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When History and Prophecy Converge

What happens when key events of history have a connection to Bible prophecy? The result is a better appreciation for God's guiding hand in all of history.

by Mario Seiglie

When in school, you are bound to take some history classes. Yet many of us didn't find them very interesting. I remember they weren't for me. I just recall having to memorize a lot of ancient dates and remote places that seemed to have little importance today.

But a time came in my life when history suddenly became fascinating to me.

It was when I understood how history relates to the prophetic events in the Bible. A whole new world opened up to me. It was enthralling. Historical events now became valuable evidence that the Bible was inspired by God—and prophecy provided a framework for history—covering the past, present and even the future!

Now, not all of history relates to Bible prophecy, but you would be surprised to find out how much of it truly does. I found out much of history is simply the result of the best and worst of human nature played out in world events within the framework of biblical prophecy.

What happens when history and prophecy converge? You can then have a new appreciation of what has occurred on the world scene. Events that historians marvel about as seemingly lucky breaks or incredible coincidences turn out to actually be Bible prophecies being fulfilled.

Let me show you some astonishing examples. This was not something I expected when I bought the book What If?: The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been, edited by Robert Cowley.

The book contains around 50 key events in world history, with renowned historians asking, What if things had turned out differently? They conclude it would be a vastly different world. If crucial world events had turned out differently, we could easily be practicing the culture, language and religions of the great conqueror nations: Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Russia, Mongolia, Germany or Japan.

Incredibly, of the 50 key events mentioned, I found that 48 of them had to do with biblical prophecy! In other words, God had a hand in it. That's more than 95 percent of the world's most crucial events according to these secular historians!

Space and time don't allow me to elaborate on each one—it would take an entire book—but here are a few outstanding examples.

What is the first and most important example in this book written by modern history professors who, almost to a man, have no regard for Bible prophecy?

It is an event found in the Bible, as well as in world history. Now these secular historians naturally side more with the historical perspective of the Assyrians and not with the Jews, thus giving it their particular spin. Nonetheless, they still have to admit it was a biblical event that was confirmed in history.

Example #1–The plague that saved Jerusalem

The first chapter of this book deals with the most significant event in world history according to these historians. They picked "The Plague That Saved Jerusalem."

William McNeill, professor emeritus of history at the University of Chicago, writes, "Military events, even seemingly insignificant episodes, can have unforeseen consequences...It seems appropriate to begin this book with such a moment in history, the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem, then the seat of the tiny kingdom of Judah, in 701 B.C.

"That siege, by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, was lifted after a large part of his army succumbed to a mysteriously lethal contagion... But what if disease had not intervened? What if the walls had fallen, and the usual pillage, rape, murder, and forced exile of the population had been Jerusalem's lot? What would our lives, our spiritual underpinnings be like 2,700 years later?... Jerusalem's preservation from attack by Sennacherib's army shaped the subsequent history of the world far more profoundly than any other military action I know of" (pp. 1-3).

A mysterious plague strikes the Assyrians just at the right moment to save Jerusalem. What a seemingly lucky coincidence. As the Assyrians are about to lay a siege and destroy Jerusalem, obliterating the Jewish faith, suddenly, something destroys most of the Assyrian army and frees Jerusalem.

Back in Assyria, the king has inscribed in the palace walls the battles and destruction of some of the walled cities in Judah, but these do not include Jerusalem! In a prism still in existence, he merely claims he has King Hezekiah pent up as a bird in a cage. But as events would unfold, it is a bird that eventually escapes his cage.

Sennacherib's defeat is not only recorded in the Bible, but by Herodotus, the Greek historian, who gives an account of Sennacherib's humiliation in The Histories (written around 450 B.C.). He attributes the miraculous defeat of Sennacherib's army in the campaign against Egypt (that included Israel) to mice overrunning the camp and wreaking great havoc.

He records, "An army of field-mice swarmed over their opponents in the night... [and] gnawed through their quivers and their bows, and the handles of their shields, so that on the following day they fled minus their arms and a great number fell" (Book 2:141).

Herodotus mentions mice in connection with the destruction of the army. Some biblical scholars speculate since mice often are carriers of deadly diseases, such as the bubonic plague that ravaged Europe during the Middle Ages, something like this could have happened at that time.

Yet the Bible mentions exactly what brought on that mysterious disease that killed so many in such a short time. "Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. The king of Assyria sent the Rabshakeh with a great army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem" (Isaiah 36:1-2).

After hearing the threats and orders to surrender from the Assyrian military commander, King Hezekiah went to God in earnest prayer. He was heard and God answered him through the prophet Isaiah, who told him God had promised complete liberation from the Assyrians.

Isaiah said, "Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: 'He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor build a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return; and he shall not come into this city,' says the LORD. 'For I will defend this city, to save it for My own sake and for My servant David's sake.'

"Then the angel of the LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh. Now it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. Then Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place" (Isaiah 37:33-38).

Here we see the first example of how history and prophecy converge. God had promised hundreds of years before that the nation of Judah would survive through the centuries, escaping annihilation time and time again, and eventually bringing forth the promised Messiah. By the way, Assyrian records also confirm Sennacherib was killed by his sons.

Why was Jerusalem spared? The Bible prophesied centuries before about the nation of Judah, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh [the Messiah] comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people" (Genesis 49:10).

So God acted to fulfill His prophecies. Historian Robert Cowley remarks, "What if a mysterious plague had not smitten the Assyrian besiegers of Jerusalem in 701 B.C.? Would there be a Jewish religion? Or Christianity?" (ibid., p. xv)

It's a good question. But knowing a bit about Bible prophecy would have answered it. Instead of this historical event being just a lucky coincidence, it turned out to depend upon God's sure Word.

