5.1 Where Are You?
Volume 5: Conceptual Symbols—Chapter 1
Where Are You?
Immediately after Adam and Eve had fallen into sin (well, Eve jumped) by breaking the one “rule” God had asked them to keep, they felt uncomfortable in His presence, so they tried to hide themselves. “Then Yahweh, God, called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:9) It wasn’t that He didn’t know their whereabouts. Yahweh merely wanted them to understand that they had moved away from Him. They had been living in Innocence, but they had packed their bags and moved to the Land of Guilt.
He still asks us, “Where are you?” Okay, the Garden of Eden is no longer an option, but where are we now? Where have we chosen to live? Are we as near to Yahweh as we can get, like Abel or Seth, or have we chosen to live in the land of Nod (literally: “wandering”) like Cain? My point is that Cain, after killing his brother Abel, wanted nothing to do with those who revered Yahweh their Creator. After all, they were a constant and disconcerting reminder that reconciliation with God must be done on His terms, not on ours.
“Where are we?” Are we in bondage in the world (code named: Egypt) or have we entered the Promised Land (a symbolic euphemism for the mortal life of a believer). Or, for that matter, are we still wandering around in the Wilderness, trying to decide which is worse—Pharaoh’s slave drivers (a familiar peril, at least) or the legendary “giants in the Land” (i.e., the terror of having to live by faith in God’s provision day by day in an unknown environment).
As it turns out, many of the place-names mentioned in scripture have symbolic significance. (Big surprise, right?) They all have “history” with God’s chosen people, Israel—either as neighbors, sometime-adversaries, or outright conquerors. Meanwhile, Japan, Scandinavia, Botswana, and Brazil are missing from Scripture. Sort of. They’re not specifically “named,” and when they are referenced, it’s in catch-all phrases like “the nations” or “the coastlands.” But they are on God’s mind, for they’re home to humans—the object of His love. They’re just not included in His symbol lexicon.
“Home to humans.” That’s where we need to begin. The planet we live upon is fine-tuned—to a degree none of us can remotely comprehend—to be the perfect “Goldilocks” environment for human beings to inhabit. Our home planet, and indeed, the entire universe, was no accident: it didn’t just “happen.” Rather, it was purposely designed and built by Yahweh: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) That is, at a specific moment in the measurable past, He made time-space, matter-energy, and the laws of physics that would govern it all. Moreover, He created our world to support life, which He then made in profuse variety and abundance. If we don’t give the Creator credit for having created our home, we’ll never know who we are, never mind where. But the question we need to ponder first is why He did so.
Why would a God who existed for eternity past (granted, a concept we cannot begin to comprehend) suddenly decide to make a physical universe? The answer lies in His nature: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him…. We love Him because He first loved us.” (I John 4:16, 19) Love needs an object in order to come to fruition. But hadn’t Yahweh already made a race of immortal spiritual creatures—whom we call angels—before He created the cosmos? Indeed. He asks Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?...” There’s that question again. “Who laid [the world’s] cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4, 6-7) The angels were there to celebrate with their creator when He created everything else (whether we’re talking about the Big Bang, or merely our own solar system). So Yahweh was not lacking for companionship.
But are angelic beings candidates for the objects of God’s love? Everything we know about them argues against this idea. Yes, they’re sentient beings, immortal, intelligent, and awesomely powerful. But they haven’t been given permission to “say no” to Yahweh—they do not have what we call “free will.” They are simply servants of God. If one is not free to reject God’s love, then accepting it is a meaningless concept. Yes, Satan rebelled against God, apparently taking one third of the angelic host with him (see Revelation 12:4). But it was never His prerogative to do any such thing. It’s like a soldier in the army openly revolting against his commander-in-chief: it’s possible, but not legal—and the negative consequence are inevitable. The only reason the devil is still free in this world to “walk about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,” is that God allows it: Satan’s freedom encourages us to find shelter in our God, to be sober-minded, vigilant, and firm in our faith (see I Peter 5:7-9). Satan’s temporary freedom is what makes our moral choices crystal clear.
But as Job could attest, Yahweh keeps Satan on a short leash, putting limits on how much damage he can do. There is a vast disparity between the devil’s aspirations and his actual destiny. Isaiah reminds us that Satan declared, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.” But the reality of the matter is, “Yet you shall be [future tense] brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit. Those who see you will gaze at you, and consider you, saying: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, Who made the world as a wilderness and destroyed its cities, who did not open the house of his prisoners?’…You are cast out of your grave like an abominable branch, like the garment of those who are slain, thrust through with a sword, who go down to the stones of the pit, like a corpse trodden underfoot.” (Isaiah 14:14-17, 19) Never picture Satan as “the king of hell.” When Yahweh finally incarcerates him, he will merely be one of the inmates, notable only for the height from which he has fallen, and the depth of his depravity.
So angelic beings were (technically) not suitable as recipients of God’s love. For that, He had to create a race of creatures endowed with free will, the privilege of volition—who could (if they chose) reciprocate the love of their Creator. The “problem” is, if they had the legal option of refusing to share a loving relationship with God, some of them surely would. In that case, God would be duty bound to honor their poor choices, cutting them off from the source of Life itself. The solution, then, was the most counterintuitive of innovations: mortality. If people’s bodies died at the end of their earthly lifespans, no one would have to live forever separated from the Source of life—like spiritual zombies. But if God made this race of “choosers” physical beings, not spiritual ones (like angels), then some infrastructure was going to be necessary: man and his world would have to be made of elements that didn’t even exist yet. And that’s where we pick up the story in Genesis 1:1—the creation of the physical universe that was required for one reason only: so that God could love people, and we could love Him in return.
Yahweh has gone to ridiculous lengths to make a home for us. Just how big is this universe in which we live? According to one source (Cornell University), “The density of matter in the universe is about 3 x 10-30 g/cm3, which means that it is 300 billion billion billion times less dense than water. This includes the contribution of dark matter: the density of luminous matter (which we see as stars and galaxies) is only about one-tenth of this figure. The size of the observable universe is about 14 billion light years across, and using the above value of density, we can calculate a mass for the universe (including dark and luminous matter) of about 3 x 1055 g, which is roughly 25 billion galaxies the size of the Milky Way.” That’s a lot of expenditure for very little return on investment, if you ask me. But Yahweh was willing to do it in order to share His love with us. For some unfathomable reason, He thinks we’re worth it.
And that’s not all. How many species inhabit the earth? Somewhere between a million and a half and a trillion, depending on who you ask. But how many of these organisms have a spiritual nature as well as a physical one? Just one. Us—People. All sentient animals have souls that make their bodies alive, of course. Separating the soul from the body is what we call “death.” But man, and man alone, also has something called the neshamah in Hebrew—the “breath of life” (first mentioned in Genesis 2:7) that makes possible the indwelling of God’s Spirit. It is what gives us free will; it is what defines us as having been “made in the image and likeness of God.”
With all that life out there, one thing is certain: our home planet was designed and built to support it. “For thus says Yahweh, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who has established it, who did not create it in vain [that is, to be empty], who formed it to be inhabited: ‘I am Yahweh, and there is no other.’” (Isaiah 45:18) I realize it’s an argument from silence, but there is no hint here that He created other worlds to be inhabited—to host and foster physical life. (If there is mortal life elsewhere, it is certain that our Creator put it there.) But as far as we know, only our world, out of gazillions of planets in the universe, has any life on it at all. Yahweh, it appears, has put all of his eggs in one basket: ours. And although in these Last Days we may joke about the search for “intelligent life” on planet Earth, the fact is that we humans are the only species we know of that is capable of perceiving our Creator, of communing with Him, appreciating Him, and being made eternally alive through the indwelling of His Spirit.
Many people of course, like Cain, don’t want to hear it. So they retreat into fables about life on earth being the product of an endless string of unbelievably fortuitous accidents, one after another, without design, purpose, goal, or meaning. Who needs a Creator? Beginning with the simplest one-celled organism (though the spontaneous jump from inert to living is clearly impossible), they believe—without evidence, much less proof—that the complex biosphere we see about us just evolved, becoming more and more intricate with each passing generation. (Of course, we now know that even the simplest living thing on earth is incredibly complex. Cells are not just “blobs of protoplasm,” as they used to think. Oops.) Then they look at the night sky, and assume that because our galaxy and universe are so vast, the same unlikely process must have taken place innumerable times elsewhere. And they think I have too much faith!
Though never actually possible, the spontaneous generation of life might have seemed plausible if it had an infinite amount of time in which to develop. But we now know that the universe did have a beginning: 13.73 billion years ago, as observed from the earth. (If your point of view is where the “Big Bang” took place—that is, not here on earth—and if you account for the speed of light, relativity, and the expansion of the universe, this works out to precisely six days, as reported in Genesis 1. See Dr. Gerald L. Schroeder’s classic work The Science of God for the data.) Our own solar system was formed about 4.3 billion years back. But a mere 400 million years (or less) passed between the “ball of molten rock” stage and the first fossil evidence of the appearance of life on Earth—a blink of an eye as these things go. Thus the evolutionists have a terrible problem: their own science has proved their timeline to be impossible. Even the idea of life beginning spontaneously in another galaxy and somehow “seeding” the earth doesn’t have remotely enough time to support it.
Why then do they cling so tenaciously to their unworkable theory? It’s quite simple, really. The only plausible alternative (to put it in the least “offensive” terms for them) is that an “Intelligent Designer” is responsible for everything that exists. Let’s face it, guys: we’re talking about God, and specifically, the God of the Bible: Yahweh. (Alas, you’ve got to spell it out these days. If you want to check out the “competition,” research the Islamic creation story. It’s quite entertaining. In the Hadith of al Tabari, Muhammad said, “When Allah wanted to create the creation, He brought forth smoke from the water. The smoke hovered loftily over it. He called it ‘heaven.’ Then He dried out the water and made it earth. He split it and made it seven earths on Sunday. He created the earth upon a big fish, that being the fish mentioned in the Qur’an. By the Pen [the first created thing], the fish was in the water. The water was upon the back of a small rock. The rock was on the back of an angel. The angel was on a big rock. The big rock was in the wind. The fish became agitated. As a result, the earth quaked, so Allah anchored the mountains and made it stable. This is why the Qur’an says, ‘Allah made for the earth firmly anchored mountains, lest it shake you up.’”)
The bottom line: the “Intelligent Designer” can only be Yahweh, the same God who’s got standards of conduct and morality the atheists have no desire or intention of keeping, who knew that His beloved Adam had sinned, and in mercy asked him “Where are you?” He’s the same God who had a solution to our “sin problem” ready and waiting—both in the symbolic short-term sense (the innocent-animal skin clothing), and in the literal long-term sense (the atoning sacrifice of His Messiah/Son, Yahshua).
As I said, the universe—and planet Earth in particular—are fine-tuned for life. People might complain (in their hubris) that God is awfully inefficient. Why expend almost 14 billion years to create an environment for a species (man) that has only been around for six thousand years—and whose collective genome is already fraying around the edges, making his normal individual lifespan these days less than a century? The simple answer is that the heavier elements our physical bodies are made of are created in second-generation stars. An Intelligent Designer would know that you can’t “make things” out of helium and hydrogen alone. You’ll also need oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, phosphorus, sulfur, and scores of other building blocks found nature. And for that, you need immense amounts of time and space, with stars forming, living through their life-cycles, and then collapsing—creating the heavier elements in the process.
Let’s look at carbon as a test case—the one element that, above all others, makes life possible. It’s ironic that atheists have declared war on carbon, piously claiming that it will be the death of us all. (In truth, it’s all a matter of greed: carbon dioxide has been declared the villain, not because it is such a danger to the environment, but because it can be measured and taxed.) But the fact is, all life on earth is carbon based: everything we are, and everything we eat, depends on carbon. No other element has carbon’s capacity to form the broad range of complex molecular structures that life requires.
Astrophysicist Hugh Ross writes, “Researchers have found that the quantity of carbon must be carefully balanced between just enough and not too much, because carbon, though essential for life, can also be destructive to life…. One of the wonders of the Earth is that it is sufficiently carbon-rich and carbon-poor. It carries enough carbon for life, but not so much as to interfere with life’s atmospheric needs, such as the appropriate pressure and density for efficient operation of lungs and a temperature range (and variability) that supports a wide diversity of active, advanced species.”
So it may come as an epiphany to discover that, by God’s design, carbon comprises only a tiny fraction—0.0007%—of the mass of the universe. As I noted elsewhere, “The air we breathe has so little CO2 in it (comparatively speaking), it’s almost silly. By volume, dry air contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.039% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases, including a varying amount of water vapor, around 1% on average. Let that sink in: the earth’s atmosphere contains less than four one-hundredths of one percent carbon dioxide…. CO2 is a natural—even essential—component of our atmosphere. All green plants depend upon its presence, utilizing it in the process of photosynthesis to replenish the oxygen in the atmosphere.”
We’ve looked at why the universe needs to be so massive, old, and expansive to support life. But now, let us look at it on the micro level. Here too Yahweh has fine-tuned the universe to support life—to an unbelievable degree. Hugh Ross again: “Anyone who hasn’t had the privilege of studying astrophysics may not realize that the universe must be as massive as it is or human life would not be possible. The density of protons and neutrons in the universe relates to the cosmic mass, or mass density. That density determines how much hydrogen, the lightest of the elements, fused into heavier elements during the first few minutes of cosmic existence. And the amount of heavier elements determines how much additional heavy element production occurs later in the nuclear furnaces of stars.
“If the density of protons and neutrons were significantly lower (than enough to convert about 1 percent of the universe’s mass into stars), then nuclear fusion would proceed less efficiently. As a result, the cosmos would never be capable of generating elements heavier than helium—elements like carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium, which are essential for any kind of physical life. On the other hand, if the density of protons and neutrons were slightly higher (enough to convert significantly more than 1 percent of the mass of the universe into stars), nuclear fusion would be too productive. All the hydrogen in the universe would rapidly fuse into elements as heavy as, or heavier than, iron. Again, life essential elements (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, etc.), including hydrogen, would not exist….
“If no other density factors influence the expansion of the universe at certain epochs in cosmic history, its mass density must have been as finely tuned as one part in 1060 to allow for the possible existence of physical life at any time or place within the entirety of the universe. This degree of fine-tuning is so great that it’s as if right after the universe’s beginning someone could have destroyed the possibility of life within it by subtracting a single dime’s mass from the whole of the observable universe, or adding a single dime’s mass to it.”
There is much more to it, of course. It only gets “worse” for proponents of the “grand cosmic coincidence” theory. (I’d highly recommend reading Dr. Ross’s book, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is.) The bottom line: if you’re here on planet Earth, you should thank Yahweh for going to such extreme lengths to make your physical life possible. But remember: you’re mortal by design. Use your time wisely, beginning with honoring the God who gave you life.
Having created this unique and wonderful planet, Yahweh proceeded to fill it with a myriad of living things, from viruses and bacteria, to grass and trees, to animals of every conceivable description. When the time was right, He created the human race: Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:26-28)
Mankind’s job number one was to populate the planet. Job number two was to “have dominion” over all of the animals God had placed here—everything, you’ll notice, except for other human beings. Adam was told that his food would come from “every tree of the garden,” save one. So “having dominion” didn’t mean hunting, killing, or eating the animals. It means studying them, understanding them, and caring for them. God “brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field.” (Genesis 2:19-20) Humanity had been given a job to do, and it was totally benign.
But then we sinned, and the whole paradigm changed. After their sin, Adam and his bride had become aware of their naked state, and had sewed themselves fig-leaf garments to try to deal with their shame. It was the world’s first instance of “religion”—of mankind attempting to cover his sin with means of his own invention. It hadn’t worked, and they knew it. So then they tried to hide from God, prompting Him to ask, “Where are you?” It was at this point that Yahweh introduced the concept of sacrificing the life of the innocent to atone for the sins of the guilty, making coverings for Adam and Eve from the skin of an animal He had purposely slain as appeasement for their sin.
It was the first of scores of similar examples that would be introduced in scripture (mostly in the Law of Moses), all of which turned out to be previews—prophecies—of the ultimate, definitive act of atonement: God’s own innocent Son sacrificing Himself upon Calvary’s cross in order that you and I might be reconciled with our Creator. As with Adam and Eve in the Garden, our part in the whole affair would simply be to put on the garment of sacrifice—trusting God’s promise to render it efficacious in covering our sin.
The whole point of the Bible is to illustrate and illuminate our Creator’s plan and purpose in reconciling fallen humanity to Himself. Yahweh used a number of modes of communication to achieve this, which is to say, He was less than straightforward in revealing how He would redeem us. First, He used prophecy, telling the serpent (Satan), “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15) It would take us thousands of years to figure out precisely what He meant by this. But by the time it came to pass (all of it except Satan’s ultimate “bruising”), literally hundreds of prophecies had been given that, when taken together, pointed to one man (Yahshua—the promised Seed of the woman) to the exclusion of all others.
Then He used “types,” specialized prophecies in which godly men acted out (whether they knew it or not) various facets of God’s plan for our salvation. Adam and Eve put on the innocent-animal skins Yahweh had made to cover their shame. Enoch and Elijah were raptured, prior to judgment falling upon their societies. Noah was shown how to escape the coming flood, and Lot was removed from Sodom before God’s wrath fell upon it—both pictures of how He intends to separate His people from the depravity of the world in the Last Days—again, in anticipation of judgment. Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of Isaac, the son of promise, illustrated how Yahweh would offer up His own Son, Yahshua, to atone for the sin of the world. And Joseph, through the betrayal by his brothers, became a slave in Egypt, and then (through false accusation) a prisoner, only to become the second most powerful man in the country—the savior of Egypt and everyone who had betrayed him.
Each of these “types” revealed something about God’s solution to our self-imposed curse. In each instance, the lesson for us was to trust Him with our destiny, no matter how convoluted or unexpected the journey might seem. And how are we to demonstrate our trust? Through obedience. It wouldn’t have done any good for Noah to “believe” God’s word that a flood was coming if he had not been obedient in building the ark to God’s specifications. But here’s the thing about obedience. Our heart’s attitude—not so much our flawless performance—is what counts most. I have it on good authority (just kidding: I’m making this up for the sake of illustration) that Noah’s ark ended up being half a cubit too short. Technically, that’s sin—failing to meet God’s exacting standards. But Noah didn’t have a 300 cubit tape measure: he just came as close as he could. And Yahweh honored his sincere effort and obedience, even though he might have fallen a little short of perfection.
