We focus on the wonderful emergence of the nation of Israel in the purpose of God as predicted in Jeremiah 30:1-3; Ezekiel 38:8,11-12; and Joel 3:1. This pre­adventual colonisation of Palestine by the Jews has been one of God’s greatest signs to our generation. We have witnessed the blossoming of the fig tree and are without excuse when it comes to witnessing the hand of God amongst the nations. As our Lord truly said: “When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand” (Luke 21:30-32).

But side by side with this miracle is an equally fascinating story relating to the revival of a number of non-Jewish powers in the same region. Whilst God was working to bring about the restoration of His own people to the land of Israel, He was also busy at work restoring other nations in accordance with the predictions of the prophetic word.

The scene for this international drama is de­scribed for us in the words of the sixth vial: “And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared” (Rev 16:12). Rivers often represent na­tions and in Isaiah’s day the flooding of the river Euphrates became a symbol of the advance of the Assyrian power over the surrounding nations (Isa 8:6-8). Assyria lay either side of the Euphrates and was therefore suitably represented by the great river itself.

The sixth vial, however, depicts the river Euphrates in retreat and therefore must symbol­ise a regional power shrinking in influence. The Euphrates is in fact the longest river of Western Asia and commences in eastern Turkey. Although the flow of the river has been significantly reduced through the construction of four massive dams (the Keban and Ataturk in Turkey, the Al-Tabqa in Syria, and the Hadtha in Iraq) the drying up of the Euphrates is best understood as symbolic of the power through which it runs. The first five vi­­als represent the judgments upon Europe from the time of the French Revolution to the extinction of the Holy Roman Empire by Napoleon in 1806. At the time of the sixth vial the whole of the territory through which the river Euphrates ran was occupied by the Turkish or Ottoman Empires.

Evaporation of Ottoman influence began during Napoleon’s time and in the course of ap­proximately 100 years the extent of the Ottoman Empire was reduced by two-thirds of its original size. Above is a map of the Ottoman Empire just before the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

Prophecies Relating to the Restoration of Arab Countries

The year 1917 was a significant year in Bible prophecy. For many years the European pow­ers had been watching ‘the sick man of Europe’ (Turkey), wondering how they could best carve up the decaying empire and secure strategic parts of the Middle East to their own advantage. World War I presented that opportunity because Turkey entered the war on the side of Germany and this automatically put it at odds with the French, British, and Russians.

In the purpose of God “the time of the end” had arrived for Britain to play a major role in the Middle East and pave the way for the restora­tion of the Jewish State. As an occupying colonial power, Britain took control of Egypt in 1882 to protect British investment in the Suez Canal and on December 17, 1914, made this announcement:

“His Britannic Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs gives notice that, in view of the state of war arising out of the action of Turkey, Egypt is placed under the protection of his Majesty and will henceforth constitute a British Protectorate.

The suzerainty of Turkey over Egypt is thus terminated and his Majesty’s Government will adopt all for the defence of Egypt and the pro­tection of its inhabitants and interests.”

In Biblical terms, Britain had become “the king of the south” and was ready to push at Turkey (Dan 11:40 – the Hebrew word for “push” conveys the idea of butt­ing with the horns and is used in ch 8:4 to describe the aggressive conquests of the Medes and Persians).

Later in the year, God willing, we will be running a series of articles that will outline the historical details of this amazing work. At the behest of God, Britain was poised ready to wrest Palestine from the Turks and encourage the establishment of a national homeland for the Jewish people.

But there is another side to this remarkable work. There are four key prophecies relating to the establishment of a number of important Arab countries at the same time as the restoration of the Jewish people. The natural seed of Abraham through Keturah were about to be remembered as well. Consider these prophecies:

Dan 11:41–“He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.”

Jer 48:47–“Yet will I bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter days, saith the LORD.”

Jer 49:6–“And afterward (ie after their king was driven into captivity by the Babylonians – v3) I will bring again the captivity of the children of Ammon, saith the LORD.”

Ezek 38:13–“Sheba, and Dedan, and the mer­chants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?”

