What is the Signifance of Iraq in the Bible?
No Just Wars. There are no just wars, but some wars are more just than others. In 1982 Ray Stedman addressed the Biblical issues of nuclear war in a special seminar. Ray said, "if it were not for the intervening grace of God, all of life, every moment of it, would be filled with war, struggle, strife, anger and hostility. We'd be at one another's throats all the time. It's God's intervention in a godless world---a wicked world (if you want to use the biblical term) that allows any peace at all. Therefore, peace must always be regarded as a gift of the Spirit of God. We find that directly stated in Psalms 46, verse 9: 'He makes wars to cease unto the ends of the earth.'" Of special concern back in '82 was whether the use of nuclear weapons was a special case in the conduct of war. Ray's Ten Propositions Concerning War (http://ldolphin.org/warprinciples.html) is helpful once again in analyzing the sudden, fast moving war in Iraq.
Darrell Cole discusses The problem of War: C.S. Lewis on Pacifism, War & the Christian Warrior, in the April issue of Touchtone Magazine (http://touchstonemag.com). Based on his fine article I suspect his book is worth reading, When God Says War is Right: The Christian's perspective on When and How to Fight (Waterbrook Press, 2202).
Ravi Zacharias has a good article Warring on War, currently his web site, (http://www.gospelcom.net/rzim/publications/essay_arttext.php?id=15).
One thing I could not help but notice all through Operation Iraqi Freedom: In my opinion, our government acted with considerable compassion and sensitivity for the value of human life. Many years ago Ray Stedman pointed out that in all areas of life, truth alone is not enough, righteousness alone is not sufficient, love by itself is incomplete. Truth, love, and righteousness in concert together show forth the character of God at work in our broken world. (See The Epistle of First John, http://raystedman.org/1john). Most of my Christian friends prayed extensively during the war, and I suspect there was a good bit of prayer in the churches of our land. Still, war is a judgment from God on all parties involved. There are no just wars.
The church, as God designed it and as the Bible describes it, is an amazing, dynamic, world-changing force. It is, in fact, a kind of invisible government, influencing and moving the visible governments of the earth. Because of the powerful influence of the church, the people of this planet are able to experience the benefits of social stability, law and order, justice and peace. Yes, the world is troubled and in turmoil--but we haven't seen even a fraction of one percent of the tribulation, tyranny, anarchy, and slaughter that would take place if the church were suddenly taken out of this world! Whenever the church has followed the biblical pattern and become more of what God designed it to be, righteous conditions have spread throughout society. When the church has abandoned this divine pattern, relying on worldly power, becoming proud, rich and tyrannical, then it has become weak and despised--and terrible forces of evil have been unleashed in the world. (Ray Stedman in Body Life, http://raystedman.org/bodylife)
Iraq: Not an ordinary Nation. Soon after the Flood of Noah, the eight survivors, Noah, his sons Shem, Ham and Japheth and their wives, settled in the Tigris Euphrates valley. It is no wonder that some of the oldest archaeological sites in the world are there: Ur, where Abraham was born, is adjacent to Al Nasariyeh in the South. Babylon is 60 miles Southeast of Baghdad, Ninevah is just across the Tigris River from Mosul in the far North. (See "Iraq and the Bible," by Bryant G. Wood, http://ldolphin.org/iraq.html). Present day Iraq is clearly divided to the North by the presence of many Kurdish people. The Kurds appear to be descendants of the Medes, making them Indo-Europeans and not Semitic Arabs (Japheth's son Madai is mentioned in Genesis 11. See Chuck Missler's The Kurds of Weigh, http://www.khouse.org/articles/political/19961101-88.html).
Figurative descriptions of the fallen angel Satan are presented to us in Isaiah 13:12-16. Satan is pictured as behind the scenes empowering the King of Babylon. (Similar imagery of Satan, this time the power behind the King of Tyre in Lebanon, is found in Ezekiel 28:12-19). Since the Bible hints at the existence of powerful angels over the nations of the world, (Daniel 10:11-21) there may be regional evil which continues generation after generation in certain parts of the world. (Note the end-time references to the Euphrates in Revelation 9:14 and 16:12) Saddam Hussein was clearly a terrible dictator. If Saddam used Nebuchadnezzar as a role model he apparently overlooked that kings conversion experience recorded in Daniel 4.
There are so many prophecies about Babylon in the Bible it would take a whole book to discuss them all in detail. Isaiah talks all about Babylon and her rise and fall while Assyria was still the major power in the Middle East. That prophet predicted the fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians even calling Cyrus by name before he was born. (Isa. 44:28, Isa. 45:1, Dan. 1:21, Dan. 6:28, Dan. 10:1) Isaiah and Jeremiah also prophesy concerning the long term fate of national Babylon and her eventual total destruction during the time of the end, i.e., on the day of the Lord.
"Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the earth a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising and the moon will not shed its light. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant, and lay low the haughtiness of the ruthless. I will make men more rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the LORD of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. And like a hunted gazelle, or like sheep with none to gather them, every man will turn to his own people, and every man will flee to his own land. Whoever is found will be thrust through, and whoever is caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed in pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered and their wives ravished. Behold, I am stirring up the Medes against them, who have no regard for silver and do not delight in gold. Their bows will slaughter the young men; they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb; their eyes will not pity children. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pride of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them. It will never be inhabited or dwelt in for all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there, no shepherds will make their flocks lie down there. But wild beasts will lie down there, and its houses will be full of howling creatures; there ostriches will dwell, and there satyrs will dance. Hyenas will cry in its towers, and jackals in the pleasant palaces; its time is close at hand and its days will not be prolonged." (Isaiah 13:9-22)
"A sword upon the Chaldeans, says the LORD, and upon the inhabitants of Babylon, and upon her princes and her wise men! A sword upon the diviners, that they may become fools! A sword upon her warriors, that they may be destroyed! A sword upon her horses and upon her chariots, and upon all the foreign troops in her midst, that they may become women! A sword upon all her treasures, that they may be plundered! A drought upon her waters, that they may be dried up! For it is a land of images, and they are mad over idols. Therefore wild beasts shall dwell with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall dwell in her; she shall be peopled no more for ever, nor inhabited for all generations. As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighbor cities, says the LORD, so no man shall dwell there, and no son of man shall sojourn in her." (Jeremiah 50:35-40)
"Therefore wild beasts shall dwell with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall dwell in her; she shall be peopled no more for ever, nor inhabited for all generations. As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighbor cities, says the LORD, so no man shall dwell there, and no son of man shall sojourn in her. Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain, says the LORD, which destroys the whole earth; I will stretch out my hand against you, and roll you down from the crags, and make you a burnt mountain. No stone shall be taken from you for a corner and no stone for a foundation, but you shall be a perpetual waste, says the LORD." (Jeremiah 51:25-26)
As far as Biblical history is concerned, the Table of Nations (Gen. 10-11), tells us that Babylon and other cities in the region were founded by Nimrod the grandson of Ham, soon after the Flood. Nimrod led the first organized post-Flood rebellion against Yahweh resulting in the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel. (The first city before the Flood was founded by Cain, the condemned murderer of his brother). Nimrod's Babylon became the seat of all false religion in the post-Flood world. We find the kingdom of Babylon (the "Old Babylonian Empire") mentioned in the Bible around the time of Abraham (c.2100 BC). The Old Babylonian empire gave way to the Assyrians for many centuries. Then followed a major renewal of Babylon (605-536 BC) under Nabopolassar and his son Nebuchadnezzar.
