AFTER the death of Alexander, his generals contended with one another for the dominion of the world. The vast empire was finally divided among four of them, Ptolemy, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Cassander, thus fulfilling the prophecy of the four horns that were to come up in place of the great one that was broken. Palestine fell under the control of Ptolemy, who had his seat of government in Egypt, and was the first of eleven successive kings, called the Ptolemys. The Jews remained under these kings for nearly one hundred and twenty years, and until the fifth in order had ascended the throne. 

"The Ptolemys, for the most part, were excellent rulers, and under them, Egypt enjoyed no small share of prosperity." The first is commonly known in history as Ptolemy Soter, Soter meaning saviour. At first, he was somewhat severe with the Jews; but as soon as he learned their character, he treated them with marked kindness. He soon found that their intelligence and integrity fitted them for offices of trust, and finally came to value them so highly as citizens that he sent thirty thousand of them to different parts of his empire. By this wide dispersion of the Jews, many nations received a knowledge of the true God, and were thus prepared to believe in Christ, when he should come.

After a reign of thirty-eight years, Ptolemy Soter was succeeded by Ptolemy Philadelphus, who reigned thirty-nine years. Philadelphus means "lover of his brother;" and in many respects this sovereign seems to have deserved the title. He built, near the mouth of the Nile, the famous lighthouse of Pharos, one of the wonders of the world. He founded at Alexandria a library of seven hundred thousand volumes, a collection of the works of the writers of all nations. "It was under, his patronage that the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek, according to the famous version of the Septuagint. This was one of the most important missionary works ever performed by man. The Hebrew Scriptures, and especially the Hebrew predictions of the coming Redeemer, might now be read wherever the Greek language was known. "Throughout his entire reign he was friendly to the Jews.

The name of one of Alexander's generals was Antiochus. Seleucus, the son of Antiochus, after various changes of fortune finally gained control of the greater part of Asia. Following the example of Alexander and others, he founded two new cities, Seleucia and Antioch, one to be the eastern and the other to be the western capital of his kingdom." Seleucia was situated on the banks of the river Euphrates, forty miles distant from Babylon, which had now become a sort of enclosed park for wild beasts. Antioch was in Syria, on the banks of the Orontes, and was afterward famous as a center and stronghold of Christianity. Like Alexander and Ptolemy, Seleucus encouraged the Jews to take up their residence in his new cities; and many accepted his invitation.

The kingdom founded by Seleucus was called Syria, or Syro-Macedonia. It continued two hundred and forty-seven years, from B. C. 312 to B. C. 65, and was ruled by twenty-two successive kings, called the Seleucidse, several bearing the name of Seleucus, and thirteen that of Antiochus. 

For many years there was fierce contention between Syria and Egypt. At last, about two hundred and seventeen years B. C., a decisive battle was fought near Gaza. Victory turned in favor of Ptolemy Philopater, king of Egypt, and Antiochus the Great was thoroughly conquered. Soon after the battle, Ptolemy visited Jerusalem, and insisted on entering the holy of holies in the temple, in spite of all opposition from the priests. It is said, however, that "when he had got so far as the holy place, he was seized with such confusion and terror that he retreated in dismay." Ptolemy was so enraged at being opposed by the priests that he afterward treated the Jews with great cruelty. At one time he gathered all the Jews that he could find in Egypt, and shutting them up in the hippodrome, let elephants loose upon them; but instead of destroying the Jews, the elephants turned upon those who came to see the show, and killed great numbers of them.