The Islamic Republic of Iran (Jomhuri-ye Eslāmi-ye Irān) is top headline news. Modern Iran is known in the Bible as ancient Persia. The peoples of ancient Iran included the tribes of Persia, Elam and Media (see Acts 2:9). Today a jihadi Shi’ite Islamic dictatorship rules Iran’s 82 million people. Iran is the second largest country in the Middle East and the world’s 18th most populous country. Let’s look at what the Bible has to say about Iran and its peoples.
The background of Iran’s three major peoples
The Bible describes Darius, Cyrus and Ahasuerus as all being kings of Persia (see Isaiah 21:20; Esther 1:14), though they were not all from the same tribal background. Ectabana was the capital of the Medes (Ezra 6:2), and King Darius (the friend of Daniel the prophet) was Median (Daniel 9:1). Susa or Shushan was the capital of the Elamites (Nehemiah 1:1; Ezra 4:9; Esther 1:2, 5) where many of the events of the Book of Esther took place. Persepolis (or Pārsa near Shiraz) was the capital of Persia, Cyrus II the Great being Persia’s most famous king. The modern territory of Iran encompasses these capitals.
Abraham fought ancient Iranians
Noah’s son Shem sired eight boys: “The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, Aram, Uz, Hul, Gether and Meshech” (1 Chronicles 1:17; Genesis 10:22; 14:1, 9). Elam (one of the founding tribes of the Iranian people) had Semitic origin – he was descended from Shem. Elam was not descended from Abraham or Ishmael, and the Iranians are not Arabs. Abraham is actually descended from Shem’s third son Arpachshad (Genesis 11:10-26) and the chosen line of promise comes through Israel and not through Iran. Abraham battled the ancient Elamites when he freed Lot from a kidnapping raid (Genesis 14:1-17). That was the first biblical encounter between ancient Persia and Abraham.
A prophetic dream about Iran
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon turned to Daniel the Hebrew prophet to get divine revelation about a troubling dream he had (Daniel 2:32, 35, 39). Part of his dream involved a statue whose breasts and arms were solid silver. This silver breast symbolized a kingdom of silver (Persia, rising to the fore just after Babylon) which would nevertheless be inferior to Babylon and its glory (the statue’s golden head). Later down the prophetic road Persia’s superpower status would give way to a third kingdom, Greece (Daniel 11:2 – the bronze belly and thighs). Alexander the Great and his future Greek kingdom would “rule over all the earth” (Daniel 2:39; 8:20), and Greek triumphs would overshadow Persian accomplishments.
Cyrus the Persian Liberator
The Bible tells us that Persian King Cyrus II the Great proclaimed a ‘jubilee’ in 538 B.C. – the freeing of the Jewish people from the prison of Babylonian exile. Historically speaking Cyrus became for the Jewish people what Simón Bolívar was to be for the Hispanic countries of Venezuela, Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Panama – El Libertador (the Liberator):
- Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia – in order to fulfill the word of YHVH by the mouth of Jeremiah – YHVH stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘YHVH, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may YHVH his God be with him, and let him go up!’” (2 Chronicles 36:22-23)
God raised up Persia’s Cyrus and gave him divine strategies, opening the gates for the Jewish people to return to their promised homeland of Israel. This historic honor was reflected in how President Harry Truman saw his own recognition of the State of Israel as Cyrus-like in nature (www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/i-am-cyrus/).
Cyrus the Persian stumbling block
Later in Cyrus’ reign Samaritans and Arabs sent fake news to the Persian court, trying to block the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple. They had a measure of success, for Cyrus believed their bad report: “Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their counsel all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia” (Ezra 4:4-24). Though the Persians were at first liberators, they later became obstacles to the redemption of Zion, according to the biblical record.
Mass murder on the Persian watch
The Book of Esther lets us in on the inner workings of the Persian court. The Persian Empire (under Haman’s influence) nearly carried out a total genocide of the entire world Jewish population (see Esther 3:6-15; 4:7). YHVH’s strategic pre-positioning of Mordecai and Esther (as well as a sleepless night for King Ahasuerus) brought deliverance for Israel from the mouth of the Persian lion. Persia would eventually become a blessing to the Jewish people, and the defeat of anti-Semitic Persian forces in due course became an official biblical holiday – the Feast of Purim (Esther 9:23-28).
The prince of Persia
The angel Gabriel reveals that world superpowers are influenced and often controlled by demonic principalities. Paul backs up this assertion in Ephesians 6:12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
The angel Gabriel told Daniel, “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days. Then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia … Then he (ed. Gabriel) said, ‘Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come’” (Daniel 10:13, 20).
- An anti-Semitic spiritual entity energized Persia and Haman as well. This demonic power is described in Scripture as “the prince of the kingdom of Persia.” Today the dizzying onslaught of anti-Semitic attacks across the globe point to similar demonic origins. Shootings in Pittsburgh, murders in France, missiles from Iran and rockets from Gaza – a concentrated satanic offensive has been loosed on Planet Earth against the Jewish people
The recent American MQ-9 Reaper drone strike against Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Quds Force) chief Qassem Soleimani is significant in light of this spiritual context. According to Israeli journalist Ehud Yaari, the taking down of this Persia-based mass murderer “is the most important assassination from the Jewish point of view since the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of the Final Solution, in Prague in 1942 … This man was the brains and the engine of the Iranian machine that is trying to wrap the Middle East in the arms of an octopus … He was the head of the octopus in this regard”
Patience is a Persian virtue
The recent limited military hostilities between Iran and the U.S.A. are not the last act in this drama. Iran’s intelligence services are known for displaying “tremendous sophistication and guile” (The Secret War with Iran, Ronen Bergman, p. 355). They are “effective and determined adversaries” (ibid. p. 381) Back in March 2005 the CIA, Mossad and Canadian CSIS tracked Lebanese Hezbollah as they developed networks in Montreal (with Iranian support – code-named Operation Double-Edged Sword; ibid. p. 211). This was part of Tehran’s worldwide insurance policy in the event of a frontal war against America – in this specific instance, the execution of terrorist attacks across North America. Israeli journalist and Iran specialist Bergman defines the confrontation here – “a titanic struggle between… an aggressive ideology-driven Islamic revolutionary regime … and… a complacent, satisfied society that thought it had put its existential fears behind it” (ibid. p. 380).
How should we then pray?
- Pray for God to bring relief and deliverance (Esther 4:14) for His beleaguered Jewish people across the globe
- Pray for God to upend the enemy’s evil strategies from Persia to Poway (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poway_synagogue_shooting – see Isaiah 8:10)
- Pray for the spirit of grace and supplications to be poured out on the Jewish people
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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