The Arab Spring: The Perspective of Biblical Prophecy
2011 saw countries which have been ruled for so many years by the same rulers suddenly thrown into the heat of revolution. Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt, Gaddafi in Libya- were all overthrown by a disgruntled, poverty stricken majority who want a better life. And there’s ample evidence that the rest of the Arab world is likewise unhappy. The Old Testament prophecies a latter day invasion of Israel by her Arab neighbours; this will bring Israel to her knees, making her cry out to God in repentance for the crucifixion of Jesus, and He will then return to save them from their enemies. The prophecies of Daniel 11:43 and Ezekiel 38:5 clearly mention Libya as being one of those latter day invaders. Ez. 30:5 talks of Libya being condemned when all the nations are judged, in "the time of the Gentiles" (Ez. 30:3; the "time of the Gentiles" will ultimately come at Christ's return, Lk. 21:24). Libya will be judged "along with all the mingled people"- and the Hebrew word translated "mingled" is arab! They will be judged because of their "league" they have made against Israel- which sounds just like some kind of political union of Arab nations sworn to Israel's destruction. The Babylonian invasion and destruction of the first temple involved not only Babylon, but it was a confederacy of nations- including Libya (Jer. 46:9). This was a prototype of the final, latter day invasion of Israel- by the same group of nations. The Assyrian invasion of Israel was another such prototype of the latter day invasion; and again, Libya was a major supporter of it (Nahum 3:9).
The significance of the uprisings in Israel's Arab neighbours in 2011 is that moderate Moslem regimes have been overthrown. Leaders like Mubarak and Gaddafi may have been abusive, but they were left-leaning Socialists and not radical Islamists. The West sometimes behaves really foolishly. The simplistic cowboy and Indian, black and white, we're right and you're wrong, 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' dichotomy is simply mismatched to reality. They wanted Gaddafi out, demanded a regime change, and smashed and bashed their way to that end. Gaddafi's enemies were assumed to be their friends, just as in the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, the West backed the very groups who later became the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The USSR was the West's enemy, and so the Afghan enemies of the USSR were seen as the West's friends. It was conveniently overlooked that those warlords the West were supporting were radical, extremist Moslems who also had as their aim the destruction of the Judaic-Christian culture upon which the West was [supposedly] founded- at least according to the Western capitalist myth. As the Soviet leader Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev several times commented in dialogue with Western leaders, the real enemy was not each other, not Capitalism nor Communism- but radical Islam; and the years proved him right. And the same is set to happen in Libya, Egypt, Syria and other Aran states which feature in Bible prophecies of the last days. Old, long established regimes have been brought down, but a power vacuum has been created. Already in Libya, the rebels who have taken power have shown themselves to be hopelessly divided. The promise of any revolution is "A better time's coming". But the poor masses of Arab north Africa are unlikely to find that prosperity and those good times for which they fought. The bankrupt West cannot just make them rich overnight. And so those impoverished, disillusioned masses will turn to radical Islam, with its hatred of Israel at the very heart of its credo. And there in the centre of their Middle Eastern, Arab world is the state of Israel, prosperous and thriving. Looking at it from this macro level, bird's eye view, I would say that the revolutions of the "Arab Spring" of 2011 will lead to Islamic extremists taking power in the Arab world, using their oil and geographically strategic positions as a stranglehold against any Western opposition to their policies concerning Israel; and ultimately an invasion of Israel by those very nations. As someone who has travelled and interacted extensively in the Arab world, including Libya, as someone living in the ex-USSR for 25 years and who was originally from the West, that is my honest opinion. But as a Bible student, the possibilities are exciting indeed. The stage is being set for the final invasion of Israel, by the very players required by the prophecies such as Libya, who for centuries lay dormant and insignificant in geopolitical terms. Whether or not the stage is being set, He who shall come, will come; and we are to prepare against that day, living as if His return is imminent, however we understand the prophecies.
Zion at her last end shall be forsaken of all her lovers (Jer. 30:14); Israel must stand alone. Bible prophecy speaks of a massive invasion of the land which will bring the Jews to their knees, and the minority who survive will repent of their rejection of the Lord Jesus as Messiah. He will then come and save them through His visible, literal second coming to earth (Zech. 12-14). For this situation to arise, Israel’s neighbours won’t be passive- they will be aggressive to her. The situation in the Arab world seems set to follow the classic pattern of popular unrest and revolutions- the jubilation at toppling the old regime soon gives way to disillusion when the imagined good life doesn’t materialize. And into the vacuum comes extremism, often coming to its ultimate term in a war of aggression to steal or grab the ‘good life’ from those who are perceived to unfairly have it. And so it wouldn’t take any great gift of prophecy nor serendipity to predict that the Arab world is set to go through the same. The extremism which will fill the void left by the crumbling regimes is going to be Islamic extremism. If they use their oil stranglehold, the West will be speeded up in its path towards decay and at best irrelevance. A bankrupt America and an EU held to ransom by Arab oil and Russian gas will be unable and unwilling to stand up for Israel. There will be no longer be any buffer between Islamic extremism and the state of Israel.