The theme of the "great harlot" in the Bible (http://www.ldolphin.org/Harlot.html) helps us keep track of symbolic Babylon until her final overthrow in Revelation 17-18. Most all Bible scholars distinguish between the city and the nation--"literal" Babylon--and her diffuse influence down through history known as "mystery" Babylon. As noted above there are unfulfilled, separate prophecies in the Bible in regard to both of these entities.
Extra Reading: The Tower of Babel and The Confusion of Languages, http://ldolphin.org/babel.html
Nimrod, Mars, and the Marduk Connection, by Bryce Self, http://ldolphin.org/Nimrod.html
Semiramis, Queen of Babylon, by Bryce Self, http://ldolphin.org/semir.html
The Two Babylons, by Alexander Hislop, http://www.piney.com/His23.html
The Table of Nations, http://ldolphin.org/ntable.html
God's Funnel (Genesis 10), by Ray Stedman, http://ldolphin.org/RCSgenesis/0331.html
Controlling God (Babylon), by Ray Stedman, http://ldolphin.org/RCSgenesis/0332.html
Babylon: It's Coming Destruction, by Noah Hutchings, http://ldolphin.org/babylons.html
Towards One World Religion, http://ldolphin.org/onereligion.html
Ancient Empires: Babylon, http://www.execulink.com/~wblank/20000214.htm
Thy Kingdom Come... (free book on prophecy), http://ldolphin.org/kingdom/
But there is more...
The Future of Egypt and Assyria, Isaiah Chapter 19. One of the most interesting unfulfilled prophecies in entire the Bible concerns Egypt. This chapter talks about a time when the Nile River will dry up. Egypt will suffer famine and plague, but finally be converted to the worship of Yahweh the God of Israel. Evidently this will happen after the Second Coming of Christ, during the Millennium. (Note Zechariah 14:16-21, and see Ray Stedman on this http://raystedman.org/isaiah/0580.html). The closing verses of Isaiah 19 are most interesting. There will come a future day when three nations in the Middle East will especially be devoted to the God of Israel: Egypt, Israel and Assyria! (The phrase "in that Day" is always clue to a future eschatological event)
"In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying,
"Blessed be Egypt my people ('am),
and Assyria the work (ma'aseh, workmanship) of my hands,
and Israel my heritage (nachalah, inheritance, possession) ." (Isaiah 19:23-25)
Ray Stedman once jokingly remarked that one should be careful not to spend to much time in Damascus! Though one of the oldest cities of the world, the place where Saul of Tarsus became the Apostle Paul, the seat of one of the oldest branches of the Christian church, there will come a time (somehow) when this city will cease to exist, "An oracle concerning Damascus. Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city, and will become a heap of ruins." (Isaiah 17:1). Syria will play a major roll in the events in and around Israel which will take place at the end of the age. Just what will God hammer out of present day Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran that will become the new Assyria? How will this nation come largely to be a believing people? Just how will most of the nation of Egypt become believers in the God of Israel? Daniel 11:40 tells us that it will be Egypt who one day will start World War III by invading Israel. Syria, probably backed by Russia, will respond from the North.
I hope these brief notes will lead people to study their entire Bibles carefully and avoid the common trap of calling current events in the world sure signs of the end. Many times God in history has allowed world events to come to the brink of impending doom and disaster. Then without telling us why, the Lord has turned history in a new direction, a direction which might last 10 or 50 or 100 years. We can be certain from the recent war and escalating tensions in the entire Middle East that God is busy arranging the furniture on the stage for the last chapter of the age we live in. I come back again and again to the overview Psalm 2 in all of this: "Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed, saying, 'Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.' He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 'I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.' I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, 'You are my son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.' Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling kiss his feet, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him."
Additional Reading: Assyria: The Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02007c.htm
Mesopotamia: The Assyrians, http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/MESO/ASSYRIA.HTM
Mesopotamian Time Line: http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/MESO/TIMELINE.HTM
Map of Mesopotamia: http://www.crystalinks.com/assyrian.html
UNPO (Modern) Assyrian: http://www.unpo.org/member/assyria/assyria.html
The Assyrians (Modern) (with historic map), http://www.nineveh.com/whoarewe.htm
Ancient Empires: Assyria, http://www.execulink.com/~wblank/ancassy.htm
Is a Democracy the Best Government? Many Americans seem to think that democracy is the most advanced, the most "evolved," and surely the best form of government anywhere. Actually from a Biblical point of view, democracy is the weakest kind of government of all. Daniel Chapter 2 shows us the progression of kingdoms and governments in the Western world which would take place after the Babylonian captivity of the Jews. The best form of government is an invisible theocracy--rule over a receptive, believing people by the one true God. Israel was offered this form of government at Sinai. But after the time of the Judges--when "every man did what was right in his own days[and] there was no king in the land,"--Israel asked instead for kings ("like all the other nations"). (See Deuteronomy 17:14-20 and 1 Samuel 8 for the details). Kings and Chronicles shows the results of this unwise choice by Israel: Nineteen all-bad kings followed Saul, David and Solomon, ruling the Ten Northern tribes. Just a handful of good kings (out of a total of 19 or 20) ruled in the South over Judah and Benjamin. The downhill course of the kingdom of Israel over 400 years is offset only by the predictions of the prophets that God would find a way to eventually save Israel in spite of her long-term rebellion. (See God's Faithfulness: Israel and the New Covenant, http://raystedman.org/misc/isrnewcov.html).
Rule over a nation by a "benevolent monarch" is much to be preferred over the manifold weaknesses of democracies. But history proves quite clearly that most sole rulers turn out to be very bad guys indeed--there have been "many antichrists down through the centuries." Therefore some means of distributing the ruling power in a nation is about the best we can hope for in a fallen world. It is God who appoints rulers over men (Isaiah 40, Romans 13) and we often get what we deserve. (All this is to suggest that we can not really expect too much too soon from any new government in Iraq).
