Flaws in the "Iraq - Interesting" E-Mail

Flaws in the "Iraq - Interesting" E-Mail

by Nathan Barton

Once again, an e-mail "chain letter" is being circulated which is a hoax filled with misleading information that should NOT be spread by anyone. It is full of false teaching about the Bible and history, and generally very much wrong.  It won't try to rip you off, or make you send all your money to Nigeria, or trash your system, but it is mostly false, and seems to encourage a whole raft of false ideas about the Bible, prophecy, history, and origins. This has appeared before and I wrote the responses for a study done for some churches up in South Dakota, when this was first circulated several years ago.  Please pass this on, to spread the word.


1. The garden of Eden was in Iraq.

No it wasn't - or if by some strange coincidence it was, there is no way of proving it.  A careful study of the Bible will show that nowhere is the location identified.  Yes, the Bible does state that two of the rivers flowing out of Eden were the Tigris and Euphrates, but using that to justify this claim is like saying that the capital of the British Empire really was located in Connecticut because there is a Thames River there, or that ancient Germans actually lived in North America because there is a Rhine River in Wisconsin.  The location of the Garden of Eden is not known because the Noahic Flood completely reshaped the entire earth.

2. Mesopotamia, which is now Iraq, was the cradle of civilization!

Not true.  Mesopotamia was the cradle of a civilization: the one that developed into the Babylonian and Assyrian Empires.  But there were at least five other "cradles of civilization" as historians define them: Egypt, India, China, Central America, and the Northwest Coast of North America.  Most likely, the children and grandchildren of Noah descended from Mount Ararat in all directions, both to the south into Mesopotamia as well as west into what is today Turkey, north into Armenia and the Caucasus, and east into what is today Iraq.  However, the earliest cities in Mesopotamia were in Northern Mesopotamia, south of Lake Van on the piedmont of the "Mountains called Ararat" - in modern Turkey and Syria, not in Iraq.

3. Noah built the ark in Iraq.

Not true.  Nowhere in the Bible does it state where Noah lived or constructed the Ark.  Geography was completely different before the flood, as can be seen in attempts by scientists to recreate ancient continents.  Even if geography were exactly the same pre-Flood as post-Flood, it is highly unlikely that Noah would have built the Ark in Iraq or any place like Iraq, for several reasons.  First, there are no significant sources of the timber necessary within hundreds of miles.  Second, the terrain is too flat and the soil conditions and water levels too poor to support construction scaffolding for a ship of that size.

4. The Tower of Babel was in Iraq.

Probably true - most scholars equate Babel with Babylon.

5. Abraham was from Ur, which is in Southern Iraq!

True, Ur was in what is today southern Iraq.

6. Isaac's wife Rebekah is from Nahor, which is in Iraq!

Not true: Nahor was a person (Abraham's brother, and son of Terah) who lived in a town of the same name, Nahor, located (Genesis 24:10) in Aram-naharaim, or "Syria of the Two Rivers", and was located in modern Syria, not in Iraq.

7. Jacob met Rachel in Iraq.

Not true:  Jacob met Rachel (Genesis 29:4) outside the city of Haran, which is located in what was the Paddam-Aram, and which is today part of Modern Syria.  Depending on the time of year the flocks may have been grazing in the mountains to the north of Haran, which might place their meeting place in modern Turkey.

8. Jonah preached in Nineveh - which is in Iraq.

Yes, Nineveh was in what is modern Iraq.  At the time it was Asshur or Assyria, a completely different nation that included parts of modern Iraq, Turkey, and Iran.  But it is actually in that part of Iraq known more properly as part of Kurdistan, a separate people and nation from the rest of Iraq.  Nineveh, like Ur and Babylon, is long abandoned, but the Assyrian people still exist in the 21st century.  However, their major city is no longer Nineveh, Asshur, or Mosul (not far from ancient Nineveh) - the largest Assyrian population in a city today is Chicago, Illinois.

