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The Great Middle East War - Introduction

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The Great Middle East War

The purpose of the following study is to look at prophetic Scripture that may shed light on the reason Israel's immediate neighbors are not part of the "Gog and Magog War."

The interest in a future war involving Israel's immediate neighbors started around the time of the Lebanon war in 2006. A well-preserved Bible dated to the medieval times was found opened to the 83rd Psalm in an Irish bog (source). This sparked an interest in many prophecy students and teachers of the possibility that this prophetic Psalm about judgment against Israel's neighbors could be fulfilled in the near future.

I will refer to this war described in Psalm 83 and its parallel passages as the "Great Middle East War." Several prophecy teachers and students have discovered several parallel passages to this war scattered throughout the Old Testament prophets. For this study, I have attempted to put these parallel passages together to show how they all describe the same war.

The author of Psalm 83 is "Asaph the seer," who was a prophet, priest, and musician (2 Chronicles 29:30, 1 Chronicles 16:37, 1 Chronicles 25:6). Psalm 83 is a yet future prophecy because there has been no known fulfillment in Scripture or history. In fact, it seems that this Psalm is speaking of events that could occur today. The seething hatred and common goal the listed members of the confederacy in Psalm 83 have against Israel since their rebirth as a nation has led many to believe, including myself, that fulfillment of this prophetic Psalm could occur soon.

I use Psalm 83 as a starting point in this study because we find all the members of the confederacy against Israel. The parallel passages include many, if not most of the same confederate members grouped together. While some dismiss Psalm 83 as merely an imprecatory prayer, Asaph asks for judgment against a very specific list of enemies that form a confederacy against Israel, which is evidence that this Psalm is about a specific event; the parallel passages confirm that Psalm 83 is about a prophetic war. These passages go into detailed prophetic judgments against each nation and people groups, giving us different perspectives on the war, while the parallels in the passages show that they are, in fact, speaking of the same conflict.

The names of the nations and people groups in all the passages are given by their ancient name. By doing a little historical detective work, we will see that ancient people groups that migrated to other places are distinct from the inhabitants that live within the political borders of these ancient lands today, which is probably why the people groups and the nations are both listed.

Before going through the prophetic passages themselves, I'd like to first discuss their fulfillment: past, future, or dual. A dual fulfillment is where a prophecy has a second fulfillment. This is usually seen in the case of the complete fulfillment of a prophecy that was only partly fulfilled in the past. Dual fulfillment of prophecy shows that history repeats itself. As Solomon wrote:

Ecclesiastes 1:9 - That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.

Traditionally, many assume that most unfulfilled prophecies will find fulfillment at the end of the Tribulation. However, there is strong evidence of the defeat of Israel's immediate neighbors and the area of Jordan coming under Israeli sovereignty before the "Gog and Magog War," which most Bible teachers believe will take place as a separate war from Armageddon sometime in the first half of the Tribulation. This study shows that there is scriptural support for the "Great Middle East War" occurring near the beginning of the Tribulation, with the "Gog and Magog War" following shortly after.

When studying prophetic Scripture, we find that the prophets were given only tidbits of future events that many times covered more than one event. History shows that many prophecies have only seen partial fulfillment. The partial fulfillment proved that the prophet was a true prophet. In many prophecies the prophets saw one event, but in reality what God revealed to them covered many events over a long period-of-time. Clarence Larkin illustrates this in the chart found in the following link: "The Mountain Peaks of Prophecy."

It is important to note that many of these parallel passages to Psalm 83 have been partly fulfilled in history. The textual proximity of these partly fulfilled passages to those that have seen complete fulfillment may suggest a future dual fulfillment. I will mention these fulfilled prophecies briefly below. However, in this study we will focus on the unfulfilled prophecies and those partly fulfilled in history.

Before introducing the passages, I should note that I have assumed, with regard to partially fulfilled prophecy, that there will be a dual fulfillment of the first part of the prophecy when the remaining part of the prophecy comes to pass. The reason being, is that the complete fulfillment of a prophecy is usually dependent on the partial fulfillment in a way that it is likely necessary for a repeat to occur of the fulfilled part of the prophecy for the unfulfilled part to come to fruition.

