4. And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and divided shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others besides those.
4. Et ubi constiterit, frangetur, vel, conteretur, regnum ejus, et dividetur in quatuor ventos coelorum, hoc est, in quatuor plagas mundi, et non posteritati ejus, et non secundum dominationem ejus, qua dominatus fuerit: quia extirpabitur, radicitus evelletur, regnum ejus, et aliis absque illis.
This language is concise, but there is no ambiguity in the sense. First of all the angel says, After that brave king had stood up, his empire should be broken in pieces: for when Alexander had arrived at his height, he suddenly fell sick, and shortly afterwards died at Babylon. Ambassadors had assembled round him from every quarter. He was quite intoxicated by prosperity, and very probably poisoned himself. Historians, however, have viewed him as a remarkable example of singular valor, and so they have pretended and have related, because at least they thought so, that he was deceitfully poisoned by Cassander. But we all know how intemperately and immoderately he indulged in drinking; he almost buried himself in wine, and was seized with disease amidst his cups, and sank under it, because no remedy was found for him. This, then, was Alexander's poison. Whichever way we understand it, he fell suddenly, almost as soon as he began to stand. After conquering nearly the whole East, he came to Babylon, and was uncertain in his plans as to the employment of his forces, after he had procured peace for the whole East. He was then anxious to transfer his armies to either Europe or Africa. The angel says, After he had stood up, meaning, after he had acquired the monarchy of the whole East, his kingdom should be broken up. He uses this simile, because the whole power of Alexander was not so much extinguished as broken into separate parts. We know how the twelve chiefs who were his generals drew the spoils to themselves; every one took a portion of his kingdom, and divided it among themselves, as we have previously stated, just as if it were torn from their master's body. All consented in raising his brother Aridaeus to the dignity of king, and they called him Philip, that, while his sons were young, the memory of his father might commend them to the world. But four kingdoms at length issued from Alexander's monarchy. It is unnecessary here to refer to what we may read at our leisure in the writings of historians.
The Prophet only touches shortly on those points which relate to the instruction of the Church; he does not relate in order or in detail the events narrated in history; he only says, His empire shall be broken, and shall be divided, says he, towards the four winds of heaven The angel omits that partition which assigned the treasure to one, and gave the office of counselor to Philip: Perdiccas was the guardian of his son, and he with others obtained a portion of his dominions. Seleucus obtained Syria, to whom his son Antiochus succeeded; Antigonus became prefect of Asia Minor; Cassander, the father of Antipater, seized the kingdom of Macedon for himself; Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, who had been a common soldier, possessed Egypt. These are the four kingdoms of which the angel now treats. For Egypt was situated to the south of Judea, and Syria to the north, as we shall afterwards have occasion to observe. Macedonia came afterwards, and then Asia Minor, both east and west. But the angel does not enter into any complicated details, but shortly enumerates whatever was necessary for the common instruction of the elect people. The common consent of all writers has handed down these facts, -- four kingdoms were constituted at length out of many portions, after the chiefs had been so mutually slain by one another that four only survived, namely, Ptolemy, Seleucus, Antigonus, and Cassander. Afterwards the kingdom of Antiochus was extended when Antigonus was conquered; for Antiochus added Asia Minor to the kingdom of Syria. But Antiochus stood only for a time, and hence the angel truly and properly states this empire to have been divided into four parts.
He next adds, And not to his posterity No one could have guessed what the angel predicted so many years before Alexander's birth; for he was not born till a hundred years after this period. Those who know the boldness of his warlike schemes, the rapidity of his movements, and the success of his measures, would never be persuaded of this result, -- the complete destruction of all his posterity, and the utter extinction of his race.
Had Alexander lived quietly at home, he might have married, and have become the father of children who would have been his undisputed successors. He died young, soon after reaching the age of thirty; still he might have married, and have had heirs to his throne. He had a brother, Aridaeus, and other relations, among whom was his uncle Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, and a royal offspring might thus have been preserved, and a successor prepared for him. After he had subdued both upper and lower Asia, he became master of Syria, Egypt, and Judea, and extended his power to the Persians, while his fame extended over Africa and Europe. Since no one dared to raise a finger against him, as he possessed a most magnificent army, and all his generals were bound to him by most important benefits, and so many of his prefects were enriched by his extreme liberality, who would have thought that all his posterity and relations would be thus blotted out? He left; two sons, but they were slain as well as his brother Aridaeus, while his wives and his mother, aged eighty years, shared the same fate. Nor did Cassander spare her, for she intrigued against him. At length, as if God would punish so many slaughters committed by Alexander, he wished his whole posterity to be extinguished. And yet, as I have stated, no foreign enemy was the agent in inflicting such heavy punishments. He had subjugated the whole East, and his bearing was such, as if the whole monarchy of that portion of the world had descended to him from his ancestors by hereditary right. As the world contained no enemy for him, his foes sprang from his own home; they slew his mother, his wives, his children, and all his relatives, and utterly rooted out all his race. We observe, then, with what clearness and certainty the angel predicts events entirely concealed from that age, and for hundred years afterwards, and such as would never be, credited by mankind. There seems a great contrast in the language; his kingdom shall be broken, it shall be divided towards the four winds of heaven, and not to his posterity; that is, although the four kingdoms should spring up in the four quarters of the world, yet, none of Alexander's posterity should remain in a single place, or obtain even the least portion of his dominions. This was a remarkable proof of God's wrath against the cruelty of Alexander; not that he was savage by nature, but ambition seized upon him, and made him bloodthirsty, and indisposed him to desire any end to his warfare. God, therefore, avenged that grasping disposition of Alexander's, by allowing the whole of his race thus to perish with disgrace and horrible cruelty. On this account that pride of his which wished to be thought a son of Jupiter, and which condemned to death all his friends and followers who would not prostrate themselves before him as a god; -- that pride, I say, never could secure a single descendant to reign in his place, or even to hold a single satrapy. Not to his posterity, says the angel, and not according to his dominion.
He passes to the four kings of which he had spoken: It shall not break forth, he says, namely, from the four kings. He had already stated their foreign extraction, not in any way derived from the family of that king; for none of the four should equal his power, because his kingdom should be expired. Here the angel seems to omit intervening events, and speaks of an ultimate destruction. We know how the past king Perseus was conquered by the Romans, and how the kingdom of Antiochus was partly destroyed by war, and partly oppressed by fraud. And the angel seems to mark this. We may interpret it more to the point, by considering the cessation of Alexander's empire, with reference to his own race, as if the angel had stated that none of his successors should acquire equal power with himself. And why so? Not one of them could accomplish it. Alexander acquired so mighty a name that all people willingly submitted to his sway, and no single successor could sustain the burden of the whole. Hence his kingdom, as far as it related to himself and His posterity, was divided, and no one succeeded to his power and his opulence. And it shall be given to others. The angel here explains his meaning. The destruction of the kingdom ought not to be explained particularly of single parts, for each seized his own portion for himself, and his successors were all strangers. And to others besides those; meaning, his kingdom shall be seized upon by officers who are not of his posterity; that is, strangers shall rush into Alexander's place, and no successor shall arise from his own kindred. It afterwards follows, --