Northern Thunder

During early March, one of the largest military exercises to date, known as ‘The Northern Thunder’ took place in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia initiated a massive military drill in which 20 nations participated. More than 2,500 warplanes, 20,000 tanks and 450 helicopters were involved in the exercise. Up to 350,000 troops from various gulf nations and other allies such as Pakistan, Jordan, Chad and Sudan took part in the drill which spanned some 18 days in the region of Hafar Al Batin. The aim of the exercise was to send a message that Saudi Arabia and its allies “stand united in confronting all challenges and preserving peace and stability in the region”, and definitely to send a message of defiance and opposition to both Syria and Iran and their sponsor, Russia!

The countries which joined Saudi Arabia in the operation were the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, Senegal, Sudan, Kuwait, The Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Chad, Tunisia, Comoros, Djibouti, Oman, Qatar, Malaysia, Egypt, Mauritania and Mauritius, in addition to the Peninsula Shield Force.

The move comes just months after Saudi Arabia formed an anti-terrorist coalition of 34 mainly Muslim nations. Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the alliance had been formed to “push back and confront the terrorists and those who promote their violent ideologies”, which implies a promise to fight any terrorist organisation, not simply ISIS.

What is the History of Sheba and Dedan and How do they Fit with Latter-Day Prophecies?

This Middle-East region is traditionally the area we understand to be referred to as “Sheba and Dedan” which is aligned with “the merchants of Tarshish” in opposing the latter-day Russian invasion of Israel. This is the Middle-Eastern power bloc that raises its voice against Gog’s forces. We see this coalition of powers in Ezekiel 38:13, where it is shown in the act of questioning the leader of the invasion: “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?”

The Pioneers

The understanding of our pioneer brothers has sup­ported this view as expressed by Brother Thomas: “But what is the lion-power of which Ezekiel speaks? To ascertain this we must direct our atten­tion to the countries named in connection with ‘the young lions’. Of these, Sheba and Dedan are districts of Arabia. The men of Dedan are in the list given by Ezekiel of the traders in the Tyrian fairs. The Dedanim carried thither the ivory and ebony which they procured from ‘the many isles’to the east, and ‘precious clothes for chariots’. Sheba carried the ‘chief of all spices, precious stones, and gold’. Dedan and Sheba were those parts of Arabia which lay convenient to the ivory, gold, precious stones, and spice countries of Africa and India. The Sultan of Muscat now rules the country of Dedan; while the British have planted their standard on the soil of Sheba, at Aden, the Gibraltar of the Red Sea, and key of Egypt … The British power is the lion-power of Sheba.” (Elpis Israel, p433).


Ancient Origins of Sheba and Dedan

There are two principal genealogies in Scripture concerning Sheba and Dedan, indicating two groups of people who went by these names. The first genealogy indicates that one group were de­scendants of Ham: “And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan. And the sons of Cush; Seba, and Havilah, and Sabtah, and Raamah, and Sabtechah: and the sons of Raamah; Sheba, and Dedan” (Gen 10:6,7).

However, a second genealogy refers to a people who descended from Abraham and Keturah and it is this genealogy that is most likely the original refer­ence for the latter-day Sheba and Dedan of Ezekiel 38: “And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim” (Gen 25:3).

Concerning these sons of Abraham we are told: “But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, east­ward, unto the east country” (Gen 25:6). Of these Josephus says: “They took possession of Troglodytis (the southern part of modern Jordan) and the country of Arabia, as far as it reaches the Red Sea (eg the Arabian Peninsula) (Antiquities, Book 1, chapter 15). It is considered that these sons settled towards the south of Israel in the Arabian Peninsula.

Where is Dedan?

In Jeremiah 49 it is writ­ten concerning Dedan: “Flee ye, turn back, dwell deep, 0 inhabitants of Dedan; for I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him, the time that I will visit him” (v8). Here Dedan is located in relation to Esau, or Edom, which was to the southeast of Israel. Ezekiel 25 also confirms this location: “therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also stretch out mine hand upon Edom, and will cut off man and beast from it; and I will make it desolate from Teman; and they of Dedan shall fall by the sword” (v13). In Ezekiel 27 it seems that the two peoples of Dedan are differentiated. One group, probably the Hamitic group, traded in ivory and ebony (Ezek 27:15). The other, presumably Abrahamic group, traded in cloth (Ezek 27:20). In the place where ancient Dedan once was, stands modern-day Saudi Arabia. Near the modern town of Al-Ola in Saudi Arabia are remains of a city known in ancient times as Dedan, which was at one time the second capital of the Nabateans.