Prophetic passages about the nations in Psalm 83

  • Isaiah 17 - In Isaiah 14-17 we see almost all the aggressors in Psalm 83 mentioned in "textual proximity." Only Tyre, which is in current day Lebanon is not found in these chapters, but in Isaiah 23 as an already fulfilled prophecy. Isaiah 14-16 contain prophecies fulfilled in the Assyrian conquest. However, Isaiah 17 has only seen partial fulfillment, thus, I included it in this study.
  • Ezekiel 25-28 - These prophecies were all fulfilled during the Babylonian conquest. However, Ezekiel 28 ends with an unfulfilled prophecy about Israel's neighbors, so we will take a look at this passage in this study.
  • Ezekiel 35-37 - These chapters are mostly about judgment on Edom (area of southern Jordan). The unfulfilled portion spans from the time Israel came back into the land during our modern era up to the Tribulation period, which I believe starts in Ezekiel 38, as explained in my "Gog and Magog War" study.
  • Joel 1 - Most prophecy teachers believe that the Assyrian conquest fulfilled Joel 1:1-12. As shown in the "Gog and Magog War" study, there is strong evidence that Joel 2 parallels the "Gog & Magog War" and occurs at the beginning of the Tribulation. There is little doubt that Joel 3 covers the Armageddon campaign at the end of the Tribulation. Careful examination of Joel 1:13-20 suggests that this "day of the Lord" passage may actually be referring to the "Great Middle East War" of our current study.
  • Amos 1-2 - These prophecies have found fulfillment in the Assyrian conquest. The parallel wording supports possible dual fulfillment in the "Great Middle East War." Israel also receives judgment in Amos 2, which parallels Isaiah 17 and Joel 1. The main method of judgment throughout the first few chapters of Amos is "fire," which is found in several parallel passages.
  • Obadiah - Obadiah is a prophecy against Edom, in the southern part of modern-day Jordan. Obadiah was partly fulfilled around 70AD by the Romans at the same time they were subduing Israel. The Edomites ceased from being recognized as a nationality, but history traces their migration into the surrounding areas. Scripture shows future judgment against the descendants of the Edomite people, and has not been fulfilled in history. The 15th verse of Obadiah shows us that the complete fulfillment will occur when "the day of the Lord upon all nations is near," which would place the war near the beginning of the Tribulation period.
  • Jeremiah 49 - The prophecies in Jeremiah 47-48 about Philistia (Gaza) and Moab (central Jordan) found fulfillment in the Egyptian and Babylonian conquests before Judah fell. The prophecies in Jeremiah 49 about Ammon (northern Jordan), Edom (southern Jordan), and Damascus (in Syria) have all seen partial fulfillment in the Babylonian conquest. However, Israel taking possession of land they have never had (Jeremiah 49:2), the perpetual desolation of Edom not continuing, and word-for-word parallels to other prophecies in other passages, all show there will be a future complete fulfillment of Jeremiah 49. Textual proximity of the other chapters may suggest a dual fulfillment, but they are not included in this study.
  • Zephaniah 2 - This prophecy was partly fulfilled in history by the Babylonian and Egyptian conquests before Judah fell to the Babylonians. However, God has not yet judged all the gods of the earth in one fell swoop, as described in Zephaniah's prophecy. This suggests that this war will happen before the harlot religion "Babylon the Great" rises at the beginning of the Tribulation. Also, the beginning of Zephaniah 2 describes the gathering of Israel before the "day of the Lord," which is a term used throughout Scripture to describe the Tribulation period and beyond. In addition to this passage paralleling other passages to the "Great Middle East War," another possible indicator that this prophecy still has future fulfillment is that the modern-day city of Mosul lies over much of the ruins of Nineveh, so it is not in "perpetual desolation," as indicated by the prophet.
  • Zechariah 9-11 - These passages include a mixture of fulfilled, unfulfilled, and dual prophecies, with partial fulfillment of some passages at the time of Alexander the Great. I have only included in this study the verses that suggest yet future judgment against the surrounding nations listed in Psalm 83. Though I will be leaving them out of this study, the fulfilled prophecies in these passages are pretty easy to spot, such as the coming King riding on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9), fulfilled by Jesus on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-5).
  • Numbers 24 - This passage may seem out-of-place, being that the book of Numbers is not regarded as a prophetic book. Nevertheless, there is a curious prophecy the Spirit of the Lord gave to the pagan prophet Balaam about Israel's neighbors who are also listed in Psalm 83. There has been a partial fulfillment of this prophecy when Israel gained dominion over most of the territories listed at the time of David's rule. Part of this prophecy was also fulfilled in history against the Kenites, a clan of the Midianites who had moved to an area near Kadesh, which was part of the northern kingdom at the time of the Assyrian conquest and exile. However, it is clear that this prophecy would see fulfillment in the "latter days," where Israel would destroy her enemy neighbors, leading up to the time of the earthly rule of the coming Messiah.

