In Ezekiel 38, God reveals how most of the nations of the Middle East, as well as Russia and its allies, will come up against Israel. Familiar stuff to this crowd, I expect. What often gets overlooked is v13:
Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and all its leaders will say to you, ‘Have you come to seize spoil? Have you assembled your hosts to carry off plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to seize great spoil?’
Basically, those two national-ethnic groups, the Sheba-ites and the Dedan-ites, plus the various merchants of faraway places say to the rest of Israel’s enemies:
What on earth are you doing? Are you nuts?
It should be noted that these groups, and the merchants, are not Israel’s natural philosophical, theological or political allies and their comments aren’t even aimed in that direction. Yet they take exception to events which are driving towards the rest of the nations coming against Israel. Why?
I tend to think that their motivations must be largely commercial, since that is what this verse talks about. I.e., these groups think of themselves as post-political, even post-theological to some degree. Pragmatic. They just want a stable business environment — which a war would tend to mess up. They like the status quo. Perhaps they’ve gotten rich off of it. They’re averse to risk, revolution and unruly change.
Tarshish is the place to which Jonah attempted to flee. It’s generally regarded as having been part of what is now Spain. In this verse, I think it’s safe to interpret it as including not only literal Spain (though we can accept the literal — Spain being a key part of the EU) but to all kinds of merchants who are faraway over the seas, i.e., places not contiguous to Israel which have primarily commercial relationships with Israel. The reference to Tarshish a different concept from the other parties referred-to in Ezekiel 38 in that it’s not a nation, but a class of people, in this case, basically: businesspeople, the world over. Merchants.
So then, who are Sheba and Dedan?
In a word: Saudi Arabia.
In other words, what Ezekiel 38:13 is saying (in somewhat sarcastic fashion) is that, as it begins to become crystal clear to everyone that the nations of the world are closing ranks and hatching real, concerted plans to come against Israel, Saudi Arabia and most of the corporate interests of the world say: hold yer horses, bucko… not so fast. Not that they can do anything about it, but they voice their opinion and try and influence it. They ask: “are you come to take spoil?” Knowing, I suspect, that the answer is ‘no’. This war is not about spoil. It is not a commercial or even a territorial war, but an ideological one. And they don’t like that.
In a testy personal telephone call on Jan. 29, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah reportedly told President Obama not to humiliate Mubarak and warned that he would step in to bankroll Egypt if the U.S. withdrew its aid program, worth $1.5 billion annually.
America’s closest ally in the Gulf made clear that the Egyptian president must be allowed to stay on to oversee the transition towards peaceful democracy and then leave with dignity.
“Mubarak and King Abdullah are not just allies, they are close friends, and the King is not about to see his friend cast aside and humiliated,” a senior source in the Saudi capital told The Times… The revelation of Saudi concerns sheds new light on America’s apparent diplomatic paralysis and lays bare the biggest rift between the nations since the oil price shock of 1973.
The tough line from Riyadh is driven by concern that Western governments were too eager to shove aside Mubarak when the uprising began, without proper consideration of what should follow him.
“With Egypt in chaos, the kingdom is Washington’s only major ally left in the Arab world and the Saudis want the Americans to remember that,” said a source in Riyadh.