This week has seen outrage across the Middle East as the terrorist group ISIS burn alive a muslim Jordanian pilot. Israel were one of the nations to express sympathy. This week we examine what the Bible says about Jordan and it’s role in the latter days just before Christ returns to the earth. Welcome to this weeks ‘ Bible in the News', this is Matt Davies joining you.
Jordan step up airstrikes against ISIS
Jordan has been taking part in the US led coalition bombing raids against the extremist islamic group ISIS. On December 24th 2014, one of their F16s crashed over Syria near Raqqa. The planes pilate, Al-Kasasbeh, was captured by ISIS.
30 days later ISIS called for an Iraqi militant who had been sentenced to death in Jordan, to be released in exchange for Al-Kasabeh. Jordan refused.
This week on the 3rd of February 2015 an ISIS video was released showing Al-Kasasbeh being burnt alive in a cage. He was 26 years old. The video has sparked outrage and disgust across the Middle East and anti-ISIS protests in Jordan.
In retaliation Jordan took revenge. The BBC reported:"Jordan has executed two convicts, including a female jihadist, following the killing of one of its air force pilots by Islamic State (IS) militants.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-31124900
The media also reported that Jordan has also stepped up its air strikes against ISIS. The Guardian for example ran an article entitled "Jordan carries out new air strikes after pilot’s murder” on Thursday the 5th of February.
Jordan & Israel to build stronger relationship
One of the interesting things to come out of these horrifying events is that of the political situation between Israel and Jordan. CNN ran an article on Friday 6th of February entitled "Israel bolsters ties to Jordan as ISIS looms”. Here are a few snippets from this article:
"The crucial security relationship between Jordan and Israel is gaining new meaning after the brutal execution of a Jordanian pilot at the hands of ISIS.
In the aftermath of the killing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moved quickly to publicly bolster Israel's alliance with Jordan. In a phone call on Thursday, just a day after King Abdullah II returned to Jordan following a shortened trip to Washington, Netanyahu extended his condolences to Abdullah and expressed his anger over ISIS's "barbaric cruelty," the prime minister's office said in a statement.
The Jordanian pilot, Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh, was burned alive by ISIS militants in a video shared online around the world.
The tragedy is a prime opportunity for Netanyahu to shore up a relationship that has undergone some strain in recent months over restricted Palestinian access to the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
Jordan recalled its ambassador three months earlier over rising tensions in Jerusalem, but on Monday the ambassador was back in Tel Aviv, a sign that Jordan sees the importance of smoothing over its relationship with Israel… Now, Jordan could be looking to expand its role and it could lean on its close intelligence relationship with Israel for support.
Israel has already flown drone sorties over the Jordanian-Syrian border to help Jordan thwart potential attacks from ISIS. But that and other intelligence assistance could be the extent of Israeli support, said Israeli officials who promise to be "as supportive as we can be" of the Jordanians.”
So Israel and Jordan look set to gain closer ties.
Bible Prophecy and Jordan
But what does the Bible say about Jordan’s role in the time period before Christ’s return.
Map showing the ancient territory of Moab - now modern Jordan
In the prophecy of Jeremiah 48 and it’s companion prophecy of Isaiah 15, we have foretold the destruction of Moab, the territory East of the Dead Sea and the river Jordan. This began to be fulfilled by Nebuchadnezzar after the overthrow of Judah. We know this because Josephus records the following:
"...for on the fifth year after the destruction of Jerusalem, which was the twenty-third of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, he made an expedition against Celesyria; and when he had possessed himself of it, he made war against the Ammonites and Moabites; and when he had brought all these nations under subjection, he fell upon Egypt, in order to overthrow it; and he slew the king that then reigned” JOSEPHUS Antiquities of the Jews Book 10, Chapter 9:7
Ezekiel 25 and verses 8-11 we have another prophecy of the destruction of Moab and it is here we read of it’s final demise:
"Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because that Moab and Seir do say, Behold, the house of Judah is like unto all the heathen; Therefore, behold, I will open the side of Moab from the cities, from his cities which are on his frontiers, the glory of the country, Bethjeshimoth, Baalmeon, and Kiriathaim, Unto the men of the east with the Ammonites, and will give them in possession, that the Ammonites may not be remembered among the nations. And I will execute judgments upon Moab; and they shall know that I am the LORD.”