I placed the parallel passages of the "Great Middle East War" in each section side-by-side. The partially fulfilled and unfulfilled passages mentioned above are all included throughout the rest of the study. After going through this study, I implore you read each passage in its whole to gain a better understanding of what the "Great Middle East" War entails. For your convenience, you can find all these passages on Page 4 of this study.

The "Crafty Counsel"

 Psalm 83:1-4 Ezekiel 35:12-13 Zephaniah 2:8
Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace, and do not be still, O God! For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones. They have said, "Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.""Then you shall know that I am the LORD. I have heard all your blasphemies which you have spoken against the mountains of Israel, saying, 'They are desolate; they are given to us to consume.' Thus with your mouth you have boasted against Me and multiplied your words against Me; I have heard them.""I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the insults of the people of Ammon, with which they have reproached My people, and made arrogant threats against their borders."

Psalm 83 opens with a plea to God to save Israel from their enemy neighbors who have come together making threats to destroy them. Destruction of Israel has been the goal of these surrounding Arab nations since the day Israel became a nation in 1948. These nations not only hate Israel, they hate God; they continue to speak blasphemies against God and make threats against Israel.

One thing to point out that we will come back to at the end of the study, is that Israel will be crying out to God for help as they see their enemies gather against them. They will look to God at this point, but not the Messiah. Israel as a nation is spiritually dead because most of them have rejected Jesus as their Messiah, as seen in the imagery of the "dry bones" coming alive in Ezekiel 37, when the people have returned from exile:

Ezekiel 37:1-4 - The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" So I answered, "O Lord GOD, You know." Again He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!'"
Ezekiel 37:5-8 - "'Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: "Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD."'" So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.
Ezekiel 37:9-11 - Also He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live."'" So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, 'Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!'"
Ezekiel 37:12-14 - "Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it," says the LORD.'"

The people of Israel are coming together as a nation. Israel is yet to have a personal relationship with the Lord corporately; His Spirit is not in them. As we will see later, the "Great Middle East War" will be the spiritual turning point for corporate Israel that will eventually lead to their acknowledgement of Jesus as Messiah by the end of the Tribulation.

The Confederacy against Israel

 Psalm 83:5-8
For they have consulted together with one consent; they form a confederacy against You: The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab and the Hagrites; Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria also has joined with them; they have helped the children of Lot. Selah

Ancient Political Map of Psalm 83

The Political Areas

    Moab = Central Jordan
    Gebal = City in Lebanon
    Ammon = Northern Jordan
    Amalek = The Negev into the Sinai
    Philistia = Gaza
    Assyria = Syria into western Iraq

By comparing an ancient map to a current map, it is easy to find the political areas that come against Israel in the "Great Middle East War." The nations within the confederacy are Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Gaza is technically part of Israel, but today, Arab refugees occupy the land. These refugees are known today as the Palestinians, who are trying to form a nation apart from Israel, consisting of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Israel and contested territories

The People Groups

    Tents of Edom = Palestinians
    Ishmaelites = Arabs
    Hagrites = Clan of Ishmaelites
    Inhabitants of Tyre = Lebanese
    The Descendants of Lot
          = Moabites and Ammonites

The people groups are a little fuzzier to discern. Why are the people groups listed separate from the nations? I think the answer lies in the political situation that will be in place in the areas surrounding Israel at the time that this war takes place.

Israel is not only surrounded by hostile nations, but also hostile refugee and terrorist groups that live within Israel's borders and her neighbors' borders. The historical migration of these people groups will help show who they are today. In the following section, we will take a closer look at just the people groups and who they are.

The "Tents of Edom":

Bill Salus, author of the book "Isralestine," has presented convincing research identifying the "tents of Edom." I definitely recommend reading his book for the background info on how he came to his conclusions. The following history is what you need to know for the purpose of this study.

Jacob's brother Esau founded the nation Edom, which lies in the southern area of current day Jordan. Jacob and Esau's mother Rebekah had a difficult pregnancy because the twin brothers struggled within her womb (Genesis 25). The struggle continued through their lives. Esau despised his birthright and Jacob tricked Esau into receiving the blessing of the firstborn, which included the promises made to Abraham by God. Esau's descendants have continued to struggle with Israel throughout history.

Edom eventually became a smaller area known as Idumea. Many of the Edomites migrated north and lived among the Jews. The Idumeans were still recognized during the time of Christ. Many Idumenas lived in the kingdom of Judah during Jesus' time. Herod the Great was himself an Idumean. The Idumeans as a people, disappeared around the same time of the exile of the Jews around 70AD.

As there is no historical genocide recorded, it is generally accepted that the Idumeans absorbed into the surrounding people groups and are now represented among the present day Arab people; particularly the Palestinians. What is interesting about identifying the long-lost Edomites as the "tents of Edom," is that it is a picture of a people without a nation, which could describe a nomadic, or a refugee group.

