BIBLICAL TEACHING ABOUT EMPIRES

Anonymous

(Investigator 195, 2020 November)



INTRODUCTION

The Bible doesn't use the word "empires" but mentions many kingdoms recognizable as empires, and everything it says about them seems true.



DEFINITION and HISTORY

History records hundreds of empires from the biggest, the British Empire covering 34,000,000 square kilometers, downward.

An empire is a sovereign entity (such as a nation, kingdom or city state) with one or more non-sovereign components which the sovereign entity dominates politically and collects taxation and/or other resources from.

Table 1 lists empires and large countries that peaked at 3.5 million km2 or larger. Table 1 therefore excludes many smaller empires familiar to laymen such as the Athenian, Carthaginian, Aztec, Inca, Dutch, Austrian, Italian [Correction: Omit "Italian"], etc. There was once even a Jewish empire, the Khazanian Empire 650-695 CE, located north and west of the Caspian Sea, but only 3 million km2 at its peak, therefore not listed in Table 1.

Global land area, including Antarctica, is 148.9 million km2, but excluding Antarctica 134.7 million km2. The percentage of global land-area which various empires occupied (Table 1) is calculated excluding Antarctica. This required omitting Australian Antarctic Territory (5.9 million km2) from the area controlled by Australia which would otherwise come 7th on the list instead of 17th.

Northern Siberia, although virtually uninhabited, is included in the area of the Russian Empire because Russia explicitly claimed it, but not in the area of the Mongol Empire. About half of the British Empire such as northern Canada and most of Australia was sparsely settled and not directly governed by Britain but is included in the British Empire because Britain claimed these areas.

Portugal by establishing the first global trade network became the first global empire. Portugal's territories in South America, Africa and Asia made it an empire on which the "sun never sets". Other empires in permanent sunshine were Spain, France, and Britain.

Many land areas listed are provisional because scholars often disagree on where the boundaries lay. One source estimated the peak size of the Kushan Empire (north India and Afghanistan), which lasted nearly five centuries until 375 CE, at 3.8 million km2. It therefore initially got added to Table 1 but removed due to other estimates of 2 million km2.

The Mongol Empire's peak could be 24 million km2 or 32 million km2, and the Spanish (around 1800 CE) 14 or 7.5 million km2. These are huge discrepancies whose resolution is beyond the current article.

Germany illustrates how boundaries can vary:
 
•    German Empire (in Europe) 1871-1918 — 541,000 km2. Colonial holdings until 1914 — 2.66 million km2
•    Weimar Republic 1918-1933 — 469,000 km2.      
•    Nazi Germany — 634,000 km2 in 1939; 824,000 km2 in 1940. Nazi-dominated Europe and Africa totaled c.7 million km2.
•    1949-1989 West Germany 248,600 km2; East Germany 108,300 km2.
•    1990 Federal Republic of Germany, 357,000 km2 (24% less than in 1918-1933).



   Table 1 (With two dates corrected)
 