Later, when God called Abram out of the pagan society in which he dwelled, he too, though generally obedient, failed to keep the exact letter of God’s instructions. Yahweh had told him, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3) Abe sort of missed the part about “leaving his father’s house behind,” and took his nephew Lot with him—the son of his late brother Haran, whom he thought of as his own surrogate son (especially since his wife Sarai hadn’t yet borne him any children). Again, this was technically “sin,” but God didn’t disqualify Abram because of his mistake. Rather, He simply made it clear through the narrative that bringing Lot with him caused Abe all sorts of unnecessary complications—things that would end up haunting his family for millennia. Granted, there are valuable lessons to be learned through the story: we usually learn more from our mistakes than from our successes.
Anyway, it is with the call of Abram that our systematic study of the symbolically significant places in the Bible begins. It was through his line that God’s most sweeping and detailed mode of communication concerning His plan for our salvation would be delivered. I’m speaking, of course, of the Torah—the “Law of Moses”—the Instructions that revealed something about our Redeemer between every line, if only we’d open our eyes. These Instructions were given to one nation: Israel.
By my count, 283 times in the Torah we read, “And Yahweh said to Moses, speak to the Children of Israel, and say…” or words to that effect. That is, Israel alone was instructed to keep the precepts of the Torah. Yahweh never issued a comprehensive code of Law to the gentiles, nor were the gentiles asked to keep the Torah (unless, of course, they wished to live as Israelites in the Land of Promise). And yet, the Tanakh itself incessantly informs us that gentiles (i.e., non-Jews) will share in Israel’s blessing. (See Deuteronomy 32:43, Psalm 46:10, Psalm 47, Psalm 102:15, Isaiah 49:6, Zechariah 2:10-13, etc.) It turns out that flawless performance of the Torah’s myriad precepts was never the point, exactly: they were never intended to be, in and of themselves, the means of salvation, the path toward reconciliation with Yahweh. Rather, the Instructions were designed to be a collective prophecy of what Yahshua the Messiah would accomplish on behalf of mankind—the atonement of our sins: first by being the only human being who ever kept the Instructions perfectly (defining Him as “innocent”), and then by offering Himself up as (as John the Baptist put it) “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Let us, then, begin our study with nations (originally, family groups) that seem to have metaphorical implications attached to them in scripture, and work our way down to individual cities. (I realize there might be some overlap in these concepts.) We’ll also explore groups of nations or cities that God’s Word has suggested that we study as collective concepts—symbolically linked in some way. Finally, we’ll look into miscellaneous geographical entities—mountains, rivers, compass directions, etc. Throughout our study, let us try to keep our eye on God’s original question: “Where are you?”
The Table of Nations
After the flood of Noah, his three sons’ families repopulated the earth. The record of the first few generations are presented in Genesis 10. “Now this is the genealogy of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And sons were born to them after the flood.” (Genesis 10:1) I’m not going to go into a great deal of detail here, except to point out a few nations that are subsequently singled out in scripture as interacting with Israel—usually in a negative way. Starting from the ark’s resting place in the mountains of Ararat (and within a few generations, the plain of Shinar—the Tigris-Euphrates valley, a.k.a. Mesopotamia—a bit to the south) the nations spread out across the world.
“The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. The sons of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. From these the coastland peoples of the Gentiles were separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.” (Genesis 10:2-5) Japheth’s offspring (in very rough terms) moved north and west—toward modern-day Europe, including Turkey. Some notable things about the line of Japheth: Kittim is associated with Cyprus. Tarshish became known for their broad-ranging commercial interests; they are geographically linked with Southern Spain. “The kingdom of Ashkenaz was first associated with the Scythian region, then later with the Slavic territories, and, from the 11th century onwards, with Germany and northern Europe.”—Wikipedia. Javan appears to be the progenitor of the Greeks.
Magog was the name associated (by Josephus) with the later Scythian empire, a warlike and nomadic folk who flourished between the 8th and 4th centuries B.C. Jerome indicated that the Scythians were “fierce and innumerable, who live beyond the Caucasus and the Lake Maeotis [that smallish lake just north of the Black Sea], and near the Caspian Sea, and spread out even onward to India.” They eventually covered a huge territory stretching across southern Eurasia from the Danube River to the borders of China. Magog is notable for being the “home” of Gog, the Islamic warlord of Ezekiel 38-39, who will assemble a coalition of nations to attack Israel during the first half of the Tribulation. I have come to the conclusion that Gog will be the leader of Iran—the one who will self-engineer the fulfillment of the Islamic prophecies concerning “the Mahdi.” But it is noteworthy that no fewer than four other Japhethite tribes listed as Gog’s allies (Gomer, Tubal, Meshech, and Togarmah) are associated with places in or near modern-day Turkey. By the way, the “Rosh” mentioned in some translations of Ezekiel 38:3 isn’t a nation at all, but merely means chief, or head. It does not mean Russia.
The children of Ham migrated mostly south and west—toward Africa and Arabia. “The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan. The sons of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabtechah; and the sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan….” Mizraim is Egypt. South of Mizraim, extending indefinitely down the southern Nile River valley, was Cush (sometimes mis-translated “Ethiopia”). Cush eventually populated all of sub-Saharan Africa. And stretching westward from Egypt/Mizraim across northern Africa was Put (or Phut), sometimes rendered “Libya.” Canaan, or course, lent his name to the Levant—that is, the land hugging the Eastern Mediterranean, from Turkey down to Egypt. This effectively made them geographically separate from their other Hamite brothers. Sheba settled at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula (today’s Yemen), and Dedan was farther north, along the peninsula’s western coastline (though most of what is now Arabia was settled by the descendants of Shem).
“Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before Yahweh; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before Yahweh.’ And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city)….” Nimrod was the “Antichrist” of his day, the first demagogue, warlord, and founder of false religious practice in the post-flood world. He, his wife Semiramis, and her son, Tammuz, were the basis of virtually every pagan tradition in the ancient world: the names changed by region, but they can all be traced back to this false “trinity,” Nimrod the father, Tammuz the son (also marketed as the sun god), and Semiramis, the fertility- and moon-goddess figure. (See The End of the Beginning, chapter 14: “Mystery Babylon,” for more information.)
The Philistines, who gave the returning Israelites so much trouble, were the offspring of Mizraim, that is, Egypt: “Mizraim begot Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, and Casluhim (from whom came the Philistines and Caphtorim).” (Genesis 10:6-14) As a matter of fact, most of the adversaries faced by God’s people (that is, of the called-out line of Abram/Abraham) were descendants of Ham, and more specifically, of his son Canaan, at least until the monarchy.
Why did God promise to give all of the Canaanite territory to Abraham, dragging him first from Ur of the Chaldees north to Haran, and then southwest to the Promised Land—a.k.a. Canaan—a trip of about a thousand miles total? It is apparently all fallout from the incident recorded in Genesis 9: “And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.” The story is a little short on details, but the bottom line is that Shem and Japheth, when told of their father’s shameful state, treated him with respect, while Ham mocked him. And we get the distinct impression that Ham’s son Canaan did something far worse than merely treating his grandfather disrespectfully: “So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said: ‘Cursed be Canaan. A servant of servants he shall be to his brethren.’ And he said: ‘Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant.” (Genesis 9:20-27)
So the Hamite portion of the Table of Nations concludes: “Canaan begot Sidon his firstborn, and Heth [father of the Hittites, whose domain centered in modern-day Turkey, but who had established colonies within the Levant by Abraham’s time]; the Jebusite [the first tribe to build Jerusalem], the Amorite, and the Girgashite; the Hivite, the Arkite, and the Sinite; the Arvadite, the Zemarite, and the Hamathite [who ended up in northern Syria]. Afterward the families of the Canaanites were dispersed. And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon as you go toward Gerar, as far as Gaza; then as you go toward Sodom [a clue as to Canaan’s transgression against Noah, perhaps], Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.” Note that six of the seven nations Yahweh slated for removal from the Promised Land (see Deuteronomy 7:1) are listed here. And the outlier, the Perrizites, are universally regarded as a Canaanite group as well—and are included by name in God’s original promise to Abraham (Genesis 15:20). “These were the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands and in their nations.” (Genesis 10:15-20)
Finally, we come to the sons of Shem, the “Semitic” peoples. From their starting point in Mesopotamia, they pretty much stayed put, settling the lands from modern Syria, through the fertile crescent, and points east.
“Also to Shem, the father of all the children of Eber [that is, the Hebrews], and the older brother of Japheth, children were born. The sons of Shem were Elam [who settled just north of the Persian Gulf], Asshur [the Assyrians, whose capital was Nineveh, on the Tigris River], Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram [father of the Syrians]. The sons of Aram were Uz [in whose land the godly Job dwelled], Hul, Gether, and Mash. Arphaxad begot Salah, and Salah begot Eber. To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided [at the tower of Babel]; and his brother’s name was Joktan. Joktan begot Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab. All these were the sons of Joktan. And their dwelling place was from Mesha as you go toward Sephar, the mountain of the east. These were the sons of Shem, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands, according to their nations.” (Genesis 10:21-31)
The “Hebrew” we need to track most carefully, of course, is Abram/Abraham. His line is clarified in a later genealogical passage: “Shem, Arphaxad, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, and Abram, who is Abraham. The sons of Abraham were Isaac and Ishmael.” (I Chronicles 1:24-28; cf. Genesis 11:10-26) Abram’s travels were all within Shemite territory—until God directed him to settle in Canaan (as I observed above, a son of Ham, and the recipient of Noah’s curse). It is as if God was “encouraging” Canaan and his progeny to resettle in Africa, along with most of Ham’s other descendants, leaving the Shemites in control of everything from the Mediterranean Sea eastward—at least as far as Elam (near the Persian Gulf).
It is instructive to enquire why Yahweh wanted the nations separated from one another. The story is recounted in Genesis 11. “Now the whole [post-flood] earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed eastward [from the mountains of Ararat], that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar.” There is still “asphalt” (read: oil) aplenty in Iran and Iraq. “And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:1-4) God had already issued a directive to disperse: “God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.’” (Genesis 9:1) So this was a clear violation of His plan, but not for the reasons we might have imagined.
The problem was the nature of the heart of man—wicked and rebellious. If we all stayed together, we would run the risk of being swept wholesale into falsehood and apostasy—just as in the pre-flood world—which is exactly what happened when the brutal and charismatic Nimrod showed up. “Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And Yahweh said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing [i.e., no evil purpose] that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So Yahweh scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there Yahweh confused the language of all the earth; and from there Yahweh scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 11:5-9) Babel would eventually become Babylon—a regionally powerful city-state whose name is used throughout scripture as a symbol of false worship, someone from whom we are repeatedly instructed to flee.
Remember, we were already told of the connection between Babel and Nimrod: “The beginning of [Nimrod’s] kingdom was Babel… in the land of Shinar.” (Genesis 10:10) God’s ingenious solution to “world domination” under a single godless demagogue was to confuse the comprehension of language. We aren’t told how many languages emerged from Babel, but it is clear that this ploy was, at the very least, effective in separating the offspring of Shem, Ham, and Japheth from each other, and perhaps smaller family sub-units as well (the children or grandchildren of these patriarchs). To this day, populations who become isolated from each other for any length of time tend to develop dialects and vocabularies that are mutually unintelligible. Like Yahshua turning water into wine, God “merely” accelerated the process of linguistic drift. Today, there are approximately 7,000 different languages spoken in our world, a number that is in a constant state of flux, because new languages are constantly emerging, while others are becoming obsolete.
So while much of the world, both Hamite and Japhethite, followed Nimrod’s false pagan trinity, much of the Shemite family—especially the sons of Eber—continued to honor Yahweh, the God of Noah, at least in the beginning.
Israel: the Promised Land
When Yahweh called Abram, the idea wasn’t to run away from idol worship (which, let’s face it, was rampant almost everywhere by this time, thanks to Nimrod’s influence). Rather, it was to set apart one family, one nation, for His own name and purpose: to be God’s vehicle of redemption for the whole world. “Now Yahweh had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” (Genesis 12:1-3)
It is not my purpose here to recount the entire history of Israel (or for that matter, any of the other nations who were singled out in scripture). At this juncture, I am “merely” trying to establish what “being there” symbolizes. Since Israel is so crucial to our understanding of God’s plan, however, it should come as no surprise that I have covered it from several angles elsewhere in my writings. For further study, see The End of the Beginning, Chapter 5 (“The People of Promise”), and Chapter 6 (“Ground Zero”); The Owner’s Manual, a comprehensive analysis of the Torah, which was addressed specifically to Israel; and our present work, The Torah Code, Volume 4, Chapter 2 (“The Wilderness and Promised Land”), and Volume 4, Chapter 2.1 (“Israel: God’s Family”).
Anyway, the “land that God showed Abram” turned out to be where the family of Canaan (the son of Ham and recipient of Noah’s curse, you’ll recall) had settled: the strip of land hugging the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Abram (i.e., Abraham) moved in and thrived, but he never really owned any of the Promised Land (except for a small burial plot he purchased from some Hittite colonists). The same thing was true of his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob (a.k.a. Israel): they didn’t displace any Canaanites, nor did they end up owning the land that God had promised to them, though Yahweh repeated His “Great Nation” promise to each of them. Rather, Yahweh did the most counterintuitive thing one could possibly imagine: He “prepared” the nation of Israel for service by allowing them to be subjected to four centuries of bondage, servitude, and hopelessness in Egypt. That way, they’d be a “blank slate” when they finally emerged, via His signs, wonders, plagues, and miraculous deliverance. They’d have no specific expectations from this God they had all but forgotten—no errant religious traditions to un-learn. All they would know for sure was that Yahweh had delivered them: He was nothing like the gods of Egypt.
In short, Israel was set apart from the world to be the recipient of the most comprehensive of Yahweh’s “modes of communication”—the Torah, the Law of Moses. Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 reveal that obedience would be the key to Israel’s blessings on a national scale. “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that Yahweh your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of Yahweh your God.” And vice versa: “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.” (Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 15)
What followed each proposition was a litany of detailed and specific blessings (or curses) that would prove to be a reliable indicator of how well they were following Yahweh’s instructions. As it turned out, though they were never perfect, there were times when the blessings God poured out upon Israel defined them as a “blessed” nation. Israel was supposed to be the “test-case,” a “focus group,” that would demonstrate to the rest of the world what it was like to share an intimate national relationship with the One True God, Yahweh. Ideally, they would keep His commandments, find themselves blessed as a result, and be an inspiring witness to the surrounding nations that this God they worshiped was awesome (and more to the point, real). One example of how this worked in practice was the relationship with Hiram, king of Tyre, and Israel’s king David (and later, Solomon). “Now Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, because he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father, for Hiram had always loved David…. So it was, when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, that he rejoiced greatly and said, ‘Blessed be Yahweh this day, for He has given David a wise son over this great people!’” (I Kings 5:1, 7)
But alas, far more often they were cursed by their own unwillingness to “obey the voice of Yahweh their God.” Moses had told them, before they’d even entered the Land of Promise, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love Yahweh your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which Yahweh swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) As complicated as the Torah looks at first glance (and indeed, as impossible as perfect compliance proved to be in practice) it was never really meant to be a method by which one could earn his own salvation. Rather, it was a picture of what perfection—innocence before God—looked like. It is a standard none of us (with One exception) has ever lived up to. Peter accurately characterized the Torah as “a yoke on the neck…which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear.” (Acts 15:10) In revealing our shortcomings, the Law of Moses made one thing perfectly clear: we could not save ourselves: we’d have to rely on God’s righteousness—grace through faith.
Only one Man has ever kept the Torah’s statutes perfectly, in both the literal and spiritual sense. And that compliance made Yahshua the Messiah the only possible candidate for being “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He couldn’t fulfill the role of the Levitical priests, of course (because He was of the royal tribe of Judah). Rather, He “became” the sacrifice itself: the lamb, goat, bull, ram, unleavened fine flour, olive oil, frankincense, and all the rest. That is, Christ personified everything the Torah’s sacrifices were meant to signify and reveal. As He Himself said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17) He did not come to “start a new religion,” but to demonstrate what the Torah—the heart of Jewish belief—was actually all about: it was Yahweh’s plan for the reconciliation of the entire fallen human race to Himself.
Israel, then, was tasked with “acting out,” as in a game of Charades, the plan of God before the watching world. They weren’t given all the details up front. In fact, they understood almost nothing (beyond the rote precepts) of the immense symbolic import of what Yahweh had told them to do. They had no clue why they were supposed to circumcise their male children on the eighth day of life, eat only unleavened bread for a week every spring, sacrifice the firstborn males of their flocks, refrain from doing their regular jobs on the last day of the week—or any of a thousand other things God had told them to do. He simply said, “Obey me, and I will bless your nation.” What these rules meant would largely remain a mystery until after Christ’s resurrection. (And let’s face it: most of them are still opaque to most people today, almost two thousand years later. For my take on the whole issue, see The Owner’s Manual: What Every Christian Should Know About the Law of Moses, elsewhere on this website.)
One of the more counterintuitive factors in God’s Instructions to Israel was where they were to perform His precepts. After promising the Land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Yahweh allowed the family to grow into a nation in a foreign land—in bondage, no less—for four hundred years. I may have some insight into why He did this: my wife and I adopted nine of our eleven children, and seven of them were born in foreign countries. Some of them came when they were infants, but several of them were older when we got them—from three to twelve years old. They understood from day one that there was no going back (to Korea, India, or wherever); it was “sink or swim” in their new home. So they all dropped their old languages like a hot rock, and picked up English with blazing speed, along with the “culture” of their new family. Now imagine being one of about two million Israelites who had been born in Egypt. After Yahweh had freed them (and especially after their little Red Sea experience) they knew they could never again return to their old dystopian lives in Egypt—even if they had gotten used to them. But they couldn’t wander around in the wilderness forever, either. They had no choice but to follow the pillar of cloud forward—at its own chosen pace—toward the Promised Land: their destination and their destiny.
