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Notes on the King of Babylon, the Peace of Jerusalem,
and the Restoration of Egypt and Assyria

May 11, 2012

Nine years ago, I understood the last half of Isaiah, chapter 19, mainly as part of a complex of Old Testament passages that predicted God would bring peace to Israel and its Arab neighbors by reconciling them, not by allowing one to annihilate the other. I secondarily understood it as showing that our imminent military adventure in Iraq would be an exercise in destructive futility. However, my understanding has grown in the last nine years, as explained below. I still see reconciliation rather than annihilation as God’s ultimate solution to the hostilities in the Middle East, and history has proven true my prediction that the Iraq war would be futile. But I now understand Isaiah 19:21-25 to predict the ultimate restoration of two Christian ethnic minorities in the region—the Assyrians and the Copts. Even more important, I now understand the prophecy to have a relatively direct application to my life, in that God’s preservation of these minorities, alongside the Jews, through the centuries gives a powerful demonstration of his faithfulness, to them and to me.

The Prophecy at the Center of this Page, Isaiah 19:21-25.

KJV:
21 And the LORD shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the LORD, and perform it. 22 And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the LORD, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them. 23 In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. 24 In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: 25 Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.
WEB:
21 And the LORD shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the LORD, and perform it. 22 And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the LORD, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them. 23 In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. 24 In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: 25 Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.

History of this Page, and of My Understanding of the Prophecy, before mid-2004

On February 5, 2003, on the eve of war between Iraq and the United States and its allies, I posted on this page the following brief comment in opposition to the impending war, under the title “Notes on the King of Babylon and the Peace of Jerusalem":

On what is, apparently, the eve of war with Iraq, I note:

1. The power behind Iraq is not Saddam Hussein. The spiritual King of Babylon is Lucifer himself. See, Isaiah 14:4 & 12. Thus, it appears we will be attacking the Devil himself, in his own home territory, with all of the military might of the United States. This says something about our chances of ultimate success, unless the Church in this country repents of its idolatry, fully trusts God, and starts to seek in prayer God's will for the people of Iraq (for whom Christ also died). The battle is a spiritual battle and will certainly *NOT* be won by our soldiers (even if they do manage to oust Saddam). Without a spiritual victory over the dark spirit of Iraq, Saddam's replacement will be worse than Saddam.

2. I note also that, in the day Lucifer is deposed and banished to Hell, Jerusalem will have peace. This is the message of the entirety of the 14th chapter of Isaiah. When God again has compassion on Jacob, he will put down the oppressor, the (spiritual) King of Babylon, and he will no longer weaken the nations any more.

3. However, it is God Himself who will destroy Babylon and its power with fire and apocalyptic plagues. Revelation 18. The time for this, in the timetable of Revelation, does not yet appear to have come.

4. When God destroys the power of Babylon, He will restore Israel, Egypt ("my people") and Assyria (now divided Kurdistan)("the work of my hands") and make them together "a blessing in the midst of the earth." Isaiah 19. At that same time, He will reconcile Isaac and Ishmael. See, e.g., Jeremiah 9:23-26 and 12:14-17; Ezekiel 47:22-23. The time for this also does not appear to be here quite yet.

Within the next year and a half, the truth of the underlying message became quite clear—it was obvious, as it has remained ever since, that we could not “win” this war with military strength. It was (and still is) the continuation of a millennia-old spiritual war. It certainly appeared, and still appears, that the state of affairs since the removal of Saddam Hussein might be worse than his regime.

However, by mid-1994, I also recognized, after more research, that I had made an important error in one of my factual details: I assumed that the Assyrian people no longer existed as an identifiable ethnic group, so that the prophecies pertaining to Assyria (and, by implication, Egypt also) must run with the land rather than with the people who once lived there. Therefore, I associated the apparent prediction of the restoration of the Assyrian people in verses 23-25 with modern Iraqi Kurdistan and with the Kurds who now publicly claim most of the area as their homeland. However, while much of the ancient Assyrian homeland is now in territory claimed by Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurds are not the descendants of the Assyrians. The Kurds are, in fact, newcomers to the region during the modern era. The Assyrians still exist, as a persecuted Christian (Catholic) minority in the region. (See the published references and links about the Assyrians at the end of this page for support of this statement). I posted a correction to this effect on August 16, 2004.

