The Beirut Blast: Catalyst for Biblical Prophecy

Get ready for a massive restructuring of the Middle East—starting in Lebanon.
After a massive explosion rocked the city, Lebanese protesters took to the streets to show their anger at the government.
From the October 2020 Watch Jerusalem Print Edition

In early September, a dog captured the hearts and the hopes of Beirut residents. Flash, a black-and-white rescue dog, inspected a collapsed building and signaled to his team that he sensed life. Using a sensor, a technician detected a slow pulse under the rubble that could have been a heartbeat. It was a moment of hope amid ongoing agony.

On August 4, a colossal blast had sent debris and rust-colored smoke soaring from the Port of Beirut. A pressure wave instantly flattened nearby buildings, flipping cars and blowing out every window in Beirut. The resulting shock wave, equivalent to a 3.5-magnitude earthquake, was felt more than 150 miles away on the island of Cyprus.

Two thousand seven hundred metric tons of ammonium nitrate had combusted, causing one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. Within moments, footage of the dramatic explosion was viewed by millions worldwide. You probably watched in horror, wondering how anyone close to the explosion could have survived. However, as big as that explosion was, the world quickly moved on.

But Lebanon has not. Beirut is still in tatters; the city is a shell of its former self. For over a month, rescue teams from all over the world worked to recover survivors. A Chilean team, famous for its recovery of miners a decade ago, joined the effort, along with Flash the dog. But on September 4, the search for life was called off. Any hope of finding survivors was gone.

As hard as it is to imagine right now, there is hope in the Beirut explosion. That explosion will propel the fulfillment of a dramatic Bible prophecy—one that precedes the coming of the Messiah!

This prophecy says that tiny Lebanon will become an important member in an alliance between Europe and Arab states, including the Gulf states, Jordan, Syria and Turkey. This alliance will counter the Islamic regime in Iran. Today, Lebanon is dominated by Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia-turned-political power. But after the August explosion, this will change.

Before you divert your eyes from Lebanon, you need to understand how the Beirut blast is a catalyst bringing about a staggering change in the Middle East. The shock wave from this event will be felt worldwide!

Utter Destruction

Aerial footage of ground zero of the blast shows a gaping hole in the port. The explosion created a chasm 45 meters deep and utter destruction in every direction. Initial estimates put the damage around $15 billion. Almost 200 people were killed, thousands more were injured, and nearly a third of a million people—15 percent of the city’s population—became homeless.

The question quickly surfaced, why were 2,700 metric tons of a highly explosive substance stored in the city, putting so many people at risk? Everyone knows the answer: Hezbollah, the force that has dominated Lebanon for the past decade, wanted it there.

Comparing blasts
Watch Jerusalem

The shipment of ammonium nitrate arrived at the port in late 2013 when the Moldovan-flagged cargo vessel Rhosus was forced to dock in Beirut after experiencing technical problems at sea. Lawyers representing the crew described the incident in the Arrest News: “Owing to the risks associated with retaining the ammonium nitrate on board the vessel, the port authorities discharged the cargo onto the port’s warehouses” (October 2015).

But reports in some Lebanese media claim Iran purchased the chemical compound and had the Rhosus make a beeline for Beirut to offload it and store it for future use.

Storing the volatile material at the port worried local port authorities. Customs officials made 10 separate appeals to the Lebanese government from June 2014 through July 2020 to remove it. One letter stated, “In view of the serious danger of keeping these goods in the hangar in unsuitable climatic conditions, we reaffirm our request to please request the marine agency to re-export these goods immediately to preserve the safety of the port and those working in it, or to look into agreeing to sell this amount [to the Lebanese Explosives Company].”

But the explosive material remained just a stone’s throw from the central business district. Why?

Ask Hezbollah

No direct links to Hezbollah have been made public by investigators and likely won’t be without an independent international investigation. Nevertheless, most experts believe it is impossible that Hezbollah was not fully aware of the explosive contents at the port. Both Israel and the United States Treasury Department have said previously that Hezbollah controls much of Beirut’s port facilities. “Any way you look at it, Hezbollah is involved,” stated Lt. Col. (Res.) Sarit Zehavi, a former Israeli Defense Forces intelligence officer who specializes on Israel’s northern border. “Even if it’s just a regular accident, which this [the port blast] probably is, Hezbollah controls both the airport and seaport in Lebanon, so it’s responsible” (bicom podcast, August 11).