This is exactly what happened. Wikipedia states this about the demise of Moab:
“Sometime during the Persian period Moab disappears from the extant historical record. Its territory was subsequently overrun by waves of tribes from northern Arabia, including the Kedarites and (later) the Nabataeans."
And so the Moabites ceased to be a nation and we do not today recognise the name of Moab. A vindication of the Divine origin of Bible prophecy.
However at the end of the chapter of Jeremiah 48 there is a suggestion that the power of Moab will arise again in the latter days.
Jeremiah 48:47: "Yet will I bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter days, saith the LORD. Thus far is the judgment of Moab.”
This verse opens up a number of questions. Firstly when is this time period of "the latter days"?
The Latter Day Time Period
A search of the Bible reveals that this phrase is a divinely appointed time period and that, in fact, we are living within this time period right now. It is the time period in which the Jews would be restored to their land (Hosea 3:5 and Ezekiel 38:8 and 16). We have and are witnessing this, the Jewish state of Israel coming into existence in 1948 of course and many Jews returning (making Aliyah) year on year.
In Daniel 2 we read that it is in the latter days (Dan 2:28) when the “stone” power of Jesus Christ will return to the earth to destroy the kingdom of men and replace it with the Kingdom of God (Daniel 2:44).
We read of the same phrase in the hebrew in Isaiah 2:2 which is a wonderful prophecy of the Kingdom age when the nations will say to one another "Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3).
This then is the answer to our question: when is the latter days? NOW is the latter days. The Jews have returned to their land. We are simply awaiting the return of Jesus Christ to the earth and the establishment of Gods Kingdom.
The Captivity of Moab
The next question we might ask about Jeremiah 48:47 is, what does it mean when God says "I will bring again the captivity of Moab"?
Clearly this is a prophecy. The whole chapter has been about the destruction of Moab and as we've mentioned this was fulfilled. However clearly here we are being told that in the time period of the "latter days" God will bring again the captivity of Moab.
The ESV translates this "I will restore the fortunes of Moab". The area of Moab would be restored. It is important to make this distinction between the area or territory and the people. It cannot be the people being restored because earlier in the prophecy, in verse 42 the prophet has distinctly stated that “Moab shall be destroyed from being a people”. Therefore the restoration of Moab in the latter days must refer to the territory.
It is interesting to note that this territory has indeed been restored! It had been part of the Ottoman Empire but after World War 1 the British had the mandate over this area. Eventually, in 1946, they gave the territory they called the "Emirate of Transjordan" to the Hashemite Kingdom. It was then called the "Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” or Jordan for short.
It is amazing therefore that as we read of Jordan in the news, that this is in fact a witness to Bible Prophecy. God said there would be a power restored on the ancient territory of Moab in the latter days and we are all witnesses to this.
But what else does the Bible indicate will be the situation with this newly restored power around the time of Christ’s return?
Peace with Israel
In Ezekiel 38 we read of the great “latter day” battle of Armageddon where a mysterious character called Gog attacks Israel. Gog is a leader of a coalition of nations mentioned in verses 1-9 who come down from the north into Israel. Gog is eventually destroyed by God and we know by comparing this prophecy with that of Zechariah 12-14 that it is effected by God through the Lord Jesus Christ and the saints.
The chapter gives us an indicator therefore of what the state of the nations will be in just before Christ returns and in verse 11 we read that Israel will be in a false state of peace because Gog says: "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,"
It is interesting to consider that Jordan is one of only two Arab nations so far (the other being Egypt), to have made peace with Israel.