I also made a similar correction to my page The real solution to the reconciliation of the Palestinian, Arab and Israeli conflict, recognizing the separate existence of, and prophecies about, Assyrians and Egyptians (see footnote 3 on that page). The main thesis of that page is that God predicts ultimate peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, not the annihilation of the children of Ishmael.

This recognition initiated the transformation of my interpretation of Isaiah 19:23-25, although it took awhile to sink in, as described later in this page.

The Iraq Conflict as a “Long-Term Murder Factory:” My October 18, 2004 Comment

On October 18, 2004, I posted an “addendum” to my earlier material, explaining the “paradox” of our involvement in Iraq in terms of its real author, Satan. This addendum had no direct relationship to the issue of the restoration of Assyria, except in that it noted that persecution of native Christians in Iraq had increased dramatically since U.S. forces entered the country. However, I reproduce it here because everything I wrote has tragically proved to be correct during the succeeding years:

The paradox of our war in Iraq is this: The more force we put into pacifying Iraq, the more mindless violence our enemies there inflict to prevent peace. We intend to create a peaceful, democratic regime in Iraq, then leave as quickly as possible. Once we leave, if the Iraqi people subsequently choose an Islamic regime or another dictatorship for themselves, that will be their choice, and we will not interfere. We have declared this intention repeatedly, and even our enemies there understand this to be our intention. Yet, the violence continues to escalate, as if our enemies want us to stay in their country.

The explanation of the paradox is this: the real force behind the war is a spiritual one, the spiritual King of Babylon, the devil himself, as I stated nearly two years ago. On a human level, our enemies in Iraq really want us to leave. But Lucifer wants us to stay, and has lied to those he has blinded in Iraq, telling them that the way to remove us from their country is to drive us from it by escalating violence until we leave. (Recall that Satan is the father of lies. John 8:44). Of course, that is exactly the course of action that will force us to stay longer, since we believe we cannot afford to leave Iraq in failure.

So, who wins from this situation? We lose. The Iraqi people lose. Even our human enemies in that country lose. Humanly, everyone loses. The winner is Satan. He is a murderer, and is the one who speaks into men the lust to murder each other. John 8:44. Through Al Qaida, the Hussein regime in Iraq, and our response to them, the devil has created a long-term murder factory. As long as we hate each other, we are blinded to God's truth. I John 2:10-12. Our ongoing occupation of Iraq is reinforcing hatred on both sides of the conflict. However, it is most pointedly giving leaders of radical sects of Islam, who preach hatred against the United States, Americans, the West and indigenous Christians in Islamic countries, an audience among large numbers of Moslems who had previously ignored them. The military situation is helping Satan kill thousands of people outright and plunge millions of others into hatred and deep darkness. Satan is the big winner.

Please note that these comments are not intended to imply that the United States or any of its leaders or allies is solely or even primarily to blame for this situation. We were attacked, and then, while wounded and hysterical, systematically deceived into identifying the wrong enemy and taking a military action that could not succeed by military force alone. (It could not succeed because of the nature of the spiritual forces that control Iraq, as previously described). Satan artfully manipulated all of the parties to create the situation, and all share some blame for listening to his lies.

Neither are these comments presented in order to suggest what our present government policy toward Iraq should be. I leave that to the President and to Congress.

Rather, these remarks are intended to show that it is Satan who has controlled the situation to date and has used it very effectively to serve his own ends. This should help Christians, worldwide, know better how to pray concerning this war and the situation that has created it. As long as Satan continues to be the big winner from the situation, we will continue to see violence escalating and will continue to feel that we cannot pull out without losing face, regardless of which party owns the White House. It is only when the cycle of deception, murder and hatred is broken spiritually, through the united prayer of God's people in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Iraq, that Satan will be forced to let the war end.