Elsewhere, I have made the case that Israel is God’s chosen metaphor for “Yahweh’s family,” those who have formed a personal relationship with their Creator—whether before Calvary or afterward. The psalmist Asaph writes, “‘Gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.’ Let the heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is Judge.” (Psalm 50:5-6) This covenant—this contract—was predicted in the rites of the Torah, but it was fulfilled when Yahshua became the Sacrifice. We become members of God’s family when we recognize and embrace the efficacy of the sacrifice He made to cover our sin.
What, then, does the “Promised Land” represent? Because it is our “destination,” our knee-jerk response might be: it’s heaven! But then we realize that the land that God promised to Israel was far from perfect. Yes, on the plus side, it was definitely a bountiful place, a “land flowing with milk and honey.” The twelve spies Moses sent in to check out the Land came back with a cluster of grapes so big it had to be carried on a pole between two of them. And the country was watered not by laborious irrigation strategies (as in Egypt), but by timely rains blown in from the Mediterranean Sea—especially in the spring and fall, the “early and latter rains” spoken of so often in scripture. (That these “early and latter rains” were a prophecy of the two advents of the Messiah is a fact still lost on the majority of believers, even today.)
On the negative side, however, the land of Canaan was crawling with, well, Canaanites! The ten pessimistic (read: untrusting) spies reported, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” Well, that was true enough. “And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, ‘The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.’” (Numbers 13:31-33) Yes, there were challenges to face, enemies to overcome, and battles to fight. Horrors! They had completely forgotten that Yahweh, their God, had promised to go before them into battle. Let’s face it: the Red Sea had looked “impossible” as well.
So the Promised Land does not represent heaven (our eternal destination), but rather the everyday life of the believer—in this world. I find it fascinating how quickly the Israelites had gotten used to living under the provision and protection of Yahweh, and yet they (most of them) hadn’t learned a thing about trusting Him for their future unanticipated needs. God had extricated them from slavery in Egypt with multiple signs and wonders, and had then destroyed Pharaoh’s pursuing army by drowning them in the same body of water that they themselves had walked through dry-shod only a few hours previously. Then He had created a whole new kind of food that just showed up on the ground for them to pick up each morning, and had provided enough water for their whole nation by having Moses split a rock in two with his shepherd’s staff. And yet the ten unfaithful spies somehow convinced the whole nation that a few giants were going to be too tough for them to handle: Yahweh wasn’t even part of their equation.
The heart of the issue was the object of their trust: who would Israel rely upon as they entered the Land of Promise? Four hundred years of bondage had taught them that they couldn’t rely on their own strength. And while still in the wilderness, God had warned them: “I am Yahweh your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow My rules and keep My statutes and walk in them….” We’ll discuss both Egypt and Canaan a bit later in this study. For now, let us just observe two things:
(1) Our traditions, cultural habits, and ingrained customs are not merely useless—they’re counterproductive in the Kingdom of God. Just because we’ve spent the past four centuries in “Egypt,” it doesn’t mean that’s the way life is supposed to be. “The way we’ve always done it” is not necessarily correct or beneficial, even if we did manage to live through the experience. Now that we know for sure who God is, we are to follow Him, and Him alone—trusting that He has our best interests at heart, even if we don’t quite understand what He’s doing (or why) at any given moment.
(2) Just because Yahweh had declared our destination to be “the land of Canaan,” we should not presume that we should adopt their beliefs and customs, either. The Land was about to “vomit out” the children of Canaan, and God’s people were supposed to function as the emetic. While we must, by God’s design, live “in the world” (Canaan, in this case), we are not to allow the world to live in us, shaping our perception, goals, and practices. Rather, we are to view the world through the lens of Yahweh’s revealed Word: we are to be holy—set apart from our environment, and dedicated instead to God’s plan, as revealed in His Word.
So He concludes, “I am Yahweh your God. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am Yahweh.” (Leviticus 18:1-5) As always, the primary indicator of who one really trusts is obedience. Compliance with Yahweh’s statutes results in abundant life. We have all fallen short of perfect observance of God’s law, but He knows our heart: He knows who we want to obey. In stark contrast with life in both Egypt and Canaan, how refreshing it is to realize that so much of Yahweh’s Torah tells us how to deal with our failures. All of the Torah’s offerings, one way or another, point toward the sacrifice of Christ. Our trust in Him, our reliance upon His finished work, is what God sees as obedience in our lives. As He said regarding Abraham, “He believed in Yahweh, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6; cf. Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, James 2:23, etc.)
If we are believers in Yahweh and His Messiah, we are (symbolically) “living in the Promised Land.” Yes, there are challenges here, enemies to overcome, and battles to fight. But as Yahweh told the Israelites, “Behold, I send an Angel [Hebrew: malak; literally, a messenger] before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not defy Him, for He will not pardon your rebellion; for My name is in Him. But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Exodus 23:20-22) Ultimately, this “messenger” is Christ Himself. His name contains Yahweh’s name, for they are One: Yahshua means “Yahweh is Salvation.” The point is that He will guide us through our journey and fight our battles here in the Promised Land—if we do not rebel against Him. The choice (as always) is ours to make.
The Wilderness: Anticipation and Preparation
Before we begin our survey of the individual nations that interacted with Israel, let us take a quick look at a few generalized, non-specific places that are by definition not the Promised Land.
We can learn a lot about God’s modus operandi by studying the exodus. We often tend to misread “the wilderness” as merely the road between Egypt and the Promised Land. But Moses’ and Aaron’s very first encounter with Pharaoh was simply a request to go on a “spiritual retreat” for a few days out in the desert. “Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, ‘Thus says Yahweh, God of Israel: “Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.”’” (Exodus 5:1) The king’s response was predictable: “I don’t recognize this ‘Yahweh’ of yours. But you obviously have too much idle time on your hands. Go back to work.” We all know what happened next: God raised the ante in this spiritual poker game ten times in a row, and in the process proved that all of Egypt’s “gods” were impotent frauds—up to and including Pharaoh’s own royal dynasty. After the tenth plague, the Israelites weren’t just allowed to leave Egypt for a few days: they were thrown out—permanently.
But the wilderness in which the Israelites found themselves was not a place of punishment or exile (as the Egyptians saw it), but (as Yahweh conceived it) a place of inspiration and preparation. Before Israel could even contemplate a life of freedom in the Land of Promise, however, they would have to get reacquainted with the God of their ancestors—a God they had all but forgotten in their malaise and hopelessness in the world.
The wilderness was where Moses had received his “post graduate” education. God had arranged for the infant Moses to be adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, naturally receiving the best education possible in the halls of Egyptian power. But then, at about forty years of age, he had slain an abusive Egyptian, and had fled to the wilderness of Midian, where he spent the next forty years tending somebody else’s sheep. This, it would turn out, was perfect training for the job Yahweh had in mind for him: tending His own unruly flock, the children of Israel.
The “campus” of Moses’ post-graduate institution was in today’s northwest Saudi Arabia—the wilderness. “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of Yahweh appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’ So when Yahweh saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush.” (Exodus 3:1-4) Yahweh had called Moses in his mother’s womb for a very special purpose. Now, some eighty years later, He revealed what that purpose was: “To deliver [Israel] out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:8-10) Oh, is that all?
After God offered a great deal of explanation (and some compelling object lessons) Moses reluctantly agreed to fulfill his destiny, though he felt neither qualified nor capable of doing the job. (One gets the feeling that forty years of tending sheep had blunted his self-confidence a bit—which is just as Yahweh had planned it. Moses had to know that he was doing this in Yahweh’s power, not his own—which admittedly hadn’t worked out so well for him when he had murdered the abusive Egyptian forty years previously.)
So the wilderness was where God chose to reveal His plan—and not just to Moses, but to the entire nation. Yahweh knew Pharaoh would change his mind about letting his slave-nation escape. But although it would have been a straight shot from Goshen into the Promised Land, God instead led them south, through what is now known as the Sinai Peninsula. They travelled through a narrow canyon to a broad beach where they were perceived by the Egyptian armies as being trapped—with sheer cliffs on their right, and an Egyptian fortress blocking their way to the left. God told Moses exactly what Pharaoh’s pursuing army would be thinking: “They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.” (Exodus 14:3) When they saw the approaching armies, the Israelites panicked (naturally), and blamed Moses for their “impossible” predicament. But “Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of Yahweh, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. Yahweh will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:13-14)
We all know what happened next. Yahweh separated the Israelites from the Egyptians with a pillar of fire, opened a pathway through the sea, and took His people dry-shod to the other side—about a ten mile walk. When they reached the other shoreline, He allowed the waters to return, drowning Pharaoh’s entire presumptuous army. “So Yahweh overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. Then the waters returned and covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them. Not so much as one of them remained. But the children of Israel had walked on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. So Yahweh saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Thus Israel saw the great work which Yahweh had done in Egypt; so the people feared Yahweh, and believed Yahweh and His servant Moses.” (Exodus 14:27-31) And the Israelites stopped complaining—for about fifteen minutes.
But again, Yahweh led them south: away from the Promised Land. There were still lessons to be learned. At the burning bush, Yahweh had told Moses, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:12) So Mount Horeb was where God now led the people. Bear in mind, the desert is a place of scant resources, little forage for flocks and herds, and no water at all, unless you happened to find an oasis. That’s why the world sees only adversity and disaster looming in the wilderness. But Israel was about to learn that God’s people can expect to experience His provision and preparation there. After letting the multitude worry about their plight for a few days, He provided manna to eat and water to drink—by clearly miraculous means.
But by far the most significant thing Israel received during their sojourn at Mount Horeb was the Torah. As Moses later explained to their children, “He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of Yahweh.” (Deuteronomy 8:3) This was more literally true than anybody understood at the time. God’s Instruction (which is what “Torah” means) would turn out to be much more than what it seemed (a complex compendium of rules, regulations, and a dizzying array of mandated sacrifices and offerings). In the end, the Torah explained what innocence looked like. It revealed that no one with a sin nature would be able to keep it perfectly; and then it provided a symbolic remedy for our failure to do so.
No one would realize until after Yahshua had risen from the dead that His mission had been inscribed between every line of the Torah: He Himself was to be Innocence Personified, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” As He explained, a few hours after His resurrection, to a couple of distressed disciples on the road to Emmaus, “‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (Luke 24:25-27) Granted, Yahweh had held His cards very close to the vest, communicating mostly in parables and metaphors. One gets the feelings that He didn’t create angels (and more to the point, devils) with much capacity for parabolic thought. But once we humans figure out how our God communicates, we can “see” things Satan can’t quite understand. God’s usage of symbols is, you’ll recall, why I wrote The Torah Code in the first place.
The wilderness is one of those symbols. It’s not Egypt, but it’s not the Promised Land, either. Based on what Yahweh did to (and for) Israel during their forty year sojourn there, we can discern quite a bit about the “wilderness experiences” in our own lives—those transitional periods we all have in which God is endeavoring to awaken us to a new spiritual paradigm. The wilderness is meant to be something we go through, not live in. We are intended to enter it, learn its lessons, and emerge from the other side equipped, renewed, trained, and focused on the task before us. It is neither our birthplace nor our destination—it’s merely the journey between the two. When we’re in the wilderness, we can expect to get tested. The whole point of being there is to learn to trust Yahweh—which often means we’ll be put in uncomfortable situations in which trusting Him is our only logical recourse.
Ideally, in the wilderness, our senses are heightened; our spiritual reflexes are sharpened. The fear of God becomes a visceral reality to us once again—because it has to if we’re going to make it through the trial unscathed. I’ll offer one example from my own life. In 1987, my wife and I had already adopted half a dozen kids, and we were preparing to get a little girl from India. Twelve-year-old Marianne had been crippled by polio, and was confined to a wheelchair. But we lived in a tri-level house with no downstairs bedrooms, so the plan was to build a two-story wing onto the back of the house. (Who needs a back yard, anyway?) We had arranged financing and hired a contractor. So far, so good.
I made a modest but comfortable living working as the Art Director for a successful folding carton manufacturer in Southern California, a position I had held for over fifteen years. And for several years, I had also supplemented our income by doing graphic design work on the side that didn’t compete with my employer’s parameters (with their blessing, I might add). We weren’t getting rich, but we were holding our own there “in Egypt.” Meanwhile, construction was proceeding on our new bedroom wing. On one auspicious day, the contractor tore off the back of the house: progress! But I came home from work that very afternoon with news we were not prepared for: I had been “downsized.” The company had decided to shut down the art department to concentrate on their core business—printing and manufacturing paper boxes. In short, we suddenly found ourselves “in the wilderness.” So like the Israelites of old, we were “free,” but we had no visible means of support—no job, no savings to speak of, nothing but tons of responsibilities to meet.
We suddenly had a decision to make. We could opt to trust God to meet our needs (as He had the Israelites’ in the desert), or we could bail out of what looked for all the world like a sinking ship: cancel Marianne’s adoption, tell the contractor to rebuild the back of the house, and scour the want-ads for a new job. We had an advantage, however: my wife and I had experienced God’s provision in a hundred little ways in the past (those kids we had previously adopted were His, after all). So we nuked our 401k to get us over the hump, and told the adoption agency to remain on track despite our little setback. I turned my basement retreat into a makeshift art studio, and made the rounds of my former employer’s art department clients, offering my services to them.
I’m not going to lie: that first year was a little rough. But God (with a little help from yours truly) eventually made my new company a roaring success. I was working fewer hours, making even more money, and had the satisfaction of working directly for clients who appreciated my efforts on their behalf. Marianne came home, and became my wife’s constant companion. It was, in short, sort of like the commercial version of “living in the Promised Land.” Yes, there were a few giants to slay, but because I worked “as unto the Lord,” we prospered in the Land God had given us.
The wilderness can be a little scary, because we never really know what’s coming next. The whole idea is to spend our time there learning to trust our Creator to meet our needs—even if we don’t know what they are yet. In the Promised Land, we run risk of falling into complacency: we may begin to feel that God somehow owes us a good, secure life, because that’s what He’s always provided. But in the wilderness, we have no such flippant expectation. In the desert, every drop of rain, every flake of manna, is a miracle—and we know it (or at least we should).
One could argue that Yahshua, being God incarnate, didn’t really need to be “prepared” for anything. And yet He spent time in the wilderness—voluntarily! Immediately after His baptism by John, “Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil.” (Luke 4:1-2) There, He was subjected to three tests (that we’re told of). First, the devil tempted Him to meet His own physical needs using supernatural power. He had the ability to do this, of course, but His mission was to save us, not serve Himself. So Yahshua reminded him what the Torah had said: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’” (Luke 4:4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3)
Next, Satan suggested (since Yahshua was destined to be king anyway), that He skip the whole Isaiah 53 “Suffering Servant” phase and move right into the throne room of planet earth—something the devil had the power to deliver, after a fashion (and eventually will, to the Antichrist). All He would have to do to attain this was to worship Satan instead of Yahweh. Again, Yahshua answered Him from scripture: “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship Yahweh your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” (Luke 4:8; cf. Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 13:4)
Finally, the devil—this time quoting scripture himself (out of context, of course) to make it seem as if his suggestion had actually been God’s idea—proposed that Yahshua do something supernatural and sign-worthy to demonstrate His deity to the Jewish authorities. But again, Yahshua shut him down with a salient comeback: “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt Yahweh your God.’” (Luke 4:12; cf. Deuteronomy 6:16) Having beaten the devil at his own game, Yahshua had fulfilled the purpose and promise of the wilderness. He had used the one tool we travelers through life all have at our disposal—the Word of God, illuminated by God’s Spirit. As Paul would later put it, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day.” (Ephesians 6:10-13)
We must not forget that Yahshua, though God in flesh, had voluntarily left behind the trappings, perks, and supernatural abilities of deity when He took on the persona of a mortal man. The only tools He had are the same ones with which we believers are equipped: the indwelling Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures. (Granted, never having grieved or quenched the Spirit, the power that He wielded—healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead—exceeded ours in spectacular fashion.) But being fully human, Yahshua got tired from time to time. He needed a place to “recharged His batteries,” so to speak. So where did He go? To the wilderness—the only place where He could be alone with God without distractions for a few hours.
So we read, “Great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16) Notice that in all of these examples of Christ “retreating” to the wilderness, the one constant is prayer. Job No. 1 was to show God’s love to the multitudes, but it took a lot out of Him. He got physically exhausted meeting the needs of those who were hungry for truth and desperate for healing. But His remedy for fatigue was not a nap or a vacation in the Bahamas, but prayer: “And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.” (Matthew 14:23) One gets the feeling that Christ had a knack for finding a bit of “wilderness” in which to pray wherever He was. All that was needed was some solitude: “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” (Mark 1:35) “And when He had sent [the multitude] away, He departed to the mountain to pray.” (Mark 6:46)
We are even told of one occasion in which Yahshua prayed all night long: “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God….” The issue this time was not ministry fatigue, but a monumental decision that had to be made the next morning. “And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles.” (Luke 6:12-13) He had hundreds of followers from which to select the Twelve, but His choices are revealing.
Many of them were fishermen, a bit rough around the edges. The “inner circle,” Peter, Andrew, James, and John, get most of the “press” in the Gospels, while some are hardly mentioned at all. None of them were “religious professionals.” Matthew was a former tax collector. Thomas became known for his practical skepticism. Peter was forever blurting out what everybody else was thinking, but were too polite to ask. Simon the Zealot was a political activist. But the biggest surprise of all was His choice of Judas Iscariot—whom Yahshua knew would someday betray Him. In all, the twelve (yes, even including Judas) were a pretty fair cross section of the church. Some would serve in obscurity, others in the limelight. Some caught on rather quickly; others were slower to understand. Most were there for the right reason—faith in the Messiah’s mission—while one (Judas) was a pretender with impure motives. All of them (again, with the exception of Judas) were transformed by the resurrection—investing their entire lives spreading the Good News, gladly paying for the privilege with their mortal lives. None of them were perfect; all of them were redeemed. And all of them knew what it was like to live in the Promised Land—with frequent forays into the wilderness for spiritual sustenance.
