Vol: 147 Issue: 9 Monday, December 9, 2013
As we get closer to the end of the age of human government, God appears to be wrapping things up in the same order in which they came to be. Take, for example, the Garden of Eden.
Archaeologist David Rohl claims to have located the site in a “lush valley beneath an extinct volcano in modern-day Iran.” Others have suggested it lies under the waters of the Persian Gulf.
Iraqi tradition places it in Iraq’s southern marshlands. The Bible places it somewhere between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is modern-day Iraq.
“The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.” (Genesis 2:11-13)
There are two individuals named Havilah in the Bible’s Table of Nations. One is the son of Cush, son of Ham, the other, son of Joktan, descendents of Shem.
The first Havilah settled around the Gulf of Aden while the other is associated with the Arabian desert.
The River Pison is likely the Uizhun, or Sefid River that originates near Mt Sahand in NW Iran in what was ancient Mesopotamia. It flows through ancient gold mines and lodes of lapis lazuli before emptying into the Caspian Sea. (The Sefid is known locally as the “Golden” River).
“And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.”
There is only one river that fits that description in the modern world — the River Nile. The Nile River’s “Blue Nile” originates at Lake Tana in Ethiopia and flows into Sudan to join up with the White Nile near Khartoum, becoming the Nile River which flows through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.
The third river mentioned in Genesis, Euphrates, is easy to identify; so is the fourth, Hiddekel.
‘Hid’ means ‘river’ and ‘Idikla’ (thus Hiddekel) was another name for the Tigris, and its location was clearly specified as going toward the east of Assyria (northern Iraq).
And the word “Eden” which means ‘paradise’ or ‘delight’ in Hebrew also means ‘plain’ like the flat area between two rivers in both ancient Sumerian (e.din) and Akkadian (Edinu).
The four specific geographical landmarks mentioned by the Bible are: Ethiopia, Hiddekel (Tigris), Euphrates and Assyria. All of these point to the location of Eden as being near the Tigris-Euphrates area.
The Bible says that after the Fall, the entrance to the Garden of Eden was put under angelic guard to prevent Adam from returning. If ever the Garden of Eden was in Iraq’s territory, it would probably be buried deep under the huge land deposits left by the great flood.
While secular science and secular history both argue in favor of millions of years of human habitation, the historical record of human civilization only goes back about 4000 years or so before Christ to the Sumerians.
The Sumerians built the first known civilization in the region. The highly developed Sumerian city states were Ur, Erech and Kish. They had cuneiform, papyrus and clay tablet writings. Sumerian architecture used the arch, the dome or vault, and built sewers beneath their buildings.
They had ziggurats or temples constructed on man-made hills. They developed algebra and had a numerical system based on the number 60 (360 degrees, 1 degree, also 1 hour = 60 minutes, 1 minute = 60 seconds) which we still use today.
The great city of Babylon was built on the Euphrates in 1800 BC. They had a stern sense of justice enforced by the Hammurabi’s Law Code of 282 laws, had fair treatment of women, and established an advanced business society.
In 1,100 BC, the Assyrians rose to power in Mesopotamia. They constructed Nineveh, the city of splendor, on the Tigris River. They built the Assurbanipal, a great library containing thousands of clay tablets both Assyrian and Babylonian (these documents have enabled scholars to accurately reconstruct life in the Ancient Middle East).
In 616 BC, the Chaldeans built the Second Babylonian Empire. King Nebuchadnezzar built the Hanging Gardens for one his wives, Cyaxare – daughter of the Median King.
It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. And he also built the ziggurat near his palace, believed by many to be the biblical Tower of Babel.
The Tower of Babel was in Iraq. Abraham was from Sumer city of Ur located along the Euphrates in southern Iraq. Isaac’s wife Rebekah was from Nahor, which is in Iraq. Jacob met Rachel in Iraq.
Jonah preached in Nineveh, the capital of ancient Assyria, which is in modern Iraq. It was the Assyrians that destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
Daniel was in captivity in Babylon. The ancient city-state of Babylon is located some 55 miles south of Bagdad. Ezekiel wrote his prophetic book from Babylon.
