The Latter Days and Jordan

Isaiah’s words suggest a latter-day scenario for the following reasons:

1) The prediction in Isaiah 16:3-4 leads to a wonderful finale when God will establish the throne of David in Zion. We can therefore take the verses introducing this event as occurring at the same time, that is, at the time of the Lord’s return to the earth.

2) Moab, as a nation, was destroyed from being a people when Babylon devastated the region and took many people captive (Jer 48:42). Although a number of Jews fled from Nebuchadnezzar (Jer 40:10-11) the spoiler was not destroyed and the throne was not established in righteousness. In fact, the very opposite occurred; Babylon continued to prosper and forcibly removed the throne from Judah (Ezek 21:27). However, we read in Jeremiah 48:47 that God would reverse Moab’s captivity and restore their nationhood in the latter days. In Daniel 11:41 we have the same story. At the time of the end a nation exists that combines three ancient territories: Edom, Moab and Ammon. This refers to the modern Hashemite kingdom of Jordan. This allows us to see a different Moab than that which existed in Isaiah’s day. The hatred and hostility of ancient Moab towards Israel is not highlighted by the prophet and therefore is no longer a prevalent factor.

3) The language of Isaiah 16:4 has latter-day overtones.‘The spoiler’ is an expression that describes Gog, who invades the land to take a prey and to take a spoil (Ezek 38:12-13). The prophet sees the extortioner ‘at an end’. This is the language that Daniel 11:45 uses to describe the destruction of the King of the North at the time of the end. Isaiah’s words breathe latter-day terminology.

With these pointers in mind we can reconstruct a latter-day scenario:

Gog invades the land and takes Jerusalem (Ezek 38; Dan 11:40-45; Joel 3:1-6; Zech 14:1-2).

Gog, however, is unable to conquer Jordan (Dan 11:41). This would suggest that there is a military power present in Jordan which is of sufficient strength to withstand Gog’s advance. This power will most likely be the Tarshish alliance stationed in the region to voice their opposition to the conquest (Ezek 38:13).

Two-thirds of the Jewish people are cut off (Zech 13:8-9).

Half of Jerusalem is taken away into captivity (Zech 14:2).

A number of Jewish families flee eastwards into Jordan seeking safety (Isa 16:3-4).

Jordan receives a command (either providentially or directly from the saints) to care for these people. The reason given is that they are God’s outcasts and the spoiler is coming to an end (Isa 16:4).

Modern Jordan

The ancient territory of Moab is today divided between two administrative districts—Madaba and Al Karak—and whilst the total population of Jordan is close to 10 million, only half a million people live in these two districts. It is one of the least populated areas of modern Jordan.

It is interesting to note that Jordan has a current history of hosting refugees. In 2016 it was named as the largest refugee hosting country per capita in the world, followed by Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon. Of the total non-Jordanian population, 1.265 million are Syrians.

Jordan’s economy is among the smallest in the Middle East, with insufficient supplies of water, oil, and other natural resources underlying the government’s heavy reliance on foreign assistance. Other economic challenges for the government include chronic high rates of unemployment and underemployment, budget and current account deficits, and government debt.

The current monarch, King Abdullah, attempted a number of economic reforms during the first decade of the 2000s but subsequent global and regional instability has meant that the economy is fragile.

Jordan’s real GDP growth is forecast to grow by 2.5% in 2019, up from 2.2 per cent this year, as improving regional stability drives a rise in tourism and exports and fiscal reforms take effect, according to latest reports. Meanwhile, the reopening of borders with Iraq and Syria in the second half of this year will likely add to goods trade, although import growth—slow at minus 1.3% from January to August—will remain sluggish amid muted domestic demand.

At the same time, the $2.5 billion in aid to Jordan over the next five years, pledged by GCC allies Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait in June, will boost investor confidence. Much of this aid is being funnelled towards capital projects. However, one report suggests that this positive impact will be curtailed by ongoing monetary and fiscal tightening in the country, which is working to reduce high external debt of around 72% of GDP.

Public dissatisfaction with the economy is probably the most pressing concern for the monarchy. Over the summer of 2018, widespread protests erupted throughout the kingdom in opposition to a draft tax bill and price hikes on fuel and electricity. Though peaceful, the protests drew immediate international attention because of their scale.

Relations between Israel and Jordan

Relations between Israel and Jordan can only be described as ‘frosty’. They began to deteriorate in July 2017, when Ziv Moyal, an Israeli security guard, killed two Jordanians in the compound of Israel’s embassy in Amman. One of the Jordanians tried to stab Moyal, who said that he acted in self-defense, but the Jordanian government nevertheless wanted to try him for murder.

The incident triggered a diplomatic standoff which only ended after Jordan received an official Israeli ‘memorandum’ in which the government in Jerusalem apologised for the death of the two Jordanians as well as for the death of a Jordanian judge who was killed in another incident in 2014.

In late October, King Abdullah II announced that Jordan would not renew parts of the 24-year-old peace agreement with Israel. He was referring to two parcels of Jordanian land in north and south Israel which were leased for a period of 25 years by Jerusalem under the peace treaty signed in November 1994. He did so because of “regional circumstances,” and vowed to protect “the interests” of “Jordan and the Jordanians” but only after several mass demonstrations took place during which protesters demanded that the King would “reassert Jordanian sovereignty” over the two leased parcels of land.

Jordan has responsibility for managing the mosque compound and other holy sites in the eastern part of Jerusalem. Its status as custodian is enshrined in its 1994 peace treaty with Israel. But in November 2018, the Waqf overseeing the Temple Mount claimed that Israeli police went deep into the Al-Aksa mosque during a crackdown against protestors, all the way to the preacher’s pulpit—the furthest Israeli security forces have ventured since the 1967 Six Day War. Israel said that its forces only went a few meters inside, where they saw a stash of stones, bottles, and Molotov cocktails that the demonstrators had prepared.

