ISRAEL IS NOT THE LAND OF UNWALLED VILLAGES (Part 1)
And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.
“We are preparing a multi-year project to encircle Israel with a security fence, to defend ourselves in the Middle East as it is now, and as it is expected to be,” PM [Netanyahu] says.
Psalm 83 – A Psalm of War?
If we believe that Psalm 83 is a psalm that discusses a war between Israel and her immediate neighbors, we are missing the point of the psalm. It is a psalm in which the writer asks God to curse Israel’s enemies (an imprecatory psalm). It appears prophetic to the extent that (astoundingly) the enemies of Israel 3,000 years ago (when the Psalm was written) are peoples that in many respects are still the same opponents to Israel today. But it is not a description of a war, it has no clues about the timing of a conflict, and it doesn’t indicate directly that the enemies of Israel listed in Psalm 83 will be destroyed by Israel – only that the Psalmist prays that the LORD will make it so.
Psalm 83 states most intriguingly that the enemies of the Hebrews want to eradicate the name Israel forever. That sounds up to date, doesn’t it? It is a psalm that pleads for the LORD God of Israel to enforce the knowledge that His true name is JEHOVAH… not Shiva, not Buddha, and not Allah! That also sounds VERY relevant to today. Consequently, these phrases within the Psalm should make us feel comfortable in concluding that Psalm 83 is a special, relevant, and encouraging psalm for those of us that believe Israel is in the inexorable process of being restored by its God. Is it a prophetic psalm? It seems to be. I believe that it is.
Although Psalm 83 doesn’t directly state it, there are many other verses in the Bible that do predict plainly Israel will defeat its enemies. Some predict the LORD God Himself will defeat Israel’s enemies directly and supernaturally. Let’s read Ezekiel 39:1-8 together:
1 Therefore, thou son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal:
2 And I will turn thee back, and leave but the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel:
3 And I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand.
4 Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that is with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured.
5 Thou shalt fall upon the open field: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord God.
6 And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am the Lord.
7 So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel.
8 Behold, it is come, and it is done, saith the Lord God; this is the day whereof I have spoken.
This message could not be more explicit. Here is a description of a great war and God protects Israel. Israel’s enemies are utterly defeated. God will send fire on Magog. The scripture seems to say that 5/6ths of the lands of those that come against Israel will be annihilated. Some scholars suggest the wording – if properly understood in the Hebrew – could actually mean that 100% of these armies and their peoples will be obliterated. Will Israel’s enemies laid out in Psalm 83 (but not mentioned in Ezekiel 38-39) be included in that number? Perhaps. Maybe this “inner ring” of Israel’s enemies will be destroyed as those “many nations with thee”. But the Scripture is not clear about that. Instead, tt could be that the Sunnis in Jordon, Turkey, Egypt, and in other African nations have chosen NOT to participate. Instead, it is the Shia and the extreme Wahabbis in Saudi Arabia and from the nations mentioned by Ezekiel (North Africa) that join with Gog from the land of Magog to “come against Israel and seek to cover the land as a cloud.”
Israel will see its enemies defeated. When this happens, to say that Islam will have been dealt a severe blow will be an understatement. Jehovah will seem to be very much alive. Allah will seem to have been pushed aside, even “on the run.” Will this event “fulfill” the imprecatory psalm of Psalm 83? It would certainly seem so.
The Messiah’s Vengeance Against Israel’s Enemies
We also know that when the Messiah visibly and physically, returns to Edom/Petra/Mount Seir, the land where Israel has been preserved during the Great Tribulation, that he comes to destroy Israel’s enemies. This area is the “place prepared in the wilderness” for the woman (nation) that bore the male child (Jesus Christ) to be preserved during the time of Satan’s wrath (and later, the wrath of God Himself). This final conflict that we know as the War of Armageddon described in the Book of Revelation will be a war fought from the Valley of Megiddo to the Valley of Jehoshaphat (about 120 miles long). the blood will run as high as “a horses bridle” according to John.
Among those who do NOT support the Psalm 83 war “theory” is Joel Richardson. Given his obvious concern about Islam and its potential to fulfill Bible prophecy as the power base of Gog/Antichrist, it is somewhat surprising that he does not believe that Psalm 83 is a prophecy waiting to be fulfilled. Why is that? He dismisses it because of its premise that Israel will enjoy the spoils of war by defeating the surrounding Arab countries, and in the process expunge the Middle East of a majority of its Muslims. He considers this outcome to be most unrealistic (militarily) and uncharacteristic (spiritually) of the nation of Israel. Furthermore, it is geopolitically absurd.
I disagree with most aspects of the scenario of the Islamic Antichrist that Richardson spins in which (1) Gog, the Mahdi, and the Antichrist are all one and the same person. I disagree that the (2) War of Gog and Magog is the same war as Armageddon. However, I do agree with Richardson that there are some real problems with the notion that it is the Israel Defense Force (IDF) that slaughters millions upon millions of Arabs and Palestinians prior to the return of the Messiah, thereby increasing the borders of Israel, and taking advantage of a massively successful war, gathering the spoils of the surrounding nations enabling Israel to enrich itself. According to the Psalm 83 war “thesis”, these expanded borders, the vast increase in wealth, and a dramatic increase is security is what is supposed to happen. The Psalm 83 thesis contends this war against Israel’s immediate neighbors is a precursor, and a necessary one, before Ezekiel 38:10-12 can be fulfilled.