Empires 3.5 million km2 or Larger at Greatest Extent


Empire Km2 Millions % World Land Area Date
British 35 26.0% 1922
Mongol 32 23.8% 1300
Soviet Union 22.5 16.7% 1975
Russian 20.0 14.8% 1880
Qing Dynasty (China) 14.5 10.8% 1790
Spanish 13.7 10.2% 1810
Umayyad Caliphate 12.0 8.9% 750
Tsarist Russia 12.0 8.9% 1700
French Empire 11.5 8.5% 1920s
Abbasid Caliphate 11.0 8.2% 800
Yuan Dynasty (China) 11.0 8.2% 1350
Canada 10.0 7.4% 2020
USA 9.8 7.3% 2020
China (Communist) 9.7 7.2% 2020
Brazil 8.3 6.2% 1889
Japan 8.0 5.9% 1942
Australia 7.7 5.7% 2020
German Reich c.7.0 5.2% 1942
Han Dynasty (China) 6.5 4.8% 100
Ming Dynasty (China) 6.5 4.8% 1450
Xiongnu (Mongolia) 6.0 4.5% 160 BC
Rashidun Caliphate   
6.0 4.5% 650
Tang Dynasty (China) 6.0 4.5% 720
Golden Horde Khanate 6.0 4.5% 1310
Portugal 6.0 4.5% 1820
Achaemenid Persia 5.5 4.1% 500 BC
Macedonia 5.2 3.9% 333 BC
Göktürk Khaganate 5.2 3.9% 600
Mauryan (India) 5.0 3.7% 250 BC
Roman 5.0 3.7% 117
North Yuan Dynasty (China) 5.0 3.7% 1550
Ottoman 5.0 3.7% 1683
Tibet 4.7 3.5% 800
Xin Dynasty (China) 4.7 3.5% 10
First Mexican 4.4 3.3% 1821
Fatimid Caliphate 4.1 3.0% 969
Rouran Khaganate 4.0 3.0% 405
Hun 4.0 3.0% 450
Hephthalite (White Huns) 4.0 3.0% 470
Eastern Turkic Khaganate 4.0 3.0% 624
Timurid 4.0 3.0% 1400
Mugha 4.0 3.0% 1690
Seleucid Persia 3.9 2.9% 301 BC
Seljuk (Turks) 3.9 2.9% 1100
Italian 3.8 2.8% 1941
Ilkhanate 3.7 2.7% 1310
Dutch 3.7 2.7% 1940
Chola (India) 3.6 2.7% 1050
Khwarazmian 3.6 2.7% 1218
Gupta 3.5 2.6% 414
Byzantine (Constantinople) 3.5 2.6% 555
Sasanian Persia 3.5 2.6% 620
Western Turkic Khaganate 3.5 2.6% 630
Chagatai Khanate 3.5 2.6% 1350
First French Colonial 3.5 2.6% 1670
      
     

THE FIRST GREAT EMPIRE

"Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first on earth to become a might warrior... The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria, and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city." (Genesis 10:8-12)

"Accad" (Genesis 10) is considered to be "Akkad" in central Mesopotamia. It was the capital of the Akkadian Empire which was governed by a monarchy and lasted c.2334 BC to c.2154 BC.

The founder, Sargon, defeated local kings and united Akkad with Sumer (the previous main Mesopotamian power, located south of Akkad). He later invaded Syria and Canaan four times, and sent military expeditions to Anatolia and Elam (Iran), and naval expeditions to Bahrain, Oman and perhaps Cyprus. Mears (2002) calls Sargon "The first great conqueror".

Sargon's military exploits is why some identify Sargon as Nimrod who, according to Genesis, was: "the first on earth to become a mighty warrior... The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad..." (Genesis 10)

At its peak in 2250 BC the Akkadian Empire was 800,000 km2. It had roads, a postal service, a library, and manufactured statues in copper, bronze and lead, and traded with Lebanon, Anatolia, Afghanistan and India.

The Empire collapsed progressively and population declined due to:
•    Continued wars
•    Deterioration of agriculture;
•    Collapse of trade;
•    Drought.


MAP: AKKADIAN EMPIRE
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akkadian_Empire#/media/File:Empire_akkad.svg




BIBLICAL EMPIRES


Table 2 Some Empires Mentioned in the Bible
Empire
Maximum Area — km2 % of World Land Area Date
Akkad 800,000 0.59% 2250 BC
Egypt Middle Kingdom 500,000 0.37% 1850 BC
Egypt 15th Dynasty 650,000 0.48% 1650 BC
Egypt New Kingdom 1,000,000 0.74% 1450 BC
Assyria 1,400,000 1.0% 670 BC
Hitttes 150,000 0.11% 1530 BC
Hittites New Kingdom 450,000 0.33% 1250 BC
Cush (Kush) c.800,000 0.6% 650 BC
Media 3,000,000 2.2% 590 BC
Neo Babylonian Empire 1,000,000 0.74% 560 BC
Achaemenid Persia 5,500,000 4.1% 500 BC
Macedonia-Greece 5,200,000 3.9% 323 BC
Seleucid Persia 3,900,000 2.9% 300 BC
Ptolemaic (Egypt) 1,000,000 0.74% 300 BC
Rome 5,000,000 3.7% 116 CE
 

The Hittite Empire covered much of Turkey and sent military expeditions as far as Babylon in Mesopotamia. (Genesis 15:18-21; Joshua 1:4) A branch of Hittites established small Hittite kingdoms in Palestine.

