Ezekiel 38-39: Ancient Prophet Glimpses Modern World! (Chapter 5)

Chapter 1: Who Are Gog and Magog? (38:1-2)
Chapter 2: Preparation for Invasion of Israel and the Mid East (38:3-6)
Chapter 3: Israel’s Role in Bringing about Her Own Downfall (38:7)
Chapter 4: Prophecy Pinpoints Our Present Historical Situation (38:8-12)
Chapter 5: Role of America and Britain (38:13)
Chapter 6: How God is Honored in this Mess (38:14-16)
Chapter 7: God Fights Against Gog – Armageddon! (38:17-39:8)
Chapter 8: Clean-Up Campaign (39:9-20)
Chapter 9: Israel’s Purging Results in Final Blessing (39:21-29)

Chapter 5: Role of America and Britain (38:13)

Verse 13  Sheba, Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish, and all their young lions will say to you, “Have you come to take plunder? Have you gathered your army to take booty, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to take great plunder?”

Who are “Sheba and Dedan” ? Here again we see ancient names substituting for modern ones. In this case, as shown in the map below, the prophecy is pinpointing Saudi Arabia, which, because of its oil resources, just happens to be about the wealthiest piece of real estate in the world today. No wonder “Sheba and Dedan” are protesting about Gog’s coming “to take great plunder”. They’re probably worried that their “plunder” of oil resources will be coming up next on his agenda.

Now the prophecy didn’t say “oil wealth” specifically. The following quote can explain this:

     After all, they [the people of Ezekiel’s time] didn’t know anything about oil in those days, they didn’t burn oil, at least not the kind of oil we do today. Their whole civilization was not dependent upon industry run on black-gold oil pumped out of the ground. So how could he be specific? The prophet had never heard of oil, that kind of oil, and he had to just say whatever he could to try to indicate that they were going to get great riches out of that part of the World. (from David Berg lecture, March-1981, www.davidberg.org)

Regarding “Dedan”, Easton’s Bible Dictionary gives us this interesting bit of information:

     A son of Raamah (Gen. 10:7). His descendants are mentioned in Isa. 21:13, and Ezek. 27:15. They probably settled among the sons of Cush, on the north-west coast of the Persian Gulf.

If this is correct, then the “northwest coast of the Persian Gulf” would include the oil-rich state of Kuwait, who, along with Saudi Arabia, happens to be an ally of America. Other surrounding nations (Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Oman), all of whom belong to the Gulf Cooperation Council, may also get snared in the Antichrist’s invasion plans.

For the most part these nations are allied to America, and here we have a clue as to who the other power or powers might be, the ones mentioned along with “Sheba and Dedan” – the “merchants of Tarshish, and all their young lions”.

America has her own (and Israel’s) vested interests to protect in the Mideast and will surely defend them whenever the Antichrist begins his invasion. (The prophecy, at this point, seems to refer to a pre-invasion stage: the diplomatic wars and protests that always precede the actual wars.)

From the sounds of it, judging by other Scriptures in Daniel 11:40-42, the Antichrist will likely invade these other oil-wealthy states in the Mid East, referred to there in non-specific terms as “the countries” and “many countries”. “Many countries shall be overthrown… He (the Antichrist) shall stretch out his hand upon the countries.”

Mid-East copyArabian Peninsula: Names of Ancient tribes in white print; modern nations in black print

So, the question now is, can America truly be identified with the “merchants of Tarshish, and all their young lions” ? Does this ancient term have anything to do with the modern political scene, especially America, whom we can be sure will be infuriated by Gog’s invasion into her client states in the Mideast, especially Israel? To answer this question, we first of all need to go back a bit in time and find out about the original Tarshish.

Tarshish was a great-grandson of Noah (Genesis 10:1-4) and an early pioneer of the post-Flood world. It seems that he migrated to southern Spain according to ancient records which generally assign his name to that particular region of the world. But regardless of what happened in the very ancient time, as far as Ezekiel and the people of his time were concerned, the city and area of Tarshish (also known as Tartessos) meant the far western corner of the Mediterranean, now known as southern Spain.