Example #2—The unlikely Greek naval victory over the Persians at Salamis in 480 B.C.

The next example in the book is also crucial in world history. Thanks to the favorable outcome, it permitted Western culture to develop and become part of the European heritage—instead of Europe ending up being part of Persian history, culture and religion.

The famous German historian Georg Hegel said about this naval battle between the Greeks and the Persians, "The interest of world history hung trembling in the balance. Oriental despotism, a world united under one lord and sovereign, on the one side; and separate states, insignificant in extent and resources, but animated by free individuality, on the other side, stood front to front in array of battle."

"What if the Persians had won?" asks historian Victor Davis Hanson. "It nearly happened. It should have happened. If the rowers commanded by the Greek general Themistocles had not prevailed, would there be, some 2,500 years later a Western civilization in the form we know it? At Salamis, the Greeks were faced with a navy three to four times larger. The Persian army enjoyed still greater numerical superiority. Yet they lost, and the Greeks were able to establish their empire, and contribute to arts, culture, science—paving the way for Christianity" (p. 15).

"In late September 480," he adds, "Themistocles and his poor Athenians not only saved Greece and embryonic Western civilization from the Persians, but also redefined the West as something more egalitarian, restless—and volatile—that would evolve into society that we more or less recognize today" (p. 35).

Why did this incredible Greek victory against overwhelming numbers of Persians actually occur? Was it just a fortunate turn of events? Again we have to look at Bible prophecy for the answer.

The Bible mentions, way before it became a reality, the ultimate outcome between the Persian and Greek empires. It predicts against all odds that the Greeks would eventually defeat the Persians and absorb their empire. The battle of Salamis was an important part of that ultimate Greek victory.

The prophet Daniel received this prophecy from God, around 540 B.C.—even before the Persian and Greek empires had arisen on the world scene!

"In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me...that I was in Shushan, the citadel, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in the vision that I was by the River Ulai. Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and there, standing beside the river, was a ram which had two horns, and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. I saw the ram pushing westward, northward, and southward, so that no animal could withstand him; nor was there any that could deliver from his hand, but he did according to his will and became great.

"And as I was considering, suddenly a male goat came from the west, across the surface of the whole earth, without touching the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. Then he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing beside the river, and ran at him with furious power. And I saw him confronting the ram; he was moved with rage against him, attacked the ram, and broke his two horns. There was no power in the ram to withstand him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled him; and there was no one that could deliver the ram from his hand... The ram which you saw, having the two horns—they are the kings of Media and Persia. And the male goat is the kingdom of Greece" (Daniel 8:1-7,20-21).

Here we see that although the Persian empire was so powerful, the Bible predicted the Greeks would eventually defeat them. So it was not a lucky fluke, but God fulfilling what He had promised in the Scriptures!

Example #3—The near early death of Alexander

Another pivotal moment in world history had to do with Alexander the Great's conquests. What if he would have been killed at the beginning of his career, as it almost happened? Why did he die at 33, at the height of power?

At the Battle of the Granicus River, during the first major military engagement of Alexander against the Persians, he was surrounded by enemies, and dealt a devastating blow in the head from an axe that cleaved his helmet. He was stunned, unable to defend himself, and as the warrior was about to strike the second blow to the head and kill Alexander, a friend came and stabbed the attacker with a spear. Alexander was saved, and went on to conquer most of the known world.

Why was he miraculously spared in a split second? Again, historians talk about these lucky accidents. "What if Alexander died at that moment?" asks Princeton historian Josiah Ober.

He goes on to say, "It would be a world in which the values characteristic of the Greek city-states were lost in favor of a fusion of Roman and Persian ideals... A profound reverence for ritual, tradition, ancestors, and social hierarchy—rather than Greek reverence for freedom, political equality, and the dignity of the person—defined the ethical values of a small 'cosmopolitan' elite that would rule over a diverse mosaic of cultures. And this could take place because there was no long and brilliant 'Hellenistic Period'—and so no integration of a wider world into a Greek cultural/linguistic sphere.

"Without the challenge of strong Greek cultural influence and subsequent Roman mismanagement in Judea, Judaism would have remained a localized phenomenon...The New Testament (whatever form it took) would never have been composed in 'universal' Greek and so would not have found a broad audience" (pp. 55-56).

All of these historic events hinged on Alexander's conquests and the spreading of Hellenistic culture throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Let's now go to Bible prophecy. Why was Alexander destined to survive and become a conqueror, establishing the Greek empire and then die at the height of his power, at an early age? As you will see, it was all prophesied hundreds of years in advance.

In example #2 we quoted Daniel 8:1-7 about the goat (Greece) defeating the ram (Medo-Persia). Let's continue in verse 8:

"Therefore the male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven... And the male goat is the kingdom of Greece. The large horn that is between its eyes is the first king [Alexander the Great]. As for the broken horn and the four that stood up in its place, four kingdoms shall arise out of that nation, but not with its power" (Daniel 8:8,21-22).

There is even a further elaboration of this prophecy, given to Daniel years later, when the Persians had risen to power after defeating the Babylonians. It predicted which Persian ruler would suffer the consequences of Alexander's conquests (Daniel 11:1-3), as well as what would happen to Alexander:

"And when he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken up and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not among his posterity nor according to his dominion with which he ruled; for his kingdom shall be uprooted, even for others besides these" (verse 4).

As prophecy predicted, Alexander died an early death (33 years old) and his empire was divided up into four parts and ruled by four of his generals—not by any of his family or descendants.

These three examples remind us that Bible prophecy is behind much of world history—and more importantly, it also predicts what will happen in the future! WNP

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