9. Assyria, which is in Iraq, conquered the ten tribes of Israel.

Not true: part of Assyria was in Iraq, but most of it was in modern Turkey and Iran, and a small part was in modern Syria.  Yes, it was in "Mesopotamia" like Haran and Nahor, but northern Mesopotamia.

10. Amos cried out in Iraq!

Not true.  Amos was from Tekoa, a city, town, or fort just twelve miles south of Jerusalem (not far from Bethlehem) and his book states that he preached in Ashdod (on the Mediterranean coast) and Egypt, and in the Northern Kingdom (of Israel) in modern-day Samaria and possibly Galilee, but there is no evidence that he preached in modern Iraq.

11. Babylon, which is in Iraq, destroyed Jerusalem .  

This is true. The city of Babylon, capital of the Babylonian Empire, was in modern Iraq.

12. Daniel was in the lion's den in Iraq!

This is probably not true. Although Daniel did serve under Babylonian kings, it was King (or Shah) Darius (of the Medes and Persians) who threw Daniel into the lion's den. The Persian Empire in Darius's time had three capitals, Cunaxa (near Babylon), Susa, and Persepolis.  At the time Persepolis was the major capital (administrative capital), and since Daniel was one of the three High Commissioners which Darius appointed over the 120 governors or satraps, he was probably in Persepolis.  However, both Persepolis and Susa are in modern Iran (Iran, by the way, is simply the modern name of Persia and does trace its history continuously to well before the time of Daniel).

13. The three Hebrew children were in the fire in Iraq (Jesus had been in Iraq also as the fourth person in the fiery furnace)!

Probably true.  The exact extent of the Plain of Dura and the Province of Babylon as it existed at the time of Daniel is not known, but most likely was in modern Iraq.

14. Belshazzar, the King of Babylon saw the "writing on the wall" in Iraq.

Probably true.  Although the exact location of the feast is not stated in the Book of Daniel, most likely it was in Babylon itself, the very night that Darius conquered the city and Babylonian Empire.

15. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, carried the Jews captive into Iraq.

Partially true.  Although many Jews were taken directly to Babylon (presumably the city and its province), the normal practice of forced relocation was to break up the population of the captive nation and scatter them over a wide area.  We know that some Jews were taken to communities in modern Persia and Turkey.  Also, many Jews escaped to Egypt and may have escaped to Cyrus, Crete, and modern Turkey.

16. Ezekiel preached in Iraq.

Probably true.  Ezekiel was taken to Babylon five years before he began his twenty-two year preaching career, and no doubt spent much of it in Babylon.

17. The wise men were from Iraq.

Probably not true. The wise men were "from the east" but most scholars believe that they were Zoastrian or Jewish scholars from Persia, not "Mesopotamia" which was a borderland between the Persian and Romano-Syrian Empires at the time, and therefore not necessarily a good place to run a university.  So they were probably from what is modern Iran, or possibly Armenia (today divided into three parts in Turkey, Iran, and modern Armenia (which was the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic for many years).

18. Peter preached in Iraq.

Maybe.  Many scholars believe "Babylon" in I Peter 5:13 is a code word for Rome itself, while others believe it is a city in Egypt.  Tradition states that Peter and several other apostles did preach in Babylon and other places in Mesopotamia, which had a large Jewish population and which had a very large "Christian" population for at least six centuries (until the Arab conquest in the mid 600's).  Tradition also states that Peter preached and was crucified upside-down in Rome, and many people have tried to reconcile the two opposing traditions.  But Scripture does not state that Peter preached in Babylon or anywhere else in what is today Iraq.

19. The "Empire of Man" described in Revelation is called Babylon, which was a city in Iraq!

Not literally true. Without getting into a lengthy discussion of prophecy and symbolism in Revelation, Babylon almost certainly was a code-word (as many believe it is in I Peter) for either Rome or a future empire highly unlikely to be based in the real Babylon or any successor city such as Baghdad.  Babylon was such a good code word because while it was a real city at the time, it was a symbol of the ruler and nation which had destroyed the first Temple and led the people of Judea into captivity (Babylonian Captivity) in the first Diaspora. (By the way, the term "Empire of Man" is not found in the book of Revelation in any of the twenty-five English versions available to be checked.)

