THE BIBLE IS NOT JUST A JEWISH BOOK –
OR IS IT?
One of the core tenets of the Islamic Antichrist Theory (IAT) is that the conflicts of the last days are regional… they are not global. The Antichrist is from Turkey. He leads an Islamic horde (including its rival Iran!) against Israel. Europe and the United States are not involved in the Battle of Armageddon (which is also considered in IAT as the same War as the Battle of Gog and Magog). Is this true? Are Bible Prophecies limited to the Middle East? Were biblical writings ignorant of the “new world”? Does this limit the scope of the great wars of the last days to just Middle East conflicts? That is the premise of Islamic Antichrist Theory. And I consider it to be very wrong.
Here I present an excerpt from my new book, THE NEXT GREAT WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST: Russia Prepares to Fulfill the Prophecy of Gog and Magog. Currently, on a day-by-day basis, the book ranks between the #1 best seller in Theology (to #3) and the #2 best seller in eschatology (to #3). A reminder: The book is on sale one more day – today – Sunday, March 6, until midnight. Kindle version: $2.99. Paperback version: $9.95. Prices return to normal tomorrow: $9.95 and $19.95. Thanks for ordering and writing a brief review for me on Amazon if you can. It is a great help to my ministry and spreading the word: The Islamic Antichrist Theory is incorrect. The antichrist might begin as a Muslim or grow up in Muslim circumstances – but he will proclaim himself God and seek to dominate the entire globe – not just the region of the Levant.
Ezekiel’s identification of the descendants of Japheth to the first and second generation and the immediate lands where they initially resided was not meant to imply that these initial generations were passive “homebodies” – bound strictly to the land they first staked out. And yet some writers in our day assume that listing only the names of the first generation or two of Japheth’s sons, means restricting the scope of their domiciles, such that Ezekiel’s prophecy refers only to the locations where these initial generations lived. This is highly unlikely for a number of reasons, as we will investigate here. Ezekiel intended to disclose to future generations which peoples would attack Israel in the last days and from whence they would come. The mindset of the prophet, his understanding of geography and demography, was far more advanced than what we, looking back 2,500 years assume (we moderns wrongly presume to know most everything and the ancients next to nothing).
History teaches us that migration was a constant reality of our forebears. Since the descendants didn’t remain only in the region where they first settled, where do we draw the line and declare, “this far and no further” in terms of peoples and their final “resting” place? As mentioned earlier, if we accept biblical chronology dating the flood of Noah to about 2350 B.C., by the time Ezekiel penned his prophecy circa 550 B.C., 1,800 years had already elapsed. How many human beings were contemporaries to Ezekiel? How dispersed were they? Where were the Sons of Japheth living by the time that Ezekiel wrote his book? We cannot assume they were still tightly clustered within a thousand mile diameter of Noah’s Ark. They weren’t. Most had left the confines of Anatolia for new horizons over 1,500 years before (the “grass was greener” even back then).
The reality is that the various groups comprising Japheth’s family had already spread from England to Indochina, from the Nile to the North Pole (almost). While significant migrations would continue to occur for yet another 1,500 years after Ezekiel, (mostly in the New World were “settlers” were sparser) there was considerable stability as to where various groups lived in Europe, Asia, and Africa. In other words, by Ezekiel’s day dramatic migrations in Eurasia and Africa were already slowing. When the prophet spoke about peoples and regions, he didn’t just “talk Turkey”. The Egyptians were in Egypt, the Greeks in Greece, the Romans in Rome, the Persians in Persia, and the Magogians far east of the Caspian Sea. And, as we will discuss soon, the Rus were already living in Russia.
It is reasonable to assume that Gog, Meschech, Tubal, and the other cast of characters had separate domiciles approaching tens of thousands of square miles. By 550 B.C., Gomer’s descendants were already in Germany, Scandinavia, and England. Gog and Magog’s offspring already lived throughout the Asian steppes. Aeneas’ sons and grandsons were in Rome, having left Troy seven hundred years prior. The Greeks were verging on creating an empire to rival the Median/Persian Empire. In other words, limiting these various family groups to just the immediate surroundings where Noah’s Ark landed would have seemed ignorant to the Hebrews of Ezekiel’s day. The Magogians, the Gogarenes, the Scythians, (you pick the name) were known to have dispersed throughout the better part of Asia. Ezekiel wasn’t thinking only of Anatolia when he used the names of Meschech, Tubal, Gomer, Tarshish and so on. To assume that these ancients were ignorant of how vast the domain of humanity already was and the regions where they lived in 550 B.C., would be a profound case of patronizing the Hebrew prophets, minimizing the wisdom of God spoken by those prophets – and concocting abhorrent scholarship to boot.
We know Jonah sought to elude God’s command to travel to Ninevah to preach repentance by heading as far away as possible from Assyria (it was only a 3 day walk from where Jonah lived). When the whale swallowed him, he had been a passenger on a slow boat to Tarshish (likely England). This was 200 years before Ezekiel talked about Tarshish and its colonies.
Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.” But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:1-3)
Solomon had been trading with “Angleland” (England!) for almost 500 years. Jewish history credits Solomon…
With having been successful in diplomacy and trade with the majority of his neighbors. A prime example of this diplomacy was mentioned in 1 Kings Chapter 5 [which] relates his alliance with the ruler of Tyre, which was the chief seaport of the Phoenicians at that time. It was these key alliances in trade, diplomacy and the ability to keep the peace that [led] to the apparent success of his administration. Other trading alliances credited to Solomon were with, Chittim, Ophir and Tarshish. Add to this list a list of countries from which Solomon took wives and he can truly be said to have been be a figure of international reputation.[i]
The Phoenicians (Tyre and Sidon) dominated trade and likely had already discovered the New World. It is even possible that refugees from Joshua’s conquest of “Canaan-land” had fled to the Americas 1,000 years before Ezekiel prophesied about Gog and Magog attacking Israel in the last days.[ii] Great peoples, where they lived, and what they were able to accomplish were common knowledge. The prophet Ezekiel was well-schooled and would have known all these things.
Another factor to take into account: just how many persons were living in the world leading up to Ezekiel’s day? We could ask in jest, “How much pressure was there in his day to move far away from one’s in-laws?” Since some things don’t change, we can be assured that wanderlust as well as needing “wide open spaces” motivated human beings too, even in 550 B.C. Fear of warring peoples led peaceable tribes to seek other lands. The ascendancy of Assyria in the eighth century B.C. likely led the Phoenicians of Tyre and Sidon to close shop and move to Tunisia, where Pygmalion founded the city of Carthage in 800 B.C., “no mean city” from which Hannibal would spring 400 years later (his exploits would drive Rome to distraction and nearly defeat their empire).
According to the Atlas of World Population History (McEvedy and Jones, 1978), there were about 27 million humans alive in the year 2,000 B.C., and 50 million at the time of Ezekiel. Of course, these secular scholars did not assume the earth’s population was reset to less than two-dozen persons (Noah and his family) in 2350 B.C. However, their estimates are virtually useless in light of biblical history. Factors regarding fertility, desired family size, length of life and what was the acceptable “child bearing age”, as well as infant mortality, all such factors are challenging to fathom if we judge the past by the present. And it is important to recognize that population growth exceeds our imagination. According to these same sources (which are reliable regarding the past half-millennia, but not so much 2,500 years prior), humanity numbered barely one billion only 150 years ago, in 1850. 150 years later, in the year 2000, there were over seven billion persons. Exponential growth explodes faster than we can contemplate. Not to beat the point to death, but the reality is that humanity spread out far faster than we presume today. Now there are no new frontiers and no available territory. That was not the case 4,300 years ago. “Go west young man!” (and north, south, and east) was an adage persons heeded well before the time of the American frontier. Opportunity lay just beyond the hills “over thar”.
The number of scholars favoring a limited scope for Ezekiel’s identification of Gog (restricted to Turkey and directly south from Syria to Iran) constitutes a minority. It is important to note the context of the “minority report” since it appears to be popularly supported at this moment in time (and growing into a standard theory). In reality, conventional teaching refutes it and marshals a stunning number of scholars against it. To recap some of the major elements of the issue:
- The list of teachers and authorities holding to this position comprises a much smaller assembly than those who identify Gog and Magog as constituting a far broader geographical “sphere of settlement” with references pertinent to global locations in our day.
- The two most popular authors favoring Turkey as the fulfillment of Gog (and not Russia), namely Walid Shoebat and Joel Richardson, follow “the minority report” and not the vast number of conventional scholars who believe Gog and Magog refer to much greater territory (and peoples) than just the area of the Black and Caspian Seas.
- This minority view limits the application of Bible prophecy principally to a Middle East focus and not a global perspective. According to this point of view, the Bible is just a Mediterranean book of Semitic peoples.
Therefore, the majority report rejects this position. Listing those who disagree with the “limited” scope of Ezekiel’s (to Turkey, aka Anatolia) includes: Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Rabbi Moshe Eisemann, Mark Hitchcock, Thomas Ice, Grant Jeffrey, Jack Kelley, Hal Lindsey, Thomas McCall, Zola Levitt, J. Dwight Pentecost, Jon Mark Ruthven, John F. Walvoord, Bill Salus, Gary Stearman, J.R Church, and yours truly.
