“They Shall Seek Peace,
There Shall Be None”

THE LONG-TURBULENT MIDEAST has been at the top of the news for several months now, and will probably remain so for quite some time to come. Although of short duration, the Desert Storm war and the freeing of Kuwait proved to be a very bloody one—destructive and costly to the aggressor, as well as to the country they invaded. The deployment of the combined military forces of many of the United Nation countries to right this gross injustice included some Arab countries also, namely: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Kuwait. Other Arab nations which were sympathetic toward Iraq but chose to remain neutral were Iran, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Still another neutral country in that area of the world was Israel. In the background of this scenario, the lingering hostilities between Arabs and Jews was very much in evidence.

The Scud missile attacks upon Israel by Iraq, it is believed, were calculated to draw Israel into the war on the side of the United Nations’ forces. If Israel had retaliated, they, no doubt, would have incited old hatreds by the neutral Arab states, causing some of them to join with Iraq in a ‘holy war’ against Israel. And those Arab states which championed the coalition forces could have dropped their support of the United Nations’ cause. The hatreds of many centuries are still strong there, and could well prove to be a very potent force in the future outcome of the Mideast crisis.

The relationship between Jews and Arabs has been bitter and contentious from the beginning. Both peoples are descendants of their revered patriarch, Abraham, and both proudly affirm that lineage—the Jews through Isaac, and the Arabs through Ishmael.

The Jews claim the land of Israel as their own, as promised some 4,000 years ago to Abraham by Jehovah God. By faith, and in obedience to God’s instructions, Abraham had led forth his wife, Sarah, and the other members of their little band from Haran and entered the land of Canaan, then occupied by the Canaanites. “The Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him.”—Gen. 12:7

Sometime later, this wonderful promise was repeated to Abraham: “Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan. … And the Lord said unto Abram, … Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever.”—Gen. 13:12,14,15

It is interesting to note that this promise of the land of Canaan to Abraham and to his seed as an everlasting possession was made before Abraham had any seed whatever. Then Ishmael, Abraham’s first son, from whom the Arabs claim descent, was born of Hagar, Sarah’s maid. Subsequently, when Abraham was 99 years old, and when Ishmael was still his only seed, the promise was reconfirmed by God. He said: “I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”—Gen. 17:7,8

Scripturally this would seem to give the Arabs more right to the land of Israel than that claimed by the Jews, whose progenitor had not yet even been born. But this circumstance is clarified by the Lord following the subsequent birth of a son, Isaac, to Abraham’s wife, Sarah. The baby, Isaac, was hardly weaned when contention arose between the infant Isaac and his half-brother, Ishmael—then about fourteen years old. “The child grew, and was weaned. … And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian [Ishmael], which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son, for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir [to the promises] with my son, even with Isaac.”—Gen. 21:8-10

Seeing that Abraham was deeply troubled by Sarah’s request, Jehovah spoke to Abraham, saying: “Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” (Gen. 21:12) So it appears plain that God’s promises for Abraham’s seed to inherit the land were to flow through Isaac, the progenitor of the Jews, and not through Ishmael, from whom the Arabs claim to be descended.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their families successively dwelt in the land, until a famine forced Jacob and his family to join Joseph in the land of Egypt. When life under a new pharaoh became intolerable, they were led by God’s arrangements from Egypt, under the leadership of Moses. After wandering forty years in the wilderness they returned to the land that had been given to Abraham, and dwelt there.

Through the prophets, God promised the nation of Israel—Jacob’s descendants—that he would be their God and would bless them in the land, if they were faithful and obedient. If not, he would drive them from the land and scatter them throughout the nations. (Lev. 26:1-34; Deut. 4:23-28; Jer. 16:13; Ezek. 20:23,24) Time and again they were disobedient, and in A.D. 70, Jerusalem was destroyed by Roman power and the Jews were subsequently scattered to the ends of the earth.

Since that time the land has been occupied principally by people of Arabic descent, who since the 7th century have been strongly united by ties to Islam. This religion was founded by the Prophet Mohammed, who was born about A.D. 570, and who believed he was chosen of God to be the Arab prophet of true religion. Their sacred book, the Koran, accepted by followers of Islam as a revelation from God, is written in Arabic.

Islam has proved to be popular, and although it is more recently founded than some of the world’s great Christian religions, it presently numbers some 700 million followers, and has proved to be a powerful unifying force among all Arabs—the descendants of Ishmael. Significantly, although Mohammed was born in Mecca, the city of Jerusalem in Israel is especially holy to the Mohammedans, for they believe it was from Jerusalem that the prophet ascended to heaven.

Since May, 1948, by action of the United Nations, Israel has been an independent state occupying portions of the land formerly known as Palestine, with a population composed mainly of some 4,000,000 Jews, and about 850,000 Palestinian Arabs. It is surrounded virtually on all sides by Moslem Arabs, most of whom are fanatically hostile to the Israelis. On the same day that Israel proclaimed her independence she was attacked by her neighbors—Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia—the rallying cry being “to drive the Jew into the sea.” Since that time these bitter antagonists have fought three more wars—the last one in 1973, resulting in a worldwide fuel crisis when the Arab oil-producing countries cut off shipments for six months to the United States, Japan, and other nations, because they had aided Israel in the war.

Israel still holds substantial areas of the territory it captured in those wars, mainly the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and part of the formerly divided city of Jerusalem. The continued retention of these lands by Israel is bitterly resented and openly opposed by her Arab enemies, who, indeed, have not to this day accepted as proper even the original division of the land of Palestine arranged in 1948 by the United Nations, and who staunchly maintain that Israel was unjustly established on land that had been owned and occupied by Arabs for eighteen centuries. The Arabs are determined to regain the land lost to Israel in the wars, and many still want Israel out of the area altogether, by one means or another. The entire world is aware, however, that another war between Israel and the Arabs will involve the entire world disastrously.

