- Religion and Philosophy
Ezekiel 38, 39
The Whole Picture
The Strains of Both Belief and Disbelief
No one really knows what to think. Just about anything could happen tomorrow. This is even more true of events that will take place a year from now. But the plain fact is that a Russian invasion of Israel is neither imminent not likely. Nevertheless, the notion, suggested by two, frequently cited chapters in the Old Testament, are of enduring interest. They are so because they make some sort of quasi-credible prophetic claim, in addition to a larger, perhaps more important theological statement. My critical stance is not an expression of disdain or dislike. Not at all. I would not turn my attention to Ezekiel's vision had I not been predisposed toward acceptance of its possibility. But the more one reflects, the greater the odds-against increase in a destabilized world that would cause Jimmy the Greek to think twice. The text I use comes from a 1990s publication. At that time, Russia was a real wild card, in between Communism and rebirth as a Federation. Despite an updated afterword, however, objections abound. The oft-repeated scenario -- Russian soldiers crossing the Caucasus, Jerusalem-bound, as though on a crusade -- does not jibe with how things are right now.
Russia: No Longer Atheistic
The first problem is to match forgotten countries, according to Ezekiel, to their modern names. Obviously, there is no longer a Gog, Magog, Gomer, Put, Cush, or Togarmah. But there is also no such thing as bible study that does not admit some degree of interpretive expansiveness. Somehow, the authors solve the initial problem by ascribing Gog and Magog, or Togarmah, taken together, to Russia (mention is also made of "Rosh"). True enough, the country is dualistic in that it has a European side as well as an Asian. It is also a formidable power to the north of Israel. "Thou shalt come from thy place out of the north part," Ezekiel is instructed to "say unto Gog." A secondary problem is merely syllabic. Magog sounds a bit like Moscow, as Rosh sounds like Russia. They both come from the bible. In terms of coordinates, the Kremlin is practicably due north of Jerusalem -- at least to the naked eye examining a two-dimensional map. Is Gomer Germany? Consensus of opinion settles more obscurely on Eastern Europe. Other names are not difficult. Persia was what Iran was once called, just as Iraq, in ancient times, was known as Babylon. Put is an earlier name of Libya, Cush of Ethiopia. Nevertheless, these nations are not united, sufficiently strong, or formally allied against Israel. Further, Iran's sponsorship of terrorism, at present, does not directly target Israel -- though its animosity toward the Jewish State is clear. That all these nations are anti-Israeli, underscored by varying post-WWII degrees of anti-Semitism, is undisputed. The very presence of Israel, to them, is intolerable. It is doubtful nonetheless, that Russia, no longer the anti-emigration U.S.S.R., rues the fact of Israel's existence. Nevertheless, it has agreements and understandings with Israel's enemies. In other words, to establish a genuine case for the likelihood of a Russian, or Russian-led, invasion of Israel would require a much more stronger interpretation. Thus far, we have only a passing cloud that looks exactly like a bear, but is in fact, a cumuli-nimbus.
The Changing Map
Evangelism as a whole knows no boundaries. Most likely, the sun never sets on missionaries and others, regardless of what they call themselves, who travel to faraway places, in order to proselytize. Caught up in this endeavor or not, churchgoer or not, those who ponder theological matters mostly agree that these are the latter days. For instance, ISIS does not appear to act as though it has all the time in the world. From what little an ordinary television viewer can gather, this headline grabbing organization is very busy indeed. As to the authors, especially in regard to their ministerial focus on Israel, from a unique, blended perspective of Old Testament/New Testament, or Jewish/Christian, they have ample justifcation. It is just that the fulfillment of their scriptural prediction is nowhere to be seen. That is, unless the Six-Day War, taking into account Russian equipment and technical advisers, was the general substance of Ezekiel's vision. This is a stretch, but a way for the authors to acquit themselves with a modicum of dignity. Already, the age-old concept of wars, in the sense of having causes, beginnings, middles, and endings that go on to shape our destinies for centuries to come, is obsolescent. The opposing concept of Perpetual War is starting to creep into the larger picture. Further, many do not see enough godliness in the Middle East to make its constant squabbles a believable crucible of good versus evil. For a while, the idea of America as a New Zion, or a continuation of theocratic Israel, could be successfully entertained. But its current abstention from world events challenges the loftier status. In brief, a full-scale invasion of Israel is on the minds and in the hearts of many inhabitants of the region in question, but from Russia? It is not out of the question, but it seems as if Russia has many other issues of higher priority.
Russia Has the Might
Worldly Truth vs. Biblical Truth
It might come to pass; it might not come to pass. Even so, there is more to the chapters and verses being scrutinized and analyzed than matching them up with today's news. For instance, the need for a people or peoples to realize that God is God is not insignificant. What exactly does it take? Few of my neighbors, I would wager, take the religiosity of Israel's most immediate enemies seriously. "And they shall know that I am the Lord their God," writes the prophet, 28:25. He addresses his fellow countrymen and women. No doubt, to switch millennias, many residents of the affected regions, in this very hour, some devout Christians, pray for deliverance from their persecutors, often to no visible avail. Moreover, has not time passed Ezekiel by? Certainly Israel is on guard. But for the moment, it is other countries who are reeling. Israel is not yet militarily active, awaiting the outcome of negotiations, to which, it might be added, the American people have also been denied access. There is tension in the air -- that much cannot be gainsaid. To be sure, Ezekiel depicts combat. But writing long before the twilight of the gods, his admonitions could reasonably have applied to another set of circumstances. How far can a prophet see into the future anyways? Whatever the case, many of his descriptions verbally echo the malicious deeds of militants who rampage through the streets and villages of lost, desolate neighborhoods, cities, villages, and nations. The wanton destruction of archeological sites, for example, sends out the message that these marauders will not be stymied nor stifled by what others hold sacred. It is amazing how much fear, pain, death, and disruption they have unleashed.
Ezekiel 28: The Words
Acceptance of the Unknown
This is really the main subject, not prophetic phrases open to interpretation so as to fit a future schematic. According to Ghandi, there is no cause for which he personally would kill. Naturally, this humble man, born into an Eastern faith, makes plenty of sense, though in the days ahead, his inclination toward non-violence is not apt to be heeded. Conscientious objection, too, must be taken to heart. But for American leadership, in some part based on force of arms, to deliberately distance itself from not just violence, but hideous forms of it, entails a degree of risk. This nation, proud and democratic, may eventually lose its own soul. Or, to put it more rationally, other nations, under pressure, who once looked to the U.S. to intervene when in extremis, will likely look elsewhere. When that happens, there is no telling. A handful of historical precedents come to mind. Egypt, for instance, turned away from the U.S. in favor of the U.S.S.R. during the building of the Aswan Dam. The decision made for strange bedfellows. It has been like that ever since.
The reference to Egypt brings up a problem that actually works in favor of the free world. Despite numerous nations set against Israel (although there is no way to tell the disposition of each individual inside them), they lack the leadership necessary to prevail upon their common foe. There are many additional reasons as well. Maybe this is where Russia comes in. Maybe it is hoped that it will furnish what they themselves cannot muster. Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and lately, Iran, have all vied for an elusive, broad-scale unity and mandate. A good argument in favor of Turkey's eventual dominance has been presented on You-Tube. Like Russia, it also spans east and west. Personally, I can only reiterate my own position, that Russia does not aspire to be Israel's nemesis. I can only agree that Ezekiel's prophecy, explained just so, is beguiling. One thing is certain. True or false, American-made Russia-bashing will go on -- sometimes with merit, sometimes totally without.