A Muslim friend recently told me that the coming of Islam is prophesied in the Bible, specifically in Deuteronomy 33:2
And Moses said, “The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from Mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.”
My friend told me that the three mountains in this verse represent three revelations: that Mt. Sinai represents the law given to Moses, Mt. Seir the Gospel given to Jesus and that Mt. Paran represents Islam because Mt. Paran is located near Mecca.
My friend is incorrect in his thesis for a number of reasons: First, in the Bible, Mt. Seir does not represent the Gospel or Jesus; Second, Mt. Paran of The Bible is located in the ancient nation of Edom, bordering the Dead Sea, and is nowhere near Mecca and hence cannot represent Islam; Third, the chronology (as opposed to the order of listing or mention) of God’s visitations to these mountains begins in Paran and ends in Sinai, which is the reverse of what of what the Islamic interpretation of these verses requires.
There are additional insurmountable problems with the Islamic interpretation of Deuteronomy 33:2 which I will also discuss below.
Mt. Seir Does Not Represent Jesus Or The Gospel.
While it is true that Mt. Sinai represents the Mosaic covenant, Mt. Seir does not represent the Gospel. Biblically, Mt. Seir represents the nation of Edom. The Edomites are the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob, father of the twelve tribes of Israel.
The Biblical data that ties Seir to Edom is immense, straightforward and incontrovertible. The very first mention of Seir in The Bible states that Seir is the dwelling place of the Edomites.
Esau dwelt in the hill country of Seir; Esau is Edom. These are the descendants of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir. (Genesis 36:8)
Mt Seir represents Edom. It does not represent Jesus.
For the record, the mountain that the Bible associates with Jesus Messiah is Mt. Zion in Israel. Psalm 2:6-9 and Psalm 110 are crystal clear on this, just to name two scriptures of many that could be listed.
Mt. Paran Does Not Represent Islam Or Mecca
In the Bible, Mt. Paran is associated with Teman, which is a region within Edom. Paran is not associated with Mecca.
The Book of Habbakuk places Mt. Paran in Teman and the Books of Jeremiah and Obadiah place Teman with Edom. Hence Paran is located in Edom, not Mecca.
God came from Teman,
the Holy One from Mount Paran
– Habbakuk 3:3
That Teman is a region with Edom is seen from Jeremiah 49:1. Jeremiah uses Teman as a synonym for the nation of Edom, the part representing the whole. The prophet Obadiah does the same (see Obadiah 1:9) .
Concerning Edom. Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Is there no more wisdom in Teman,
has counsel perished from the prudent,
is their wisdom gone?
– Jeremiah 49:1
Since The Bible locates Paran in Edom, Paran cannot be associated with Mecca and therefore does not represent Islam.
Ancient Edom was located on the southern borders of Judah (southern Israel), the Dead Sea and Southern Jordan (ancient Moab). It also extended into the Negev. Edom is nowhere near Mecca.
Paran Is Visited Before Sinai
Paran is mentioned last in the list of mountains that God visited when he delivered the Sinai covenant to Moses. This is interpreted by Muslims to constitute a chronology of revelation where Sinai is given first and Islam, supposedly represented by Mt. Paran, visited last.
Unfortunately for the Islamic interpretation of this scripture, Paran, while listed last, was actually visited first, before Sinai, not after Sinai.
God’s visitation to Paran is described not only in Deuteronomy 33:2, but also Judges 5:4-5 and Habakkuk 3:3-4. You need to read all these scriptures together to understand how and why God visits Paran and Sinai.
In Deut. 33:2 the picture is of God dawning from Seir and Paran before settling on Mt. Sinai in power in fullness of glory to deliver his blessing. Dawn, of course, occurs at the beginning of a day, not the end. Thus Deuteronomy 33:2 describes a movement of God from one place (Edom) to another (the camp of Israel). The fact that the Lord initiated his Sinai appearance by moving to Sinai from Seir/Paran/Edom is made explicit in Judges 5:4-5, which records the same event as Deuteronomy 33:2
When you, Lord, went out from Seir,
when you marched from the land of Edom,
the earth shook, the heavens poured,
the clouds poured down water.
The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai,
before the Lord, the God of Israel.
The movement of God from Edom to Israel is a repeated motif in scripture. It’s prophetic meaning is that Edom, the enemies of God will be destroyed and that God will move to Israel to comfort and bless them after He has finished destroying the enemies of Israel.
So will it be in the future. In the End Times, at Armageddon, God will commence his visitation of Israel by dawning in Edom (Paran – Habakkuk 3:3-4; Bozrah – Isaiah 63:1) where He will commence his judgement on those that oppose Him and His Messiah.