The empires of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Persia (Achaemenid dynasty) successively dominated the Near East. Each gets many biblical mentions.


MAP: ASSYRIAN EMPIRE
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-Assyrian_Empire#/media/File:Map_of_Assyria.png



Cush or "Kush", now part of Sudan, was long ignored by archaeologists as unimportant. In 1913-1916 Egyptologist George Reisner (1867-1942) rediscovered Kush but considered it merely an Egyptian outpost.

The Bible in contrast implied Cush was an empire by:
1.    Calling Cush "a nation mighty and conquering" (Isaiah 18:1-2);
2.    Mentioning its war with the superpower, Assyria. (II Kings 19:9; Isaiah 37:9; Isaiah 20)

The Bible was vindicated when the Los Angeles Times reported new discoveries showing that, "Kush was much larger than scholars previously believed." Kush even conquered Egypt around 712 BCE. The fourth Cushite pharaoh, Taharqa (721-664), is mentioned in the Bible as "Tirhakah" (who reigned 26 years).


MAP: KUSH EMPIRE
https://sasikexplores.weebly.com/where-and-what-is-kush.html




GREECE VERSUS PERSIA — DANIEL 8

If the following is too concise read Daniel chapter 8 for yourself a few times.

Daniel (Chapter 8:20-21, 7) predicts that Greece would "break" and "trample upon" Persia-Media. This was fulfilled by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE.

The Greek Empire of Alexander would then break up into four kingdoms. (Daniel 8:22)

This was fulfilled when Alexander's generals shared Alexander's conquests between them after his death as follows:

•    Persia and Mesopotamia — General Seleucus founded the Seleucid dynasty in 312 BCE;
•    The Ptolemaic Empire of Egypt — General Ptolemy became the first Pharoah of the Ptolemaic Dynasty in 305 BCE;
•    Greece and Macedonia — ruled by Cassander;
•    Thrace and part of Asia Minor — ruled by Lysimachus;
•    Asia Minor, Syria and Palestine — ruled by Antigonus.

This comes to five, not four, but Antigonus was overthrown by the other four in 301 BCE.


MAP: DIVISIONS OF ALEXANDER'S EMPIRE:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diadochi#/media/File:Diadochi_LA.svg

https://www.ancient.eu/image/581/map-of-the-successor-kingdoms-c-303-bce/



MORE PROPHESIED EMPIRES — DANIEL 2

Again, if the following is too brief, read Daniel 2 a few times.

Daniel 2:25-44 interprets a prophetic dream that Nebuchadnezzar had, which predicted four consecutive kingdoms usually interpreted as:

1.    Babylon;
2.    Persia — Seleucid dynasty;
3.    Macedonia/Greece;
4.    Rome.

Daniel 2:36-38 directly states that the first kingdom is Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon.

Daniel 8 predicts that Greece will subdue Persia-Media — which supports that Persia and Greece are the second and third empires predicted in Chapter 2.

The second kingdom (Persia) is called "inferior" (2:39) to Babylon although much bigger. "Inferior" therefore could refer to inferiority in length of time in power, in wealth, or in overall accomplishments.

The third kingdom (Macedonia/Greece) would "rule over the whole earth" (2:39) probably meaning the territory of the previous two empires.
 
The fourth, the Roman Empire, is predicted to "crush and shatter all these". (2:40) Greece was "crushed" and added to the Roman Empire in the 2nd century BCE. Babylon was occupied by Rome at least six times over the centuries during Roman wars with revived Persian empires.

But did the Roman Empire ever "crush" and "shatter" the Persian Empire?



CRUSHED AND SHATTERED?


MAP: SELEUCID EMPIRE 200 BC
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthian_Empire#/media/File:Rome-Seleucia-Parthia_200bc.jpg


The Seleucid Empire suffered decisive defeat by Rome in 192-189 BCE,  losing Greece  and Western Asia Minor, after which Parthia took Persia from it, and it continued to get smaller.

