The land of Egypt is going through convulsions. The Middle East’s most populous country and the cultural center of the Arab world is experiencing riots in the streets. Media spin is trying to describe these events as a domino effect due to Tunisia’s recent “jasmine revolution” – when President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali succumbed to 29 days of popular demonstration and uprising against harsh economic conditions in Tunisia, fleeing to Saudi Arabia for asylum (www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/14/AR2011011405084.html).
Though the world’s media is trying to prognosticate patterns in these different outbreaks of rioting, most commentators tend to mumble when it gets to the spiritual aspects of modern events. Middle Eastern analysts usually sidestep the perspectives of biblical prophecy as well as the anti-biblical aspects of jihadi Islam. As a result, their investigative reporting lacks the cutting edge that only the word of the Lord can bring.
What is transpiring in the street riots of Tunisia. Jordan, Yemen and Egypt? What is weighing in the balance from a spiritual perspective? How will this influence the Jewish state, and can the Scriptures shed any light on these events?
Europe and the Americas have had centuries to stumble into democratic political frameworks, but the Middle East has never truly assimilated these values. Strong secular dictatorships (often led by military generals) rule most of the Arab world, while in a significant amount of countries Islamist tyrants rule with shari’a’s (Islamic law) iron hand.
Syria presents a good example of the former. Its Alawi Islamic leadership (considered a heretical form of Islam) has honeycombed the country with a cruel and ruthless secret police network (mukhabarat), throwing poets and political opposition into fetid torture chambers and prisons. President Bashar Assad came to lead the country by a plebiscite in which there were no other candidates, while his father Hafez came to the presidency through a military coup. Assad’s Ba’ath party regularly wins stunning election victories (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Syria), since opposition parties are routinely jailed and tortured, but in any case are not allowed to win more than 30% of the legislature.
The strongest opposition in Syria is the Muslim Brotherhood (MB or al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin), an Islamist underground organization dedicated to re-establishing the Islamic Caliphate world empire and shari’a law through jihadi revolution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_Brotherhood; also see http://davidstent.com/words/, February 2006). Out of the hothouse of the MB came such streams as the PLO, Hamas and al-Qa’eda. One of the MB’s main centers is as an underground movement in Egypt.
In February 1982 Syrian President Hafez al-Assad directed his military to destroy large portions of the city of Hama with artillery, tank fire and chemical warfare, in order to crush a small band of MB rebels holed up in Hama. Between 17,000 and 40,000 civilians were killed as a result of this military operation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hama_massacre). Since then Syria has continued a crackdown on MB adherents, for whom the death sentence is legally applicable in Syria.
Though in the Western world democratic opposition parties are the norm, one can better understand the Arab world’s perspective on such matters by recalling the former USSR’s approach. Prior to the collapse of the Communist Party’s hegemony in the Soviet Union, a one-party Marxist state was the only option. In totalitarian regimes (like former Nazi Germany, present-day China, North Korea etc) legal opposition parties do not exist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-party_state).
Whereas Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Jordan officially hold elections, no opposition group can ever come to power through the ballot box. This is a simple fact of life for nearly every Middle Eastern country except Israel. The largest organized opposition within Egypt today is the underground Muslim Brotherhood movement, biding its time during these riots while waiting expectantly in the wings.
The economic frustration in Egypt (where the average salary is less than $2 USD per day) is great. Due to corruption in government and business on the one hand, and a third world infrastructure on the other hand, no immediate improvement in conditions is foreseeable in the near future. These pent-up frustrations in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, Syria, Algeria etc., have nothing to do with Israel or the Palestinian issue – yet they are like the bubbles and smoke portending an imminent explosion of a volcano – one which can set the whole Middle East on fire.
Democracy – the graft that didn’t take
Western countries tend to approach Middle Eastern politics with a naiveté that borders on being criminally foolish. Ignoring the fact that democracy has never flourished in Arab Islamic countries, the West has been urging dictatorships to hold free elections. One recent example involved strong American pressure on Israel (www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/26/AR2006012600372.html) to allow transparent elections in the Gaza Strip.
The result of that pressure was seen on January 26, 2006 when the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist party known as Hamas (Harakat al-Muqawima al-Islamiyya, or ‘The Islamic Resistance Movement’) swept to power. In a few short months it orchestrated a violent putsch, kneecapping Palestinian Authority loyalist and throwing key PA people off five-story high buildings.
The Islamist principle here is often described as “one man, one vote, one time.” American attempts at foisting democracy on Gaza resulted in the establishment of a jihadi state on the border of Israel, the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (still held in an Islamist prison in Gaza), Hamas rocket (1,571) and mortar (1,531) attacks on Israeli cities, towns and farms up to December 26 2008 (and thousands more after that time) and the resulting Israeli military Operation Cast Lead (www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=7&x_issue=52&x_article=1581) which began on December 27, 2008.
So far Western efforts at catalyzing democratic elections in the Middle East have backfired, and instead have brought about the rise of Islamist dictatorships.
Choosing between terrible options
The Middle East seems to be caught between military dictatorship and Islamist despotism. One striking example (which still smarts in the West) involves the country of Iran. Once a pillar of American and Israeli strategic planning, this loyal ally of the West was also a despotic secular-leaning dictatorship propped up by a vicious secret police organ known as SAVAK. Secular street riots of students and businessmen in August and September 1978 led to the hasty departure of the Shah, but six months of anarchy eventually led to the establishment not of a democracy but to the rise of the nearly unimaginable cruelty of Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic dictatorship.
- Street riots have never led to the establishment of democratic government in the Middle East. They have led either to new dictatorship or to radical Islamist tyranny.
- If a Muslim Brotherhood-oriented state gets established in Egypt, this could lead to major military tensions between Egypt and Israel, as well as a phenomenal growth and spiritual energizing of jihadi Islam throughout the Middle East.
- Pray for the country of Egypt – that the Muslim Brotherhood will not rise to power through this present anarchy; that God would establish peace and righteousness in that country with a minimum of bloodshed (1 Timothy 2:1-4); and that Egypt would not become an adversary and a curse to the Jewish state of Israel (Genesis 12:3).
Highway under construction
One of the clearest passages concerning Egypt’s role in the last days is found in Isaiah 19. The phrase “in that day” is used six times (verses 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24) to describe an end-of-days scenario involving (among other subjects):
- military clash between Egypt and a victorious Israel
- a spiritual revival among some Egyptians
- an intercessory cry to YHVH on the part of Egyptians and His saving response
- a warm future attitude on the part of Egypt to both the Hebrew language and the land of Israel
- a highway of peace connecting Egypt, Israel and northern Iraq
As we prayerfully ask God for intercessory strategies concerning the present trembling in Egypt, let us ask God for His mercy on the nation that He calls “Egypt My people” (Isaiah 19:25a), especially as they recognize and bless “Israel My inheritance” (Isaiah 19:25b).
“In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the earth. YHVH or armies will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance” (Isaiah 19:23-25).
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In Messiah Yeshua,
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