Iraq in Prophecy
Weldon E. Warnock
Beckley, West Virginia
The invasion of Kuwait by Iraq has set off a barrage of speculations and predictions by our purblind seers and self-inspired prophets.
Pat Robertson told the viewers of his "700 Club" television show that the confrontation with Iraq, coupled with recriminations against Israel over the shooting at the Temple Mount, point to fulfillment of Bible prophecies that the nations of the world are going to come against Israel.(1)
Jack Van Impe told his national TV audience that four major prophecies in the Bible pinpoint Iraq and the Persian Gulf as the prelude to the Battle of Armageddon, a conflict he says will begin at the Euphrates River in Iraq.(2) Van Impe believes that Iraq is modern Babylon.
Ken Fleming, a professor at Emmaus Bible College, Dubuque, Iowa, identifies Iraq as the prophetic Babylon of Scripture. He wrote, "Prophetically, in the future Babylon will once again be a great nation. The Bible foresees that it will prostitute its political and religious and commercial power in association with a world leader called The Beast (Rev. 14:8-9; 17:11-12) . . . Likewise we note things of interest in Iraq (Babylon) which may have a bearing on the approach of the events surrounding the Second Coming."(3)
Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, Editor-in-Chief of Pulpit Helps, advertises a cassette of his entitled, "Iraq in Prophecy." The ad states, "These lessons provide the biblical information to identify Iraq as the modern Babylon."
Is Iraq modern Babylon? Is Iraq in Bible prophecy? It is true that iraq is located in the area that was once occupied by ancient Babylonia, but that proves nothing, unless the Bible teaches that Babylon would be revived once again into another nation, specifically in the nation of Iraq. This concept we will clearly show is without biblical support, being concocted in the wild imaginations of men.
Babylon's Past Glory
Babylon was situated on the Euphrates River, about 50 miles south of modern Baghdad, the capital of Iraq. Baghdad is located on the Tigris River, approximately 40 miles east of the Euphrates. The Tower of Babel was built there and Hammurabi, the great lawgiver, reigned there in the nineteenth century before Christ. It was from Ur in Babylonia that God called Abraham to go into a land that he would show him.
In the Neo-Babylonia era, Nebuchadnezzar was the ruler (605-562 B.C.) in the height of its glory. It was during his time that Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed (586 B.C.) and the Jews were taken captive for 70 years. From there Daniel was prime minister and from there Cyrus the Persian issued an edict allowing Jews to return to their homeland. It was there that Alexander the Great died (323 B.C.), while planning a new capital. Babylon was overthrown in 539 B.C. by the Medo-Persians.
After hundreds of years of lying in oblivion, we are now told that ancient Babylon has been reincarnated in modern Iraq. They tell us that over the past ten years Saddam Hussein, Dictator of Iraq, has spent enormous sums of money in restoring many historical sites, such as the Southern Palace of Nebuchadnezzar, the Processional Way and the Ishtar Gate.
We are informed that Hussein wants to restore Babylon as a symbol of the greatness of the people of Mesopotamia, making it a prime attraction of the Middle East. Hussein would like to move his capital to Babylon, it is reported, in the future. He considers himself as a twentieth century Nebuchadnezzar, leader of a strong empire.
Millennialists reason that since prophecies about Babylon have not been fulfilled, namely, Isaiah 13, 14; Jeremiah 50,51 and Revelation 17,18, we are to look to Iraq for their completion. But let us focus our attention on the prophecies about Babylon and see whether or not they have been fulfilled.
Isaiah and Babylon
The prophet Isaiah, through inspiration, looked beyond 150 years into the future and saw the downfall of Babylon. Listen to him: "The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see . . . . Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty" (13:1,6).
God's judgment upon Babylon is depicted in vivid, figurative language as "the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine" (13: 10). Jesus employs identical language in foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. (Matt. 24:29). These symbolic expressions denote the fall of political rulers, the destruction of nations and the termination of their government (cf. Joel 2: 10; 3:1516).
Using the Medes as his instrument (13:17), God said Babylon would be as when he "overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall neither be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch his tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there" (13:19-20). This does not sound like there is going to be a revival of the Babylonian Empire. God said it was finished, forever!
In Isaiah 14:21-22 God says that Babylon will never rise again to possess the land, nor build cities. God will cut off from Babylon the name, remnant, and son, and nephew. In v. 23 it would be swept with the "besom of destruction." A besom is a small broom to sweep out corners and clear out trash. In light of Isaiah's declaration, Saddam Hussein is not the modern Nebuchadnezzar and the Iraqi people are not the Babylonian nation, millennialists to the contrary.
