The Middle East is once more making international headlines with the world witnessing the controversial movement of the US Embassy to Jerusalem and the media’s graphic coverage of the death and suffering occurring on Israel’s border with Gaza.

Is there any significance in these events from a prophetic perspective? This article examines some of those recent incidents and outlines the prophetic context in which they have occurred.


From a prophetic perspective we expect Israel to be back in the land upon the mountains of Israel dwelling safely (Ezek 38:8). Strong’s defines the word “safely” as “a place of refuge; abstractly safety, both the fact (security) and the feeling (trust)”. Hence Rotherham translates the verse: “And they shall dwell in security, all of them.”

In addition to this Ezekiel 38:12-13 describes the nation as possessing cattle, goods, silver and gold, to such an extent that when it is taken away it is classified as a “great spoil”. Joel 3:5 also speaks of the nation’s wealth in terms of silver and gold. In fact, Joel informs us that it is a God-given prosperity because God describes it as “my silver and my gold” and “my goodly pleasant things”. All of it is of God.

These verses suggest a vibrant economy, laced with a degree of affluence. Hand in hand with this economic success, however, is the ever-present threat by Israel’s foes in Philistia and Tyre (Joel 3:4—the modern-day Gaza strip and Lebanon).

This prosperity and security is precisely what we find in the land today. Israel’s military exports rose by 40% in 2017 totalling $9.2 billion. In January – April 2018, the number of tourists who entered Israel was 1.36 million—up 25%: last year’s record of 3.6 million tourists may be surpassed. Somehow, the “little country that could”, did. Today, Israel is a hi-tech superpower that other countries seek to emulate in terms of fostering a culture of innovation and creative problem-solving.

Its economic growth has outpaced all other Western countries since 2000—a feat all the more astounding given that Israel faced numerous security threats at the same time, including the Second Intifada, the Second Lebanon War and major military confrontations with Hamas.

These achievements reflect the sentiments of Dr Colin Rubenstein, Executive Director of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council. He wrote: “Israel is a work in progress—but what exists is an inspiration and an incredible success story in so many ways. Threats remain, especially the pledge by the Iranian leadership to eliminate Israel, strengthened by its enhanced regional presence and proxies. As the newly uncovered Iranian nuclear archives show, Iran’s long-term goal is to produce nuclear weapons, which undoubtedly remains Israel’s most grave long-term security concern.

Yet Israel will find the wherewithal to address these challenges and continue to build on the impressive achievements that have characterised its remarkable record of the past 70 years”.

This, sadly, is the human-confidence factor that pervades Jewish society today. The nation celebrated its 70th anniversary with great pomp and ceremony but in all of its rejoicing there was little acknowledgement of the hand of God in its preservation.

The celebrations continued with the official move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem in the face of significant international opposition. US and Israeli leaders praised the move as a sign of an enduring bilateral alliance and at the ceremony Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “[US President Donald] Trump, by recognising history, you have made history. You can only build peace on truth and the truth is that Jerusalem has always been and always will be the capital of the Jewish people, of the Jewish state”. How wonderful it will be when real truth will be the foundation of Jerusalem as predicted by the prophet: “Thus saith the Lord; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the Lord of hosts the holy mountain” (Zech 8:3).

But whilst the politicians were congratulating themselves on the move of the US Embassy, more than 50,000 Gazans participated in protests along the Gaza border. According to the Hamas-run Palestinian Health Ministry this tragedy left 59 dead and more than 2400 wounded.

The press had a field day portraying the death and suffering of the innocent at the hands of a totalitarian regime and the worldwide condemnation was swift. Turkey’s president called it “genocide”. The real story behind the news, however, is that the majority of those killed were Hamas operatives attempting to plant explosives on the security fence and breach the perimeter. It has also emerged that Hamas was paying demonstrators to turn up and attempt to rush the border fence. The Egyptian press is reported to have run an article laying responsibility for the blood of those who had been slain squarely on the shoulders of Hamas.

Iran and Israel

Prophetically Iran will stand with Russia at the time of Armageddon (Ezek 38:5) and hence it is no surprise that Iran is currently allied to Russian interests in Syria and Iraq. What has exacerbated the enmity between Iran and Israel is President Trump’s decision to conduct a strategic and economic war on the Islamic Republic of Iran and make Israel its military spearhead in the region.

Just before the US Embassy was officially moved, President Trump, opted out of the nuclear deal with Iran. The day after the move, the Treasury in Washington rolled out a new suite of sanctions, targeting Iran’s central bank and accusing them of providing support for terrorists. The sanctions specifically named bank officials as “specially designated global terrorists” for allegedly helping the Revolutionary Guard Corps/Quds Force in its support for Hezbollah by actively funnelling millions of Quds Force dollars to the terror organisation.

