Harry Whittaker
Five Minutes To Twelve

8. Arabs

This chapter has to begin with an apology for being repetitious, for it was in 1964 that the substance of its thesis first appeared in print ("The Last Days"), to be accorded a warm welcome by many, and to be studiously ignored by most. Those readers who fall into the first of these two categories may feel like taking this chapter as read - though even they will find here a further reinforcement of that earlier survey of prophecy. After twenty-five years of steady and even exciting development in Near East politics, even those who were originally sceptical may perhaps be more ready to consider that the last word in interpretation of Bible prophecy was not said in the nineteenth century.

First, it needs to be emphasized that there are copious O.T. prophecies about the Arabs which in earlier days went almost completely ignored, Edom especially was arraigned time and again for its implacable hostility to Israel (the old Esau-Jacob quarrel); indeed the conclusion is difficult to escape that, so far as Last Day reference goes, Edom is the comprehensive, though not exclusive, Bible name for Israel's Arab enemies.

In earlier days nothing could be made of the prophecies against Edom, for in the nineteenth century Arab states impressed nobody at all. In fact, Arab states as such did not exist. They were, then, various wandering tribes, lacking cohesion and at best on the very fringe of culture and civilization. How could such peoples be expected to play an important and even dominant role in modern history? So vague guesses were made that Edom was somehow an end-time Britain; but even those who wanted to accord Britain a leading role in the scenario were dubious, and the idea was not insisted on. A good thing, too!

Here, then, it is proposed to survey briefly the Bible evidence pointing to a rise of Arab power in the Last Days, an unquenchable hatred of the new state of Israel, and - before very long - the utter destruction of Zionism. It is a tragic frightening prospect; but this is what the prophets say.

An obvious starting point is Ezekiel 35, 36, two chapters written explicitly against Edom. And, whatever reference they may have to the prophet's own day, it is difficult to deny their relevance to the days ahead of us.

Here is "a perpetual hatred... thou hast shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity, in the time that their iniquity has an end" (35: 5; 21: 25). Can it be said that Israel's iniquity has yet come to an end, when all the vices of east and west have found a welcome in Tel Aviv, and whilst powerful efforts are made in Jerusalem to smother the name of Jesus?

The prophecy goes on to picture this Arab enemy gloating over success against Israel. At last, "these two countries (Jewish and Arab territory) shall be mine, and we will possess it, whereas the Lord was there (God's Land!)" (v.10).

Therefore there must be a mighty divine retribution against this gloating invader "Thus saith the Lord God, when the whole Land rejoiceth (Messiah's Kingdom! what else can it be?), I will make thee desolate. As thou didst rejoice at the inheritance of the house of Israel (Palestine now completely an Arab possession), because it was desolate, so will I do unto thee: thou shalt be desolate. . . even all Idumea (Edom)... And they shall know that I am the Lord" (vv.14, 15). Certainly these words have had no fulfilment in past history.

Chapter 36 fills out an already vivid scene. The reader should ponder it carefully. There is a picture of Arab delight at possession of Jerusalem, Islam's third holy city (vv.2, 3), and indeed a complete possession of the whole Land (vv.4-7). Therefore God's judgment is inevitable, and so also is an almost incredible restoration of both Land and People, this time to a degree of prosperity such as it has never known; tribulation and misery shall be known there no more. . . no more. . . no more (vv. 8-15).

Nor is this all. Israel is to be gathered from Gentile lands (does this imply a further scattering of those now in the Land?), this time not in unbelief or dedication to the gods of materialism, but to be re-born out of their age-long intransigence (v.25-28). There is a good deal more in this exciting Scripture. Then why, why has it suffered such blameworthy neglect among those who reckon themselves to be the people of the Book?

The main elements of these two chapters are worth summarising:

  1. Israel overrun by Arab enemies.
  2. Arab gloating over a long-deferred conquest.
  3. The last bitter tribulation of the Jews,
  4. Leading to repentance.
  5. Divine intervention on their behalf (this must be Messiah's coming; what else can it be?).
  6. Judgment poured out on the Arab enemy.
  7. The Kingdom of God inaugurated.
The sequence in Ezekiel 37, 38, 39 proposed earlier (chapter 6) is now reinforced, for it is easy to see that Ezekiel 35, 36 fall into place readily as a necessary preliminary to what these later chapters foretell.


Here again, for economy of space, there can be only an outline of essential details. But the pattern of the prophecy proves to be the same. In the climax of these 21 verses it is unmistakably clear that this foretells Israel's experience in the Last Days:

"Saviours shall come up on mount Zion, and shall judge the mount of Esau (the Arabs), and the kingdom shall be the Lord's" (v. 21).

That last phrase is quoted in Revelation 11: 15 (cp. 12: 10), in what is, beyond any question, a prophecy of Messiah's coming. That plural: "saviours" is perhaps a little puzzling. It could refer to the angels of Christ's glory (as in Mt. 24: 30, 31 etc.), or it could be a Hebrew intensive plural (common in the O.T.) for 'a mighty Saviour'.

"For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever" (v.10).

"For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations: as thou has done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head" (v.15).