From Edom, God, by His Messiah, will again move on to visit Israel, this time settling his full glory on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. The prophetic picture is fleshed out by reading the complementary prophecies in Deut. 33:2, Habakkuk 3:3-4 and Isaiah 62:11 -63:6.
In Isaiah as in Habakkuk, The Lord God commences his judgement on the nations starting at Edom. Isaiah gives additional detail that at the completion of this judgement, God makes his way to Jerusalem (Mt. Zion). The link between Isaiah 62/63 and Deut 33:2 is the movement of God’s visitation between Edom and Israel (Mt Sinai, then Mt Zion) with the blessing in both cases being reserved for Israel.
The Lord has made proclamation
to the ends of the earth:
“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your Savior comes!
Who is this coming from Edom…
with his garments stained crimson?
Who is this, robed in splendor,
striding forward in the greatness of his strength?
“…I have trodden the winepress alone;
from the nations no one was with me.
I trampled them in my anger…
It was for me the day of vengeance; (Isa. 62:11-63:4)
Notice that the Lord approaches Zion from Edom after completing judgement. This is a more detailed picture of Habakkuk 3:3-4, first shown in embryonic form in Deut 33:2. Rev. 19:13-16 makes it clear that this Lord with crimson robes is Jesus.
A very readable summary of this prophetic progression is given in this short article The Second Coming Of Jesus Christ To Bozrah.
So, the movement of God in Deuteronomy 33:2 is from Param to Sinai. This means that the chronology assumed by Muslims in interpreting this passage is incorrect.
Deuteronomy 33:2 has nothing to do with Islam.
Paran – The Centrepoint Of God’s Judgement
As noted above, the prophet Habakkuk locates Paran in Teman, a region of Edom. Deuteronomy 33 records that God shone from Paran during his delivery of the Sinai covenant, obviously prior to the events of Deut. 33, which immediately precede the Death Of Moses.
Habakkuk, on the other hand, prophecies that God will again shine from Paran in the future. But God’s future visitation to Paran will not be to deliver a new covenant – it will be for the purpose of exacting God’s vengeance on His enemies, those that hate Israel.
In other words, Paran is the centrepoint of God’s judgement, not, as Muslims would like to say, His chosen people. God will destroy His enemies beginning at Paran. Not bless it. If Muslims wish to insist that Paran represents Mecca then they must explain why the Bible prophecies that God will destroy the people of Mecca and the surrounding areas.
Thus, Habakkuk shows that the Muslim interpretation of Deut. 33 is untenable. It does not account for the explicit Biblical opinion of Paran, that God will destroy His enemies in all the earth, starting from Paran. It is absolutely clear that Paran (meaning Edom) will be totally destroyed by God. Isaiah 34 is just one example of this certainty.
Habakkuk 3:3-4 describes God’s shining forth from Paran in a highly similar way to Deuteronomy 33:2
God came from Teman,
the Holy One from Mount Paran.
His glory covered the heavens
and his praise filled the earth.
His splendor was like the sunrise;
rays flashed from his hand,
where his power was hidden.
These initial two verses seem are positive in tone and describe a time of God’s visitation to Paran. But the remainder of Habakkuk 3 shows that God’s shining forth from Paran is a visitation of judgement.
Plague went before him;
pestilence followed his steps.
He stood, and shook the earth;
he looked, and made the nations tremble…
I saw the tents of Cushan in distress,
the dwellings of Midian in anguish. (Hab. 3:5-7)
So, Habakkuk prophecies that God beings Plague and Pestilence to Paran, that His judgement extends from there to Midian (north-west Arabia) and eventually extends to all nations (v.12). The nation that is comforted and rescued by God’s saving act is not Muslims but God’s chosen people, Israel
You came out to deliver your people,
to save your anointed one..,I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us. (v.13, 16)
The last two chapters of Habakkuk are devoted to answering the prophet’s question to God ‘what will God do in the face of imminent destruction of Israel by her enemies’. The answer is that though Israel will indeed be invaded and destroyed in Habakkuk’s time, God will in the end deliver His people, comfort and save them and destroy the enemies of Israel
I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us….I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Hab. 3:16-18)
As always, God acts to save his chosen people and nation, which is Israel.
Never Mecca or Muslims.
So Why Is Paran Mentioned In Deuteronomy 33:2 ?