Along with control of the port, evidence suggests that Hezbollah was holding ammonium nitrate there to enable it to ship large quantities of bomb-making materials to its terrorist proxies elsewhere. Since 2014, Hezbollah has made a concerted effort to use ammonium nitrate in attacks.

Prophecy says that tiny Lebanon will become an important member in an alliance between Europe and Arab states.

Soon after the shipment arrived in Beirut, Israel’s Mossad agency started alerting foreign nations to Hezbollah’s potential use of ammonium nitrate. According to the Times of Israel, the Mossad learned in 2014 that Unit 910, Hezbollah’s foreign operations group, was developing the means to launch terror attacks around the world. This led to sting operations in several nations in 2015 that uncovered ammonium nitrate.

In May 2015, authorities in Cyprus found 9 tons of ammonium nitrate in a Larnaca home. Hezbollah had paid a Lebanese-Cypriot man more than $10,000 to hide the material, which it planned to use to target Israeli interests in Cyprus. In August of that year, authorities in Kuwait arrested three Hezbollah operatives who had stored 21 tons of ammonium nitrate in a residential house. That autumn, British authorities discovered 3 tons of ammonium nitrate stashed in thousands of disposable ice packs at a Hezbollah bomb-making facility in London. Last year, Mossad reportedly notified the German government that Hezbollah had stored hundreds of kilograms of ammonium nitrate in warehouses in southern Germany. (This was part of the reason Germany banned the organization.) In 2017, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened to attack Israel’s northern port city of Haifa by blowing up its ammonia tank.

Considering Hezbollah’s links to the port and its several foiled ammonium nitrate attacks, it is almost certain that Hezbollah was aware of the Beirut stockpile and was using it for its nefarious ends. In Lebanon, no one doubts this.

The Spectator’s Paul Wood wrote on August 5 that, in the direct aftermath of the blast, he received messages from Lebanese friends saying that Hezbollah was to blame. “Even if that’s not true,” he wrote, “it shows what some Lebanese are thinking—and therefore how this crisis might develop.”

Turning Against Hezbollah

Before the blast, Hezbollah already faced increasing resistance from the Lebanese. Hezbollah’s control over many of the government ministries gives it financial and political power, not to mention opportunities for corruption and mismanagement. However, as Hezbollah’s power has increased, international investment in Lebanon by the Gulf states and its allies has severely dropped, resulting in economic collapse. Lebanon’s currency has lost 85 percent of its value in the past year. More than half the population is now in poverty. People are enduring rolling blackouts, up to 22 hours per day, and food is becoming expensive.

Foreign nations and the International Monetary Fund are ready to provide Lebanon with a massive aid package. Economists for the Foundation for Defense of Democracy said that, before the blast, Lebanon needed a staggering $93 billion. For context, the FDD noted that the IMF’s largest-ever bailout in history was $57 billion to Argentina in 2018. Lebanon has just over 10 percent the population of Argentina, and needs twice the money to stay afloat. Again, this was before the $15 billion blast.

However, while the IMF is willing to send a large sum to Lebanon, that money is conditional upon Lebanon making fundamental changes to its system that will curtail Hezbollah’s power. Hezbollah has refused, thus preventing aid money from coming.

Put simply, if Lebanon is to survive as a nation it has two choices: accept being a client state of Iran and the poverty that comes with it, or turn against Hezbollah and receive assistance from the outside world.

It is not easy to revolt against Hezbollah. Its military is more powerful than Lebanon’s national armed forces, and it has a large network of spies. Yet even before the blast, a strong anti-Hezbollah movement was growing in Lebanon.

In July, the patriarch of the Maronite Church, which represents 40 percent of Lebanon’s population, began criticizing Hezbollah. “Today, Lebanon has become isolated from the world,” Beshara al-Rai stated on July 14. “This is not our identity. Our identity is positive and constructive neutrality, not a warrior Lebanon.” These remarks condemned Hezbollah’s violent interference in nations like Syria and Yemen.

Macron’s visit was a watershed event. It showed that the Lebanese trust a foreign president more than their own politicians, whether Shiite, Sunni, Druze or Christian.

