The Bible and War in Lebanon
Commentary for August 17, 2006 — Is It a Significant Biblical Event?
The current warfare waged in the nation of Lebanon between the armed organization called Hezbollah (viewed by many as a proxy army for Iran and to a lesser extent Syria) and the nation of Israel (which many say is acting as a proxy for the United States) has raised the question: is there any biblical significance to these events?
I am often asked whether a particular world event is biblically significant. Many people have wondered if the 9/11 attacks, the disastrous tsunami that hit south Asia, or the series of hurricanes that hit the United States indicate biblically significant events. The answer is truly “yes and no.” Every event is “significant” to the locale where they occur. And further, such events (and their aftermath) often are “setting the stage” for future biblically identifiable events.
To the world at large, and in regard to biblical prophecy, every event is significant to the extent that every day major or minor events takes us closer to Christ’s Second Coming and closer to the good things that will come from that greatest future event. For many of us Christ’s return will mark our resurrection to spiritual life. Christ’s return will be the major event that will resonate and have an effect not just on earth but throughout the physical universe and spiritual heaven. It will initiate the “cleansing” of the heavens and the earth for the two coming eons of Christ’s 1,000 year reign on earth and the subsequent Great White Throne Judgment.
There are major keys to world events that demonstrate God’s direct control over nations and peoples. I have discussed them before but not stated them explicitly as I shall do so here.
THE FIRST MAJOR KEY is that God determines the borders of nations, and not just in ancient times. Border changes involve direct acts of God. Let me give a few of several possible examples:
(1) Note the ancient borders of Canaan, determined by God (Genesis 10:19, 32; Deuteronomy 32:8).
(2) God determined the borders of Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 15:18–20).
(3) God established specific borders for Israel (Exodus 23:31, 34:24, Numbers 34:1–15; Joshua 1:4 “coasts” means borders, 23:4). Nine chapters, from Joshua chapters 13–21 discuss God’s allotment of the land to Israel and the borders.
(4) Moses requested passage for the Israelites to pass through the borders of Edom. Edom refused and war resulted (Numbers 20:17–21). The Amorite king Sihon also refused (Numbers 21:21–32).
In ancient times the borders were not distinct as they are today. Nevertheless, to flagrantly cross a border without permission was (and is today) considered an act of war. God determines whether peace dwells within those borders (Psalm 147:14).
“These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.”
“Seeing his [man’s] days are determined, the number of his months are with you, you have appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.”
“When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.”
“[God] has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.”
With this last passage in mind, change the perspective. It is proper to say, therefore, that any border changes, any changes of the “bounds” between and among nations and their habitation, are directly God’s will however long those borders last, until a new “bound” or border is determined by God. People sometimes think they are in control of affairs when God uses people and nations as His agents.
In ancient times this could be quite complex with sovereign kings having realms with extensive boundaries while vassal or subordinate kings ruled their own territory with their own set of boundaries. An excellent example is King Herod the Great who ruled most of Judea and Galilee yet Herod paid monetary tribute and acknowledged the sovereignty of the Roman Second Triumvirate and later Emperor Augustus. After Herod’s death his kingdom was divided into parts, each part having a separate king, except Judaea which eventually became a province directly ruled by a Roman governor. Borders, major and minor, are God’s doing.
The First Key, then, is that borders are determined by God’s sovereign decisions. Any changes in borders are a result of God’s direct action. God also directly determines what constitutes a “nation” (Deuteronomy 32:8). He does this when He determines what the border of each nation is and who occupies those borders (Acts 17:24, 26).
THE SECOND MAJOR KEY is that God chooses the leaders of each nation, and He changes them momentarily, according to His will:
“And he [God] changes the times and the seasons: he removes kings, and sets up kings: he gives wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He reveals the deep and secret things: he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.
A recent example of removing leaders is that of Ariel Sharon. One moment in January 2006 he is performing his duties as Prime Minister for the nation of Israel; the next moment he suffers a stroke and is removed by the hand of God from his political office and is in a coma. Currently Ariel Sharon is maintained on life support with little hope of recovery. Someone else replaced Sharon as Prime Minister. When God so chooses, then someone else will replace Sharon’s replacement.
