Ezekiel 7 – End is Come & Lost Cities of the Near and Middle-East: Petra (2 of 8)

Okay, so Petra is in Jordan with Edom, Moab and Ammon, so what?  There is no place on earth that is save from Satan and there never will be.

People also say that Petra is the only place where Jesus will be able to save anyone.  What is wrong with these people, You are in charge of everything at all times.

Whatever is going to happen is going to happen and there’s nothing anyone can do about, You told me that.  So why can’t people just live their lives as best they can for You?

Where is this faith that people say they have in You, but are ready to run and hide?  Why would anyone be afraid of Satan?  You are the only one that anyone should fear and that’s only the pagans that need to do that and of course they’re too stupid.

I here this stuff and I…I shouldn’t let it upset me but having counterfeit faith is the same as idolatry.

We’ve talked a lot about idolatry, certain gods and goddesses, what about…

Ezekiel 7
And End is Come

A model showing the view across Jerusalem towards the Temple of Herod the Great during the time Jesus was here.
At left is the Antonia Fortress; in the middle of the picture is the palace of the Judean royal family

1 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

2 Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD unto the land of Israel; An end, the end is come upon the four corners of the land.

“Four corners of the land” – the whole world would be affected by God’s judgment on the land of Israel.

3 Now is the end come upon thee, and I will send mine anger upon thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense upon thee all thine abominations.

4 And mine eye shall not spare thee, neither will I have pity: but I will recompense thy ways upon thee, and thine abominations shall be in the midst of thee: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

5 Thus saith the Lord GOD; An evil, an only evil, behold, is come.

6 An end is come, the end is come: it watcheth for thee; behold, it is come.

Archaeological excavations of the southern wall of the temple mount.

7 The morning is come unto thee, O thou that dwellest in the land: the time is come, the day of trouble is near, and not the sounding again of the mountains.

“The day” – the day of the Lord.  Beginning with Amos (Amos 5:18-20), that day is seen by all the prophets as a day of great judgment – and often (though not here) as judgment that sweeps away all the enemies that threaten God’s people, thereby bringing peace.

8 Now will I shortly pour out my fury upon thee, and accomplish mine anger upon thee: and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense thee for all thine abominations.

9 And mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: I will recompense thee according to thy ways and thine abominations that are in the midst of thee; and ye shall know that I am the LORD that smiteth.

10 Behold the day, behold, it is come: the morning is gone forth; the rod hath blossomed, pride hath budded.

11 Violence is risen up into a rod of wickedness: none of them shall remain, nor of their multitude, nor of any of theirs: neither shall there be wailing for them.

12 The time is come, the day draweth near: let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn: for wrath is upon all the multitude thereof.

The Byzantine Empire was the predominantly Greek-speaking continuation of the Roman Empire during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Its capital city was Constantinople, originally known as Byzantium.

 13 For the seller shall not return to that which is sold, although they were yet alive: for the vision is touching the whole multitude thereof, which shall not return; neither shall any strengthen himself in the iniquity of his life.

14 They have blown the trumpet, even to make all ready; but none goeth to the battle: for my wrath is upon all the multitude thereof.

15 The sword is without, and the pestilence and the famine within: he that is in the field shall die with the sword; and he that is in the city, famine and pestilence shall devour him.

16 But they that escape of them shall escape, and shall be on the mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, everyone for his iniquity.

17 All hands shall be feeble, and all knees shall be weak as water.

18 They shall also gird themselves with sackcloth, and horror shall cover them; and shame shall be upon all faces, and baldness upon all their heads.

Inscribed stone the fell from top corner of the temple mount during the Roman destruction of Jerusalem (70 AD).

The Hebrew reads, “To the place (lit. house) of the trumpeting for . . . ” (last part missing). It appears that this was the place designated for a priest to blow the horn announcing the beginning and end of the Sabbath.

19 They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD: they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it is the stumbling block of their iniquity.

20 As for the beauty of his ornament, he set it in majesty: but they made the images of their abominations and of their detestable things therein: therefore have I set it far from them.

21 And I will give it into the hands of the strangers for a prey, and to the wicked of the earth for a spoil; and they shall pollute it.

22 My face will I turn also from them, and they shall pollute my secret place: for the robbers shall enter into it, and defile it.

“My secret place” – the Jerusalem temple.

