By Dick Blackford
It is difficult to find anything good about war. While we pray for sustained peace let us use a bad situation as an opportunity for some good. The time is ripe for us to focus on some valuable and needed lessons. Those who teach Bible classes should seize the opportunity while the middle East is on everyone’s mind.
Our young people, especially, have often been left with the feeling that Bible events occurred in some obscure “never-neverland,” leaving them with the feeling that these “long ago, far away” happenings are mythical. But they happened in time and space and in real places. Here is an opportunity to make the Bible come alive to our students and relate today’s news to biblical places and events. It is also an opportunity to expose a false religion and extol the peaceable kingdom of God.
Bible History and Geography
Most are now able to locate Iraq on a map and recognize it on sight. The land now occupied by Iraq is the cradle of civilization and is a little larger than California in square miles. Many of the most important events of the Bible occurred there. The two major rivers of Iraq are two of the rivers which flowed through the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:14). This area was called Mesopotamia in early Bible history and means “the land between two rivers.” Babel, on the plains of Shinar would be located in the land now occupied by Iraq and near the city of Babylon. Ur of Chaldees, the early home of Abraham (Gen. 11:31), was located about 150 miles inland from the Persian Gulf and a little north of modern Kuwait. It was 11 miles west of the Euphrates and east of modern Bosra, which is much in the news. Ruins of this ancient city were discovered in the 1920s. Abraham’s father Terah emigrated with his family to Haran, located in northern Iraq. Later, Abraham’s servant was sent here to seek a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24:1of) and in which Jacob served for his wives, Leah and Rachel (Gen. 29).
Assyria was in northern Iraq. The famed city of Nineveh, which repented at the preaching of Jonah, was its capital (located on the eastern bank of the Tigris near modern Mosul). Jesus said the men of Nineveh would rise up and condemn his generation (Matt. 12:41). About 100 years later Nineveh was destroyed in the time of Nahum. It was the Assyrians who captured the ten northern tribles of Israel and sent them into oblivion.
The ruins of Babylon are located 50 miles south of Baghdad. It was during the Babylonian Empire that such Bible notables as Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel, the three Hebrew children (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego) crossed the pages of history while Judah was in captivity. Nineveh and Babylon were once the greatest cities in the world.
The events of the book of Esther occurred in modern Iran. Shushan (Susa) was not far from the Iraqi border. King Ahasuerus (Xerxes), Queen Esther’s husband, ruled the Persian Empire “from India even unto Ethiopia” (Esth. 1:1). One of the many attempts to exterminate the Jews was thwarted by Mordecai and Esther when Haman was hang ed. It was during the Persian Empire that King Cyrus permitted the Jews captured by Nebuchadnezzar to return to Jerusalem and build the temple (Ezra 6:3). It was also during this period that Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi did their work.
Not many places in Saudi Arabia are mentioned in Scripture. Sheba (Seba), in the southwest, comes to mind. The queen of Sheba, who marveled at Solomon’s wisdom and riches, was from what is now Saudi territory.
Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, and Israel have also been in the news. I recommend showing students these areas on maps of the Bible lands and comparing them with some modern maps of the same area. The February 3, 1991 issue of Newsweek has some excellent pull-out maps. We should seize every lawful means to make our Bible classes more interesting and relevant.
Exposing a False Religion
Of the 5 billion world population, one billion are Moslems. Mohammed began the religion of Islam with violence and violence has been a major part of its history. Many converts to Islam have been made with the sword. As with socalled Christendom, the Moslem world is divided. The two best known groups are Sunnis (who are moderate) and Shiites (who are more radical). While Sunnis are in a vast majority, the Shiites are the majority of Iran and Iraq.
Moslems believe Mohammed was the last (and superior) prophet of God. It, like many religions, particularly the Mormons, is based on the doctrine of continuous revelation. The Koran, which contains the religious teachings of Mohammed, is devoid of the high standard of morality presented by Christ in the New Testament. Nothing in it equals the command to “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matt. 22:29) or the Golden Rule (Lk. 6:31). The Koran teaches carnal aggression against its enemies. Since this is a growing religion (expected to reach six million in the U.S. by the year 2000) our people need to be informed. Some good encyclopedias will inform you of the origin and history of this religion. To learn more about the doctrine I recommend the Hutto-El Dareer Debate between Hiram Hutto (a gospel preacher) and Salah El Dareer, President of the Islamic Center of Birmingham.
The Peaceable Kingdom of God
We are glad the “wars and rumors of wars” with its horrors are over. Let us point all those who long for peace to the Prince of Peace. He is the only answer to the world’s problems. His lofty and sublime principles call us to a higher order and regard for our fellowman. Prophecies concerning his kingdom say, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end” (Isa. 9:7). It was described as a realm in which men would beat their swords into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks, and would learn war no more (Isa. 2:4). Jesus said if his kingdom were of this world then would his servants fight (Jn. 18:36).
Let us continue to preach this kingdom to a lost and dying world.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 9, pp. 257, 278
May 2, 1991