Rai’s comments are significant because for years Maronite politicians have abetted Hezbollah’s rise to power in the government. President Michael Aoun is a Maronite Christian but is allied with Hezbollah. Now he and other Christian leaders have heard the loud warning from the Maronite leader and much of the population calling on them to sever that relationship. “It is to Patriarch Rai’s credit that he has shown that [Hezbollah’s] sway over Lebanon is more fragile than it appears,” wrote noted Lebanese commentator Michael Young in the National (July 29).

The blast widened the split between Hezbollah and Maronites because it was the predominately Christian neighborhoods surrounding the port that suffered most of the destruction. Christians, and many Sunnis and Shiites, are protesting in the streets to demand a total change in government. In a sign of a possible break with Hezbollah, President Aoun publicly endorsed possible peace talks with Israel in the future while talking with French bfm tv news channel on August 15.

A few days after the blast, Lebanese protesters stormed government buildings and assembled in Martyrs Square in Beirut to hang effigies of leading politicians, including Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Such open defiance of Hezbollah is unheard of in Lebanon. “Until that moment, daring to mention Nasrallah had been a life-threatening debasement of sanctity,” wrote Lebanese journalist Hazem Saghieh (Asharq al-Awsat, August 12). Now that taboo has been broken.

During the massive protests in the wake of the blast, more than 700 people were injured. Seeing the violence on the streets, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab dissolved his cabinet, ending his brief term in office. He finished his statement by saying, “May Allah protect Lebanon. May Allah protect Lebanon. May Allah protect Lebanon.”

Turning to Europe

Within 48 hours of the blast, French President Emmanuel Macron walked through Beirut’s destroyed downtown. He was surrounded by throngs of people expressing anguish and fury at Lebanon’s leaders, and imploring France to help. Some chanted, “Help us, Mr. President.” Others cried, “Revolution! Revolution!” Disillusioned by their own government’s corruption and incompetence, the Lebanese found Macron’s prompt arrival almost messianic.

The fear, however, is that any relief money will be controlled by the same corrupt politicians who wrecked the nation’s finances. Macron told one woman, “I can guarantee that this assistance will not be placed in the hands of the corrupt, and a free Lebanon will rise again.”

Macron conspicuously avoided visiting with Lebanese leaders; he went directly to the people. If he has his way, the international aid effort will take the same route. “We will organize international aid so that it directly reaches the Lebanese people under un supervision,” Macron said during a press conference. “I am here to launch a new political initiative.” And a new initiative, and a new government, is just what the Lebanese want.

French President Emmanuel Macron, surrounded by Lebanese servicemen, visits the devastated site of the explosion at the port of Beirut, on August 6, 2020 two days after a massive explosion devastated the Lebanese capital in a disaster that has sparked grief and fury.

“We’re asking for the president of France to take over Lebanon,” a young Beirut resident told the New York Times. “Just throw away the government. There’s no future here for us if the current politicians stay. We’d rather get colonized than die here.” It sounds extreme, but this shocking demand for recolonization speaks to the severity of Lebanon’s frustration with its leaders.

The hero’s welcome for Macron contrasted starkly with the reaction to Lebanon’s own leaders. Days after the blast, leaders of the main political parties dared not walk the area for fear of inciting protests and being attacked.

Many Western reporters considered the visit of the French president as bizarre. An Associated Press headline read, “Is France Helping Lebanon or Trying to Reconquer It?” Some critics characterized him as a 21st-century would-be emperor: “Macron Bonaparte.” But to Lebanese in Beirut and beyond, it’s not bizarre. It is, as some put it, “our only hope.”

“In a situation like this, it’s perfectly understandable that people hope to get rid of their political leadership,” said Maximilian Felsch, a professor at Beirut’s Haigazian University. “Anything is better than this. So, I can understand that the majority of the Lebanese people hope that—if this was at all possible—some foreign power will take control of the country.”

Macron’s visit was a watershed event. It showed that the Lebanese trust a foreign president more than their own politicians, whether Shiite, Sunni, Druze or Christian.

