Hezbollah has said that Israel’s disappearance after their next war is an established fact. Iran’s President has called Israel a dirty microbe and a savage animal that will soon disappear in a flash. The commander in chief of Iran’s army predicts that millions will soon receive the joyous news of Israel’s destruction. Today Israel is on high alert after bombing a Syrian chemical weapons factory outside of Damascus and a weapons convoy heading into Lebanon. Russia is upset by this, and Syria and Iran have both vowed to retaliate, saying Israel’s attack gives them the right to do so.
With all the rhetoric flying around the Middle East about a major war coming, and with multiple countries rapidly beefing up their military preparedness, a quick review ofPsalm 83 is in order to refresh our minds on the prophetic details of this coming attack against Israel.
Psalm 83 was probably written some time after the end of King Solomon’s reign (about 900 BC) but the Bible contains no account of such a coordinated effort by all of Israel’s neighbors to destroy them, either during that time or since. A partial fulfillment may be in view in 2 Chron. 20 which describes Moab, Ammon, and parts of Edom invading Judah during King Jehosophat’s reign (872-848 BC). Interestingly, Jahaziel, a Levite who prophesied Judah’s victory in that battle was a descendant of Asaph, who wrotePsalm 83. Applying one of His favorite tactics, the Lord set Israel’s enemies against each other and they defeated themselves. (Ezekiel 38:21 tells of a future use of this same tactic.)
But the Battle of 2 Chron. 20 doesn’t fully meet the requirements of Psalm 83, having many fewer antagonists, so on that basis we can assume it was a partial fulfillment at best and the ultimate fulfillment is still in the future, perhaps the very near future. If so, it could be the bridge between the current state of affairs in Israel and the conditions necessary for the Battle ofEzekiel 38 to happen. Let’s find out.
O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still. See how your enemies are astir, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish.
“Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.”
With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you- the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, of Moab and the Hagrites, Gebal, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre. Even Assyria has joined them to lend strength to the descendants of Lot. (Ps. 83:1-8)
The language is out of today’s headlines and the countries lined up against Israel in this Psalm inhabited the lands of Israel’s current neighbors. Edom and the Ishmaelites were in land occupied by southern Jordan today while the territories of Moab and Ammon make up the rest of that country. Ahman, the modern spelling of Ammon, is the capital of Jordan.
(While the government of Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel, we should remember that some 70% of Jordan’s population is “Palestinian” and in fact the country was originally formed to be the Palestinian home land. Currently there’s a proposal in the works that would join the Palestinians and Jordan in a federation. This would give the Palestinians almost every advantage of statehood without having to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.)
The Hagrites were part of Aram, whose capitol was Damascus in modern Syria. Some have tried to link the Hagrites to Egypt, saying they were the descendants of Hagar. She was the Egyptian slave woman Abraham and Sarah acquired there who became the mother of Ishmael. But according to 1 Chron. 5:10the Hagrites occupied the area east of Gilead in today’s northern Jordan.
Gebal (also called Byblos) and Tyre are cities that can still be found in present day Lebanon, home of Hezbollah. The Amalekites lived in Israel’s southern desert and Philistia settled in Gaza on Israel’s southern border, where Hamas currently reigns. Assyria would conquer Aram shortly after Psalm 83 was written and the descendants of Lot is another reference to Jordan. Remember, Moab and Ammon were the sons of an incestuous union between Lot and his two daughters and settled in land the Lord gave them east of the Jordan River (Deut. 2:9).
So here we have all of Israel’s next door neighbors, all of them sworn to Israel’s destruction, and all of them preparing for war because of what’s happening in Syria.
In a couple of surprising side notes, the US, which has traditionally maintained a strong naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, abruptly withdrew its fleet just as the Russian navy showed up off the coast of Syria. It’s being reported that President Obama has told Turkey, Israel, and Jordan that it’s up to them to make sure Syria doesn’t try to widen the war. (As evidence of this, he gave Israel the green light to execute their bombing raids on Syria.) Some analysts also believe Iran is actively considering the benefits of having Syria and Hezbollah provoke a limited war with Israel to deflect any attempt by Israel to attack their nuclear facilities. If so, it should soon become apparent, but for now let’s go back to Psalm 83.
Do to them as you did to Midian, as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon, who perished at Endor and became like refuse on the ground. Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna, who said, “Let us take possession of the pasturelands of God.”
Make them like tumbleweed, O my God, like chaff before the wind. As fire consumes the forest or a flame sets the mountains ablaze, so pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm. Cover their faces with shame so that men will seek your name, O LORD. May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace. Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD—that you alone are the Most High over all the earth. (Psalm 83:9-18)
Asaph, the Psalm’s writer, can’t resist telling the Lord exactly how he’d like Israel’s enemies to be dealt with. In that sense he’s just like you and me.
Midian was defeated by a vastly outnumbered force under the command of Gideon. It was another case of the Lord turning Israel’s enemies against each other and causing them to defeat themselves (Judges 7).
Jabin was a king of the Canaanites and Sisera was the commander of his army. The Lord lured the Canaanite army into a trap and the Israelites destroyed them (Judges 4). The commander of Israel’s army was named Barak, just like Israel’s recent Defense Minister. Probably a coincidence.
Oreb, Zeeb Zebah, and Zalmunna were all leaders of the Midianite army defeated by Gideon.
Asaph’s prayer was that Israel’s current enemies will be just as soundly defeated as were the Midianites and the Canaanites, their armies scattered and their leaders executed.
Israel estimates that in excess of 50,000 short range missiles and rockets located in Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza are positioned to strike strategic targets everywhere in Israel. in addition, Syria has moved hundreds of long range missiles into firing positions, placed them on combat readiness, and given them updated target coordinates. To avoid duplication in targeting, Iran has created and will direct a unified command center in Damascus to coordinate the massive simultaneous deployment of these weapons upon the outbreak of hostilities. Their thought is that the Israelis will not be able to fend off such an all out attack and will be effectively disabled.
But Israel might pick this opportunity to launch a preemptive attack against the command center, wiping out Damascus in fulfillment of Isaiah 17. Losing their command and control abilities could cause the enemy attack to degenerate into a confused and chaotic effort that Israel could quickly defeat just like Gideon defeated the Midianites.
Should this be the case, Israel will become larger, not smaller, with the contention over the ownership of Gaza, the West bank and the Golan put to an end. Israel will become stronger, not weaker, its military reputation vastly enhanced. The divided land would be divided no more, and Jerusalem would remain a unified city. The controversial security fence would likely come down, since the borders on all three sides would be considered to be safe and the threat of terrorist attacks diminished. In most people’s minds 60 years of war will have finally ended. It will be the perfect opportunity for Israel to be lured into a false sense of security and become a peaceful and unsuspecting people living in a land of unwalled villages as Ezekiel 38:11 requires. This is a critical condition that must be met prior to Ezekiel’s battle and the final fulfillment of Psalm 83would go a long way toward meeting it.
Meanwhile, the Russians and Iranians, who would have fought this battle primarily by proxy, would study their defeat and learn from their mistakes, lying in wait for the next opportunity to strike. It won’t be long in coming.