During Israel's "War of Independence," over 700,000 Arabs that resided in Israel fled. After the war was over, the surrounding Arab countries refused to absorb these refugees into their countries. Today, these refugees in Israel are known as the Palestinians. The Arab countries have used these refugees as pawns to try to divide and destroy Israel. Therefore, it is easy to see how the "tents of Edom" appropriately describe the Palestinians of today. These descendants of Jacob and Esau are still struggling over the right to the land promised to Abraham.

Palestinian refugee camps 1948
Palestinian refugee camps
Source: Wikipedia

Ishmaelites and Hagrites:

The Ishmaelites as a people, migrated to the area of eastern Jordan and into Saudi Arabia:

Genesis 25:17-18 - These were the years of the life of Ishmael: one hundred and thirty-seven years; and he breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people. (They dwelt from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt as you go toward Assyria.) He died in the presence of all his brethren.

The Ishmaelites disappeared from history after the time of David's reign. Most assume that they absorbed into the surrounding people and represent many of the Arabs that live in Israel's neighboring countries.

The Hagrites were Ishmaelites who took the matron name:

    In Genesis 25:12-18 are recorded the descendants, "generations," of Ishmael, "whom Hagar the Egyptian Sarah's handmaid, bare unto Abraham." Two, and possibly three, of these tribes, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah (Genesis 25:15), appear to be identical with the 3 tribes whom the Reubenites and the other Israelite tribes East of the Jordan conquered and dispossessed (1 Chronicles 5). The correspondence of names in Genesis and 1 Chronicles leaves little doubt that "Hagrite" is a generic term roughly synonymous with "Ishmaelite," designating the irregular and shifting line of desert tribes stretching along the East and South of Israel. Those "East of Gilead," "Jetur, Naphish and Nodah," were overcome by Reuben: "The Hagrites were delivered into their hand, and all that were with them.... And they took away their cattle... they dwelt in their stead until the captivity" (1 Chronicles 5:20-22).

The Bible shows us that the Hagrites migrated east of Israel and lived in eastern Jordan (Gilead was in northwest Jordan) and some lived within Israel like Jaziz:

1 Chronicles 5:10 - Now in the days of Saul they made war with the Hagrites, who fell by their hand; and they dwelt in their tents throughout the entire area east of Gilead.
1 Chronicles 27:31 - ...and Jaziz the Hagrite was over the flocks. All these were the officials over King David's property.

Some believe that the Hagrites in Psalm 83 represent Egypt because Hagar was originally from Egypt, but history and the Bible show that the Hagrites migrated east of Israel. I believe it is a stretch to say that the largely unknown Hagrites represent Egypt, as Egypt is otherwise a very prominent country throughout the Bible. Let me explain it in a different way:

    Hagar had Ishmael through Abraham, and Sarah had Isaac through Abraham. For arguments sake, let's call the people of the future country of Israel the "Sarites." Sarah was a Syrian. Using the same argument about the Hagrites representing the Egyptians, we could argue that the "Sarites" would represent Syria in the future. Obviously, that just isn't the case. We understand that a new nation formed through the line of Sarah and Isaac. After the captivity in Egypt, these people settled in the land of Canaan and became the nation of Israel. All the future prophecies about Israel are about Israel ("Sarites"), not Syria.

The point here is that we need to look at where the Hagrites migrated and settled, not where they originated from. Both the Bible and history confirm that the Hagrites settled east of Israel, which means Egypt is not an aggressor in Psalm 83.

Inhabitants of Tyre:

Tyre was a city in southern Lebanon, where in the last century terrorist groups have launched weapons against Israel. Hezbollah is the primary terrorist group. These terrorist organizations working separate from the government, for the most part, could be why both a place and a people group represent Lebanon in the Psalm 83 coalition.

The Descendants of Lot:
Genesis 19:36-38 - Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father. The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day. And the younger, she also bore a son and called his name Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the people of Ammon to this day.

The descendants of Lot are the Moabites and the Ammonites, who lived in the central and northern part of current day Jordan. Like Edom, these nations disappeared from history. Most presume that the people of Moab and Ammon absorbed into the surrounding nations when they fell in conquest.

We can see that not only will the nations that surround Israel take part in the "Great Middle East War," but also people groups like the Palestinian refugees and likely the terror groups in the region. In light of the current political situation, it is not hard to see that we live in a time when this prophetic war could occur soon. We will take a closer look at all these groups again in more detail as we go through the parallel passages in the rest of the study.

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