Revenge

Esther’s marriage to the king of Persia placed her in a position of influence during a time when God’s plan of salvation for his people was at a critical juncture. Several thousand Jews had already returned to the Promised Land after their seventy years of captivity was completed, but there was little accomplished in the way of rebuilding and strengthening the infrastructure of God’s kingdom. Many Jews were still scattered throughout the Persian Empire and had been integrated into the culture of the Gentiles. The fact that a Jew ended up married to the king of Persia was actually not that surprising considering the degree to which the two cultures were blended. The Jews no longer spoke their native language and were forced to respect the authority of kings that had no allegiance to God. When Esther was taken along with all the other beautiful, young virgins into Ahasuerus’ palace, there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.

Four years after Esther became queen, a plot of revenge began to unfold, beginning with the promotion of a man referred to as Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite. It says in Esther 3:1, “After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him.” In other words, Haman was given a position similar to a Vice President. Whereas, previously Haman had been a member of the kings cabinet or counsel, he took on a new role in which he would oversee the activities of all the princes of the Persian Empire. As a result of his promotion, Haman was treated with dignity and perceived to be of equal status with the king. It says in Esther 3:2, “And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence.”

Esther’s uncle Mordecai came from the family of Saul, the first king of Israel. During Saul’s reign, God commanded him to destroy the Amalekites. It says in 1 Samuel 15:7-8, “And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou cometh to Shur, that is over against Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.” Agag the king of the Amalekites was later killed by the prophet Samuel, but most likely, the rest of his household was spared from death. It appears that Haman was a descendant of this king, due to his identification as an Agagite. Because Mordecai refused to bow before him, Haman planned to have him, and all the other Jews in the Persian Empire, killed (Esther 3:6). Haman used his promotion as a means of access to Ahasuerus and his influence to convince the king that the Jews should be eliminated (Esther 3:8-9). The king’s response is recorded in Esther 3:10-11:

And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it to Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy. And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee.

The final battle (part 3)

The final battle on earth is depicted in the book of Revelation as an all out attempt by Satan to overthrow God’s kingdom (Revelation 20:7-8). In his description of this battle, Ezekiel foretold that the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal would come out of the land of Magog and lead a multinational force against Israel in the latter years (Ezekiel 38:2-9). It seems that the final battle will start at the end of the great tribulation and conclude after the millennial reign of Christ. Similarities between Ezekiel’s account and that of John the apostle show that God orchestrated the initial attack against Israel, but at the end of the thousand year reign of Christ, Satan will deceive Gog and Magog into gathering their army and making a final attempt to regain control of earth.

Ezekiel was told, “Therefore thou son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: and I will turn thee back, and leave but the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountain of Israel: and I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows too fall out of thy right hand” (Ezekiel 39:1-3). God’s reference to leaving a sixth part of the army probably meant that only some of the people that fought against Israel would be annihilated. The fact that Satan was able to deceive the nations and Gog and Magog are mentioned at the end of the millennial reign of Christ means that the some of God’s enemies were converted and submitted to the will of God (Revelation 20:20:7-8).

The final battle will not be an isolated conflict, but a war in which all of those on earth that are willing to challenge God’s authority are seduced by Satan into fighting against believers in Jesus Christ. Apparently, the rebellion takes place in Jerusalem and ends with Satan being defeated once and for all. It says in Revelation 20:7-10:

And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

 

The final battle (part 2)

It will be obvious when the end of the world is near because the events that take place will never have occurred before. For instance, there will be a worldwide earthquake that will change the geographical structure of the earth (Ezekiel 38:20). As Ezekiel described the circumstances leading to the final battle between God and mankind, he made it clear that it would come at a time that was unique and identifiable in advance. Ezekiel was told, “Therefore, son of man, prophecy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou know it?” (Ezekiel 38:14). God’s question was a rhetorical one, implying that Israel dwelling safely would be a rare circumstance that everyone would recognize as being out of the ordinary. Israel has been a nation known for its continual conflict with the rest of the world. Even today, we can see that Israel does not dwell safely among her neighbors. In fact, nuclear war has made it possible for Israel’s enemies to annihilate it with little effort, and yet, Israel continues to exist.

