Topical Studies

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What the Bible says about Japan
(From Forerunner Commentary)

The Japanese people are difficult to find within the pages of the Bible. As the church traditionally understands racial origins, their Oriental features place them within the family of Japheth. The "best guess" of those who study the origins and migrations of biblical peoples trace the Japanese to Javan (Genesis 10:2, 4), primarily on linguistic grounds.* Moses adds, "From these the coastland peoples of the Gentiles were separated into their lands, everyone according to his own language, according to their families, into their nations" (verse 5). It is not clear if this explanatory material refers to "the sons of Javan" in verse 4 or to the whole line of Japheth.

In other biblical passages, Javan is clearly Greece (Daniel 8:21; 10:20; 11:2; Zechariah 9:13). Situated on the Mediterranean Sea, Greece would be a natural trading partner of Tyre (Ezekiel 27:13, 19). However, notice Isaiah 66:18-19, speaking of a time just after Christ's return (described in verses 15-16):

It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory. I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles.

This could not refer to the Grecian peoples of the Mediterranean region because Greece is a "Christian" nation. Indeed, the New Testament was written, preserved, and distributed in its language! Certainly, the Bible—not to mention the preaching of the apostle Paul—is a significant enough witness to qualify as having heard God's fame and seen His glory. Christianity, however, has had little success in "the coastlands afar off" of Asia.

This leads biblical ethnologists to believe that Javan split in early times into a "Western" and an "Eastern" branch, part of which now resides in "the Land of the Rising Sun." It is likely that the descendants of Japheth, being the progeny of a Caucasian father and a Mongoloid mother, had combinations of these features and separated by racial and/or language type around the time of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11).

Other than this theory, we know nothing for certain about Japan's origins, and we know even less about its role in the end time. Revelation 9:13-19 prophesies of a 200 million-man army that originates somewhere beyond the Euphrates, and this vast host slays one-third of humanity. Many have drawn parallels between this prophecy and that of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38-39. The latter prophecy, though, fits better at the end of the Millennium, when Satan inspires vast numbers to descend upon "the camp of the saints and the beloved city" (Revelation 20:7-9). However, the 200 million-man army may be an end-time precursor of the late-Millennial army.

If this were the case, it would be difficult to imagine Japan not being involved with this vast horde out of Asia. As mentioned earlier, Japan is the second most technologically advanced nation in the world, and such a huge army would need Japanese technical know-how. Japan has already begun partnering with other Asian nations to secure Asia from Chinese hegemony, so it is not farfetched to imagine a pan-Asian confederacy coalescing in response to the power of the Beast when it rises to dominance.

Whatever happens, the Japanese are a resourceful and persevering people. It is difficult to keep them down for long. Dark days may still lie ahead in the short term, but as Solomon notes, "The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose" (Ecclesiastes 1:5). Whenever the sun sets, we know that after the dark of night, the sun will rise again.

*Another hypothesis derives the Japanese from Ashkenaz, son of Gomer, son of Japheth (Genesis 10:3). Like Javan, Ashkenaz is little mentioned in God's Word apart from genealogical references (Jeremiah 51:27). The ancient Ashkenazi, who called themselves "Nisaei," lived in what became known as Scythia, which they named "Land of the Rising Sun." Herodotus describes these original Scythians as having a rounded face and chin, a flat nose, and little or no body hair; speaking a peculiar language; and wearing a distinctive dress. They also drank a libation called asky, which linguistically resembles saki (see Harman Hoeh, Compendium of World History, vol. I, pp. 340-346).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Japan: Rising or Setting Sun?

Related Topics: Japan


Genesis 9:27

We witness the closing stages of Noah's comments today. Canaan, broadly the peoples of Africa, is in the process of being marginalized by world powers. God has indeed "enlarged" the population, prestige, and power of Japheth, the Asian nations collectively, especially in the last hundred years or so. Japheth's general and widespread "blooming" is one of the most obvious and important trends today.

What is not so obvious, however, is the role of Shem in bringing about this growth. Nevertheless, the fact is incontrovertible: God has used (and is using) Shemitic civilization to transform Japheth into a great people. Japheth is coming to "dwell in the tents of Shem"—in those cultural fixtures originated by Americans and Europeans. This widespread realignment of cultural bearings, from traditional Oriental to postindustrial Occidental, often comes with reservation—and with a good deal of adaptation as well. Nevertheless, it has come about:

» The Japanese Emperor wears Western-style clothes. His people, isolated from the Occident for centuries, have today thoroughly accepted the institution of capitalism, "a peculiar creation of Western culture." The Japanese people have come to feel quite at home "in the tents [and tenets] of Shem."

» India may lack an emperor but not Shem's tents. India is the world's largest democracy. Just like capitalism, democracy, as we will see shortly, is a Shemitic invention. In the 1830s, an Englishman, Lord Macaulay, formulated a civil and criminal legal code still used in India today. Macaulay believed that Britain's aim in ruling India should be the creation of "a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste and intellect." To an extent, Britain succeeded.

» As is evident to all, China is moving into Shem's tents as well, slowly adopting a market economy. While no one can say for sure, there will probably be more of Shem in China's future.

One writer offers remarkable insight into these tents. He does not refer to Shem, but to his descendent, Abraham. The Abrahamic

world emerged from the triad of religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—that trace their roots in the Biblical patriarch and spawned the great secular ideologies of scientific empiricism, liberal democracy, and Marxism. Unlike the Buddhist and Hindu worldviews, the Abrahamic perspective sees nature as reducible to predictable laws and history as a process with a meaningful beginning, middle, and end. The Muslim, the Marxist, the democrat, the Baconian scientist, the Christian, and the Jew all share this fundamentally similar outlook on life.

Because the Western perspective focuses on the sibling rivalries between Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Jefferson, Bacon, and Marx, it too often overlooks the extraordinary spread of Abrahamism out of its native Middle East into nearly every corner of the world. Virtually every human culture that has encountered Abrahamic ideology has adopted it sooner or later. Asia is no exception. In the last 100 years, each major Asian state has embraced at least one Abrahamic faith. Consequently, every Asian society is today engaged in a fundamental effort to reconcile its increasingly Abrahamic outlook with its native culture. (Walter Mead, "The End of Asia? Redefining a Changing Continent," Foreign Affairs, November/December 2000, p. 156. Emphasis added).

The commentator concludes:

In fact, the twenty-first century may well be remembered more for the end of Asia than for its rise. On the one hand, the universal solvents of capitalism and Abrahamic ideology will continue to sow deep social and cultural changes among the peoples of geographical Asia, steadily reducing, transforming, and remixing—although probably never finally eliminating—the last traces of pre-Abrahamic culture.

The point, of course, is not that Asia is "ending" as a power structure. Rather, Asia is buying into Occidental thought at the cost of her traditional, Oriental culture.

Charles Whitaker
Globalism (Part Two): The Tents of Shem


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