No one disputes
the fact that America has a unique history during which it became, and
continues to be a preeminent feature in global affairs. The recent war in Iraq is but one
example. In a quarter of a
millennium it has become a nation unlike any other nation in the history of the
world. In some respects, it rivals
nations with much longer histories.
Yet the Bible is remarkably silent when speaking about the role of
America in Bible prophecy. Dr. Tim
LaHaye writes, "One of the hardest things for American prophecy students
to accept is that the United States is not clearly mentioned in Bible prophecy,
yet our nation is the only superpower in the world today."
Dr. LaHaye has
put his finger upon the source that likely generates the often ask question,
" How does America fit into Bible prophecy?" Rarely, if ever, does anyone ask, " How does Mexico, or
Canada, or Chile fit into Bible prophecy?" The United States has a strong Christian heritage and is
currently the world' s only superpower.
Since many Christians believe that we are near the end of the age, it is
hard to envision a prophetic scenario which excludes America- the world' s most
influential nation. Yet, other
nations are the focus of biblical prophecy.
America Will Be Included With The Nations
are no specific references to the United States in Bible prophecy. However, there are biblical statements
about what the nations in general will be doing during the tribulation period. Passages like Haggai 2:6-7, Isaiah
66:18-20, and Zechariah 12:2-3 speak of all the nations involved in end-time
events. These kinds of references clearly will include
the United States in their fulfillment, but they do not teach us anything
specifically about America in prophecy.
Some have brought forth various biblical passages
from which they theorize that America is included in a more specific way. I will now address the merits of some
of these suggestions.
Referenced in Ezekiel 38?
chapters refer to the Battle of Gog and Magog and speak of their invasion of
Israel. Ezekiel says this will
occur " in the latter years" (38:8) and " in the last days" (38:16). The invasion involves a coalition
headed by " Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal"
(38:2). Magog has been identified
as ancient terminology for the area including modern day Russia, The Ukraine,
and Kazakhstan. Ezekiel further identifies Magog as
coming from " the remote parts of the north" (38:6).
Gog will lead the
invasion of Israel, but Ezekiel 38:5,6 says that other nations will join with
him. Persia (Iran), Ethiopia or
Cush (Sudan), Put (Libya), Gomer and Beth-togarmah (Turkey). All the allies of Magog are reasonably
well identified and they are all presently Muslim. Interestingly, such an alignment of nations is already
configured on the world scene in our own day.
I believe the
invasion will most likely take place before the tribulation officially begins,
but after the rapture. Such a view would help to explain a
vacuum on the world political scene at the beginning of the tribulations left
by the removal of the influence of Russia and her Muslim allies, and possibly
even the United States due to the conflict. This would then prepare the way for the Revived Roman Empire
(Western Europe) and the Antichrist to sign the covenant with Israel (Daniel
strongest case for America in Bible prophecy can be made from a statement found
in Ezekiel 38:13.
" Sheba, and Dedan, and
the merchants of Tarshish, with all its villages, will say to you, ' Have you come to capture spoil? Have you assembled your company to
seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to
capture great spoil?' " (Ezekiel 38:13)
is argued that " the merchants of Tarshish, with all its villages," refers to
the colonies of Western Europe and the nations that have subsequently arisen
from them. This would include
North America and the United States.
Thus, the response to the invasion of Magog into Israel from Sheba and
Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and its villages will be one of
nonintervention. They will simply
say, " Have you come to capture spoil?"
Who are Sheba and
Dedan? " Sheba and Dedan are not
difficult to identify. They are
located in the modern country of Saudi Arabia."  Sheba and Dedan are said to be in
alignment with " the merchants of Tarshish, with all its villages."
The identity of
" the merchants of Tarshish, with all its villages," is the key phase for those
who believe this to be a reference to America. What are the arguments for this interpretation?
of Tarshish refer to the Phoenician maritime and trading community located in
Spain during the general time of King Solomon, 3,000 years ago. Second, the merchants of Tarshish,
during the last 500 years, developed into the modern mercantile nations of
Western Europe like Spain, Holland, and Britain. Third, the phrase " with all its villages" or the variant
rendering " with all its young lions," would be a reference to its
trans-Atlantic colonies, which would include America. Thus, it is reasoned, because America is the most dominant
of these Western nations, this must be a reference to America.
This view is
strongly espoused by Steuart McBirnie, who concluded:
In the light of
such conclusive scholarship, coming to light most significantly at this time
when the nations indicated by Ezekiel to be involved in a great Middle Eastern
war, we can now say with definite assurance that the merchants of Tarshish and
" the young lions (colonies) thereof" must include the Western nations of Europe
and the Americans, particularly the United States.
