Iraq: How did we get there?
As the conflict in Iraq changes from a combat role to one of occupation and reconstruction, it might be well to review how this Middle Eastern nation rose to a position of prominence. In order to do this, we will need to return to the Old Testament and find out what the Bible has to say.
The first mention of any region that could be traced to Iraq is found in the book of Genesis 2:8. At mankind's very earliest existence we learn that Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, a virtual paradise here on earth. In Genesis 2:14 we learn that one of the four rivers mentioned is the Euphrates. World historians call this area Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization.
The next mention of this region is in Genesis chapter 11, following the story of Noah and the flood. Mankind was beginning to repopulate the earth and some of them settled in the land of Shinar (Genesis 11:2) where they began to perfect their masonry skills by baking bricks rather than just drying them in the sun.
The local populace became better organized and decided to make a name for themselves by building "a city and a tower whose top would reach unto the heavens (Genesis 11:4-8)." When the Lord came down to take a look at their project, he decided to make their worst fears come true by "scattering them abroad upon the face of the earth." He further inhibited their communication skills by "confounding their language." The area earned the name of Babel because of their confusing languages and the people became known eventually as Babylonians.
The next chapter in the history of the Middle East continues with God's attempt to find a man of great faith ad move him into the land of Canaan, which is Palestine or Israel today. His servant Abraham made a great start from the ancient city of Ur, Iraq, which is near the modern city of Nasiriyah, but only made it half way, as he stopped when he arrived at Hara (Genesis 11:31). God instructed him to pack up and move farther west, but due to a famine in Canaan, he went to Egypt (Genesis 12:10), eventually returning and settling in the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, which is near the southern end of the Dead Sea.
Following the miraculous birth of their son, Isaac, when Abraham was a hundred years old (Genesis 21:5), God later tested Abraham's faith by telling him to take his son Isaac to Mount Moriah, in what is now known as Jerusalem, in order to offer him as a human sacrifice. When Abraham demonstrated his willingness to be obedient in this awesome test of faith, God stopped him and spared the boy's life (Genesis 22:1-14).
the three major religions of the Middle East, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all claim Jerusalem as one of their holy cities and look at Abraham as the father of their religion. The Muslims have built a mosque over the exposed surface of Mount Moriah and called it Dome of the Rock, which is on the Temple Mount. It is adjacent to the holiest site of the Jews, called the Western Wall.
The Jewish people have always been prone to wander spiritually and this was quite often demonstrated by their number-one besetting sin, which was idolatry. One of God's methods of punishment was to humiliate the Israelis by using their enemies to defeat them in battle and by taking some of them away as captives to foreign lands. (Remember Daniel and his three Hebrew friends?)
When the Israelis fell into their old idolatrous habits in the eighth century B.C., God used their enemy, the Babylonians, to invade and defeat the northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. The Southern Kingdom fell in 586 B.C.
King Nebuchadnezzar was the commanding general who defeated the Jews. He has the distinction of being the only foreign general to destroy Jerusalem and carry the Jews away into Babylonian captivity. This humiliating incident in Israel's history taught the Jews such a bitter lesson that, since then, they have never been guilty as a nation of idolatry.
Saddam Hussein sees himself as a modern day Nebuchadnezzar who would like to destroy the Israelis and capture Jerusalem. (Remember the scud missiles of the 1991 Gulf War?) He changed the name of Babylon to Baghdad and erected monuments to himself all over the city as well as the nation of Iraq. The Iraqis have been very hostile to the United States because of our close relationship with Israel. (Travelers cannot visit any Arab nation in the Middle East with an Israeli stamp in their passport.) The hope over every Iraqi, Arab and Muslim in the Middle East is to defeat Israel and restore Jerusalem to its rightful owners, the descendants of their father, Abraham's first son, Ishmael. There is only one factor to overcome and this is America's steadfast friendship and alliance with Israel. Hence, the terrorist attacks in Israel ad America. At some future date these tensions between east and west are prophesied to erupt in the mother of all battles to take place in northern Israel on the Plains of Megiddo, also known as Armageddon (Revelation 16:16).
The Iraqi people have a long history of being in conflict with God's plans, purpose and people They are so resistant to Christianity that only three percent of the people are Christians, whether Catholic, Coptic or Protestant. But even in spite of this, God is still using them in his providential plans. Perhaps as a result of the Iraqi War 2003, the gospel of Jesus Christ will be openly broadcast in this ancient land and they will become more in harmony with the God of Abraham, who is also God of their cousins, the Jews.
Gerald H. Beam