And The Last Days
Wars and fightings
It is easy to get the
impression that during this period preceding the main Assyrian invasion,
all that was happening in the Middle East was that Syria, the Philistines
and perhaps other Arab nations, were raiding Israel. However,
Rabshakeh frequently reminded the Jews that during that period preceding
the invasion, Assyria had 'utterly destroyed' " all (Arab) lands"
in the area (2 Kings 19:11), showing that we are to expect significant
Arab squabbling during the domination period of Israel. This
perhaps accounts for their lack of organized colonisation of the land
in this period, and their apparent failure to make good their 'capture'
of Jerusalem (Zech. 14:2) in that some Jews still remain there.
It also explains how easily they turn to fight each other during the final
invasion of Israel, if this invasion is seen as only a lull in a series
of major inter-Arab conflicts raging throughout the Middle East.
Wars and conflicts will be going on all around Israel during the last
days, as they were in A.D. 70 - not just between Jews and Arabs (Matt.
Thus Isaiah encouraged
the faithful not to fear the Syrian raids because " the riches of
Damascus...shall be taken away before (by) the king of Assyria" (Is.
8:4). The Bible-minded among the latter-day Israel may well
take comfort from this same prophecy. It may be that "
riches" , in the sense of oil rights, is the motivation behind this
" At that time
Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drave the Jews from
Elath" (2 Kings 16:6). Only a few years previously, Elath
had been restored to Israel (2 Kings 14:22), as had Damascus and Hamath
(2 Kings 14:28), which were also recaptured by Syria and Assyria respectively
(Is. 7:8; 2 Kings 18:34). Modern Israel likewise has
recaptured border territories over the past 40 years which soon will be
taken again by her Arab enemies. If Elath is to be equated
with Ezion-geber in the far south, Syria (to the north-east of Israel)
must have achieved this in alliance with other Arab groups to the south
of Israel. This Syrian pressure on Israel from north
and south justifies the description of her raids as an open jaw about
to close around Israel (Is. 9:12). Notice how many of the
Arab invasions in the judges period, which typify the period of prolonged
desolation of Israel, come up from the south.
" So Ahaz sent
messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, I am thy servant
and thy son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the king of
Syria" (2 Kings 16:7). It may be that Israel is forced
to rig up some deal with the large Arab power of the last days typified
by Assyria, in order to fend off the threat of one of the smaller powers.
This in itself indicates a lack of Arab unity in the lead-up to the Assyrian
invasion, which we can expect to see again in our time.
As the miserable story
unfolds, it becomes apparent that the granting of Assyrian help was conditional
upon Israel rejecting the worship of Yahweh for that of Assyrian deities.
One could well imagine 'Assyria' of the last days stipulating Israel's
acceptance of Islam as a condition for military help and mercy.
God was Israel's father (Jer. 3:19: 31:9; Mal. 1:6; 2:10) and master
(Mal. 1:6; Deut. 32:36); both these concepts were well understood
by Israel. To say to Tiglath-Pileser, " I am thy
servant and thy son" was therefore a conscious rejection of
Yahweh as Master and Father. For this reason Isaiah, prophesying
in this period, stresses the fact that God claims Israel as His
servant (e.g. Is. 44:1,2,21). The historical account sadly
records how not only Ahaz but Hoshea (2 Kings 17:3) and Jehoiakim (2 Kings
24:1) also became 'servants' of their Arab dominators - doubtless thinking
that they could serve two masters. Note in passing how 'Islam'
is a call to 'submit'. This conscious rejection of Yahweh worship is further
shown by Ahaz cutting off " the borders of the bases" of the
laver (2 Kings 16:17), i.e. the cherubic faces which were on the wheels.
These would have been a distinctive part of Yahweh worship.
The conditions of this
Assyrian aid agreement are more than hinted at in 2 Kings 16:10,11, which
records how after meeting Tiglath-pileser at Damascus, Ahaz ordered a
replica altar to one which he had seen there. It can be shown that
the changes made to the temple in the aftermath of this show the extent
to which Ahaz took on board the Assyrian religious system.
Notice how while it was an Assyrian religion, the altar which was part
of it was at Damascus, showing that Rezin and Syria, who were based there
(Is. 7:8), worshipped the same gods as Assyria. Even though
Rezin's gods had failed to save him, Ahaz was blind enough to still worship
them. Likewise the 'Assyria' of the last days and the smaller
Arab states who will also oppress Israel, all have the same religion -
Islam. It is this which Israel will be forced to accept, although
some of the earlier typology studied in Judges indicated that some amongst
them will have willingly done so already - as many in Israel were probably
already worshipping Assyrian deities.
Rabshakeh drove the
point home to the Jews that the gods of the surrounding nations had not
saved them - perhaps subtly hinting at the fact that many behind those
Jerusalem walls had been worshipping those very gods (2 Kings 18:34).
Eze. 23:7 confirms that Israel's receiving Assyrian help was in return
for her acceptance of their idols, which she willingly agreed to:
" She committed her whoredoms with...the chosen men of Assyria (i.e.
the Assyrian diplomats with whom Ahaz's messengers negotiated)...with
all their idols she defiled herself" .
At the end, the final
Assyrian invasion also seems to have offered Israel mercy if they made
some religious agreement with Assyria. Rabshakeh's long list of gods who
had proved inferior to the king of Assyria may carry with it the implication
that he was the true God. Likewise Islamic leaders set themselves
up as the representatives of Allah on earth. " Hearken not to Hezekiah...make
with me a blessing (AV " agreement" ), and come out to me"
(Is. 36:16 AVmg.) suggests a religious acceptance. The implication may
have been: 'Don't trust in Hezekiah's god, he's like the other gods of
the nations, but accept our invincible god'.