In summary these prophecies teach:

  1. There will be a distinct section of land at the time of the end unitedly linked together and comprising the ancient territories of Edom, Moab, and Ammon.
  2. This territory will escape the advances of Gog as he pushes north to conquer the pleasant land of Israel.
  3. The inhabitants of Moab and Ammon will be restored to their land in the latter days.
  4. Independent Arab powers (Sheba and Dedan) will exist in the Saudi Arabian Peninsula in the latter days and be sufficiently bold and powerful enough to protest Gog’s invasion of Israel.

What we have described here is the estab­lishment of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen as independent countries in the latter days alongside the restoration of the Jewish people; and all of this development began with WWI. In fact, 100 years ago the events in Trans-Jordan started a movement that would end up with the re-drawing of the map for the Arabs as well as the Jews. 100 years ago in 1917 the Arabs achieved their first major victory over the Ottoman Empire under the strategic di­rection of Lawrence of Arabia. The whole region would never be the same again.

The Arab World at the Outbreak of World War I

From the 10th century onwards, the sharif or religious leader of Mecca and its Emir was, by tradi­tional agreement, a Hashemite. The western side of the Saudi peninsula is called the Hejaz and when the Ottomans conquered this impor­tant part of the Islamic world they controlled access to the holy sites by appointing the Emir of Mecca from among a select group of candidates. Before World War I, Hussein bin Ali (a Hashemite) ruled the Hejaz on behalf of the Ottoman sultan.

One of Britain’s strategies was to turn the Arabs against their Ottoman masters and in regards to this they found a willing ally in Sharif Hussein bin Ali. They prom­ised him a large Pan-Arab dominion from Jordan to the Persian Gulf. Stirred by this promise, he led his Arab brothers in the Great Arab Revolt (1916–1918). He was ably assisted by British of­ficers, one of whom was a young, Arabic-speaking officer named TE Lawrence: the man that later famously became known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.

In June of 1916, Sharif Hussein led his group of armed Bedouin warriors from the Hejaz in an armed campaign against the Ottomans. Within a few months, the Arab rebels managed to capture numerous cities in the Hejaz (including Jeddah and Makkah) with help from the British army and navy. The British provided support in the form of soldiers, weapons, money, advisors, and a flag. The British in Egypt drew up a flag for the Arabs to use in battle. This flag was known as the ‘Flag of the Arab Revolt’ and would later become the model for other Arab flags of countries such as Jordan, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, and Kuwait.

British Support and Lawrence of Arabia

Thomas Edward Lawrence was born in 1888 and through his Middle Eastern exploits became inter­nationally famous as Lawrence of Arabia. He was a British author, archaeologist, military officer, and diplomat: he was one of the tools that God used to bring about His purpose with the Arab people.

As a youth he was fascinated with history and in 1910 was offered the opportunity to become a practising archaeologist in the Middle East, at Carchemish. He worked under the guidance of Hogarth and Leonard Wooley (of Ur fame) and, becoming captivated with Arabic culture and history, studied Arabic as a language.

Just before the war broke out the British army, decided to un­dertake a military survey of the Negev Desert, and drafted Woolley and Lawrence to do the work. The Negev was strategically important because if the Ottomans attacked the British in Egypt they would need to traverse this inhospitable wasteland. Lawrence also took the opportunity to visit Aqaba and Petra and immerse himself further into the culture and customs of the Bedouin Arabs.

When Sharif Hussein declared his rebellion against the Ottoman Empire in early June, 1916, the response was uninspiring. Apart from a few thousand desert warriors from his own tribe, the rest of the Arab world took little interest in rally­ing to the cause. However, with British expertise, finance, and naval power, Hussein was able to gain control of the Hejaz (apart from Medina) fairly quickly. Sharif Hussein had several sons and after Lawrence was sent by British military intelligence to interview them, soon concluded that Faisal was the best candidate to progress the Arab Revolt further. In late December, 1916, Faisal and Lawrence worked out a plan to reposition the growing number of Arab soldiers in a way that prevented the Ottoman forces around Medina from breaking out. In addition to this, they formulated a plan to harass the Ottoman forces and keep them away from the main British activities in Palestine.