Jeremiah and Babylon
It is claimed that Jeremiah's prophecy concerning Babylon in chapters 50, 51 has not been fulfilled because the city of Babylon was to be left without inhabitants as the result of being overwhelmed by a horde of great nations from the north (50:1-10). Babylon did not cease immediately to have inhabitants when Cyrus captured the city in 539 B.C., hence, it is concluded that the prophecy remains to be fulfilled. In fact, there was no fighting when Babylon fell.
Nobody is saying that Babylon was immediately ravaged after its capture by Cyrus. But both Isaiah and Jeremiah's prophecies were totally fulfilled concerning the city shortly after Alexander the Great's untimely death in Babylon in 323 B.C. The city, because of a series of events, was weakened and allowed to decay. McClintock and Strong state the following:
The great city of Seleucia, which soon after arose in its neighborhood, not only drew away its population, but was actually constructed of materials derived from its buildings . . . . Since then Babylon has been a quarry from which all the tribes in the vicinity have perpetually derived the bricks with which they have built their cities . . . . The "great city, " "the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency," has thus emphatically "become heaps" (Jer. 51:37) - she is truly "an astonishment and a hissing, without an inhabitant" (1:606).
Jeremiah's prophecy has Babylon invaded by great nations from the north (50:9). Those stationed in Saudi Arabia do not fit this description. Too, the northern armies would use the bow and arrow, lances and ride upon horses (50:9, 14,42). 1 don't think the United States and its allies will resort to such antiquated weaponry to fight Saddam Hussein and his guns, missiles, tanks, poison gas and planes.
Millennialists also argue that the prophecy pertaining to Babylon in Jeremiah 50,51 has not come to pass because the children of Israel and the children of Judah are to be restored to their homeland (50:4-5), which, they tell us,. did not materialize when the remnant returned under Zerubbabel in 536 B.C. Israel is to be restored after the defeat of Babylon. Israel has not been fully restored, hence, Babylon must yet be defeated, they surmise.
But the Jews have been restored. Jeremiah stated, "For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you to return to this place" (Jer. 29:10). Notice that the Jews would return after 70 years to this place. Jeremiah did not say, "1948," or "the 20th century," but "after seventy years" they would return to this place. Ezra 1:1 and 2:1 show this was fulfilled. They came to Zion under Zerubbabel, and others later with Ezra, joining themselves together in a perpetual covenant (50:4-5).
If Babylon in Jeremiah 50,51 is Iraq, then why does Jeremiah tell Israel to "flee out of the midst of Babylon" (51:6) when there is probably not one Jew today within a hundred miles of Iraq? What will Jews be doing in Iraq?
Revelation and Babylon
Ken Flemming said, "Jeremiah's prophetic vision of Babylon is clearly linked to John's in Revelation 17 and 18 regarding events that take place during the great tribulation. Thus we look for a literal Babylon of world importance during the tribulation."(4)
In Revelation 17:5 Babylon is designed as "Mystery Babylon." A.T. Robertson says in regard to "mystery" (musterion), "Babylon is to be interpreted mystically or spiritually . . . for Rome" (Word Pictures, Vol. 6, p. 430). The wickedness of ancient Babylon is personified in Rome, the oppressor of the church when John wrote Revelation.
The characteristics ascribed to the Babylon of Revelation fit better the city of Rome than any other city. (1) Rules over the kings of the earth (17:18). (2) Corrupts the nations (17:2; 18:3; 19:2). (3) Sits upon seven mountains (17:9). Rome sits upon seven hills. (4) Center of the world's merchandise (18:3,11-13). (5) Persecutes the saints (17:6). These traits do not fit Baghdad or Iraq. Only the convoluted logic of premillennial preachers could find Iraq in the book of Revelation, or any other book of the Bible.
Nevertheless, these soothsayers go on confounding and being confounded. They will never stop. Their total failures of the past have not deterred them. They just falsely reinterpret Scripture to fit current events, whether it be a Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, or now, Saddam Hussein.
According to U. S. News & World Reports the Middle East turmoil has sparked a run on end-time prophecies. Hal Lindsey's book, The Late Great Planet EArth, has shot up in sales by 83 percent since August, and Zondervan Publishing House is updating the book, Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis by John Walvoord. Other books on the Middle East are selling well. As Jeremiah said, "The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so; and what will ye do in the end thereof" (5:31).
1. U.S. News & World Report, Nov. 1990, p. 67.
3. Interest, Dec. 1990, p. 14.
4. Ibid., pp. 13-14.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 3, pp. 70-72