Editor’s Note: As Europe scrambles to wean itself off Russian oil and gas and tries to confront Russia for its use of energy to blackmail European countries, the European Union signed in Cairo on June 15, 2022, a Memorandum of Understanding with Israel and Egypt, aimed at using the energy potential of the Eastern Mediterranean to cover the shortfall in energy supplies to Europe. This, of course, angered Russian officials. So, Vladimir Putin went to Tehran, Iran where he met with President Ebrahim Raisi and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to solidify his alliance with Iran and Turkey. Will these events trigger the prophesied Gog/Magog war? Could the oil and natural gas in Israel be the spoil spoken of in Ezekiel 38:12? With Israeli oil back in the news, we thought it would be appropriate to reprint portions of an article which Noah Hutchings wrote in February of 1998.
The first place oil is found in the Bible is Genesis 11:3, where the Scripture reveals that the builders of the Tower of Babel used slime as mortar to hold bricks in construction together. Slime (as interpreted by almost any credible Bible dictionary) in biblical usage was bitumen, or asphalt, a semisolid oil residue that seeps to the surface. The Tower of Babel was constructed on the plain of Shinar, or southern Iraq, where today there are vast oil fields.
Crude oil which is pumped out of the ground is a fossil fuel, meaning that it is the decayed residue of animal and plant life. It is evident from the location of the Garden of Eden given in Genesis 2:10–15 that it was in the general area of what is now Kuwait. There is more oil under the ground of Kuwait than any other place in the Persian Gulf basin and, therefore, this area must have in the distant past been a veritable jungle of both animal and plant life, substantiating the biblical account of the Garden of Eden. Aside from Kuwait, the entire Middle East is a vast reservoir of oil. Much of the oil has been discovered and fields developed, but much of the oil in the Middle East, including Israel, has not been discovered or developed.
The Oil of Asher
The old land of Asher that extended from what is now the Haifa region northward to Lebanon along the Mediterranean Sea was in the shape of a foot attached to the part of the leg just below the knee. The foot was in the Haifa area, and it is here where oil and natural gas are being pumped. We read in Deuteronomy, “And of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil. Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:24–25).
In taking our concordance and tracing all the references to feet in the Bible, we can readily understand just how important this part of the body was to the individual. A person just did not hop in his car or catch a bus or a plane to get from one place to another. The general public did not even own a camel, horse, or donkey. The most common and acceptable method of travel was on foot, and it is evident from Scripture that the feet were washed and anointed quite frequently. It appears that Judas objected to Mary, the sister of Lazarus, using costly ointment to anoint the feet of Jesus rather than using the less expensive olive oil.
To have good feet in excellent physical condition was indeed a blessing in Bible times, but this blessing upon Asher could have a double meaning, as many scriptures do, and especially could this be so considering all the encompassing blessings on Jacob, his children, and their descendants recorded in the previous chapter: “For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance … So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock” (Deuteronomy 32:9, 12–13).
There is no great mystery about sucking honey out of the rock because, in the Middle East where large hollow trees are scarce, bees often make their hives in rock cliffs. However, sucking oil out of flinty rock is another matter. If olive oil is meant here, then it could come only by a miracle of God. That God could perform such a miracle is beyond question. However, since honey is literally found in the rocks, then within the same context we must look for oil in flinty rocks. As geologists will confirm, crude oil from which petroleum and other fossil fuels are made is found in flinty rocks or shale..
The Oil of Sodom
Before the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the nearby towns, the Dead Sea area was a small portion of the earth left over from the pre-flood age: “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar” (Genesis 13:10). The below-sea-level condition with abundant fresh water created a protected hothouse environment. This must have indeed been a beautiful place, but there was one problem—slime pits, bitumen surface pools, or seeping oil (Genesis 14:10). These oil bogs evidently figured into the route of the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, and Edom by the kings of the north led by Amraphel, also known as Hammurabi of Babylon. A few years later, and after Abraham had defeated the kings of the north and saved Lot, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone in a catastrophic explosion which created the Dead Sea. It has been claimed by many that the mineral and chemical wealth of the Dead Sea is more than the rest of all the world. I have personally always accepted this claim as exaggeration, although the net worth of the Dead Sea chemicals indeed must be great, but the wealth of the Dead Sea is not due to sedimentary evaporation. Water that comes into the Dead Sea from the Jordan River is good for drinking and irrigation, accounting for 90 percent of Israel’s fresh water supply. Under the Dead Sea are salt and chemical deposits hundreds and possibly thousands of feet deep.
That there was a Sodom and Gomorrah that was destroyed in a terrible conflagration is beyond question. Josephus wrote in The Wars of the Jews that in his time (A.D. 70) the charred remains of the fruit from the trees was still in evidence on the cliffs of the Asphaltic Sea. The Dead Sea was in Josephus’ time called the Asphaltic Sea because it was covered with thick oil which was used to pitch ships. What happened to stop the oil from seeping into the Dead Sea is not known. There was a giant earthquake in the eighth century along the African-Syrian rift that leveled Philadelphia (Amman), Beth Shan, Jerash, and other cities. It is possible that the shifting of the fault line sealed off the oil flow. In any event, as the Bible indicates, the oil is still there.
The Spoil of Oil
We read the Word of prophecy in Ezekiel 38–39, that a huge national power to the north of Israel, Gog, will come down against Israel to take a “great spoil.” Most prophetic scholars believe Gog to be modern Russia. Aligned with Gog will be armies from Turkey (Togarmah), Iran (Persia), and Libya. We read in Ezekiel that Gog will come down for cattle and goods. I have been to Russia on missions, and the economic situation there continues to worsen. Russia today is starving, and Israel is overflowing with cattle and foods of all kinds. Ezekiel said also that God and his allies would come to take a “great spoil.”
We may wonder if this “great spoil” might not be Israeli oil. Some prophetic observers believe the invasion of God with his allies will take place just before the Tribulation; others believe this will be immediately after the Rapture of the church; and some believe it will be at the midpoint of the Tribulation. Regardless, what we see occurring in the Middle East today is further evidence that Jesus Christ could come at any time.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
—1 Thessalonians 4:16—18
Everyone acknowledges that the world is not a safe place to live anymore. These are the perilous times of the last days. The only comfort we have in the world today is the salvation that we have in Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ were to come today, would you be ready? Any unsaved person can be saved today: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).