Psalm 83 War
How Will This War Unfold?
The first passage I want to look at was spoken by the prophet, Obadiah, which only has one chapter. Verses 1-2 identify Edom as a people group that God will one day bring under judgment. Remember Edom and Esau are two names used to identify the Palestinians who are dispersed in several nations but primarily in Jordan. The prophet declares that God will make them small amongst the nations and much despised.
1The vision of Obadiah. Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom (We have heard a report from the LORD, And a messenger has been sent among the nations, saying, “Arise and let us rise up against her for battle”): 2″Behold, I will make you small among the nations; You shall be greatly despised.
In verses 6-9, God shares how they were led to their destruction.
6″Oh, how Esau shall be searched out! How his hidden treasures shall be sought after! 7All them men in your confederacy Shall force you to the border; The men at peace with you Shall deceive you and prevail against you. Those who eat your bread shall lay a trap for you. No one is aware of it. 8″Will I not in that day,” says the LORD, “Even destroy the wise men from Edom And understanding from the mountains of Esau? 9Then your mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed, To the end that everyone from the mountains of Esau Maybe cut off by slaughter.
It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word, berityh, that appears in verse 7 as a confederacy (alliance) is the same word used for the confederacy in Psalm 83:5. I believe these two passages are speaking of the same confederacy and their judgment. This confederacy will deceive, lay a trap, and force these Jordanian Palestinians out of the mountains to the border to be slaughtered by the Israeli army.
In verses 10-16, God gives precise details as to why He is going to judge Esau.
10″For violence against your brother Jacob, Shame shall cover you, And you shall be cut off forever. 11In the day that you stood on the other side – in the day that strangers carried captive his forces when foreigners entered his gates And cast lots for Jerusalem – Even you were as one of them. 12″But you should not have gazed on the day of your brother In the day of his captivity; Nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah In the day of their destruction; Nor should you have spoken proudly In the day of distress. 13You should not have entered the gate of My people in the day of their calamity. Indeed, you should not have gazed on their affliction In the day of their calamity, Nor laid hands on their substance In the day of their calamity. 14You should not have stood at the crossroads To cut off those among them who escaped; Nor should you have delivered up those among them who remained In the day of distress. 15″For the day of the LORD upon all the nations is near; As you have done, it shall be done to you; Your reprisal shall return upon your own head. 16For as you drank on My holy mountain, So shall all the nations drink continually; Yes, they shall drink and swallow, And they shall be as though they had never been.
God’s reason stems clear back to Esau’s mistreatment of Jacob and then fast forwards to the time of the Babylonian captivity and the treatment of Israel by Esau’s descendants. They participated in the looting of Jerusalem and God’s people and rejoiced over their brothers’ demise. They also helped the invaders by capturing and turning over any that were fleeing from the attack. This betrayal was very odious to God. In verse 15 and following, the prophet fast forwarded again to a period near the end of the age, even leading up to the day of the Lord. At the second coming of the Lord, the armies of the nations will be gathered on the same mountains to drink of the judgment of God, and they will be remembered no more.
In verses 17-20, there is a stark contrast between what will happen to the nations of the confederacy and what will happen to Israel. Instead of divine judgment, Israel will receive divine deliverance from her enemies. Let me be very clear. This deliverance would be absolutely impossible without God supernaturally intervening in the natural life of Israel and her enemies. The prophet says that Israel will finally possess their possessions. He says that the house of Israel will be a fire and a flame and the house of Esau shall be stubble. He goes on to say that the house of Esau will be devoured and that no survivor will remain. At that time, Israel shall possess the fields of all those who, as part of the confederacy, conspired against them.
17″But on Mount Zion, there shall be deliverance, And there shall be holiness; The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. 18The house of Jacob shall be a fire, And the house of Joseph a flame; But the house of Esau shall be stubble; They shall kindle them and devour them, And no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau,” For the LORD has spoken. 19The South shall possess Philistia. They shall possess the fields of Ephraim And the fields of Samaria. Benjamin shall possess Gilead. 20And the captives of this host of the children of Israel Shall posses the land of the Canaanites As far as Zarephath. The captives of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad shall possess the cities of the South.
More On “Why Judgment Comes?”
As we reflect more on why judgment comes upon people, families, and even nations, it is essential to realize how important the choices we make really are. Our decisions not only effect our lives but also the lives of those around us, especially those with whom we bear a relationship, whether by blood or choice. Our choices often affect not only the relationships in our generation but also those of future generations. Look at what God says in Deuteronomy 30:19.
19I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.