23 Make a chain: for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of violence.

24 Wherefore I will bring the worst of the heathen, and they shall possess their houses: I will also make the pomp of the strong to cease; and their holy places shall be defiled.

“Pomp of the strong” – the Jerusalem temple, described similarly in 24:21, 33:28.

25 Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none.

Sunset over Jerusalem

26 Mischief shall come upon mischief, and rumor shall be upon rumor; then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the law shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients.

27 The king shall mourn, and the prince shall be clothed with desolation, and the hands of the people of the land shall be troubled: I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.

“King…prince” – here both nouns describe the same person.  Ezekiel considered Jehoiachin to be the true king (1:2) and Zedekiah a mere prince (12:12).

“People of the land” – full citizens of Judah who owned land and served in the army (cf 12:19, 45:16, 22, 46:3).

The Lost City of Petra (2 of 8)

Some people think God chose Petra
as a safe haven during the tribulation?

I don’t agree or disagree – does it matter?

Canyone Leading Into Petra
Location:
Southern Jordan

Date of Construction: c. 2nd Century B.C.
Abandoned: c. 6th Century B.C.
Built By: Nabataeans
Key Features: Siq Gorge; Rock-Hew Buildings; Urn-Tombs; The Treasury; Amphitheater; Byzantine; Church and Mosaics

The Most Cursed City

While the archeological evidence suggests that Petra did not exist in early Biblical times, the Bible tells a different story, in which the fractious relationship between the Edomites of Petra and the ancient Hebrew led the prophets of Israel to call down a battery of curses on the Petrans, making it the most cursed place in the Bible.

Moses was the first to curse it, but the vitriol really began to flow when the Petrans gloated over the 1st millennium B.C. Assyrian and Babylonian conquests of Israel and the subsequent travails of the Hebrews.

Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel all invoked curses of desolation and waste.  Isaiah had some particularly harsh words,

This picture was taken inside the ‘Treasury Building’ (see previous picture), facing the only entrance to Petra.

…the Lord has doomed [the Petrans], has given them over for slaughter…their land shall be soaked with their blood, and their soil made rich with their fat….

One of the great monuments of world heritage and recently voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, Petra is a unique and beautiful ancient city with biblical roots that grew to become one of the greatest trading centers in the world.

Yet amazingly it was all but lost, except to fable, rumor and occasional nomadic residents, for 700 years.

“It is impossible to conceive of anything more awful [sic] or sublime than such an approach,” wrote two Royal Navy captains, Irby and Mangles, in 1868, describing their visit to Petra, and in particular their experience of one of the great sights the world has to offer:

The appearance at the end of a dark, narrow gorge of a mighty classical frontage carved into the living rock, shaded with many hues of pink, orange and red, bathed in vivid desert sunlight. (The famous colors of Petra are down to iron-rich water percolating through porous sandstone and depositing its mineral load.)

Carving known as “The Treasury” in Petra

Visitors approaching Petra by the Siq (Arabic for the “shaft”), a winding gorge over one mile long and 197 feet deep, but at times just 10-13 feet wide, come face to face with a building known as Al-Khazneh (the Treasury), which is 108 feet wide and 131 feet high, with great pillars, pediments, porticoes and statues, carved directly into the cliff face.

From here the gorge continues northeastwards past more facades, bends north at a great Roman-style amphitheater and eventually opens out onto a broad valley studded and dotted with yet more enormous tombs carved into the rock.

These are the remains of Petra, the Greek name for the city, which means, simply, “The Rock”.  To its inhabitants it was known as Raqmu or Reqem.

Half as Old as Time

Petra was the capital of the ancient Nabataean civilization, which flowered into a Golden Age around the 2nd and 1st Centuries B.C., but with roots further back in time.

In its prime it was the junction of the world’s main trade routes linking East to West, a clearing house for caravans bringing silks and other goods from China via the Silk Road to be exchanged for the produce of Rome and the Mediterranean world.

Cunning hydrological engineering and husbandry of resources allowed the Nabataeans to create an artificial oasis at Petra, so that a great city, renowned from Carthage to China, could flourish in the midst of a barren desert region. 

It is now known, thanks in part to a heavy marketing campaign by the Jordanian tourist authorities, as “the rose-red city, half as old as time”, a couplet from an 1845 poem by clergyman John William Burgon.