In 63 BC when Seleucid rule had been reduced to only Syria, Rome abolished it and made Syria a Roman province.

Can these events be described  as Rome "crushing"  and "shattering"  Persia? Perhaps. But it's a far stretch, since Persia already had risen again as the Parthian Empire which lasted until 224 CE.

Persians and Parthians were closely related and spoke a similar language. Roman legions took the Parthian capital, Ctesiphon, in southern Mesopotamia, in 116, 165 and 198 CE. The furthest east that Roman legions ever advanced was in 116 CE to Susa, Persia's alternative capital, 200 km east of the Tigris River.


MAP: ROMAN EMPIRE in 116 CE:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trajan#/media/File:Roman_Empire_Trajan_117AD.png


With Parthia weakened by Rome, a new Persian dynasty took over. Ralby (2013) writes: "The Sassanid Dynasty would become one the most powerful and influential in history…" (p. 70) Nevertheless Roman legions took Ctesiphon again in 283 and 298 CE.

But still no decisive "crushing" and "shattering". Was Daniel's prophecy wrong?

In the 4th century Constantinople (situated where Istanbul stands) replaced Rome as the capital of the Roman Empire. It was the same empire, but with a new capital city and its people regarded themselves as Romans. The eastern Roman Empire even re-conquered much of the Western after "barbarians" had demolished it. The original Roman legions retained their identity in the East even as the legions in the West disbanded or disintegrated. Cowan (2005) writes they became smaller, about 1000 men, but retained their "classic formation in microcosm". He reports that the last known Roman legion fought to the death at Gaza against Islam around 638 CE.

Around 600 CE the Roman Empire of Constantinople faced oblivion:

•    A plague in 542 CE killed 30% of the empire's population;
•    A rebel army usurped the throne in 602 and installed a "murderous incompetent";
•    King Khosroes II of Persia captured most of Asia Minor;
•    In the Balkans the Avars and Slavs raided all the way south to Athens and Constantinople;
•    In 608 occurred virtual civil war in Constantinople itself;
•    In 613-616 the Persians took Syria, Palestine and Egypt;
•    Persian armies also took Chalcedon opposite Constantinople and stayed for 10 years..

It looked as if Daniel's prediction of the Roman Empire "crushing and shattering" the Persian was now forever false.

In this final "titanic struggle", after 7 centuries of intermittent war, the opposite was occurring — Persia, virtually fully restored, was crushing the Roman Empire.


MAP: SASANIAN EMPIRE:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sasanian_conquest_of_Egypt
        https://www.quora.com/How-close-did-the-Sassanid-Empire-come-to-recreating-the-Achaemenid-Empire

In 610 CE General Heraclius (575-641) from Tunisia became Emperor of Constantinople and introduced far-reaching reforms in army, government and finances (including confiscation of Church wealth). He bought off the Avars, and made alliances with Armenians, Georgians and Khazars (who dominated east of the Black Sea).

In a series of campaigns, 625-629 CE, Heraclius retook all the provinces taken by Persia, captured Mesopotamia including Ctesiphon in 627 CE, and Jerusalem in 629 CE. Khosroes II died by torture and a pro-Roman Shah was installed on Persia's throne.

Holland (2008) describes these events as "Heraclius Brings Persia to its Knees".

With its armies crushed and empire shattered Persia fell easily a few years later to the Arabian Muslims, and Islam replaced Zoroastrianism as Persia's dominant religion.

Constantinople lost Egypt, Palestine and Mesopotamia to Islam, but itself stood firm and prevented Muslim invasion of Europe from that direction for 800 years.



COMMENTARY

Empires mentioned in the Bible were all historical entities and biblical predictions about them came true.