The Sea—Gentile Nations: Isles or Coastlands
Every nation has a “land” in which to live, and the Bible is peppered with references to them: the land of Egypt; the land of Canaan; the land of the Philistines, etc. But only one “land” is referred to as the “Promised Land,” that is, the homeland promised by God to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their progeny. “Now Yahweh had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3) Ironically, it is referred to as “the land of Canaan” in the most comprehensive and detailed description of its promised borders in scripture, Numbers 34, because that’s who lived there at the time.
But sprinkled throughout the Tanakh, there are references to a “place” that is by definition not Israel, but its converse, that which is contrasted against it. And if the Table of Nations (reviewed above) can be taken at face value, it is primarily Japhethite territory: “From these [the sons of Japheth] the coastland peoples of the Gentiles were separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.” (Genesis 10:5) If you’ll recall, the geographical disposition of the sons of Noah was (in very rough terms): the sons of Shem received the middle east and the orient; the Hamites got Africa; and the children of Japheth settled in lands to the north and west—that is, what is now Europe, Russia, and eventually, the Americas.
The reason the gentiles (and especially the Japhethites) were characterized as “coastland peoples” or “islands of the sea” (hence the “sea” itself, as opposed to the Land) was that they were accessible primarily through the Mediterranean Sea. We’ll see in a bit that the Phoenicians who inhabited the Levant (the city-states of Tyre and Sidon) grew rich and prideful through their trade with other ports on the coasts of the Mediterranean (known in scripture as “the Great Sea”). The Philistines who inhabited the southern Levant were originally known as a seafaring people. Another place name that pops up often in the same context is Tarshish—located in Southern Spain—whose name became synonymous with “international trade.” Egypt and Cyprus were frequent ports of call for these successful merchant-traders.
Having established the symbol of “the sea = gentiles,” God made it a foundation of prophetic shorthand. By calling it “the sea,” Yahweh distinguished it from Israel—“the Land.” (That is, even Shemite peoples not in the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are regarded as gentiles—the “sea.”) Thus we read the sweeping prophecy of Daniel, in which he saw four nations rising up from the Sea: “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other.” (Daniel 7:2-3) It would transpire that Daniel had seen this same information years previously, but in radically different imagery (in Nebuchadnezzar’s “statue” dream, related in chapter 2). These four “beasts from the sea” (as subsequent history would attest) turned out to be four gentile superpowers, each of which would, in turn, exercise hegemony over Israel—and specifically, Jerusalem. (Other powers, like Egypt and Assyria, had dominated God’s chosen people at one time or another, but they had not been able to take the Jewish capital.)
It is worth noting that if Israel had consistently honored Yahweh, none of these “beasts” would have troubled them. As Moses had warned them, “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that Yahweh your God will set you high above all nations of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 28:1) Daniel was living proof that the Land of Promise had “vomited out” Israel, just as it had the Canaanites: he was among the first wave of Judean royalty to be hauled off to Babylon in 605 BC (the first gentile “beast,” where his faithfulness to Yahweh brought him to King Nebuchadnezzar’s attention. He would live his entire adult life in captivity, living long enough to see the transition to the second gentile “beast,” the Medo-Persian Empire, who swallowed Babylon whole in 539 BC. The third “beast” was the Greeks, who under Alexander the Great conquered the crumbling Persian Empire in about 328 BC.
The fourth “beast from the sea” was the Roman Empire: “Behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.” (Daniel 7:7) In Nebuchadnezzar’s “statue” vision, this last gentile kingdom had been presented as its legs and feet of mixed iron and clay: “And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.” (Daniel 2:40-43)
The remarkable thing (at least to me) is that in both visions revealing the fourth gentile “beast,” God skipped over the church age, concentrating instead on the characteristics of the fourth gentile kingdom only as it related to Israel (who was scattered among the nations from 135 AD to 1948). The point (I think) is that the “church age” didn’t have to happen: if Israel had embraced her Messiah when she had the chance, the last two thousand years would have looked very different. Yes, the Sabbath principle would still have been in place, but Israel would have blessed in the interim, not cursed. Of course, passages like Hosea 6:1-2 reveal Yahweh’s foreknowledge of what would actually transpire. But God did not choose their destiny: Israel did have a choice—and they chose poorly.
So Rome began as a terrifying and brutal beast with the ability and will to crush everything in its path. It was in charge of affairs in Judea when Yahshua appeared to offer Himself up to atone for the sin of the world, and Rome was happy to oblige—by crucifying Him. But then both visions move seamlessly into the beast-kingdom’s final permutation, having ten horns (seats of power) and a schizophrenic strong-but-fragile nature, unable to hold itself together. We’re clearly getting a glimpse of the Antichrist’s Last-Days one-world government. In fact, the Daniel 7 version continues with a symbolic description of the Antichrist himself: “I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.” (Daniel 7:8)
The thing that gives me great comfort is that again, in both visions, we transition—abruptly, without taking a breath—directly from the fourth gentile beast-nation into the kingdom of God that will replace it: the Messiah’s everlasting reign: “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you [Nebuchadnezzar] saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.” (Daniel 2:44-45)
Compare that to this: “And behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14) Note that although all gentile governmental power will be crushed, individual gentiles from all over the world will serve Christ in his everlasting kingdom.
Daniel was so shaken by all this esoteric prophecy that he may not have realized that exactly the same story had been told to him twice—once to the young captive, and later to the elder statesman. But I am eternally grateful that he wrote it all down for us to ponder.
Daniel wasn’t the only Biblical writer to allude to the “gentiles = the sea” metaphor. John used it as well, though he didn’t spell it out. In Revelation, we are introduced to two significant characters called “beasts.” The first (we may surmise) will be a gentile: “Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.” (Revelation 13:1) This description equates to the one we have come to know as the Antichrist (a.k.a. the son of perdition, a.k.a. the man of sin) that we met in Daniel 7:8.
But he does not rule without help: “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.” (Revelation 13:11-12) This “beast,” in contrast, comes from the earth, from the Land. The only conclusion I can draw is that he is Jewish. He is elsewhere identified as “the false prophet,” who operates as the Antichrist’s spokesman, enforcer, and house magician, doing signs and wonders (like calling down fire from the heavens) to impress and intimidate the hapless souls of planet earth—especially his fellow Jews. Considering the Antichrist’s fixation on convincing Israel that he is their Messiah, it makes perfect sense that he would choose a Jew as his front-man. Just remember: he may look like a lamb, but he speaks like a dragon.
Another allusion to the “gentiles = seas” metaphor in Revelation is John’s introduction to the “Whore of Babylon.” “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication….’” Lest there should be any confusion, the angel spells it out: “Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.’” (Revelation 17:1-2, 15) When we first meet the harlot, she is seen “riding,” i.e. controlling, the whole world—including the beast (the Antichrist). But it is clear from verse 16 that he and the nations he leads will eventually betray and destroy her, taking over her whole world-wide scam like one Mafia don encroaching on the territory of another. Nothing personal: it’s just business. It’s probably the ultimate example of God’s customary modus operandi—letting one evil eradicate another until there’s only one enemy left to defeat.
Make no mistake: it is Yahweh’s objective to save humanity—all of us, Jew and gentile alike—as many of us who choose to honor Him. Though salvation is of the Jews (through the sacrifice of Christ), it is not exclusively for the Jews. It is an individual matter: one soul at a time; and we are given our whole lives to respond to our Creator. The rub is that we never know in advance how long our mortal lives will last.
That being said, nations are blessed or condemned based on how their collective populations respond to God—either to His written word, the testimony of believers, or even the witness of His greatness as revealed by nature. Scottish historian Alexander Tyler observed (in 1787), “The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequence: (1) from bondage to spiritual faith; (2) from spiritual faith to great courage; (3) from courage to liberty; (4) from liberty to abundance; (5) from abundance to complacency; (6) from complacency to apathy; (7) from apathy to dependence; (8) from dependence back into bondage.” Whether two hundred years or a thousand, the pattern seems fairly consistent, although what Tyler characterizes as “spiritual faith” might (for many nations) be more accurately described as virtue or valor—without regard to the true and living God.
The point is that nations, like people, have a life cycle, one they can extend or shorten according to how they regard their Creator. (Israel was given the key, 3,500 years ago: see Deuteronomy 28.) Eventually, all nations are judged by God. Bear in mind that in scripture, “judgment” doesn’t necessarily mean condemnation; rather it denotes a judicial determination, a separation of right from wrong, of good from evil. The Bible’s “life-cycle of nations” picks up where Alexander Tyler’s ends. It begins with judgment—the separation of the sheep from the goats, or the wheat from the tares. Phase two is restoration, revealing in no uncertain terms that Yahweh has included the gentiles in His plan of redemption. And phase three is the biggest surprise of all: the nations will enjoy their status in the Kingdom of God not as conquerors, but as blessed subjects of the Messiah-King, who will reign in Jerusalem—in Israel—over the entire unified world. Something tells me Adolph Hitler is rolling over in his grave.
Ezekiel described one instance of God’s judgment: “Thus says the Lord Yahweh to Tyre.” We’ll discuss the city-state of Tyre a bit later. What I’d like to point out here is the gentile nations’ reaction to its demise: “‘Will the coastlands not shake at the sound of your fall, when the wounded cry, when slaughter is made in the midst of you? Then all the princes of the sea will come down from their thrones, lay aside their robes, and take off their embroidered garments; they will clothe themselves with trembling; they will sit on the ground, tremble every moment, and be astonished at you. And they will take up a lamentation for you, and say to you: “How you have perished, O one inhabited by seafaring men, O renowned city, who was strong at sea, she and her inhabitants, who caused their terror to be on all her inhabitants! Now the coastlands tremble on the day of your fall. Yes, the coastlands by the sea are troubled at your departure.”’” (Ezekiel 26:15-18) Why are the other nations (the “coastlands”) so upset—trembling and lamenting at Tyre’s fate? It’s because it had once been regarded as impregnable, virtually invincible. And they’ve realized that if Tyre can fall so ignominiously, so can they.
Tyre’s demise is now established historical fact, though it was still in the realm of inconceivable future prophecy when Ezekiel wrote about it. Another of his prophecies—still future from our perspective—is the war of Magog. By my analysis, this will take place during the first half of the Tribulation—before the Antichrist is declared dictator of planet Earth. An all-Islamic horde is seen invading the recently toothless state of Israel, only to be miraculously wiped out by the direct intervening hand of Yahweh. Israel’s eyes are opened, just as they were during their little Red Sea adventure—with identical results: “Thus Israel saw the great work which Yahweh had done… so the people feared Yahweh, and believed Yahweh and His servant Moses.” (Exodus 14:31) But it doesn’t end there. The war at this point will spill out onto much of the rest of the world: “And I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in security in the coastlands. Then they shall know that I am Yahweh. So I will make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel, and I will not let them profane My holy name anymore. Then the nations shall know that I am Yahweh, the Holy One in Israel.” (Ezekiel 39:6-7)
In case you missed it, this is the same event described in the first Trumpet Judgment: “The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.” (Revelation 8:7) That’s right: it’s World War III—thermonuclear war waged over one third of the earth’s land surface, killing (with related factors like famine and disease) a quarter of the world’s population. It was described in more generalized terms in the Second Seal Judgment: “Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.” (Revelation 6:4) Let us not brush over the fact that the gentile nations—the coastlands, the sea—have connected the dots: they have realized that it is Yahweh who has rescued Israel from the followers of Allah. Yes, the raptured church (up through Philadelphia—see Revelation 3:10) is long gone from the earth by this time. But it’s not much of an extrapolation to connect God’s protection of Israel with a massive resurgence of faith—forming the church of repentant Laodicea (Revelation 3:18-21), even as the nukes begin falling on the gentile coastlands. As Ezekiel said, “Then the nations shall know that I am Yahweh, the Holy One in Israel.”
Though a bit short on prophetic-historical context, Isaiah seems to be ultimately referring to the same age of judgment: “According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, fury to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies. The coastlands He will fully repay. So shall they fear the name of Yahweh from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of Yahweh will lift up a standard against him.” (Isaiah 59:18-19) Let me reiterate that God is seen dealing (finally) with His enemies here, His adversaries. He is not out to condemn everyone who has fallen into sin. If that were the case, He could just set the planet on fire like a campfire marshmallow and be done with it. Rather, however late in the game, God is still all about restoration, redemption, salvation—and not just for Israel, but for all of Adam’s wayward children.
Isaiah again describes the times: “The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.” (Isaiah 24:6) But is their situation hopeless? No. A few verses later, he says, “They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing. For the majesty of Yahweh they shall cry aloud from the sea. Therefore glorify Yahweh in the dawning light, the name of Yahweh, God of Israel, in the coastlands of the sea. From the ends of the earth we have heard songs: ‘Glory to the righteous!’ But I said, ‘I am ruined, ruined! Woe to me! The treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously; Indeed, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously.’” (Isaiah 24:14-16) The coastlands—the gentile “sea”—is holding on by its fingernails, bewailing its fate as Satan and his beasts run roughshod over the earth during these dark days. But the dawn is about to break.
The Tribulation, as we saw in Daniel 9, is the last “seven” of Yahweh’s allotted “seventy sevens” (i.e., 490 prophetic/schematic 360-day years) defining His program for Israel. Daniel was told, “Seventy weeks are determined for your people [Israel] and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.” (Daniel 9:24) But just because God is once again dealing with Israel (after a hiatus of almost two thousand years), it doesn’t mean He has lost interest in the restoration of the gentile nations. As Moses put it, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries. He will provide atonement for His land and His people.” (Deuteronomy 32:43) The post-rapture great awakening will begin with Israel (thanks in large part to the miraculous death of the genocidal Muslims of Magog), but the nations too will take notice and repent. (Alas, not all of them will, but enough to put a serious crimp in the Antichrist’s plans to effortlessly rule the world under the banner of Satan.)
The gentiles have never been far from Yahweh’s thoughts. The whole human race owes Him a debt of gratitude for implementing His plan of salvation through His Son and Messiah, Yahshua. “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him. He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles…. He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth, and the coastlands shall wait for His law…. Sing to Yahweh a new song, and His praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you coastlands and you inhabitants of them!... Let them give glory to Yahweh, and declare His praise in the coastlands.” (Isaiah 42:1, 4, 10, 12) “Justice,” of course, is a two-edged sword. The Messiah has already paid the penalty to atone for our sins. If we have chosen to receive it, “giving glory to Yahweh, and declaring His praise in the coastlands,” then we may count ourselves among the redeemed—the justified. But if we have declared, (1) “There is no God, hence no such thing as sin,” or (2) “Thanks but no thanks—I’ve got this. My alms, penance, and religious rituals should be quite enough to placate God,” then the only justice you’ll receive is that which you can provide for yourself. Good luck with that.
Option #1 is known as “willful blindness.” You’re choosing not to see what your conscience and logical mind are telling you must be true. Option #2 is tantamount to telling God, “Your plan is inadequate, hence worthless. I’m smarter than You are.” No, you’re not. Yahweh tells it like it is: “Listen, O coastlands, to Me, and take heed, you peoples from afar! Yahweh has called Me [His Messiah] from the womb. From the matrix of My mother He has made mention of My name…. Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You [again, Yahshua the Messiah] should be My Servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Isaiah 49:1, 6) As I said, salvation is of the Jews (that is, God used the nation of Israel to implement His plan of redemption), but it is for everyone—for the benefit of Jew and gentile alike, anyone who chooses to see the Light.
Alas, as I write these words, only a small minority (characterized as those who have chosen “the narrow gate”—Matthew 7:13) have received Yahweh’s gift of redemption. Most of the world is still travelling on the “broad highway that leads to destruction.” But we are living in the final few moments of the “church age,” which will end abruptly with the rapture of the church, in which (I’m guessing) roughly seven or eight percent of the world’s eight billion souls will suddenly “vanish” from the face of the earth, without so much as a parting kiss. It should be self-apparent that the world won’t be able to ignore the instantaneous disappearance of maybe half a billion people, from every nation on the face of the earth, who had but one thing in common—their (our) faith in Yahshua the Messiah, Jesus Christ. This blessed hope of ours will be followed in short order (though we aren’t told how long the gap might be) by “the Tribulation”—the final seven years of the Daniel 9 prophecy.
It is fascinating to me that the Psalmists, from King David’s time forward, had such a good handle on the geopolitical conditions in our near future. For example: the Sons of Korah proclaimed: “Come, behold the works of Yahweh, who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:8-10) At the moment, this isn’t exactly what we see in the world. We’re now in the “wars and rumors of war” stage—the next-to-last days. The world now spends in excess of two trillion dollars per year on “defense”—fully half of which is spent by the United States and China. Hate and paranoia are awfully expensive, it seems to me. But during Christ’s Millennial reign, “He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)
What an incredible sigh of relief will be uttered throughout the earth when Yahweh’s Messiah sets up His kingdom. “Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph! For Yahweh Most High is awesome. He is a great King over all the earth…. God reigns over the nations. God sits on His holy throne.” (Psalm 47:1-2, 8) He will have no challengers, no rivals, no enemies. Once the Tribulation has finally run its course, and evil has been vanquished, “The nations shall fear the name of Yahweh, and all the kings of the earth Your glory.… This will be written for the generation to come [literally, the “last generation”], that a people yet to be created may praise Yahweh.” Who are these “yet to be created” ones? The “last generation” will be those who inhabit the Millennial Kingdom as redeemed mortals—those who came to faith after the rapture, yet “somehow” evaded the lethality of the Tribulation, from indiscriminate war to the specific persecution of believers. They are, in short, the “sheep” of Matthew 25:31-36. “For He looked down from the height of His sanctuary. From heaven Yahweh viewed the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoner, to release those appointed to death, to declare the name of Yahweh in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem, when the peoples are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve Yahweh.” (Psalm 102:15, 18-22) Note again where the center of worship during the Kingdom age will be: in Zion. The nations will no longer look toward Babylon, Rome, or Mecca for their God—much less Washington D.C., Moscow, or Beijing. God, the Messiah-King, will be residing—and ruling—in Jerusalem.