David Allen Lewis agrees:
So the young
lions of Tarshish would definitely refer to the North American colonies as well
as the European colonies, and hence bring the U. S. into this prophecy as one
of the nations that will strongly protest the Russian invasion of Israel in the
How valid is such
an explanation of this passage? We
will now examine the viability of the individual elements in this view and then
assess the overall interpretation.
Merchants of Tarshish
What does the
phrase " the merchants of Tarshish" mean?
Tarshish appears to be a wealthy trading community on the extremity of
the Mediterranean world. " Tarshish
is ancient Tartessus in the present-day nation of Spain. This view is supported by standard
Hebrew language reference books.. One work states:
We read often in the
OT of " ships of Tarshish" which were large, oceangoing vessels (Ezk 27:25) that
carried all sorts of precious cargo, especially metals such as silver and gold
(I Kgs 10:22; 22:48; II Chr 9:21; Isa 60:9; Jer 10:9; Ezk 38:13) as well as
iron, tin, and lead (Ezk 27:12).
Professor, Barry Fell, has done extensive study on these matters and their
relation to activities in pre-Columbus America. Dr. Fell says:
From the Bible we
learn that the ships of Tarshish were the largest seagoing vessels known to the
Semitic world, and the name was eventually applied to any large ocean-going
vessel. . . . the ships of Tarshish became proverbial as an expression of sea
power. . . .
it is not unlikely that the merchants of
Tarshish may have been associated with the trans-Atlantic migration of the
Celts who came to America. Indeed
James Whittall, with whom I have discussed the decipherment of Tartessian
inscriptions here in America, thinks that the American Celts were deliberately
brought here by Phoenicians, who wanted mining communities to exploit American
natural resources, and with whom they could then trade. If this hypothesis is correct, then
Tartessian vessels would surely have played a major role in the Celtic
migration to New England.
There does appear
to be a significant basis to support the notion that the merchants of Tarshish
are connected with the seafaring Phoenicians of 3,000 years ago. These merchants naturally established
trading posts scattered along their various routes. Dr. McBirnie may well be right when he concludes:
Only in the past half-dozen
years has much light been thrown on the historic location of ancient
Tarshish. Books and articles in
learned archaeological journals written before that time now seem to have
rather limited value. In some
instances, they are more confusing than helpful, despite the prestige of their
authors. The reasons for certainty
of identification are found in recent archaeological discoveries which confirm
that ancient authorities were right all along in their identification of
Tarshish as a Western European colonizing power based in Spain.
All Its Villages
important phrase in this passage refers to the " villages" or " young lions" of
Tarshish. First, is the Hebrew
word kepire best translated
into English as " villages" or " young lions?" There is no question that the Hebrew text favors a rendering
of " young lions."  Some English translators were
apparently influenced by early Greek and Syriac translations of the Hebrew
which support the reading of " villages."
However, the original Hebrew is authoritative, not a translation,
regardless of the age of other translations.
Young lions are often
used as figures of energetic rulers.
Such would most likely be the case if this translation were used in this
text. " Villages" would certainly
make sense in the geographical context of Sheba, Dedan, and Tarshish. Either rendering would fit. Again, perhaps it would be best to
remain with the MT [Hebrew Masoretic Text] (a somewhat harder rendering, though
Hitchcock says, " Young lions are often used in the Scripture to refer to
energetic rulers. Therefore, the
young lions who verbally oppose God' s invasion are strong military and
political leaders who act with Tarshish." 
Although " young
lions" is to be preferred, whether it is the villages that are protesting or
their leaders- young lions- the point is the same. Dr. McBirnie summarizes the significance of this
" Young lions" is, in
the Hebrew, " whelps" or " cubs" ; obviously offspring or colonies. The " Merchants of Tarshish" were
definitely colonizers. This is the
plain and logical meaning of the phrase Ezekiel used.
After all, what
else could he say if the mysterious vision was for a future time? He must perforce have used the terms
and names of his own day. He probably
did not understand the full implication of what he wrote. But he surely would say that, long
after his time, a new confederacy of power would arise from the Western
Atlantic nations, whose armies, riches and power might also provide the means
of a future role in the reservation of Israel.
I believe that if
America is referenced in Bible prophecy, this passage is the best bet. However, this passage could include the
entire Western Hemisphere. This
does not mean that America will have become an insignificant nation during the
tribulation. That may be true, but
it also could be that she is somehow part of the Revived Roman Empire of the
Antichrist, since our country originated as colony established by Europe. In spite of the apparent biblical
silence on this subject, it does not mean that America' s role in end-time
prophecy is not clear, for it is very clear. The United States will be included in the prophetic destiny
of the Gentile nations. In the
meantime, believers are to be about the work of preaching the gospel, living a
godly life, and looking for the blessed hope and appearing of our Great God and
Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).