Until the development of republics and democracies around the world (with the Netherlands and United States leading the modern path to republican government), most people understood clearly that the biblical mandate for kings comes directly from God Himself. This came to be called “the divine right of kings.” See the several internet articles grouped under the title “Divine Right” at http://www.answers.com/topic/divine-right-of-kings, discussing the concept that kings have a “divine right” right to rule over their subjects. In reality, how much power a sovereign or a ruler has over people is all a function of God’s control over a nation.
Note in a passage in Deuteronomy the tension between the people “setting” up a king and God choosing that king.
“When you [the people] are come unto the land which the Lord your God gives you, and shall possess it, and shall dwell therein, and shall say, ‘I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me”; You shall in any wise set him king over you, whom the Lord your God shall choose: one from among your brethren shall you set king over you: you may not set a stranger over you, which is not your brother.”
While people may think that they choose the king, God makes it clear that He actually makes the choice of king, and the people approve. This is indeed the case.
While He determines the leaders of every nation (and they are “ministers of God” for good, Romans 13:4, 6), God works through agents, delegates, and representatives to make changes (see my article “Why Does God Need an Army?” at http://www.askelm.com/news/n020613.htm):
All leaders of all nations struggle, fight, finagle, cheat, swindle, and compromise to climb over their fellows to achieve their positions of leadership, which God chooses them to have, whether their terms last for short periods of time or for decades. Most often He chooses the lowest, the basest of men (like Nebuchednezzar, Daniel 4:25, see also 1 Corinthians 1:25–29). Kings and rulers are chosen by God to rule over men, just the same as we are called and chosen to be His children. All is done to accomplish His will and purposes on earth (Ephesians 1:11). God does not merely watch men on earth, He rules them:
“… that the living may know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will, and sets up over it the basest of men.”
“And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are …”
1 Corinthians 1:28
That struggle “to the top” for leaders is so momentous, so intense, so long, and so vicious, that it is not uncommon for leaders of nations to think that they “rule” by the fiat of God Himself. In fact, that is a biblically correct assessment — until God’s purposes are fulfilled, He changes His mind and chooses someone else to rule.
The Second Key, then, is that changes in leadership are determined by God’s sovereign decisions. Any change in leaders within a nation is a result of God’s direct action. God also directly determines how long and with what power a ruler shall have dominance. Therefore, changes in leadership will become increasingly important to watch as we approach the end times.
Some time in the future we will be able to identify the biblically indicated players on the world scene: the 10 kings ruling the 10 nations around Israel; the three Kings of the South (and a daughter of one of them); the Persian ruler, a “Cyrus” to come who will aid Israel’s distress and crush the 10 kings; the several Kings of the North, the last of which will be the Antichrist (the Assyrian, the Beast). All of these individuals should be identifiable along with their territories.
THE THIRD MAJOR KEY is that only events mentioned in the Bible are significant. All other events relate to trends. Obviously some events are more important than others. The collapse of the tower of Siloam is mentioned by Jesus a major event in its time, yet it had no prophetic significance (Luke 13:4). Many events occurring before the Second Coming will be identifiable from Scripture. A few such events would be the actions of the Two Witnesses that will be easily identifiable (Revelation 11:1–14), the actions of the Beast or Antichrist (in the Books of Daniel, Thessalonians, and Revelation), and certainly the actions of the 200 million non-human “cavalry” that will kill one third of humanity when the sixth angel blows the sixth trumpet (Revelation 9:14–21). These will be obvious and identifiable biblical events.
This means that events such as the 9/11 attacks and the destructive tsunami in South Asia were not biblically significant however terrible they may be. If you can show me how they are biblically significant, I will listen, but allusions and figurative language are not very convincing. (And no, New York City is not Babylon.) This also means that even the nuclear destruction of a city or cities, although horrific, will not be biblically significant.