"But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness, ... Jacob shall possess their possessions" (v.17). That word "holiness" forbids reference of this prophecy to any Jew-Arab conflict hitherto (such as 1967). What is described here is the salvation Messiah brings.

Thus, the sequence of events described is virtually that already summarised in Ezekiel 35, 36: Israel in a state of panic and flight; salvation in Jerusalem; the overthrow of the Arab enemy; the extension of the Kingdom to include all that was promised to Abraham; and the Kingdom is now and for ever "the Lord's".

Joel 3

Certainly a prophecy of the Last Days, it builds up to a lovely picture of the Kingdom established (vv.16-18), and then rounds off with this remarkable contrast:

"Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land. But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation. . . for the Lord dwelleth in Zion".

The inclusion of Egypt in this decisive judgment is especially noteworthy. When the famous Camp David agreement, encouraged (imposed?) by America, came into being, those familiar with such prophecies as Joel 3 and Isaiah 19: 16-22 and Deuteronomy 28: 68 knew immediately that such a treaty could not last. Egypt acquired territory the size of England and with it a well developed oilfield, and has given nothing in return except encouragement to the P.L.O. and Arab insurgents in the Gaza strip. Soon Egypt will move to open hostility.

Isaiah 34

The judgment on Edom is described in very purple language in Isaiah 34, where note the special mention of Edom (Idumea), verses 5, 6. The phrase "all nations" (v.2) is not to be read as all nations in the world, but rather with the not uncommon usage: all nations round Israel (e.g. 2 Chr. 32: 23; 1 Chr.14: 17; 18: 11; Ps.118: 10; Is.14: 26; 34: 2,6; Obad. 15); i.e. the other Arabs besides those located in ancient Edom.

This prophecy describes "the day of the Lord's vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion" (v.8), that is, the quarrel about Jerusalem.

The prophet marshals all the resources of this vivid poetic vocabulary to describe the utter desolation of this rancorous Arab enemy. The language strongly suggests the horror of destruction which only atomic bombs can produce; and it is known that when Israel had its back to the wall in the Day of Atonement War in 1973, desperate preparations were then being made to use nuclear weapons against Arab capitals in a last defiant attempt to hit back (Is. 34: 9,10; Zech.14: 12; 2 Pet. 3: 10). Perhaps this prophecy may yet find such a grim fulfilment. On the other hand, the language of Is. 34:7, reminiscent of the cherubim of glory, may point to dramatic angelic action.

Much more definite is the vivid and alluring picture which follows in chapter 35 of the loveliness and peace of the Kingdom of God. Just as Ezekiel, Obadiah, and Joel set tribulation and blessedness side by side, so also here.

Psalm 83

Is another outstanding Scripture on this theme. It begins with an impassioned plea that God will come to the aid of His desperate people (vv.1, 2). A combined attack by overwhelming force has as its purpose one unanimous intention: "Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, That the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance" (v.4). And since the name Jehovah is God's memorial Name, His permanent reminder to all who will give heed, that His Promises to the Fathers are immutable, this attack is against Israel's God as well as against His People - "against Thee" (v.5).

The confederation of these enemies is listed (vv.6, 8) Arab nations, ten of them!


The Arab character of these enemies is emphasized by the allusions to similar crises in Israel's ancient history (vv. 9-12), all of them provoked by the inroads of near-by Arab peoples in the time of Deborah, Barak, and Gideon.

But when, since the Psalm was written, was the nation of one mind in appealing to Jehovah for rescue? And in recent years the utter self-reliance of the Israelis in time of threat has been remarkable. Even in 1973 when the Day of Atonement should have driven the entire nation to its knees in an appeal for heavenly help, reports carried no hint that here was a people who knew that they had God on their side. Then it was a desperate appeal to America for a massive air-lift of the sinews of war, which turned dismay into jubilation.

But here, at least, the people of God are driven to recognise that only Jehovah can help them. Does not this suggest the change of heart that the prophets so often called for, and for which, until now, they appeal in vain?

A Repetitious Ten

If Psalm 83 were the only prophetic instance of ten enemies of Israel being listed it might be overlooked as of no special significance. But Nebuchadnezzar's image leads the readers to look for ten powers to be destroyed in the Last Day by the Stone of God. And the ten horns of Daniel's fourth beast (Dan. 7: 7) appear again in Revelation as "ten kings who give their power and strength to the Beast; these make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them" (Rev. 17: 12-14). Isaiah also catalogues ten prophecies about nations hostile to Israel (Is. 14-23). Also, the re-reading of Ezekiel 38 suggested in chapter 7, in which Sheba, Dedan and Tarshish appear as eager allies of the invader completes yet another catalogue of ten - not precisely the same ten, however, for reasons which will appear later. In "Exposition of Daniel", p.13, Dr. Thomas insists that these horns and ten toes need not be identified until the End of the present Age.

Other Prophecies

This chapter has gone on long enough. If there were no more evidence available on this theme, what has been listed here would be adequate to make an impressive case. But there must be at least half-a-dozen more.

Again, the point to be underlined: A century ago all these Last Day prophecies went ignored. In the circumstances those who ignored them had some excuse for so doing. Is it either un-pertinent or impertinent to ask whether such excuse exists today?

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