Summary: Here we enter into some little-known but well-documented history, given in advance by Daniel the Prophet of God. In between the classic days of Greece and the Roman Empire, between the end of Malachi and the beginning of Matthew, lies a great pearl...
3. The Syrian Wars Begin 11:5-10
11:5a “Then the king of the South shall become strong”
He is a boyhood friend of Alexander the Great, son of a Macedonian named Lagus. Taken into Alexander’s army he slowly rises within the ranks, in the general group of the “king’s bodyguards”, then the one and only bodyguard, under which office he captures the
assassin of Darius III on that long march. He is made a general. He is decorated many times, and becomes commander of the Macedonian fleet. He is Ptolemy.
At the death of the mighty conqueror, it is he who suggests at the Babylon council that the satrapies be divided among the generals. Ptolemy is appointed “satrap” of Egypt, using the Persian political division as a starting place. He plants well. His piece of the pie lasts longer than all the rest, until 30 BC.In 321, Ptolemy orders his men to bring Alexander’s body to be buried in Egypt. From this he expects political and even religious advantage. The immediate result is less encouraging. The furious Perdiccas, poised to take over the entire Empire, marches against him, but is de- feated. When the dust settles, Ptolemy has added not only nearby Palestine, but also some northern portions of “Syria”, if only for awhile.
During much of this early period, Ptolemy has allied himself with Antigonus. Later he fears his power and joins men in similar situations to his own, satrap- minded rather than Empire- minded, to defeat Antigonus.
Following in Alexander’s steps at least partially, Ptolemy tries to connect to the Egyp- tians by marrying the daughter of the former Pharaoh. Of course, the most recent “Pharaoh” is none other than Alexander himself, crowned such in 331, shortly before creating Alexandria in his own honor. He never sees this city again, but Ptolemy follows up, and chooses this city over history- laden Memphis as his capital. This, in 320.
Two other women are to add to his power and content. His position is strengthened by marriage to Eurydice, the daughter of Antipater. But his affection seems to lean more to his own half-sister, the much younger Berenice, great granddaughter of the same Antipater. In 290, she becomes Queen of Egypt.
How he is able to fuse his worship of Zeus to the standard gods of Egypt is the story of the cult of Sarapis. In short we say simply that the man was “all things to all men” as a true Alexandrian had to be. The Romans would later follow this let- live policy. Seleucus in the North carried it to even greater extremes.
Before his 40 years of reign end, Ptolemy I has jurisdiction over Libya, Cyrenaica, Ara- bia, parts of Syria, parts of Asia Minor, Cyprus, even a few Greek cities such as Corinth. The first 18 years he is general and satrap, but the last 22 he is “Soter”, Saviour, beginning in 305 when he declares himself king. The title is added in 304 when he is able to “save” the people of Rhodes from Antigonus.