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ASSYRIA and KURDISTAN

Locate the following countries on a modern map of the Golf Region:

ARAM (part of Syria)
AMMON (part of Jordan)
KEDAR (Saudi Arabia)
MOAB (part of Jordan)
EDOM (part of Jordan)
BABYLONIA (Iraq)
MIDEAN (Sinai Pen.)
ELAM (Iran)
AMALEK (Palestine)
SYRIA
EGYPT
ASSYRIA (Kurdistan)

Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied extensively about the gentile nations surrounding Israel. Some of these prophecies had an immediate fulfillment, some were fulfilled in consequent years and others are yet to be fulfilled.

The prophecy against Hazor is in the future tense. Chapter 49:28 should read, "...the king of Babylon shall smite..." (the KJV has it right). Because conditions described in verse 33 ("...no man shall dwell there") fit this desolate region perfectly, some translators decided that the prophecy was already fulfilled and gave the passage a past tense. For this reason, the German theologian, Rienecker, was puzzled when he read about Jeremiah's Hazor. He wrote, "The nomadic people of this region typically lived in tents and didn't build cities, but according to Jer. 49:28 33, some of them apparently did." Writers in the "Pulpit Commentary" (1919) took issue with the rendering: "wealthy nation." They wrote, "The tribes of Hazor are not indeed a wealthy nation, for they have but little wealth to tempt either the conqueror or the merchant."

Oil was discovered in that region in 1938, and as late as 1970, most oil money flowed into the coffers of American oil companies. That situation has changed dramatically and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are now among the wealthiest nations in the world.

During the Golf War of 1990, modern Bible expositors began to speculate as to whether Jeremiah 49:28 33 and the following two chapters could refer to that event. The prophecy concerns a devastating attack on Hazor by Babylon.

According to Jeremiah, the attack of Babylon (today's Iraq) is aimed at a wealthy city or nation to the East of Kedar, called "Hazor.” It’s inhabitants live in isolation with little protection. Kedar was the second son of Ismael, whose descendants became nomads or Bedouin in the Arabian Desert. Any map of the Near East in Old Testament times, shows Kedar to be the region now known as Saudi Arabia. There is no historical record of a city or settlement East of Saudi Arabia which might have met this description, but it fits modern Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates in the most minute detail!

The United Arab Emirates is located at the south end of the Persion Gulf and Kuwait at the north end. Dubai has been in the news lately for its expansive building projects. Both UAE and Kuwait are located east of Saudi Arabia.

Theologians often make the mistake of translating Scripture in the light of their own understanding rather than adhering to a literal rendering of the original text. Jeremiah could not have used terminology which was nonexistent in his time, but word definitions are helpful tools. The word "camel,” for example, comes from a Hebrew root word meaning to benefit, reward or bestow bountifully. "Flocks" in Hebrew means movable possessions. The Hebrew meaning of the word “Hazor” denotes an unwalled collection of buildings, such as a town or city. The word rendered "tents" indicates dwellings that can be clearly seen from a distance. The terminology used to describe the spoils of Hazor is also revealing: "Curtains" (yeriy`ah) normally denotes elaborate tapestries such as the curtains of Solomon's temple and "vessels" (keliy) denotes something prepared or manufactured. The term could refer to just about any goods, implements, utensils, clothing, weapons, vehicles, furniture or even jewelry.

In August of 1990, Kuwait was wealthy, without cares, had few military defenses and was geographically isolated. In verses 30 32, we read about the inhabitants of Hazor being viciously attacked by Iraq. Many flee and those who remain are advised to seek refuge by "crawling into the deep" (bunkers?).

According to Jeremiah, a single army consisting of great nations from the north and farthest borders, form an alliance against Iraq (Jer.50:9; 41 42). Israel is merely an observer (51:24), while other Arab nations join in the destruction of Iraq (51:27).

The weaponry of this alliance is also described in an unusual manner: The allied forces use "arrows which are like skilled warriors" (50:9 NIV) or "as a mighty, expert man" (KJV). The Hebrew word for "expert" is sakal (saw kal'), meaning Intelligent, skillful, understanding, wise, able to guide intelligently. They are "polished arrows" (Hebrew term in 51:11), which "are not spared" (not reusable - 50:14) and always hit their mark (50:9). Newspaper headlines during the Golf War were full of reports on weaponry used which fits this description. The enemy was said to have overrun the land on "horses" and "rough caterpillars". The Hebrew word for "horse" (50:42) is cuwc or cuc (pronounced soos) and is a word that denotes skipping, leaping or flying rapidly. The same word translated "horse" here, is also translated "crane" and "swallow" because of the manner in which they fly (Jer.8:7; Isa.38:14). Could this refer to jet planes or rockets? The Hebrew word for "caterpillar" is yeleq (pronounced yeh lek). It refers to the destructive young locust worm, that crawls on the ground and means "to lick up, or devour." Could the reference to "rough (Hebrew= bristling, or quivering) caterpillars" describe army tanks?

