Dear Associates, Students and Friends:
The purpose of ASK is to publish and promote biblical studies, primarily those of Dr. Ernest L. Martin. On occasion I publish my own writings on biblical and historical subjects. Because of the wealth of material from Dr. Martin it is rare that I have thought to publish articles by others, although I have done so on occasion. 1 This month’s article is such a rare exception. It is time for a geography lesson.
On May 8, 2008 a significant article was published by Dr. George Friedman, the founder of Stratfor, a private intelligence company. Dr. Friedman’s analytical article is titled “The Geopolitics of Israel, Ancient and Modern” that I am reprinting as the July 2008 ASK article. 2 In this one article you will learn a great deal about the importance of Israel’s location in the physical and political world. That location is not by chance. While not dealing directly with Scripture, the geography of Israel in history and politics is extremely relevant and important because God selected Israel — the people He separated for Himself — and determined to put them on that particular parcel of land for their inheritance. The people of Israel were literally “planted” there by God: 3
“You shall bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of your inheritance, in the place, O YHWH, which you have made for you to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
God’s placement of His people in the land of Israel makes the geography of that territory of prime importance for history, current events, and future events. That location will remain until Christ’s return when the geography and geology will change due to great earthquakes that will occur (Zechariah 14:1–11). 4 Until the new heavens and earth come, the general geography of the Temple in Jerusalem within the land of Israel situated in the Middle East is extremely important. Dr. Friedman’s article brings out the current strategic problems that Israel had in the past and has at the current moment, and the challenges for the immediate future. As a student of biblical, political, and military studies, I appreciate this concise yet comprehensive article about elements of geography which influence and inform a field of study called geopolitics. 5 Study this article two ways: first read it without the footnotes, then read it with the explanatory footnotes.
Geopolitics deals with the influence of geography on the politics within a country, and its relations with other countries. It is a subset of the wider academic discipline of international relations. As an academic study geopolitics began in the early 20th century with the publication of Halford Mackinder’s 1904 article, “The Geographical Pivot of History.” 6 Mackinder saw that the major feature on the globe was the landmass he called the “world island,” comprising Europe, Asia, and Africa. Mackinder later expressed his views in a simplified form to describe the geographical influence of this world island:
“Who rules East Europe
commands the Heartland
Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island
Who rules the World-Island commands the world”
Look at the map below from a later 1919 article by Mackinder:
Mackinder believed that control of the Pivot Area allowed interior lines of power to more easily control the “inner or marginal crescent” and from there to control the “outer or insular crescent.” In other words, Mackinder understood the Pivot Area to be the center of the world. 7
Many nations in history have considered themselves and their capitals to be the center of the world. Nebuchadnezzar as ruler of the world considered his capital of Babylon to be the center of the world (Daniel 2:38), as Babel was the world center just after the flood (Genesis 11:1–4). The shrine of Apollo at Delphi contained a stone known as the Omphalos (which means “navel”) called the Navel of the World. Rome in the days of its empire considered itself to be the center of the world. 8
The actual center of the world, both geographically and in history, is the portion of land that God gave to Israel. Israel is the nation chosen by God to represent (and be an example to) all other nations. As a result God placed them in the most conspicuous place on the globe. 9 In 1948 the people of Israel again took possession of the land that God chose for them.
Truly, the land of Israel is placed in the center of the world according to God’s wisdom (and not according to man’s aesthetic reckoning). Look at any globe or map. The land of Israel straddles the land bridge between Eurasia and Africa, and is strategically close to the southern routes of movement between Europe and Asia. It is in harm’s way from several directions. Major trade routes go through the land of Israel. Control of the land of Israel makes directional movement possible to the north, east or west (to Egypt). An inability to control, or be on friendly terms with, the power ruling the land of Israel makes trade extremely difficult if not impossible. As a result, ancient and modern Israel have been under constant threat in spite of, and because of, its geography. As a result, the land of Israel has been one of the main military thoroughfares as far back as written records. 10
The centrality of Israel and Jerusalem in ancient times was directly stated by the prophet Ezekiel:
“Thus says the Lord GOD; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst [Hebrew: “center”] of the nations and countries that are round about her.
This same concept of Jerusalem’s (and Israel’s) centrality later was expressed in the Book of Jubilees, a non-biblical pseudepigraphal writing from the late 2nd century BC. Jubilees shows us that Jerusalem’s centrality was the popular understanding of many and probably most Jews at the time of Christ:
“And he [Noah] knew that the Garden of Eden is the holy of holies, and the dwelling of the Lord, and Mount Sinai the centre of the desert, and Mount Zion—the centre of the navel of the earth: these three were created as holy places facing each other.”
Mt. Zion in Jerusalem was considered to be the center, the navel of the earth. After all, Jerusalem was where God chose to place His name and His presence on earth. God’s sanctuary, the Temple, was the center of Jerusalem. Therefore, the true location of the physical Temples of God is extremely important. God selects locations and determines the borders of nations carefully, and He can make and dissolve borders with equal ease according to His will. 11 So too the place of His Temple is also very important to Him. In a time yet future to us, God’s people Israel will again be gathered to that center and protected there:
“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst [center] of you, says YHWH. And many nations shall be joined to YHWH in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst [center] of you [those nations], and you shall know that YHWH of hosts has sent me unto you. And YHWH shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.”
“Thus says YHWH; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst [center] of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of YHWH of hosts the holy mountain. …
Thus says YHWH of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst [center] of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.”
