End-Times War in the Mideast: Part 1 - By Steve Ashburn -
Sidon is an ancient city in modern-day Lebanon. The modern city of Sidon has 266,000 inhabitants and is the third-largest city in the country. It was one of the most important-and perhaps oldest-of the Phoenician cities. It was from here that the great commercial empire of the Phoenicians was formed. Sidon thus is symbolic of modern Lebanon-its government and its military, including by implication associated terrorist groups such as Hezbollah. Ezekiel 28 predicts destruction of this city at a time when Israel has been regathered into her land. This apparently happens at the same time as the judgment upon Egypt (Ezekiel 29), and therefore occurs at the beginning of the end times.
"For I will send into her pestilence, and blood into her streets; and the wounded shall be judged in the midst of her by the sword upon her on every side; and they shall know that I am the Lord. And there shall be no more a pricking brier unto the house of Israel, nor any grieving thorn of all that are round about them, that despised them; and they shall know that I am the Lord God. Thus saith the Lord God; When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered, and shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen, then shall they dwell in their land that I have given to my servant Jacob. And they shall dwell safely therein, and shall build houses, and plant vineyards; yea, they shall dwell with confidence, when I have executed judgments upon all those that despise them round about them; and they shall know that I am the Lord their God" (Ezekiel 28:23-26).
Ezekiel says, "The wounded shall be judged in the midst of her by the sword upon her on every side," indicating that Sidon-and probably Lebanon in general-will be surrounded by enemy troops. Whether these forces are part of the coalition that attacks Iraq, or perhaps from Israel herself, the Bible doesn't say. It does say that after God has "executed judgments upon all those that despise them round about them," then "they shall dwell safely therein."
The destruction of terrorist groups that have plagued Israel for decades is predicted here: "And there shall be no more a pricking brier unto the house of Israel, nor any grieving thorn of all that are round about them, that despised them." Doesn't "pricking brier" and "grieving thorn" describe Hezbollah, Hamas, and Fatah completely?
The specific timeline for this battle is indicated in verse 25: "When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered," meaning their reestablishment of a nation since 1948. Further, the timeline can be narrowed by "and shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen," meaning the complete victory over all the invading armies of the nations which surround her at the beginning of the end times. This timeline further can be confirmed by the fact that afterward, "they shall dwell safely therein" and also "build houses, and plant vineyards."
This signifies a time of peace that Israel has not known in modern history-there simply won't be any hostile nations surrounding her to bother or threaten her. This time of peace and prosperity will last until the Ezekiel 38 invasion some three decades later. Finally, our Scripture text says that it is God who provides this victory for Israel, and after he does this, "they shall know that I am the Lord their God."
Psalm 83 also looks forward to this battle. This chapter enumerates the nations as a whole involved in invading Israel; judgment on these individual nations then is described more specifically in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Obadiah, and other books in the Old Testament, and in the individual chapters concerning each nation.
"For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee: The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarenes; Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assur also is joined with them: they have holpen the children of Lot. Selah" (Psalm 83:5-8).
The nations listed in this invasion are those immediately surrounding Israel all joined together in an invasion: Edom, Moab and Ammon (Jordan); Hagarenes, Gebal, and Amalek (West Bank and Jordan, and trans-Jordanian Arabs in general); Philistines (Gaza); Tyre (Lebanon); and Assur (Iraq). These nations invade at the same time as Egypt, Syria, and the others surrounding Israel in a coordinated, blitzkrieg assault. The result of this attack is further described in Psalm 83:
"As the fire burneth a wood, and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire; So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm. Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O Lord. Let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame, and perish: That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth" (Psalm 83:14-18).
These enemies will be destroyed "as the flame setteth the mountains on fire," implying the use of nuclear weapons. In this case, Israel will have her back up against the wall, being threatened with imminent destruction, and she won't have any choice but to use these weapons, as well as the full power of the Israeli military. As a result, Israel's enemies are "put to shame, and perish," to the intent that all men may know that Jehovah is "the most high over all the earth."
Amos 1-2 also appears to be a general description of this Psalm 83 war. This passage pronounces judgment on the nations surrounding Israel: Damascus (Syria), Gaza, Tyrus (Lebanon), Edom (Jordan), Ammon (Jordan), and Moab (Jordan). Psalm 83 describes these nations in terms of their genealogical descent (e.g., Hagarenes, descended from Hagar, mother of Ishmael), while Amos describes them in terms of physical geography (e.g., Damascus).
Although some prophecies were fulfilled precursively in biblical times - for example, destruction of the Philistines, Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites as distinct peoples; and deportation of Syrians to Kir (their ancient homeland according to Amos 9:7, located in present-day Azerbaijan, southwest of the Caspian Sea) by the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III (2 Kings 16:9) - our Scripture passage suggests simultaneous judgment on these nations, which has never happened. This judgment proceeds "from Jerusalem" as the Lord roars in anger "from Zion [Israel]"; as a result, the governments of surrounding nations ("the habitations of the shepherds") cry in anguish ("shall mourn").
Our text passage then says that "the top of Carmel shall wither." Mount Carmel is a fertile limestone ridge extending southeastward from Haifa and refers in context to northern Israel. Perhaps it is here that invading troops from the north will meet their end with sudden nuclear destruction ("shall wither").
In addition, the wording of Amos 1:4 ("I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of Ben-hadad") is similar to the parallel passage in Jeremiah 49:27 ("I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus, and it shall consume the palaces of Ben-hadad") which was written after the Assyrians were defeated by the Babylonians, and therefore was still future at the time.