For a book whose central theme (one of them, if we may judge by the incessant repetition of the prophecies) is the eventual restoration and redemption of Israel, it is remarkable how many times in the Hebrew scriptures the gentile nations are identified as recipients of God’s blessing: “Listen to Me, My people, and give ear to Me, O My nation: for law will proceed from Me, and I will make My justice rest as a light of the peoples. My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth, and My arms will judge the peoples. The coastlands will wait upon Me, and on My arm they will trust.” (Isaiah 51:4-5) At the moment, the nations are reliant on their own strength. But that is all about to change. “For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory. I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not [in Isaiah’s day] heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles.” (Isaiah 66:18-19) Things ain’t what they used to be.
Speaking for Yahshua the Messiah, Zechariah says, “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says Yahweh. Many nations shall be joined to Yahweh in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that Yahweh of hosts has sent Me [Yahshua] to you.” (Zechariah 2:10-11) True Christians already know that Yahweh sent Yahshua to us, for His Holy Spirit dwells within us and empowers us, just as He promised. But we have to take it on faith that Yahweh (in the persona of King Yahshua) will, when He chooses, dwell in Zion’s midst—physically and personally. Something tells me we don’t have long to wait.
The very existence of Israel (as a political entity) is a miracle the world has seen with its own eyes (which is not to say they all like it). Were it not for God’s promises, it would be as unlikely as a revival of the Hittite empire, the Scythians, or Carthage to prominence in the world. What most Jews have forgotten is that the God who in 1948 regathered them from the brink of extinction and placed them back into the Land He had given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the same God who scattered them in the first place. It’s not as if they hadn’t been warned. Even before they entered the Land of Promise, Moses had admonished them, “It shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you….” The list of curses that followed was long and grim—and over the years, Israel suffered each and every one of them. Those “commandments and statutes” all conspired to reveal the coming Messiah—whom Israel rejected. So God was compelled to keep this promise as well: “Yahweh will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known.” (Deuteronomy 28:15, 64)
Any Jew who claims that his people have always been in the center of God’s will, because “Israel is God’s chosen people,” is kidding himself. Yes, they’re chosen, but with status comes responsibility, and Israel (so far) has refused to follow Yahweh’s instructions. Yes, they’re back in the Land of Promise, but they still haven’t learned to heed God’s Word. “Hear the word of Yahweh, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’ For Yahweh has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he.” (Jeremiah 31:10-11) Who is the “one stronger than he?” Take your pick: Assyria, Babylon, Rome, the Spanish Inquisition, Nazi Germany, dar al-Islam, or the Antichrist. They all were (or will be) eliminated, while Israel is destined to once again become Yahweh’s flock. It is important to Yahweh that the gentile nations understand this: they have not replaced Israel in His affections.
Ezekiel was once shown a vision of a valley of dry bones, identified as the “whole house of Israel.” As he watched, the scattered skeletons came together. They were then covered with flesh and skin, but they were still not really alive. This is the state of Israel today. But then, “[God] said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, “Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”’ So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.” (Ezekiel 37:9-10) The word translated “breath” here (all three times) is ruach, the word normally rendered “spirit.”
And indeed, if we read on, it all becomes crystal clear: “You shall know that I am Yahweh, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit [ruach] in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land.” (Ezekiel 37:13-14) The whole scene is like running the film backwards: Israel is seen progressing from dead, dry bones step by step until they are not only physically living, but spiritually, essentially alive. As Yahshua would later explain to Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:6-7) In order to be truly alive, we must be born not only of flesh (as Israel is today), but also of the Spirit of God—something that will take place in Israel (as a nation) on the definitive Day of Atonement—at the Second Coming of Christ.
But we were talking about the gentile nations, the “sea.” How do they fit into all of this? “The Gentiles shall come to your [Israel’s] light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see: they all gather together, they come to you. Your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side. Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you.” (Isaiah 60:3-5) As it turns out, the gentiles will be instrumental in completing the repatriation of Israel in the early days of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom—just as the church (at least the Philadelphian permutation) helped get the fledgling state of Israel started in the aftermath of Hitler’s holocaust. But to say of Israel in 1948, “the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you,” would have been quite a stretch.
That being said, when Christ reigns and evil has been vanquished in the world, all of humanity will rejoice together. “Who are these who fly like a cloud, and like doves to their roosts? Surely the coastlands shall wait for Me, and the ships of Tarshish will come first, to bring your sons from afar, their silver and their gold with them, to the name of Yahweh your God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because He has glorified you….” He’s speaking to Israel here: God will not “glorify” them until they glorify Him, specifically, recognizing and welcoming Yahshua as their King. It will be at this point that the “coastland” gentile nations—the Millennial mortals—will do everything they can to joyfully facilitate the transition of Israel from “beleaguered pariah” to “beloved capital of Planet Earth.”
The before-and-after contrast couldn’t be more striking. “The sons of foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you. For in My wrath I struck you, but in My favor I have had mercy on you. Therefore your gates shall be open continually. They shall not be shut day or night, that men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles, and their kings in procession. For the nation and kingdom which will not serve you shall perish, and those nations shall be utterly ruined.” (Isaiah 60:8-12) When Yahshua first assumes His throne, this will be self-evident. But as the Millennium progresses and new generations are born into the world, they will need to be reminded of what the Psalmist prophesied: “All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You. They shall sing praises to Your name. Come and see the works of God. He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men…. He rules by His power forever. His eyes observe the nations. Do not let the rebellious exalt themselves.” (Psalm 66:4-5, 7)
One more Last-Days factor bears mention. Although “the nations” (more properly, ethnicities—contrasted with Israel) are spoken of quite often in scripture as if they were acting in concert, this has never been the case in any “official” or systematic capacity until the 20th century. Nations occasionally form temporary alliances, ostensibly for mutual benefit, but they have always been primarily focused on their own perceived self-interests. World War I (optimistically called “the war to end all wars”) got folks thinking about larger, more permanent alliances. Because man’s weapons had clearly outstripped his tactics, we could foresee the day when war could conceivably make the human race an endangered species (you know, just like the Bible predicts). So after one false start—the ill-fated League of Nations (which failed, ironically enough, because it didn’t include a military enforcement option), the United Nations was formed in the wake of World War II—this time with war-making (excuse me—“defense”) capabilities, which were put into use almost immediately, in Korea.
To my mind, the most significant thing the U.N. ever did was to “Partition” Palestine in 1947, ending the British Mandate and paving the way for the creation of the Jewish state of Israel a year later. It was apparently done in a rare moment of empathy for the Jews in the wake of Hitler’s holocaust, in which six million Jews were rounded up and murdered—empathy which has long since evaporated. The vote was 33 for and 13 against, with 10 nations abstaining (including Great Britain, if you can believe that). The Palestinian Arab factions boycotted the whole process, declaring a war of genocide against the fledgling Jewish state the moment their nation was born.
The trend since the mid-20th century has been to join nations together in larger and more binding alliances, like the European Union, as one example among many. As any student of Bible Prophecy (or current events, for that matter) can see, the ultimate goal is globalism—one worldwide system of governance under a single faction or leader. The strategy that the globalists have settled upon sounds altruistic and benign, but the U.N.’s “Agenda 2030” is nothing but recycled Soviet-style socialism, and we all know how that turned out.
Their own official website describes it: “Echoing human security principles, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development emphasizes a world free of poverty, hunger, disease and want … free of fear and violence … with equitable and universal access to quality education, health care and social protection … to safe drinking water and sanitation … where food is sufficient, safe, affordable and nutritious … where habits [sic. habitats?] are safe, resilient and sustainable … and where there is universal access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy.” Agenda 2030 “calls for development strategies that result in resilient societies where people are safe from chronic threats such as abject poverty, hunger, disease, violence and repression, and protected from sudden and hurtful disruptions in their daily lives.”
Sounds “wonderful,” doesn’t it? Satanic lies often do. Of course, for a Bible prophecy researcher, the title itself is a dead giveaway: 2030 will mark the mid-point of the Tribulation, when the Antichrist is slated to begin his forty-two month long reign of terror as “Dictator of Planet Earth.” According to Daniel, the Tribulation’s “starting gun” is a treaty: “Then he [the “prince who is to come”—the Antichrist] shall confirm a covenant with many for one week [that is, seven years]. But in the middle of the week  he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.” (Daniel 9:27) The “many” is likely none other than the United Nations, whom the Antichrist will play like a Stradivarius in his quest for demonic world dominance. See my comprehensive prophecy study, The End of the Beginning, elsewhere on this website, for the details. (By the way, I noticed the spiritual significance of the year 2030 the better part of two decades before the globalists named their scheme after it. It’s that obvious.)
It is a fascinating exercise to compare what Agenda 2030 promises to what the Millennial reign of Christ (something I might characterize as “Agenda 2033”) will deliver. They sound rather similar on paper, because Satan is a master counterfeiter. But he is also the father of lies. His promises of prosperity and freedom will simply result in equal dystopia for all. His idea of “health care” is abortion on demand and freely available drugs. His idea of “security” is prison. His idea of “freedom from fear” is death. Down is up; wrong is right. As one of the primary drivers of Agenda 2030 put it (with a straight face): “You will own nothing, and be happy. You will eat insects, and be happy.”—Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum. Somehow, I doubt it, Klaus.
Under Yahshua’s reign, the promise of a good life will be fulfilled, but not as we might have expected, accustomed as we are to living in a “Nanny State,” in which perks are distributed without obligation to the sycophants of the government machine. Rather, the principles of Deuteronomy 28 will be spread throughout the redeemed nations. As He told Israel, “If [and that’s a really big word] you diligently obey the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today…. all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of Yahweh your God: Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl…. Yahweh will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground…. Yahweh will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand.” (Deuteronomy 28:1-5, 11-12)
Forgive my heavy-handed editing here: the words were original addressed specifically to Israel. But I firmly believe that the nature of God’s blessings will transfer intact to the nations when Christ at last “rules over them with a rod of iron.” If we honor and obey God, He will give us the desires of our hearts. Of course, the “desires of our hearts” tend to shift radically when we truly honor Him. Power, pleasure, and prosperity tend to take a back seat to peace, love, and contentment. At least, that has always proved true in my own experience.
So the gentiles born during the Millennial age won’t sit back in their easy chairs and wait breathlessly for human governments to deliver “a world free of poverty, hunger, disease and want, free of fear and violence, with equitable and universal access to quality education, health care and social protection….” (as Agenda 2030 promises)—“all the insects you can eat.” Rather, in response to their new-found reverence for Yahweh and His Messiah, the endeavors of the nations will bear fruit as they were intended to from the very beginning. The bounty of the earth will be unhindered by bad weather, greed, or poor stewardship. Natural resources will be harvested responsibly and with thankfulness, while new developments will come on-line as God’s perfect timing allows. (For example, my guess is that solar power will come into its own: see Isaiah 30:26.) Human governments will defer to God’s law, and war will become a lost art—saving countless lives and trillions of dollars in wasted expenditure. Taxes will drop to a tiny fraction of their current onerous (and wasteful) level. Political corruption will disappear, as will greed-driven business practices. Crime will become incredibly rare, because (1) no one will get away with it anymore, and (2) under Torah rules, it will no longer pay—or break even, for that matter.
I could go on, but you get the picture. In many ways, the Millennial Kingdom will be like a return to Eden—only without the sneaky snake and temptation tree. The difference is, the nations will now have the raptured immortal saints to mentor them, and restored Israel to guide them, as they spend a thousand years basking in the glory of the eternal God dwelling in their presence.
We have been looking at “the nations” as a composite entity (as distinct from Israel). But no matter how much animosity separates them today (and no matter how much artificial unity the globalist Antichrist will be able to impose upon them during the Great Tribulation), the nations will act in real harmony and peace toward one another (and especially toward Israel) only when Yahshua the Messiah rules the earth in perfect love from Jerusalem. But let us now study them as individual peoples, or as groups united by a singular symbolic profile, as they are presented in scripture. There is much to learn from them, helping us to determine “where we are” in His grand plan.
Egypt: Bondage in the world
It was no accident that a famine had been instrumental in re-settling the family of Jacob/Israel in Egypt. Yahweh was perfectly capable of insulating them from misfortune in the land of promise, but He had some important lessons to teach them as they grew from a family into a nation—lessons we all need to heed. In other words, their bondage in Egypt wasn’t because Israel was being singled out for punishment for some incomprehensible sin they had committed. The lesson was that all of us—the entire human race—are in bondage to sin. It’s the condition that got our proto-parents thrown out of the Garden. The problem is, we’ve gotten used to it. Life isn’t all bad, all the time, so we tend to forget that this life isn’t what God intended for us. We’re not in Eden anymore, Dorothy.
Thus Yahweh arranged for His chosen people to demonstrate what the human condition is all about: yes, we are all slaves to sin in this world, but God is able to rescue us from our plight, if only we’ll trust Him. Unfortunately for Israel, their bondage would have to persist until their situation seemed hopelessly permanent to them. “Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt [that is, Joseph’s Pharaoh] died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.” (Exodus 2:23-25) It’s not that God had forgotten about them, but in order for their deliverance to have the intended impact on their lives (and ours), Israel would first have to endure the despair of “knowing” their situation was never going to change. That way, when it did change, they would logically not be able to ignore the One who had brought their deliverance about.
So Yahweh let Israel languish for four centuries in Egyptian dystopia. Their plight wasn’t lethal, exactly—it took the form of onerous work quotas they “owed” the government. But they also grew their own food and plied their own trades, raised their children and tended their flocks. Their situation wasn’t so hopeless that they felt armed insurrection or suicide were their only options. (It sort of reminds me of living in modern North America or Western Europe, where the total taxes levied upon you can easily add up to half your paycheck. Oops. It would appear that, financially anyway, many of us are living “in Egypt” these days, and we don’t even realize it.)
When the time was right, God raised up Moses to be their emancipator (or at least, their Emancipator’s spokesman), telling him, “I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am Yahweh. I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.” (Exodus 6:5-6) One of the lessons here is that Yahweh keeps His promises—though on His own schedule and in His own way. He had promised Abraham that the Land of Canaan would be his in perpetuity, and now that Israel knew beyond the shadow of a doubt what bondage in the world felt like, it was time to keep that promise. The hard reality for Israel, however, was that the world wouldn’t let them go without a fight: having half a million slaves doing their bidding—for free—meant that the Egyptians wouldn’t have to do the work themselves, or pay someone to do it for them. Keeping Israel enslaved meant suppressing the conscience of an entire nation until they no longer felt guilty about abusing the sojourners dwelling among them. Apparently, it’s not all that hard to do if there’s a buck in it.
Of course, Egyptian-style slavery is presented in scripture as a euphemism for bondage to sin—and to this day, we still see fortunes being made by keeping people enslaved to the things that separate them from God—whether through substance abuse, lust, greed, false religion, political corruption… use your imagination. As Paul told Timothy, “Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (II Timothy 3:1-5) These are all examples of sins common to our race. But lurking behind them are people willing to sell their humanity—their very souls—for profit. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (I Timothy 6:10)
When it was finally time to leave Egypt, “Moses said to the people: ‘Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand Yahweh brought you out of this place.’” (Exodus 13:3) “By strength of hand Yahweh brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” (Exodus 13:14) That phrase, “the house of bondage,” is used quite often to describe the state Israel was leaving. “House” is the Hebrew noun bayit (or bayith). It is used to describe one’s dwelling or habitation—where we live. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament also notes, “it can be used of the king’s house, a prison, a treasury, but most significantly of a temple: the house of a deity.” This sheds some insight into how “the house of bondage” is symbolic of the “house of sin.” As a “king’s house,” sin rules over us. It is a “prison” from which escape is seemingly impossible. As “a treasury,” it is where our hard-earned money ends up going. And as “a temple,” the house of bondage-in-sin threatens to become a false god—a violation of the First, Second, and Third Commandments.
Illustrating the point, Moses says, “You shall stone [the one who says, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’] with stones until he dies, because he sought to entice you away from Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. So all Israel shall hear and fear, and not again do such wickedness as this among you.” (Deuteronomy 13:10-11) His point (besides the obvious) was that they had already left the house of bondage. To “serve other gods,” whether those of Egypt or Canaan, would have been tantamount to voluntarily returning to the status of slaves.
Freedom is a gift. But God doesn’t set us free in order to watch us starve to death: His liberty includes provision. And in the case of Israel, that went far beyond water and manna in the wilderness. It included unexpected (and unearned) perks in the Promised Land: “So it shall be, when Yahweh your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full—then beware, lest you forget Yahweh who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” (Deuteronomy 6:10-12) It’s kind of funny, when you think about it. It is as if the Canaanite usurpers had spend the previous four hundred years functioning as slaves to the absentee Israelites (to whom God had given the land, whether they knew it or not)—building the infrastructure for them and planting orchards and vineyards.
Don’t take this the wrong way. We are not to honor Yahweh simply because He provides “free stuff,” like some corrupt liberal politician trying to buy our votes. But in giving us freedom from the bondage of sin, Yahweh gives us opportunity, open doors, fertile ground, the chance to reap the rewards of our own labors, and the tools to help us get the job done (intelligence, aptitude, curiosity, etc.). Even though “His yoke is easy and His burden is light,” laziness in God’s world is never presented as a virtue.
Because prosperity can so easily become a false and fickle “god,” Moses repeated the principle a couple of chapters later: “Beware that you do not forget Yahweh your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, when your heart is lifted up—you forget Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” (Deuteronomy 8:11-14) The worst thing we can do is forget who provides for us, who bought our freedom with His own precious blood: “I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” (Deuteronomy 5:6, cf. Exodus 20:2)
What our parents learned “the hard way” (through personal experience), we might learn through their testimony—oral traditions, so to speak. But our children as often as not have to learn those lessons “from scratch,” the way our parents did. All of this is an artifact of our Creator’s primary gift to humanity: free will, the privilege and responsibility of choice. We can learn the hard way (through bitter experience), or the easy way (through heeding the lessons of history). So after the wilderness wanderings were over, and Israel had finally entered the land, Moses’ protégé and successor, Joshua, laid it out for them: “‘If it seems evil to you to serve Yahweh, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh….’”
