Following Alexander’s death, the division of his empire eventually ended up in the dueling hands of four of his generals and their heirs. When time and force had settled things, Egypt began a long crawl into decline becoming nothing more than another subjugated province of Rome.
There were other earlier and even some contemporaneous oriental societies to Egypt with cultures that affected the progress of God’s people. These include (and are not listed in any order): Sumerian, Hamitic, Hittite, Median, Amalekite, Philistine, Ammonite – with other tribes and peoples, some well-known, some not; and with some that have become virtually lost to the eye of modern study.
Three of the great empires figure prominently in the Old Testament, and a fourth in the New Testament.
The Four Kingdoms of Daniel
The book of Daniel is closely aligned with the Revelation of Jesus. Daniel’s prophesies identified a “kingdom part of iron, and part of miry clay,” which is identified as Rome. What Daniel was told was then sealed, and later opened by Christ in the Revelation. That will be explored during this introduction and within the notes.
The first of the four mentioned kingdoms from Daniel 2 is Chaldea. To offer a summary: The Chaldean empire, first subdued Assyria, then Egypt, and beginning in BC 587, the Southern Kingdom of Israel (then known as Judah – with the countryside known as Judaea). It also pushed eastward in forays to the Indian sub-continent. It had its beginnings under Nabopolassar and continued to grow in strength under Nebuchadnezzar II. It fell while under the rule of Nabonidus, who shared the throne with his son Belshazzar as co-regent. Nabonidus spent his time off in the far reaches fighting and on various expeditions, while Belshazzar ran things in his absence. That is behind why Belshazzar had offered Daniel to “be third ruler in the kingdom” (Dan. 5:16). The empire is dated from BC 650 to 539.
The Chaldeans were overrun by the Medes (Nabonidus did not make it home alive), and both were absorbed by the Persians, all taking less than a generation. The rule of the Medes, Persians and the combined empire spanned from approximately 550 to 323. Median emperors included Darius the Great (mentioned in Eze. 4:24). Some of the notable rulers were Cyrus of Persia (mentioned in Isa. 45:1 and elsewhere) and Ahasuerus or Xerxes I (throughout Esther and elsewhere). The Persians pushed into Europe from the Mid-East and into the Indian sub-continent in the west much as the Chaldeans had earlier.
The Persians were followed by the Macedonian or Grecian Empire, which was consolidated under Philip the Second, and is dated roughly between 356 to 323 (slightly more than one ancient generation). Philip’s son, Alexander, completed the absorption of the Persians before his death from influenza in Babylon in 323. He seized most of the real estate that would later come under Roman rule. Following his death, a power struggle ensued for about 40 years until the Grecian Empire was eventually divided under the families of four of Alexander’s commanders: Lysimachus, Ptolamaeus, Seleucus, and Cassander. The Macedonian Empire spanned from India through Mesopotamia in the Near East, south to Egypt, north and east across the Mediterranean.
Each of these kingdoms is named in the book of Daniel: Babylon is mentioned throughout – the Medo-Persians in chapters 5:28, 6:8 and 15, and 9:1, – the Macedonian in 8:21, 10:20, and 11:2. The only one not named is Rome.
Rome, the fourth empire, “followed” Grecia. It figures prominently in any study of New Testament times, of early Christianity, and is central to studies concerning the book of Revelation and the fulfillment of the prophesies listed there.