As one political commentary stated: “US President Donald Trump is spinning the Middle East round on a new axis”. So much so that Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, a Saudi journalist close to Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman, wrote an article under the caption: The Rise of Israel in the Region in the May 14 issue of the London-based Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat. He stated: “As [US] sanctions [on Iran] are activated, and the pressure on Iran increases, Israel will have a new regional role it has never previously played. In the past, Israel’s activities were confined to its own security against wars and confrontations with neighbouring countries. But it is now likely to take on a new role—that of a police force that monitors and holds Iran accountable”.

Iran’s strategic position in the region is growing. It is equally committed to its twin objectives – turning Syria into a forward base of direct Iranian operations and establishing a manufacturing centre there for precision-guided missiles. That doctrine became apparent when Iran sent a weaponised drone into Israeli airspace and on the night of 10 May fired 20 rockets at Israeli army positions in the Golan Heights. The military reported that four of the rockets aimed at Israel were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system while the remaining rockets exploded on Syrian territory. This is Iran’s first-ever open attack against Israel and the response was devastating.

The Israel Defence Forces launched 50 retaliatory raids against IRGC targets, including intelligence centres, weapons depots, storage facilities, observation posts, and logistics centres in Syria, as well as the rocket launcher that carried out the initial attack. The overnight exchange was the largest-ever direct clash between the Iranian and Israeli militaries and appeared to be the largest exchange involving Israel in Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Political commentators are predicting an escalation in conflict but for the moment Iran and Israel have refused to go further than a tit-for-tat missile exchange. What is interesting, however, is that Bahrain, a Gulf Arab country that rarely speaks to Israel, condemned Iran’s attack and asserted Israel’s right to defend itself. Similarly, in an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg in early April, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman made his position clear by saying that Israelis had a right to “their own land,” and that Iran’s ayatollah Ali Khamenei “makes Hitler look good”. The mutual animosity of Sunni Arabs and Israel against Iran is providentially bringing them closer together as partners in the region.

Russia and Israel

Ezekiel 38 outlines Russia’s push against Israel in the latter days. How is it, then, that Russia and Israel have frequent dialogue and Netanyahu and Putin enjoy a friendly bi-lateral relationship? Doesn’t this contradict the prophetic picture drawn by the prophet?

There are several hints in Ezekiel’s prophecy that might suggest that the invasion is unexpected. For example, verse 10 states: “It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought”. This implies that the evil thought is unexpectedly generated and if that is the case then there could be a secondary implication—the two countries enjoy a normal international relationship prior to this evil design.

Iran fires missiles from Syria into Israel

This is supported by the prophet Daniel who, in chapter 8:23-25, describes the final phase of the little horn of the goat and portrays Gog as a king of fierce of countenance, “skilful in dissimulation” (Roth v23) and one who “by peace destroys many”. Like the ancient Assyrian, Gog will be deceitful and cunning, and this deceit suggests a power which will woo and seduce other nations and then turn on them in fury.

So rather than seeing the Russian-Israeli relationship as contrary to the prophetic expectation, it just could be a prelude of peace before betrayal. The fact Putin awarded Netanyahu exceptional favour as his guest of honour at the Russian Victory March in Moscow marking the 73rd anniversary of Nazi Germany’s defeat, is but an indication of the close relationship between the two of them. They then spent 10 hours in discussion on the Iranian presence in Syria where Netanyahu reiterated his country’s policy that it had the right to defend itself against Iranian aggression.

Under the title The Russian-Israeli-Iranian Conundrum in Syria, the Asia Times for 16 May stated, “Moscow is playing a clever game of diplomacy and managing to maintain ties with all the major players”. It went on to state, “Russian diplomacy has a great tradition of juggling many balls in the air. Russia manages its friendly relations concurrently with China and Vietnam, Turkey and Greece (and Cyprus), Iran and Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, Iran and Jordan and so on… Simply put, what Iran can give Moscow, Israel cannot—and vice versa. Moscow wants good relations with both Iran and Israel, because they serve different purposes in Russian foreign policy… Clearly, in these complex circumstances, it is unrealistic to expect Russia to be party to any Israeli agenda to vanquish the Iranian and Hezbollah presence on Syrian territory. On the other hand, Russia will also not oppose Israel or Syria’s need to safeguard their respective security interests and/or act in self-defense…”.

We now look with interest at future developments in the region knowing that in the end Russia will think an evil thought and execute plans for its final betrayal of God’s people.