They (unlike Joshua) hadn’t witnessed Israel’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt with their own two eyes (though they had heard little else from their parents for the previous forty-plus years). But they had witnessed the initial victories God had provided within the Land of Promise—the most spectacular being that of the fall of Jericho. “So the people answered and said: ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake Yahweh to serve other gods; for Yahweh our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed.” (Joshua 24:15-17) As Israel’s bondage in Egypt faded into the realm of myth and folklore, the ongoing conquest of Canaan kept Yahweh’s power and provision at the forefront of their minds.
It was only after they had become somewhat settled in the Land that Israel became complacent and idolatrous (just as Moses had warned them). The Torah had been designed (among other things) to keep Yahweh at the forefront of their minds, and one gets the feeling that if they had kept Him there, all would have been well. But through neglect of God’s precepts, they “forgot Yahweh their God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” And eventually, they found themselves overrun with Midianite and Amalekite pirates, who stripped the land bare, like locusts, for seven long years. So finally, the people cried out to Yahweh in their distress, and He heard them.
But what did He do first? He sent someone to remind them of their initial national experience with Yahweh: “Yahweh sent a prophet to the children of Israel, who said to them, ‘Thus says Yahweh, God of Israel: I brought you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage, and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians.’” (Judges 6:8-9) The underlying thought was, There is more than one kind of bondage. You have traded forced labor in Egypt for Midianite terror in the Promised Land, because you have forgotten who God is. Gideon got the message, going on to lead Israel in repentance and victory.
The lessons ring true for us today. “Egypt” has been defeated: Yahshua, our Passover Lamb, has taken away the sin of the world. It is a spiritual fait accompli, if only we will choose to receive God’s gift of deliverance. But now that we’ve walked through the wilderness of preparation, have met and overcome the Canaanite “giants” facing us, and have gotten ourselves settled in the Promised Land—the life of the redeemed believer in this world—we must take care not grow complacent, lazy, or negligent.
In a way, Israel had fallen into the same self-righteous patterns as the pre-repentant Last Days church of Laodicea. Yahshua told the Laodiceans, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.” That is, they offered the world neither refreshment nor passion, only dead, tepid religion. “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” This is what the Promised Land would eventually do to Israel (as it had the Canaanites before them). The Laodiceans became like Egypt, in a way—the home of a “sustainable level” of bondage, of the illusion of righteousness, when in fact they were merely faking it: “You say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:15-17) At least the Israelites weren’t in denial about their plight.
We are rather urged to develop the profile of the church of Philadelphia, to whom Christ said, “See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it, for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name…. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” (Revelation 3:8, 10-11) The Philadelphians have not grown complacent. They are firm in their beliefs—faithful guardians of the Word of God. Christ had nothing but praise for them, tempered by the admonition: hold on tight to My principles—it’s going to get a little bumpy as you await My return.
Canaan: Living under the Curse
We learned above (when discussing the Genesis 10 “Table of Nations”) that Canaan, a son of Ham and grandson of Noah, lent his name to the Levant—that is, the strip of land hugging the Eastern Mediterranean, from Turkey down to Egypt. This effectively separated the Canaanites (geographically) from their other Hamite brothers, who initially settled Africa and Arabia. I found this separation to be revealing, because Noah’s curse of Ham, due to his less-than-respectful reaction to his father’s unfortunate intoxication lapse, fell mainly on Canaan, Ham’s son: “Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan. A servant of servants He shall be to his brethren.’ And he said, ‘Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant.” (Genesis 9:24-27)
It is therefore no coincidence that the land Abraham was promised by Yahweh to be his people’s earthly home was that which Canaan’s progeny had settled after the flood. That is, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not given Ham’s legacy—the continent of Africa—but “only” that of his wayward son, Canaan. Yahweh reminded Moses of this fact as the exodus was about to get underway: “And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am Yahweh. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, Yahweh, I was not known to them. I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers.” (Exodus 6:2-4)
After receiving Yahweh’s Instructions at Mount Horeb, Israel should have been ready to receive the inheritance their father Abraham had been promised. So it was logical to send in an “advance team” to scope the place out. “Then Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, ‘Go up this way into the South [i.e., the Negev], and go up to the mountains, and see what the land is like: whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, few or many, whether the land they dwell in is good or bad, whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or strongholds, whether the land is rich or poor; and whether there are forests there or not. Be of good courage. And bring some of the fruit of the land.’” (Numbers 13:17-20) God’s covenant said, “The Land of Canaan is yours. Go in and take it.” But ten of the twelve spies came back and said, in effect, “The job is too tough. We can’t do it.”
Nobody questioned the goodness of the Land, its desirability. But the ten faithless spies completely forgot what they had personally seen Yahweh do for them over the past couple of years—the ten plagues upon Egypt, their Red Sea deliverance, the miraculous provision of water and food in the wilderness, and the spectacular pyrotechnics accompanying the giving of the Law at Mount Horeb. The Israelites hadn’t supplied any of that. I realize they were new to this whole “freedom” thing, but they should have realized that nobody was suggesting that they had to conquer the Canaanites all by themselves, but rather to simply trust Yahweh for their inevitable victories.
And don’t look so pious, my American Conservative-Christian friends. We typically make the converse mistake: presuming that God will give us temporal victory over our godless liberal foes in these Last Days. He promised us no such thing, but rather tribulation, irrational hatred, persecution, false prophets, and apostasy in the world. We sometimes lose sight of the fact that we’re already living in Canaan—the life of the believer in the world. So He commanded us to patiently endure these trials, and promised us: “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10) That is a description of the Rapture of the Church. It’s not a retreat; it’s a strategic maneuver. While our “godless liberal foes” tear one another apart in our absence, we will be attending the Marriage Supper of the Lamb—in heaven. We’ll return when our King is good and ready. In the meantime, just know that Canaan is still cursed.
Ironically, Israel’s Promised Land was invariably referred to as “Canaan” for centuries after the conquest. “He is Yahweh our God. His judgments are in all the earth. He remembers His covenant forever, the word which He commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, and confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan as the allotment of your inheritance,’ When they were few in number, indeed very few, and strangers in it.” (Psalm 105:7-12) The curse of Canaan will endure until the King of Kings reigns over the earth.
Even in the most specific description of Israel’s borders in the entire Bible, it is called—you guessed it—the land of Canaan. “Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Command the children of Israel, and say to them, when you come into the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance—the land of Canaan to its boundaries.” (Numbers 34:1-2) “To its boundaries” means the whole thing: all of the offspring of Canaan were either to be slain in battle, driven out of the Land, or as Noah put it, “made the servants” of Shem and Japheth.
If you’re familiar with the salient scriptures, of course, you’ve noticed that there’s more to “Canaan” than just Canaan. Seven “nations” are named as specific targets: enemies of Israel within the Land of Promise. But this multiplicity of enemy nations Israel faced is something of an illusion. All of them, it turns out, are Canaanite sub-clans, named after descendants of Ham’s cursed son Canaan.
If we look at this with an eye toward sorting out the scriptural symbols, an interesting pattern emerges: (1) Seven is the number indicating completion or perfection—the totality of a subject. Seven nations are thus a statement of “the whole problem.” (2) Israel is God’s metaphorical microcosm of the whole human race: the challenges they faced are common to all of us, one way or another. Their history is recorded for our edification. (3) The Promised Land is symbolic not of heaven, but of the life of believers here on the earth—a land of milk and honey to be sure, but also where there are “nations greater and mightier than you,” and “giants in the Land,” whom we are expected to confront in the power of the Spirit of God. Therefore, it seems reasonable (to me, anyway) that (4) the names of Israel’s enemies within the Land might reveal something about the challenges a believer faces in this world—and more importantly, how Yahweh enables us to overcome them.
Let us, then, begin with the father of all the “official enemies” Israel faced within the Promised Land. Canaan became known as a nation of merchants and traders—greedily grasping at business opportunities, hence enticement to compromise. But that’s not what the name means. “Canaan” is derived from the primitive verb kana’, meaning “to be humbled, subdued, humiliated, or made low.” Thus Yahweh is telling us that if we trust Him, His enemies will never succeed in subduing us, in bringing us into subjection. We are reminded of the words of Christ: “On this rock [Peter’s foundational epiphany that Yahshua was ‘the Christ, the Son of the Living God’] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
We’ll discuss the other family designations as we reach them in our study. For now, let us consider them as a group, with an eye toward understanding what Israel was instructed to do to them—and why. “Of the cities of these peoples which Yahweh your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive, but you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as Yahweh your God has commanded you, lest they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods, and you sin against Yahweh your God.” (Deuteronomy 20:16-18) A “city” (Hebrew: iyr) is a fortified abode of men (apparently to be distinguished from an undefended village). Strong’s notes: “[Iyr is] from uwr; a city (a place guarded by waking or a watch) in the widest sense (even of a mere encampment or post).” Uwr is a verb that means “to rouse oneself, stir, or awaken.” The idea seems to be (in this case), a place whose inhabitants are “woke” (to use the contemporary terminology) in support of their pagan religious abominations. Bottom line: anyone in the Land of Canaan who was willing to defend or endorse his pagan lifestyle was to be terminated. (America, you may want to pay attention here.)
Theology.edu explains: “Why were the Canaanites singled out for such severe treatment? They were cut off to prevent Israel and the rest of the world from being corrupted. When a people starts to burn their children in honor of their gods, practice sodomy, bestiality, and all sorts of loathsome vice, the land itself begins to ‘vomit’ them out as the body heaves under the load of internal poisons. Thus, objection to the fate of these nations… is really an objection to the highest manifestation of the grace of God….” Grace, it must be noted, consists not of being tolerant or supportive of what God calls “sin,” but of giving the sinner ample opportunity to repent from it.
“The religion of the Canaanite peoples was a crude and debased form of ritual polytheism. It was associated with sensuous fertility-cult worship of a particularly lewd and orgiastic kind, which proved to be more influential than any other nature religion in the ancient near east…. The Ugaritic literature has helped reveal the depth of depravity which characterized Canaanite religion. Being a polytheism of an extremely debased type, Canaanite cultic practice was barbarous and thoroughly licentious. It inevitably had a most serious retarding and debilitating effect on every phase of Canaanite cultural and community life. It was inescapable that people should gravitate to the moral level of the sordid gods they worshipped, or rather that the gods were a reflection of their society.”
Wikipedia lists 52 separate Canaanite “gods,” several of whom receive specific condemnations in Scriptural: Ba’al (which means “Lord”); Asherah (a.k.a. Ishtar—the word from which “Easter” is derived); Chemosh (a.k.a. Moloch, a.k.a. Milcom); and Dagon. Particularly sneaky is their use of “El” or “Elyon,” not to be confused with the generic Hebrew word for God or mighty one: Elohim (the emphatic form of Eloah), used 2,598 times in the Tanakh, or the short form, El, used 248 times. It all goes to demonstrate why using the real God’s self-revealed name, Yahweh, is so important—and why it was used in the Hebrew Scriptures some 7,000 times. (The travesty that His name was edited out of most English Bible versions, replaced with an anemic title, “the Lord,” is an abomination I’ve harped on many times before, and will again, no doubt.)
If you’re sharp, you noticed that the listing of Canaanite clans in the Deuteronomy 20 quote above, only listed six of them. The missing group (the Girgashites) is included, however, in a similar instruction concerning them earlier in Deuteronomy: “When Yahweh your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when Yahweh your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them….” “Casting out” the Canaanites, as is made clear here and elsewhere, was an option. The Israelites didn’t have to track them down and kill them if they left the Promised Land voluntarily. Of course, each of these seven nations was “greater and mightier” than Israel (if you didn’t factor in the power of Yahweh), so they usually chose to stay and fight. Yahweh takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked—He would rather they turned from their wicked ways. But the point of clearing the Land of Canaanites was ensuring the holiness—the “setting apart”—of Israel within their promised land.
So Moses describes the pitfalls of coexistence: “Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of Yahweh will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire.” (Deuteronomy 7:1-5) Even when the Canaanites were gone, Israel was to leave no trace of their lascivious pagan religion, for if they did, it could easily become a snare to them. To me, this is all reminiscent of the Last Days demise of “Babylon,” described in detail in excruciating Revelation. “And I [John] heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” (Revelation 18:4-5)
When Abram first settled in the Land, two groups were singled out as its primary inhabitants: “The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land.” (Genesis 13:7) But after he separated from his nephew Lot, “Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt [that is, the “Brook of Egypt, a.k.a., the Wadi El Arish] to the great river, the River Euphrates—the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:18-21) You’ll note that the list of the inhabitants of the land included a few groups beside the “Big Seven” of Deuteronomy 7.
It is unclear as to why these nations were not included in later lists. The Kenites seem to be closely associated with the Amalekites and Midianites, who were both located south of the Land of Canaan near Egypt (thus not included in the Conquest list). So perhaps some migration or assimilation took place between Abram’s day and the Exodus. The Kenezzites were best known as an Edomite tribe, from which Caleb’s ancestry was derived, but of course that would make the name totally unfamiliar to Abram, since Kenaz was his own yet-to-be-born great grandson. So these Kenezzites appear to be a separate group entirely, their heritage unknown. Nobody seems to know anything about the Kadmonites, either, except that their name means “eastern.” The Rephaim were apparently a race of giants, closely associated with the Perizzites.
By the way, the Philistines don’t appear on any of these “Promised Land” lists, simply because they didn’t arrive in the Levant until the 12th century BC, halfway through the period of the Judges. Though pagans, they were descendants of Mizraim (Egypt), and did not share quite the same degree of depravity as the original Canaanite settlers. They were wiped out not by the Israelites, but by the Babylonians, in 604 BC, after centuries of subjugation under the Assyrians.
(1) So to recap: The name “Canaan” is derived from the primitive verb kana’, meaning “to be humbled, subdued, humiliated, or made low.” Thus Yahweh is telling us that if we’ll trust Him, His accursed enemies will never succeed in subduing us, in bringing us into subjection.
(2) The Hittites are descendants of Heth, apparently the second son of Canaan, and a grandson of Ham. “Heth” means “terror,” from a verb (chathath) meaning “to be shattered or dismayed.” So Yahweh is saying we need not be afraid.
This victory over the metaphorical Hittites is thus expressed by the Psalmist: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of Yahweh, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in Him I will trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge. His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you.” (Psalm 91:1-7)
The Hittite empire was centered to the north of the Levant, in modern-day Turkey (i.e., Anatolia), but by Abraham’s day they had colonized large areas in the Levant and Syria. They were once a mighty nation, but between internal corruption and Assyrian exile, they disappeared so completely that their frequent Biblical mentions led some 19th century “scholars” to label the Hebrew scriptures a fraud. Subsequent archeological finds, however, have proved the scholars to be the frauds.
(3) The Girgashites were also descendants of Canaan. The name means “dwelling on a clayey soil.” “Clayey” soil is nutrient-poor, unproductive, and hard as a rock, like the “stony places” in Christ’s parable of the sower: “Some [seed] fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away….” He later explained: “But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. Yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.” (Matthew 13:5-6, 20-21) That is, where the seed couldn’t develop deep roots, it tended to shrivel up and die.
Yahweh is thus telling us that through the “defeat of the Girgashites,” we can be productive and fruitful. As Paul would put it, “You, being rooted and grounded in love, [are] able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
(4) The Amorites’ name is derived from the verb amar, meaning “to say, speak, command, boast, or avow.” I believe Yahweh is saying we can “dispossess” empty speech. That is, believers will, by “conquering the Amorites,” be able to discern fact from fiction, truth from lies, even as those around us are being deceived. So Paul’s admonition to Timothy is germane: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.” (II Timothy 2:15-16)
But it must be noted, the veracity of one’s speech (or lack of it) may take a while to become evident. As Abram received his covenant from Yahweh, he was told, “Your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years…. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Genesis 15:13, 16) God is patient, but He is also on a schedule.
(5) The Perizzites’ name is derived from paraziy, meaning one who dwells in a village, hamlet, rural setting, or in the open country—that is, one who lives unprotected by a city wall. The lesson is: God will never leave us unprotected. To revisit Psalm 91: “Because you have made Yahweh, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling. For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:9-12)
(6) The Hivites at first seem to mean something similar to the Perizzites. It means “villagers,” from a word, chavvah, meaning “a village, town or tent-village.” But notice that Chavvah (spelled and pronounced the same way) is also the name of the person we usually call “Eve,” as in Adam’s wife, the one who was first deceived by Satan. Could it be that Yahweh was telling us that we will no longer be deceived into sin if we will keep His commandments? Sounds good to me.
Again, Paul’s letter to Timothy sheds light on the subject. “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived….” And how are we to avoid being deceived? By immersing ourselves in the Word. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:12, 16-17)
Finally, (7) The Jebusites were another Canaanite tribe, named for Jebus, from a verb (bus) meaning to tread down, trample, reject, or desecrate. Yahweh is once again reminding us that no one will tread His children underfoot if they will keep His precepts.
King David was no stranger to sin and repentance, but he also knew what it was to be unfairly accused. He writes, “O Yahweh my God, in You I put my trust. Save me from all those who persecute me…. O Yahweh my God, if I have done this, if there is iniquity in my hands, if I have repaid evil to him who was at peace with me, or have plundered my enemy without cause, let the enemy pursue me and overtake me. Yes, let him trample my life to the earth, and lay my honor in the dust…. Yahweh shall judge the peoples. Judge me, O Yahweh, according to my righteousness, and according to my integrity within me.” Any “integrity” we have, of course, is borrowed from God—which is not to say it isn’t real. “Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the just. For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds. My defense is of God, who saves the upright in heart.” (Psalm 7:1, 3-5, 8-10)
So if my observations concerning Israel’s conquest of Canaan and its clans have any validity at all, we are being told—we are being promised—that God’s accursed enemies will never succeed in subduing us, in bringing us into subjection, no matter how much they’d like to or how hard they try. We therefore need not be afraid of anything they might try to do to us. Rather, we can be productive and fruitful as we walk through this lost world, if only we will heed Yahweh’s instructions. With the insight provided by the indwelling Holy Spirit, we believers will be able to perceive the truth, even as the whole lost world runs after ever more ridiculous lies. With Godly wisdom, we will be able to discern fact from fiction and reality from falsehood. Though the whole world around us is being deceived, we believers will not fall prey to the world’s deception. God will never leave us unprotected, and no one will succeed in treading His children underfoot.
