By Dr. David R. Reagan
Many people like Joel Rosenberg dismiss Psalm 83 as an end time war and point instead to the war of God & Magog in Ezekiel 38 and 39 as the next end time prophetic war that will take place in the Middle East. But, there are many other respected Bible prophecy experts who argue strongly that the next end time war prophesied for the Middle East is the one described in Psalm 83.
A major controversy has erupted in recent years among Bible prophecy experts who believe in Premillennialism, the view that Jesus will return to this earth at the end of the Tribulation to reign for a 1,000 years. The controversy centers around Psalm 83.
It began in 2008 with the publication of this book Isralestine by Bill Salus of Prophecy Depot Ministries. The thesis of this book is that Psalm 83 describes an end time war between Israel and the nations that share a common border with it, namely Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
Bill Salus theorized that the Israelis would win this war overwhelmingly resulting in peace for their nation, but the peace would be short-lived because the Arab world would turn to Russia. The Russians would come down against Israel with certain specified Muslim allies in what the Bible calls the War of Gog & Magog, described in detail in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Russia’s Muslim allies will be made up of an outer ring of nations with no common border with Israel today. The Psalm 83 War on the other hand would be one between Israel and the inner ring of nations that surround it.
So, what about it? Is Psalm 83 a prophecy about an end time war that could occur any moment, or is it describing something else? I contacted Bill Salus and his major critic, Tommy Ice, and asked if they would present their arguments. Both graciously agreed to do so.
Dr. Tommy Ice is the Director of the Pre-Trib Research Center that you can find at pre-trib.org. This website contains a treasure trove of articles about end time Bible prophecy.
We are going to begin with Tommy Ice presenting his objections to Bill’s thesis, and then Bill will respond.
Tommy Ice’s Response to a Psalm 83 War
My problem with the Psalm 83 theory by Bill Salus is that Psalm 83 first of all does not contain a prophecy. It’s an individual lament psalm, or a national lament, written by Asaph.
Asaph was complaining 3,000 years ago about the enemies that surround Israel. I’ll admit that when you read it you’d think you are reading about the modern situation in Israel, which shows that in 3,000 years things really haven’t changed. It’s basic Anti-Semitism.
In some of the lament psalms, like Psalm 79 for example, you have the Lord answering a request. He will then give a prophecy about what He is going to do in response. In Psalm 83, you don’t have the Lord answering it. Therefore, there’s just an assumption that there’s going to be a battle behind Asaph’s request. There may or may not be.
Psalm 83 does not contain a prophecy. It just contains the lament or the complaint that Asaph is giving.
Secondly, when you look at the parallel passages (well, they are not really parallel), but those that mention the 10 nations or people groups that wish to destroy Israel that are mentioned in Psalm 83, these are also mentioned by the prophets later on. If you want to look at the development of Old Testament prophecy in any detail relating to Israel, you have to start with the book of Deuteronomy. It has an outline of prophecy. You really don’t have much prophecy being given until the prophets come in after the Psalms and they start fleshing out this problem with Israel’s enemies.
For example, you have Psalm 2. That is the psalm where it says, “kiss the son less he be angry… why are the nations in an uproar?” Later on in the prophetic books, when we learn the outline of Israel’s prophecy, you realize that Psalm 2 which was given 3,000 years ago fits into the idea of the Tribulation. These nations are going up against God and He is going to judge them in the Tribulation.
The context of the judgment of the nations is going to be at Armageddon basically, in other words in conjunction with the Tribulation. If there’s going to be an actual fulfillment of Psalm 83, these other prophetic books talk about the judgment of those people groups in conjunction with the Second Coming, when Jesus is going to judge the nations. That is the very purpose of the Tribulation. In fact, Isaiah 24-26 talks about the judgments of the nations for their rejection of God.
Therefore, I think the idea that there’s got to be a Psalm 83 War to set up the peace for the Gog & Magog War described in Ezekiel 38 & 39 is built on speculation…
Bill Salus’ Defense of a Psalm 83 War
I do also agree with him that Psalm 83 is a prayer of lament, also called an imprecatory prayer. Asaph is calling upon the Lord to intervene and he is beseeching God to deal with His adversaries.
But, where I think Thomas Ice falls short is seeing the prophetic aspects within Psalm 83. He thinks it’s just a prayer of lament and not a real prophecy.
Let’s start with 2 Chronicles 29:30. Hezekiah says he commends the Levites to sing the praises of King David and Asaph who is the author of the psalm and he calls him — a seer. The Hebrew word is clearly talking about a beholder of visions, or in other words, a prophet. Asaph wrote 12 psalms, and Psalm 83 is one of the most prophetic of his psalms. Asaph was a prophet.
King Hezekiah would have been very interested in and would have known that Asaph was a prophet, because among the confederacy that Asaph talks about in Psalm 83 is a member called Assyria. At the time that Asaph wrote, Assyria wasn’t even in the picture. They weren’t even really one of Israel’s enemies until many decades later.
Asaph listed the very specific group of ten groups, though of course Israel has many more than ten enemies in today’s point in time. But, he listed a specific ten, and two of them weren’t even in the fray at 1,000 BC. Asaph was talking about a future scenario.
Asaph calls the very first member the “tents of Edom.” Now, biblically speaking, that would even be military encampments or refugee conditions. The Edomites the descendants of Esau have ethnical representation in the Palestinians today. I do believe what Asaph was trying to tell us which became a reality in 1948 would be a Palestinian refugee crisis and they would play a part in this overall confederacy. I think the Palestinians find their face in prophecy today.
Now I want to talk a little bit about the Psalm. Asaph is petitioning God about a concern — a genocidal attempt on the Jewish people. He’s saying these nations surrounding Israel are going to form a confederacy and they are going to form a plan. These are a contemporary confederacy of Arab states. These Arab states share common borders with Israel. They are going to form a contemporary confederacy. They are going to make a plan to destroy the nation of Israel so that the name of Israel will be remembered no more.
If Psalm 83 is a prophecy for our time, that means they don’t want peace with the Jews today. The Arab and the Palestinians do not want peace with the Jews. They don’t want a two state solution. They want one more state where they can fly the flag of Palestine over it. And, I think this threat against Israel is a very real concern. It certainly is with Israel, and it should be a concern for you as supporters of Israel…
Watch the rest of Bill Salus’ defense!