Smith in his Bible Dictionary (article ‘Dedan’) believes that the two groups of Dedan intermarried. He writes: “We have here (in Ezek 27:20-23) a Dedan connected with Arabia (probably the north­western part of the peninsula) and Kedar and also with the father and brother of the Cushite Dedan (Raamah and Sheba) … The probable inferences from these mentions of Dedan support the argu­ment first stated, namely that:

  1. Dedan son of Raamah settled on the shores of the Persian Gulf, and his descendants became caravan-merchants between that coast and Palestine.
  2. Jokshan – or a son of Jokshan – by inter­marriage with the Cushite, Dedan, formed a tribe of the same name, which appears to have had its chief settlement in the borders of Idumea and had perhaps led a pastoral life.”

Where is Sheba?

There is general consensus that the nation of Sheba was located roughly in the area known today as Yemen. It was from here that the queen came to visit Solomon: “And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions” (1 Kings 10:1). She brought gold and spices to Solomon: “And she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices great abundance, and precious stones: neither was there any such spice as the queen of Sheba gave king Solomon” (2 Chron 9:9). Sheba was renowned for its spices, incense and gold, with which it traded with other countries: “The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the LORD.” (Isa 60:6). See also Jer 6:20; Ezek 27:22.

Sheba, Dedan and the Merchants of Tarshish

It is the association of Sheba and Dedan with “the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions” (Ezek 38:13) which helps to define these powers. Tarshish here is a reference to the mercantile power of Britain which is inextricably linked with the Emirs of Arabia.

Brother WH Boulton wrote: “From these two names – Sheba and Dedan – it would be somewhat unwise to suggest a modern representative, indeed one would seriously hesitate before so doing, were it not that the third name mentioned is capable of a more definite identification, and that identification is in harmony with what we know about Sheba, and with what is known, and what is probable, in con­nection with Dedan … ‘The merchants of Tarshish’ furnishes us with the necessary stay in this matter. It needs a modern power of a mercantile character, in possession of a land, or lands, scripturally known as Tarshish, and having around her a progeny answer­ing to ‘the young lions thereof.’ There is but one modern power possessing these qualifications, and as the application of the prediction to that power is in harmony with what we have seen in connection with Sheba and Dedan, the hesitation which we might otherwise feel is removed, and we are able to form our conclusions as to the power which, in these last days, is to oppose the designs of Gog in the land of Israel (The Christadelphian 1901).”

Britain and Saudi Arabia

Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, Britain and France carved up the Middle East. In 1922, Ibn Saud created the empire of Saudi Arabia. He was a British ally, who valued his new connection with the European powers. As an ally, Ibn Saud had, above other tribal leaders of the Arabian desert, unique appeal. His need for weapons and finance was sufficiently unbounded to make him amenable to the will of the donors. Britain’s Secretary of State, the 1st Earl of Crewe, pithily summed up Britain’s objectives: “What we want is not a united Arabia but a disunited Arabia split into principalities under our suzerainty.” In the following years, Britain and France achieved that objective brilliantly by partitioning the Arab lands of the former Ottoman Empire into mean­ingless national boundaries according to Crewe’s dictum. During this time, Britain quietly sup­ported Ibn Saud in a series of conquests that in 1927 brought him recognition as King of Hejaj and Nejd, a title changed to King of Saudi Arabia in 1932. Six years later, in 1938, oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia and Britain was already in place to take advantage of the situation. Britain has a longstanding association with Saudi Arabia and along with America has been locked into a con­flict between Arab nationalism and the march of Zionism.

British-Saudi Arms Contract

In January this year Britain defended its alliance with Saudi Arabia, including British assistance to the country’s widely-criticised military campaign. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister said the UK’s alliance with the oil-rich autocracy was important for its security and seemed to reject accusations that funding for ISIS came from the kingdom. Between May 2010 and May 2015 the coalition government licensed almost £4bn in arms to the regime.

Gulf Cooperation Council

On Wednesday 2 March 2016, the Saudi-led bloc of six gulf Arab nations formally branded Hezbollah a terrorist organisation, thus increasing pressure on the Lebanese militant group fighting on the side of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. This move by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) comes less than two weeks after Saudi Arabia announced it was cutting $4 billion in aid to Lebanese security forces. The kingdom and other gulf states followed up that move by urging its citizens to leave Lebanon, thereby dealing a blow to the tiny nation’s tourism industry. A state­ment from GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif al-Zayani said the bloc decided to implement the terrorist designation because of hostile acts by Hezbollah within its member states. It said the designation applies to the militant group as well as all its leaders, factions and affiliates. The GCC includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. (Times of Israel, 2 March, 2016).

Interestingly, these six nations of the GCC are all part of the biblical Sheba and Dedan mentioned in Ezekiel 38 that oppose the king of the north. Hezbollah wants Israel wiped off the map and we may well have imagined these six Arab nations would want the same, but they do not! The reason they do not is because they are not part of the Russian confederacy that will invade Israel. They are the Sheba and Dedan who – in league with the “merchants of Tarshish, with the young lions” – ask the northern invader: “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?” (Ezek 38:13).

As latter-day Sheba and Dedan fall into their divinely appointed role, we see another piece of prophecy fall into place, bringing us even closer to our Lord’s return.