Iran And Iraq

by George F Spall


The war between these two countries continues to haemorrhage, draining more than blood from both of them. Iran, fragmented in politics and religion, torn by the warring factions within Islam which largely governs its politics, seems to be losing the most, though the media have more recently reported some success for its armies.

Not only is Iran losing hundreds of precious lives but its economy has never been worse because of the loss of oil revenues. Imagine it! All that oil, billions of barrels of it, yet its citizens have petrol rationing!

Nor is that all. Unless Iran wins and throws the Iraqis out, it is likely to lose a very valuable and strategic bit of territory. Iraq has laid claim to the large valley, drained by the Euphrates Estuary, important waterway that carries the ships that carry the oil out to the West through the Persian Gulf.

In Bible times, the disputed area was part of ELAM, one of the world's oldest peoples. A son of Shem founded the clan which had developed into a powerful and aggressive nation. One of its kings headed up the invasion force that kidnapped Lot among other hostages. Abraham's strike force had to rescue them before they could be taken back to a fortified city in Elam. He succeeded, you may remember.

It is not necessary to trace the many battles that the Elamites fought with Assyria and Babylon through many generations. Their famous archery corps helped Elam maintain a certain autonomy so that even after Babylon (present-day Iraq) subdued it enough to make it a province, (which it was in Jeremiah's and Daniel's day), Elam was an oppressive country, hard on its Jews of whom there were many thousands brought there by Nebuchadnezzar.

Small wonder that Elam had Jeremiah's attention (chapter 49): "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; behold I will break the bow of Elam, the chief of their might (their Archery Regiment). And upon Elam will I bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and will scatter them towards those winds and there shall be no nation where the outcasts of Elam shall not come. For I will cause Elam to be dismayed before their enemies, and before them that seek their life, and I will bring evil upon them till I have consumed them. And I will set my throne in Elam, and will destroy from thence their king and their princes, saith the Lord. But it shall come to pass in the latter days, that I will bring again the captivity of Elam, saith the Lord."

Not a word in that quotation alludes to Jewish people. In the earlier part of that chapter, Jeremiah is pronouncing woes on Gentile nations -- Edom, Teman, Damascus, Kedar -- not on Jewish captives. The historical books of the Old Testament record Assyria's cunning in the eighth century B.C.E. They transferred Jews from what is today the West Bank in Israel, to Elam. At the same time those exiles were replaced by other peoples conquered by Assyria. Amongst these were many from Elam. These deportees, with others, intermarried with the few Jews left in the land and they became the Samaritans of New Testament times.

The Jewish community in Elam lived on there after the power of the Elamite kingdom as such was destroyed. A notable contingent from them went to Jerusalem for Passover and stayed for Pentecost in that historic year when the Spirit made His Presence known so dramatically. That was the year when the Messiah suffered under Pontius Pilate, was raised from the dead and returned to His throne as Hosea said He would. Mention of the Elamite Jews in the New Testament keeps Elam in focus, especially in the light of that last verse of Jeremiah (49:39): "In the latter days, I will bring again the captivity of Elam". If the judgement was on the Gentile Elam and not on the Jewish exiles, then the "captivity of Elam" to be scattered and afterwards brought back would be THEIR descendants.

It is commonly said that those 'captives' were the Jews who were there. However, not a few Scriptures decree that in "the latter days" , Jews are to go back to Israel from all over the world. Jeremiah says: "... from all countries whither I have driven them and they shall dwell in their own land" . He will not return them to Elam but to Eretz Yisrael. We thus have reason to deduce that there are some descendants of the original Elamites somewhere in the world, like Samaritans or the Marsh Arabs lately making headlines in T.V. documentaries and in an interesting book or two.

Earlier in this article, we mentioned that the current war between Iran (ancient Persia) and Iraq, (ancient Babylon) will probably result in Iraq's retaking the Straits, lined with oil pipeline terminals and tanker berths, as they are. One time it was Elam's port. The prediction is based, not on newspaper items, but on a very reasonable consideration of the second chapter of Daniel and also on chapter seven.

We take notice of it because Daniel in one of his visions saw himself in Shushan, capital of Elam. Both he and Jeremiah keep the place in the spotlight. Daniel's prophecy asserts that in the latter days, just prior to Messiah's return, both Babylon and Persia will be revived, or perhaps 'restructured' would be a better term. They are to be again influential, independent and individual.

Greece is also in that prophecy. All three nations have regained identity, independence and influence in the last one hundred years, particularly since World War 2 and Israel's recovery of her place in the sun.

In the nineteen-fifties, thousands of Jewish minorities were compelled by the changing attitudes towards them in Yemen, Sheba and Dedan, Morocco and Algeria, to make their way back to the Promised Land. It was spectacular at the time, made possible by what was known as "Operation Magic Carpet".

We dare to say that no one can foretell in these troubled times what queer quirk of history may occur to uncover small minorities in various places who will lay claim to their ancient heritage back there in Elam-Babylonia as time goes on.

Israel has known overmuch sorrow and travail since those days when for their sins Assyria was allowed to exchange populations on the West Bank of the Jordan. Trouble will continue there while ever the Palestinians (so-called) lay claim to it. If Elam's minorities are to go back to their home in the latter days, so are Israel's. There are still many more Jewish people outside the Land than in it. Neither they, nor the world at large can expect peace till all of Israel is again "married to the Land" as Israel's prophets express it.

Hosea really is worth quoting in their connection. "Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days." (3:5) Again, "I will go and return to my place, till they shall acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early. Come and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days, he will revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth." (5:15-6:3)

The Messiah was quoting this, no doubt, when he said: "For I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."