In other words, Satan’s “successes” in our world are mere illusions. He may be able to mess with our mortal bodies, but our spirit-quickened souls are invulnerable to his attacks. But there is a caveat: we must go out and “fight the Canaanites.” We can’t just roll over and play dead, like the Israelite tribe of Dan did when faced with a tough adversary (see Judges 18). The battle belongs to Yahweh, but we have to at least show up.
Babylon: Systematic Idolatry
Noah had no “religion.” That is, he simply “walked with God” through life, day by day, doing whatever Yahweh told him to do. He was not unfamiliar with the concept of animal sacrifices, however. Yahweh had instructed him to bring aboard the ark seven of every clean animal and bird (i.e., suitable for both food and sacrifices), so even without benefit of the Torah’s dietary laws, Noah knew which animals were which. Thus after the flood, we read: “Then Noah built an altar to Yahweh, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.” At the very least, Noah understood the principle—first presented in Eden—that without the shedding of innocent blood, there can be no forgiveness of sins. God’s response? “And Yahweh smelled a soothing aroma. Then Yahweh said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.’” (Genesis 8:20-21)
As time passed, the human population grew. After leaving the ark, God’s very first instruction to mankind had been to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1) So what did we do? We got it half right. “Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed toward the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’” (Genesis 11:1-4) God had told us to “fill the earth.” The people responded by saying, “No. We’re going to hang out together and impress ourselves with our greatness.”
Shinar (a.k.a. Sumer), in the southern Tigris/Euphrates river valley, is where Ham’s grandson Nimrod built his cities: Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh. Then, in the days of Peleg (i.e., two generations after Nimrod founded his false religion), this happened: “But Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And Yahweh said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing [evil] that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So Yahweh scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there Yahweh confused the language of all the earth; and from there Yahweh scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 11:5-9)
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament notes: “All of this [i.e., the scriptural/historical mentions of Shinar] points to a sinister significance for Shinar as being the major center for the development of a culture and civilization built on counterfeit religion, rebelliousness against the true God and His revealed word, the cradle of imperial tyranny and the enemy of God’s people—in short, the epitome of wickedness.” The city where the “tower to the heavens” was built was called Babel, which means “the gate of god” in the original Sumerian tongue, but in Hebrew it means (ironically enough) “confusion.” It is the same thing as its later permutation, Babylon, the -on suffix denoting the conceptual nature of the word (as in the distinction between sabbath and sabbaton—the observance of a sabbath rest, even if it didn’t fall on the seventh day of the week). The region the city-state eventually controlled was known as Babylonia. Babel/Babylon is mentioned 262 times in the Hebrew scriptures, and the Greek variant, Babulón, shows up twelve times in the New Testament.
The city first rose to prominence in the 1700s BC under Hammurabi (famous for his legal code), but was in later times held in check by the rival Assyrians. In fact, the city was destroyed by the Assyrian king Sennacherib in 689 BC, but was rebuilt by his successor, Esarhaddon. The Chaldeans revived their influence in Babylonia under Nabopolassar, and the neo-Babylonian empire flourished under his successor Nebuchadnezzar II, who took Judah in 605 BC, and destroyed Jerusalem, with its temple, in 586. Jeremiah had written, “And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jeremiah 25:11) By the end of the seventy years, the Medes and Persians had taken Babylon (see Daniel 5), and King Cyrus of Persia (circa 536) allowed the Judean captives to return if they wished (see Ezra 1) to rebuild the temple.
In time, Babylon the magnificent city became a Biblical metaphor for the licentious paganism that sprang from it, copied and recycled in a hundred variations all over the known world. So Jeremiah, who lived to see neo-Babylon rise to power and enslave Israel’s southern kingdom of Judah, wrote: “Flee from the midst of Babylon, and every one save his life! Do not be cut off in her iniquity, for this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance; He shall recompense her. Babylon was a golden cup in Yahweh’s hand, that made all the earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore the nations are deranged. Babylon has suddenly fallen and been destroyed. Wail for her! Take balm for her pain. Perhaps she may be healed. We would have healed Babylon, But she is not healed.” That is, free will is part of the formula. “Forsake her, and let us go everyone to his own country, for her judgment reaches to heaven and is lifted up to the skies. Yahweh has revealed our righteousness. Come and let us declare in Zion the work of Yahweh our God.” (Jeremiah 51:6-10) Was he talking about the city or its counterfeit religion? The answer is yes—both things. But remember those words. John would write something very similar about the “Babylon” that still exists in our day—millennia after the city had been reduced to the status of a ghost town, a mere shadow of its former self. We’ll review his revelation in a moment.
Jeremiah continues: “I will punish Bel [a false god] in Babylon, and I will bring out of his mouth what he has swallowed. And the nations shall not stream to him anymore. Yes, the wall of Babylon shall fall.…” The political conquest of Babylon took place in 539 BC, though the actual city wall stood for centuries. “Therefore behold, the days are coming that I will bring judgment on the carved images of Babylon. Her whole land shall be ashamed, and all her slain shall fall in her midst. Then the heavens and the earth and all that is in them shall sing joyously over Babylon, for the plunderers shall come to her from the north,” says Yahweh.” (Jeremiah 51:44, 47-48) Note his emphasis on the “carved images” of Babylon—not on her military prowess.
So Babylon was not only a real, historical city-state on the Euphrates River—what we’d call a “superpower” in Nebuchadnezzar’s day—but it has also become a pervasive Biblical symbol for the systematic worship of anything that is not Yahweh. Its counterfeit trinity was based on three historical characters: Nimrod, his wife Semiramis, and her son Tammuz. The names morphed from place to place, but Nimrod always played the role of the “father” figure, Semiramis was the “earth-mother,” the goddess of fertility, and Tammuz (born near the winter solstice) was the false Christ, marketed as the sun god, the conqueror of winter’s darkness. The evil Canaanite religion (described briefly above) was but one of many permutations of Babylonian paganism.
The prophet Isaiah wrote about Babylon long before it was a major player on the geopolitical scene: “The burden against Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw…. Wail, for the day of Yahweh is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands will be limp, every man’s heart will melt, and they will be afraid. Pangs and sorrows will take hold of them. They will be in pain as a woman in childbirth. They will be amazed at one another: their faces will be like flames….” The conquest of the city of Babylon could hardly have been called “the Day of Yahweh.” The Medes diverted the Euphrates so they could sneak in under the wall with a small commando force, opened the gates from the inside, and took the city virtually without firing a shot. So think beyond the Medo-Persian conquest of the city. Isaiah has bigger fish to fry:
“Behold, the day of Yahweh comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate, and He will destroy its sinners from it.” Is Yahweh ever “cruel”? No, but the “day of Yahweh” will be. That’s because His customary modus operandi in dispensing wrath is to simply step out of the way and allow sinful man to exercise his evil nature: man’s inhumanity toward man. “For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light. The sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine….” Atmospheric anomalies severe enough to block the sunlight were a bit beyond the capabilities of the Medes.
Like I said, think bigger: “I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity. I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, a man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of Yahweh of hosts, and in the day of His fierce anger….” Punish the world? Make mortal man an endangered species? As bad as it has gotten in the past, this hasn’t happened in human history, at least since Noah’s flood. But it is predicted all over scripture in great detail, apparently scheduled for our not-too-distant future. It’s called the Tribulation, the “time of Jacob’s trouble,” the final seven years of the Daniel 9 prophecy. And Babylon’s ultimate fall is one of its major accomplishments: “And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation.” (Isaiah 13:1, 6-13, 19-20)
The city has been gone for some time. What God is talking about here, in admittedly poetic terms, is the permanent demise of spiritual Babylon—the metaphorical home of every permutation of false worship and counterfeit religion in the entire world. “Babylon is fallen, is fallen! And all the carved images of her gods He has broken to the ground.” (Isaiah 21:9) Notice again that Isaiah stresses the demise of “the carved images of her gods,” not the military or political might of one short-lived city-state in Mesopotamia.
Half a millennium after Babylon city had seen her glory days fade into vapor, the apostle John was shown what would happen to her cultural legacy—where she has been doing untold damage to the human race: “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’ And another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.’” (Revelation 14:6-8) The angel quotes Isaiah here (and not for the last time). The choice is clear at last: either worship the true and living God, Yahweh, or continue to buy into Babylon’s lies. Just know that Babylon’s days are numbered: she is as good as “fallen,” even though most of the world doesn’t even realize she is (or ever was) in control of so much.
We learn more about her in Revelation 17: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.’ So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns….” The “scarlet beast,” it will transpire, is the Antichrist, who “will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition.” (v.8) The “woman” begins in a position of power, “sitting on” the beast. But this condition (which has been the case virtually since the days of Nimrod) is about to change.
The angel repeatedly mentions one characteristic of Babylon that we should explore: what is “fornication” in this context? Dictionary.com defines it as “voluntary sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons or two persons not married to each other.” But they also note, quite rightly, that in the Biblical sense, it means idolatry. It is giving your affection—your love—to someone not your spouse. In that regard, it is the opposite of holiness—which is being “set apart” to the One to whom you owe your very life. In fornication, there is no commitment, no validity, no future. Any “children” born of such a union are illegitimate bastards: a burden, not a blessing. A harlot (prostitute, whore) makes her living luring men into just such short-term dead-end relationships. So we are not surprised to learn that ritual prostitution (both male and female) was a central feature of the Babylonian mystery religion. And how were the “unplanned pregnancies” dealt with? Through Moloch worship, in which the unfortunate offspring of the licentious union were burned alive in honor of a false god.
So John’s angel continues: “The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” So the “woman” is specifically identified as “Babylon.” Her “greatness” is not because she is good, but because of her immense cultural influence. She has grown filthy rich over the ages by, well, being filthy. An “abomination” (whether in Hebrew or Greek) is the strongest language in the Bible. Here, the word is bdelguma, meaning a detestable, abominable, accursed thing. Helps Word-Studies notes that it is from the Greek bdeo, “to reek with stench,” that which “emits a four odor and hence is disgustingly abhorrent… figuratively: moral horror as a stench to God.” Why? John explains: “I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.” (Revelation 17:1-6) The “life is in the blood,” and this foul creature has been guzzling the life-blood of God’s people for as long as anybody can remember, whether Christian or pre-Christian.
The angel continues his explanation: “Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. [Waters or the sea, we are reminded, speak of gentile nations: the harlot controls them.] And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. [Though this nasty woman starts out in control of the beast/Antichrist, he and his allies will get the upper hand and destroy her. As usual, Yahweh is seen “using” one evil to eradicate another.] And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.’” (Revelation 17:15-18) At this point in history (the Last Days), Babylon can’t really be confined to a single “city.” Rather, she is a worldwide phenomenon, and has been for a long time. But if we think of a “city” as John knew them, the picture becomes clear: a “city” is a system—self-contained, self-interested, and prepared to defend itself against all perceived enemies.
How is this woman, Babylon, this pervasive city-system, able to “reign over the kings of the earth”? As you may have surmised, in these Last Days, Babylon is not just one thing, but several, working together to separate humanity from Yahweh our Creator.
(1) We have already looked (briefly) at the religious angle—at how Nimrod’s mystery religion came to insinuate itself into the worship practices of men worldwide. At its heart, “religion” is the practice of people reaching out to god (whatever they might conceive him to be), of observing their obviously fallen nature and hypothesizing what he (or she, or they) must require from us to achieve reconciliation, atonement, or at least “peace.” Believe it or not, this is not a good thing.
Most people don’t really want to share a personal relationship with their “god” of choice. They merely want him to go away and leave them alone. So appeasement becomes the goal—celestial bribery. Sometimes it’s doing something, like killing or enslaving your “god’s” self-proclaimed enemies; or decorating a cow with flowers and making a shrine in your dwelling where you can present food offerings to him. Or, it could be not doing something: trying to earn your salvation by refraining from certain activities your conscience is telling you are wrong. If you fail (and you always do), there are always alms and penance with which to impress your “god” with your devotion. Or, at least, that’s what your religion’s priest swears to be true. And sometimes, one gets tired of all the self-imposed rules, and simply declares that “there is no god, and therefore, the sin for which I feel so guilty must be an illusion.” All of these things are part of Babylon. (See The End of the Beginning, Appendix 11: “The Faith Factor,” for a more complete discussion of the subject.)
In contrast, instead of trying to figure out what God must want, one could simply heed what He actually said: trust Him for your salvation, reciprocate His love, and demonstrate it by loving your fellow man. Don’t “reach out” to God: rather, welcome and receive Him as He reaches out to you. In other words, believe in Him.
I’d have to include a few other modern innovations in the same “shopping cart” with religious Babylon. These are things that affect “what we believe,” shaping our world-view, often without us even realizing it. One of these factors is Academia—how we educate ourselves. When I attended college back in the 1960s, there was already a subtle undercurrent of Babylonian thought—of encouragement to abandon faith in lieu of reason (as if they were mutually exclusive entities). Today, there’s nothing subtle about it. Worse, the devil’s agenda now targets young, impressionable children. Another factor is the electronic media, including news and entertainment—how we choose to be advised and enlightened in the information age. Most of it is blatantly Babylonian these days: calculated to marginalize God’s Word. Let the viewer beware: garbage in, garbage out.
(2) The second component of the Babylonian world-view is finance and commerce. As Paul reminded Timothy, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (I Timothy 6:10) While this has always been the case, there have been some innovations over the past several hundred years that have allowed “the love of money” to take on Babylonian proportions. Fractional Reserve Banking (an institution’s ability to issue paper money far in excess of its actual gold reserves) was invented by England’s William of Orange in 1694. It has since grown to gargantuan dimensions: virtually every nation on earth “owes its soul” to what are now known as “central banks,” private corporations authorized by their various governments to control and regulate their money supply. “A central bank is an institution that manages the currency and monetary policy of a state or formal monetary union [like the E.U., for example], and oversees their commercial banking system. In contrast to a commercial bank, a central bank possesses a monopoly on increasing the monetary base.”—Wikipedia.
If all of that sounds like a really bad idea to you, you’re starting to get the picture. The fox now holds the mortgage on the hen house. Those “dollars” you carry in your wallet aren’t U.S. Treasury promissory notes anymore. Now they’re Federal Reserve Notes, and the wealth they represent is created out of thin air from debt, deceit, and the false hope that nobody will catch on to the scam—which, as I said, is now a worldwide Ponzi scheme. That’s right: the whore of Babylon now controls the world’s entire money supply, which explains the phenomenon of inflation: what set you back a hundred dollars in 2000 would have cost only $3.84 in 1900. Things aren’t getting more expensive: the dollar (along with every other form of currency in existence) is losing value—by design.
The other side of this coin is commerce—the manufacture, buying, and selling of goods and services. This has been going on since Cain traded a big basket of vegetables to Abel for a young goat—virtually since the dawn of human history. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with it; and yet, taken to its logical end, there are potential problems. Several nations or city-states (which we’ll consider in a moment) are taken to task in scripture for their pride—the result of riches amassed from commercial enterprise. It’s not inevitable, mind you, but greed-driven pride is a common outcome of success, leading Yahweh to single out such city-states as Tyre and Sidon for condemnation.
(3) Finally, we see Babylon’s reach in human governments, especially in their military capabilities. Today, there is no country on earth that isn’t ruled by some sort of government, whether by a despot, oligarch, or democratically elected system. Man, in other words, has taken it upon himself to rule over men: something God never authorized. The theory is that the only possible alternative is lawless anarchy—everybody “doing what seemed right in his own eyes.” (See Judges 21:25.) The preferred alternative, of course, is theocracy, everyone doing what was right in God’s eyes, but the “problem” there is that since man is a creature endowed with free will, rebellion against God is always an option. And then there’s the identity factor: the human race can’t seem to agree on who God is. Based on what their followers believe, Yahweh, Allah, Brahma, and Zeus have radically different agendas.
It is revealing to study how God Himself set things up. Elsewhere, I wrote, “Under Yahweh’s direct rule, Israel had no king. They were personally—as well as nationally—responsible to observe God’s instructions, the Torah. No man ruled over them. Yes, there were Levites and a priesthood, but they held no civil power. The Torah had no enforcement provision other than the people’s responsibility to obey Yahweh. There was no governmental infrastructure, no standing army, no police force, no prisons, no bureaucracy, no state-supported palaces, and no diplomatic corps. Whatever ‘leaders’ arose did so by virtue of their demonstrable wisdom, ability, and experience: ‘leadership’ was defined as service rendered, not status attained.” In theocratic Israel, the nation was simply required to follow Yahweh’s Instructions. When they did, they were blessed (as promised in Deuteronomy 28), but when they did not, He allowed foreign powers to mess with them. When they cried out to Him, He raised up local “judges” to lead them back to Him, and when it came to that, lead them in battle.
The last of these judges was Samuel. Under protest, he presided over Israel’s foolish transition from a theocracy to a monarchy. “All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.’” As the judge Gideon had discovered, you couldn’t pass on the office of Judge to your offspring. It didn’t work that way: it was a calling, not a birthright. Monarchies, on the other hand, came with dynasties, for better or worse. “But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ So Samuel prayed to Yahweh. And Yahweh said to Samuel, ‘Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.’” (I Samuel 8:4-9)
Israel had spent the previous four centuries without a human king, and as long as they’d honored Yahweh, all had gone well for them. This, then, was going to be a long, painful lesson in “Be careful what you wish for: you just might get it.” “So Samuel told all the words of Yahweh to the people who asked him for a king. And he said, ‘This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers….’” I realize that slavery in Egypt was but a hazy institutional memory by this time, but what they were asking for was Egyptian-style work quotas. The king could demand service of his subjects for anything he wanted, and they’d have to comply. And then it got worse: my generation came to loathe something called “the draft.” Likewise, Samuel’s people had no idea how much it would cost them—in both coin and blood—to field a standing army. Nor did they understand that the king could use this army for any reason he liked: for offensive purposes as well as for defense; for legitimate reasons or blatant paranoia. And the people would no longer have a say in the matter.