Life and death, blessing and cursing are choices we must make. God wants us to choose life and blessing. The Scriptures also make it clear that our decisions can result in blessing and cursing continuing onto our descendants for three or four generations after we have died. It is sobering to think that my choices can affect not only my children but even my great, great grandchildren! I certainly want to pass down blessing rather than cursing. If none of the four generations that follow me make choices that reverse what I have passed down, then the potential of my choices, whether blessing or cursing, may continue in perpetuity (the state of endlessness). Wow! That’s a sobering thought.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look as to why the judgments will be leveled on the people of the confederacy of Psalm 83. There are many Scriptures that we could look at, but for out study let’s look at a passage in Ezekiel 25. The first part of this chapter dealt with a period of judgment in the Middle East nations when Nebuchadnezzar was waging war to expand his kingdom. The second part deals with judgment in a period near the end of the age, albeit by the hand of a different aggressor. This passage makes clear that through the rods in God’s hand bringing the judgments were different, the choices that brought both judgments were not.
1The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2″Son of man, set your face against the Ammonites, and prophesy against them. 3Say to the Ammonites, ‘Hear the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you said, ‘Aha!’ against My sanctuary when it was profaned, and against the land of Israel when it was desolate, and against the house of Judah when they went into captivity, 4indeed, therefore, I will deliver you as a possession to the men of the East, and they shall set their encampments among you and make their dwellings among you; they shall eat your fruit, and they shall drink your milk. 5And I will make a Rabbah a stable for camels and Ammon a resting place for flocks. Then you shall know that I am the LORD” 6’For thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you clapped your hands, stamped your feet, and rejoiced in heart with all your disdain for the land of Israel, 7indeed, therefore, I will stretch out My hand against you, and give you as plunder to the nations; I will cut you off from the peoples, and I will cause you to perish from the countries; I will destroy you, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” 8’Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because Moab and Seir say, ’Look! The house of Judah is like all the nations,’ 9therefore, behold, I will clear the territory of Moab of cities, of the cities on its frontier, the glory of the country, Beth Jeshimoth, Baal Meon, and Kirjathaim. 10To the men of the East I will give it as a possession, together with the Ammonites, that the Ammonites may not be remembered among the nations. 11And I will execute judgments upon Moab, and they shall know that I am the LORD.”
This passage shows that God was not pleased with the choices made by these various people groups and nations. The result of these choices was cursing, ultimately leading to the judgment of God on their lives. He told the Ammonites that because they said, “Aha” and then clapped their hands, stamped their feet, and rejoiced in their heart with disdain over the land of Israel, He would stretch out His hand of judgment and give them as plunder to the nations. The very same aggressor they once looked so favorably on was used by God to judge them, too. Moab and Seir resented the apparent fact that Israel was a unique, chosen people blessed by God. When Israel fell, they took great satisfaction in declaring that Israel was not so special after all but rather like all the other nations. This attitude brought the same judgment by the same aggressor on them, too.
Though the second part of this passage continues with the theme of judgement because of bad choices, it reflects a sudden change in context concerning the time period in which the judgments would occur and who God would use to mete out those judgments. As you read this next passage, I encourage you to identify these contextual differences before you continue reading this book.
12’Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because of what Edom did against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and has greatly offended by avenging itself on them,” 13therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “I will also stretch My hand out against Edom, cut off man and beast from it, and make it desolate from Teman; Dedan shall fall by the sword. 14I will lay My vengeance on Edom by the hand of My people Israel, that they may do in Edom according to My anger and according to My fury; and they shall know my vengeance,” says the Lord GOD. 15’Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because the Philistines dealt vengefully and took vengeance with a spiteful heart, to destroy because of old hatred,” 16therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “I will stretch out My hand against the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethites and destroy the remnant of the seacoast. 17I will execute great vengeance on them with furious rebukes, and they shall know that I am the LORD when I lay My vengeance upon them.”‘”
Notice that the judgment against Edom (Esau) was for past choices, but the judgment leveled was being reaped in another generation near the end of the age. In verse 14, God makes clear that the judgments He would inflict will be by the hand of His people, Israel, and not Nebuchadnezzar. This is clearly speaking of a different time than that of the Babylonian captivity, which was to serve as a typological fulfillment of the ultimate fulfillment reserved for the end of the age. I believe this is about the Psalm 83 war that will unfold very shortly. He said He would utterly destroy man and beast from Teman, which is in Jordan, all the way down do Dedan, which is in Saudi Arabia. The prophet then begins to speak to the Philistines, who have until this present day dwelt in the Gaza Strip. He informs them that the impending judgments are the results of previous choices and attitudes by a generation who long took vengeance on Israel with cruelty. He even cites past hatreds as the reason for this generation’s determination to vengefully set out to destroy Israel. He said it was because of past animosities. Because they did not make choices that would reverse the curses of the past, they passed these curses on to future generations. This prophecy indicates that none of the subsequent generations made decisions to move them from cursing to blessing. Even to this day, there is still hateful animosity by these people towards Israel. These are the very people who have been launching rockets into Israeli cities and committing acts of terrorism for the past several decades. God will use the coming judgments to cause these nations of the confederacy to know that He is the true God, not Allah.