I found Ray Stedman's 1969 notes on Daniel 2 to be helpful:
"You saw, O king [Nebuchadnezzar], and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of this image was of fine gold, its breast and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it smote the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces; then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
"This was the dream; now we will tell the king its interpretation. You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the sons of men, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air, making you rule over them all --you are the head of gold. After you shall arise another kingdom (Medio-Persia) inferior to you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, (Greece) which shall rule over all the earth. And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things; and like iron which crushes, it shall break and crush all these. And as you saw the feet and toes partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom; but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. As you saw the iron mixed with miry clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever; just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be hereafter. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure." (Daniel 2:31-45)
"The fourth empire is really the central study of this chapter. This strange, rather mysterious kingdom comes upon the scene after the Grecian kingdom. We usually call it the Roman Empire, but it is very striking that it is never so called in the Bible. It is never identified by name though it includes the Roman Empire, and there is no doubt about that. It began in Rome as certain predictive passages in the New Testament make very clear. In Revelation, we have a clear identification of this empire with the city of Rome, seated upon its seven hills, so there is no question but what this fourth empire began with Rome.
But, since the period encompassed by the image covers all of time down to the second coming of Jesus Christ, the fourth kingdom must include far more than what we call in history, the Roman Empire. That is why it is never so named in the Bible. We will be much closer if we simply refer to is as "the West." That is the way we identify it today, "the Western nations." The prophecy centers upon what happens to these nations, especially as they near the end.
In our next study we shall give ourselves to the details that Daniel reveals about the West and its remarkable place in the processes of history. But I do want to point out one thing before we leave this, and that is that, in this image, there is a decreasing value from the head down to the feet. It begins with a head of gold, then silver, then bronze and, finally, iron -- so it is decreasing in value but increasing in strength -- until the final stage is reached, which is a mingling of iron and clay and there is no strength at all.
That is surely significant to us. It is important to note that Nebuchadnezzar was the most autocratic king to ever rule in all the world. Daniel himself says that God had given him authority over all the earth and he had the right to rule over all the world. He did not exercise it to that extent, but he exercised it to whatever degree he chose. No one ever withstood him; it was his successors who were finally overthrown by the Medio-Persian empire, as Daniel had predicted.
All this indicates that in God's sight the most perfect form of government is not a democracy but a monarchy. A monarchy is headed by a single individual whose will obtains throughout the length and breadth of his kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar symbolizes God's ideal of the best kind of government, but Nebuchadnezzar was by no means God's ideal monarch. This is made clear by other events in this book. The value of a monarchy is directly related to the individual who occupies the throne. Ultimately God's kingdom will prevail over all the earth with the right monarch on the throne -- the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why Paul refers to him as "that blessed and only sovereign" (1 Timothy 6:15) who is about to appear -- the "Potentate" he is called in the King James Version, the Lord Jesus Christ, God's rightful King.
There are many fascinating things to be said about this. The remarkable thing about this dream is not these four divisions of man's kingdoms, but the strange, final kingdom which comes out of heaven as a stone cut without hands, and which strikes the feet of the image to destroy it. It symbolizes what the Bible universally declares, that all the kingdoms of men will end at the appearing of God's kingdom. The prayer we so frequently pray in the Lord's prayer will at last be answered: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," (Matt 6:10b RSV). This is what gives hope to our day Beginning with Verse 36 of Chapter 2, Daniel gives us the interpretation of the dream.
"This was the dream; now we will tell the king its interpretation. You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the sons of men, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air, making you rule over them all -- you are the head of gold. After you shall arise another kingdom inferior to you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth." (Dan 2:36-39)
The first three divisions of the image have been already fulfilled in history, and were fulfilled exactly according to the pattern predicted here by Daniel. The head of gold was the empire of Babylon, headed by Nebuchadnezzar, and existing within Daniel's own lifetime. It was superseded as the world power of its day by the divided kingdom of Media-Persia -- first the Medes and then the Persians coming in -- and yet history recognizes it as essentially one kingdom, though there were two ruling families involved. Then this was followed, as we know now from history, by the rapid-fire conquests of Alexander the Great, who swept across the world of his day, conquering the known kingdoms of earth and weeping because he had no other worlds to conquer. This was the "belly and thighs of bronze."
Then Daniel comes to the fourth kingdom. This is of peculiar interest to us because it is within the scope of this kingdom that we still live. As Daniel made clear, this kingdom is to last from the disappearance of the Grecian empire until the time when God sets up his own kingdom on earth. As we focus now on this fourth kingdom we shall have several matters of intense interest suggested to us. Let us look first at Verse 40:
"And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things; and like iron which crushes, it shall break and crush all these." (Daniel 2:40)
This is the prophet's interpretation of the fourth division of the image consisting of the legs of iron and extending clear down to the feet and toes of mingled iron and clay. This was to be the fourth empire. There are several things we can note immediately about this. History interprets a good deal of this for us as we look backward from our twentieth-century vantage point. It is clear now to us, as it must have been even to those in our Lord's day who read the prophecy of Daniel, that the fourth kingdom began with the Roman Empire.
For three hundred years before Christ, the city-state of Rome, located on the banks of the Tiber River in Italy, had already dominated other city-states and tribes of Italy and had begun to thrust out into the Mediterranean world. Gradually its legions conquered territory throughout Italy and around southern France and into Spain, had crossed the seas into North Africa, was doing long-term battle with Carthage, and had begun to thrust out into Egypt, Greece, and east, almost to India. By our Lord's day, this kingdom was enthroned as the dominant power of earth. It is clear to us, as we look at history, that the Roman Empire was aptly symbolized by the iron of this image, because, as the prophet said, iron breaks to pieces and shatters and crushes. Anyone who has read the story of the Roman Empire knows how characteristic this was of Rome. They were dominated by a passion to rule the world and they had the power to achieve it and to continue that rule. Roman legions were known everywhere for their ability to fight, to march in and overwhelm all opposition, utilizing the short sword which became the famous mark of the Roman soldier. The Roman phalanxes and legions moved throughout the earth and eventually dominated every kingdom known to the Western world.
The chief mark of Rome was its resolute will to conquer. Will Durant, in his remarkable volumes, The History of Civilization, tells us that the Roman senate sometimes deliberately began wars in order to acquire further wealth for Rome or to quiet unrest among the plebeians and slaves at home. The Roman legions became synonymous with peace so that men boasted of what they called the Pax Romana, a peace of conquest by military might which kept everything stable and quiet throughout the Empire.
The third thing suggested by this prophecy is that Rome would stamp its image upon the entire Western world. Here is where we of the Western hemisphere enter the picture. The Roman government was marked by a passion to establish colonies and then to defend these colonies by military power. That characteristic of Rome has continued throughout the history of the West. Western nations have been colonizing nations who have reached to the uttermost parts of the earth. With the colonizing came the necessity for great military power to protect the trade routes and the colonies from being overwhelmed by others. Thus the Western nations became mighty militarily, protecting the colonies which they had established.