Tarshish’s descendants are also believed to be some of the very earliest inhabitants of the land of Britain after the Flood. There is even some genetic evidence to show that the early Britons were descended from Tarshish, or if not directly from him, then at least from inhabitants of the same land of Spain that was known as Tarshish. On this subject here are some interesting facts:

Britain and the Iberian connection

     It is asserted that among the earliest settlers in Britain, who began to arrive ca. 1600 BCE, were the people known as Iberi, some of whom remained in the upper Ebro basin (in northern Spain) and became known later as the Basques. The Roman historian, Tacitus, wrote the following in about 98 CE:

     “Who were the original inhabitants of Britain, whether they were indigenous or foreign, is as usual among barbarians, little known. Their physical characteristics are various, and from these conclusions may be drawn. The red hair and large limbs of the inhabitants of Caledonia [old name for Scotland] point clearly to a German origin. The dark complexion of the Silures [a British tribe, now the Welsh], their usually curly hair, and the fact that Spain is the opposite shore to them, are an evidence that Iberians of a former date crossed over and occupied these parts.”

Extracts from the Wikipedia entry on the Celts provide the following information:  

     Oppenheimer’s theory is that the modern day people of Wales, Ireland and Cornwall are mainly descended from Iberians who did not speak a Celtic language. In Origins of the British (2006), Stephen Oppenheimer states (pages 375 and 378):

     “By far the majority of male gene types in Britain and Ireland derive from Iberia (modern Spain and Portugal)… On average only 30% of gene types in England derive from north-west Europe. Even without dating the earlier waves of north-west European immigration, this invalidates the Anglo-Saxon wipeout theory [the idea that the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons led to the extermination of the people already living there]…

(from “46F, Sons of Japheth: Part VI Tubal”)

Further research has traced the Welsh, Britain’s original settlers, even beyond the Iberians and all the way to the people who now live in the Balkans.

Conclusions from recent genetic studies (Welsh Genetics: Abstracts and Summaries“):

◊     The sampled men from Central English towns genetically resembled each other closely, in contrast to the North Welsh men who “differed significantly both from each other and from the Central English towns.”… Excerpts from the article: “Our results indicate the presence of a strong genetic barrier between Central England and North Wales and the virtual absence of a barrier between Central England and Friesland [coastal Netherlands and NW Germany]… Anglo-Saxon settlements and culture appeared throughout England but, importantly, did not extend into North Wales, where many of the original Celtic Britons living in England are thought to have fled” (from 2002 genetic study comparing English, Welsh, Norwegian, and Frisian men)
       “33 percent of men who live in the town of Abergele in North Wales have the Y-DNA haplogroup E1b1b1, probably from migrations from the Balkans.” (from genetic study published March 10, 2007) 

        “Extraordinary” genetic make-up of north east Wales men… This type of genetic makeup is usually found in the eastern Mediterranean which made us think that there might have been strong connections between north east Wales and this part of Europe somewhere in the past. . .” (comment by Dr. Andy Grierson of the University of Sheffield on BBC News, July 19 2011)

This connection with the Balkans is not surprising. Back in the very early days, the father of Tarshish, Javan, settled in that very location, which is why in ancient times what is now known as Greece was always called the land of Javan. Javan had four sons, one of whom was Tarshish who, as far as we know, migrated from the Balkans to the area of southern Spain. It is rather interesting to see how modern scientific research is confirming what was written so long ago in the Sacred Book, as well as in the writings of scholars from ancient times.

After the early days of post-Flood pioneering, civilizations began to emerge in the ancient world. In the Phoenecian trading empire, Tarshish became its far western outpost. From Tarshish, trade was carried on with even more distant outposts, and this westernmost trading center of the Phoenecian empire became the main route through which goods from Britain, especially tin, made their way into the Mediterranean world. (Tin was vital in those days for it was needed to alloy with copper to produce the much stronger metal of bronze; and Cornwall, England, happened to be one of the few places in the world where tin could be mined.) Noted historian Sir Edward Creasy wrote,

“The British mines mainly supplied the glorious adornment of Solomon’s Temple.” (History of England from the Earliest to the Present Time, 1869)

To conclude, it would seem that, by the time Ezekiel came along, strong ties of trade and culture had long been established between the peoples of Iberia (Spain and Portugal) and Britain.