Certainly the return of the people of Israel (today called Jews) is one current-day biblically identifiable event. Another such identifiable event will be the formation of the 10 nations around Israel. This will require major changes for the people, borders, and leaders in the Middle East.
One last example of a “natural” event can be given. In 1994 a comet broke into pieces and the pieces in sequence hit the planet Jupiter in a series of explosive impacts into that planet. Astronomers noted that any one of those pieces striking our earth would have been catastrophic and probably would have destroyed all life on earth. However, God had the pieces hit the planet Jupiter and not earth. This was a frightening wake up call for astronomers as they watched the impacts occur in their telescopes. It was an early example of several coming “fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven” Luke 21:11. Note that both “sights” and “signs” are plural in Greek, not just in English. Expect more such events to happen visibly in the future. Each will be more wondrous and strange than the last.
Specific to the current war situation today is the eventual breakup of Lebanon into two parts corresponding with the prophetic “snapshot” given to us in Psalm 83. Another is the eventual breakup of Jordan into three parts. Of course, the breakup of Lebanon and Jordan entail extensive border changes (see Key #1 above). The borders of Saudi Arabia will also change. The rebuilding of Babylon is another major event. (See the various articles on the ASK Website. Type “Babylon” into the Search box at the top of the homepage). The establishment of peace and the removal of “walls” and defenses from around the cities of Israel is yet another event, with its accompanying hope and illusion of peace (Ezekiel 38:11). The events prophetically listed by Jesus in Matthew chapter 24 and Luke chapter 21 are trends, but the various things indicated within those trends will increase in frequency and intensity.
None of these events can be indicated on a timetable, and it is better to think of them (and hundreds of other events) occurring in sequence, with multiple parallel event tracks that we can take note of and have a sort of a “checklist” of events as they occur. After numerous events have been checked off, we will have an excellent idea where we “are” within a general biblical prophetic framework.
The Third Key, then, is that major events that the Bible speaks about (and I have given just a few) will be easily identifiable. As they occur, the clock is moving forward. Many of these events will be a result of God’s direct action. Others will fulfill God’s purpose through witting and unwitting agents. Therefore, obvious events mentioned in the Bible will become increasingly important to watch as we approach the time of the end.
Events in Lebanon today will lead, sooner or later (and perhaps much later), to the breakup of that nation. Look at the current map of Lebanon provided by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (“Lebanon” at https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/le.html). You will note that Lebanon has the Mediterranean coast on its west, Israel to its south and Syria adjoining Lebanon on the east and north.
When a political and military organization such as Hezbollah is based in Lebanon, is hostile and attacks Israel from Lebanon, then it is not surprising that Israel responds. Hezbollah fighters have had Iranian training and are supplied with Iranian weapons brought into Lebanon through the long Lebanese border with Syria. No one accuses Israel of seeking to change the border with Lebanon. Hezbollah’s goal is to destroy Israel, ending its role as a nation.
At the moment a UN resolution has been passed which requires (requests?) all parties to cease fighting, until a UN military force can occupy the area of southern Lebanon and somehow prevent attacks against Israel. Israel would withdraw its troops from southern Lebanon.
The presence of UN mandated troops on the border of Israel may be the beginning of the nations gathering against Israel. It is something to watch closely as more and more tension increases focus upon Israel, Jerusalem, and the area of the Temple (both the true location and the false location of the Haram esh-Sharif, for the nations will gather to attack Israel and form up their armies against Jerusalem in the future (Zechariah 12:9, 14:2, 16).
A prophetic “snapshot” of a short period of time in the future is given to us in Psalm 83. This is discussed in Dr. Martin’s article “The Prophesied State of Palestine” at http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p010401.htm. I recommend that you re-read the entire article to refresh your understanding of Psalm 83 and all the related verses. This Psalm shows the 10 nations surrounding Israel and Judah at a time before the Second Coming of Christ. These nations make peace with Israel, then they shall have a form of unification (most likely economic, similar to the European Common Market, which is not the beast or the 10 nations). They will eventually turn and attack Israel with the aid of the Antichrist armies, perhaps because of the actions of the Two Witnesses.