The region has been occupied since the Stone Age and it is likely that the dramatic setting and geology of the place, with its unfailing springs and narrow canyons gouged into the base of an imposing mountain (Jabal Haroun, or Aaron’s Mount, said to be the resting place of Aaron, brother of Moses).

This made it both religiously and militarily significant from prehistoric times onwards. Deposits of copper ore also made it a center of early metallurgy with the dawn of the Bronze Age. The earliest records of the people who dwelt here come from the Old Testament, with references to tribes such as the Horites, and later Semitic peoples such as the Edomites and Amorites.

The Siq is a tortuous half-mile-long canyon that winds its way from the entrance of Petra to the large open plaza at the foot of the Khazneh.

Formed through countless millennia of geological activity and water action, the canyon was used by the Nabataeans as a ceremonial route into their capital. The sides of the Siq were also outfitted with channels and pipes that carried fresh water into the city.

The Wealth of Nations

At this time the famous buildings of Petra did not exist. It was probably a tent city, originally occupied only on an irregular, seasonal basis by large groups of nomads. The Bronze Age saw the rise of “superpowers”, such as Egypt, Sumer and the Hittites, and a corresponding development of trade. 

Petra was situated at a crucial juncture of trade routes between Egypt, the Levant and Mesopotamia.

The long valley that ran from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea (the Jordan Valley) and then on down to the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea (the Wadi Arabah), formed a natural highway for trade from what would later become the port of Ezion-Geber (now Aqaba) all the way up to Damascus, Palmyra and the Phoenician ports – this route came to be known as the King’s Highway. Petra was right next to the Wadi Arabah.

Meanwhile the route from the Euphrates-Tigris delta across the Arabian deserts to Egypt and the Levant also passed through Petra, where it split into the road across the Sinai to Luxor and later Alexandria, and across the Negev to Gaza, gateway to the Mediterranean. 

Yet, another major trade route led up from Aden at the tip of the Arabian peninsula, along the eastern shore of the Red Sea, to Petra. Maritime trade was still extremely limited by primitive naval technology, so the land routes were pre-eminent.

Frankincense tree

Later they would become even more important, as this Mesopotamian-Mediterranean trade network was plugged into the continent-spanning Silk Road, which disgorged the wealth of the Orient by sea to ports such as Basra (at the mouth of the Euphrates- Tigris), Aden and Ezion-Geber, and via the land routes further north.

At first Petra proved a handy stronghold for the desert tribes who would raid these rich caravans.  Later these tribes would extract tribute for allowing safe-passage and offering protection from other raiders. 

Still later, they would develop into a trading hub , offering supplies, fresh mounts, services etc., in return making money from taxes and tariffs, and eventually becoming merchants. Petra would go on to win important trading monopolies, such as the lucrative bitumen trade and the fabulously wealthy trade in frankincense (an aromatic resin worth more by weight than gold).

As trade increased, so did the strategic and economic importance of Petra, and regional powers vied for control. For instance, Egyptian documents of the early 12th century B.C. record paranoiac triumphs over the people of Seir, which was probably a reference to Petra, and by this time the region had been under the hegemony of the Egyptians for many centuries. 

The earliest recorded kings of Petra date to the 8th century B.C., although several biblical figures, such as Rekem and Balaam, mentioned in Genesis and probably dating to around 1300 B.C., may have filled this role.

The establishment of the kingdom of Israel, c 1000 B.C., saw a period of constant warfare between the Hebrews and their Semitic neighbors, including the Petrans, leading the latter to cheer the subjugation of Israel by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.

They thus earned the undying enmity of the Hebrew, as expressed through a range of colorful and vitriolic curses called down by various Old Testament prophets.

The Nabataeans

Around this period the Edomites who inhabited Petra gave way to the Nabataeans, a nomadic tribe from northern Arabia descended, according to a now discredited tradition, from Nebaioth, son of Ishmael, who was the son of Abraham.

The Nabatean rock cut tombs at Mada’in Saleh. The famous 14th-century traveler Ibn Battuta wrote “Here, in some hills of red rock, are the dwellings of Thamud. They are cut in the rock and have carved thresholds. Anyone seeing them would take them to be of recent construction.

Egyptian and Persian power in the region had given way to Alexander the Great in the 4th century.C., and his successors, the Ptolemies and Antigonids, battled for control of Petra for 200 years. Eventually, however, both these empires declined and in the power vacuum the Nabataeans flourished.