Douglas Berner, however, discusses perhaps one of the most noteworthy and appreciated evangelical scholars of our day, Dr. Michael Heiser, who advocates the “minority report” – the limited scope of Ezekiel’s prophecy – seeing Turkey at the center. Berner states,
Michael Heiser observes that the descendants of Japheth, one of Noah’s three sons, are “associated with locations throughout Anatolia and south of the Black Sea: Gomer, Magog, Javan, Tubal, Meschech, Tiras, and Togarmah (a son of Gomer).” Heiser then concludes that the invasion of Gog and Magog comes from the territory of Anatolia and not Russia. [iii]
Heiser asserts this view because the Bible, he contends, is a book of the Middle East and therefore, should be understood in this context alone. For Heiser, to assert “Gog refers to Russia” amounts to a relic of Cold War thinking. Berner summarizes Heiser’s position with these words:
Michael Heiser promotes this perspective and further attests that prophecy needs to be interpreted based on a “Mediterranean-centered” biblical world. Heiser claims, “The Bible is a Mediterranean-centered document, and so is not concerned with countries and people groups unconnected to these regions.” He later propounds “there is no need to rip a geographic name out of the text and, through various intellectual machinations, somehow arrive as the conclusion that a modern non-Middle eastern country was really in view.” [iv]
Expanding why Heiser says this is so, Berner quotes Heiser’s premises:
- The issue in prophecy is what happens to God’s people, God’s promises to those people, and the nations caught up with those people and pledges.
- Prophecy revolves around divine goals and how God sees fit to bring this most ancient play to its climax.
- Biblical prophecies were given to biblical people in biblical lands, and so their meaning is dictated by the circumstances into which God interjected them through the mouths of the prophets. [v]
Berner provides, however, an excellent rebuttal to what, on the surface, seems to be an intelligent and biblically-centered rationale substantiating Heiser’s point of view. In essence, Berner says that while Heiser has rightly stated crucial and strategic biblical principles, nonetheless, he has missed the even more strategic point that the dynamic of the Bible changed when Jesus created His church and commissioned it to go out into the entire world – and Jesus understood that the Bible’s prophecies were global in nature and in scope, no longer limited to events pertinent only to the people of Israel in their land. The Jews and virtually all other Middle Eastern peoples are intermarried into other peoples (at least in part) and live throughout the world. The core hermeneutic changed along with the issuance of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Likewise, the threats that exist should not be understood to be literal, i.e., are not just “bows and arrows with riders on horseback” as described by Ezekiel, but include weapons of mass destruction beyond anything that the Bible’s prophets could contemplate, but not beyond what God could foresee.
Additionally, God’s chosen people of the Old Testament, the Jews have not only survived, but have thrived in many ways, particularly dominating the world economy in many quarters. Nor is God surprised by the worldwide travel and communications unimaginable millennia ago. His revelations delivered through His prophets, even while cast in symbolic language in many cases, nevertheless anticipated this amazing state of affairs. And despite these incredible advances and unforeseen circumstances (by those who did not have the advantage of biblical prophetic insight), the Jewish people and their land would once again become the center of the world’s attention at the end of days… all despite the fact the plan of God remains globally and not just regionally relevant.
When God breaks His longsuffering silence and refocuses His divine attention on Israel again. He will maneuver events which will result in a worldwide exodus of the Jewish people back to the Promised Land. One of God’s purposes will be to concentrate His people in Israel so that He can focus on them as He did during Old Testament times. [vi]
And then Berner stresses once again a key premise to his study and an important conclusion to mine:
One of the ways He [God] will accomplish [His] will through the invasion of Gog and Magog and the simultaneous destruction of Russia and the United States as world powers.[vii]
So are Russians sons of Japheth? Is Russia explicitly named in Ezekiel’s prophecy, or are we “reading into” the text from a “Cold War” mindset?
IN THE NEXT BLOG POST:
I will also share the concluding portion of this chapter from my new book, from which this discussion is drawn, “The Sons of Japheth” dealing specifically with the issue of whether Russia is Gog (as conventional prophecy teaches) or whether the references to Russia are mistaken. This will be shared in another post within a day or two. Be looking for it. Click here if you would like to view the book on Amazon for review or purchase.
[i] http://artsales.com/ARTistory/Ancient_Ships/ 11_solomons_navy.html.
[ii] The possibility exists that the refugees were the giants of Canaan and were the targets of Joshua’s conquest. When the walls of Jericho feel, the whole land of Canaan (future Israel) quaked. The giants knew their days were numbered. They set sail for safer places. Steven Quayle and L.A. Marzulli have studied these matters extensively. The archeological evidence for giants in America is becoming a well-documented fact. It may be another twenty years however before the scientific community in the U.S. is willing to accept it, simply because it challenges current understandings of evolution and the development of the human race.
[iii] Berner, op. cit., p. 34. These citations are from Michael Heiser, Islam and Armageddon, pp. 70-71. Despite disagreeing with Dr. Heiser in this book on the topic of Gog and Magog, Heiser is a true scholar and strong advocate for the biblical worldview and evangelical theology. I appreciate his work very much. His contribution to conservative scholarship is enormous. I recommend visiting his new website and reading his books. See http://drmsh.com.
[iv] Ibid., p. 55. Citing Heiser, p. 32, 75.
[v] Ibid., p. 56, Citing Heiser, p. 75.
[vi] Ibid., p. 58.