The Roman Empire was soon divided into two portions, corresponding to the two legs of iron of this image. One division was in the West, centered in Rome; the other was in the East, with Constantinople its capital, and became the Byzantine empire which colonized toward the north, into Russia, and into the east, to Persia, Iran and Iraq, and spread Byzantine culture all through the area.
In the West the empire centered on Rome. It first mastered the whole of the Mediterranean area and Western Europe and even after the fall of Rome itself continued to dominate as the kingdoms of Europe, the monarchies of France, of Germany, Spain, Great Britain and Portugal. These, in turn, began to reach into the western hemisphere after Christopher Columbus discovered the New World. The interesting thing now is that every single nation of this western hemisphere was begun by one of the nations of the Roman empire. Our entire Western world is Roman to the core. You can see that even in our own history. We have a senate which is one of the fundamental bases of our government, and which we copied directly from the Roman senate. The very republican form of the United States government is based upon the republic of Rome. Our courts, our laws, our military, all reflect the courts and laws and military forms of the Roman Empire. We even derived our national symbol from Rome. The American eagle is known throughout the world as were the Roman eagles in the days of Rome's power.
In Europe today there is an even more remarkable tracing of Roman heritage possible. As students of history know, the Goths and Huns and other pagan tribes of the north swept down over the Alps, overran Italy, and finally sacked the city of Rome. There emerged from this chaos what is called in history, "the Holy Roman Empire." The Church became a stabilizing influence through all that time and the Pope emerged finally as a Roman ruler. It was still Roman, but it was now a religious empire. The seat of imperial government was transferred first to France, then into Spain, and finally ended up in Germany. The German rulers were called Kaisers, which is simply the German spelling of the word Caesar, so it is apparent that the Roman Caesars were perpetuated in the Western empires as the Kaisers.
A strikingly similar thing took place in the Eastern empire under the Byzantines. In about 1453 the city of Constantinople was sacked by the northern tribes and the seat of government was ultimately transferred from Constantinople to Russia. The ruler was called the Czar, which is the Russian spelling of Caesar. Thus the Roman Caesars have continued right up to modern times. What to me is a fascinating footnote to history is that both of these divisions of the Roman Empire, in its imperial form, ended in the same year, 1918, when the Russian Czar was overthrown and murdered by the Bolsheviks as they came into power in Russia, and the German empire with the Kaisers ended at the close of World War I. So we have the whole of the Western world as an extension of this mighty fourth kingdom which Daniel saw was to dominate the earth. It is stamped with the Roman image from that day to this. It is still Roman, and only recently has ceased to colonize, and thus dominate, major parts of the earth. Vast military power is characteristic of the fourth kingdom throughout its duration. In Verse 41 a strange and remarkable new element enters into the picture. Daniel says to the king,
"And as you saw the feet and toes partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom; but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the miry clay." (Daniel 2:41)
There was a sense in which the Western kingdom was "divided" between the Roman and Byzantine Empires, analogous to the legs of the image, but now here is a different division. This is a division in character which comes in at the foot stage of the image. The legs were made of solid iron, but Daniel saw that the feet of the image were made of mingled iron and clay.
What is the symbolism of this? The clay is obviously the opposite of iron. Iron symbolized an imperialistic attitude or form of government, the power and might of imperialism seeking to dominate and to rule by brute force and strength. Clay, on the other hand, is weak, pliable, easily molded. Most Bible scholars are right in identifying this as the principle of democracy. Perhaps that may cause us to bristle a bit. We do not like to see democracy attacked. We like to think that the reason the United States and Great Britain have become strong nations is because they are democracies; that it is the voice of the people that gives strength. But if you look at history, especially the history of the West, in the light of the revelation of Scripture and in an honest evaluation of democracy, you will discover that democracy is not really a very good form of government.
The voice of the people is always a fickle voice. It is easily molded, like clay. That is what politicians capitalize on. Every election year you can hear them shaping the clay, molding the clay into the opinions they want them to have. Today we are subject to the tremendous pressures of mass media which play upon our minds to mold the will of the people. That is the weakness of democracy. Let me share with you an interesting quotation which I think you will find most significant, especially in view of when it was uttered. It is called, Why Democracies Fail.
Democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasure. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefit from the public treasury, with the result that democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by a dictatorship, and then a monarchy.
That sounds as if it was written today, does it not? But it was written by professor Alexander Fraser Tytler, nearly two centuries ago, while our thirteen original states were still colonies of Great Britain. At the time he was writing of the decline and fall of the Athenian Republic, over two thousand years before. It is a clear and honest evaluation of democracy. No, it is not democracy that has made the United States great; it is another element -- the same element which produced greatness for a considerable period in Great Britain and other nations. Scripture reveals that the element which makes a nation great is righteousness. When righteousness pervades a nation that people is strong; without righteousness it begins to falter. That is why we are seeing our American democracy beginning to totter, stagger, and crumble. The element of righteousness is fast disappearing within it. Democracy has no power to stand or be strong unless righteousness is there. This one thing God's word clearly reveals: "righteousness exalts a nation, but shame is a reproach to any people." In the words of the motto of the state of Hawaii, Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono, which means, "The life of the land is preserved in righteousness." That has been the fundamental secret of the strength of the United States.
In this passage the prophet Daniel says the kingdom is to be so divided. In the final stage of this collection of Western nations, dominated by Roman principles, there would come a struggle for dominance between two principles: the iron of imperialism, and the clay of democracy. These two things would struggle and attempt to mingle together. As we look back in history we can see that World War I marked the beginning of the end of an era. The end of that war was characterized by the fall of crowned heads all over the world. Many monarchies ended then, either abruptly and completely, or they were transformed into representative monarchies in which the king became merely a figurehead, exercising no power or authority at all. World War II completed the picture; the age of kings ended in that interim period. From that time on there has been clearly emerging a new age, a new condition among nations. It is described for us in Verses 42-43, when we come to the very toes of the feet of the image.
"And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. As you saw the iron mixed with miry clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay." (Daniel 2:42-43)
The phrase translated in the RSV, "in marriage," is not too accurate. Literally, it is (in the King James), "they shall mingle together with the seed of men," which seems to imply a universal application, i.e., this is a grass roots matter, it permeates the masses. In the stream of humanity these two conflicting currents struggle together, and as we near the end of this fourth kingdom it becomes a struggle at the grass roots level. It strikes me as highly significant that this is what we see arising in our own day. I am not going to be dogmatic on this as being positively the fulfillment of this prophecy, but the trend seems to be unmistakable.
