Allegheny Valley Church Of God
War In The Middle East Part 1
It is Aug. 3, 2013. If you were to ask the man on the street why there is such strife in the Middle East he would probably say that there is warfare over the occupied homeland of the Palestinians. What most don't realize is that the idea of a nation called Palestine is largely an invention by the Arabic world used as an excuse for the destruction of the nation of Israel. The truth is the hatred between these two tribes goes back thousands of years. Ezekiel calls it "a perpetual hatred" (Eze. 35:5).
A brief history of the land would be helpful here. The little strip of land we now call Israel was initially promised to Abraham and his descendants by God two thousand years before Christ: (Gen 12:1-3; 13:14-18; 15:1-6; 22:15-19 and 26:1-5 - To Isaac after Abraham’s death).
After living in Egypt for 400 years, mostly as slaves, the children of the tribes of Israel (formerly Jacob) cried out to the God of their fathers and He heard them. He raised up a leader named Moses who led them through the wilderness to the brink of entering into the promise given to their patriarchs. They were led into the land by Joshua and commanded to exercise the judgment of God on the Canaanites who had fallen into the worst kind of idolatry. Yahweh was faithful to give them victory after victory until most of the land was subdued. There was disobedience, however, in that they allowed themselves to mingle with the people contrary to God's commandments. They suffered setbacks because of their stubbornness.
Eventually Jerusalem became the capital under the leadership of King David. Because of the disobedience of the Jews God allowed it to be captured and destroyed by the Babylonians around 500 years before Christ. He allowed his people to return, but the city has been under control of the Gentiles from that time until just recently. During the time of the New Testament the land was under the control of the Romans.
Because of their rejection of their Messiah, they were scattered throughout the world and the temple, the center of their religious and national identity, was destroyed in 70 AD. About 60 years later a man named Bar Kochba tried to rebel against the Roman occupation and was defeated. It was after that revolt that the Jews were forbidden by the Romans to be in their land or to be in Jerusalem.
The name Palestine was given to the land by the Romans shortly after the Bar Kochba revolt (132-136 AD). It was ruled by the Eastern Roman empire until the onset of Islam in the 600's. From around 1200 until around 1450 the crusaders attempted to take back the Holy Land but were unsuccessful. In 1517 the land came under control of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) and was basically stripped and left unusable. It remained in their control until WWI, when they were defeated by the British.
It was in the 1800's that Jews began fleeing severe persecution in Russia and Eastern Europe. They returned to the land of their ancestry and bought up land that was considered worthless from the Ottoman Turks. With the help of some wealthy American Jews they were able to make things grow again. Migrant workers from surrounding nations began to come and work in the now productive farmland and many believe that what we now call Palestinians are really descendents of these migrant workers. There is an article written by Hal Lindsey here. While that theory might be disputed, in reality there really has never been a clearly defined Palestinian homeland. They could just as easily demand a place in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon or Saudi Arabia.
After WWI the League of Nations designated British occupied Palestine as a homeland for the Jews and non-Jews, even though the British were not anxious to accommodate them. In the 1930's Arab leaders (the Muslim Brotherhood) struck a pact with Adolph Hitler to exterminate the Jews from the face of the earth. They circulated copies of "Mein Kampf" and "The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion,"( a fictitious work used by the Nazis to vilify the Jews,) amongst the Arab nations.
After the holocaust of WWII, the newly formed United Nations voted to allow Israel to once again become a sovereign nation. From 1948 until now it has been a constant struggle for them to maintain their God-given homeland and it's borders. During that time they took what once was a barren fruitless land and turned it into one of the most productive agricultural nations in the world. In the 1967 Six-Day war when the Soviet supplied armed forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria attempted a sneak attack, the Israeli Defense Forces were victorious in 6 days and miraculously recaptured their capital, Jerusalem, as well as the Sinai Penninsula and the Golan Heights. It could truly be said that "the times of the Gentiles" were coming to an end.
Back to our initial question: "Why is there strife in the Middle East?" Why is there so much hatred between these nations? There are really two sources of this hatred.
The first has it's roots with Abraham and his desire to help God fulfill his promise of a son. When it seemed impossible for Abraham to have a son his wife suggested that he take her handmade as a surrogate mother. She bore Abraham a son named Ishmael, and Abraham assumed he would be the heir. But God made it clear to him that, while he would be blessed, he was not the son of promise. (Gen. Ch. 17) Isaac was born and Hagar and her son were put out. The Muslim world believes that Ishmael is indeed the heir of the land, even though Yahweh makes it clear that he is not. (Gal. 4:30)
The second source of hatred goes back to the sons of Isaac, Jacob (whose name would later be changed to Israel) and Esau, the first born, fraternal twins who seemed to be constantly at odds with each other. When the babes were striving in their mother's womb it was prophesied that the older would serve the younger. Esau was a man of the field, a hunter, and was Jacob's favorite. He was the first to come out of the womb so the birthright was legally his. He sold it to Jacob, however, for a bowl of stew, and thus the Bible says he "despised his birthright." Later on, when it came time to receive the blessing, Jacob, whose name means trickster, disguised himself as his brother and was able to deceive his aging blind father into giving him the blessing. While there was eventually a reconciliation between Jacob and Esau (over twenty years later) their descendents were constant enemies.
In Jesus' day the Edomites were called Idumeans. Many believe today, and Muslims claim, that the Arabs are descendents of Ishmael and rightfully deserve to occupy the land. Many also believe that the Palestinians are really descendents of the Idumeans, and they also believe that the birthright and blessing should be returned to them.
So we see that the perpetual strife in the Middle East is really a millenniums old conflict between two sets of brothers and an eternal conflict between the god of this world and the eternal God of the Bible. What will happen in the future? Psalm 83 predicts a war that will reshape the nations of the Middle East. It is not Armageddon, that is coming later. But the Psalm 83 war can happen any moment. I will probably post something on that soon. Until then keep praying for the peace of Jerusalem, and in so doing pray for the soon return of Jesus Christ. If you don't know him as the one who paid the price of your sin then call on him today for mercy and forgiveness and put your faith in him and what he did on the cross. Yahweh will accept you based on your faith in his blood.