(From Forerunner Commentary)
Numbers 22:1 (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)
The forty years of wilderness wandering were about over. The Israelites had spent all this time coming out of Egypt, wandering from camp to camp, sometimes staying quite long in one place and perhaps just a night in another, moving again, sometimes coming back to stay at a place where they had been then moving onward again. Nevertheless, they were always marching inexorably toward the Promised Land—Canaan.
At this time, they camped across from Jericho, just steps away from going into the Promised Land. They were ready to cross the Jordan, and begin the conquest.
As recorded in Numbers 21, they had just defeated the Amorites under King Sihon, and they had smashed them—crushed them! Sihon and the Amorites were the big power on the East Bank of the Jordan, but their defeat was like swatting a fly to Israel.
Then they went next to Bashan and defeated King Og and his armies. They decimated them. In this way, the whole East Bank of the Jordan River became Israelite territory. Also on the East Bank, farther south on the east side of the Dead Sea where the Jordan enters it, was the country of Moab. The Israelites had marched right along their northern border, opposite Jericho.
Israel was nothing like we see on the movie The Ten Commandments (or some other Bible movie about the Exodus), where the depict the entire children of Israel as about 15 people with maybe four or five sheep. Realistic estimates conclude that Israel consisted of perhaps 2 to 3 million people, plus all the livestock and all the gear that they had brought with them. This was a train of people that stretched for miles! It took them a day or two to pass any one point from the first to the last person. Isreal was a huge, mobile nation! Moab was perhaps about the same size as the children of Israel, and they watched all these people pass through northern reaches of their territory. They had heard what Israel had done to Sihon, Og, and all their people. They were frightened witless!
As Isreal approached this region, God had told them not to mess with the Moabites and the Edomites because they were distant relatives of the Israelites (Deuteronomy 2:8-9). Evidently, the Moabites and the Edomites were not aware of God's edict because they figured that these 3 million people were a threat to them.
While they were camped across from Jericho, Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy. He would also go up Mount Nebo and view the land Israel was to inherit (Deuteronomy 32:48-52). After that, he would die, and God would bury his body in a valley opposite Beth Peor (Deuteronomy 34:6).
Many events were to happen in these final months while the Israelites were camped next to Moab. Much had to be done before they went in. This is the time setting of the events concerning Balaam.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 1)
Psalm 83:1-8 (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)
The nations listed in Psalm 83:5-8 comprise a fairly complete rundown of the ancient enemies of Israel, and Edom, the descendants of Esau, is given primacy of place. After Edom come the usual suspects: the Ishmaelites, Moab, the Hagarites, Gebal, Ammon, Amalek, Philistia, and Tyre; and Assyria joins them, specifically helping the children of Lot.
Descendants of Esau actually appear three times on this list, as Amalek (see Genesis 36:12) and Gebal (here, a region of Idumea, often confused with the Phoenician city of Gebal or Byblos) are tribes that became distinguished from the bulk of the Edomites. Evidently, these tribes struck out on their own and eventually established their own identities. Amalek, in particular, was a thorn in Israel's side.
Bible history, from about Genesis 16 on, records that all of these nations rose up against Israel and Judah perpetually. Only very rarely did they ally with Israel for any length of time, and when they did, it was usually because they faced an even stronger, more dreaded enemy. It seems that Israel had peace from them only when they were conquered and put under tribute.
The only major nations missing from this list of Israel's persistent enemies are Egypt and Babylon. There may be several reasons for their omission. First, the context speaks of a particular historical "confederacy" against Israel, and Egypt and Babylon may not have been part of it. Second, as major powers in the region, Egypt and Babylon were generally unconcerned about Israel, or at least did not posses the visceral hatred of God's people that these other nations did. Third, the peoples that are mentioned were either ethnically related to Israel or lived in close proximity to her, while Egypt and Babylon are not related to Israel and inhabited distant realms.
Finally, as a prophecy of the last days, Psalm 83 may not consider Egypt and Babylon to represent the physical peoples that they did anciently. In fact, a physical Babylon does not seem to exist in the end time; the ancient city lies in ruins for tourists in Iraq to behold. If Egypt, a modern Arab nation, is contemplated in the prophecy, it may be included under the Hagarites, as Hagar, mother of Ishmael, was an Egyptian (Genesis 16:1). In addition, Ishmael's wife was also Egyptian (Genesis 21:21), making the Ishmaelites three-quarters Egyptian.
Nevertheless, all of these different peoples—Edom, Ishmael, Amalek, Moab, Ammon, Philistia, Tyre, and Assyria—are among the major players in the Middle East today. These are peoples from whom the Jihadists and the Islamic fundamentalists hail, making up what is known as the "Arab" or "Muslim world." Today, these people inhabit the nations of Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, etc., and the pseudo-nation of Palestine.
