As we are now in the early days of November 2018, the eyes of the world are turned in the direction of Iran to see how the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will respond to the crippling economic sanctions that have once again been imposed on the Iranian nation by the United States.
The American Secretary of Defense, Mike Pompeo has said that Iran will have a choice of leaving behind their destructive behavior or face economic destruction. The bellicose responses from the leadership of Iran indicate that they are choosing to continue with their aggressive actions, especially with their nuclear ambitions. As the day of the re-instituting of the sanctions has now passed, we will soon see how Iran will respond.
Aside from the politics of the international relationships between Iran, its allies, and the West, in this writing we will examine what Old Testament prophets tell us is going to unfold with Iran on the world stage in these closing hours of the age.
With even a minimal knowledge of eschatology (the study of end time events), most observers are aware that there is coming an overwhelming attack on the nation of Israel involving Russia, Iran, Turkey, and at least six other nations. This is generally known as the Gog-Magog war, or Ezekiel 38-39 war. As this series of articles continues, a detailed description of this great war will be provided in Part Eight. But for this installment, we will examine a lesser known prophecy, with details once again being provided by Jeremiah.
One of the things that I am increasingly convinced of is that the Scriptures are not only inerrant, but they are also very specific. This is very much the case with what God gave His prophets to write into His Word that would be read throughout the history of mankind. When it comes to the understanding of Bible prophecy, many will avoid the subject completely, saying it is too controversial and there are just too many opinions. Yet, as we watch world events unfold we find that the Bible has described our specific time in history in great detail. And, as time passes, we are given more and more understanding of what we are reading. This is so that we know what time it is.
The main portion of Scripture we will be examining here is found in Jeremiah 49:34:39. As was mentioned in Part Five of this series, the 49th chapter is packed with prophecies directed at a number of people group entities. The passage below is directed at modern day Iran, but only specifically at what was known as ancient Elam.
The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet against Elam, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, the foremost of their might. Against Elam I will bring the four winds, from the four quarters of heaven, and scatter them toward all those winds; there shall be no nations where the outcasts of Elam will not go. For I will cause Elam to be dismayed before their enemies and before those who seek their life. I will bring disaster upon them, My fierce anger,’ says the LORD. ‘But it shall come to pass in the latter days, I will bring back the captives of Elam,’ says the LORD.”
In earlier installments in this series, considerable time has been spent in describing enemies that the Bible warned would rise up at the end of the age and attempt once again to wipe the nation of Israel out of existence. To this point we have looked at an inner ring of national entities that Scripture says will confederate with the intent of overrunning the Jewish nation. This should be no surprise since the Scriptures have been very clear in foretelling the return of the Jews from around the world to their ancestral home. The Bible also specifically says this will happen at the end of the age; in fact, just prior to the unleashing of the Great and Terrible Day of the LORD.
As we examine the above passage in Jeremiah, we find the prophet specifically singling out the ancient land of Elam. It is worth mentioning here that most emphasis on Iran’s prophetic involvement in conflicts at the end of the age, in particular with the nation of Israel, are centered on ancient Persia, or modern day Iran. There is no question about Persia’s participation with the overwhelming confederation described in Ezekiel 38-39. In this prophecy by Jeremiah however, the Almighty specifically has His finger of judgment pointed directly at Elam. The ancient land of Elam, located mostly within modern-day Iran, existed many centuries before Persia ever became part of the world scene.
Biblically, it was one of Persia’s first kings, in fact her greatest king, Cyrus the Great, who brought Persia much of its world recognition. Elam’s history on the other hand reaches all the way back to the patriarch Abraham’s time in the early chapters of Genesis. From my studies I have found differing historical boundaries of ancient Elam. One of the boundaries, which for the purposes of this article we will designate “Lesser Elam”, was located along the Persian Gulf, the western border of Iran, north of the Straits of Hormuz, and a small portion of land along the southeastern portion of modern-day Iraq. “Lesser Elam” only comprises about 20% of what is known as Iran today.
There is, however, considerable historical evidence for a “Greater Elam” whose boundaries would reach considerably farther than the smaller portion of land mentioned above. There is not time, nor reason, in this brief explanation of the prophecy about Elam to give the full history of the Elamites, but there is a strong argument for allowing for a much wider spread of the boundaries of Elam. Just the record of Abraham’s intervention in his nephew Lot and his family’s capture in Sodom by the four kings recorded in Genesis 14, including a king named Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, indicates that the ancient boundaries of Elam were spread much wider than that of “lesser Elam.” It is important that Elam is correctly identified because of what Jeremiah’s prophecy has to say in this short passage.
