Ancient Nations in
the Middle East - Part 1
By Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1990
Edited by David Sielaff, August 2005
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The Bible has a considerable amount of prophetic information about several nations that surrounded the people of Israel and Judah. These nations are given prominence in matters dealing with the end-times — the times just on the horizon to us at the end of the 20th century. It is essential that these nations be identified in the world today so that the prophecies about them can be understood. One of the cardinal aspects of prophetic comprehension is that we of modern times recognize what the early writers of the Bible thought about the nations that were in existence at their times. This concept is particularly important in regard to the prophetic understanding of the apostles and the Jewish people at large in the New Testament period. In this Prophetic Report we at A.S.K. will provide an introduction to the comprehension of this important subject.
When one surveys the prophetic teachings of the Old Testament, there is one chapter which summarizes the judgment that God will mete out on the heathen at the end of the age. That chapter is Isaiah 34. This chapter describes in vivid detail the gathering of all the nations in a terminal battle in which God will be the victor and all the wicked nations will be judged and vanquished. It is interesting that the whole of chapter 34 in Isaiah is devoted to the nation and people of Edom. So important is the information in this chapter that one will find in it statements that are precisely quoted by John the apostle in the Book of Revelation. The apostle John records that the final battle between the Beast with his false prophet and Christ Jesus with His angels (Revelation 19) will be fought within the prophetic environment of Isaiah 34, the chapter that concerns the nation of Edom (spelled Idumea in the King James Version).
Since this chapter in Isaiah concerns itself with Edom, it will pay us to discover as much as we can about this brother nation of Israel (Obadiah verse 12) as well as the other ancient nations that surrounded Israel. When we do, we will then be in a position to comprehend much better the overall teachings of the Book of Revelation and what the apostles expected in their day.
The first thing that must be realized is the fact that the apostles and most Jewish people at the time believed that the Kingdom of God was going to come to earth in their generation. Not only did they have the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks in Daniel Nine which seemed to show a 490 year period from an event in Persian times to the coming of the Messiah and His kingdom, but even Christ Himself made the statement that “this generation shall not pass until all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34).
Even the Roman people were well aware that the generality of the Jewish nation expected the emergence of the Kingdom of God on earth sometime near the middle of the 1st century. Both the Roman historians Suetonius (Nero 40) and Tacitus (History V.13) recorded this Jewish expectation. Indeed, most Christians fully believed that Christ would return from heaven within one generation from the crucifixion in 30 C.E. It was well recognized that a generation was best reckoned as being forty years in length. Hastings, Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, states:
“Forty years represented a generation, and thus the number 40 became a round number for a full period, a complete epoch,”
To early Christians they were assured that Christ would set up His world government within 40 years after His crucifixion and resurrection; that is, before 70 C.E. This is why the apostle Paul expected all the prophecies of the Old Testament would be fulfilled during that generation “upon whom the ends of the age are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Christ seemed to say that the judgments upon evil people and nations from the time of Abel to the close of the Old Testament period would have their accumulated force unleashed on that generation which existed in the 1st century. “verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation.”
Assertions such as these prompted the apostles to accept the conclusion that all the Old Testament prophecies uttered over the previous 1500 years which pertained to the “end-time” (whether against Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Tyre, Israel and also Edom) would be fulfilled in their time.
The Book of Revelation adopted this style of interpretation. It assembled numerous prophecies from all parts of the Old Testament (disregarding the different time periods or peoples to whom the prophecies were first given) and it typically combined their fulfillment into a single period of time, Revelation simply placed them altogether into a seven years’ period (divided into halves) which the Book of Daniel had done earlier and placed their fulfillment in “the Lord’s Day” at the end of the age (Revelation 1:10). 1
The apostle John thought this collection of prophecies, with new ones revealed to him, were “things which must shortly come to pass” (Revelation 1:1). So quickly were they expected to occur that it appeared as though the ones who crucified Christ would still be alive to witness the Second Advent (Revelation 1:7; Matthew 26:64).
The apostle Paul in all his epistles written before 63 C.E. consistently spoke about the imminence of end-time prophetic events and that many of his readers would be alive to observe the Second Advent (1 Corinthians 15:51–52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17). His early beliefs were solidly anchored in the conviction that “the time is short ... the fashion of this world passes away” (1 Corinthians 7:29, 31). When Paul wrote this in 55 C.E., he even discouraged people from getting married. It was not that he was against marriage of itself, but the present distress which was then on the Corinthian congregation, plus the anticipated great trouble that was soon to emerge on the whole world because of end-time events, made Paul suggest the single state for people at that time (1 Corinthians 7:1–32).
In the Book of Romans, written about a year later, he said:
“Now is it high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed, the night is far spent, and the day is at hand.”
So certain was Paul of the soon arrival of Christ’s kingdom on earth that he told the Romans that “Satan would be crushed under their feet very soon” (Romans 16:20). To the Philippians he said: “The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5).
