The first two verses of the eleventh chapter of Daniel outline the history of the second kingdom, Medo-Persia. That portion of the chapter included in verses three to thirteen records the history of the third kingdom, Greece. Those things which are “noted in the Scripture of truth” concerning Greece are the things which Gabriel made known to Daniel. The prophet had found it difficult to grasp the full significance of the symbols used in previous visions to represent the kingdoms of the world, and so in this last interview between the servant of God and the angel of prophecy, symbols are laid aside, and the history is repeated in plain language.
Notwithstanding the fact that Gabriel gives a plain narrative, the very words he uses, and the facts which he selects from the multitude of events which actually transpired, have a significance. In reading God’s Word in any of its parts there is first to be found the story which lies on the surface, and secondly the deeper meaning which is just as truly there, but which must be sought for as with a lighted candle. It is hoped that the reader may at least catch a glimpse of the deep spiritual lessons while reading the plain narrative of events.
God had a purpose when he gave the history of the four kingdoms, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. There is an incentive to understand these prophecies in the very fact that each nation is represented in a variety of ways, revealing different characteristics. And since Daniel is a prophet for the latter days, there is an increased desire to read not only the history but God’s purpose in tracing the history with such unerring accuracy. Babylon, as a nation, as has been seen from the study of Daniel in connection with Revelation, represents a condition of things which will exist in the church of the last days. Great was the splendor of that kingdom, but she was a harlot, and a mother of harlots. Above the city Heaven saw the words, “Mystery of iniquity,” for she made all nations drunk with the wine of her fornication.
Medo-Persia was a daughter of Babylon, and she played the harlot also; that is, she partook of the sins of Babylon, and departed from the living God. The principles of the religion of Babylon were carried out by the daughter, though the wickedness was in a measure checked by the constant presence of angels in the court, who labored in behalf of the chosen people of God; but the constant tendency toward tyranny and oppression in the government are revealed in the decree of Ahasuerus in the days of Esther.
As Medo-Persia had an important part to play in connection with God’s people, and while her part differed from the dealings of Babylon with that same people, so the Greek nation was called of God to do a work-a specific work. She, too, was a daughter of Babylon, partaking of her sins; but these sins, while the same, led to different outward manifestations than in Medo-Persia. Like children of the same family, each reproducing the character of the parents, yet differing widely from one another, so Greece, Medo-Persia, and Rome are three sisters, daughters of the same mother, but each endowed with special features and strong peculiarities.
Greece spans the gulf between the Old and the New Testament. Its telling work as a nation was done during the time when there was no prophet in Israel, the period between Malachi and Christ, hence the book of Daniel is the only portion of the Bible which deals with this nation. The history of Greece can be traced to Javan of the family of Japheth, who, with his sons, settled in the islands of the Mediterranean. The natural divisions of the country by the bays and mountains developed many independent or semi-independent tribes, but they had one common language and one religion.
It would seem that the principles of the worship of Jehovah, as known to the sons of Noah, were carried into the isles of Greece, for throughout the entire system is traceable a close resemblance to the ceremonial law with its types and shadows, as carried on in Jerusalem in the days of Solomon. Again, when it is remembered that the kingdom of the Jews, in the days of its prosperity, was visited by representatives from all nations, it is easy to understand how the forms and ceremonies of the worship of Jehovah were adopted by the Greeks. Even the architecture of Palestine, especially the temple of Solomon, became a model to the Greeks, who were lovers of the beautiful. Everything that is good and beautiful in the world has its origin in the mind of God. The gross idolatry of Babylon and Egypt was replaced in Greece by a more refined worship, if there can be said to be degrees of refinement in licentiousness. At any rate, Greek customs were less revolting on the surface, and hence more subtile and ensnaring. The æsthetic taste of the Greeks was developed by being in close contact with nature. They studied nature, and not having God’s Word as an interpreter, they worshiped the forms instead of the Creator. They recognized the power of life, but not knowing the source of life, they were led into licentious practices, known as “the mysteries,” where things which are sacred were defiled with drinking and passionate indulgence.
There is a pathetic strain throughout their history. They came so close to the God of nature, and yet not knowing him, they wandered in such utter darkness. Theirs is a constant reminder of the fate of those students of to-day who seek to understand natural phenomena, but do not interpret nature by the word of its Creator. They, too, worship Zeus and Demeter, Pluto, or Poseidon, instead of the Christ. The fact is that the children of to-day are fed upon the myths and traditions of this very people, who were groping in darkness, worshiping the gods of Olympus, and ignorant of the God whose voice shook the mountains in every storm, whose smile was in every sunbeam, and whose rivers watered the fields.
The Greeks offered sacrifices, but of what value were they when they accepted not the sacrifice of the slain Lamb of God? The spirit of prophecy was cherished, but while God’s prophets mingled with the people, the Greek prophetess was a maiden of questionable character, secluded from the people, who received her inspiration from a vapor which poured from a rent in a rock over which the temple of Delphi was built.