Dear praying friends,
We continue to live in troubled times.
The withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan brought conflicts to the surface that surprised most of us. We thought we had made more progress in our relationship with the Afghan people and especially the Taliban, but to our disappointment, we had not!
Tribalism, radical Islam, and anti-Western sympathies were boiling below the surface of that nation. Clearly, the Taliban was waiting patiently for the United States to leave in order to make their next move and take over the country.
We once again learned not to underestimate the powerful hold radical Islam has over its adherents. Indeed, the only force powerful enough to break the hold of fierce Islamist belief and nationalism is the gospel.
Afghanistan and the Persian Empire
I have come to believe that we can find prophecies about Afghanistan in the Bible. While the name for the modern nation is not used, the geographic region certainly existed and can be identified when you understand the geography of the ancient world.
Most Bible students know that the Persian Empire played a major role in the history of Israel and appears many times in the Old Testament. However, many do not know that the region of modern Afghanistan was part of the Persian Empire for nearly two hundred years.
Cyrus, the “anointed ruler,” created an extended empire including Israel and Afghanistan. He played a critical role in the restoration of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 36:22–23, Ezra 1:1-11). This “accommodation” for the Jewish people was consistent with Cyrus’ governance as he believed it best to tolerate the varying religious beliefs of his empire’s disparate people groups. The Lord used Cyrus’ philosophy of inclusion and diversity for the restoration of Jerusalem and the Temple and for fostering freedom of religions, which the Babylonians had withdrawn years before when they conquered the Holy Land.
Esther is perhaps the most significant book of the Bible written during this period of the great Persian Empire. In this “scroll,” we learn some crucial lessons for those who were part of the empire at that time, including what is now the country of Afghanistan.
From the boundaries of Persia mentioned in Esther 1:1, the identification of Ahasuerus (believed to be Xerxes I, who ruled from 486-465 BC), and the extent of his kingdom, the events of the story of Esther clearly took place in a region that, by extension, includes modern Afghanistan.
Lessons for Afghanistan Today
At the end of the book of Esther, the festival of Purim is established. We can rightfully assume the region that would eventually become Afghanistan was included in the edict to annihilate the Jews. Therefore, the people in that area would have been well aware of the plight of the Jewish people within the kingdom. As we read in Esther, “Then Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter about Purim. He sent letters to all the Jews, to the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, namely, words of peace and truth, to establish these days of Purim at their appointed times . . .” (Est. 9:29–31).
Sometimes we forget that Haman was Persian! He tried to destroy the Jewish people and failed! As a result, the Jewish people were allowed to punish their enemies in Susa, the capital, and throughout the provinces of Persia, which would have included lands that are today part of modern Afghanistan.
There are new Hamans on the world scene today, seeking the destruction of the Jewish people. Israel is under attack and antisemitism is on the rise. We understand that all forms of Islamic extremism seek the destruction of Israel. Whether the Islamic extremists are Shia or Sunni, Iranian or Afghan, or affiliated with Hezbollah or Hamas nestled on the very borders of Israel, they are perched ready to attack when the opportunity presents itself.
This threat to the Jewish people goes beyond a person or a particular nation; rather, it is embodied in the ideology, nationalism, and religious fervor of many throughout the Middle East, and sometimes among those living in the sympathetic West.
Those who perpetrated the events of 9/11 twenty years ago found safe harbor in Afghanistan. We hope and pray that terrorism against the West and against Israel will not be tolerated in the new Afghanistan as it was before.
God Is Faithful to His Promises
Scripture clearly teaches that the Lord will not allow His chosen people, the Jewish people, to be destroyed. He promised that the land of Israel will belong to the people of Israel, and we can expect God to keep His promises (Jeremiah 31:31–37).
We know that individuals and nations who mistreat the Jewish people are touching the apple of God’s eye. Attacks against Israel and the Jewish people will one day be met with God’s judgment. The book of Esther and the price Haman and his followers paid stand as a witness through the ages of God’s desire to protect His chosen people.
Modern-day Iran has been hostile to modern Israel, and we hope and pray that the new Afghanistan will not follow suit. Perhaps the example of Cyrus will inspire the leaders of both Iran and Afghanistan to once again cherish freedom of religion and establish policies that show respect for the vast differences among their citizens.
The future of Afghanistan is in the hands of her leaders. What happened in the past in Persia, when Afghanistan was part of their great empire can happen again. One of the reasons for Persia’s ultimate downfall was their mistreatment of the Jewish people. This will be true of Iran’s future and the future of Afghanistan as well. The words of Scripture will endure the test of time, and neither leader nor nation can keep God from fulfilling His promises.
We also must take action, which begins with prayer! We must pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) and for His shalom to reign in Afghanistan, Iran, and throughout the Middle East. Then we should ask the Lord for His wisdom on how we take the words of Jesus Himself to heart and live them out: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
Let us pray for our troops, the families of those Marines who died, Afghan people who are suffering at this moment, and for the nation of Israel as it now appears that the New Middle East will not be as friendly to the nation of Israel as we previously hoped.
As the current events in Afghanistan demonstrate, the Middle East is a strategic and rapidly changing area. At our upcoming conference, 9/11 and the New Middle East, biblical scholars and Middle East experts will help us better understand how 9/11 has changed the region and what the Bible says about the future of the Middle East.
Join us September 10–11, 2021 in person at Trinity Baptist Church in New York City or online.