Psalm 83 lists a group of peoples—a confederacy—whose main enemy is Israel. Today, there exists a worldwide jihad against the West, particularly aimed at the "Great Satan," the United States, and the despised Jews, the State of Israel. The physical descendants of ancient Israel—the English-speaking peoples, the democracies of Northwest Europe, and the Jewish Diaspora—are the standard-bearers of Western civilization. The same players are still in the game!
Who has initiated the conflict over these last several years? For the most part, Islamist or fundamentalist Arabs have been the aggressors. The terrorists have mainly come from Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, North Africa, Iraq, etc.—that is, Arab nations. The philosophical or religious underpinnings for these attacks have their source in the virulent and violent anti-Western teachings of Wahhabism (spread from Saudi Arabia), militant pan-Arab socialism (cultivated by despots in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, etc.), and anti-Semitism (practiced hypocritically by a majority of Arabs, who are themselves Semitic peoples, descendants of Abraham).
Where have most of the attacks taken place? Although many of them have occurred in the Middle East, they have been predominantly against Western interests. Terror organizations have targeted Western people, planes, helicopters, ships, homes, shops, hotels, and embassies—anything Western seems to be fair game to them.
For example, the bombing in Beirut against a U.S. military installation in 1983 killed hundreds of Marines in their barracks, and jihadists attacked the U.S. mainland on September 11, 2001. The State of Israel, of course, has endured a heavy share of the militant Islamic violence since its founding in 1948. More recently, Britain, Australia, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, and other predominantly Israelite nations have also suffered terrorist atrocities. This in no way discounts the terrorism that has also struck non-Israelite but Western nations like Spain and Italy.
Putting Psalm 83 together with what we know about these nations' ancestries and with what we see on the evening news, these prophecies are coming to pass before our eyes!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part Two)
Isaiah 16:1-5 (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)
These displaced persons are heading generally south, but they are milling around in confusion—they are terrified, frightened and do not know what to do. This is what they are doing at the fords of Arnon, saying, "What should we do? Where should we go? Maybe we ought to go to Zoar? It's a little place, you see. Nobody will pay any attention to us if we're there." But God admonishes them to make an offering—thus the mention of the word "lamb"—to the ruler of the land.
Who is the ruler of the land? It has to be Christ, because that is where His church is. He is governing His church, and He is admonishing the Moabites to make an offering. He is saying, "Pray, cry out for mercy to the ruler of the land, to Jesus Christ." The offering is to go through Selah: "From Selah to the wilderness," because that is where God's outcasts are. But He tells them, "Be sure nobody sees you. Hide them, hide My people. Don't betray where My people are," Then he encourages them, "Hang on! It's almost over. Christ is coming, and it's but a short time to when that will take place."
John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 2)
Matthew 27:22-25 (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)
Nowhere does Matthew—or anyone else—ever tell us that God acquiesced to carry out vengeance on those who cried, "Crucify Him!" before Pilate's judgment hall. Nowhere does Matthew intimate that God consented to punish their children over the centuries. If He had committed Himself to carry out these peoples' so-called "curse," He would have knowingly bound Himself to violate His own law for centuries.
Why, then, have the Jews found themselves so often in such dire straits over the years, not only after the crucifixion of Christ, but for centuries before? They have been persecuted by the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Edomites, the Canaanites, the Sidonians, the Hivites, the Moabites (see Judges 3:3-12), and the Midianites (see Judges 8:1). The catalog of their tormentors includes the Persians of Haman's time, the Greeks of Antiochus' time, the Romans of Imperial times, and afterwards various European and Muslim peoples to the present. Their history of persecution would fill volumes.
Anciently, only the Jews, along with their Israelite brethren, were the recipients of God's revelation: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth" (Amos 3:2). God counts that revelation as a precious blessing to the family of Abraham, as Paul writes in Romans 3:1-2: "What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God."
To Paul, the Jews were not cursed, but were first, the Greeks second (Romans 2:9-10). He took seriously his commission to carry God's name "before . . . the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15). The book of Acts records that in every town and city he visited, he went first to the local Jewish synagogue; after that, he preached the gospel to the Gentiles. Indeed, he admonished the church at Thessalonica to "become imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea . . . " (I Thessalonians 2:14).
God gave the Jews a lot. Here, the principle of Luke 12:48 enters the picture: "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more."
As we know from the Old Testament and as history since has demonstrated, the Jews have repeatedly rejected God, treading His oracles underfoot. Today, many are the Jews who have forsaken God and joined the vanguard of liberal secularism (read, atheism) in the arts, law, politics, science, education—in virtually every field of human endeavor. Throughout their history, many Jews have scorned God's revelation, purposefully making themselves a profane people. So, the corollary of Christ's principle applies, as stated in Luke 12:47: "And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes."
The Jews, more than any single people in history, knew God's will, as it is expressed in the "oracles"—His revelation to them. They often have rejected it. As often as they do, their apostasy has carried with it the penalty of "many stripes."
Are the Jews Cursed for Deicide?
Look up 'Moabites' in
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