Map Showing the Extent of the Phoenecian/Tarshish Trading Empire

So, all this to say, Britain too should be considered as one of the “merchants of Tarshish”. Tarshish, or the people who lived in Tarshsish, were, after all, some of the ancestors of those who first came to Britain before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings. And it could very well be that the inhabitants of Tarshish still had connections with their descendants who had settled in Britain. Also, because of their trade relations, that probably meant a good deal of cultural exchange went on as well – a flow of travelers, colonists, and ideas. And it is possible that many actual “merchants of Tarshish” settled in Britain to better take care of their business interests in that faraway land.

     Historically Tarshish was a polity [political entity] based on southwest Spain that had connections with France and Britain and possibly ruled over areas in those countries. (from “Is Britain Tarshish?”)

It should be safe to say then that the phrase “merchants of Tarshish” was like an umbrella term, a way of including those peoples of western Europe who were tied together economically and racially, and perhaps even culturally and politically. If then Tarshish was like a mini-empire within the greater empire of Phoenecia, this could explain the peculiar usage of the term “merchants of Tarshish” in this passage rather than something like “merchants of Sidon”, the actual center of the Phoenecian empire. The word “Tarshish” focuses attention on its location in the western regions of the earth (that were little known in ancient times), while the word “merchants” draws attention to its commercial nature.

Considering that Ezekiel had no words to use for modern nations, then the Lord could have easily used this odd phrase “merchants of Tarshish” as a way of referring to the modern commercial powers from the West who have vested interests in Mideast oil. The following quote will shed some light on this:

     After all, what else could he [Ezekiel] say if the mysterious vision was for a future time? He must perforce have used the terms and names of his own day. He probably did not understand the full implication of what he wrote. But he surely would say that, long after his time, a new confederacy of power would arise from the Western Atlantic nations, whose armies, riches and power might also provide the means of a future role in the reservation of Israel. (from The Antichrist, pg. 79, by W.S. McBirnie, 1978)

So it seems there was a lot more to Ezekiel’s prediction about the “merchants of Tarshish, and all their young lions” than meets the eye. There exists here a remarkable connection with our present day. Of no small significance is the fact that the first explorers and colonizers of the New World came from, of all places, Spain and Portugal, the area once known as “Tarshish” in ancient times; Christopher Columbus and other explorers from that part of Europe forged a path to the New World.

Later on, Britain followed in their footsteps and became the world’s next great commercial superpower. (Perhaps it is more than coincidence that the “lion” symbolism, the national emblem of Britain, was used in the prophecy – a sort of veiled reference to the British empire.)

Now regarding the phrase “all their young lions”, here is another helpful quote:

     ‘Young lions’ is, in the Hebrew, ‘whelps’ or ‘cubs’; obviously offspring or colonies. The ‘Merchants of Tarshish’ were definitely colonizers. This is the plain and logical meaning of the phrase Ezekiel used. (from The Antichrist, pg. 79, by W.S. McBirnie, 1978)

So there we have it: Spain, Portugal, and Britain are the latter-day versions of the “merchants of Tarshish” who, because of “all their young lions”, created great colonial empires at the start of the Modern Age. Then it became the turn of “their young lions”: Britain, having succeeded Spain and Portugal as the next great commercial superpower, gave birth to her “young lions”, the American colonies. Then in the 20th century it became America’s turn to inherit the mantle of great commercial superpower.

Looking at the political situation today, there seems little doubt that America and Britain (which has broken away from the EU), and perhaps some of the other “young lions” like Canada and Australia, will object to Gog’s incursions into the Mideast. And who knows if the “young lions” of Spain and Portugal, the nations of Latin America, won’t also be part of this western power bloc? Anyway that’s a bit far off in the future and difficult to speculate on at the moment.

To be sure, once the Antichrist’s juggernaut begins to roll, these are the nations, especially the U.S., who will not fall in line with the generally pro-Russian/Chinese orientation of much of the rest of the world. The U.S., along with the oil-rich states of “Sheba and Dedan” (modern Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and others nearby), will object to the Russian invasion of the Mideast.

Well, this passage is quite intriguing, considering how unknown these parts of the world – Britain and the New World – were in Ezekiel’s time, yet isn’t it amazing how the Lord was able to refer to them anyway? And isn’t it amazing how the pattern outlined in Ezekiel 38 seems to be playing itself out so precisely nowadays on the stage of world events?


Continue to Chapter 6: How God is Honored in this Mess (38:14-16)

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