While these nations will be small, several will be economically powerful. For the time that they are allied economically with Israel they will be part of a strong Middle East economic bloc which will have great financial power in the world. Babylon, to be rebuilt in Iraq will become a great financial center (and a center of evil, physical and spiritual), while in the religious sphere, Mystery Babylon (Jerusalem) will finalize her power and control over the world’s religions, even while revival will be occurring:
“… repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
Below is Dr. Martin’s description accompanying the map from “The Prophesied State of Palestine”:
“This map shows the general areas that will become the ten small nations in the Middle East. Note that the present Kingdom of Jordan will be divided into three new political areas: Edom, Moab and Ammon. To the east of these three nations will be the Ishmaelites who will comprise almost the whole of Saudi Arabia today, with the Hagarenes in the northern part around present day Kuwait and including some of the Gulf states. Syria will be divided and it will become the nation of the Amalekites (the ancient and continual enemy of Israel – see Exodus 17:16). A new nation of Gebal (the ancient Byblos) will be created on the north coast of the eastern seaboard. Tyre will become Lebanon. Philistia will be the State of Palestine and will include the five ancient cities of the Philistines (the Pentapolis). Israel itself will be slightly reduced in size (it will lose Ashdod and Ashkelon) but remain in the same place as it is today. The rogue nation of Iraq will be eliminated and the world will accept the name "Assyria" for the new state, and its modern capital will be at a renewed "Babylon." This is the primary teaching of Psalm 83 in prophecy.”
It is important to note that the boundaries are approximate and “fuzzy.” This is intentional. Dr. Martin’s understanding of the border separations comes from the general geographical indicators in Psalm 83 and other verses. After all, the intent of the prophecy of Psalm 83 is not intended to show exact boundaries, but to establish the general placement of nations. In addition, the names of the nations indicated in Psalm 83 may be God’s designated names for these territories, not the names that man chooses to call them.
The question then arises, how will we get from the present situation of national boundaries and leaders to the future “snapshot” of the situation in the Middle East as presented in Psalm 83 and related verses? A partial answer may come from the current situation of political and economic instability within the current nations in the Middle East. Many of them are on the verge of becoming “failed states” and may soon no longer function as viable political entities.
It is time to discuss the definition and nature of “failed states” as a political situation among the nations of the world. Several of the nations surrounding Israel are on the verge of becoming “failed states” which will lead to changes in the international boundaries in those Middle East nations. As a result the boundaries of Israel will also change. These changes will emerge into nations and borders in the “snapshot” of Psalm 83 that we have been given through the lens of prophecy.
We need to understand what constitutes a “nation” in modern terms. While the meaning of “nation” may appear self-evident, the meaning may not be as obvious as it seems. A “nation” is comprised of various peoples under one government within an established boundary or border separating that nation from other nations. My American Heritage Dictionary further defines a “nation” as:
“1. A relatively large group of people organized under a single, usually independent government; a country. 2. The government of a sovereign state. 3. A people who share common customs, origins, history, and frequently language; a nationality.”
Between nations there can be great differences on the side of a border of one nation and the other side of the border in a neighbor nation. Take for instance the relative poverty south of the Mexican/United States border compared to the prosperity (in most every way) north of that border in the United States.
A “failed state” is a country that barely functions, or ceases to function, as an organized “nation.” Within a nation, when the rule of law no longer functions; when essential goods or services such as food, water, housing, electricity, sewage, or security are no longer available to the populace; and when leadership no longer functions (orders given are not followed), then that nation is said by political scientists as having “failed.” See the Wikpedia article “Failed State” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Failed_state. See also a 2002 speech by the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Jack Straw “Failed and Failing States” at http://www.eri.bham.ac.uk/events/jstraw060902.pdf.
Several of the nations in the Middle East are failing. This will change borders. A nation can fail through any number of causes. What is important to our discussion here is that a “failed state” in a nation usually precedes either radical changes of leadership or changes of borders.