From the map you will notice that one of the key supply lines linking Mecca with Istanbul is the Hejaz railway.

It was in the early part of 1917 that a small Arab force under Faisal and Lawrence began to attack the Hejaz railway and the key bridges that lay along the route. Their plan was to extend Arabic influ­ence northward as far as Damascus

and beyond. By constantly harassing Ottoman troops in this way they were able to divert precious Ottoman resources away from key campaigns in the west by forcing their troops to repair the critical railway line and defend themselves against guerilla-like attacks from the Bedouin Arabs.

One of their most successful battles ended in the defeat of the Ottoman forces at Aqaba in July, 1917. Aqaba was the only remain­ing Ottoman port on the Red Sea and threatened the right flank of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force defending Egypt and preparing itself to advance into Palestine. One historical record stated:

“While feverish from dysentery, Lawrence conceived a scheme to take the Red Sea port of Aqaba, which is today part of Jordan. He declined to attack from the water, where Aqaba was defended by heavy guns. Rather, his bold plan called for a force to emerge from the Nefudh Desert, which the Ottomans would never expect. The initial party of Lawrence and 17 Agayl warriors set out from Wejh on May 10, 1917. The men had £20,000 to recruit new tribesmen, and along the way, their numbers swelled to about 700 fighters.”

This 600-mile, weeks-long trek was through terrain so inhospitable even the Bedouin called it al-Houl (the Terror). Lawrence’s biographer, Michael Asher, called it “one of the most dar­ing raids ever attempted in the annals of war”. The Arabs launched their assault from the northeast, sweeping up the outlying Ottoman forces for the loss of only two tribesmen by July 5. The next day the Arabs, now some 2,500 men, entered Aqaba without a shot, the garrison having scurried away. Gaunt, filthy, and wearing his Bedouin robes, Lawrence crossed the Sinai to Cairo to inform the new British commander in chief, General Edmund Allenby, of this stunning victory. As a reward, the Arabs received an additional payment of £16,000, and Lawrence was promoted to major.”

Aqaba, General Sir Edmund Allenby, the new commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, agreed to Lawrence’s strategy for the revolt, stating after the war:

“I gave him a free hand. His cooperation was marked by the utmost loyalty, and I never had anything but praise for his work, which, indeed, was invaluable throughout the campaign. He was the mainspring of the Arab movement and knew their language, their manners, and their mentality.”

After the fall of Aqaba, Lawrence held a power­ful position as an adviser to Faisal and a person who had Allenby’s confidence. Throughout the rest of 1917 and through to the fall of Damascus in 1918, Lawrence was recognised by both British and Arab alike as an influential and formidable strategist.

British Betrayal of the Arab Revolt – The Sykes-Picot Agreement

In March 1915, Britain signed a secret agreement with Russia by which Russia would annex the Ottoman capital of Constantinople and retain control of the Dardanelles (the crucially impor­tant strait connecting the Black Sea with the Mediterranean) and the Gallipoli peninsula. In return, Russia would agree to British claims on other areas of the former Ottoman Empire and central Persia, including the oil-rich region of Mesopotamia.

It was not the time in the purpose of God, however, for the King of the North to take Turkey. Russia’s plans were hijacked by the brewing Russian Revolution that swept the tsar from power in 1917, thereby removing any taste for immediate territo­rial ambitions.

Lawrence shared with Faisal a dream of a Pan-Arabic country from Syria to Egypt; but God had other plans. Unknown to Lawrence and Faisal, between 1915-1916 the British and French, with the tacit agreement of the Russians, were secretly negotiating mutually agreed spheres of influence and control pending the collapse of the Ottoman empire.

The map below shows the Sykes-Picot Agreement signed in 1916.

Capture

CaptureUnder this deal the Syrian coast and much of modern-day Lebanon went to France, and Britain would take direct control over central and south­ern Mesopotamia around the Baghdad and Basra provinces. Palestine would have an international administration as other Christian powers, namely Russia, held an interest in this region. The rest of the territory in question – a huge area including modern-day Syria, Mosul in northern Iraq, and Jordan – would have local Arab chiefs under French supervision in the north and British in the south. Also, Britain and France would retain free passage and trade in the other’s zone of influence.

