What does the world’s largest natural gas company, a tiny Jewish nation in the Middle East, and an ancient Bible prophecy all have in common? We’re not quite sure yet, but recent headlines indicate there’s something awry off Israel’s coast.
In previous articles we have explored the prophecies of Ezekiel 38. In the future, Russia will lead a coalition of nations into the mountains of Israel for the purposes of “spoil and plunder” (Ezekiel 38:12 NASV). God draws the invaders into Israel, but He uses the wealth of Israel to do it.
This leaves us with a very important question: What does Israel have that Russia wants? God only knows what this future plunder will be, but there are many plunder-worthy things Israel has that Russia would like to own.
First, Israel is a strategic gem in the Middle East. Situated along the Suez Canal and the Red Sea, Israel has access to two very important waterways. Throughout history, anyone controlling the tiny strip of land, formerly known as the Levant, controlled the region. Israeli Ports such as Haifa and Eilat would instantly give Russia access to the world’s most important oil-rich waterways.
Secondly, Israel is of inestimable worth politically. Sacred to three of the world’s most influential religions, Israel has been the coveted prize of countless zealots, armies, and empires. Securing Jerusalem for Islam would give Russia endless clout in the Muslim world. Russia’s Iranian pals would shower endless praise on the great Slavic conquerors.
Neither of these facts shed light on the identity of this plunder detailed by Ezekiel. Ezekiel references livestock and cattle amidst the spoils. Russia is a vast land and I’m sure they have their fill of “cattle,” so we can assume that Russia has more in mind than livestock. Livestock was a prime indicator of wealth and status in the ancient world. Ezekiel used the ancient world’s most widely used currency as a symbol for Israel's future wealth.
Just what does the world covet today? Since the early 20th century the world has deeply valued cheap, reliable energy. Oil, natural gas, nuclear, and renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar have led to the wealth of the modern world. Oil and natural gas have provided the bulk of our world’s energy needs.
Energy to fuel our modern world is perhaps the most precious “plunder” in today’s world. The demand for energy won’t diminish, which means sources such as oil and natural gas will continue to play a pivotal role in geopolitics. Whatever plunder Russia will have in mind, it’s a safe bet to include energy sources as part of it.
Russia has grown tremendously wealthy due to their natural resources. Russia wins the natural gas race by a landslide. Gazprom, Russia’s state-run energy company is the largest natural gas producer in the world. Russia has used their energy abundance as a political weapon, deploying it primarily against their European neighbors. A healthier, more stable alternative to Middle Eastern oil, Russian gas has provided Europe with cheap energy for nearly two decades. But cheap energy comes with a heavy price.
Like dating an extravagantly spoiled girlfriend, the Europeans found out the hard way that courting miss Russia is a risky endeavor, as she is one given to unpredictable mood swings.
The best example of Russian mood swings occurred in 2009, when Russia turned off the gas to Ukraine over a price disagreement -- for two weeks. Not only was Ukraine shut out in the cold, but twenty other European nations (whose gas flowed through Ukraine) felt the Russian wrath as well.1 The message was simple. If Russia doesn't get her way, no gas for you!
These energy shenanigans only work if Russia remains the largest source of natural gas for Europe. Sure, Iran and other central Asian nations have a large supply of natural gas, but as allies, they aren't going to get in Russia's way. Someone else just might.
American Natural Gas?
There has been much ado in recent months about the potential quantity of natural gas reserves in the United States. According to CSM journalist Kevin Begos, America's natural gas potential might sink the Russian gas monopoly. According to the article, tremendous reserves are located in Texas and Pennsylvania, and can be extracted through a process known as fracking.2
Natural gas drilling has the potential to keep America energy independent. No more dealing with Middle Eastern dictators or oppressive Saudi monarchs. American companies could also export natural gas to Europe, thereby putting the pressure on Russia. Currently, the United States sells its gas at a per unit price of $3.00, Russia sells its gas to Europe at $10.00. It doesn't take a mathematician to realize Russia will be undersold -- and soon.
