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Medo-Persia and Greece in Bible Prophecy


The March/April 2023 issue of National Geographic History magazine contains an interesting feature article about Persian King Xerxes (reign 486–465 BC) entitled, “Triumph of Engineering: Canal of Xerxes,” by Antonio Penades.[1] It examines evidence confirming King Xerxes’ excavation of a 1.25-mile-long canal across a narrow portion of the Mount Athos Peninsula of Greece, in the Aegean Sea, to help facilitate his naval (and overland) invasion of ancient Greece in 480 BC. The colossal attack by King Xerxes, who succeeded his father, King Darius I (reign 522–486 BC), was ultimately unsuccessful in conquering the Greeks who had previously defeated the Persians at Marathon in 490 BC. Nevertheless, according to the article, the canal was an “engineering marvel” that reflected Persia’s “wealth, strength, and inventiveness.”[2]

This historical account is significant in Bible prophecy because Daniel 11:2 foretold King Xerxes’ reign over the Medo-Persian Empire decades before he ascended the throne following his father’s death in 486 BC. This remarkable prophecy, which also foretold King Xerxes’ wealth and his conflict with the Greeks, reads as follows:

Now then, I tell you the truth: Three more kings will arise in Persia, and then a fourth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece (Daniel 11:2 NIV).

Daniel received this revelation during the “third year” of the reign of King Cyrus of Persia (Daniel 10:1), which is said to be the year 537 BC.[3] Fulfilling this prophecy, the three kings of Persia who succeeded King Cyrus were “Cambyses (530–522 BC), Pseudo-Smerdis or Gaumata (522) and Darius I (522–486) [,]” with Xerxes I (486–465) being the “fourth,” the richest, and the invader of Greece in 480 BC.[4] The “vast wealth” of King Xerxes’ kingdom is also noted in the book of Esther 1:4 (NIV).

Equally amazing, Daniel 11:3–4 (NIV) foretold (about two centuries in advance) the rise and fall of Alexander, King of Greece (reign 336–323 BC), who defeated the Medo-Persian Empire (in 331 BC at Gaugamela), and the subsequent division of his empire into four divisions after his death (in 323 BC). This prophecy reads as follows:

Then a mighty king will arise, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases. After he has arisen, his empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others (Daniel 11:3–4 NIV).

In Daniel 8:20–21 (NIV), the kingdom of Greece, under King Alexander, was foretold as the conqueror of the Medo-Persian Empire.[5] After King Alexander’s death, the Greek Empire continued to exist in four main divisions as follows: “Macedon and Greece (under Antipater and Cassander), Thrace and Asia Minor (under Lysimachus), Syria (under Seleucus I), and the Holy Land and Egypt (under Ptolemy I . . .).”[6] In 31 BC, the last remnant of the Greek Empire, Ptolemaic-Egypt (under Queen Cleopatra allied with the forces of Mark Antony), was defeated at Actium, in western Greece, by Octavian of Rome.

Explore much more Bible prophecy and history related to the season of the return of Christ in my book, Daniel’s Fourth Kingdom: Fulfilling the Times of the Gentiles (WestBow Press, 2021). In particular, chapter 4 is a survey of the history and legacy of each of Daniel’s four gentile kingdoms (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome), with examples of dominion that each one has exercised over Jerusalem. Among other points, my book establishes that like the fragmented Greek Empire continued to exist after the death of King Alexander in 323 BC, so too has the Roman Empire (Daniel’s fourth kingdom) continued to exist in a divided form in the West since its fall in AD 476.


[1] Antonio Penades, “Triumph of Engineering: Canal of Xerxes,” National Geographic History, March/April 2023, 20–33.

[2] Ibid., 22.

[3] NIV Study Bible, New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 1433, footnote 10:1.

[4] Ibid., 1434, footnote 11:2.

[5] Ibid., 1430, footnotes 8:3 and 8:5.

[6] Ibid., 1428, footnote 7:4–7.

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