The Russian Orthodox Church, of course, owns a lot of property in and around Jerusalem, so Hamas and the Church share some common interests over real estate. Apart from that, it leaves you wondering what brings these so-called Christians to take such an interest in an Islamic terrorist oufit like Hamas? Why are they so friendly?
Russia really does seem to have a liking for Israel's enemies—the other week it was Iran that was up in Moscow for talks about nuclear energy, and probably nuclear other-things too!
Now when Yasser Arafat ruled the Palestinians, he was on excellent terms with the Pope. John Paul II had more visits with Arafat than with any other statesman—so with the new gang from Ramallah, perhaps old Alexy thought he would get his foot in the door first! He has beat the Pope to it! It is not impossible that the Russian government, that is to say Vladimir Putin, put Alexy up to this new friendship with the Palestinians. One thing is certain—Putin has the intention of fostering a relationship with the Palestinians, whether run by Hamas or anyone else—because he sees that there is a common area of interest to be shared, and this involves Iran. Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas chief who has just visited Moscow was only two weeks ago in Tehran talking with the Iranian president who says that Israel should be wiped off the map. You know what they say: "Birds of a feather flock together!"
But of course, it is the Bible that tells us the future movements of Russia and its allies against Israel. It is all in Ezekiel chapter 38. This is quite definitely a prophecy concerning the latter days (verses 8 and 16 tell you that). An interesting note in the Companion Bible says:
"That the prophecies of chs. 38 and 39 are still future is clear from 38:8,14,16; 39:9,25,26; as Israel will have then already been "gathered", and complete restoration enjoyed immediately following the destruction of Gog: "Now will I bring again the captivity of Israel". It must therefore precede the Millennium..."
Lowth’s commentary, printed in 1739 (over 250 years ago), identifies Russia in this prophecy of Ezekiel 38. This is what it says:
"The LXX (Septugint) Interpreters take the Word Rosh, commonly translated Chief, for a Proper Name; so they render the Sentence thus, The Prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. Rosh, taken as a Proper Name, signifies those Inhabitants of Scythia, from whence the Russians derive their Name and Original."
Several modern translations have followed this reading of Ezekiel 38, rendering the passage as "Prince of Rosh."
As we look at this prophecy today and investigate these ancient names, there are two points to be borne in mind. First, it is clear that Ezekiel is telling us to look back at the Genesis record—the only other place in Scripture where we find all these names together. They are there in Genesis chapter 10, where the first five verses especially tell us that they are Japhetic peoples. These are the peoples who migrated northwards and settled Europe and northern Asia. Ezekiel 38:15 also tells us that this great company of nations will come out of the north parts.
The second point is the fact that two very ancient historians, whose writings have survived down to our day, clearly define the geography that is referred to here. The Jewish historian Josephus—who wrote at about the time of Christ—and the Greek historian Herodotus, who lived within a century of Ezekiel himself; both combine information which identifies these nations as being (on today’s map) European and Russian.
As we have pointed out on previous programmes, Ezekiel 38:5 also mentions Persia—and that is modern Iran—as being "with them." So here is an accommodation between Islamic countries and the Christian world—a joining together as we might say, of Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox and Islamic nations in a bid to remove Israel from the map by force. In view of this prophecy, the blossoming relationship between Hamas and Russia is not surprising! Neither is it surprising that France has given its blessing to the merging of interests that we see taking place!
But there is another group of nations referred to in Ezekiel 38 and that is in verse 13. "Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof." Sheba and Dedan are the nations of Saudi Arabia and the oil-rich Gulf States. It appears that there were two locations known by the name "Tarshish" in the Old Testament; one lay west of Israel, sailing from Joppa on the Mediterranean coast—as in Jonah chapter 1 and verse 3. And the other "Tarshish" was in a location that was reached from Ezion-Geber and Eilat on the Red Sea—as can be seen from 2 Chronicles 20:36, and 2 Chronicles 8:17. The western Tarshish was a source of silver, iron, tin, and lead, says Ezekiel 27:12; whereas the eastern Tarshish was a source of gold, silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks, says 2 Chronicles 9:21. The return trip to the eastern Tarshish took three years in those days. So it is then that studies show us that Britain was the western Tarshish and India the eastern Tarshish.
But a family of nations is referred to by Ezekiel—the merchants of Tarshish with all the young lions thereof. There is no alternative explanation for this other than the English-speaking nations largely derived from what was once the British Empire. Those young lions have now grown up and include the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and India. And so with President Bush’s visit to India last week, during which a firm alliance began, we see yet another piece of the prophetic picture taking shape—all telling us that the time is near when the God of Heaven will intervene in the affairs of men to redeem His people.
It all gets exciting doesn’t it! So join us again next week when, God willing, we shall consider more Bible in the News.