Guardians of Israel & Arabia:
A Latter-Day Alliance in the Gulf
Friday, January 13, 2012
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Welcome to another edition of the Bible in the News. This is Paul Billington commenting on the news this week from a Bible point of view. In case you missed it - it was reported last week that the United States is sending "thousands" of troops to Israel. This is at the time when tension is mounting in the region, involving Iran (and her nuclear ambitions), Israel and Saudi Arabia as well as other nations in the Gulf.
Also, it is reported that Britain is sending the most sophisticated warship in the world to the Gulf - HMS Darling is on her way there now.
At present these military moves are being presented by the Western media as "a major missile defense exercise" designed to improve cooperation between the U.S. and Israeli forces. The British Defence Secretary however has publicly warned Iran that its threatened blockade of the Strait of Hormuz would be the "Red Line" that would bring confrontation.
But also in the last few days the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has undertaken his first trip to Saudi Arabia which he hopes will "broaden and deepen" the UK-Saudi relationship. "Saudi Arabia is the UK's largest trading partner in the Middle East with annual trade worth £15bn a year, and it has £62bn invested in the UK economy."
While the prophecy of Ezekiel 38:13 will come to many minds, that of Daniel chapter 11:40 should not be lost sight of as we watch these events taking place. We have to see the development of a "King of the South" and a "King of the North" - a north-south division of competing powers in the Middle East, with Israel being one of the bones of contention.
The "King of the South" equates with Ezekiel's "Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof" (Ezekiel 38 verse 13). The "King of the North" will include Iran (Persia verse 5) as well as many other nations. The line-up that we are seeing is exactly what Scripture leads us to expect.
Prophecy requires that an alliance of nations will be present in the area of the Gulf at the time of the end. In Ezekiel 38:13 it is described as "Sheba, Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof..."
Clearly, this alliance of merchant powers (or should we say, Capitalist nations) will oppose the power of the North - a power that will include Iran as we have said (Ezekiel 38:5). And as David Cameron the British Prime Minister said in a television interview on Friday, referring to the Straits of Hormuz:
"It is in the interests of the whole world that those straits are open and, if there was any threat to close them, I am sure the whole world would come together and make sure they stayed open."
Also, "The New York Times reported late on Thursday that the United States has used a secret channel to warn Iran's leaders against closing the Strait of Hormuz, saying that doing so would provoke a US response."
There is no doubt that the Biblical Sheba and Dedan were located in Arabia where we now find rich Arabian oil-producing countries.
One hundred years ago the precise site of ancient Sheba was unconfirmed, but it is now known to have been "Saba" one of the four Himyaritic Kingdoms of South Arabia. The capital city was Marib where ancient ruins include a famous "great dam" and a complex irrigation system (once used for the cultivation of incense and spices). Evidence of Sabean rulership derives mainly from the monumental inscriptions which have been found.
Today then, the land of Sheba approximates to what is now Saudi Arabia.
According to Isaiah 21:13 the Dedanim (of Dedan) will lodge "in Arabia" - so again the area of present-day Saudi Arabia is indicated. Several Bible atlases agree with this and so cartographers have placed Sheba and Dedan in the South Arabian area. The Dedanim, or Dedanites, apparently conducted the travelling caravans, taking goods across Arabia in ancient times.
In modern times then, Sheba and Dedan represent lands of fabulous wealth in South Arabia, just as in ancient times. Today that wealth is based upon oil and has formed the foundation of trade-conscious societies in the region. They are countries which have strong and compelling links with the capitalist world.
Writing of the Anglo-American Alliance as long ago as 1852, Christadelphian author John Thomas wrote;
"The British power, old as it is, will endure as long as the American confederacy. Britain cannot fall until her mission is accomplished. Energized of God, she has withstood the world in arms, and will do it again. She has wealth enough, and men will not be wanting. She will gain many victories, and experience many defeats; still she will carry on the war until Christ appears to conquer for God, and for himself and people ... It is quite possible, therefore, that an alliance will be formed, as much desired by America as Britain. Be this as it may, Christ will judge them both, and that power will fare the best which yields most promptly to his commands, and shows the most favour to his people Israel" (Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come).
These things tell us that we are witnessing the final act in world history when the Lord Jesus Christ will return and "restore again the kingdom to Israel" (Acts 1:6). Not only is the Bible true - it has an urgent message for the nations if they would hear it. But the message is also to every one of us as individuals, to prepare ourselves for Christ's coming by believing the gospel and submitting ourselves to it in baptism. In Mark 16:16 we read the words of Jesus himself when he said:
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned."
Lord willing we will comment further next week on www.bibleinthenews.com
Printed: Friday, January 13, 2012
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