The book, What If? The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been (1999), edited by Robert Cowley, discusses approximately 50 key events in world history, and asks the question, What if things had turned out differently? Many of the events outlined in the book tie directly into biblical prophecy. Following are three examples.
The Plague That Saved Jerusalem
William McNeill, professor emeritus of history at the University of Chicago, writes: "Military events... can have unforeseen consequences...the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem...in 701 B.C...by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, was lifted after a large part of his army succumbed to a mysteriously lethal contagion…
Professor McNeill then goes on to ask “...what if disease had not intervened? What if the walls had fallen... and forced exile of the population had been Jerusalem's lot? ... Jerusalem's preservation from attack by Sennacherib's army shaped the subsequent history of the world far more profoundly than any other military action I know of" ("Infectious Alternatives," What If?, pp. 1-3).
The Bible tells us what actually happened. King Hezekiah prayed earnestly to God, who answered him through the prophet Isaiah: "Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: 'He shall not come into this city...For I will defend this city...Then the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand….So Sennacherib, king of Assyria departed..." (Isaiah 37:33-37).
The Greek historian Herodotus’s account in his Histories (written around 450 B.C.) attributed the miraculous defeat of Sennacherib's army to mice overrunning the camp: "An army of field-mice swarmed over their opponents... [and] gnawed through their quivers and their bows, and the handles of their shields, so that on the following day they fled minus their arms and a great number fell" (Book 2:141).
Some scholars speculate that since mice are often carriers of deadly diseases, such as the bubonic plague that ravaged Europe during the Middle Ages, something similar could have happened in the Assyrian army. The perfect timing was no coincidence. History and prophecy converged and Jerusalem was saved by God, just as Isaiah foretold.
The Greek Naval Victory Over The Persians At Salamis In 480 B.C.
At Salamis, Greek forces faced a Persion navy that was three to four times larger and an army outnumbering the Greek infantry up to 10 to one. Yet the Persians lost, and the Greeks were able to establish their empire and contribute to arts, culture and science —paving the way for Christianity.
German historian Georg Hegel states: "In late September 480...Themistocles and his poor Athenians not only saved Greece and embryonic Western civilization from the Persians, but also redefined the West as something more egalitarian...that would evolve into a society that we more or less recognize today" ("No Glory That Was Greece", What If?, p. 35).
God inspired Daniel’s prophecy concerning this outcome around 548 B.C. before the Persian and Greek empires even existed: "I lifted my eyes and saw… a ram which had two horns...pushing westward, northward, and southward... and became great...suddenly a male goat came from the west... and ran at him with furious power….and trampled him; and there was no one that could deliver the ram from his hand" (Daniel 8:1-7). The angel Gabriel explained to Daniel that "the ram which you saw, having the two horns—they are the kings of Media and Persia. And the male goat is the kingdom of Greece" (verses 20-21).
The Rise And Fall Of Alexander The Great
Alexander the Great lived at a pivotal era in world history. At the Battle of the Granicus River, during Alexander's first major military engagement against the Persians, he received a devastating blow to the head. Fortunately a bodyguard stabbed the attacker as he was about to strike the second blow and Alexander was saved and went on to conquer most of the known world.
If Alexander the Great had been killed at the beginning of his career: "It would be a world in which the values characteristic of the Greek city-states were lost in favor of a fusion of Roman and Persian ideals… Without the challenge of strong Greek cultural influence... The New Testament (whatever form it took) would never have been composed in 'universal' Greek and so would not have found a broad audience" ("Conquest Denied," What If? pp. 47, 55-56).
Daniel 8:1-7 (quoted earlier in this article) symbolically referring to the goat (Greece) defeating the ram (Medo-Persia) was ultimately fulfilled in the conquest of Alexander as verse 8 states: "Therefore the male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven.”
After Alexander died his empire was divided into four parts and ruled by four of his generals—not by any of his family or descendants: "And when he [Alexander] has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken up and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not among his posterity nor according to his dominion with which he ruled; for his kingdom shall be uprooted…” (Daniel 11:4).
These three examples, all major turning points in the course of civilization, remind us that Bible prophecy is behind many major world events, in the past, present and also in the future.