But the reaction from Jordan was swift. It recalled its ambassador from Israel, moved to file a UN complaint and warned it would re-evaluate its diplomatic ties with Israel, including its 20-year peace accord.

Jordan is also angry at the United States because Jared Kushner made a proposal to Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, about establishing a confederation with Jordan—without having asked King Abdullah’s opinion.

Jordan also protested US President Donald Trump’s decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to stop aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which could spark dissent among the two million Palestinian refugees living in the kingdom, and impose another economic burden on the coffers of a country also dealing with some 1.5 million refugees from Syria, tens of thousands of refugees from Iraq, and public debt of more than $40 billion.

Jordan is among the most water-poor nations in the world and ranks among the top 10 countries with the lowest rate of renewable freshwater per capita. According to the Jordan Water Project at Stanford University, Jordan’s increase in water scarcity over the last 60 years is attributable to an approximate 5.5-fold population increase since 1962, a decrease in the flow of the Yarmouk River due to the building of dams upstream in Syria, gradual declines in rainfall by an average of 0.4 mm/year since 1995, and depleting groundwater resources due to overuse.

It has therefore put a great deal of emphasis on working with Israel to pump water from the Red Sea to Aqaba, where the water will be desalinated, and then channelled to the Dead Sea and to its irrigation areas. Israel has recently poured cold water on the deal and this has further soured relations.

Military alliances with the West

From its earliest days Jordan has maintained long-standing and close military and economic relations with Britain and the US. With the expansion of Soviet influence in the Middle East during the Cold War, the West saw in Jordan and King Hussein a moderate, stable, and staunchly anti-Communist partner, who was willing to represent American interests in the region. In exchange, King Hussein gained the necessary support to resist his own regional rivals. As one writer said: “Born out of necessity, the Jordanian-American partnership has proven to be a truly symbiotic relationship that has lasted well beyond the Cold War and into today”.

Each year since 2010, US and Jordan forces together with the UK, Australia and a medley of Middle Eastern countries, have conducted sophisticated military exercises in Jordan. The exercise, called “Eager Lion”, involves troop deployments, chemical warfare scenarios, border security, command and control operations, cyber-defence and battlespace management. It is interesting that the symbol of a lion was selected to represent this collation (cp Ezek 38:13).

At the moment, the United States is supporting efforts to strengthen the Jordanian Armed Force’s ability to rapidly respond to trans-national threats along its borders, particularly the Syrian border, through the provision of equipment, such as UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, and a focused training program to build the conventional skills and expertise of their military.

Despite close ties, however, in 2018 the US didn’t do itself any favours when, as mentioned above, it precipitously cut funding to UNRWA, which is the main source of aid for millions of Palestinian refugees, including around 2 million in Jordan. This placed the Hashemite kingdom in a difficult fiscal position and because it remains so deeply linked to the United States—especially economically and militarily—it has to tread warily so as not to agitate an especially unpredictable White House.

The prophetic picture of Jordan in the latter days is a nation that is able to resist the latter-day invasion of Gog and also to provide a refuge for fleeing Jews. This implies that it will remain firmly in the western geo-political and military orbit. It is uncertain, however, if the command issued to Jordan in Isaiah 16 suggests a reluctance for that nation to take action, or whether they will do so willingly.

Another Latter-Day Prophecy – Isaiah 11

The future of Jordan does not stop with that country protecting fleeing Jews. In Isaiah 11:11-16 we are presented with another latter-day prophecy concerning Israel and their surrounding neighbours.

In verses 11-13 the prophet describes another exodus in which the outcasts of Israel are regathered from many nations to rally around the great banner of the Lord Jesus Christ when he returns to the earth (cp Isa 11:10,12; Rom 15:12). Furthermore, the age-old animosity between Jews in the land and Jews in the diaspora will be healed once and for all (v13).

This describes a scene after Armageddon in which the returning Jews are invited to return to Zion under the leadership of Elijah.

Then in verses 14-16 we have a description of a transformed Middle East. God has promised to give to Abraham and his seed the whole land from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates. To achieve this, the saints will supervise the conquest of this territory, starting with Gaza and Jordan and finishing with Egypt and the rest of the Middle East. In the words of the prophet: “But they (Israel) shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them” (v14).

The land promised to the fathers will be secured by force and whilst Jordan may have assisted looking after God’s people in the face of the spoiler, she will inevitably come under the heel of the new king of Israel.

In mercy shall the throne be established

The final prediction made by the prophet in Isaiah 11:16 and 16:5 brings the whole prophetic picture to a wonderful end: “And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt”; “And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness”.

Although the region desperately needs this solution, it doesn’t deserve it. Hence, it will only be established in mercy (Psa 89:14). The one sitting on the throne will be the Lord Jesus Christ, the son of David, and at last there will be truth, judgment and righteousness in the earth. He will be diligent in his decisions and there will be social justice for all. He will be the epitome of truth, sweeping away the absurdities of Christianity and Islam. He will right all the wrongs in the region and all men shall be blessed in him.

Of particular interest is the expression, “the tabernacle of David”. It is drawn from 2 Samuel 6:17 when David brought the ark of Yahweh and set it in its place in the midst of the tabernacle of David. The Hebrew word is ohel—a nomad’s tent. Moab will protect God’s outcasts but in the end all will need the shelter God provides, which will only be found in the presence of the true ark of the covenant: the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the time we all long for. This is the solution an unsuspecting Middle East craves.