20. And you have probably seen this one. Israel is the nation most often mentioned in the Bible. But do you know which nation is second? It is Iraq! However, that is not the name that is used in the Bible. The names used in the Bible are Babylon, Land of Shinar, and Mesopotamia.  

Not true.  While Babylon is the second most mentioned city in the Bible, after Jerusalem, the country of Babylon or Babylonia and all the other names mentioned take a distant back seat to Egypt, which is mentioned 669 times (in the New American Standard Bible).  All uses of Babylon or Babylonia, whether referring to the city or the country, are only 273; there are only 7 uses of the word "Mesopotamia" and just 8 for "Shinar."  And Babylon (city and nation) were destroyed and forgotten centuries before Iraq was even conceived of.

21. The word Mesopotamia means between the two rivers, more exactly between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The name Iraq, means country with deep roots.

Not true.  Although the exact meaning of the word "al-Iraq" is disputed, it is agreed that it most likely means "near a river" or "origin" or "source."  What is known is that the name was assigned by British colonial bureaucrats.

22.  Indeed Iraq is a country with deep roots and is a very significant country in the Bible.

Not true. Modern Iraq did not even exist until 1920, when, at the end of World War I, the League of Nations granted the area to the United Kingdom (Great Britain) as a mandate (a kind of supervised colony or trust territory). It was formed out of three former regions or "vilayets" of the Ottoman Empire: Mosul (north), Baghdad (central), and Basra (south). The name Al-Iraq previously applied only to the southern region of the Basra vilayet, before the British applied it to the entire area.  The three regions had been part of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire for more than 600 years. Before the Ottomans, the central part of modern Iraq (Baghdad Region) had been the seat of the various caliphates' imperial city, Baghdad.  It was actually the third capital of the Islamic empires (caliphates): since the founding of Islam and its explosion out of Arabia in 632 (when the capital had been Mecca), the successors of Mohammed (the caliphs) first moved the capital to Damascus and then in 762, founded the city of Baghdad on the site of a former Persian city.  Ironically, the architects of the city which would be the capital of the Arab-Islamic empire (The Umayyad Dynasty of Caliphs) for five centuries, were a Zorastrian Persian and a Jew, appointed by the Caliph Al-Mansur.  Most of the original "Mesopotamian" inhabitants of the area were displaced or wiped out by the conquering Arabs; remnants fled into the mountains and merged into the Kurds, the Persians, and the Armenians, or to the swamps at the top of the Persian Gulf where they eventually formed a mixed race known today as "Marsh Arabs."  The various Ottoman regions (vilayet) were based almost entirely on topography and did not try to divide the land on historic or ethnic grounds: the Brits in turn lumped the three regions into a "nation" and appointed a distant Arab chieftain as King.  In 1932, the Brits gave Iraq independence, but remained powerful in the country until the end of World War II.  The monarchy was overthrown by Baathists in 1957, and the country was ruled by a series of Baathist military dictators until 2003.  Today's Iraq, while mostly Arab, has virtually no connection with historical nations before the Twentieth Century.  It is a mishmash of peoples, including large numbers of Kurds and Persians, the Marsh Arabs, Armenians, and various groups brought originally to the area as slaves or guest workers. Its dominant culture is Arabic and Islamic, and there is no continuity between it and ancient civilizations, unlike Israel, Egypt, or even Lebanon.

23. No other nation, except Israel, has more history and prophecy associated it than Iraq.

Obviously, as the first twenty-two points show, this is not true.  There is no prophetic reason why Iraq must be kept united or kept from conquering the world, there is no imperative to protect, rescue, or occupy the country other than in geopolitical terms of the world war between Islam and the rest of us, the major sea of petroleum under it, and the longing for freedom and liberty that all people share.