We have noted that biblically both Seir and Paran represent Edom. This is lethal to the assertion of Muslims that Deuteronomy 33:2 represents Mecca and Islam. So, why would God include a reference to Seir and Paran in a scripture which describes the giving of the Mosaic law to Israel at Sinai ?
The answer is that Deut. 33:2 is an embryonic prophecy of God’s judgement on Edom. Just as God’s prophecies about the coming of the Messiah grew in clarity, precision and scope from the first Messianic prophecy in Genesis 3:15, so does the prophetic treatment of God’s judgement of Edom.
This becomes clear as we read all the scriptures of God’s coming to Paran as discussed above.
Context Of Deuteronomy 33 Does Not Refer To Islam
In the following sections I will present some further reasons why Deuteronomy 33:2 does not refer to Islam.
First, the immediate context of the verse is historical and not the future. Muslims and Christians alike hold to the principle of interpretation of scripture within context. To understand a single verse within Deuteronomy it is necessary in the first instance to read the verses immediately around it and then the entire chapter in which the verse is situated.
So it is that the verses immediately following verse 2 describe the covenant of verse 2. This covenant is the law that Moses gave us (v.4) (not any other covenant or covenants) and the people blessed by the covenant are the assembly of Jacob (v.4), otherwise known as Jeshurun…the tribes of Israel (v.5).
Jeshurun is one of God’s affectionate names for Israel. It is used four times in the Bible and has the basic meaning of ‘upright one’
Verse 5 also makes it clear that the the covenant being delivered in verse 2 is the Law Of Moses, by stating that the events occurred when the leaders and tribes of Israel assembled in God’s presence. This is a reference to Exodus 24. Essentially, verse 2 through 5 all say the same thing in different ways: God has given Israel the Law Of God.
Thus the plain and obvious context of Deuteronomy 33:2 is Moses, Israel and the Jews; not Mohammed, Mecca and the Muslims.
Context Of Deuteronomy 33 Is Israel and The Promised Land
Moving now to the context of Deuteronomy 33 as a whole chapter we see that this chapter is the climax and fulfillment of Moses’s ministry to Israel.
The bulk of the chapter (vv. 6-25) details the blessings that Moses pronounces on the twelve tribes of Israel as they enter the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Moses is about to die. Before he dies he gives them blessings from God to sustain Israel in the Promised Land of Canaan. The prologue (vv. 2-5) to the blessings of the individual tribes is Moses describing the blessing on the entire nation of Israel, the blessing which unites them all and which makes them a nation, which is the blessing of covenant relationship with God through the Law which God has given them: the Sinai covenant.
The prologue impresses upon Israel and us that the ultimate source of Israel’s blessing is in their covenant with God. This is the foundation for any and all other blessings that come to individual tribes
The chapter is about Israel. Not Mecca, Muslims or Islam.
Prophetic Content Of Deuteronomy 33 Refers To Jesus
Our Muslim friends are correct, though, that Deuteronomy 33 does indeed contain prophecy beyond the immediate future of Israel in Canaan. But this prophecy refers to Jesus and not to Mohammed.
We have already seen that 33:2 is an embryonic prophecy of the coming of Jesus Messiah to destroy the enemies of Israel and subsequently commence His rule and reign as God and King Of Israel. In addition the coming of Jesus is prophesied in the blessings of Moses.
Look at Deut. 33:7, the blessing given to Judah:
Hear, Lord, the cry of Judah;
bring him to his people.
With his own hands he defends his cause.
Oh, be his help against his foes!
The prophecy is brief, but can and should be understood consistently with the prior prophetic blessing on Judah, given by Jacob in Genesis 49.
The patriarch Jacob in Genesis 49:10 delivered a prophecy that the Messiah of God will come from the tribe of Judah, as follows
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
So, God through Jacob tells us that a ruler is coming from the tribe of Judah and all the nations will show obedience to this ruler. Mohammed does not descend from Israel let alone from the tribe of Judah. Jesus does – through David.
The first couplet of the blessing of Moses on Judah in Deut. 33:7 is a prayer for the fulfilment of the Messianic promise to Judah, that the Messiah of Israel, promised through their lineage should come. The second couplet refers to the Messiah’s activity as sole agent of Israel’s salvation in partnership with God. (I accept the second couplet also has relevance to Judah within the timeframe of the conquest of the Promised Land in addition to the future activity of the Messiah).
Notice also the promotion of Judah in the position of the tribes. In Jacob’s blessing, Judah is listed in birth order amongst the 12 tribes, in fourth position. In the blessing of Moses, Judah is promoted to second to reflect the additional significance of this tribe. Reuben as first-born son of Israel retains his honour of first mention. Of all other tribes, Judah is mentioned next. This is due to the honour of Judah holding the promise of being the progenitor of the Messiah.