(There may be some asking: “What does it really matter and why should I care about a 2600-year-old prophecy?” The short answer is that these ancient prophecies concerning “Elam,” are about to be fulfilled right before our eyes. If it didn’t matter, God would not have included it in the Bible which we should be reading from cover to cover. Now back to Elam.)
Elam has a very long and complicated history. A short history lesson is appropriate at this point to help in the understanding of the Elam prophecy. Although determination of what exactly constituted Elam geographically is difficult, we know that the Assyrians and Babylonians referred to any land controlled by the Elamite kings as “Greater Elam.” Historical records even seem to indicate that the modern Kurds may well be descendants of the Elamites of old. The history of the Kurds does show evidence that they emerged from the ancient Elamites and the Medes. Today, many Kurds claim that modern Kurdistan which stretches from Turkey to Iran is derived from ancient Elam. They claim that only Kurds live in Elam; Kurd-Lur and Kurd Faylis. Other Kurds say that the Kurds are descendants of the ancient Medes which appears to be a contradiction to some. Historically, both are most likely correct. The Medes and the Elamites lived adjacent to each other in the Zagros Mountains of Iran in ancient times. In Mesopotamian languages, Elam is said to mean “The Heights”, which may indicate that the Zagros highlands may well have been part of Elam.
It is interesting to note that the modern Iranian province of Ilam is almost completely populated by Kurds, and most speak Kurdish. There are however also sub-groups of tribes that speak other dialects today, but they are still related tribes of Kurds. Then there is Khuzestan–a province in Iran. Its territory in ancient times was part of what historians refer to as ancient Elam, whose capital was in Susa. Half of its population is Lurs (a Kurdish group). And, we could go on, but our point is already made. Today’s Kurdish population split over Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria numbers about 35 million. The number of Kurds located in the four Kurdish populated provinces in western Iran add an additional nearly 7 million.
As we go back to the days of the Babylonian Empire, we find that King Nebuchadnezzar waged war against Elam, and although Elam did not cease to exist, the battle was so decisive that Elam was effectively absorbed into the Persian Empire. We find an interesting reference to Elam in the Book of Daniel which says:
I saw in the vision, and it so happened while I was looking, that I was in Shushan, the citadel, which is in the province of Elam, and I saw in the vision that I was by the River-Ulai. Daniel 8:2
If we were to continue with the history of Elam, we would find that Elam was attacked by army after army from after Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon through the conquest of the Ottomans. A close study of their history shows those conquests were brought about by:
- Greeks (331 BC – 247 BC)
- Parthians (247 BC – 221 AD
- Sassanians (221 AD – 651 AD)
- Muslims (651 AD – 1219 AD)
- Mongols (1219 AD – 1335 AD)
- Timurids (1335 AD – 1510 AD)
- Ottomans (1514 AD – 1860 AD)
In spite of the fact that many historians have looked for the scattering of the Elamites in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar in the 6th century BC, they really could not find record of it. With a closer inspection of history however we can see that the Elamites were scattered again and again with each and every conquest against them. We will see a bit later in this article why this may be important to recognize.
These various invasions happened over a very long period of time and brought disaster upon the inhabitants of Greater Elam. This became a reality at the hands of the Mongols and Timurids. From 1219 to 1335, Mongols under Genghis Khan and then his grandson, Hulegu, invaded the east of the Iranian plateau, reaching Palestine before they were finally stopped. The rich and fabled capital of the Abbasid caliphs, fell to them in 1258 AD. Their Middle Eastern Mongol Ilkhanate sustained itself for about a century and then disintegrated and much of Khuzestan (part of greater Elam) was destroyed and left in ruins.
Now that at least a small part of the history of ancient Elam has been explained, we can go back to explaining our original text in Jeremiah 49:34-39.
There are several contrasting details given in Scripture to distinguish between the involvement of Iran in the conflict involving Elam and that of Iran in the Gog-Magog conflict. One of these is the fact that the Gog-Magog war will be fought in the mountains of Israel, whereas the disaster that comes upon Elam will be located mostly within the confines of ancient Elam itself, allowing for “the greater Elam.” Another detail worth mentioning is that Ezekiel seems to purposely ignore Elam in his listing of Israel’s enemies in Ezekiel 38. It is interesting to note that the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel were contemporaries. For some reason, Ezekiel wrote about Persia and Jeremiah wrote about Elam. Yet, Ezekiel was very familiar with Elam. In Ezekiel 32:24-25, the prophet had this to say concerning Elam:
There is Elam and all her multitude, all around her grave, all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who have gone down uncircumcised to the lower parts of the earth, who caused their terror in the land of the living; now they bear their shame with those who go down to the Pit. They have set her bed in the midst of the slain, with all her multitude, with her graves all around it, all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword; though their terror was caused in the land of the living, yet they bear their shame with those who go down to the Pit; it was put in the midst of the slain.
