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The Developing North South Split in the Arab World
A look at Sheba, Dedan and Persia in the last days.
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September 17, 2010 - Audio, 9.50 MIN
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This week has produced several interesting headlines and news items, so far as Bible prophecy is concerned. In particular we see a north south split developing in the Arab world. Welcome to The Bible in the News, this is David Billington with you.
In the prophecy of Ezekiel 38 there are two groupings of nations laid out; a northern group and a southern group. The northern group is based in the uttermost parts of the north (verse 6, 15 - ASV); we have identified these on Bible in the News many times, as a Russian led latter-day superpower, comprising most of Europe. There is also a grouping of Middle-Eastern nations with them. They are in verse 5 of Ezekiel 38; Persia or Iran, Ethiopia or Cush and Libya. The other grouping of nations is an alliance of merchant powers called the "merchants of Tarshish", with them are two Middle Eastern nations: Sheba and Dedan. The merchants of Tarshish can be identified as Britain, India and the Western powers. A special issue of the Bible Magazine (Volume 20, Issue 3) deals with this subject. When the northern confederacy of nations invades the Middle-East as outlined in Ezekiel 38, they are questioned by the Tarshish merchant powers - see verse 13:

"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?"

While God is "against Gog" and destroys him utterly, the prophecy does not use the same terms about the merchant powers. It would therefore follow that they are objecting to the invasion. In fact another prophecy in Psalm 72 presents these nations as being some of the first to submit to the rule of Christ when he establishes the kingdom of Israel in the earth:

"He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him."

It would seem fairly clear then that the merchant powers of Tarshish together with Sheba are in objection to the invasion from the north, but for whatever reason, they are unable or unwilling to do anything concrete to put a stop to the invasion.

What of Sheba and Dedan? Which latter-day nations do they refer to? Making things a little more complicated is the fact that there is more than one "Sheba and Dedan" in the Bible. There are in fact three possible Shebas in the Hebrew Scriptures who may have given their names to the nation, however there are only two who are coupled with "Dedan". One is in Genesis 10:7, where "Sheba and Dedan" are the descendants of Cush. The other Sheba and Dedan is in Genesis 25:1-4, they are descendants of Abraham the patriarch and his wife Keturah. This Sheba and Dedan are cousins to the Midianite children. It is quite evident that the Sheba and Dedan of Ezekiel 38 originate from Keturah as they are in opposition to Ethopia or Cush who is with the northern invader. It would not make sense for Sheba and Dedan to be the children of Cush, when the nation named after him is part of the northern confederacy. No, the Sheba and Dedan nations must be the descendants of Keturah. The lexicographer Gesenius identifies Sheba with the Sabaeans, a nation and region of Arabia. He supposes there were two Arabian tribes, Sheba and Dedan, one in southern Arabia and one based in northern Arabia. Smith in his Bible Dictionary identifies Sheba with the great south Arabian kingdom and the peoples which composed it. Werner Keller in "The Bible as History" identifies Sheba with the ancient kingdom of Sheba based in southern Arabia, which was a merchant power who did business with the Kingdom of Israel under Solomon - the queen of Sheba came to visit. him. It is quite certain then that Sheba and Dedan in Ezekiel 38 are the tribes and kingdoms of the the Arabian desert, which is modern day Saudi Arabia, Yemen and we could include the other nations of the Arabian peninsula as well.

As students of Bible prophecy we are then watching for a divided Middle East. At the time of the return of Christ to the earth we expect there to be a grouping of Middle Eastern nations allied with Russia: Iran, Ethiopia and Libya. And a group with the merchant powers: Saudi Arabia, Yemen and others. It is with some interest that we saw this headline in this Wednesday's Globe and Mail newspaper:

"Iranian Nuclear Threat puts Israel, Saudi Arabia on the Same Side"

The "same side" is also on side with the United States who is suppling the arms to both these countries. The article opens with this short summary:

"The U.S. administration has confirmed a decision to sell up to $60-billion worth of military weapons to Saudi Arabia - officially an enemy of Israel - and Israel hasn't uttered a peep of concern. In fact, Israel is welcoming the sale - all because of Iran and the threat that its nuclear weapons program poses to both Israel and Saudi Arabia."

Persia/Iran is being supplied weapons by Russia, the king of the north and Saudi Arabia is being supplied weapons from the USA with Israel also an unofficial ally! The article also says:

"While the United States has begun to supply missile-defense systems in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, the weapons Washington is selling Riyadh are pure offence... The idea that Israel might resort to attacking Iran if it produced nuclear weapons is not new. What is new is the idea that an Arab state such as Saudi Arabia might facilitate it. The Saudis did not exactly deny it."

Back to the northern group, we see in today's headlines that Russia is supplying cruise missiles to Syria. YNET news reports:

"Russia to supply Syria with P-800 missiles

"Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov confirmed in Washington that Russia would supply Syria with P-800 Yakhont cruise missiles, Russian news agencies reported Friday.

"Russia's arms sales and possible nuclear cooperation with Syria, which has close ties to Iran, is unnerving for the United States and Israel, which fears them being transferred to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah."

Now consider Joel 3:1,2,9-12:

"For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. ...

"Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about."

Today we the Jewish people returned to Judah and Jerusalem, we see the nations preparing for war. We see the groupings of nations forming just as the prophet Ezekiel laid out so many years ago. We certainly do have a sure word of prophecy!

Come back next week God willing to Bible in the News!

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