WILL BIBLICAL PROPHECIES BE FULFILLED?
"War has come to the cradle of civilization, " current headlines have been announcing; and both fans and interviewers have asked me what is my "take" on these events. "How strange that 6000 years of human history keep leading us to devastation in this ancient place; I wonder if you have any thoughts on this issue," asked a fan from England. Is this the fulfillment of biblical prophecies?" asked an interviewer.
Indeed, today's Iraq encompasses ancient Mesopotamia, the Land Between the Rivers where Assyria and Babylon and long before them Sumer had flourished. It is there, geographically, where the first known civilization had blossomed out, giving Mankind the firsts in writing and literature, the wheel and the kiln, art and music, mathematics and astronomy, kingship and laws, temples and religion, and the first Cities of Man, among them the famed Ur whence Abraham had come.
Preserving The Legacy
The issue of preserving and respecting that ancient legacy is perhaps best illustrated by Ur's mighty ziggurat (step pyramid) whose ruins still dominate the landscape. In the first Gulf War, the Iraqis placed their aircraft next to the ziggurat, expecting (correctly!) that the Americans would not risk bombing the planes for fear of damaging the ziggurat; the Iraqis did it again this time - but this time (according to unconfirmed reports) the airfield was captured by Special Forces without a bomb dropped.
While the Iraqis converted a symbol of Sumer's legacy into a military target, it is known that in Washington panels of archeologists and other scholars have been advising the campaign planners on the location and importance of ancient sites. It has been pointed out, however, that various dam and irrigation projects have obliterated potential archeological sites; and although in the first Gulf War war-damage was minimal, post-war looting of sites and museums was rampant
The Wars of Men
War - any war - entails carnage and destruction, and a time of No More Wars was deemed already in biblical times as the idyllic time when swords shall be made into ploughshares. Yet wars accompanied Mankind from the earliest times, and the Lands of the Bible, encompassing today's Iraq, have known war after war after war.
Today's Iraq was artificially put together by the victorious Allies after World War I, in the 1920's. Today's capital, Baghdad (which is not ancient Babylon) was established by invading Arabs in AD 750 and was overrun by Mongol hordes in AD 1469. Greeks (under Alexander the Great), Persians, Medians, Sassanians, Parthians warred there. And the great international war recorded in the Bible, of the Kings of the East against the Kings of the West, took place in the time of Abraham.
The kingdoms that followed Sumer, Babylonia and Assyria, turned war into a permanent state policy; their kings boasted in their annals of one campaign after another. Killings, annihilations, destruction, pillaging, subjugation fill the records.
In Who's Footsteps?
While ancient Sumer knew wars (its monuments indeed depict soldiers and war chariots), its kings boasted of assuring peace, and the highest epithet for a ruler was to be called a Righteous Shepherd. The present ruthless ruler of Iraq chose as his model, however, not a Sumerian king but the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar, the one who captured Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple that Solomon built for Yahweh.
Saddam Hussein rebuilt (on a reduced scale) Babylon, not Ur or Nippur; and like the olden kings had each brick stamped with an honorific inscription - paying homage to "Saddam Hussein, protector of civilization, who rebuilt the palace which belonged to Nebuchadnezzar."
Like that Babylonian king, Saddam Hussein spoke of Iraqi domination from the Persian Gulf (the ancient "Lower Sea") to the Mediterranean (the "Upper Sea"), of capturing Jerusalem, of destroying the "Zionist State" (alias ancient Zion).
By comparing Iraq to ancient Babylon and himself to Nebuchadnezzar, Saddam Hussein inescapably brings to mind the biblical prophecies concerning the kingdom that turned greatness to evil and the king whose rule brought slaughter and destruction.
The prophet Isaiah foretold the demise and destruction of Babylon by armies from a distant land, even from the skies (!) (Chapter 13) and prophesied the fate of Babylon's king and his sons (!) (Chapter 14). The prophet Jeremiah, recording the evils of Babylon and its rulers, foretold the coming punishment: "A sound of battle is in the land and a great destruction… A sword is upon the Chaldeans and upon the inhabitants of Babylon, upon her princes and upon her counselors; a sword is upon her liars… a sword is upon her mighty men."
As much as the biblical prophets were for Peace, they deemed war in punishment of evil as justified.
Of First Things and Last Things
Do biblical prophecies hold true just for the time they were uttered, or are they of eternal validity, holding true for posterity whenever the circumstances are the same? Was evil punishable only then, not now? Were messianic expectations valid only B.C. and not AD? The question has filled volumes; I tend to agree with those who view biblical prophecies as eternally valid.
The New Testament's Book of Revelation's assertion "I am Alpha and I am Omega," I am the First and I am the Last, re-expressed the more encompassing Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) credo of all the prophets that The First Things Shall Be The Last Things. Indeed, it was the knowledge of what had been that was the basis for foretelling what will be; or, as I put it in my lectures, the Past is the Future.
That history will repeat itself, there should be no doubt. What remains a mystery is what chapter of history will be repeated when - are we still in the middle of the what I named The Earth Chronicles, or is the grand cycle nearing completion and the very First Things shall fulfill the prophecies of The Return? In this regard it behooves us to recall that before the Cities of Man there had been cities of the gods and before the wars of men there were the wars of the gods - including the one in 2024 B.C., when the use of nuclear weapons caused the demise of the Sumerian civilization.
I do recommend that my fans re-read my books, especially The 12th Planet, The Wars of Gods and Men, and The Lost Book of Enki.
Reprint of this article and map is permitted