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The Last Days Duncan Heaster  
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8-3 Tiglath-pileser 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. 24:6,7).

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 Arab in-fighting.

" 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.

'Accept Islam!'

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'.