Welcome to our weekly Bible in the News podcast! We continue to watch Saudi Arabia with interest. You may remember some months ago, it was reported that Saudi Arabia had opened their airspace to Israeli planes. Well, things seem to be continuing to progress along those lines.
The last month has been positive for Saudi Arabia. Even if coincidental, Saudi Arabia's win in the FIFA World Cup last month is perhaps a sign of Saudi Arabia's growing influence and success! In more significant news, it was reported by The New York Times that US Backs Immunity for Saudi Leader in Lawsuit Over Khashoggi Murder (Nov. 18, 2022). This was a rather surprising move under Biden, following considerable rhetoric over the past two years, and perhaps shows a willingness to work with Saudi Arabia.
The real news came this week, with high level comments on Saudi Arabia's intentions to move ahead with normalization with Israel. i24News led reports with the headline, Exclusive: Saudis say normalization with Israel ‘matter of time’ (Dec. 6, 2022). This is something we have been waiting for, especially since the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020! The following day Barron's news stated, Saudi Reports Bumper Budget Surplus, First In Nearly A Decade (Dec. 7, 2022). So, the kingdom is in a strong position to do business with its partners. This is something that we would expect from the prosperous atmosphere alluded to in Ezekiel 38. Two days later, it was reported that Saudi Arabia and China had formalized agreements on trade and security. The Business Standard's headline stated, Saudi Arabia gathers China's Xi with Arab leaders in 'new era' of ties (Dec. 9, 2022).
China's deals with Saudi Arabia may push the United States to overcome it's reticence to work with the Saudis and facilitate a new round of deal making between the two countries as well as Israel. We can see conditions developing which may support increasing friendship with Israel. Out of all this, the most interesting for us is the Saudis talking about normalization with Israel just being a 'matter of time'!
Israel's i24 News reported on this development under the headline, Exclusive: Saudis say normalization with Israel ‘matter of time' (Dec. 6, 2022):
Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman conditions progress on American support
Senior diplomatic officials shared with i24NEWS that the Gulf state is looking to normalize relations with Israel, but that this will take time.
"The direction of Saudi-Israeli relations is normalization, but it will take more time and we must not put the cart before the horse." So said Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir in a meeting held in recent weeks with Jews from the United States, as revealed in an official document obtained by i24NEWS.
In a separate meeting which was held last month with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi presented a list of demands in exchange for progress, all directed at Washington. The Palestinian issue was not mentioned in the conversation.
i24NEWS also learned that Adel Al-Jubeir met in recent weeks with U.S. Jewish community leaders in Washington where he delivered messages regarding future relations with Israel. According to the document obtained by i24NEWS, Al-Jubeir told the audience that progress on Israeli-Saudi normalization is ongoing, but that more time is required for it to bear fruit.
"Israel and other Gulf states have been gradually normalizing for years. The process must be allowed to mature," Al-Jubeir noted.
A Jewish community leader from the U.S. told an Israeli diplomat following the meeting that Saudi normalization with Israel will happen, adding "it is only a question of timing"...
Considering the complexity involved, this may take some time (1-2 years?), but with an imminent change of government in Israel, likely with Netanyahu back as prime minister, and perhaps a shift in the US in the future, conditions for Saudi Arabia joining the Abraham Accords could easily develop. The report continues:
In addition, the Saudis expect the U.S. and the West to support the monarchy, which promotes internal reforms that advance moderation of Saudi society. According to the participants in the conversation, the purpose of the visit was to “feel the ground” and convey messages among non-governmental organizations in Washington with the aim of stabilizing U.S.-Saudi relations...
i24NEWS also revealed that in a recent conversation with an American delegation to Riyadh, organized by the Washington Institute, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman was asked what would bring Saudi Arabia to join the Abraham Accords and normalize relations with Israel.
Bin Salman listed three main demands, all referred to Washington: an affirmation of the U.S.-Saudi alliance, a commitment to follow through on weapon supplies as though Saudi Arabia were a NATO-like country, and an agreement that will allow the Saudis to exploit their extensive uranium reserves for a restricted civil nuclear program...
According to the source, who was present at the meeting, the Palestinian issue was not mentioned in the conversation.
We can see the mutual interests of Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States coming into shape, and although not mentioned here, it is clear that the Americans need Saudi Arabia, both for oil, and also to counter the influence of Iran.
Despite all the attacks brought against Israel's so-called extreme right-wing government that Netanyahu is accused of bringing together (something like the Taliban!), it is also interesting to note that this time the Saudis did not specifically mention the Palestinians in their conditions. Watch this space!
Let us turn to our Bibles to ensure we have a clear picture of the significance of these developments. In Ezekiel 38, a prophecy about the latter days (verses 8 & 16) when a massive invasion from the far north will come against God’s people Israel restored to their ancient land, an alliance is described which will challenge this invader:
"Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish, and all its young lions, shall say to you, Have you come to spoil a spoil? Have you gathered your assembly to steal a prize, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to spoil a great spoil?" – Ezekiel 38:13 (JP Green Interlinear).
Although some of these names may be ancient, it is clear from the context of this and similar prophecies, that these powers have a future application. Biblical Sheba is described by Britannica as follows:
"Sabaʾ, biblical Sheba, kingdom in pre-Islamic southwestern Arabia, frequently mentioned in the Bible (notably in the story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba) and variously cited by ancient Assyrian, Greek, and Roman writers from about the 8th century BC to about the 5th century AD. Its capital, at least in the middle period, was Maʾrib, which lies 75 miles (120 km) east of present-day Sanaa, in Yemen." (Sabaʾ ancient kingdom, Arabia, 2016).
Isaiah 21:13 indicates that the Dedanim (of Dedan) will lodge "in Arabia", the area of present-day Saudi Arabia. So, Sheba and Dedan are identified with Saudi Arabia and the other southern Gulf States, an area where several countries have warming ties with Israel!
So, what we are seeing with a prospering Arabia, in increasing cooperation with Israel, is the atmosphere that we expect to develop as the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38 comes ever closer! We live in exciting times and we will continue to watch how events unfold in the future. There may yet be some unexpected twists and turns, but we have a clear picture of where things are going and what the final state will be when the Gogian alliance comes against Israel and Saudi Arabia stands with the friends of Israel against that foe.
Whatever current appearances might be, this is the picture we expect to develop and have been looking for, and it is exciting to see it continue to take shape. This is another sign post that gives us hope as we wait for the Kingdom of God.
We watch and we continue to wait for the return of Christ, encouraged that this time is near! This has been Daniel Billington with you this week and we invite you to tune in again next week for further commentary on how current events relate to Bible prophecy.