Iraq was heading toward a status as a failed state before the invasion in 2003 by United States and coalition forces. No new infrastructure was provided and the old infrastructure was crumbling. At present, after the United States invasion in 2003, the infrastructure of Iraq is now being maintained (in between bombings), but little new infrastructure is being constructed. Peace must occur before investment, economy and the society can progress in Iraq.
It is my understanding that major wars in the world have ended, no matter how vicious or bloody “small” wars will be (and the casualties can be considerable). After all, we will continue to “hear of wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7) from Israel’s perspective, and those wars and rumors will increase before the Second Coming of Christ. Domestic and international conflict shall continue.
Borders change for two major reasons: war and failed state situations. In war the victors determine new borders (as God leads them). This is understood. What is not often considered is that internal strife within a nation can cause the infrastructure, government, economy, and societal cohesion to break down and cause the nation to collapse from within. That being said, I believe the main cause of border changes (and accompanying leadership changes) will occur when several nations in the Middle East have increased domestic problems leading them further down the path toward “failed state” status.
As the countries in the Middle East surrounding Israel begin to fail, proposed international “solutions” will increase, borders will be redrawn, resulting in decreased internal and external strife.
Continued problems in Lebanon could cause a breakdown in government control leading to a division between north and south in that country. At present, having a political force like Hezbollah, which has formed a “state within a state,” shows great instability within Lebanon that could lead to a failed state status and a subsequent change in borders.
Syria (Amalek on the map) is extremely poor and could collapse if the rise in internal dissent within that country continues. Syria’s military is surprisingly weak in spite of its size, and is used primarily to suppress dissent. In 1982 portions of Syria’s 4th largest city was destroyed in just days with tens of thousands of people killed by President Hafez al-Assad, the father of the present leader in Syria. The anti-Baath party people in that area opposed the Assad regime. The suppression was brutal with artillery being used to destroy a good portion of the city. See the 2001 article about this incident titled “Hama Rules” by Thomas Friedman, at http://www.mafhoum.com/press2/63P58.htm. The underlying discontent still seeths in Syria. Things have not yet changed in Syria, but they will. Syria will lose territory.
The current conflict in Lebanon is being used by the government of Syria to divert its population’s troubles away from their own lack of economic progress by making Israel the cause of all problems. Syria will lose territory and perhaps even direct access to the Mediterranean Sea which it has at present (see the map of Lebanon above). This would be a serious blow to its economy.
Iraq is still unstable, and it may dissolve into two countries (Assyria and Babylon), or three countries (Assyria, Babylon, and Hagarenes), or it may maintain its current single nation status with different regions until it becomes a single state led by Babylon. All of these three scenarios evolve into a biblical end-time model. Babylon will be rebuilt.
Jordan, although stable at present, has a substantial (approaching 50%) portion of its population seething with discontent. This is because they are not native Jordanians, but they are Palestinians. Those Palestinians may choose (or be driven) into forming a separate nation as one of the three nations of Ammon, Moab, and Edom. God will sort them out. Notice from the map that the territory west of the Jordan River, called the West Bank, will be part of Israel and not part of Ammon or Moab. The Jordan River will be Israel’s border. Watch that territory to see how things develop.
Palestine will increase its territory in Gaza (as indicated in the article “The Prophesied State of Palestine”) probably to accommodate the influx of Palestinians from the West Bank. In return Israel will give up cities on the coast. This increased territory in Gaza will provide great economic benefit for that people.
For Egypt to become powerful it must provide opportunity to its huge lower classes. Those classes are disruptive and discontented (as they are throughout all Middle East nations), a breeding ground for hate and revolution that is only kept under control by repressive measures. However, oil exploration is continuing in Egypt and it is hoped that any oil finds are “trickled down” to the general population.