For several decades, the interest of the United States in this witch’s brew of conflicting interests has been the vital need for a continued flow of Mideast oil, both for itself and for all the Western world. It was convinced that Russia would like to see that source of supply nullified and so render the West helpless to thwart Russian aims at world domination. The United States has felt that a militarily and economically strong Israel was needed in the area to counter Russian moves to interrupt the essential supply of oil. But moves by the United States to support and strengthen Israel arouse deep resentment against the United States by the Arab nations—nations that control the flow of oil so essential to the free world. And these Arab nations have shown they are capable of denying oil to nations who gain their disfavor by supporting their archenemy, the nation of Israel.

So much for history, which sketchily brings us down to the recent past and the present. The Western industrial nations are still heavily—indeed, crucially—dependent on Arabian oil for their economic and political well-being. The Soviet Union is dearly and watchfully aware of the West’s heavy dependence upon Mideast oil. Thus, it is believed that a militarily strong and friendly Israel is of vital importance to the Western world to forestall any future Soviet effort at disrupting the supply of oil to the West.

Indeed, the implications of a prolonged curtailment of the flow of oil from the Mideast are awesome—going far beyond mere domestic deprivations and inconveniences. It could threaten the industrial, economic, and political existence of many nations, and possibly the peace of the entire world. Moreover, bold attempts to correct the situation could quite possibly develop into a confrontation with the Arab powers, the results of which are terrible to contemplate.

But the chief stumbling blocks to peace in that area of the world have been the same ones that have existed from the beginning—what to do about the Israeli-occupied areas of the Palestinian West Bank and the Gaza Strip—should this land be turned back to the Palestinian Arabs to form an independent Palestinian State? Or should Israel retain possession of this land as its own? Should Israel retain the land but grant the inhabitants a measure of autonomy, or complete self-rule? And what about Jerusalem, that shrine so-long sacred, not only to Jews, but also to every Arab follower of the Prophet Mohammed—should it remain the undivided possession of Israel, as it has been since its capture? Will the Arabs insist upon regaining possession of that part which they formerly held—and which is so holy to them—or all of it?

President Hussein of Iraq is seizing upon the Israeli issue—and the strong, uncompromising feelings of both Jew and Arab alike—to unite the Arab world in a ‘holy war’ against Israel and any who will lend their support to her. He feels certain that Israel will fight if provoked long enough. How long they will refrain from retaliation, and how the Arab world will react when, and if, it occurs, only time will tell. But the likelihood of the world ever finding a solution to this growing problem is very bleak indeed.

What then does the future hold? Although all humankind longs hungrily, and prays unceasingly, and works tirelessly, for a world of peace and safety, it is obvious that the basic causes of wars between nations—selfishness and iniquity—still direct the affairs of nations and men. Until these are eliminated from men’s hearts there can be no real or lasting peace in spite of imperfect man’s best efforts to find it. The Lord informs us through his Word that these iniquitous conditions will culminate in a ‘great time of trouble’ at the end of the Gospel Age, just prior to the establishment in the earth of Christ’s kingdom of love and righteousness.

The Prophet Ezekiel described this trouble in vivid language. He wrote: “The time is come, the day of trouble is near; … let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn: for wrath is upon all the multitude thereof. … All hands shall be feeble, and all knees shall be weak as water. … They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed; their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord; they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels; because their iniquity is their stumbling block.” [Marginal translation] Then, in speaking of the efforts of man to bring peace in this terrible time, the prophet said: “Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none.”—Ezek. 7:7,12,17,19,25

The Lord further indicated that while this trouble will be universal, it will reach its culmination in the land of Israel in an attack upon the regathered Jews by a powerful army “out of the north parts.”—Ezek. 38:1-23

This is the same ‘time of trouble’ of which Jesus spoke, as recorded in the 24th chapter of Matthew, and Luke 21, where he indicated that it shortly precedes the establishment of Christ’s kingdom of peace and righteousness. After detailing certain aspects of the trouble, our Lord said, “When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption [deliverance] draweth nigh. … When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”—Matt. 24:21; Luke 21:28,31

The Apostle Peter also comforts us with the promise that following the destruction of this present evil social order, the longed-for kingdom of truth will be set up. (II Pet. 3:10,13) This glorious new world order will be under the control and direction of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given,” Isaiah said, “and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”—Isa. 9:6,7

In that new kingdom ‘wherein dwelleth righteousness’ there will be no more wars, for all men will be at peace with one another. (Isa. 2:24) Selfishness will be removed from every heart, and every man will be taught to love his neighbor as himself (Jer. 31:33,34; Matt. 5:43,44), when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, just as the waters cover the sea. (Hab. 2:14) In that day all the fleshly descendants of Abraham, both Jews and Arabs, will learn to dwell together in harmony, and together raise their voices to their Heavenly Father—the true God—in everlasting praise and blessing and thanksgiving for his unspeakable love and mercy and wisdom and power!

This is the glorious promise by God as recorded over and over again in the Old Testament concerning the coming of this wonderful kingdom of peace. But the Scriptures show that this longed-for day will come only with divine intervention, and not through efforts made by imperfect men, however sincere. One prophecy reads, in part, as follows:

“In the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain [government] of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains [over all other governments], and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow into it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off [from God]; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nations shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken lt.”—Mic. 4:1-4

Dawn Bible Students Association
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