Both of the above elements of my interpretations of Deut. 33:7 – the restatement of Messianic promise and the promotion of Judah due to Messianic promise – are somewhat disputable. The passage is brief and the meaning is not readily apparent. But respected commentators do support the view that Deut. 33:7 is Messianic.
In any case, looking for Mohammed in the Bible is futile. He is simply not there. And to return to the immediate subject matter, the Messianic promise to Judah in Genesis 49 is clear and indisputable. The Messiah, the one to whom all the nations will give obedience comes through Judah. These promises belong to Jesus, son of David the King Of Judah. Mohammed has nothing to do with Judah. Therefore Mohammed is not the Messiah of God, and not the one to whom the nations will give obedience. These promises belong to Jesus.
Mt Seir represents Edom. It does not represent Jesus.
Edomites, The Enemies Of God, Cannot Possibly Represent Jesus, The Son Of God
The Edomites on the other hand are continuously described in the Old Testament as being the enemies of God’s people and of God Himself. There is an enormous amount of scripture which describes how Edom is opposed to God, His people and His purposes, how God is opposed to Edom and how Edom will certainly be destroyed by the judgement of God.
Jesus cannot oppose or destroy himself.
Jesus cannot be represented by His enemies.
Hence Mt. Seir and Mt. Paran, both representative of Edom, cannot represent Jesus.
Edom, The Enemies Of God
This section provides some more detail about how the Bible presents Edom as the enemies of God.
The Bible continuously describes how Edom opposes both God and His people, Israel, how Edom opposes God’s plans and attempts to hinder His work, and states that Edom hates and rejects God Himself.
Edom’s hostility to Israel is first seen on Israel’s journey to the Promised Land after God delivers the Israelites from Egypt. .Israel seek passage through the land of Edom to Canaan, but Edom deny them, presenting an armed force in doing so, thus forcing Israel into a circuitous route around their borders (Numbers 20:14-21).
The Lord’s anger against Edom here is not merely that they inconvenienced Israel but that they denied Israel the rights of family. Since Edom is descended from Esau, Jacob’s brother, and Israel is descended from Jacob, then Israel and Edom were brothers in the sight of God and all Middle Easterners. So Edom should have, and was obliged to, provide support for Israel instead of opposition. This is a serious family insult and very sinful by the standards of Middle Eastern culture.
The motive for Edom’s opposition to Israel was resentment and jealousy because Esau, the older brother of Jacob, had been bypassed by God who delivered Esau’s rights as firstborn son, as well as ownership of God’s covenental promises to Abraham, to Jacob. In jealousy, Edom now sought revenge on Israel by attempting to deny them the fulfillment of those promises, specifically the promise of land given by God to Abraham. In short, Edom was attempting to hinder God’s work and purposes by opposing Israel’s pilgrimage to the promised land of Canaan.
Edom, in opposing God’s purposes, made himself the enemy of God.
Edom’s jealousy of Israel continued even after Israel was established in the land of Canaan. When Israel was attacked, Edom allowed his brother nation to be plundered, indeed, went down to plunder Israel himself and cheered on the enemies of Israel as they destroyed his brother in bloody warfare. Edom hoped to gain from the destruction of Israel by becoming the eventual possessor of the Promised Land for himself.
“Because you said, `These two nations [the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel] and these two countries shall be mine, and we will take possession of them ,’—although the LORD was there—therefore, as I live, says the Lord GOD, I will deal with you according to the anger and envy which you showed because of your hatred against them. (Ezekiel 35:10-11)
It is sad to discover that Edom’s hatred of Israel became a hatred of The Lord Himself. Edom came to hate God because God had favoured Jacob over Esau.
And you magnified yourselves against me with your mouth, and multiplied your words against me; I heard it. Thus says the Lord GOD: (Ezekiel 35:13)
Edom has made himself an enemy of God’s people and of God Himself. Consequently Edom will be judged
As you rejoiced over the inheritance of the house of Israel, because it was desolate, so I will deal with you; you shall be desolate, Mount Seir, and all Edom, all of it. (Ezekiel 35:15)
Edom is quite simply the nation with which the Lord is angry for ever. Edom’s judgement is certain and irrevocable.:
If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins, the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, till they are called the wicked country, the people with whom the LORD is angry for ever (Malachi 1:4)
Seir does not represent Jesus or His Gospel
Seir is the home of the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, who are enemies of God, His purposes and His people, and who stand under God’s decree of judgement.