US lawmakers have only a few weeks left to decide the fate of the Iran nuclear deal. While it remains unclear whether Iran will be officially allowed to keep its nuclear program, the Bible offers some prophetic perspectives on the ultimate outcome of the accord and its implications for Israel and the Jewish nation.
Everything began when US President Barack Obama announced the “framework” of a nuclear agreement with Iran. Few people commented on the date of his announcement, though the significance was undeniable. Whether by chance or design, the president made the announcement on April 1, which on the Hebrew calendar was the 13th of Nisan.
In the story of the Jewish holiday of Purim, the 13th of Nisan is the day an evil member of the Persian court convinced King Ahasuerus to issue a decree ordering all the Jews of his kingdom to death. To some, Obama’s choice of days seemed disturbingly appropriate.
It should be noted ancient Persia is now present day Iran.
Perhaps it was not entirely unintentional when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose March 3, the 13th of Adar on the Hebrew calendar, the eve of that same Jewish holiday, to address a joint session of the US Congress in an appeal to lawmakers to reject the nuclear deal.
According to the story of Purim, the Jewish Queen Esther went in to address her husband, the Persian King, to attempt to convince him to repeal Haman’s decree. If the Biblical connection was lost on Obama, it was certainly not lost on the prime minister, who said:
“We’re an ancient people. In our nearly 4,000 years of history, many have tried repeatedly to destroy the Jewish people. Tomorrow night, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, we’ll read the Book of Esther. We’ll read of a powerful Persian viceroy named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. But a courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, exposed the plot and gave for the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against their enemies.”
US lawmakers are expected to vote on the fate of the Iran deal during the Ten Days of Awe, the 10 days of divine judgement between the holidays of Rosh Hashana, the New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance. In Jewish tradition, on Rosh Hashana God opens the book of judgment and on Yom Kippur he seals it.
The Yalkut Shimoni is the best known and most comprehensive anthology of the oral traditions of the Bible. The oldest known copy dates back to 1310 CE, though it is believed to be much older. The book contains a description of the current situation with Iran that could almost have come from a recent news source. In its commentary on the Book of Isaiah, the Yalkut Shimoni states:
“Rabbi Yitzchak said: ‘In the year in which the Messiah-King appears, all the nations of the world are provoking each other. The King of Persia provokes an Arab king and the Arab king turns to Aram for advice. And the King of Persia goes back and destroys the entire world. And all the nations of the world are in panic and distress and they fall upon their faces and are seized with pains like those of a woman giving birth, and Israel are in panic and distress and asking ‘Where shall we go? Where shall we go?,’ and He says to them ‘My sons, do not fear; all that I have done, I have done only for you. Why are you afraid? Do not fear, your time of redemption has come, and the final redemption is not like the first redemption, because the first redemption was followed by sorrow and servitude under other kingdoms, but the final redemption is not followed by sorrow and servitude under other kingdoms.”
As previously noted, Persia is now Iran. Aram is generally considered to be Edom, which Bible scholars identify today as Europe.
The Biblical foresight of the Iran nuclear deal have important implications for the future. While the Iran nuclear threat is real, just as Esther defeated an evil Persian enemy, so too will Israel and the Jewish nation prevail.