By Dr. Douglas F. Levesque, the Founder of The Bible Nation Society
The country of Iran is referred to throughout the pages of Scripture, not as Iran, but as Elam, Media, and Persia. It has been inhabited since near Creation with scientists dating the habitation of the land to 4000 BC. The first mention in Scripture of this country is by way of its apparent post-flood pioneer, Elam the son of Shem. That’s right, Elam was Noah’s grandson. (Genesis 10:22) It would seem apparent to the population of modern Iran that they are an ancient progeny with God-fearing roots: the Elamites. Indeed, Iranian museums, textbooks, and universities, all recognize this fact, yet today, ninety-nine percent of the people practice a dedicated form of Islam and call themselves Shiites. Shiites are followers of the Koran, not the Bible, and are becoming increasingly hostile to Christians and Jews. It is this national and religious hostility concerning the encroachment of ‘western’ ideology and power that has put this ancient land back in the headlines.
The current rumblings for regional dominance coming out of the broader Middle East are by no means a new phenomenon. In Genesis, an Elamite king by the name of Chederlaomer, led a group of Mesopotamian rulers in a military campaign to exact tribute and dominate the region of what is now modern-day Israel. The Biblical patriarch Abraham was forced into the conflict because his nephew, Lot, was being taken captive by the invaders. Abraham defeated the multinational force with three hundred of his own men, but insisted the victory was not due to military prowess, but came by the hand of God Himself. The Canaanite kings were grateful, but Abraham was not impressed by these men anymore than the ones he had just defeated. They were the kings of the soon to be destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.
Babylon (near modern-day Baghdad, Iraq) was in the geographic center of many powerful kingdoms, and eventually dominated the Elamites of the south and the Assyrians of the north. The prophet Daniel was no doubt privy to the political intrigues of the day and ended up in the Elamite city of Susa, serving the Persian Emperor Cyrus, and his Median lord, Darius. It was in Susa that Daniel had his great vision of Jesus, similar to John’s in Revelation. The angel Gabriel delivered a message from God to Daniel here that encouraged him about Israel’s future restoration, and Persia’s eventual decline. From here on out, Elam is highlighted by its greater context as the Persian Empire. Daniel had envisioned this empire in a dream, as the representation of the arms and chest of silver. This Empire surged from India to Ethiopia, and moved its capital from Susa to Persepolis. These ruins today lie near the modern-day city of Shiraz, southeast of the province of Llam (from the name Elam).
Of course, the pages of Scripture are filled with the accounts of Persian rulers allowing, and even paying for, the return to Israel of the long-captive Jews. Sheshbazaar, Zerrubabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Mordecai, all served close to the seat of power and were players in the gradual restoration of legal rights, return of temple treasures, and rebuilding of Jerusalem’s temple and walls. Iran is the background to all of these historical narratives concerning the repatriation of Jewish exiles from the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity. These political intrigues were no doubt an attempt to form a strong alliance with previously enslaved peoples in order to create a geographic buffer against the rising ‘western’ storm of Greek people and power infringing upon its empire. A similar encroachment is felt by Iran’s Imams and Ayatollahs today, but they are not using a goodwill campaign to combat it this time. They instead are using a campaign of regional guerilla warfare and global terror justified upon Shia law.
After failed western campaigns, the Persians then found themselves battling the young conqueror Alexander, who made quick work of their armies and burned the city of Persepolis as a statement to the nations of his new world order. After his death the Greeks divided the vast lands and in the order of time were reconquered or simply assimilated by the Romans. The Romans in turn had to divide their empire until the Byzantine Christian monarchs eventually had influence in the region. The Muslim movement rejected the old Roman order and Byzantine rule, filling the void of the region’s hunger for purpose and self identity, eventually becoming the dominating force in Iran. It has been struggling to be even a third-rate power for 2,400 years, but now finds itself with the best opportunity for global advancement since the world was ruled from its cities.
Perhaps the best insight into how Bible-believers should respond to the current saber-rattling and potential nuclear showdown facing America is found in the New Testament book of Acts. In Chapter two we find God-fearing men and converts from all points of the compass including “Elam”. It is incredible to think that the modern, mostly Bible-rejecting people of Iran, had representation at the greatest Spirit-inspired evangelism crusade ever to be witnessed. These Elamites heard Galileans speak, with perfect diction, the message of Christ in their native tongue! Bible truths were heard by Iranians! It was God’s will! And so should it be today. There is a small but growing group of Iranian Christians who daily read the Bible in the Persian tongue, and who boldly, but carefully, distribute it to their countrymen.
The fact that American troops virtually surround Iran to-day has the current president Ahmadinejad and the military establishment there up in arms. They are pursuing nuclear power, backing terrorist organizations, purchasing advanced weapons at an alarming rate, and allying with a newly robust Russia. These facts also can be seen prophetically on the pages of scripture. Ezekiel prophesies in chapter 38-39 about the war of Gog and Magog (Russia) who align with Persia (Iran) against Israel, but are annihilated by God Himself. America seems to be absent in this scenario. Could that mean we are passive, subjugated, or neutral during this time? Do we lose power or are we crippled by weapons of mass destruction? It is an interesting question that has Bible enthusiasts focused squarely on Iran in the news.