The Lord GOD is portrayed as Israel’s personal defender. When the final battle begins, God will immediately step in. Ezekiel said, “And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that my fury shall come up in my face. For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken. Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; so that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the face of the earth, and all that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground. The Hebrew word translated shake, ra‘ash means to undulate or to have a continuous up and down motion like waves on the sea (7493). In other words, when God shows up on the scene of the final battle, nothing will be left standing, no one will be able to fight against him.

Revelation 6:12-17 gives further insight into what it will be like when God finally faces his foes in battle. It says:

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scrole when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

An important aspect of the day of God’s wrath was linked to “the Lamb” who was pictured as the sacrifice for sin and as the mighty conqueror. Jesus’ victory over death was necessary for him to overcome God’s enemies in the final battle.

The final battle (part 1)

A common topic of Old Testament prophecy was the latter days or latter years which represented a period of time when God would bring judgment on all mankind. Jeremiah spoke of God’s wrath during this time period. He said, “Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly” (Jeremiah 23:19-20). Basically, what Jeremiah was saying was that things might not make sense right now, but there would come a time when God would settle accounts with his enemies and his people would then understand why he waited to bring judgment on the world.

In order to understand the latter days, you have to look at the beginning of history when God first judged the world. A flood covered the face of the earth and wiped out every sign of life, leaving only one family remaining; Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Genesis 7-8). At that time, God made a covenant with every living creature and promised never again to destroy all life on earth (Genesis 9:16-17). It was then that Noah’s sons went forth and began to repopulate the earth, each having a designated territory to develop. The descendants of Noah’s son Ham settled in northern Africa and the land known as Canaan. It is believed that 14 nations came from Noah’s oldest son, Japheth. The Japhethites lived generally north and west of Canaan in Eurasia. The people of Gomer (the later Cimmerians) and related nations lived near the Black Sea. Magog was possibly the father of a Scythian people who inhabited the Caucasus and adjacent regions southeast of the Black Sea.

Some Bible scholars believe the descendants of Japheth occupy the territory formerly known as the USSR or modern Russia. Russia has been associated with Bible prophecy and the latter days when a final battle will occur between God’s army and the kingdoms of this world. The LORD told Ezekiel, “Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophecy against him…And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords… Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee” (Ezekiel 38:2-6).

Captivity

The nations of Israel and Judah were not the only ones God sent into captivity. Their exile was merely an example of God’s sovereign right to control the rise and fall of kingdoms on earth. The first mention of captivity in the Bible was in Numbers 21:29 where it says, “Woe to thee, Moab! Thou art undone, O people of Chemosh: he hath given his sons that escaped, and his daughters into captivity unto Sihon king of the Amorites.” As early as the book of Deuteronomy, even before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, it was declared that God intended to send his people into captivity. Regarding the rewards of repentance, it states, “That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee” (Deuteronomy 30:3).

The goal of captivity was repentance and an acknowledgment of God’s ultimate authority over mankind. The primary reason God sent his and other people into captivity was they would not obey him. A stubborn refusal to submit to God’s sovereign will caused the people of Egypt to be singled out and punished numerous times. Ezekiel identified pride as the root cause of the Egyptians’ problem and was told, “Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of the rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself” (Ezekiel 29:3). In order to extend Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom beyond the borders of Palestine and to show that God could take any kingdom he wished to for his own, Egypt was given into the hands of the king of Babylon. Ezekiel was told:

Son of man, Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon caused his army to serve a great service against Tyrus: every head was made bald, and every shoulder was peeled: yet had he no wages, nor his army, for Tyrus, for the service that he had served against it: therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon: and he shall take her multitude, and take her spoil, and take her prey; and it shall be the wages for his army. (Ezekiel 29:18-19).

God’s ability to speak things into existence and to destroy his enemies through a prophetic word was demonstrated in his overthrow of Egypt. Ezekiel recorded this command, “And I will make the rivers dry, and sell the land into the hand of the wicked: and I will make the land waste, and all that is therein, by the hand of strangers: I the LORD have spoken it” (Ezekiel 30:12). Even though the Egyptians did not present a military threat to the Israelites, God decided to remove them from their land and send them into captivity so that they would no longer draw God’s people away from him. The kings of Israel and Judah had a history of calling on the Egyptians for help and would not relinquish their dependence on a nation that worshipped idols. Ezekiel was told regarding Eygpt, “It shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations. And it shall be no more the confidence of the house of Israel, which bringeth their iniquity to remembrance, when they shall look after them: but they shall know that I am the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 29:15-16).