Careful hydrological engineering, including the excavation of a great cistern to capture the infrequent flash floods that inundated the dry Wadis, allowed them to sustain large-scale agriculture and provide valuable resources for the trans-desert caravans.

Combined with their control of the trade routes, the Nabataeans grew rich and powerful, minting coins and developing a script that would later become Arabic, now used across much of the Muslim world. During this Golden Age the city began to take shape.

The earliest rock-carved tombs probably pre-dated the Nabataeans, but these are relatively crude. As they became settled and wealthy the Nabataeans began to build freestanding monumental architecture and to excavate magnificent tombs from the sandstone cliffs and mountainsides, with the primary building boom, including construction of the most famous rock-cut tombs, taking place around the end of the 1st century B.C.

At first their style was mainly borrowed from the Ptolemaic Egyptians, and later Greek influences took root. Idiosyncratic Nabataean touches include the prevalence of urns atop the rock-cut tomb facades.  Many of the buildings would have had lush gardens, while the gorge and valley floors would have been crowded with less permanent wooden structures.

Later History of Petra

The rise of Rome saw Petra fall into the Roman sphere of influence.  Petran princes served with Roman armies and may have belonged to the Roman jet set.  Roman custom often saw client-kings cede their states to Rome on their demise and in 106 B.C., with the death of the last Nabataean king, Rabbel II, Petra passed into Roman control.

Although the city survived as the capital of Arabia Petraea, the most prosperous of all Roman provinces (at one time it produced a quarter of the economic output of the entire empire), the seeds of Petra decline had already been sown.

Advances in naval technology saw more ship-borne trade, while the land routes increasingly followed Roman roads that by passed Petra altogether.

The proposed Red-Dead Conduit will link the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. The project aims to pump water from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Dead Sea.

This transmission of vast quantities of water would then be utilized to generate electricity, desalinate water and pump it to populous areas, and deposit the rest of the water into the Dead Sea in order to counteract its demise. This complex project would cost an estimated US $5 billion and would take 20 years to complete.

 The city lingered on as a religious center until the Islamic conquest.  Pre-Christian Nabataean beliefs and religious life remain relatively obscure and open to speculation.  Their main god was a solar deity named Dushara.

According to some, Dushara was accompanied by a mother-goddess and resurrected son to form a trinity that may have had a strong influence on nascent Christianity (it should be noted that this is very much a fringe theory).

Under the Byzantine Empire (from the 4th century B.C.) Petra became a center of Christianity, with a Byzantine church, the incredible mosaic floors of which can still be seen.  By the time of the Islamic conquest Petra was a largely deserted city, damaged by severe earthquakes and without a raison d’etre.

It had brief resurgence as an important military site in Crusader times, when a fort was built on one of the high points overlooking the main valley, but under the Ottomans it was neglected.

By the 19th century Petra was the preserve of the nomadic Bedouin tribes people and the region was hostile to travelers, especially non-Muslims.  But memory of the exotic and striking city in the mountain had lingered on in the West and in 1812, Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt determined to visit the site.

Disguised as an Egyptian sheikh, speaking fluent Arabic and so well versed in Islam that he was recognized as an expert on Sharia law, Burckhardt pretended to be a pious Muslim pilgrim hoping to sacrifice a goat at the tomb of the prophet Aaron.

The ‘Urn Tomb’ or ‘Royal Courts of Justice’ of ancient Petra.

This was dangerous territory – six years earlier a German explorer, Ulrich Seetzen, had tried a similar ruse and been murdered.  With the aid of a local guide Burchkhardt penetrated the Siq and became the first European to gaze on the wonders of Petra for 700 years.

Six years later, Captains Irby and Mangle followed in his footsteps, accompanied by an artist and in 1826, a French architect and explorer, Leon de Laborde, carried out the first systematic survey of the ruins.  Their writings and pictures caused a sensation – Petra was back on the world stage.

Today it is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Jordan and continues to be the subject of intensive archaeological study.

I cannot understand people that say they have faith in You, but are scared of the end time.  People are saying that when the antichrist comes the only place on earth that will be safe is spoken about in the Book of Daniel:

“And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries and shall over flow and Passover.

He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon” (Dan 11:40-31).

… Dushara, the god the people of Petra had worshipped?