Jul 15, 2008

The Arab-Israeli War

By Al Gist

The Bible speaks of several wars that lead up to and usher in the glorious Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Specifically, there are three that stand out. All of them, of course, are attacks on Israel and each one is progressively larger and bloodier. If we look at these in reverse chronological order, we have:


The final war will be that all-out “mother of all wars”, in which all the nations of the world will come together in an attempt to destroy Israel (Zech. 14:1-5). We often speak of that last war by the name of what will actually be the area of the staging ground of the participating armies. We call it the Battle of Armageddon… so named because the armies of the earth will gather in the valley of Megiddo in northern Israel (Rev. 16:16).

Gog of Magog

The second war of the three is described for us in Ezekiel 38 & 39 and it will precede the war of Armageddon. We usually refer to it as the “War of Gog of Magog” because right up front, in the second verse of chap. 38, the prophet is told:

Ezek. 38:2 - “Son of man, set they face against Gog, the land of Magog… and prophesy against him.” Most scholars agree that “Magog” is a reference to Russia and that “Gog” is her national leader. He is said to come from “the north parts” (38:15) which is actually better translated as “the extreme north”. If you draw a line due north from Jerusalem, at its upper end, it will run almost through the middle of Moscow.

Along with Gog (Russia), seven ancient names are used to describe the nations who join in this attack on Israel. They are ALL Muslim nations today. The first one is called Persia, which is the name of the nation who in 1935 changed its name to “The Islamic Republic of Iran”.

So, these chapters foretell of a Russian/Iranian-led coalition of Muslim nations who attempt a surprise attack on Israel. But God Himself intervenes and destroys 5/6 of this giant army on the mountains of Israel, leaving only 1/6 to straggle back home and report on the devastation they suffered at the hands of the God of Israel. (Ezek. 39:2-4)

The timing of this war of “Gog of Magog” is much debated. Some try to tie it to the Battle of Armageddon at the end of the Tribulation. Others place it in the first half of the Tribulation. Still
others claim that it will occur BEFORE the Tribulation ever starts. The truth is, nobody really knows for sure WHEN this war will take place. However, several references in Ezekiel 38-39 seem to place it in the first half of the Tribulation.

First of all, it is said to occur “after many days” and “in the latter years” and “in the latter days” (Ezek. 38:8, 16) which are terms used in the OT to speak of the days leading up to Israel’s final restoration in the Messianic Kingdom.

But maybe the most revealing fact about the timing of this war is that it will happen in a time when Israel is at rest and feeling safe with no imminent threat against them. (Ezek. 38:8, 11, 14). This one factor nails it down to a specific 3 ½ year time period.

Since 1948, Israel has not enjoyed one single day of peace and safety without the continual threat of destruction from her enemies. Since her inception, she has had to be on constant guard. So this is definitely not a description of Israel at any time during her modern history so far. But there is coming a day when Israel WILL feel safe enough to lay down her arms.

The Bible teaches in Daniel 9, that the Antichrist will make a seven year treaty with Israel, guaranteeing her peace and safety. And he will deliver on this promise for the first 3 ½ years until at the very mid-point of the Tribulation, he will break the covenant… invade Jerusalem… and take over and begin a reign of horror with unparalleled persecution of the Jew. This first half of the Tribulation is the ONLY time of peace that Israel has to look forward to until the establishment of our Lord’s Messianic Kingdom when He, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings will usher in a 1000 year reign of peace, righteousness, and justice for Israel and the entire world.

Therefore, we must conclude that the Gog of Magog invasion of Israel will happen in the first half of the Tribulation, after the Church has already been Raptured. It will be during that first 3 ½ years of the Tribulation that she will exist in relative peace and security, guaranteed by the protection of the Antichrist. But...

“…when they shall say, Peace and safety ; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” 1 Thess 5:3

But there is yet another war that is talked about in the Bible that will actually PRECEDE these other two. For lack of a better name, we will call it...

The Arab/Israeli War

A very interesting prophetic psalm is Psalm 83. It describes another war that will take place in the last days. Using the ancient names of peoples around Israel, it describes a conspiracy of what would be the modern Arab/Muslim nations neighboring Israel who say “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.” (Psalm 83:4) And Asaph, the Psalmist, calls upon God to destroy them: “Let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame, and perish:” (Psalm 83:17)

But who are these enemies of Israel? The names given in vss. 6-8 are people groups who were all, at various times, the enemies of ancient Israel. However, J. Vernon McGee, in his commentary on this passage says, “There’s no place in history where you can fit this in. And that makes this to me a very remarkable section… and has a real meaning because it would seem to indicate that it’s looking forward to the future.”[1] Likewise, other scholars claim that no where in OT history has this confederation of nations ever come together in a single conspiracy to destroy Israel.

The first seven names listed in vss. 6-7 are people groups who were all located east of Israel. And their semi-nomadic cultures caused them to have territories that were not consistent with defined boundaries, but were in fact, constantly changing and overlapping with one another. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify who these names might represent on today’s map.

Edom and the Ishmaelites = Saudi Arabia
Moab and Ammonites = Jordan
Hagarenes, Gebal, and Amalek = Jordan

From here, we see two groups mentioned that lived west of Judea.

Philistia = Gaza
Tyre = Lebanon

The last name mentioned in vs. 8 is Assur, another name for Assyria. And it says that they lend a helping hand to the children of Lot. The children of Lot are Moab and Ammon. The Assyrian Empire, considered to be one of the great empires of the ancient world, covered a vast portion of the Middle East. It included parts of modern-day Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq.

Some of these Psalm 83 nations were the main participants in the Israeli War of Independence in 1948, the Six Day War in 1967, and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. So, some people might conclude that the this prophecy may have been fulfilled in these wars. But this is not so. There were several other Muslim nations involved in those wars, especially the Yom Kippur War. And most noticeably absent from our list is the one nation that literally initiated and was the main leader in all three of those wars against Israel… Egypt. So, the modern day wars of Israel to date, could not be the fulfillment of Psalm 83!

In light of modern-day Middle Eastern politics, it may be difficult for us to see how some of these nations would join in an attack on Israel. For example, Jordan has had a peace treaty with Israel since 1994 and enjoyed $millions in U.S. aid as a result. Why would she risk the loss of that aid and the possibility of another embarrassing defeat by the IDF? The best answer to that is simply to remember that a “leopard does not change its spots” and the Jordanian hatred for Israel is still there, even though there is presently a “fragile” peace treaty between them. And we must also not forget that the political climate changes constantly, especially in the Middle East.

Just recently, the Hezbollah took control of western Beirut and a major portion of the Lebanese government. So, now the Lebanese Army is actually controlled by the dictates of the Hezbollah. In Jan., 2006 the terrorist group known as “Hamas” took complete control of Gaza. And Syria, of course, remains a dire threat with its thousands of missiles with chemical and biological warheads pointed at Israel.

So, the present Middle East national alliances make it clear that a major Arab-Israeli war is on the horizon. It may be even initiated as a retaliatory response from Iran if Israel attempts to destroy the Iranians’ nuclear installations. As such, even though only God can accurately predict the future, it is very possible that this war could happen this year! One thing is for sure… It’s not a matter of “if”, only “when”!

But be not dismayed. God is still on His throne and as His children, we are safely in His hands (Romans 8:38-39).

[1] http://www.blueletterbible.org/cgi-bin/comm_read.pl?book=Psa&chapter=83&verse=6