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India's Phenomenal Economic Growth
The Israeli, East Indian relationship and Bible Prophecy
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October 8, 2010 - Audio, 15.00 MIN
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This last week the Economist magazine's cover depicted a racing tiger with the headline: "How India's growth will outpace China's". The article says: "Despite the headlines, India is doing rather well. Its economy is expected to expand by 8.5% this year. It has a long way to go before it is as rich as China—the Chinese economy is four times bigger—but its growth rate could overtake China’s by 2013, if not before. Some economists think India will grow faster than any other large country over the next 25 years. Rapid growth in a country of 1.2 billion people is exciting, to put it mildly."
India has a booming economy, but it is also a close trading partner with Israel. According to Wikipedia In 2008, Israel surpassed Russia as the largest arms supplier to India. Bilateral trade between Israel and India, which was at $200 million in 2001, grew to $4.1 billion by 2009, excluding defense trade, and could reach $12 billion in 5 years with a proposed trade agreement. Israel and India have also both had to contend with Islamic terrorism; this has also brought the two countries closer together. In fact a 2009 study that was unprecedented in scope, found that 58% of Indian respondents showed sympathy to the Jewish State - making India the most pro-Israel country in the world. All this is very interesting, but it becomes even more so when we consider this in the light of Bible prophecy.

In the book of Ezekiel in chapter 38 there is a prophecy that concerns an invasion of the land of Israel from "the uttermost parts of the north" (Ezekiel 38:6 ASV). The timing of this invasion, regarding when it would occur is given quite plainly in Ezekiel 38:8 "After a long time you shall be summoned; in the distant future you shall march against the land [of a people] restored from the sword, gathered from the midst of many peoples — against the mountains of Israel, which have long lain desolate — [a people] liberated from the nations, and now all dwelling secure." (JPS). From this passage we learn:
  • This invasion of the land of Israel would occur at a time in the distant future, from that of when the prophet was speaking;
  • for many years the mountains of Israel would be in a desolate condition;
  • after this time of desolation the Jewish people would be liberated and gathered from the many nations where they had been scattered; and,
  • they would evidently be restored and would dwell in security in the region of the mountains of Israel.
What is really quite amazing is that all these events described by way of explanation by the prophet, have come to pass. The land of Israel was desolate for centuries, the Jewish people were scattered all over the world, they were subsequently liberated and regathered and restored to their own land again. If all this has come to pass as laid out by the prophecy, why would we doubt that the rest would not?

It is quite clear that the time in the distant future to which the prophet Ezekiel was referring, is the days in which we live. We can also be sure that this invasion, when Gog will come from his "home in the farthest north" (verse 15), has not yet occurred - as it will be very obvious when it does. The prophet says: "On that day, when Gog sets foot on the soil of Israel — declares the Lord GOD — My raging anger shall flare up. For I have decreed in My indignation and in My blazing wrath: On that day, a terrible earthquake shall befall the land of Israel. The fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the beasts of the field, all creeping things that move on the ground, and every human being on earth shall quake before Me. Mountains shall be overthrown, cliffs shall topple, and every wall shall crumble to the ground." (Ezekiel 38:18 - 20, JPS)

The very moment that this Gog from the far north, sets foot on the soil of the land of Israel, the Almighty God moves with great force to destroy him. One of the key events that will take place is the massive earthquake described by the prophet.

Gog's objectives in this invasion are described for us in verse 12:

"And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land." (Ezekiel 38:11-12, KJV)

The goals are to take spoil and plunder but also to destroy the desolate places that are now inhabited. The desolate places that are now inhabited by Jews, on the mountains, in the midst of the land of Israel are what today are known as the settlements, the Jewish villages in the West Bank. Those settlements and Jewish settlers to which the world and media are so opposed. There is one group of nations that questions this invasion. These countries are mentioned in 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?"

Who are these "merchants of Tarshish"? Well on last week's Bible in the News they were identified correctly as Britain and her allies. However this week we want to consider another aspect of these merchant powers. We know that Tarshish was located to the west of Israel via the Mediterranean sea. This is because of the intention of the Hebrew prophet Jonah to sail to Tarshish to escape his divine commission to go and preach to the people of Nineveh. In order to flee to Tarshish he boards a ship in Joppa, which is the modern city of Jaffa, within the city of Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean sea. There is however another Tarshish mentioned in the Bible in 2 Chronicles 20:35,36:

"And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly:   And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Eziongeber."

Eziongeber is not located on the Mediterranean sea, but is in the location of modern day Eliat, on the Red Sea or Gulf of Aqaba. This is the gateway to the south - to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. There are then two locations in the Bible that are known as Tarshish, one to the West of Israel and one to the South. Where then is the Southern Tarshish?