“To take a spoil”
The motive for the final invasion of Israel is made explicit in Ez. 38:12,13: “To take a spoil, to take plunder”. The way Babylon [modern day Iraq-Jordan-Syria] invaded Judah was a prototype of the final Arab invasion of Israel in the last days (1). And that invasion had this same feature- of taking a spoil (Jer. 20:5). The poverty stricken masses of the Arab world have been failed by the socialist revolutions of the previous generation. Socialism and Communism didn’t come up with the goods; the fine rhetoric and great ideas had no cash value for the majority, and only enriched an elite minority, just as Colonialism had done previously. But there amidst all those poverty stricken masses- there will lie Israel, undefended by the West, and with spoil worth taking. The economic growth and prosperity of Israel is therefore something we as Bible students could also be expecting in the last days. It just is obvious that she will be invaded by those impoverished militant Islamic masses. And this would exactly fulfil Bible prophecy. When the Egyptians charged into the Red Sea against the Israelites, their cry was: “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them” (Ex. 15:9). But the Egyptians at that time are the prototype, the basis, for prophecies of Israel’s latter day invasion (2). Likewise the way in which Israel’s Arab neighbours invaded her previously is understood by later Bible prophets as precursors of the final invasion of Israel by her neighbours immediately prior to Christ’s second coming (3). And those invasions were likewise to “take a spoil” (Jud. 5:30). Time and again, we are given to understand that ‘taking a spoil’ is the motive of Israel’s invaders. I suggest that this Arab desire to take a spoil of Israel is more than primitive jealousy, wanting what another has got. The rhetoric of the PLO and other Palestinian organizations has repeatedly been a desire to, as they see it, ‘take back’ from Israel what they consider is rightfully theirs (4). This has its historical and psychological root in the situation between Jacob and Esau, the forefathers of the peoples who are now commonly known as Jews and Arabs respectively. The Arabs have a desire to take that which is Jacob’s because they consider it to be rightfully theirs, and thus this sense is far more passionate than mere greed or jealousy, the kind of mindset a person has as they cast their covetous eye over their neighbour’s wealth. What we’re seeing in the current changes in the Arab world is the growing power of the impoverished majority- and make no mistake, they want a better life. And if they can’t get it by reforming their own economies, then they shall go on to take it by force from their Jewish neighbours. And it will be so much ‘easier’ for them to do this, when their religion and extremist Islamic leadership [which will have come to power on the ruins of the old regimes] urge them to do this. Zech. 14:1 specifically says that Israel’s latter day invaders will capture Jerusalem and sit down there to “divide the spoil”. And then, “Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east” (Zech. 14:3,4). The Lord Jesus ascended to Heaven from the mount of Olives, and at that time it was promised that He would return in the same manner (Acts 1:11). What we’re seeing in the Arab world at the moment is creating the desire for Israel’s Arab neighbours to attack her in order to “take the spoil”.
The Identity Of The Invaders
But looking in more detail at the prophecy of Ezekiel 38, we find the invading powers as including “Persia, Ethiopia and Libya”. They are joined by “Sheba, Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish”. These people say: “Are you come to take a spoil… a prey?” (Ez. 38:13). Harry Whittaker pointed out many years ago that the Hebrew here could imply ‘If you’re coming to take a spoil and prey- we shall join you!’: “Instead of the words: “Art thou come to take a spoil ...?” being read as a challenge and a rebuff to the northern invader, they can be taken to mean: “You are going to invade Israel and profit from its prosperity? then we will join you in this and share in the plunder.” Such an interpretation is not impossible, and would certainly accord well with the historic character of the Arab races in their dealings with Israel” (5). Sheba, Dedan and the merchant powers who traded with Tarshish or Tyre are the Gulf States- the very areas where right now there is an impoverished majority who are turning to aggressive, radical Islam and seeking to “take a spoil” from Israel.
These people will be in league with “Ethiopia and Libya” (Ez. 38:12) in the final invasion of Israel around the time of Christ’s return. “Ethiopia and Libya” in Ezekiel’s time may refer to the whole of North Africa as we know it today. “Ethiopia” may refer to areas south of Egypt- not just Ethiopia as we know it, but perhaps also northern Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. Watch for changes there too. These various Islamic neighbours of Israel will be united in their invasion and ‘taking a spoil’ from Israel. Pan-Arabism will in the end come to its full term (however shortlived), in the final invasion of Israel. The Hebrew word translated “Libya” is also translated “Phut” or “Put”, which was another name for Libya in Bible times. “Mizraim” likewise is the Biblical name for Egypt. Significantly, Phut, Mizraim and Canaan were brothers (Gen. 10:6). There is therefore a strong and valid idea of Arab brotherhood between the Palestinian Arabs [i.e. the Arabs living in Canaan or the land of Israel] and the Arabs of Libya, Egypt and the other countries in the surrounding Arab world. The Babylonian invasion of Judah was a type of the invasion of Israel by latter day ‘Babylon’, which will bring on the return of Christ. But this invasion [as at the time of the Assyrian invasion of Israel] was really by a confederacy of nations- including the Ethiopians, Lydians, Egyptians and Libyans (Jer. 46:8,9 cp. Nahum 3:9). And history will repeat itself- in that these nations along with Babylon will invade Israel in the last days. But where history shall stop, the red line of human time come to a terminus, will be in the simple fact that this time, the Lord Jesus shall return to earth to establish God’s Kingdom here.
(1) I’ve made the case for this in The Last Days chapter 9 and Digression 2- online at http://www.aletheiacollege.net/ld/9.htm
(2) See The Last Days chapter 5- online at http://www.aletheiacollege.net/ld/5.htm
(3) See The Last Days chapter 5- online at http://www.aletheiacollege.net/ld/6.htm
(4) An example would be Niqula Al-Dor (one time member of the P.L.O. Executive), Thus Lost and Thus to be Returned (Beirut, Lebanon: Al-Hawadith Press).
(5) H.A. Whittaker, The Time of the End (Cannock, UK: Biblia) ch. 19.