In my book, THE NEXT GREAT WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST, I cite Richardson and add some additional commentary about this scenario which I find, as does he, geopolitically unrealistic and in fact, unscriptural:
The idea that Israel, a single nation with approximately 6 million Jews, will either subdue and concurrently occupy, or worse yet, “annihilate” several nations with a total population of approximately 170 million Arabs is quite a claim, making Israel responsible for the equivalent of 30 Holocausts. In my opinion, not only is this view difficult to believe, but it also casts the people of Israel in a murderous and imperialistic light far worse than what even the most obsessed anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists, so common throughout the Islamic world, would ever claim.[i]
Richardson argues, perhaps correctly, that the death of millions of inhabitants to these lands occurs during the Day of the Lord, a special period of judgment in which Jesus Christ himself delivers wrath upon the enemies of the people of God, (God’s people who have been hidden away in the land of Edom, in the area of Bozrah, and in the now well-known city of Petra – thanks to the concluding scenes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). Richardson recites a series of passages from Isaiah, Obadiah, Amos, and Zephaniah, calling attention to the teachings there that indicates that the Messiah will conquer the enemies of Israel upon His return. [Citing Richardson again]:
Again we must ask; If Edom and Moab are utterly conquered, “annihilated”, or even “exterminated” by the Israeli Defense Forces several years prior to the return of Jesus, how is it that the Messiah is consistently and repeatedly portrayed over and over again, throughout the prophets, as carrying out these things personally when He returns? But it is not merely Edom and Moab that this can be said of. This same pattern occurs with every name or place mentioned in Psalm 83. In Zephaniah 2, for example, we find the Day of the Lord judgment of the Philistines and Assyria. In Joel 3, Philistia, as well as Lebanon (Tyre and Gebal) are judged at the Day of the Lord. In Ezekiel 30, several nations, including Arabia are specified as being judged in the Day of the Lord. In the end, every last people, nation or region listed in Psalm 83 are described, often in great detail, within the prophets as being judged in the Day of the Lord, at the return of Jesus. Any effort to argue that these peoples, nations or regions are going to be utterly annihilated before the return of Jesus will result in a view which stands in stark conflict with the Biblical prophets. [ii]
Richardson points out an understanding of the return of Christ that is generally neglected; that being, Christ returns during a “campaign” and not just a single event, known as the Armageddon Campaign or as Dwight J. Pentecost called it, “The Battle for Jerusalem”. The war is not just a single battle at Armageddon, but a series of battles or events that collectively comprise the war preceding the visible return of Jesus Christ. They commence in today’s Jordan, next to the Mount of Olives, and finally to the Valley of Megiddo. The description of these events is familiar to many readers, although what transpires in Jordan is much less well known.
The Scripture teaches that Jesus returns first to those hidden away and protected “in the wilderness” and then over an extended period (perhaps ten days corresponding to the Ten Days of Awe from the time of Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur) moving from what is today the area near the Gulf of Aqaba (Eilat) in the Negev across to Edom (in Jordan), then to Jerusalem to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, all the way up to Megiddo to retake Israel from the occupying Antichrist who has brought horrible destruction and martyrdom to two-thirds of Jerusalem’s citizens. Selecting just two passages for sharing here:
15 For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.
16 For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.
17 But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.
18 And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the Lord hath spoken it.
For this prophecy to be fulfilled, two million or more will die. But will this be done BEFORE the day of the Lord, or IN THE DAY OF THE LORD? Verse 15 makes it clear: This prophecy will not be fulfilled until the Messiah fulfills it.
Likewise, in Isaiah 63, we read the Messiah comes from Bozrah to fight the enemies of Israel:
1 Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.
2 Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?
3 I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.
4 For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.
The Messiah will bring judgment against the enemies of Israel… when he comes from Bozrah, from Petra, toward the Valley of Jehoshaphat. These fulfillments are during the day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord may begin with the War of Gog and Magog. But it does not begin BEFORE this war commences.
And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. Revelation 19:13.
Understanding Ezekiel 38:10-13 Puts Psalm 83 into Proper Context
In the next article, I will speak to why the Psalm 83 thesis depends very specifically upon an understanding of Ezekiel 38:10-13. It turns out, that it is how we interpret the Ezekiel passage that causes us to contend that there is a precursor war known as the PSALM 83 War. Proponents argue that Psalm 83 must take place otherwise Ezekiel cannot be fulfilled. Israel must be secure, it must be wealthy, it must have no bars nor gates. It must have no walls. It must be “the land of unwalled villages”. However, as noted at the outset of this article (and the photo), Israel isn’t going to be an unwalled village or an unwalled land anytime soon. If we assume it is, the timing of the Lord’s return is VERY FAR AWAY.
But if Israel isn’t THE LAND OF UNWALLED VILLAGES, which I argue it isn’t, then the War of Gog and Magog… and perhaps even the Rapture of the Church… is imminent. The Walls of Israel (already 417 miles in length… and about to get longer) aren’t a determining factor. What is the land of unwalled villages? We will take that up in the next post.
[i] Joel Richardson, “The Psalm 83 War?” Joel’s Trumpet, November 17, 2013. See http://www.joelstrumpet.com/?p=5731.