Interestingly, disruption will also occur within Israel. It is commonly reported that Israel receives over 2 billion dollars in aid from the United States each year. Some sources report that Israel actually receives several times that amount in aid, weapons, technology, food, humanitarian assistance, resettlement assistance, and loan guarantees each year. The Congressional Research Service updated a report on July 12, 2004 where it is stated in the opening sentence: “Israel is not economically self-sufficient, and relies on foreign assistance and borrowing to maintain its economy.” See the report “Israel: U.S. Foreign Assistance” at http://www.fas.org/man/crs/IB85066.pdf. If you total up the numbers, Israel receives about $10 billion per year, considerably more than the $2-3 billion that is reported. Israel’s total Gross Domestic Product is only $154 Billion (2005 CIA estimate: https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/is.html). Israel would be in severe economic straits if the United States withdrew aid. I believe (through political observation, not from biblical prophecy), that such an eventuality will slowly occur, aid will be decreased, and Israel will have increasingly desperate economic times.
Israel must learn to trust God rather than relying on their own power or the power of the United States. It is a seemingly impossible thing for them to do, but God will lead them to making such a commitment. See Dr. Martin’s article “How Israel Will Conquer the Middle East” at http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p941201.htm. It will not be done through force of arms.
In biblical times Israel depended upon allies such as Syria and others, and eventually Egypt to assist them against attack from Assyria (Isaiah 36:6; 2 Kings 18:21). Later they depended upon Egypt to support them against Babylon (Ezekiel 29:6–7). Trusting in “weak reeds” and not trusting in God was not good for Israel in the past. While I do not see the United States weakening in its power per se, its desire and ability to help Israel will decrease. Trusting in other nations will not work for Israel in the future.
Neither will trusting in their own strength protect Israel, as is beginning to become apparent in this latest Lebanese war. There are limitations to the power of technology, although the full power of Israel has not been brought to bear against the Hezbollah enemy.
I find it fascinating that the Hezbollah fighters are using technology that was developed 60 years ago, World War II technology, virtually unchanged from then to now. The Katusha rockets are extremely primitive in design and function. Even the missiles fired by Hezbollah are merely advances from the German V-2 rockets of World War II, and not as destructive. While defeated, Hezbollah has fought the Israeli military toe-to-toe for a month, longer than any other armed force the Israelis ever faced. In the future, I believe developed countries such as the United States and Israel will be forced to use more of their advanced technology in order to fight future wars. What will be used will be both surprising and amazing. I do not have any “inside” information about what that technology may be, but the technology being used on the battlefield by the developed nations, although useful and effective, is 20-25 years old.
In all nations of the Middle East, the only one with a substantial middle class is Israel and to a lesser extent Lebanon, until the latest warfare broke out, destroying much property. All other nations have a great gap between the masses of poor people and a small group of rich and super rich. Discontent is growing and an eruption of violence within Middle East nations may occur, under the pretext of religious extremism. Prosperity and financial power will not come to these nations until the natural economic greatness of all the Middle East peoples is released through trade and industry. This is done by increasingly making opportunity possible and available within those societies.
With prosperity comes a lessening of tensions. There is a decreased risk of war between neighboring countries if trade between them is mutually beneficial. There would be no war between Lebanon and Israel if Hezbollah had not intervened. Why the people and government of Lebanon let this happen is a mystery at this time.
We can see how these three keys of biblically identifiable events are now obvious:
(1) Changes in borders will lead to identifiable borders of Psalm 83 and other verses.
(2) Changes in leaders will lead to biblically identifiable individuals who have an end-time role.
(3) Significant events (some unique and others with multiple occurrences) will obviously relate to and move forward the sequence of Biblically prophetic events.
Regarding the current war in Lebanon and the world war on terror, let me give to you a statement from a Jewish blog. It is true no matter how you regard the war in Lebanon:
This statement should apply to all participants in the current fighting. This statement is similar to one stated on August 3, 2006 by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace who said that the war in Iraq and all “terror” conflicts around the world will cease when the participants “love their children more than they hate each other.” That state of affairs will not finally take place until after the Second Coming of Christ.
“The difference between us and the terrorists is clear: We endanger ourselves to protect their civilians. They endanger their own civilians to protect themselves.”
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