The demise of most of them and of their gods — the ancient empires worshipped idols — was predicted in the Bible:

•    Egypt would be overthrown by Assyria (Isaiah 20); again by Babylon (Jeremiah 43:10-13; 46:25; Ezekiel 30); and "will never again rule over the nations." (Ezekiel 29:15)

•    Assyria would suffer a "mortal wound" (Nahum 3:19) and its capital Nineveh destroyed. (2:6-3:7)

•    Babylon "will become a heap of ruins … without inhabitant" (Jeremiah 51:37) and be "like Sodom and Gomorrah". (Isaiah 13:19-22)

•    Macedonia-Greece would "break" Persia and then split into four empires which would eventually also perish. (Daniel 8)

The same trend of empires rising and falling continued after biblical times. Jesus said: "Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom." (Matthew 24:7) Some empires were extremely bloody such as the Mongol Empire which under Genghis Khan slaughtered 10% (i.e. 40 million) of the world's population. Empires of Christianized nations (Portuguese, Dutch, French) were relatively benign, especially the British which brought modern law, science, education and medicine to much of the world.

Ecclesiastes 4:1 says: "I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed — with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power…"

Oppression occurs everywhere by people to each other; but was also the policy of many empires. Conquered cities often suffered general massacre, confiscation of everything of value, and unbearable taxes on survivors. Grotesque mistreatment of defeated enemies was the norm varying from enslavement, working them to death, compelling them to fight each other, castration, cutting off of hands, crucifixion, etc. (White 2012; Wilson 1985; Mannix 1970; Anonymous 2000) The Bible mentions blinding, exile, starving, raping, "hung up by their hands", infants smashed against rocks, etc.

No ancient empire used its time in power to institute consistent, humanitarian, benign laws. None considered that its own overthrow would come and its own people suffer.

The most obscenely stupid nation, considering history's countless prior warnings, was 20th century Germany. Its Nazi rulers instituted murder, oppression, torture, theft and rape on the grandest scale in their agenda of stealing "living space" in the East, justifying this with racist ideology opposed by the Bible and already refuted by the science of genetics. The consequence in 1945 was avenging armies that inflicted similar horror on Germans. And the "living space" was not even needed as is demonstrated by Germans now living prosperously on 24% less land than in the 1920s — 24% is how much of 1920s-Germany was confiscated as part-payment for their war!

The Bible foretells that all nations, and all empires, will ultimately come to their end, followed by rule by God and universal peace and justice. (Isaiah 2:1-4) But that's another story.


     
REFERENCES:

Anonymous, The God of The Prophets Versus The Assyrian Empire, Investigator # 71, March 2000

___________ A Lost Empire Rediscovered, Investigator #124, January 2009

___________ Hittites and the Bible, Investigator #174, May 2017

Cowan, R. The Last Legion, Military Illustrated, No. 200, January 2005, 48-53

Graham, D. Trajan's Parthian War, Archaeological Diggings, Volume 20, Number 5, pp 30-35

Holland, C. Heraclius Brings Persia to its Knees, Quarterly Journal of Military History, Autumn 2008, 30-39

Khazanian Empire, BBC History Magazine, May 2008, 10-11

Mannix, D.P. 1970 The History of Torture, Nel Books

Maugh II, T.H. Ancient Kush rivaled Egypt, experts say, The Los Angeles Times, June 19, 2007

Mears, D. The First Great Conqueror, Military History, October 2002, 47-52

Ralby, A. 2013 Atlas of Military History, Parragon, 70-71

Strauss, B.S. The Original Quagmire, Bronze, Brains & Blood [A special edition of Military History magazine] 2008, 64-75

Taagepera, R. Size and Duration of Empires: Growth-Decline Curves, 600 B.C. to 600 A.D., Social Science History, Volume 3, Numbers 3 & 4, October 4, 1979, 115-138.

White, M. 2012 The Great Big Book of Horrible Things, Norton

Wilson, C. 1985 A Criminal History of Mankind, Panther

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akkadian_Empire.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antigonus_I_Monophthalmus
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destruction_under_the_Mongol_Empire
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_colonial_empire
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gupta_Empire.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hittites
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Kush
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_empires
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysimachus
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maurya_Empire
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mughal_Empire
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthian_Empire
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ptolemaic-Kingdom
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ptolemy_1_Soter
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman—Parthian_Wars
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sasanian_Empire
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seleucas_I_Nicator
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seleucid_Empire
https://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/155-history/25992-empires-in-world-history


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