What is happening in the nations of the West in our day? Well, clearly they are torn by domestic strife. They are being weakened by internal conflict. There is enough iron yet to threaten with the power and strength of ancient Rome, but there is enough clay to weaken and paralyze so that nations are unable to accomplish their objectives. Thus we have the sight of great and powerful nations which are almost helpless to carry out what they set themselves to do. They are being throttled and thwarted by internal weakness, by struggles breaking out from within, by the unmixable principle of the voice of the people and the iron will of authority in conflict. This is what sets the stage for the final act of history. By this the world becomes ripe for the invasion of God. That last act is given to us now in Verses 44-45:
"And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever; just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be hereafter. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure." (Daniel 4-45)
Our attention is immediately drawn to this opening phrase, "And in the days of those kings." What kings? There have not been any kings mentioned in this passage at all. Kingdoms, yes; kings, no. "In the days of those kings" -- what a cryptic reference this is. But as you compare this passage with other passages in the seventh chapter of Daniel. and also with the book of Revelation, it becomes clear that the final form of the Western confederacy of nations will be the emergence of a confederation of ten nations, here symbolized by the ten toes of this image. The only possible antecedent for the reference to "those kings" is the ten toes of the image. In the days when the ten-kingdomed empire emerges as the final form of the fourth kingdom (essentially Roman in its emphasis and characteristic), then God, in those days, shall set up a kingdom which shall not be destroyed.
Daniel saw in the dream that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and struck the entire image crumbled, suddenly, dramatically. Then the stone grew until it became a mountain that filled the entire earth. It is not difficult to interpret this imagery. The stone is identified for us clearly in Scripture. The Apostle Peter gathers up several passages out of the Old Testament and identifies the stone for us. In First Peter, Chapter 2, Verse 6, he says:
For it stands in scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and he who believes in him will not be put to shame." (1 Peter 2:6)
To you therefore who believe, he is precious, but for those who do not believe, "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner," and "A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall;" for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. What a remarkable revelation of the authority, power, and right of Jesus Christ to rule among the kingdoms of men! He is the stone that comes striking suddenly into the affairs of mankind -- God once again intervening dramatically in history to destroy all that man has built through the centuries. The entire structure of civilization collapses and crumbles at the impact of this mighty stone, and the stone in turn grows to fill the entire earth. This clearly introduces the millennial kingdom which has been prophesied by the prophets.
What is our part in all this? If we stand, as I believe this passage clearly suggests, at the termination of civilization as we know it; if we are approaching the end of man's day and God's program which the prophets have long predicted is at last to be established, then Peter suggests that it is our privilege now to rejoice in that "chosen and precious stone." The question that impinges upon us in this hour is, What is our relationship to that stone? Is he the foundation for our life, or is he coming to destroy all that we have built? Is the coming of the Lord to us a thrill, or is it a threat? Is he coming as a friend, or as a foe?
The purpose of prophecy is to help us keep our lives balanced, now. What are you going to do tomorrow? You say. "Well, I've got to go back and make a living." Yes, God is interested in you making a living. Prophecy does not remove us from the need to make a living. But it does face us up to the question: What else am I doing tomorrow, and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and throughout the whole week? Even those who are not Christian will be engaged in making a living. But, if I belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, what else is involved? Am I doing nothing more than simply trying to get ahead, like the rest of the world? Or am I also investing in eternal issues that will last beyond this time? That is the question which is important. It is a tragic possibility that one may know the Lord, and know the Scriptures, and yet arrive at the end of life and, looking back, find that much of it has been wasted because it was invested only in that which was to crumble and be dispersed to the winds at the coming of Christ..." (http://raystedman.org/daniel/)
Abraham and Jesus: Abraham is the acknowledged forerunner of monotheism for today's Jews, Muslims and Christians. The Bible calls him "the father of all who believe." (Romans 4:11) Recent events in the Middle East have jolted secular and atheistic westerners into the realization that a vast number of people strongly believe that there really is one God over all mankind and that God has something to do with the man Abraham who lived about 4000 years ago. Like it or not the world has becoming a more openly "religious" place. Down through the centuries there has been little harmony and not much dialog between Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Horrible crimes have been committed in the name of "God." Terrible wars have been fought in the name of religion. Exactly what one believes about Abraham and his God is of fundamental importance. But here there is no real agreement. All the while, real "peacemakers" (Matthew 5:9) have been few and far between in our often-violent world.
In the past few decades the Christian remnant in the Middle East, in the Arab world, has sharply declined. The growing turmoil and unrest in virtually of the nations of the world this year is a clear reminder than only a few people in the world are members of the family of the Lord Jesus Christ. Since, according to the Bible, true righteousness--real law and order, as well as lasting peace and prosperity--is only obtainable through faith in Jesus Christ, how can we expect a peaceful solution to human problems which omits the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ? God looks down on our planet of six billion anarchists with mercies renewed every morning He gives everyone, everywhere, the just and the unjust, a huge daily dose of "common grace." (http://ldolphin.org/common.html). "Do you not know that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance," Paul writes in Romans.
Two millennia ago Jesus polarized all of Israel when he claimed that Moses wrote of Him well before Jesus came into the world ("If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me," John 5:45). Jesus also talked about Abraham, boldly claiming that Abraham's faith was actually faith in Him, that is faith in Jesus. ("Before Abraham was, 'I am,' said Jesus.") Romans 4 is all about what it was Abraham actually believed and the nature of the God in whom he placed his trust. The Pharisees vehemently debated Jesus when He told them point blank that they were not children of Abraham at all. (John 8) While Abraham is indeed called "the father of all who believe," the Apostle Paul insists that saving faith must be the same faith Abraham had--faith in the God of the Bible who keeps His promises, faith in Messiah Jesus, God's unique "seed." God has made Jesus the rightful King over all the nations. "when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet." (Hebrews 10-12-13)
The trends are towards one world religion, to one world government, and to some kind of negotiated peace on earth. (In Israel that negotiated peace, Israel's "covenant with death," can be expected to take the form of trading land for peace, (Daniel 11:36-45, for commentary see http://raystedman.org/daniel/0368.html). Real peace on earth begins in the hearts of individuals who have given Jesus Christ permission to rule their lives.
Meantime the unchanging message of Jesus divides and upsets as it always has.
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward." (Matthew 10:34-42)
While there are some fine missionaries at work in the "Ten-Forty" window these days, how about a carefully crafted evangelical satellite radio and TV broadcasting service to reach the peoples of the Middle East? Last time I checked the late J. Vernon McGee's Bible studies were on Internet in 24 different languages. The United States has demonstrated great military power and leadership among the nations in recent months. This would be a good time for the church of Jesus Christ to get busy fulfilling her even higher calling. "Jesus came and said to the disciples, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.'" (Matthew 28:18-20)
Other Recommended Reading:
John Walvoord (1910-2002) Major Bible Prophecies (Zondervan 1991), Every Prophecy in the Bible (Victor 1999), and (Kregel 2001)--are well worth having and reading in these times when poorly researched just-plain-wrong books on Bible prophecy are being promoted right and left, discrediting the whole subject of eschatology.
