By Joel Richardson
Throughout the Christian church, an idea that has gained much traction in recent years holds that the next major Middle Eastern war is described in Psalm 83. According to this view, a contingent of Arab nations that immediately surround Israel will soon make an attempt to invade her, only to be utterly defeated by the Israeli Defense Forces. Many even believe that as a result of this great victory over her neighbors, Israel will literally come to occupy the nations of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This growing view also holds that after this period of victory and peace, another massive war, this time described in Ezekiel 38 and 39, will follow. If one peruses several of the larger online Bible prophecy discussion forums, it will quickly become apparent just how widespread this view truly is among prophecy students.
But few of these students of prophecy are aware of the many problems with this view. For the past few years, I’ve been highlighting several of these problems, but recently, both Dr. Thomas Ice, the executive director of the Pre-Trib Research Center, and Pastor Mark Hitchcock, another very well-accomplished prophecy teacher and author, have also articulated several of the problems with the popular interpretation of Psalm 83.
The first problem is that most scholars reject the idea that Psalm 83 is even an actual prophecy, but is simply, “a national prayer of lament.” Such a Psalm would not be considered a prophecy in the sense of that which was uttered by the biblical prophets.
Second, even if one does consider Psalm 83 to be a prophecy in the proper sense, the primary reason many have come to accept this two-war scenario is because of the differences between the nations listed in Psalm 83 and Ezekiel 38 and 39. While Psalm 83 lists what are often referred to as the “inner circle” of nations that immediately border Israel, Ezekiel 38 and 39 lists a series of nations that form a larger “outer ring” around Israel including Turkey, Iran, Sudan, Libya and, many argue, Russia. But a closer examination of both texts reveals that it is far more likely that these two passages speak of the same war.
If one examines the list of nations in Psalm 83, few analysts include the nation of Turkey. Yet Asaph, the writer of this Psalm, mentions that “Assyria” (v.8) will join this coalition. When this Psalm was written during the reign of King David, the Kingdom of Assyria included portions of modern-day Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Analysts of Psalm 83 have included both Iraq and Syria in their coming invasion scenario, but never Turkey. Yet the reality is that the Assyrian Kingdom during the time the Psalm was written included quite a bit more of modern Turkey than Syria. This is significant, of course, because Turkey features so prominently in the Ezekiel 38 & 39 prophecy.
Another name mentioned in Psalm 83 are the Ishmaelites. Many analysts of Psalm 83 use this name to point exclusively to the nation of Saudi Arabia. However, many Arabs today trace their lineage back to Ishmael. Muhammad himself, the founder of Islam, believed himself to be a direct descendant of Ishmael. Depending on how one interprets the term “Ishmaelites,” then, the inclusion of this term could point us to much of the Islamic Middle East and North Africa, including Libya and Sudan. These nations also feature prominently in the Ezekiel 38 and 39 prophecy.
Another problem with looking to seeming surface differences between these two texts is that many scholars and prophecy analysts believe that Ezekiel 38 and 39’s list of nations is anything but comprehensive. In fact, as Mark Hitchcock points out, the prophet concludes his list of nations by adding the phrase, “and many nations with you.” In other words, Ezekiel only listed one major modern nation from each of the four corners of the compass so as to highlight the massive scale of this coming regional invasion. The following map represents the nations specified by Ezekiel revealing the likelihood of this interpretation.
In the end, if one understands Ezekiel 38 and 39 more accurately, it would seem to be pointing to a massive regional war against Israel including “many nations” not necessarily specified or mentioned within the text. And if we consider the nations mentioned in Psalm 83, if it is an actual prophecy, then it is also far more likely to be speaking of a much larger invasion than most students of prophecy have understood it.
Beyond this, Mark Hitchcock also lists several more similarities between these two texts, further suggesting that they are ultimately pointing to a singular war:
Both texts speak of a plan coming into the minds of the participants or the leader to invade Israel (Psalm 83:4,5; Ezekiel 38:10).
Both texts speak of the purpose of the invasion to wipe Israel out as a nation (Psalm 83:4; Ezekiel 38:9).
Both texts speak of the armies actually turning on each other and attacking one another while in the land (Psalm 83:9; Judges 7; Ezekiel 38:21).
Both texts speak of the judgment of God on the armies through fire (Psalm 83:14; Ezekiel 38:22).
Both texts speak of the result of these wars being that the invaders come to know the Lord in their defeat (Psalm 83:18; Ezekiel 39:7).
In the end, it is clear that tensions in the Middle East are very high. War could be just around the corner. We must pray that this is averted! The day will surely come when all of the prophecies of the Bible will be completely fulfilled. But for now, I am of the opinion that the scenario many students of prophecy are looking for, namely the soon victory of Israel over her neighbors and the subsequent occupation of those lands is a total fantasy. When Jesus returns, only then will genuine justice fill the region. But until then, we are to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Don’t miss Joel Richardson’s new DVD set, “The Return Is Near: Strategic Insights into the Most Important Moment in History” and understand the significance of the Muslim’s Mahdi ‘messiah’ in his book, “The Islamic Antichrist: The Shocking Truth about the Real Nature of the Beast.”
Joel Richardson is the author of “Islamic Antichrist,” published by WND books, and “Why we Left Islam” and is the co-author with Walid Shoebat of “God’s War on Terror.” His blog is www.Joelstrumpet.com.