The apostle James also told his readers it was “the last days” and that they should be patient “unto the coming of the Lord ... for the coming of the Lord draws near” (James 5:3, 7–8).
The apostle John was no less urgent in his appeal that the end of the age was near;
“Little children, it is the last time: and as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.”
1 John 2:18
The return of Christ in that generation which succeeded the resurrection of Christ seemed an assured thing because even Christ Himself was thought to teach it. “Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34). Christ had told His apostles that they should watch for these prophetic events “for you know not what hour your Lord does come” (verse 42). All the contexts in which Christ instructed his apostles about prophetic matters suggest that many of the apostles would certainly be alive to behold them. Christ had also stated to some of them that they would not die before they would view the revelation of the Kingdom of God coming to earth (Matthew 16:27–28).
The only problem was: the prophecies they expected to be fulfilled did not happen at the time they thought. Indeed, here we are at the end of the 20th century and they have still not occurred. The fact is, they are reserved for “the generation” that sees the essential prophecies begin to take place.
“When you shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation [that is, the generation that sees the prophecies begin to take place] shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”
Even Christ had told the apostles that they were not to know the times or seasons which the Father had placed in his own power (Acts 1:6–7).
When the beginning of the last seven years of that first generation of 40 years passed (62 to 63 C.E.) and the teachings in the Book of Revelation did not begin to materialize, then the apostles changed their tune drastically and began to say that the end-time would occur in the distant future. See a full account of this matter in chapter 8 of my book The Original Bible Restored. 2
The apostle John actually saw the visionary events recorded in the Book of Revelation on two different occasions, and those two occasions were separated from one another by about 40 years. This fact has not been noticed by many people, and even I did not understand it when I wrote [the 1st edition of] The Original Bible Restored. But this truth has great bearing not only in recognizing prophetic events for the future but it helps to show the importance of the Manuscript Version of the Bible. It is essential that we realize that John saw the Revelation on two occasions.
The first time he saw the Revelation was about 56 C.E. (during Nero’s reign) and the last time he witnessed it was in the time of Domitian (96 C.E.). It is even attested in the Book of Revelation itself that John would be given the contents of the “little scroll” on two different occasions. The first time was before the destruction of Jerusalem and the second long after Jerusalem had been destroyed. The angel told John:
“And he said unto me, ‘You must prophesy AGAIN before many peoples, and nations, and tongues and kings.”
There is a principle of the Bible that is referred to by the apostles and John himself (which was given by Christ) and it reflects the standard procedure through which God and Christ provide a witness of themselves to mankind. The bare minimum for witnesses is two (Matthew 18:16) and Christ referred to the propriety of this principle in John 5:31–35. Even in divine literature, when it was necessary to confirm an account, it has been recorded twice. Note the account of Peter with Cornelius which is given twice in the Book of Acts (Acts chapters 10 and 11). And the information in the Book of Revelation was so important and significant that John was told he would be given the information from the “little scroll” once and then “again” (Revelation 10:11).
There was much precedent for this in the Old Testament.
“For God speaks once, yea twice, yet man perceives it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night.”
And with John, he was first given the visions of the Revelation in the time of Nero (about 56 C.E.), and the second time some 40 years later in the time of Domitian (about 96 C.E.). 3 Irenaeus at the end of the 2nd century referred to this latter time when he said the Book of Revelation “was seen no such long time ago, but almost in our own generation, at the end of the reign of Domitian” (Adv.haer. 5.30.3). 4 But the original writing of the Book of Revelation was composed about 40 years before, somewhere near 56 C.E. The reason for this is plain. It was written when,
There is even more to show this. Revelation was first given to John when five kingdoms had passed, he was then in the sixth kingdom, with a seventh soon to arise followed by the final eighth kingdom (Revelation 17:10–11). Since it was then expected that the Second Advent of Christ would occur in just a few years hence (the last seven years commencing in 62–63 C.E.), then the sixth kingdom was reckoned as that of Nero as far as the Roman Empire was concerned. It was common for Jews to acknowledge Julius Caesar (1) as the first “king” of Rome, followed by Augustus (2), Tiberius (3), Caligula (4), Claudius (5), and Nero (6) as the sixth during which John was first given his visions of the Revelation. Thus, the first time John received the visions was in the time of Nero, and many scholars have recognized this as a fact.
The sixth “king” was important in another way. Herod (the Jewish ruler when Christ was born) was reckoned as the first of the Edomite kings to rule over Judaea. He was followed by his son Archelaus (2), then by the Roman government unto the time of Pilate (3), then King Agrippa 1 (4), then again the Roman government (5), and finally King Agrippa II who was then (in 56 C.E.) the sixth king and of Edomite stock.