The War of Spin: The Other War, by Bill Crouse, Christian Information Ministries, http://ldolphin.org/crousemedia.html. A Special Report on the Media
Regarding science and faith Stephen M. Barr's Modern Physics and Ancient Faith (Notre Dame 2003) is a fine book by a physicist.
Addendum: A Year Later (May 2004)
An email sent to a group of friends this week read as follows:
May 10, 2004. The following is my commentary on what took place in the Iraqi prison.
Last week I was absolutely horrified when I saw the photos of what our American solders were doing to naked Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. I could not believe my eyes. I felt it was such a blow to the reputation of Americans bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East. A couple individuals with twisted minds have ruined our campaign. I believed the President when I read the following:
"The president's reaction was one of deep disgust and disbelief that anyone who wears our uniform would engage in such shameful and appalling acts," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "It does not represent our United States military and it does not represent the United States of America."
Bush said in his public remarks, "The conduct that has come to light is an insult to the Iraqi people and an affront to the most basic standards of morality and decency."
As I thought more about this whole sick event that took place, I concluded that the president is wrong. The perverted minds that led these solders to do what they did are a reflection of the morally corrupt society we live in here in America. Is it any wonder that the solder Lynndie England is 5 months pregnant by the other solder in the photos and that they're both not married? How about in our own country the unlimited and easy access our children and we have to sexually explicit videos and photos? I'm sorry Mr. President, but this does represent the United States of America and the degradation of the most basic standards of morality and decency in our country.
It is time for us to come home. The stain of immorality that our government and we the people kept ignoring in our nation is a blemish that has manifested itself in the minds of some of the solders that represent the United States of America.
Paul H. Dau, Self-Employed, Businessman
My comments in response are as follows:
Thanks for sharing your feelings. I certainly agree! The spiritual factors in all these recent events tell us much more of the real story:
Under Saddam, Iraq was thoroughly demonized. The prisons were notorious places of cruel punishment, torture and abuse. Therefore those multitudes of dark demons are still around. They have never been exorcised--I rather doubt anyone prayed over these foul prisons when they were liberated and began to be used by American forces?
The Christian community in Iraq is very small and very weak. Christian influence does not permeate the culture there by any means. Lawlessness and violence pervade the whole land. In short Iraq is ruled spiritually by dark and evil angels. This has been the case over there for millennia.
Of course, in that climate with no sound social and cultural infrastructure, democracy can never take root and flourish.
Islam is another big factor opposing the real God over there. This religion has its own dark angels, powers and hordes of demons. Radical Islam is bent on our destruction and the eradication of both Jews and Christians. Everyone else must bow to the pagan god Allah. Americans -- even the best of American Christians--tend to be utterly naive about the spiritual forces at work in the Islamic world.
A few of our American soldiers and marines are Christians. Most are not--as you point out. Back home the life styles of these young men and women have been (and are) generally promiscuous and permissive and ungodly by upbringing and by choice.
The veneer of good behavior imposed by military training does not change the human heart.
Our troops who are not Christians have no resources, no skills, no training and no power to resist the demons who have long occupied Iraq in the spiritual realm. The spiritual warfare going on in Iraq is where the eternal action is taking place. It does not surprise me that essentially pagan American young men should lose badly in situations when the enemy strongholds are all around on every side in Iraq.
God's judgment on our country in all this is that he is allowing the world to see our spiritual hypocrisy as a nation. We are not a moral, god-fearing nation at all. I expect much more bad news awaits us unless there is some broad scaled national repentance here at home.
In 1971 there was an interesting experiment at Stanford University. A group of students were divided into two groups. One group was a set of "guards" and the second group were "prisoners" in a mock prison. Almost immediately, as soon the experiment started, the guards began to abuse and intimidate the prisoners--their very own peers and classmates. Thee experiment had to be stopped early!
Read about that here: http://www.prisonexp.org/index.html
"The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who is able to understand it." (Jeremiah 17:9)
Attached is yesterday's Chuck Colson commentary, for your information.
God be with you,
Genesis 10:2 "The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras."
The Kurds appear to be descendants of the Medes, making them Indo-Europeans and not Semitic Arabs.
Madai: His descendants were the Madaeans, who are better known to us as the Medes. The Assyrians recorded the name as Amada; the Greeks as the Medai; and the Old Persian inscriptions speak of them as the Mada. The earliest surviving reference to the Medes that is found in secular documents, appears in the inscriptions of Shalmaneser III, king of Assyria from ca 858-824 BC, in which he tells us that he invaded the land of the Medes to plunder them of their fine horses. Both Strabo and Herodotus confirm the fact that the Medes were of Indo-European (Japhetic) origin, and we know also that their language was of this group. After 631 BC, the Medes joined with the people of Askuza (or the Ashkenazim) and those of Gomer (the Cimmerians) in an attempt to throw off the Assyrian yoke, (Bill Cooper, After the Flood, http://www.ldolphin.org/cooper/appen3.html)
Madai and Javan: The part that these play in early history is very well defined and can be stated without the complications that are attached to most of the previous names.
It is reasonably clear that the Madai appear subsequently as the Medes and Javan gave rise to the Ionians. In his book, Races of the Old Testament, Sayce says that the Medes claimed a relationship with the Aryans of north India, and on the Persian monuments (for example, the Behistun inscriptions) they are referred to as the Mada - from which the Greek form, Medes, comes. There is no doubt that Persia was their general area of initial settlement. In Assyrian inscriptions they are mentioned as the Ma-da-ai.
Now it has already been observed that before there arose a complete separation of the various nationalities - Medes, Persians, Greeks, Celts, etc. - the Japhethites were first divided into two major bodies. One of these comprised the ancestors of the Indians and Persians, whereas the second was the aggregate of those tribes which afterwards composed the nations of Europe. Thus the word Indo-European well sums up our ethnological origins.
That the separation of these two groups had probably preceded the smaller division into nationalities is suggested by the early rise of names distinguishing these two great divisions. The ancestors of the Indo-Persians claimed for themselves alone the old title, Aryas, and gave to the other body the name, Yavanas, a word which may possibly be related to our word Young, although, to my mind, it is clearly a recollection of the name Javan. Thus Javan and Madai, in a manner of speaking, may stand collectively for the two branches of the Indo-European family.
Orientals seem to have used the term Yavan for the Greek race as a whole. The Assyrians called the Greeks of Cyprus the Yavnan. The Persians refer to the Greeks of Asia Minor and the Aegean Islands as the Yuna. The terms Greek and Hellene, Achaean, and Dorian seem to have been unknown in Asia, according to Rawlinson.
In the days when Egyptian monarchs of the IVth Dynasty were erecting their pyramids, the Mediterranean was already known as the Great Circle of the Uinivu, which is equated by some with Javan.