Nature of the Judgment
As we conclude our study of the Psalm 83 war, bear with me as I engage in some speculation as to how these judgments might unfold. I will make every attempt to base my speculative scenarios on my interpretations of related biblical passages. So let’s begin.
The first scenario involves the judgments on Syria and its capital city, Damascus. Isaiah 25 prophesied about this in verses 2-5. Before we being to look at this passage, I want to share a few thoughts about verse 1. In this verse, the prophet opened by praising God for the extraordinary things He has done, even though their fulfillments are yet to come. This is to make evident that His counsels of old are based on His faithfulness as well as truth. It proves that He watches over His words to perform them as spoken. Once God speaks, it is as good as done. He will not alter it once it has passed His lips. He calls those things which are not as though they already are. It is interesting that the Hebrew language does not have a future tense but instead utilizes a prophetic perfect tense. For example, the prophecy stating a virgin shall conceive, bear a son, and call him Emanuel would read differently in Hebrew. In the prophetic perfect tense, it would read, “A virgin has conceived, born a son, and has called His name Emanuel.” I say all of this to make the point that the blessings and cursings of the past are still in play today unless they are reversed by a return or a departure from the faith.
I have included the Isaiah passage below so that you can read it before I begin to share my speculative thoughts.
2For You have made a city a ruin, A forfeited city a ruin, A palace of foreigners to be a city no more; It will never be rebuilt. 3Therefore the strong people will glorify You; The city of the terrible nations will fear You. 4For You have been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, A refuge from the storm, A shade from the heat; For the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. 5You will reduce the noise of aliens, As heat in a dry place; As heat in the shadow of a cloud, The song of the terrible ones will be diminished.
First of all, let me say that I believe this passage is speaking of the Psalm 83 war. Though the name of the city is not disclosed here, I will show from other passages that this is talking about the city of Damascus, Syria. It says that God will make this fortified city and palace (capital) a ruin that will never be rebuilt. In that day, the strong people (Israel) will glorify God while the people of terrible nations (confederacy) will fear God. Verse 4 speaks of how God has been a strength to the poor and needy and a refuge from the storm. I feel this is speaking of Israel being under an attack initiated by Syria. I personally believe this attack will involve weapons of mass destruction. The next phrase says that Gos will be a shade from the heat because the blast of the terrible ones comes like a storm against the a wall. Could this be describing the heat from a nuclear explosion or some other weapon of mass destruction that God supernaturally puts up a barrier to absorb? I remind you that He foiled the attack of Pharaoh at the Red Sea with a wall of fire. We know that Syria has weapons of mass destruction they have already used. Since Russia and Iran are now militarily entrenched in Syria, they would have access to nuclear weapons. Whatever the attack involved, verse 5 describes Israel’s response to the aggression as one that would reduce the noise of the foreigners. Remember in Psalm 83 that the people of the confederacy made a tumultuous noise and lifted up their heads against God and His people, Israel. Verse 5 goes on to give us clues as to the nature of Israel’s military response. It says that they reduced the noise of their enemies as heat in a dry place; as heat in the shadow of a cloud resulting in the song of the terrible ones being diminished. To me, this sounds like a nuclear attack (heat) in a dry place such as Syria and as heat in the shadow of a nuclear cloud. Would Israel resort to the nuclear option? Keep in mind the world is increasingly becoming more and more antagonistic and aggressive toward Israel. Even the US’s commitment to them is waning. If Syria used weapons of mass destruction, Israel would have nothing to lose by pulling out all the stops. We know prophetically speaking that one day the whole world will align themselves with Israel. I see no other choice for them. Their nuclear capabilities would be the only opeion when being placed in such a predicament. Allow me to continue to speculate as we look at another related Scripture passage found in Isaiah.
1The burden against Damascus. “Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap. 2The cities of Aroer are forsaken; They will be for flocks Which lie down, and no one will make them afraid.
Here the name of the city that will be a ruinous heap and cease to exist is identified as Damascus. Though what is described here cannot be positively identified as a nuclear blast, it certainly cannot be ruled out, either. Remember, atomic warfare would not be a part of Isaiah’s experience or vocabulary. He would have to describe it and its effects from what he could relate and see. It goes on to say that the cities in the region around Damascus were deserted because the people were afraid that the demise of Damascus might soon be their plight, too. These cities were so void of humans that the animals had full run of the cities because there was no one left to spook them or make them afraid. As we read on in this passage, we will see that Israel, though protected by God from total destruction, did not go altogether unscathed.