Zechariah 8:3, 8
You and I are distinct from Israel. Just as Christ is the center of the Bible, and just as the land of Israel is the center of the world in a real and in a prophetic sense, you are the center of God’s world in a spiritual sense (each of you as an individual member of God’s ekklesia). Do not ever doubt that. The Body of Christ, the ekklesia, is comprised of all who believe that Christ was resurrected and that He is now your Messiah and Savior. You, as a believer in Christ, are the Temple of God, where God’s resides:
“Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”
1 Corinthians 3:16–17
God dwells within you. All physical temples are merely stone representations of what is going on within you at the present moment. The Holy Spirit of the Creator dwells within you. At Christ’s command God’s energizing Spirit will resurrect you, energize you, and you will remember who you are. You are not only the center of the world in that sense, but you are also the center of all of God’s creation.
“What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [Spirit] which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?”
1 Corinthians 6:19
“For you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’”
2 Corinthians 6:16
God’s Holy Spirit within you is why He considers you a Temple of far more importance than any physical Temple of stone in Jerusalem can ever be, past or future. We who possess God’s Spirit are spread around the world and few of us know many or any others. God has deliberately separated us to limit contact with each other. Rejoice when you are blessed to have that contact.
I pray that ASK is one means by which we and you, together as believers can have contact with each other in some small way. We are grateful for any contact we can have with you. We thank all of you who contribute financially to assist ASK so we can persist in research and continue to publish the work of Dr. Ernest L. Martin, to put forth the truth of the Gospel as God gives us the strength and ability to do so.
David W. Sielaff
1 The exceptions on the ASK website are the article by F.E. Marsh, “Will Babylon be Rebuilt?” (1925) at http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p021002.htm, and Professor George Wesley Buchanan’s two articles about the Jerusalem Temple supporting Dr. Martin’s research: “The Tower of Siloam” (2003) at http://www.askelm.com/temple/t031205.htm and “Running Water at the Temple of Zion” (2005) at http://www.askelm.com/temple/t050115.htm. DWS
2 I briefly quoted Dr. Friedman before in my September 13, 2005 Commentary, “Hurricane Katrina and Other Great Disasters” at http://askelm.com/news/n050913.htm. That Commentary dealt with the importance of the city of New Orleans to the trade of the United States and the world. That article is relevant to the recent 2008 floods of the Mississippi River drainage system and its importance to all the people. It is significant that ½ of the exported grain and other food from the United States to the world is transported down the Mississippi River through the port complex around New Orleans. DWS
3 See also 2 Samuel 7:10; Jeremiah 24:6, 32:41, 42:12; and Psalm 44:2–3, 80:8. God determines where and when the boundaries of every people shall be (Acts 17:24–26). DWS
4 After that time geography will remain stable until the old heavens and earth pass away and the new heavens and earth are created and the New Jerusalem shall descend (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; and Revelation 21:1, 27) to provide an environment for the Great White Throne judgment. This will occur after the 1,000 years reign of Christ on this old earth. DWS
5 While geography does not change in reality, geographical identification of places in ancient and biblical times can be misunderstood. For example, the true location of the Jerusalem Temples is unknown by most all scholars today. Dr. Martin’s book The Temples That Jerusalem Forgot corrects that misunderstanding. Many historical sites, particularly in the land of Israel, have been misidentified or misplaced for religious and other reasons. The true location of “Mount Zion” was misunderstood for over 700 years until the true location was rediscovered in the late 1800s. See Temples, “Introduction,” pp. 2–5. The situation of how the Jerusalem Temples were “lost” is discussed in chapter 35 (the last chapter) of Temples: “How Could the Rabbis Forget?” and in Dr. Martin’s June 2000 article (written after Temples was published), “How the Jews Started to Lose the Temples’ Site” at http://www.askelm.com/temple/t000601.htm. DWS
6 Dr. Friedman has a video that defines and explains “geopolitics” in a YouTube video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUBBUiu9QNg&eurl=http://www.stratfor.com/videowindow/geopolitics. Mackinder’s article was originally published in The Geographical Journal, 1904, with an abbreviated version in Tuathail, Dalby, and Routledge, eds., The Geopolitics Reader, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2006), pp. 34–38 at: The Geopolitical Reader. A useful discussion of this and Mackinder’s other geopolitical concepts can be found in the article “The Geographical Pivot of History” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Geographical_Pivot_of_History. DWS
7 Mackinder was mistaken about the importance of East Europe. However, consider the task policymakers of the western nations viewing the expansion of communism after World War II in the late 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s. Eastern Europe was under Soviet communist domination, Western Europe was threatened by Soviet domination, China became communist, and Southeast Asia was under assault from communist takeover (the “domino theory”). The pivot area seemed to be expanding to threaten control of the world island. The post-World War II policy of “containment” was heavily influenced by Mackinder’s theories. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the increase of independent nations around the world showed Mackinder’s views to be wrong. An excellent critique of Mackinder’s theories can be found in Parameters, The US Army War College Quarterly, Summer 2000, pp. 58-71 at http://www.carlisle.army.mil/USAWC/Parameters/00summer/fettweis.htm. DWS
8 In fact, most peoples in the world consider themselves to be “the people” who are special among the other peoples of the world. Michael Stewart, “People, Places & Things: Navel of the World,” Greek Mythology: From the Iliad to the Fall of the Last Tyrant at http://messagenet.com/myths/ppt/Navel_of_the_World_1.html. DWS
9 When Israel disobeyed, God punished them. When Israel disobeyed so much that their sins were intolerable to God, He dispersed them from the Promised Land and sent them into exile among various nations. DWS
10 Herzog and Gichon, Battles of the Bible (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1997), pp. 27–29. On page 29:
“Any nation aspiring to establish an independent national state on the Palestinian land-bridge had thus to accept a primary fact of life: it was destined to live under nearly constant concentric pressure from near and far, and only constant military preparedness could guarantee its survival.” DWS
11 See my article, “The Bible and the War in Lebanon” at http://askelm.com/news/n060817.htm. DWS
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