Larned suggests that the Italian peninsula was occupied by peoples of a stock who had traveled into Greece, later crossing the Apennines and spreading southward along the western coast. It is evident that in the name Javan we have a very early reference to the basic stock out of which Greece, and perhaps part of Italy, was first settled, for the Greeks in later periods used other patronymics to refer to themselves. And it would seem, on the other hand, that in the Medes we have an equally early reference to those who settled India, since in Genesis 10 there is no mention, for example, of the Persians who in later records were nearly always associated with the Medes. Indeed, as with the Greeks, whose more ancient name, Ionians, has long since disappeared, so in modern times the word Persia has remained but the name Madai has disappeared. Javan, then, is a general term for those who became Indians, Medes, and Persians. (Arthur Custance, Noah and His Sons, http://custance.org/old/noah/ch2h.html)
The Kurds of Weigh, by Chuck Missler
Whether it's Bosnia, Chechnya, or the Kurds, we all are becoming increasingly aware of conflicts involving the Muslim world. There is much going on in the Islamic world that bears prophetic implications. For example, reports on the tensions in the Middle East and Central Asia frequently mention the Kurds. Few have any awareness of their complex background, which can be significant for the Biblically informed.
A People Without a Country
The Kurds live in contiguous areas of Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, with a dream of again forming their own independent country of Kurdistan ("Land of the Kurds"). They number approximately 10 million, including those in Armenia and Syria. Unlike their Shi'ite Iranian neighbors, most Kurds are Sunni Muslims.
They have a traditional reputation for military prowess and have been successful mercenaries and professional soldiers in many armies. Saladin, the famed Kurdish warrior of the 12th century, fought against Richard I of England in the Third Crusade and created the Ayyübid Dynasty of Egypt (1169-1250 A.D.). There had also been brief Kurdish dynasties in the 10th and 12th centuries. Divided and abused by the Ottoman and Safavid empires until World War I, the Kurds continue as a growing problem in the Muslim world. They've suffered a tradition of abuse and disenfranchisement in each country they've resided in.
Kurdish nationalism had been reflected in frequent uprisings against the Ottoman and Persian governments. After the first World War, the Treaty of Sèvres (1920) provided for an autonomous Kurdistan, but that treaty was never ratified. In the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), France and Britain divided up Ottoman Kurdistan between Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Iran kept theirs. Thus, Kurdistan has been divided by five sovereign states, with the largest portions of the land being respectively in Turkey (43%), Iran (31%), Iraq (18%), Syria (6%), and the former Soviet Union (2%).
The Kurds have remained the only ethnic group in the world with indigenous representatives in three world geopolitical blocs: the Arab World (in Iraq and Syria), NATO (Turkey), the South Central Asian bloc (Iran and Turkmenistan) and, until recently, the Soviet bloc (in the Caucasus-now Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia). Uprisings in Iraq and in Iran have continued and the indigenous Kurdish population has continued in refugee/guerrilla status throughout the region.
The Kurds of Iran
The Kurds appear to have descended from the Medes of ancient history, who joined with the Persians and conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. This Medo-Persian Empire was the second of the four great empires predicted in the visions of Daniel Chapters 2 and 7. The Medes, an Indo-European people, settled in the plateau land in northeastern Iran as early as the 17th century B.C. The ancient country of Media had their capital city at Ecbatana (modern Hamadan).
Cyrus II ("the Great") was part Persian and part Mede: his mother was Mandane, a daughter of Astyages, king of Media (585-550 B.C.). When his father, Cambyses I, died in 559 B.C., Cyrus inherited the throne of Ansan, and after unifying the Persian people, he captured his father-in-law Astyages, took the capital city of Ecbatana, and then welded the Persians, with the Medes as honored but subservient subjects, into a unified nation. His capture of Babylon is detailed in Daniel Chapter 5. (Daniel was later appointed as the chief over the hereditary Median priesthood known as the "Magi," a sect of which become prominent at the birth of Christ.)1 The Medes disappear from history to re-emerge as the mountain people known today as the Kurds.
The Kurds of Turkey
Turkey, after 70 years of Westernization and its continued rejection by the "New Europe," is now again swinging to the east and re-embracing Islam. 2 Turkey, too, is struggling with a militant Kurdish population. In Turkey, Kurds can have no Kurdish names, are not allowed to use the Kurdish language, and there is no Kurdish instruction allowed in the schools. Turkey is annoyed with Syria in not honoring their agreement to liquidate the Kurdish rebel bases in Lebanon and Syria.
The Kurds of Iraq
The Kurds comprise approximately 18% of Iraq's population. Iraq created an administrative district called Kurdistan in 1974, comprising three northwestern governorates of Iraq that border Turkey to the north and Iran to the east. Iraq was the cradle of the Shi'ite branch of Islam, with about 55% being Shi'ite, although Saddam Hussein and his cohorts, presently in control, are Sunni's, as are most Kurds. Saddam Hussein has continued to oppress the Kurds in Iraq, having even used chemical weapons against their civilian population in recent years. In March of 1988, 4,000 men, women, and children were gassed in just one town, Halabja. (No wonder the Kurds will enthusiastically participate in the ultimate destruction of Babylon.)
The Recent Crisis
By creating a no-fly zone north of the 36th parallel, the Gulf War victors gave the Kurds a small de facto Kurdistan, with its own parliament, administration and militia. With Arbil as its capital, and protected from Saddam Hussein, they served as a rallying point for his enemies. Unfortunately, two of their leaders elected to start a civil war by renewing a tribal fight that is destroying themselves.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is the party of the urban middle class and intellectuals. It is headed by Djalal Talabani and encompasses 70% of the population.
The Democratic Party of Kurdistan (DPK) is led by Massoud Barzani, son of the legendary hero Mustapha Barzani. It held the mountains and passes through which trucks carried Turkish exports north and brought Iraqi oil to Turkey. This contraband trade brought Barzani and his DPK $150,000 per day. In July, Talabani solicited the aid of Iran and drove Barzani's men from Arbil. In August, Barzani called on the Iraqis. That gave Saddam Hussein the opportunity he was waiting for. On August 31, Iraqi tanks and planes hit Arbil while 30,000 troops stood poised at the no-fly zone.
(Saddam Hussein's moves had been predicted several months earlier: "One way Iraq might stop cooperating is by taking military action in the protected zones in the North and South of Iraq. Saddam could launch a military offensive against the U.N.-protected Kurdish enclave in the northern Iraq and/or move Iraqi forces below the 32nd parallel. Since Washington has allowed Turkey to launch large-scale military assaults against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, any U.S. military intervention to block Iraq aggression in the U.N.-protected enclave will constitute a clear double-standard. Thus, Saddam can seek to demonstrate how his country is a victim of Western imperialism and hypocrisy by attacking the Kurdish north and thereby provoking U.N.-ordered retaliation by U.S. forces.")3
What makes the crisis in Iraq rather enigmatic is that U.S. State Department reports out of Stockholm-just prior to Saddam Hussein's aggression-indicated that "The U.S.-brokered cease-fire of August 27 between the PUK and the DPK appears to be holding." 4 There seems to be another agenda hiding behind the headlines.