Verse 30 speaks of refugees fleeing from the scene of battle. Europe was filled with refugees from Kuwait. They were not living in refugee camps, but living in villas and luxury hotels, subsisting from money stashed away in Swiss or Austrian bank accounts. There were about 400,000 men in Kuwait at the time of Iraq's takeover, yet few of them were soldiers. Over 70% of the work force consisted of foreigners and the other 30% were "owners" of the businesses. Few worked for a living. At any given time, at least a third of the population is living or traveling outside the country.

As I write, American and European businesses are competing with each other to get contracts for the rebuilding of Kuwait. But verse 33 indicates that Hazor will not be rebuilt. Perhaps this war is only a preview of what is yet to come. Whatever the case may be, a part of this prophecy is still unfulfilled. The Lord's punishment of Babylon (Jeremiah 50 51) is one aspect.

Nebuchadrezzar means "Nebu protect the heir" (of the throne). Nebu was one of the Babylonian gods (Mardach, Bel and Nebu). Sadaam Hussein claims to be a second Nebuchadrezzar. His avowed life's goal is the total destruction of Israel, a feat which would make him the uncontested leader and unifier of Arab nations.

I personally believe that there will be a "Chapter Two" to the war between Sadaam Hussein and Kuwait. Hussein is still alive and well. It is questionable if other Arab nations would again unite with nations friendly to Israel in a war against Iraq. Even with western nations, it is a love-hate situation. "The nations have drunken of her (Babylon's) wine; therefore the nations are mad." (51:7) Could this be a reference to Iraqi oil? The nations of the earth (which battle with Iraq) also seek a solution, a way to save the nation, but there is none (51:8 9). The Iraqi elite troops sit trembling in their bunkers, while their homes burn and their defenses are destroyed (51:30)! The waters of Iraq are dried up (51:36); the sea covers the land, and it becomes an arid desert, never again to be populated (51:42 43). What could cause this? An atomic explosion? Poisonous gases? The labor of the people is in vain, to be consumed by fire (51:30).

There can be a happy ending to this for Iraqis. Those who escape the destruction of Iraq are advised to remember the Lord in distant lands and remember Jerusalem (where Christ died for their salvation 51:50)!

Ralph Harvey, February 25, 1991
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Appendix on June 24, 1994
It is important to note what immediately followed the Golf War. While expert fire fighters discussed how to best extinguish the 800 burning oil wells in Kuwait (they expressed little hope that this could be accomplished within three years), Serbian communists attacked Belgrade, the capital of Yugoslavia (March 10, 1991), violently overthrowing the anti-communist government. Kurds living in Iraq began a rebellion against the hated and weakened dictator, Sadaam Hussein, in hopes of fulfilling their ancient dream of obtaining a nation of their own. Violence also broke out in Israel, after an Arab youth knifed several Jewish girls to death in West Jerusalem. World leaders feared that war between Jews and Palestinians was imminent and this would not only bring more bloodshed, but possibly lead to another World War! In the Soviet Union, a referendum on March 17th resulted in the split-up of this once mighty nation and marked the end of Gorbatschow´s era of power. Boris Yeltsin, whom TIME Magazine called the "Bad Boy of Soviet Politics" (cover of March 18, 1991) took control.

And what actually happened? The oil well fires were extinguished in record time. Yugoslavia split up into four warring factions, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, which were then recognized by the United Nations. The world stood by and watched as the city of Sarajevo, familiar from the Winter Olympic Games of 1984, was systematically destroyed. Thousands of Bosnian Muslims were tortured, raped and murdered by the Serbs and millions more became refugees with little or no hope of returning to their homeland. Yeltsin turned out to be less of a "bad man" than expected. Although an avowed atheist, he opened the door for hundreds of missionaries to teach Christian ethics in public schools of Russia. Israel made peace with Yasser Arafat and gave Palestine independent rule.

We can see that God is still in control and that nothing is impossible for Him! Even the most improbable prophesies of Scripture can and shall be fulfilled in God's appointed time. On the other hand, we must be careful not to "jump the gun" as many have done, in prematurely declaring that certain prophesies are actually being fulfilled in current events. There is no need for this, for Christians have all eternity ahead of them and can afford to await the outcome.

One of the most fascinating prophecies is found in Jeremiah 19:22 25. According to this passage, Egypt, Assyria (Kurdistan) and Israel will become friendly allies, enjoying the Lord's favor and worshiping together!

Ralph V Harvey, 2013