Macron returned to France and organized an online international donors conference that raised almost $300 million in pledges for relief efforts. The money will be kept from the Lebanese government and administered by a future United Nations mission. The Gulf states are also willing to help financially, but not while Hezbollah is the dominant force in Lebanon. “Saudi Arabia will not continue to pay Hezbollah’s bills,” wrote prominent Saudi columnist Khaled al-Sulaiman in the Okaz daily.

United States President Donald Trump confirmed that any U.S. aid would stay out of the hands of the Lebanese government. The U.S. also started to sanction corrupt Lebanese politicians who have been in league with Hezbollah. On September 8, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned former transport and finance ministers, both belonging to Christian parties. The U.S. Treasury said these former Lebanese cabinet members “provided material support for Hezbollah and engaged in corruption.” The decision to target the two ministers marked a shift in U.S. policy for Lebanon as well. America had sanctioned Hezbollah parliamentary members, but now it is warning the rest of Lebanon’s political class that if they are abetting Hezbollah’s control, they too will be targeted.

America’s actions will strengthen Macron’s demands for structural changes to Lebanon’s government.

On September 1, the French president returned to Lebanon. Again, Macron chose to start his visit by meeting with the people before he met with politicians. Macron first met at the home of Fairouz, one of the most popular singers in the Arab world for the past 50 years and a unifying figure that transcends Lebanese politics. Afterward, he met with Lebanese politicians in the Pine Residence, the location of the leading French diplomat in Lebanon and a building packed with historic significance.

Lebanon’s European Roots

On Sept. 1, 1920, 100 years ago, Greater Lebanon was created under the direction of the French government, in the very same Pine Residence.

In the aftermath of World War I and the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, much of the Middle East was divided up among the victorious allied forces of Britain and France. Great Britain received much of modern-day Iraq, Jordan and the area of Israel. France, already having a long history in the eastern Mediterranean, received control of a great swath of Syria, including the territory of modern-day Lebanon.

However, before the French could secure Syria, many of the Arabs in the region sought autonomy over much of the territory. Some Arabs were particularly concerned about the area around Beirut, which was heavily populated by Maronite Christians, an offshoot of the Catholic Church. Aided by France, Mount Lebanon, as it was known then, had already achieved a level of autonomy within the Ottoman Empire and did not share the ideal of Arab nationalism espoused by those who wanted to cast off French dominance.

The Maronite Christian rulers of Mount Lebanon called on France to not only rid the Arab nationalist forces from Mount Lebanon, but also create a larger state that would be called Greater Lebanon, inhabiting the same territory we know today as the state of Lebanon.

On Sept. 1, 1920, General Gouraud proclaims the creation and independence of the state of Greater Lebanon under the guardianship of the League of Nations represented by France from the porch of the Pine Residence in Beirut.
Public Domain

With a strong Catholic government in power in France, the Army answered the call, sending French Gen. Henri Gouraud to implement Greater Lebanon. When French forces landed in Beirut to put an end to the short-lived Arab government, Maronites and other Christians waving French flags cheered their arrival at the Beirut port. They hailed France as their “tender, loving mother” (Arabic, al-umm al-hanun). The Arab nationalists were run out of Beirut and defeated in July 1920 on the outskirts of Damascus.

Returning to the Pine Residence in Beirut, General Gouraud assembled with leaders of the Maronites and the other religious sects of the newly forming country to announce the establishment of the new state: Greater Lebanon.

One hundred years later, on September 1 this year, the leader of France was back in Lebanon and once again meeting with Lebanese leaders to decide how to save the nation. As Macron said after the blast, “France will never let Lebanon go. The heart of the French people still beats to the pulse of Beirut.” Some Lebanese once again were celebrating “France, the tender mother.”

Beyond France, influential commentators are calling for European forces to make their way to Lebanon. Ron Prosor, former Israeli ambassador to the UN and the United Kingdom, called on Europe to act immediately to “ensure that any foreign and humanitarian aid arriving in Lebanon would get to those who need it, not Hezbollah … All the mechanisms and methods are already there. What is missing is the will and decision to implement them. We should not ask for whom the bell tolls—it tolls loud and clear for the leaders of Europe. If they don’t act now to save Lebanon from Hezbollah and Iran, they may never get another chance” (Jerusalem Post, August 9).

Macron is certainly answering the call. He is intervening to rid Lebanon of its corrupt system. “It’s a risky bet I’m making, I’m aware of it. … I’m putting the only thing I have on the table: my political capital,” Macron told Politico en route to Beirut from Paris.