We can well imagine the disillusionment Lawrence felt when he heard of this plan. He and Faisal felt betrayed by the British, who had promised the Arabs independence over Palestine, Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, Syria, and Iraq.

As the Encyclopedia Britannica recorded:

“By the time the motley Arab army reached Damascus in October 1918, Lawrence was physically and emotionally exhausted, having forced his body and spirit to the breaking point too often. He had been wounded numerous times, captured, and tortured; had endured extremities of hunger, weather, and disease; had been driven by military necessity to commit atrocities upon the enemy; and had witnessed in the chaos of Damascus the defeat of his aspira­tions for the Arabs in the very moment of their triumph, their seemingly incurable factionalism rendering them incapable of becoming a na­tion. (Anglo-French duplicity, made official in the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Lawrence knew, had already betrayed them in a cynical wartime division of expected spoils.) Distinguished and disillusioned, Lawrence left for home just before the Armistice and politely refused, at a royal audience on October 30, 1918, the Order of the Bath and the DSO, leaving the shocked king George V (in his words) “holding the box in my hand”. He was demobilised as a lieutenant colonel on July 31, 1919.”

After the war ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ became a household name as his exploits were popularised through film and tours. Towards the end of his life, however, he sought anonymity and eventually died in a tragic motorbike accident in May, 1935.

Timeline Showing the Path to Arab Independence

This brief timeline shows the significant events that brought about the formation of Jordan (the ancient territory of Ammon, Moab, and Edom) and Saudi Arabia (the ancient Dedan):

1918: Faisal, the leader of the Arab revolt and the third son of Hussein, King of Hejaz, is declared head of a provisional government of Syria and the northern half of Jordan.

1920: In March, Faisal proclaimed himself King of the Kingdom of Syria seeking to rally the Arabs around him with a view to re­claiming Arab independence and territorial expansion.

1920: In April, the San Remo conference for­mally outlines the proposed French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon and British Mandate for Palestine along the lines of the Sykes–Picot Agreement. The border between British and French territory removed the northern part of Jordan from Syrian influence; thereby paving the way for the latter day restoration of Ammon and Moab.

July 1920: Battle of Maysalun – French forces captured Damascus and expelled Faisal. His brother Abdullah moved his forces into Ma’an (then in the north of the Kingdom of Hejaz) with a view to liberating Damascus, where his brother had been proclaimed King in 1918.

1920: The House of Saud marched again against the Rashidi, extinguishing their do­minion in 1922. The defeat of the Rashidis doubled the territory of the House of Saud, and British subsidies continued until 1924.

March 1921: The Cairo Conference (1921) agrees to award the Emirate of Trans-Jordan to Abdullah and the mandate of Mesopotamia to Faisal.

1922: The Council of the League of Nations accepts the British Transjordan Memorandum defining the limits of Trans-Jordan.

1923: Britain recognises Trans-Jordan with Abdullah as its leader

1924–1925: The Saudis of Riyadh (Nejd) under Ibn Saud capture Mecca in 1924 and Medina in 1925 from the Hashemite, Abdullah.

1925: The Hadda Agreement between Trans-Jordan and Nejd formally agrees the bound­ary between the two countries following the Kuwait Conference. The agreement concludes by stating, “This Agreement will remain in force for so long as His Britannic Majesty’s Government are entrusted with the Mandate for Trans-Jordan”.

September 1932: The areas controlled by Ibn Saud are unified under the name, Ki ngdom of Saudi Arabia and Ibn Saud is proclaimed King.

So man proposes, but God disposes. The Arabs sought a Pan-Arabic state but God sought an independent Jordan and an independent Saudi Arabia. The Arabs sought to bring the northern part of Jordan under Syrian control, but God ensured that this area, known anciently as Ammon, was to be linked with Jordan and not Syria. The Arabs wanted to include Palestine in their dominion but God determined that it would come under the protection of Britain until His people were ready to come home.

We marvel at the outworking of the purpose of God and wait for the time when all this land, from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates, will be wrested from the enemy and given to the saints of the Most High forever.