The greatest revival in history was in a city in Iraq – Jonah 3. The events in the book of Esther took place in Iraq – Esther. The book of Nahum was a prophecy against a city in Iraq – Nahum.
Iraq’s role in Bible prophecy is just as significant as it was in Bible history.
The only nation referred to more often in Scripture than Israel would be Iraq; (the land of Shinar, Babylon, Assyria, Mesopotamia, etc.). There is no river mentioned in Scripture more often than the Great River Euphrates, which is mentioned 21 times in Scripture beginning with Genesis and ending with Revelation.
What I want you to see this morning is how we’ve come full circle. In Genesis, the River Euphrates was one of the rivers that water the lush paradise in the Garden of Eden.
Jude 1:6 reveals the angels who ‘left their first estate’ to commit fornication with the daughters of men (Genesis 6:2-4) are “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.”
In Revelation, we learn the location of their prison:
“Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.” (Revelation 9:14)
The Euphrates, which watered the Garden of Eden, has been the prison for those four malignant angelic beings since at least Noah’s time and has run red with blood ever since.
Ultimately, according to Revelation 16:12, the fate of the Euphrates River is to dry up altogether.
“And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.”
An OL member emailed me a link to a story he had found in the Toronto Star under the headline, “Euphrates River Drying Up”. The story was also carried in the New York Times under the headline, “Iraq Suffers As Euphrates Dwindles” but what got my attention was this paragraph:
“The shrinking of the Euphrates, a river so crucial to the birth of civilization that the Book of Revelation prophesied its drying up as a sign of the end times, has decimated farms along its banks, has left fishermen impoverished and has depleted riverside towns as farmers flee to the cities looking for work.”
In ancient Scripture, Israel was the one mentioned most often, with Iraq being second. In the modern international news cycle of the 21st century, Israel is the nation mentioned most often in terms of Middle East flashpoints, with Iraq coming in a close second.
And now we find the NY Times seeking to find relevance for a story about Iraq by quoting the Book of Revelation!
From the time of Nimrod until the destruction of the 2nd Temple and the closing of Scripture, no two nations on the earth played a more intricate role in the plan of God than did Israel and Babylon. For the next 19 centuries, Israel and Babylon had all be ceased to exist in any national form.
The Jews were in Diaspora; Babylon crumbled to dust. Both the ancient lands — Israel and Mesopotamia — languished in obscurity, punctuated by brief periods of war and mayhem, until precisely the same point in history.
Until 1917, Mesopotamia was part of the Ottoman Empire, which also controlled what the Ottomans’ called the province of Southern Syria, including Palestine and Jerusalem.
The Ottoman Empire fell to the Allies in WWI. Indian troops under the command of the British captured Baghdad in 1917, at the same time that Lord Allenby liberated Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Ottoman Turks.
All three Synoptic Gospels contain a variation of the Olivet Discourse, as recalled by the individual Gospel writers who were present. Mark and Matthew record Jesus saying,
“Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near:” (Mark 13:28)
(Matthew 24:32 is virtually identical, excepting Matthew gives the fig tree a masculine pronoun and says ‘nigh’ instead of ‘near’.)
But Luke recalls; “And He spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees;” The “fig tree” is used some 33 times in Scripture relative to the fig tree. “All the trees” is a clearly a reference to other nations. Which nations?
The ones that top the headlines every night. The nations through which flow the Gihon, the Tigris, the Pison and the Euphrates.
“When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”
In these last days, the nations ‘shooting forth’ are the same nations that make up the Cradle of Civilization. They are among the oldest on the earth. The Old Testament begins in the land of the first Adam and closes in the land of the Second.
We’ve just about come full circle. The New Testament begins in the land of the Second Adam, and concludes with its attention focused on the land of the first. Where the Euphrates River is drying up. Right on schedule.
“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till ALL be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:29-32)
Note: Today is the anniversary of the day that Israel was liberated from the Ottoman Empire. Jack wrote us a history of the Middle East in today’s brief with some very interesting facts.