A model of success

The lives of the Israelites were meant to be an example of what dependence on God could do for a nation of people. Their prosperity and peaceful existence was not only unusual, it was a stark contrast to a world in which power and influence reigned supreme. In particular, the city of Tyre or Tyrus appeared to be a model of success. Tyre was the island capital of Phoenicia (present day Lebanon). “Because of its geographical location, its political importance and the central role it played in international trade,” it was thought to be a gateway to the world (Ezekiel 26:2 and note). In many ways, Tyrus was the opposite of Jerusalem and could be considered an evil empire led by Satan himself.

Regarding the kingdom of Tyrus, Ezekiel was told, “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; behold, I am against thee, O Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth his waves to come up. And they shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers: I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock” (Ezekiel 26:3-4). Tyrus’ attitude of invincibility made it an easy target for God to shoot down. As he had sent Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem, so the Lord would bring down this coastal stronghold with the crushing blow of the Babylonian army.

Ezekiel was told, “For  thus saith the Lord GOD: Behold, I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadnezzar king of kings, from the north, with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and companies, and much people” (Ezekiel 26:7). The term king of kings was first used by God in reference to Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, but it was frequently associated with God’s kingdom and the Messiah. It is possible that Nebuchadnezzar was used by God to set the stage for a worldwide ruler who would as the Messiah, conquer every kingdom that stood against him.

Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Tyrus opened up a vast well of resources that would eventually cause him to follow in the footsteps of Tyrus’ leaders, becoming arrogant and blinded by pride. Nebuchadnezzar’s 15-year siege of Tyrus began shortly after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar’s reign began in 605 B.C. and ended in 562 B.C., so he had about nine years to enjoy the fruits of his labor. No doubt, the king of Babylon was revered and hated by many, but his success in bringing down two of the most invincible cities in the world, Jerusalem and Tyrus, gained him a reputation for being a model of success.

One God

Moab was the son of Abraham’s nephew Lot who was born to him through an incestuous relationship with his oldest daughter after God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:37). Lot had a second son, Ben-ammi through his younger daughter. Ben-ammi was the father of the children of Ammon and Moab the father of the Moabites. The location of Sodom and Gomorrah is thought to have been on the eastern coast of the Salt Sea because the Moabites and Ammonites occupied the area surrounding that region. The territory of the Moabites was excluded from the Promised Land, but their land was given to the tribes of Ruben, Gad, and Manasseh after they tried to prevent the Israelites from receiving their inheritance. The Moabites were only partially conquered and they were allowed to coexist with the Israelites even though they had been cursed by God.

The Moabites continually waged war with the Israelites  and influenced them to worship foreign gods. The primary deity of the Moabites was Chemosh. King Solomon had many foreign wives, among whom were women of the Moabites. When Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, “And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father. Then did Solomon build a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon” (1 Kings 11:4-7). These high places or altars to foreign gods remained in Jerusalem for hundreds of years until king Josiah removed them around 620 B.C., not long before the people of Judah were taken into captivity.

The Edomites were descendants of Esau, the older twin brother of Jacob whose birthright was sold for a bowl of soup (Genesis 26:34). Like the Moabites and Ammonites, the Edomites were relatives of Abraham that did not receive God’s blessing. All of these people caused problems for the Israelites while they were living in the Promised Land and were determined to be destroyed by the Babylonians during the reign of Nebuchaddrezzar. Jeremiah’s prophecies about these nations had a common theme, they were to be removed from the area that belonged to God’s chosen people.

A clear directive from God was the establishment of a government system that would be subject to his authority. The reason for this was so that the captivity of God’s people would be controlled by him. The LORD established beginning and end dates for their captivity that were not to exceed 70 years based on his judgment against the nation of Judah. Before Nebuchaddrezzar entered Jerusalem, it was already known that his kingdom would be temporary and Cyrus king of Persia would make it possible for the people of Judah to return to their homeland. God used Nebuchaddrezzar to remove the powers that had been a problem to his people. In addition, all of the foreign gods that Israel had worshipped would be eliminated from the scene and the only divine source of strength remaining would be the LORD, God, Almighty.