Saddam's secret services ransacked the HQ of the CIA- sponsored Iraqi National Congress (which cost the CIA over $100 million since the Gulf War ended). The 10 CIA operatives were able to be evacuated, but the files were seized and hundreds killed who were suspected of aiding the Americans.
Saddam knew Clinton wouldn't send in ground troops. Our own "Mother of Political Opportunists," to ratchet the polls a bit and show he was not a foreign policy lightweight, sent 27 cruise missiles on September 3, which were safely targeted to the south. Saddam's flagging support at home, as well as the Islamic morale in general, soared as he again defied America, and Clinton's tone softened. The cost to the U.S. has already been in the billions.
All of this is viewed by some as a strategic prelude to creating a context to bring Russia into an eventual attack on Israel. The lack of "coalition" support for this recent U.S. response has punctured some of the fictions supporting the Gulf War. There are reports that Saddam is positioning some new adventures to the south. (Iran, incidentally, has just ordered $4.5 billion of planes, missiles, and other arms from China. We'll be summarizing an update on "The Kings of the East" in a future issue.)
The Prophetic Destiny
It may well be that Kurdish nationalism may also play a key part in the end-time scenario. They certainly seem to appear as a major player in the ultimate destruction of Babylon. Don't confuse the destruction of Babylon with the fall of Babylon to the Persians in 539 B.C. The Persians conquered Babylon without a battle and made it a secondary capital. Two centuries later, Alexander conquered the Persians and made Babylon his headquarters. Alexander died there. It atrophied over the succeeding centuries and is beginning to re-emerge under Saddam Hussein.
The destruction of Babylon is prophesied in Isaiah 13 and 14 and Jeremiah 50 and 51. Isaiah 13:17 alludes to "the Medes" as participants in Babylon's destruction (and this is one of the reasons some scholars have assumed that it refers to the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C.). However, both Isaiah and Jeremiah describe a destruction "like Sodom and Gomorrah," and after which it is never to be inhabited, etc. All of which is future and appears as a climactic event in the Book of Revelation 5 Now more than ever it's critical for each of us to do our homework.
1. Intelligence International, Stoney-hill Centre, Brimpsfield,
Gloucester, GL48LF, U.K.
2. Hilaire duBerrier, 20 Blvd., Princesse Charlotte, Monte Carlo. Monaco.
This article was originally published in the November 1996
Personal Update NewsJournal.
Posted July 5, 2004.
BreakPoint with Charles Colson | Commentary #040510 - 05/10/2004
Fallenness on Display
Note: This commentary was delivered by Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley.
The more we read and learn about the mistreatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the worse it gets. New revelations about the conduct of American soldiers shock and surprise us.
But one person who wasn't surprised by what he learned is Dr. Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University. He has seen it all before.
In 1971, Zimbardo and his colleagues conducted an experiment in the basement of Stanford's psychology building. After creating a simulated prison, they randomly assigned twenty-four Stanford students to be either guards or prisoners.
Within a few days, the students playing guards had become sadistic. They placed bags over the "prisoners'" heads. They forced them to strip naked and subjected them to humiliating sexual pranks.
Students from one of America's most prestigious schools descended into barbarism at an alarming speed. Zimbardo was forced to end the experiment less than a week after it began.
The results at Stanford, while dramatic, weren't unique. An earlier experiment at Yale tested people's willingness to inflict pain on others. They were told to push a switch that supposedly delivered an electric shock every time another subject answered a question incorrectly. With only the researcher's insistence for motivation, two-thirds of the participants were willing to deliver potentially lethal shocks to the victim-even though they could hear his screams.
Although the set-up was fake, the willingness of one person to inflict suffering on another was all too real, just as at Stanford. Seeing ordinary college students become sadistic thugs caused Zimbardo to tell the New York Times recently that he wasn't at all surprised at what happened in Iraq.
According to Zimbardo, it wasn't a case of simply putting "bad apples in a good barrel," but the opposite. Prisons, "where the balance of power [between guards and prisoners] is so unequal," are, almost by definition, brutal places. This makes it vital for authorities to rein in the guard's worst impulses. Otherwise, as the nineteenth-century Christian statesman Lord Acton famously put it, power will corrupt.
This corruption is the product of our fallenness. We are certainly capable of generosity and kindness, but because we are, as C. S. Lewis called it, "bent," we are also capable of cruelty and even savagery. And our backgrounds don't make a difference; because of our sinful nature, given the right circumstances, the potential for what happened at Abu Ghraib lies within all of us.
The founders understood this. This is why we have the separation of powers to guard against the temptation and corruption that comes with power. The correctional system knows this. That's why they carefully train and monitor corrections officers.
The actions at Abu Ghraib that, as columnist Peggy Noonan put it, "humiliated [our] country" are timely reminders that, whenever and wherever humans are incarcerated or institutionalized, those in positions of responsibility must be vigilant.
That's why Americans, especially Christians, should not settle for responses that treat what happened as the actions of just a few "bad apples." Going forward, wise leadership must take into account human sin and depravity--a truth that is not only demonstrable, but is central to a Christian worldview. (Copyright (c) 2004 Prison Fellowship)
John Schwartz, Simulated Prison in '71 Showed a Fine Line between 'Normal' and 'Monster', New York Times, 6 May 2004. Free registration required. Learn more about the Stanford experiment.
Kathleen O'Toole,The Stanford Experiment: Still Powerful after All These Years, Stanford University press release, 8 January 1997.
Jerry Large, The sickening predictability of our capacity for evil, Seattle Times, 6 May 2004.
Abuse and the Army,Wall Street Journal, 6 May 2004.
Peggy Noonan, A Humiliation for America, Wall Street Journal, 6 May 2004.
BreakPoint Commentary No. 040505, A Higher Standard. While Chuck Colson noted in May 5's commentary that the abuse of Iraqis was a deviation from normal military discipline, Mark pointed out that is not a deviation from human behavior.
Charles Krauthammer, This war is also about sex, Townhall.com, 7 May 2004.
Bradley Graham and David Von Drehle, Bush Apologizes for Abuse of Prisoners,Washington Post, 7 May 2004.
David Stout, Rumsfeld Offers Apology for Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners, New York Times, 7 May 2004. Free registration required.
Nicholas Kristof, Those Friendly Iranians, New York Times, 5 May 2004. Free registration required.
Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, The Problem of Evil (Tyndale, 1999).
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Touchstone, 1996 version).
What has gone wrong with the world? This profound question lies at the heart of all worldviews. Is human nature essentially good or fundamentally bad? How do you explain the presence of evil in our world? The Problem of Evil by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey addresses these questions in a profound yet practical way.
May 11, 2004.
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April 18, 2003