This was where my understanding of the matter remained until 2011. I did a little research on my own, and tried unsuccessfully to make some contacts with Assyrian and Coptic (native Egyptian) Christians in the U.S., but my activity in this area was, in fact, minimal, as for the next few years I was entirely too busy fighting some personal battles I had no business fighting.

The Fall 2011 Seminary Paper on the Interpretation of Isaiah 19:23-25

In August 2011, I matriculated at a well-respected, accredited, evangelical seminary. In the Fall term of 2011, I took two online courses: Old Testament Survey I and II. I was only able to fund that single term in seminary, and have not had any funds appear to continue my studies. In Old Testament Survey II, I decided to use the term paper as an opportunity to satisfy my long-held curiosity about the interpretation of Isaiah 19:23-25. The result was the paper “The Highway from Egypt to Assyria: The Meaning of the Prophecy of the Restoration of Egypt, Israel and Assyria in Isaiah 19:23-25”, of which I have posted a pdf copy at the link above. Even though I got an “A” on the paper, and in the course, the paper is really a rather crude approach to the question. I wish I had had more than six weeks to write it, and that I had found better sources. However, in writing the paper, I learned that no commentator I was able to find interprets this passage literally, and that one of the reasons for this is the exact problem I had in 2003: it is generally believed that the Assyrians no longer exist.

However, I came to the conclusion that Isaiah’s prophecy can and should be given a literal interpretation. I found some good academic references supporting the continued existence of both the Assyrian people and the descendants of the Egyptians of Isaiah’s day (the Copts) as separate Christian minorities in the Muslim Arab world. This certainly renders a literal future fulfillment of the prophecy possible.

This brings us to the conclusions of my paper, which, until recently, I applied to academic scholarship and to politics but not to my own relationship with God. The conclusions most relevant to my walk are:

The best interpretation of Isaiah 19:23-25 starts with a literal understanding of these verses: in the future, with God’s open blessing, Egypt and Assyria will be joined with Israel in peace. This literal understanding of the passage does not exclude the obvious effect this will have on the other nations of the world. Of course, in that day Egypt and Assyria will serve as living examples (rather than mere literary types) of God’s rule of the nations and of his acceptance of people from every nation in Christ. Thus, both of the typical interpretations of this passage contain a kernel of truth. But the best interpretation starts with the literal understanding...

However, God is not as limited as we think. He scattered Israel among the nations, and allowed them to face centuries of persecution, but has never permitted them to be exterminated. Rather, he has been preparing them to accept his Son, Jesus, as a nation, when the time is right. This much is generally accepted among Evangelical Christians.

What is less well understood is that God has also been continuing to work with other groups of people to whom he has directed specific prophecies. The apparent failure of those prophecies in the short term does not mean they will never or can never happen. The early conversion to Christianity and preservation of the Copts and the Assyrians—though as small minorities in Islamic countries—demonstrates this. In Isa. 19:23-25, God said there would be a time when Israel, Egypt and Assyria will live and worship the true God together in peace, and, true to his Word, God has preserved a remnant of all three nations through the centuries to make this possible. This demonstrates the power and faithfulness of God.

If God was able to preserve these three nationalities through persecution across two and a half millennia, to bring about His purposes and fulfill the words of His servant Isaiah, does He need my “help” to bring about His will in my life? Or does he need my “help” in making the world right?

No. He has the power to do these things without my “help.” He is also totally faithful to His people, including the Jews, the Assyrian and Coptic believers, and me. I just need to stay with Him, where He is, in what He is doing.

Ian Johnson
Please do email me!
ian4christ41@yahoo.com

© 2003, 2004 Ian B. Johnson

Related Links (not linked in the text above)

"Assyrian people", Wikipedia, regarding history of this ethnic group.