3The fortress also will cease from Ephraim, The kingdom from Damascus, And the remnant of Syria; They will be as the glory of the children of Israel.” Says the LORD of hosts. 4″In that day it shall come to pass That the glory of Jacob will wane, And the fatness of his flesh grow lean. %It shall be as when the harvester gathers the grain and reaps the heads with his arm; It shall be as he who gathers heads of grain In the Valley of Rephraim. 6Yet gleaning grapes will be left in it, Like the shaking of an olive tree, Two or three olives at the top of the uppermost bough, Four of five in its most fruitful branches,” Says the LORD God of Israel. 7In that day a man will look to his Maker, And his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel. 8He will not look to the altars, The work of his hands; He will not respect what his fingers have made, Nor the wooden images nor the incense altars. 9In that day his strong cities will be as a forsaken bough And an uppermost branch, Which they left because of the children of Israel; And there will be desolation. 10Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation, And have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold, Therefore you will plant pleasant plants and set out foreign seedlings; 11In the day you will make your plant to grow, And in the morning you will make your seed to flourish; But the harvest will be a heap of ruins In the day of grief and desperate sorrow.
This passage begins by saying the fortress of Ephraim will cease, as will the kingdom from Damascus and the remnant of Syria. Ephraim has often been used as a reference to the northern part of the nation of Israel. It was known by the dominant tribe inheriting that area, Ephraim. To me, a fortress is symbolic of how people can find the protection to dwell safely while giving them a vantage point from which they can war effectively. I believe this passage speaks of the destruction resulting from military engagements involving weapons of mass destruction on both sides. It describes Syria as having the same level of reduced glory as Israel was experiencing at the time. Verse 4 begins to explain how the glory or condition of northern Israel had greatly diminished as a result of the devastation inflicted by Syria. God’s judgments affected both Syria and Ephraim alike. I believe Ephraim’s punishment was a result of choices made many years before when they sided with the Syrians to fight against Judah. Remember, decisions have consequences no matter how long ago they were made, unless they are undone with godly choices later.
Let’s look closely at how the prophet describes the devastation of northern Israel in the aftermath of God’s judgment. It says that the fatness of their flesh will grow lean, which suggests not only the lack of food but also of the ability to produce it. He says the harvest will be like the aftermath of reaping in the valley of Rephraim, which is the valley of giants. There was not much left after the giants harvested. There were just a few gleanings of grapes and olives. It says explicitly that there were only two or three olives left on top of the uppermost branches and only four or five in the most fruitful branches. Food will be scarce, and there will be desolation. They were under the curse of God because they forgot that He was the rock of their salvation and their stronghold: He says tat even though they would import quality seeds and seedlings, their harvest would be a heap of ruins causing them much grief and desperate sorrow. This seems to indicate that the attack by Syria was such that it not only affected the people but also the land where they dwelt. These conditions convince me even more strongly that a nuclear attack was the reason for such total devastation. Conventional warfare may destroy cities, but it would not render the soil incapable of growing a good harvest, especially if good seed and seedlings were imported and planted.
As was the glory and fate of norther Israel, so was the fate of Damascus, Syria, and her surviving remnant. Verses 7-9 echoes this truth in saying Syria will no linger took their idols but instead will have respect for the Holy One of Israel. In that day, their strong cities will be abandoned as they leave them because of the children of Israel. This shows that Israel is the cause of their desolation.
The prophet then proceeded in verses 12-14 to speak to the other nations of the confederacy, who I am persuaded will react to Israel’s devastating attack on Syria.
12Woe to the multitude of many people Who make a noise like the roar of the seas, And to the rushing of nations That make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! 13The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters; But God will rebuke them, and they will flee far away, and be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind. 14Then behold, at eventide, trouble! And before the morning, he is no more. This is the portion of those who plunder us and the lot of those who rob us.
I believe Syria’s demise will not change the confederacy’s plan to cut Israel off from being a nation as depicted in Psalm 83. Though there will be many that assemble themselves against Israel at night, they will not prevail against her. God will rebuke them that night so that by morning they will all flee as Israel chases them. Israel serves the world notice that this will be the portion of any other nation who tries to plunder and rob them. Isaiah, chapters 26-28, gives more details concerning the judgments of the other countries of the Psalm 83 coalition.
In conclusion, a thought to consider is, “What do you think the response of the UN and its member nations will be to the results of the Psalm 83 war?”
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