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Which nations does Psalm 83 really include?
Posted By Joel Richardson On 08/02/2012 @ 7:50 pm In Commentary,Opinion | No Comments
I was recently visiting with some Christian friends from Egypt, and the discussion turned toward their disappointment and disagreement with a particular view concerning the prophetic destiny of Egypt, as espoused by many American Christians these days. Because I was in complete agreement with their concerns, I thought it good to take a few moments to address them here.
Among ardent students of biblical prophecy, there is presently a popular belief that Psalm 83 predicts an imminent invasion of Israel. According to Bill Salus, author of the books “Isralestine” and “Revelation Road,” the specific nations listed in this Psalm essentially represent all of the nations that immediately surround Israel today.
The following chart represents Salus’ identification of the nations of Psalm 83:
Thus, according to this popular prophetic scenario, a coalition of nations, including Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian peoples, will very soon join forces to attack Israel.
Further, according to Salus, Israel will overcome this attack, ultimately engaging in a conquest of these nations, occupying them and vastly expanding her borders. According to Salus:
“Because of this Israeli conquest over the inner circle of the core surrounding Arab populations of Palestinians, Syrians, Saudi Arabians, Egyptians, Lebanese, and Jordanians, Israel’s borders are enlarged, prosperity increases, and national stature is enhanced.”
Of course, for those familiar with the region, the idea of Israel actually occupying Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia is quite a wild, if not a completely impossible scenario to imagine. Yet many students of prophecy have fully accepted this story line and are even eagerly anticipating its imminent fulfillment.
While there are many problems with this interpretation, on both a practical as well as an exegetical basis, one of its most glaring problems is that some of the key nations identified by Salus are simply are not supportable by the historical or biblical record.
The first nation not included in the Psalm 83 coalition is Egypt.
Although Salus identifies the Hagarenes (or Hagarites) as representing modern-day Egypt, this is simply not the case. Salus bases his identification of Egypt on the idea that “Hagar is the matriarch of the Egyptians.” But this is not historically accurate. Hagar was of Egyptian descent, but in no way is she the “matriarch” of the Egyptian people. This would be akin to me saying that because I am of Portuguese descent, I am thus the father of all of Portugal. This simply doesn’t make any sense. Such reverse genetic engineering may make for interesting science fiction, but it is not proper hermeneutics by any stretch of the imagination. Hagar was simply an Egyptian woman who migrated out of her homeland. During the life of Asaph, the author of this Psalm, in the 10th century B.C., the Hagarenes were a people who lived in the region of northern Jordan, east of Gilead. Of this, the Scriptures are quite clear:
“In the days of Saul, they (the tribe of Rueben) made war with the Hagarites, who fell by their hand: and they dwelt in their tents throughout all the east land of Gilead.” (1 Chronicles 5:10)
Below is a map highlighting the land of the Hagarenes, east of Gilead, during the 10th century B.C.:
But beyond the Hagarenes, the Psalm also lists Amalek as one of the offending parties. Salus identifies Amalek as correlating to the Sinai peninsula and thus Egypt. But again, if one simply examines any number of Bible atlases, he will see that the ancient land of Amalek is almost entirely contained within the borders of modern-day Israel.
Below is a map highlighting the land of Amalek in the 10th Century B.C.:
See also the Bibleatlas.com entry for Amalek.
The second, and third significant nations that are only partially represented in the Psalm 83 coalition are Syria and Iraq. Salus arrives at the view that both Syria and Iraq are among the Psalm 83 nations, based on the inclusion of Asshur (or Assyria). The problem with this, however, is that during the 10th century B.C., when the Psalm was written, Assyria was a region largely limited to northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, and a smaller region of northeast Syria. But among the names that are clearly not mentioned in the Psalm 83 coalition is Aram, the capital of which was Damascus.
See the map below, which represents the region of Assyria during the 10th century B.C.:
If, in fact, Psalm 83 represents a specific future war, then the inclusion of Assyria is a peculiar reality to ponder. Ultimately, it neither points fully to Syria nor Iraq or Turkey, but instead only a relatively smaller segment of each nation. But if the inclusion of Assyria infers the inclusion of Syria, then consistency would also mandate that Turkey be included. Yet Salus includes Syria, but not Turkey.
Another very important point must be emphasized here: When it comes to identifying the names in various Old Testament prophecies, conservative commentators and Bible scholars will almost universally advocate for utilizing the geographic-correlation method of interpretation. This method identifies the region where the particular peoples lived when the Psalm was written. It is also quite common, however, to find among untrained Bible teachers the effort to trace the migrations, intermarriages and movements of various peoples down through history in an effort to identify their modern day bloodline ancestors. This problem-fraught method of interpretation is responsible for numerous questionable prophetic beliefs, however, with Anglo-Israelism being among the most widespread and well-known.
But in considering the popular view of Psalm 83 advocated by Salus, it must be highlighted that he switches back and forth from one method to the other, from one name to another, never adhering to one method consistently. With Edom for instance, Salus uses both the ancestral-bloodline-lineage method to identify Edom as correlating to the Palestinians, but he also uses the geographic-correlation method to point to southern Jordan. On the other hand, with regard to the Ishmaelites, Salus does not use the bloodline method. Instead, he limits his identification of the Ishmaelites to modern-day Saudi Arabia. Of course, if a consistent method were used, then one would be forced to look to most of the Middle East and virtually all of northern Africa, which is largely inhabited by the Arab descendants of Ishmael today. But because using a consistent method would not work for Salus’ theory, he must switch from one method to the next from name to name.
Below is a map highlighting the regions specified in Psalm 83 as identified using a consistent geographic-correlation method of interpretation:
In the end, the only modern nations solidly included in Psalm 83 are Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian territories. Beyond this, the Psalm also points to the limited region of northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey and the northern border of Syria. But Egypt is nowhere to be found in this Psalm.
Unfortunately, too many American Christian prophecy watchers seem to approach biblical prophecy as if it is a football game. From the comfort of their recliners, they eagerly await the ground offensive to begin as if it is were a kick-off. But for my dear friends in Egypt, these issues are much more than prophetic trivia. This is their future.
To be clear, in no way is this article intended to be a personal attack on any who hold to the popular “Psalm 83 War” theory. But for the simple sake of truth and my dear friends in Egypt, it was important to demonstrate some of the ways in which the popular view of Psalm 83 is simply not in accord with the Scriptures.
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