"Copts", Wikipedia, regarding history of this ethnic and religious group.

"Assyrian Continuity", Wikipedia, regarding whether the modern Assyrians are the descendants of the ancient Assyrians.

"Coptic Identity", Wikipedia, regarding the identity of the Copts as native Egyptians.

Assyrian Holocaust, a page that contains many links to articles about the persecution of Assyrians over the centuries and to the present.

Persecution of Copts, Wikipedia.

"Egyptian Copts Beleaguered by Rising Violence", by Hannah Allam, Voice of the Martyrs.

Iraq: No Longer Safe, Voice of the Martyrs; an article about rising violence against Christians in Iraqi Kurdistan.

"Assyrian Church of the East", Wikipedia.

"Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria", Wikipedia.

"The Christian Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt", the Encyclopedia Coptica

Assyrian Church News

"The Assyrian Church of the East", Catholic Near East Welfare Organization, on history of the Assyrian church and recent reconciliation with the Catholic church.

Protestantism in Egypt, Wikipedia.

"Do Egypt’s Evangelicals Get Along with Coptic Orthodox?" Cooperation is increasing. Christianity Today, 2/14/2011.

Assyrian Evangelical Church, Wikipedia.

Nineveh On Line, a mostly political site.

Place of Repentance: Of Assyria, Egypt and an Unlearned Lesson about God’s Sovereignty, my blog post on the subject.

Place of Repentance: Repentance of the Ninevites and Unrepentance of Israel in Matthew 12:41, an additional relevant blog post.

References

Anzerlioğlu, Yonca. “The Revolts of Nestorian Christians Against the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey.” Muslim World 100 (Jan. 2010): 45-59.

Aprim, Frederick A. Assyrians: The Continuous Saga. Xlibris, 2004.

Bell, H.I. “Evidences of Christianity in Egypt During the Roman Period.” Harvard Theological Review 37 no. 3 (July 1944): 185-208. Accessable online.

Chadwick, Robert. First Civilizations: Ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. London: Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2005.

Chisholm, Robert, B. “When Prophecy Appears to Fail, Check your Hermeneutic.” Paper presented at the 55thNational Conference of the Evangelical Theological Society, Atlanta, GA, November 19-21, 2003. Evangelical Theological Society Papers 2004.

“Ecumenical outcry follows Coptic Christian killings.” Christianity Today, Feb. 9, 2010.

Kilpatrick, G.G.D. “Exposition of the Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1-39,” in in Vol. 5 of The Interpreter’s Bible, edited by George Arthur Buttrick et al. New York: Abingdon Press, 1956: 165-381.

Motyer, Alec. Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary. The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries : Isaiah. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press 1999.

Niccacci, Alviero. “Isaiah XVIII-XX from an Egyptological Perspective.” Vetus Testamentum 48 no. 2 (Apr. 1998): 214-238. Accessable online.

Oswalt, John N.. The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 1-39. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986.

Parpola, Simo. National and Ethnic Identity in the Neo-Assyrian Empire and Assyrian Identity in Post-Empire Times. Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies 18 no. 2 (2004): 5-22.

Petrosian, Vahram. “Assyrians in Iraq.” Iran & The Caucasus 10 no. 1 (2006): 113-147.

Roshangar, Keith and Susan Wunderlink. “Fleeing Nineveh.” Christianity Today 51 no. 1 (Jan. 2007).

Rowe, Paul. “Building Coptic Civil Society: Christian Groups and the State in Mubarak’s Egypt,” Middle Eastern Studies 45 no. 1 (Jan. 2009): 111-126.

Sanasarian, Eliz. Religious Minorities in Iran. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000.

Scott, R.B.Y. “Exegesis of the Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1-39,” in Vol. 5 of The Interpreter’s Bible, edited by George Arthur Buttrick et al. New York: Abingdon Press, 1956: 165-381.

Wilson, Iain. “In that Day.” Interpretation 21 no. 1 (Jan. 1967): 66-86.

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