A news report came across my desk recently that caught my eye. It just so happened that I was preparing for a coming sermon on Isaiah 11:11-16 when I read the report. The news report reminded me of one of the verses from the text I was preaching on:
And the LORD will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt; and He will wave His hand over the River with His scorching wind; and He will strike it into seven streams and make men walk over dry-shod. (Isa. 11:15 NAU)
This is the only place in Scripture that the phrase “tongue of the Sea of Egypt ” is used. Scholars have different views as to what it might refer to, but I could not help but notice the Sinai Peninsula on one of the maps of the Middle East in my office. Does the Sinai Peninsula not look like a tongue extending into the Red Sea?
As I did some additional research, I came across the strategically important Strait of Tiran on the southernmost tip of the Peninsula. The Strait of Tiran is the passageway through which ships from the Red Sea reach two seaports in the Gulf of Aqaba. Access to Jordan’s only seaport, Aqaba, and Israel’s only Red Sea seaport, Eilat, is through the Gulf of Aqaba, fed by the Strait of Tiran. There are two islands that jut into the Strait, Tiran Island and Sanafir Island. Both of these islands are uninhabitable but for Egypt’s military that controls entry through the Strait of Tiran. The strategic importance of the Strait of Tiran is because it supplies 90% of Israeli imported oil.
On May 23, 1967, Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser announced that the United Arab Republic would close the Strait of Tiran (and the Gulf of Aqaba) to all ships flying Israeli flags or carrying strategic materials to Israel. Israel had already warned that any such move would be considered an act of war. To close the Strait was to put Israel in a chokehold requiring it to use force, if necessary, to reopen it. Israel launched a preemptive strike on June 5, 1967 against her Arab neighbors. Egypt’s Nasser believed that if Israel initiated a war, it would not take long to turn the tide of world opinion against Israel. Of course, as we all know now, Israel not only initiated the attack but miraculously won the war in six days, soundly defeating the Arab nations. This was in spite of over 250,000 Arab troops that had massed at her borders. The Strait of Tiran was reopened without conflict — in six short days; and Israel again began receiving her precious cargo.
Another interesting point about the Strait of Tiran is that there are several passageways in the Strait, the depth of each determining whether a ship can navigate the passageway. Notice the map to the right which shows some of the passageways. Is it possible that each passageway could be what the text describes as “seven streams”?
Some other things intrigued me about Isaiah 11:15. First, it is a not-yet-fulfilled prophecy. The “tongue of Egypt” was not “utterly destroyed” in the 1967 Six-Day War as verse 15 prophesies. The Jews were successful in gaining control of the Peninsula from Egypt but it was not destroyed. I wonder if the prophecy is describing the shipping passageway that accesses the Gulf of Aqaba that will be utterly destroyed. Regardless, the Strait of Tiran, nor either of the two islands, were destroyed in the Six-Day War. Second, the verse states that, “He (God) will make men walk over dry-shod.” Clearly, this part of the prophecy has the Strait of Tiran in mind. There are only two ways that men can walk over the waterway “dry-shod.” The first requires a miracle similar to what God did when the Jews fled Egypt through the parting of the Sea (interesting point is that some scholars see the coral reefs that fill the Strait as the means whereby the Jews
exited Egypt). The second way is far more ordinary: suppose a bridge were built between the Sinai Peninsula (the western border of the Gulf of Aqaba) and Saudi Arabia (the eastern border of the Gulf of Aqaba)? Actually, such has already been proposed. The Saudis have proposed just such a bridge, the King Salmon bridge. The bridge is proposed to be a joint effort between the two Arab nations, but financed by the Saudis. The problems are mulitple, namely environmental issues being the most significant. The most recent attempt by the two nations was to agree that the islands of Tiran and Sanafir were within Saudi regional waters, not Egyptian waters, apparently due to different environmental stresses for the Saudis than the Egyptians. However, an Egyptian court recently (January, 2017) refused to approve the two islands as being within Saudi territorial waters which, once again, put the project on hold.
As we know, God fulfills prophecy. That means the bridge will be built and the Sinai Peninsula will be destroyed. I cannot help but wonder that if we read between the lines, the Strait of Tiran will also be destroyed, at least it will be closed to shipping. That means that Israel will not be able to receive her needed oil imports to supply its military machine. If that occurs, how will Israel survive an Arab or Persian conflict? Scripture refers to that time as the “time of Jacob’s distress”:
‘Alas! for that day is great, There is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s distress, But he will be saved from it. (Jer. 30:7 NAU)
Yes, Israel will be saved; but as verse 7 also states, the time of Jacob’s trouble will be unlike any Israel has ever experienced.
Keep your eyes on the King Salmon Bridge. Until it is built, Jeremiah 30:7 cannot be fulfilled.
Jesus come quickly.