It is also interesting, as we have already commented, to see the Jordanians keen to build a relationship with Israel.
Jordan - not allied with Gog or Israel
When Gog attacks it does not seem Jordan will be an ally. We can deduce this because of another companion prophecy of Daniel chapter 11 where we read in verse 41 that "He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.”
So the territory of Moab, modern Jordan “escape” the Northern invasion. This indicates that they are not allied with Israel, they will not defend the Jews, nor are they with Gog for they “escape” the attack. They appear to be almost neutral at this time.
Non-acceptance of Christ indicated
It seems though that after the destruction of the invading forces of Gog, when Christ starts his reign in Jerusalem, the leaders of Jordan will not accept Christ.
In another "latter day" (Numbers 24:14) prophecy, the prophet Balaam proclaims that in the latter days Christ will destroy the leaders of Moab:
“...there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners (margin= “smite through the princes") of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.” Numbers 24:17
The star of Jacob is the Lord Jesus Christ (see Revelation 22:16) who in the latter days then will smite the leaders of Moab - presumably as a punishment for not accepting his divine authority. We read of how this smiting is effected in Isaiah 11 another future prophecy of the time after Christ has returned, assembled the Jews (Isaiah 11:12) and become an ensign to the nations (Isaiah 11:10). We read that he uses Israel to inflict punishments on those who are disobedient to him:
"they (the Jews) shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them.” Isaiah 11:14
So we see then that the Jordanians, the “latter day” Moabites, will eventually be forced to obey Christ after he has returned.
In Isaiah 16 we appear to also read of this time which seems to give us more details about this. In verse 1 we read of a call for tribute from Moab. They are asked to send a lamb to the ruler of Israel.
In verse 2 a warning is proclaimed that if they do not then the daughters of Moab will become like “a wandering bird cast out of her nest”. It appears Moab do not do as they have been commanded because in verse 3 there is a call to “execute judgment”.
The forth verse seems to of caused the translators some difficulty. The authorised version reads as if it is God’s outcasts who will dwell with Moab but this does not fit the context nor, it seems the original hebrew. Other versions translate this as “Let the outcasts of Moab sojourn among you” (ESV and RSV) and “let the Moabite fugitives stay with you” (NIV). The context is all about the pride of Moab (see v6) and them not submitting to the call for a tribute to be sent to Zion (v1). Therefore this verse appears to be about the call to Israel after the leaders of Moab have been "smitten though" by Christ as we have read of in Numbers 24. It appears to be indicating the judgments have been poured out on Moab’s leaders and now there is a call for Moab’s outcasts to be taken in. Why should the outcasts of Moab be allowed to dwell with Israel? We are given a reason "for the extortioner is at an end, the spoiler ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of the land. And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness.” Isaiah 16:5
Christ will reign in the Kingdom of God
This is a prophecy of the Lord Jesus Christ, reigning in the Kingdom of God in the future. So ultimately, despite the pride that the leaders of the latter day Moab will exhibit towards Christ, mercy will be shown to them and they will obey the Lord Jesus Christ when he reigns in mercy and truth from Jerusalem. As we read in Luke 1:32 "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:”. Indeed we look for that time when that throne of David, the ancient kingdom of Israel will be restored again on the earth, just as all the prophecies in the scriptures foretell.
So in conclusion then, we have seen evidence in the news of the latter day restored fortunes of Moab. Modern day Jordan. We have seen them taking up their neutral and peaceful role with Israel before Gog attacks - as we would expect from Bible prophecy. We have also considered how the latter day Moab, the modern "Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” will have a part to play in the time soon to unfold on the world’s stage. Although at first it seems they will be unwilling to accept Christ we know that ultimately they will be in subjection to him.
The prophecy of Revelation 11:15 is one we wait for. For the time when: "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 11:15
Keep watching with us then as we continue further into the time period of the Latter days. This has been Matt Davies with you for another Bible in the News - join us again next week God willing.