This passage in Jeremiah most likely describes the end-times destruction of Syria and is sandwiched between the similar end-times judgments against Edom (Jordan; Jeremiah 49:7-22) and nations of the Arabian Peninsula (Jeremiah 49:28-33). Finally, the instrument of judgment is the same in each case ("I will send a fire"), which suggests the same kind of nuclear destruction as in Psalm 83 ("as the flame setteth the mountains on fire"). The nuclear weapons the Israelis will use almost certainly will include enhanced-radiation warheads, which will destroy human life while not permanently contaminating their land.
"And he said, The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither. Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron: But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of Ben-hadad. I will break also the bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant from the plain of Aven, and him that holdeth the sceptre from the house of Eden: and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto Kir, saith the Lord.
"Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom: But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof: And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that holdeth the sceptre from Ashkelon, and I will turn mine hand against Ekron: and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith the Lord God.
"Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Tyrus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, and remembered not the brotherly covenant: But I will send a fire on the wall of Tyrus, which shall devour the palaces thereof. Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he did pursue his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity, and his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath for ever: But I will send a fire upon Teman, which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah.
"Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of the children of Ammon, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have ripped up the women with child of Gilead, that they might enlarge their border: But I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah, and it shall devour the palaces thereof, with shouting in the day of battle, with a tempest in the day of the whirlwind: And their king shall go into captivity, he and his princes together, saith the Lord.
"Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime: But I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the palaces of Kerioth: and Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet: And I will cut off the judge from the midst thereof, and will slay all the princes thereof with him, saith the Lord" (Amos 1:2-2:3).
Amos states that the reason for all this destruction is because of the "transgressions" of the respective nations. Some of these sins are ancient and enumerated in the passage: Syria repeatedly attacked Israel ("Gilead") in the days of King Hazael; the Philistines, Tyrus, and Edom were complicit with the Babylonians in their captivity of Israel (Amos prophesied this more than one hundred years before it happened); and Ammon and Moab, besides being inveterate enemies of Israel, were notorious for their cruelty. This tendency to sin by these nations will apparently manifest itself in their modern-day descendants, in the form of an attempted invasion of their neighbor.
Syrians who survive the war "shall go into captivity unto Kir" (v. 5). In conjunction with the parallel passages in Isaiah 15 and Jeremiah 48, the Kir referred to here is the ancient city in Moab near present-day Al-Karak, Jordan, southeast of the Dead Sea (not the same Kir as their ancient homeland in Azerbaijan). As we shall see later in this series, this area will be a staging ground for assembly and deportation of Arab refugees to other countries, coordinated by a contractor-type agency such as the UN. Such an agency is described as a "hireling" in Isaiah 16:14 and 21:16. Isaiah indicates this process will take three years.
Furthermore, our passage says that God will "kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah [modern-day Amman, Jordan]," and "their king shall go into captivity, he and his princes together," which is similar to the parallel account in Jeremiah 49:2-3: "It shall be a desolate heap, and her daughters shall be burned with fire: then shall Israel be heir unto them that were his heirs... their king shall go into captivity, and his priests and his princes together." Israel, therefore, will possess the former kingdom of Jordan, thereby acquiring the territory that God promised to the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and take the king of Jordan, his household, and his ministers prisoner (currently that would be King Abdullah II, et al).
This is the end result of the nuclear war which begins the end-times period: God preserves Israel so that they dwell perfectly safely and their enemies ("all that are round about them, that despised them") are destroyed. This condition will continue up until the invasion prophesied in Ezekiel 38-39 (which occurs some three decades later). Ezekiel 38:14 describes Israel living in perfect peace and security at that time: "Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord God; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it?"
It seems to be a reasonable guess that Israel would surrender her nuclear weapons (if she has any left) to the coalition forces led by the United States after the war is over, in exchange for an absolute guarantee of security by the US. It's obviously in the national interests of the US and of other Western nations to ensure that nuclear war doesn't break out in the Middle East again. Of course, in one of the finest examples of sarcasm in the Bible, Ezekiel 38:13 describes how well this guarantee works some three decades later when the "kingdom of the north" invades Israel: "Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?"
"Sheba, and Dedan" (modern-day Arabia) and "the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof" (Western nations, especially Great Britain and her former colonies, including the US) merely protest this incursion instead of doing anything about it. The explanation for this, of course, is that after the rapture, the US won't be strong enough to provide that kind of security, or even to defend itself for that matter.
This invasion occurs approximately at the thirty-year mark of the end times, after the rapture has taken place. We described this event in more detail in our previous series on the war with Russia. It's unlikely that the rapture will occur after this invasion since the Ezekiel 38-39 invasion involves direct divine intervention. Therefore, it occurs in "the day of the Lord"-which begins with the rapture.
Lebanon, therefore, is among those nations "that are round about them, that despised them," which will be "judged in the midst of her by the sword upon her on every side." This brings to mind the ancient promise which God gave to Abraham: "And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 12:3). Unfortunately, Lebanon has to find this out the hard way.
We'll cover more about Lebanon in Part 2 of this series, including the judgment of God upon Tyre; the rise of the Antichrist and his building an international city in post-war Iraq (ancient Assyria) which the Bible refers to as "Babylon"; the regathering of Lebanon as a people in the millennium, and their role as a manufacturing hub for food, clothing and durable items in this Kingdom period. So stand by for Part 2!
I provide more details of this and many other end-times prophecies in my recently published book, END TIMES DAWNING: Get Ready! (available from www.endtimesrecord.com ). Please read it! Also, if you would, please leave a book review on Amazon!
Yours in Christ,