Well Jehoshaphat may have been imitating someone else when he made ships to go to Tarshish - and that was king Solomon.

"And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Eziongeber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red sea, in the land of Edom. And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon. And they came to Ophir, and fetched from thence gold, four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to king Solomon." (1 Kings 9:26-28)

"And all the drinking vessels of king Solomon were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold: none were of silver; it was not any thing accounted of in the days of Solomon. For the king’s ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram: every three years once came the ships of Tarshish bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks. And king Solomon passed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom." (2 Chronicles 9:20-22)

This gives us quite a bit of information about the southern Tarshish. King Solomon had a fleet of ships that sailed out of what is modern day Eliat, from there they went to Tarshish. They brought gold, silver, ivory, apes and peacocks. The gold was from Ophir, which must have been at the same location as Tarshish. Whether the voyage took 3 years, or if this was the interval between voyages isn't entirely clear, however it does indicate that it took the better part of 3 years. This demonstrates that the destination for all these materials was a great distance away.

Where was this destination from where you could obtain gold of Ophir, silver, ivory, apes and peacocks? The ancient Jewish historian Josephus, who wrote shortly after the life of Christ being born in AD37, had this to say in Antiquities of the Jews, book 8, chapter 6, number 4:

"Moreover, the king built many ships in the Egyptian Bay of the Red Sea, in a certain place called Ezion-geber; it is now called Berenice, and is not far from the city of Eloth. This country belonged formerly to the Jews, and became useful for shipping, from the donations of Hiram, king of Tyre; for he sent a sufficient number of men thither for pilots, and such as were skilful in navigation; to whom Solomon gave this command: That they should go along with his own stewards to the land that was of old called Ophir, but now the Aurea Chersonesus, which belongs to India, to fetch him gold. And when they had gathered four hundred talents together, they returned to the king again."

So Josephus identifies Ophir with India and therefore also the south eastern Tarshish. The McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature considers all the options for Ophir and presents India as the best:

"On the whole, then, India must be adopted as the most probable region of the Ophir of Solomon. The Septuagint translators also appear to have understood it to be India... But the controlling argument for this view is that all the productions referred to Ophir may be procured in India, and in India alone. Gold, silver, jewels, sandal-wood, ivory, apes, and peacocks are there all articles of commerce, and are found side by side in no other part of the world; while the last is believed to be an exclusively Indian bird, and the very name by which it is denoted in the Hebrew text is an Indian, not a Hebrew word."

The August 1974 National Geographic magazine has an article on the Phoenicians which also supports the idea that the south eastern Tarshish or Ophir is India. The article states:

"Not only west across the Mediterranean went Tyre's ships, to Rhodes and beyond. They sailed east as well. At a port called Ezion-geber at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba, King Hiram built a fleet of "ships of Tarshish" for King Solomon, the Bible relates, and sent Phoenicians to man them. This Red Sea fleet brought Solomon gold from Ophir, sandalwood, ivory, and peacocks, among many things, and "so king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches" (1 Kings 10:23).

"Archeologists accept this account, though they do not know where Ophir was: perhaps Africa, the land of Ham; perhaps southern Arabia, land of Sheba. But most likely - there are those peacocks - Ophir lay in India, far across the Arabian Sea."

It seems fairly certain then that the south eastern Tarshish is India. It was trade with India that made King Solomon rich and the restored Jewish people in Ezekiel's prophecy are also rich and increased with goods and in alliance with the modern day merchants of Tarshish! Even more fascinating is the fact that India was once part of the British Empire and therefore one of the young lions in Ezekiel's prophecy.

What is more all this was recognized by a Christadelphian writer over 150 years ago, before Israel, before Zionism, before Ezekiel's prophecy could have been fulfilled. Here is what he wrote in the book Elpis Israel or the Hope of Israel written just before 1850:

"There is, then, a partial and primary restoration of the Jews before the manifestation, which is to serve as the nucleus, or basis, of future operations in the restoration of the rest of the tribes after he has appeared in the kingdom. The pre-adventual colonization of Palestine will be on purely political principles; and the Jewish colonists will return in unbelief of the Messiahship of Jesus, and of the truth as it is in him. They will emigrate thither as agriculturists and traders, in the hope of ultimately establishing their commonwealth, but more immediately of getting rich in silver and gold by commerce with India, and in cattle and goods by their industry at home under the efficient protection of the British power."

Not so long ago the idea of getting rich from trade with India may not have seemed so likely, as India was an impoverished third world country. However, today India is booming and Israel is one of their great trading partners. Sometimes we have to be patient, but Bible prophecy is always fulfilled exactly!

Come back next week, God willing, to This has been David Billington with you.

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