As the Scriptures dealing with Elam are laid alongside those dealing with Gog-Magog, we find that both prophets were quite specific in the listing of nations participating in each of the conflicts. The prophet Ezekiel made a point of ignoring every one of Israel’s enemies listed in Asaph’s prayer in Psalm 83, and he seemed to ignore Elam–which he spoke about six chapters earlier. All of these enemies are today located along Israel’s borders with the exception of ancient Elam. Why did Ezekiel not list them along with his listing of Israel’s enemies in chapters 38-39? Most likely because they have already been defeated prior to the Gog-Magog war.
At this point we’ll take a brief look at the specifics Jeremiah listed that brings God’s wrath down on Elam. In the Jeremiah 49 passage, we find God speaking through Jeremiah, seven times saying, “I will.”
In verse 35, God says, “I will break the bow of Elam, the foremost of their might.” One of the first things I think of is Iran’s continual threat to obliterate Israel. Some of their test missiles have even had threats to the Jewish State painted on their sides in Hebrew. How often have we heard rhetoric coming out of Iran describing America as the Great Satan and Israel as the Little Satan? How often have we seen demonstrations in Iran where the crowds were shouting “Death to America, Death to Israel?”
I am also reminded of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speeches to the United Nations, providing specific information proving the aggressive designs of Iran’s leadership. Most will remember Mr. Netanyahu provided photographic proof of the huge cache of highly classified documents found by Mossad agents in a secret warehouse in Tehran. These documents showed Iran’s nuclear weapons plans and designs in great detail. Israel has also provided photographic evidence of secret manufacturing sites near the international airport in Beirut, Lebanon, where Hezbollah, under the supervision of the Iranian Republican Guard, are retrofitting missiles with sophisticated GPS guided systems, capable of carrying nuclear, chemical, or biological warheads. This is one of the greatest fears Israel has with Iran’s involvement in Syria, keeping in mind that Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Assad’s Syria are aligned with Iran, Turkey, and Russia.
Is it possible that God finds it necessary at some point in time to intervene in Iran’s feverish drive to deliver nuclear weapons onto Israeli cities by developing ballistic missiles? I believe this is what Jeremiah was referring to 2600 years ago. God is saying that He will see to it that their capability to deliver (the bow) their “arrows” (missiles) is broken / destroyed. This is in direct contrast to the fact that in Ezekiel 38-39, God destroys both the “bow” and the “arrows” of the combined forces attacking Israel. It is also interesting to find that early Bible history records mention the ancient Elamites as being masters of archery warfare.
If God sees to it that Elam’s “bow” is broken, the arrows (or missiles) cannot be launched. Even back as far as 2014, Mr. Netanyahu made this comment to Angela Merkel of Germany: “The goal is to prevent Iran from having the capability to manufacture and deliver nuclear weapons. I believe that means zero enrichment, zero centrifuges, zero plutonium, and of course an end to ICBM development. Because none of these elements–none of them–are necessary for developing civilian nuclear energy, which is what Iran has claimed that it wants.” Now that we find ourselves near the end of 2018 and Iran is even more insistent on its plans for nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them, will Israel, the United States, or another nation make it a point to destroy their launching facilities?
Most of Iran’s enemies are located to the west of Iran. This is naturally where they would place the lion’s share of their military muscle. I find it interesting how many of Iran’s worrisome sites for the Jewish State are located within or near the territory of ancient Elam. Even estimates of the sites in “lesser Elam” are put at nearly 50%, with the Bushehr nuclear plant centered on the coastline of ancient Elam. However, as we look at a map of Iran, showing the location of all of its provinces, the number of “problem” sites for Israel’s security needs, located in “greater Elam,” is much greater. The four northwestern provinces where most of the Kurds live today extend all the way up to the northern borders of Iran, sandwiched between Turkey and Azerbaijan.
As we continue with God’s promise to “break the bow of Elam,” He also added…”the foremost of their might.” What could God have meant when He had Jeremiah pen those words? Could it be that He will see to it that Iran (or ancient Elam) has their missile and rocket launching facilities destroyed? Is this something that will be done by the Israeli Defense Forces or possibly a combination of their military and that of the United States working in concert? Could their launching ability be neutralized through use of an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) weapon? One way or another, at the time of this event, they will suffer a great loss of their ability to launch.
As mentioned earlier, ancient Elam was known for their archers in war. It seems that God made it a point to say that He would break their bows, but said nothing about their arrows. In the coming Gog-Magog war in Ezekiel 38-39, God specifically worded His actions differently by saying:
“Then I will knock the bow out of your left hand, and cause the arrows to fall out of your right hand.” Ezekiel 39:3
To Be Continued in Part Seven where we will complete the examination of Jeremiah’s prophecy about ancient Elam