Just prior to Macron’s visit, the Lebanese parliament announced it had selected a caretaker prime minister to manage the reforming process. Mustapha Adib, who has been Lebanon’s ambassador to Germany since 2013, was charged with the task. The Sunni diplomat has some ties to a previous prime minister, which rankles those desiring a wholesale uprooting of the political establishment. Nevertheless, Macron accepted the selection and gave Lebanon’s leaders a chance to make changes before he returned.

While Europe has failed to act forcefully in the past, it appears committed to change in Lebanon.

Europe Enters Lebanon

This scenario sets the scene for the dramatic fulfillment of biblical prophecy. For the past decade, Watch Jerusalem editor in chief Gerald Flurry has forecast that Lebanon will leave Iran’s sphere of influence and form an alliance with Europe and other moderate Arab nations.

Mr. Flurry based this forecast on a mysterious prophecy found in Psalm 83. In this psalm, God forecasts the end-time formation of a German-led coalition of Arab states. Included in this alliance are the nations of Turkey (Edom), Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states (Ishmael), Jordan (Moab), and Syria and Lebanon (mentioned in this passage as Gebal and the inhabitants of Tyre). The alliance also lists Assur, which is modern Germany. You can read about this remarkable prophecy in more detail in Chapter 2 of The King of the South, “A Mysterious Prophecy.”

Verse 5 identifies the essential goal of this alliance: “They have said: ‘Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; That the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.’” These nations ally in an effort to destroy the Jewish state, which is part of biblical Israel. Thanks to this prophecy, we can know for certain that Lebanon is going to come under the aegis of Germany and Europe.

The Psalm 83 alliance and the King of the South
Watch Jerusalem

But we also know, based on the prophecy in Daniel 11:40-43, that Lebanon’s alliance with Iran will end. This passage describes an epic clash between two great end-time powers: “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 ….” Gerald Flurry proves in The King of the South that this prophecy forecasts a clash between radical Islam led specifically by Iran (the king of the south) and a German-led European superpower (the king of the north). Psalm 83 tells us “the king of the north” will be allied with several Arab states.

The Beirut blast, followed by Europe’s response, has propelled this prophecy toward fulfillment!

It will not be easy for Europe to replace Iran and Hezbollah as the dominant outside force in Lebanon. Nevertheless, the public outrage at Hezbollah and the jubilant support for Macron show that a revolution is coming to Lebanon. Watch Jerusalem has been waiting for conditions inside Lebanon to reach the point where such a revolution is possible. And the Beirut explosion has provided a formidable catalyst!

As terrible as it was to watch, this massive explosion in Beirut ought to draw our attention to the biblical prophecies about this little corner of the Earth.

But this blast may fulfill another key forecast. Europe’s intrusion into the Mideast will certainly frustrate and upset Iran. The prophecy in Daniel 11:40 says that Iran has a pushy—aggressive or provocative—foreign policy toward Europe. Tehran will certainly grow more aggressive toward Europe if Europe begins to confront and oppose Iran’s interests in Lebanon and Syria.

Read the rest of the prophecy in Daniel 11 through 12. It details further prophetic events to take place in quick succession, leading directly to the coming of the Messiah. As these events begin to unfold, we will actually be able to count the days to the Messiah’s coming! (Daniel 12:12).

As terrible as it was to watch, this massive explosion in Beirut ought to draw our attention to the biblical prophecies about this little corner of the Earth. And these prophecies show that the events that will start in the Middle East will reverberate across the region and the world.

Within a few weeks of the blast, most people had moved on from events in Lebanon. Don’t be one of them. A more significant event than the Beirut blast is about to take place in Lebanon, and God does not want you to miss it.

God wants us to use these fulfilled prophecies to prove His powerful presence in world affairs. As it says earlier in Daniel, “He changeth the times and the seasons; He removeth kings, and setteth up kings; He giveth wisdom unto the wise, And knowledge to them that know understanding” (Daniel 2:21). God sets up kings and removes kings. Events in Lebanon will eventually lead to the removal of both the king of the south and the king of the north. Finally, when those very kings are destroyed, “shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; … it shall stand forever” (verse 44).