And it would get even worse: legalized theft—excuse me: taxes. “And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and Yahweh will not hear you in that day….” That last line is heartbreaking. Yahweh says, “Don’t bother praying to Me to deliver you from your self-imposed oppression: you asked for this.”
“Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, ‘No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.’” (I Samuel 8:10-20) After only three generations of “getting what they said they wanted,” Israel was ripped in two. The ten northern tribes revolted against Solomon’s heir Rehoboam (circa 930 BC). For the hapless inhabitants of Israel (a.k.a. Samaria or Ephraim—the ten northern tribes), it was “out of the frying pan, into the fire.” They never again had a single good (i.e., godly) king, like David had been. Not one. The Assyrians swallowed them whole less than two hundred years later. The Southern Kingdom (Judah) had twenty kings between the schism and their captivity in Babylon. Only eight of them could be called “good.” And they never had more than two godly kings in succession.
I think it’s safe to say that Samuel’s warning about the problem with kings had been vindicated. Human government has proved itself at every turn to be less than ideal—in a word, “Babylonian.” Even (arguably) the best form of government ever invented by man, the American Republic, is, after only two and a half centuries, fraying around the edges, showing its fatal flaws. A Constitution (like the Torah) is worthless if nobody pays attention to it. Perhaps the worst “flaw” of all is our mandate to create new laws, as if truth and justice were a moving target.
Babylon—in any of its permutations—will not endure forever. An angel told John what we can expect, fleshing out what Isaiah had hinted at centuries earlier. “I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen [cf. Isaiah 21:9], and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury….’”
The demise of every incarnation of the whore of Babylon is included within this imprecation. “Fornication” speaks of the religious side of things—of giving to false gods what properly belongs to Yahweh alone: our affection, devotion, obedience, gratitude, and even our alms.
Meanwhile, the “kings of the earth,” human governments, have for millennia “been in bed” with the purveyors of false worship, for it is only by playing footsie with their nation’s “god du jour” that they can maintain control and increase their power (the kings’ real gods). It matters not who the false deity is: the pattern is always the same. From Jezebel’s priests of Ba’al, to the self-deified emperors of Rome, to the caricature of Christ utilized by the Roman Catholic kings of the Middle Ages, to the caliphs, sultans, and mullahs of Allah, to the political purveyors of Darwinian secular humanism—the “kings” of the earth have always carried on incestuous relationships with whatever false gods their lost populations were willing to follow.
And the “merchants of the earth” have been all too happy to feast like greedy parasites on the spoils, supplying whatever the politicians and religious professionals required to stay in power. In a moment, we’ll look at what the inventory list looked like in John’s day—luxury goods, for the most part, calculated to grease the mechanism of pride, to separate the exalted “haves” from the lowly “have nots” who are ultimately required to foot the bill. Today, we might include other things that tend to keep the powerful in power: armaments, the drug trade (legal and otherwise), the entertainment industry, and the ministry of propaganda (excuse me, the 24-hour news cycle)—the list could go on practically forever.
What are we, who find ourselves living under Babylon’s thumb, to do? “And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.” This is admittedly hard to do, when the whore of Babylon controls virtually everything on earth. But we can, right here where we are, refuse to participate, to whatever extent God enables us. Don’t buy the lies; don’t play their game. (Of course, the ultimate way for God’s people to “come out of her” will be to participate in the rapture!) “For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’ Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.’” (Revelation 18:1-8)
I don’t believe God is telling us believers to personally attack Babylon’s power structure (“repay her double,” etc.). Rather, I think He is simply revealing what her destiny is: she will be repaid—poetically enough, by the world she dominated for so long. Sometime after the rapture of the church (though the time gap is left unspecified in scripture), the Tribulation will get underway. The first four seal judgments of Revelation 6—often referred to as the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”—are, in summary, (1) the rise of the Antichrist, (2) world war, (3) extreme scarcity on the earth—especially in terms of food, and (4) the death of a quarter of the earth’s population. Together, these drastic and unprecedented developments should be sufficient to unseat Babylon.
But the trick is the timing: “in one day.” She is so well entrenched, so seemingly inviolable, what could possibly knock her off her pedestal of power so suddenly? The key, it would seem, is the phrase “utterly burned with fire.” In the first of the “Trumpet Judgments,” we are told, “The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.” (Revelation 8:7) Isaiah saw it too: “The curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, And few men are left.” (Isaiah 24:6) I believe this is a description of widespread nuclear war. If I were “pushing the buttons,” among my very first targets would be the world’s major trading centers, such as New York, London, or Hong Kong. Taking them out would have a ripple effect throughout all strata of society. Cities with world-class harbors would also be prime targets. If you can cut off world trade, you can cripple Babylon—and that is precisely what the Antichrist wants to do (see Revelation 17:16).
Why? Because he covets control over the earth’s population. As long as Babylon is in charge, the Antichrist will never see his dream of personal world domination come to fruition, for they are rivals at heart, though both are satanic to the core. That is one of the reasons I see World War III taking place during the first half of the Tribulation (an escalation of the Gog-Magog war of Ezekiel 38-39). I have come to the conclusion that this nuclear war will be mistaken for “Armageddon.” And the Antichrist, still standing when the smoke clears, will be hailed throughout much of the world as the promised “Messiah.” That’s right: the whole thing is a blatant counterfeit of Christ’s second coming. In-depth Biblical knowledge, you’ll recall, departed with the saints at the rapture. All that’s left now is folklore and half-truth, which the Antichrist will use to his advantage. His three and a half year reign will begin about halfway through the Tribulation—after World War III. (See The End of the Beginning, elsewhere on this website, for the complete story.)
Remember: Babylon encompasses three different (but interrelated) profiles: religious (what people believe); governmental (what people submit to); and commercial (what people want). The Antichrist will have to control all of this if he hopes to rule the world. So as we pick up the narrative in Revelation 18, we see how the destruction of Babylon’s infrastructure will leave the whole world in turmoil, ripe for the taking. “The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come….’” Here we see the collapse of human government, who can no longer pretend to have things “under control.” The practical result will be total anarchy, the breakdown of society, the forsaking of the rule of law.
It will be like the days of the Judges of Israel, when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” except that in the Last Days, hardly anyone is self-sufficient, growing his own food, and so forth. We all have to get what we need (or merely want) from somewhere else. When Babylon falls, most of the population who is “lucky” enough to have evaded the weapons of war will have to either steal or starve. Nobody will be making, growing, transporting, or selling the things people ordinarily buy. The world’s economy will collapse: “And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore: merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men….” That’s what the list looked like in first-century language. Think of it as including media of exchange (money), clothing, building materials, food and beverages, fuel, drugs and cosmetics, transportation, armaments, and human resources.
That last entry, “the bodies and souls of men,” is particularly cringeworthy. For decades now, America’s “merchants” (read: manufacturers) have been closing down their factories in this country and setting up new ones in the far east and elsewhere. Why? Because first-world labor is expensive. If someone in Chicago can buy a pair of blue jeans or sneakers made with sweat-shop labor in Indonesia, or a laptop computer made by robots in China for half the price, he’s going to do it. So the factories that used to make such things here can’t compete. But when Babylon is destroyed, all such commerce will cease. When the markets dry up, the “bodies and souls of men” will have outlived their usefulness. Even in places World War III didn’t touch, the economic toll will be devastating.
No one will prosper. “The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all the things which are rich and splendid have gone from you, and you shall find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city [read: “system”] that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! For in one hour such great riches came to nothing….’” The “riches came to nothing” because every form of currency on the face of the earth has collapsed, having been based (as I said above) on little more than debt and false hope.
Here again, the Antichrist will have something ready with which to replace Babylon Bucks: the “mark of the beast” is designed to do everything money used to under the Babylonian system, but with greater security, convenience, and stability—and it functions worldwide, not just nationally. Or so it says in the brochure. I’d characterize it as the offspring of today’s cryptocurrency, defined as: “any form of currency that exists digitally or virtually and uses cryptography to secure transactions. Cryptocurrencies don’t have a central issuing or regulating authority, instead using a decentralized system to record transactions and issue new units.”—Kaspersky.com.
In other words, cryptocurrencies (like Bitcoin) are financial anarchy. The reason people like the idea, I’m guessing, is that they aren’t regulated and controlled by Babylonian central banks. It’s the wild west out there. My hypothesis is that the Antichrist will reign in the madness and volatility of today’s crypto, make it part of the user (via a tiny electronic RFID chip implanted in the right hand or the forehead), and require its use as the only “legal” form of money on planet Earth. All it will take to implement “the mark” is a working power grid and Internet, and a world populace desperate for some semblance of normalcy. Except for the overt Satanic oath of loyalty that will be required, the “mark” will look like God’s gift to mankind—and scripture informs us that billions of people (believing in neither God nor the devil) will buy into it in order to survive.
Anyway, back to the saga of Babylon’s demise. Even the transporters of Babylon’s wares have been left high and dry. “Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like this great city?’ They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate….’” Imagine the scenario: you’re the owner or captain of a container ship or tanker, loaded and headed for a port in a country that no longer makes what you’re shipping, whether because of short-sighted economic policies, runaway political correctness, or simple greed. And you discover enroute that (1) nuclear war has broken out; (2) the port to which you were headed isn’t there anymore; and (3) the currency has collapsed, leaving you holding the bag.
Remember too that “the sea” is (or can be) symbolic of the whole gentile world, potentially meaning that long-haul truckers will find themselves in the same boat (so to speak). Nothing gets moved; nothing gets sold; commerce grinds to a screeching halt. (Even today, all it would take for this to happen is making diesel fuel unavailable.) And nobody is happy about it, except for the Antichrist, who knows that this war (one he himself secretly precipitated) has brought Babylon to her knees while raising him to the position of “potential Messiah” in the eyes of the increasingly desperate populace of the world.
Well, I shouldn’t say “nobody” is happy about it. The inhabitants of heaven are also gratified to learn of Babylon’s demise: “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!” (Revelation 18:9-20) Ironically, our reasons for rejoicing are parallel to the Antichrist’s. He sees Babylon as the last obstacle that must fall in order for him to seize control of planet Earth. Heaven, meanwhile, is taking a slightly longer view, knowing that Babylon’s fall means that the kingdom of the Antichrist (with Satan, the dragon that controls him) is the last and only enemy Christ must defeat for His Millennial reign to become reality. Babylon was like herding cats. The Antichrist is a monolith. No contest.
But alas, things are about to get exponentially worse for the hapless inhabitants of earth, who must, over the next three and a half years, make the ultimate choice—between good and evil, between life posing as death and death masquerading as life. Remember what the Risen Christ told the church as Philadelphia? “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10) His mechanism for achieving this will be the rapture. The “hour of trial” for those left behind will be the last seven years of the age, otherwise known as the Tribulation—and especially the last half: the post-Babylon reign of the Antichrist. On rapture day +1, there won’t be a single born-from-above believer on the face of the earth.
But wait: Philadelphia isn’t the last church on John’s mailing list. Laodicea starts out “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked,” in other words, lost, despite her glowing self-assessment to the contrary. But repentance is still possible, and multitudes will make the right choice (and pay a terrible price for having done so): “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:17-20) Being “refined like gold in the fire” is a euphemism for martyrdom—being slain for your faith. And the fifth Seal (Revelation 6:9-11) depicts them asking God to take vengeance on their murderers. Please be patient, He says. Alas, the slaughter is just getting started.
“Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb [that is, in heaven], clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen….” The identity of this multitude is now revealed: “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation [that is, they are the martyrs of Laodicea, now immortals like the raptured saints before them], and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Better late than never. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 6:9-12, 14-17)
It’s worth noting that not all of the belatedly repentant Laodicean believers will be murdered by the Antichrist (ostensibly for refusing to take the mark of the beast). Some—multitudes, in fact—will evade the horrors of war, the famine and disease endemic of the times, and the headman’s axe. They, as mortal believers, will be counted among the blessed “sheep,” as described in Yahshua’s “Sheep and Goats” parable of Matthew 25:31-46. They will go on (with redeemed Israel) to repopulate the earth during the Millennial Kingdom of Christ.
But I digress. We still weren’t through exploring what Babylon’s demise will entail. It was summarized in the seventh Bowl Judgment: “And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.” (Revelation 16:19) The specifics, again, are enumerated in Revelation 18: “Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, ‘Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore....’” It remains to be seen if this is a reference to the second Trumpet Judgment (in which a volcano was “thrown into the sea,” which under the right circumstances would cause a devastating tsunami), or is simply a simile, with the emphasis on the violence of Babylon’s fall. Either way, it’s going be devastating for Babylon, and hard on the people who have gotten used to living under her evil system.
“The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore.” That is, the entertainment industry will disappear. Being “non-essential,” it will apparently be the first thing to go. I would guess that professional sports would be included. “No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore.” The manufacturing sector will cease to function. If you can’t make it yourself from whatever you’ve got on hand, you’ll have to do without. “And the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore.” Agribusiness—commercial food production—will go away. Little will grow, and what little there is cannot easily be harvested and made available for sale at your local supermarket. “The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore.” The energy industry will become dysfunctional. It’s not that fuel, in its raw state, goes extinct. The coal and oil and uranium are still there in the ground. And the sun still shines, though its light is blocked by millions of tons of smoke and debris in the atmosphere—a phenomenon they used to call “nuclear winter.” “And the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore….” For any number of reasons, the normal rhythms of life will stop working. Sex won’t go out of style, but marriage, commitment, and raising children will. No one will be able to envision life beyond next week, much less fifty years down the road.
John concludes: “For your [Babylon’s] merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived….” The word translated “sorcery” here is the Greek pharmakeia, from which we get our concept of drugs. In John’s day, drugs were used in the making of occult spells or enchantments. In other words, there were “religious” overtones. (For a direct contemporary comparison, think of the way peyote is used among some North American indigenous peoples.) Making the mental leap to today’s mind-altering drugs like marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines is easy enough, and they’re all part of Babylon’s playbook. But think bigger.
Yes, there are pharmaceuticals available today that meet genuine health need (like the hypertension meds I’ve been on since the draft board discovered my chronic high blood pressure when I was a teenager. Looking on the bright side, at least I didn’t die for no discernable reason in some rice paddy half a world away, like so many of my contemporaries did). But today, Big Pharma grows rich pushing drugs that, while legal, maybe we would have been better off without: drugs to help you focus for the big test (or maybe treat your depression after failing it); drugs to prevent pregnancy (or to end a pregnancy); drugs to help you overcome the diseases you picked up by doing things God warned you not to; drugs to prevent theoretical cancers that affect a fraction of one percent of the population—and don’t even get me started on dangerous, unwarranted vaccines. The drugs themselves are bad enough, but God points out that the greed of their “merchants” is the real root of the problem.
“And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.” (Revelation 18:21-24) That’s a lot of guilt to be laid at the feet of one octopus-like entity. John is telling us that the whore of Babylon is, at some level, responsible for the deaths of everyone who was slain “before their time,” especially those who honored Yahweh and His Messiah. On the “macro” level, we’re talking about the victims of warfare (whether on the battlefield or not); people who were the targets of crime; and victims of shady business practices. (Included here would be a broad range of examples: big pharma, whether legal or not; agribusiness abuses like genetic modification of food; financial manipulation for profit from the central bank level on down—the list could go on practically forever.) Also included would be victims of religious persecution, of both government overreach and the paranoia it precipitates, and lies taught to eager young minds in the name of “political correctness.” All of this, and much more, is defined as “Babylon,” and her demise is not only prophesied, we are told that her death won’t be any more “natural” than that of her victims.
Let us not forget that “the blood of the slain” implies two levels of evil. We’re used to thinking about our physical, mortal lives, of course. But the damage can also be done on the spiritual level—preventing someone from enjoying a personal relationship with his or her Creator: causing death on an eternal scale. When God said, “You shall not murder,” (Exodus 20:13) He wasn’t talking only about the body, but the soul and spirit as well. And remember that under God’s law, you don’t get bonus points for being incompetent: the mere attempt to separate people from their Creator is just as damning as “successful” spiritual murder.
The bottom line bears repeating: “Flee from Babylon! Save yourselves! Don’t get trapped in her punishment! It is Yahweh’s time for vengeance. He will repay her in full. Babylon has been a gold cup in Yahweh’s hands, a cup that made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank Babylon’s wine, and it drove them all mad. But suddenly Babylon, too, has fallen. Weep for her. Give her medicine. Perhaps she can yet be healed. We would have helped her if we could, but nothing can save her now. Let her go; abandon her. Return now to your own land, for her punishment reaches to the heavens. It is so great it cannot be measured.” (Jeremiah 51:6-9 NLT) Interesting. God’s prophet points out that somebody had to fulfill the societal functions Babylon has usurped for herself through the ages. She didn’t have to grow into the Satanic monolith she eventually became.
Religion? God provided priests and Levites, whose job was to keep His pure word before our eyes at all times. That is, we were not to invent “god” in our own image and then imagine what He might want from us. Commerce and finance? He simply told us to “keep honest weights and scales.” That is, do what needs to be done, not merely for profit, but in a spirit of love and service for your brother, trusting God to provide the increase. Government and defense? His idea of government is minimalist: Yahweh’s law is to be heeded by everyone, taught by those who have proven themselves mature and godly. Wise mentors are to be valued and honored, but humans are not to rule over other humans. Nothing is to be done out of greed or pride. Everything is to be done out of love and respect.
So God’s advice is that, to whatever extent is possible, do not participate in Babylon’s evil. Her time is nearly over. Her demise won’t take place until after the rapture of the church (to be replaced in the short term with something even worse—the rule of Satan’s Antichrist), but that doesn’t mean we believers should in the meantime compromise with or tolerate her evil. That being said, her reach and influence are so pervasive today, it’s hard to even perceive her presence. As I wrote somewhere, “It’s hard to see the blindfold that covers your own eyes.”
More to come...