood

Of my covenant

With you,

I will set your prisoners free

From the waterless pit.

Return to your stronghold!

O prisoners of hope!

Today I declare

That I will restore to you double.

I have bent Judah

As my bow.

I have made Ephraim

Its arrow.

I will arouse your sons!

O Zion!

Against your sons,

O Greece!

I will wield you

Like a warrior’s sword.”

In this oracle, Yahweh said that he was going to free the prisoners from their dungeons or waterless pits, because of the covenant or blood treaty that he had with Israel.  Perhaps, this is an allusion to the Temple sacrifices.  The former prisoners of hope or captives would return to their stronghold, since Yahweh was going to double what they had before.  He was going to use Judah in the south and Ephraim in the north as a bow and arrow against other countries, such as Greece.  Yahweh was going to wield them like a warrior’s sword.

The kings of Persia (Dan 11:2-11:2)

“Now I will announce

The truth

To you.

Three more kings

Shall arise

In Persia.

The fourth shall be

Far richer

Than all of them.

When he has become strong,

Through his riches,

He shall stir up all

Against the kingdom of Greece.”

Next this angel Gabriel was going to tell Daniel the truth about 3 or 4 more Persian kings. This assumes that Cyrus the Great (559-530 BCE) was the king at that time. The 3 more are probably Cambyses II (530-522 BCE), Darius I (522-486 BCE), and Xerxes I (486-465 BCE), who all went to war with Greece. The 4th Persian ruler might have been Artaxerxes (465-424 BCE). Notice that most of these Persian rulers ruled for long periods of time with their biggest enemy being Greece.

The explanation (Dan 10:20-10:21)

“Then he said.

‘Do you know

Why I have come to you?

Now I must return

To fight

Against the prince of Persia.

When I am

Through with him,

The prince of Greece

Will come.

But I will tell you

What is inscribed

In the book of truth.

There is no one

Who contends

Against these,

Except Michael,

Your prince.’”

Then this angel told Daniel why he was there. He had come to fight against the prince of Persia. However, he had to go to fight against the prince of Greece, after he had finished with the prince of Persia. Nevertheless, this angel was going to tell Daniel what was written in the book of truth. No one could contend with these great empires in Persia and Greece except for him and the prince Michael, the archangel Michael. Thus, this chapter ends with no real solution to the situation.

The return of the remnant (Isa 11:11-11:11)

“On that day,

Yahweh will extend his hand

Yet a second time.

He wanted to recover

The remnant that is left

Of his people,

From Assyria,

From Egypt,

From Pathros,

From Ethiopia,

From Elam,

From Shinar,

From Hamath,

And from the coastlands of the sea.”

In this ideal time, all the scattered Israelites would return from their Exile. Yahweh was going to extend his hand for a second time. The first time was the Exodus from Egypt. This time it is a call to recover the remnant from all over the place. Some of these places are easy to figure out. Assyria (present day Iraq), Egypt, and Ethiopia are easy to understand. Pathros was in upper Egypt. Elam is where current day Iran is. Shinar was in Babylon. Hamath was in Syria. The coastlands may have been the Aegean islands around present day Greece. Obviously, this was during the Exile or after it. It is interesting to note how many different places the Israelites were in Diaspora, so early in their history.

The division of the empire of Alexander the Great (1 Macc 1:5-1:9)

“After this, King Alexander fell sick. He perceived that he was dying. He summoned his most honored officers, who had been brought up with him from youth. He divided his kingdom among them while he was still alive. After King Alexander had reigned twelve years, he died. Then his officers began to rule, each in his own place. They all put on crowns after his death. Their sons after them did the same for many years. They caused many evils on the earth.”

King Alexander the Great only ruled for 12 years and died at the age of 33. However, before he died, he had divided up his kingdom among his trusted officers. Obviously, it was probably not that neatly done. After his death, 3 major kingdoms evolved the Antigonids of Macedonia in Greece, the Ptolemies in Egypt, and Seleucids in Syria. You have to remember that the Jewish people had a very pleasant relationship with the Persian kings since the time of Cyrus in the 6th century BCE. Thus they would have thought of these new kingdoms as evil.   This would have been very traumatic in the late 4th century BCE.

Alexander the Great (1 Macc 1:1-1:4)

“After Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian, who came from the land of Kittim, had defeated King Darius of the Persians and the Medes, he succeeded him as king. He had previously become king of Greece. King Alexander fought many battles. He conquered strongholds. He put to death the kings of the earth. He advanced to the ends of the earth. He plundered many nations. When the earth became quiet before him, he was exalted. His heart was lifted up. He gathered a very strong army. He ruled over countries, nations, and princes. They became tributary to him.”

Once again, we have a book that is not in the Hebrew canon and therefore not in the King James Bible. However, it was part of the Septuagint, and the Vulgate of Jerome. Thus it is part of the Catholic tradition that places these books about the Maccabees as the last books of the so-called historical books of the Bible, as in the Jerusalem Bible that I am following. This is a semi-historical book of the late 2nd century BCE.

It starts out with the real historical figure of Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE), the son of Philip of Macedonia (382-336 BCE). Alexander was the king of Greece who defeated the Persian King Darius III (380-330 BCE). Alexander had gone to the ends of the earth, which meant India in the east. He killed many kings with his strong army. All the nations were beholden to him as he attempted to Hellenize the whole empire with a dominant Greek culture. This Greek culture produced the holy books of the Greek Jewish Old Testament Septuagint and the Greek Christian New Testament. At some point there were more Greek speaking Jews in Alexandria than there were Jews in Jerusalem.