So, it was not only the sixth Roman “king” (Nero) who was then reigning, but it was also the time of the sixth ruler over Jerusalem who was an Edomite. Recall that Isaiah 34 was about the end time kingdom being Edomite. Thus, whether it was the Roman imperial government which was being considered, or the Herodian and/or Roman governments in Judaea (among Herod’s Edomite ancestry), it was thought by early 1st century Christians that the Book of Revelation was destined to be completely fulfilled starting about 62–63 C.E. That is when the last seven years of the 40 years’ generation (from Christ’s resurrection to his Second Advent) would occur.
When 62–63 C.E. came and went without the prophesied events commencing, Jewish Christians by the droves turned away from the faith and Peter had to write the Book of Second Peter to assure people that he and John (the subjects of Peter’s first chapter) were not giving them fables and that they had “a more sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:16–21). But many people had great doubts and turned away by the multitudes (2 Peter 3:4). 5 The reason John was given again the visions of Revelation in 96 C.E. was to assure him and all Christians that they were valid and intended for the end-time, not back in the 1st century.
So ingrained in the minds of Jews in the 1st century that the Roman imperial government was the Kingdom of Edom, that for the next 1500 years in Jewish writings, it was simply acknowledged as fact that Romans were the descendants of the people of Esau (Edom), the twin brother of Israel. When Rome finally accepted Christianity as its basic religious belief, the Jews called the Bishop of Rome and later his cardinals (who were dressed in red, the color of Edom) as being representatives of Edom.
Even the apostle Paul stated that the Romans (though they were Gentiles) were still reckoned as being of Abraham through the flesh. Note carefully that Paul said the generality of the Roman people in the 1st century were of “Abraham our father, as pertaining to the FLESH” (Romans 4:1). That’s right, even the apostle Paul thought that the Romans (though Gentiles) were basically of Abrahamic origin.
What we will find is that much of Europe was colonized by people who were of Abrahamic stock. When the apostle Paul directed his attention to Asia Minor, Greece, Italy and Spain, he was going to Gentiles who were connected by blood to Abraham, though they were not Israelites. From this area of the world has come peoples who are descendants of Abraham through the flesh. Some of them are from Edomite stock and others come from the six sons of Abraham through Keturah.
These peoples of Europe are not Israelites as many people are stating today. But they are close kin to Israel and Judah. What is happening in Europe and the Soviet Union at the present time can be better understood when it is realized just who these peoples are in an ethnic and political sense.
The people of Great Britain, the United States and most of Europe are peoples of Abrahamic or Shemitic stocks. The reason why the people of these regions have taken up with the biblical revelation which belongs to Israel is because of their ethnic connection to Israel.
Indeed, even peoples of different races who now inhabit the European or North American regions of the world (and this includes the Australian, New Zealand and South African areas) are considered by God to be in the same classification as Abrahamic children as are the actual descendants. This is because it is the land that is important in regard to the Abrahamic blessings, not the blood line alone. See Exodus 12:38 and Numbers 9:14, where this principle is shown. 6 God loves all peoples (no matter what race they are), but his prophetic events are primarily destined to occur to those who are descendants of Abraham or to those who live in the Abrahamic lands.
In Part Two of this prophetic series, I will discuss the origin of many peoples on earth today. It is essential to understand these matters if one hopes to comprehend the prophetic events just on the horizon to us. Much new information will soon be forthcoming from A.S.K.
Edited by David Sielaff, August 2005
1 As an expansion, let me restate what Dr. Martin wrote so that his point is made as clear as possible. The Book of Revelation compiles allusions and quotes from the Old Testament set into a chronological order, at the same time as it tells the narrative of the future in John’s visions. The allusions and quotes were not intended to be complete. Their purpose is to refer the reader to the original passage, whether that is in the book of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, the Twelve Prophets, or other Old Testament books. (In fact, this is the process and intent of most all Old Testament citations and allusion in the New Testament.) See George Wesley Buchanan’s work difficult to find, The Book of Revelation: Its Introduction and Prophecy, The Mellen Biblical Commentary, New Testament, Vol 22 (Lewiston: Mellen, 1993). In this and other works similar to Buchanan’s the passages of Revelation are placed side-by-side with the original allusions and quotations. It is then left to the reader to fill out the meaning of the passage. DWS
2 A latest 1996 edition of this book was produced by Dr. Martin under the title Restoring the Original Bible. It is available online at http://www.askelm.com/restoring/index.asp, and for sale at http://www.askelm.com/books/book002.asp.
3 It should be noted that both Nero and Domitian were major persecutors of the early Church. See Eusebius, Church History, Book 3.17–20 (begin at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.iii.viii.xvii.html). The apostle John was sent to Patmos and died during Domitian’s reign. DWS
4 See the passage at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.vii.xxxi.html.
5 As Peter states:
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.’”
2 Peter 3:3–4 DWS
6 The mixed multitude and stranger are the same:
“And a mixed multitude went up also with them [the tribes of Israel]; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.”
“And if a stranger [non-Israelites] shall sojourn among you, and will keep the passover unto the Lord; according to the ordinance of the passover, and according to the manner thereof, so shall he do: you shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger, and for him that was born in the land.”
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Ernest L. Martin
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