In fact, there are rumors floating around Europe that the Russians are bankrolling the environmental lobby to slow or halt the fracking process. Environmental groups in the United States are already up in arms about the potential environmental damage such drilling could cause.
Fortunately for Russia, the re-election of Barack Obama has alleviated Russian fears of natural gas competition from the United States. The current administration has repeatedly claimed its desire for energy independence, but their stance on drilling counters that claim. From the Keystone pipeline fiasco, to the outsourcing of offshore drilling equipment to Brazil and Mexico, the Obama administration has made their intentions on drilling clear. Thank goodness, because a deer might slip on some oil in the middle of nowhere in North Dakota.
Israel's Natural Gas
Russia’s latest gas rival comes not from the United States, but from Israel. Israel’s Achilles tendon has always been its reliance upon foreign energy. But recent gas developments give Israeli leaders hope of energy independence once and for all.
The US Geological survey estimates 100 trillion cubic feet of gas lies off Israel’s shore. According to a recent UPI article, drilling companies discovered two large natural-gas fields off the northern coast of Israel. According to Delek Group and Noble Energy spokespersons, the two gas fields (named Leviathan and Tamar) have “enough gas to power Israel for 150 years.”3
The world has taken notice. One gas company in particular has sought the highest bids to partner with the Israeli companies – Gazprom. A company run by the Russian government wants access to Israel’s plunder, is anyone surprised?
According to columnist Stella Korin-Lieber for Globes, an Israeli business journal, the Gazprom deal is a “honey-pot.” One that will put Israel’s very natural defense in jeopardy. According to Korin-Lieber,
“…Gazprom has tried to block every alternative for European gas imports. To this aim it built the northern pipeline that enters directly into Germany and is planning the southern pipeline that if built will block the project to build a pipeline from the Caspian Sea to Europe via Turkey. Blocking Europe from all directions is probably the main reason that Gazprom wants a part of Leviathan, so that it can ensure its passage to the pipeline to Southern Europe.”4
With the acquisition of the Leviathan and Tamar fields, Russia would eliminate another potential competitor in the natural gas market. Should Gazprom get its hands on Israel’s gas fields, the company would be provided vast material wealth, not to mention complete European gas dominance.
Will natural gas be the plunder that entices Gog to Israel, forecasted in Ezekiel? To entice the Russians, God could use natural gas, geopolitical strategy, or even rumors that ABBA is throwing a comeback concert in Tel-Aviv for all we know (ABBA is one of Putin’s favorite bands, by the way).
With Russian military advisors present in Syria attempting to keep Bashir al Assad in power, and Russian energy giants looming over Israel’s gas fields, God could be preparing the Middle East (and the world) for a wild ride.
1 “Russia turns the gas back on,” Houghton Mifflin Current Events, February, 2009, http://hmcurrentevents.com/russia-turns-the-gas-back-on/, accessed November 14, 2012.
2 Kevin Begos, “Natural Gas boom in US, is Russia the big loser?” Christian Science Monitor, October 1, 2012, http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Latest-News-Wires/2012/1001/Natural-gas-boom-in-US.-Is-Russia-the-big-loser accessed November 14, 2012.
3 “Gazprom, Total may be Israeli gas players,” UPI.com, August 21, 2012, http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2012/08/21/Gazprom-Total-may-be-Israeli-gas-players/UPI-68821345543183/, accessed November 14, 2012.
4 Stella Korin-Lieber, “Israel not Gazprom Must Control its Gas,” Globes, September 9, 2012, http://www.globes.co.il/serveen/globes/docview.asp?did=1000783834&fid=4111accessed Accessed November 14, 2012.
Jeremy Stevens is a historian, author, and teacher. His latest book, "So What Happens Next? Exploring Biblical Prophecies to Make Sense of Today's Chaos" is available at all participating bookstores.