“They went down alive into Sheol, with all that belonged to them; the earth closed over them and they vanished from the midst of the congregation.” Numbers 16:33 (The Israel Bible™)
Scientists warned that Iran, the arch enemy of Israel, is in danger of suffering a fate explicitly described in the Bible as being reserved for the evil: being swallowed up by the earth. Though it is impossible to ascribe divine intentions onto such events, some rabbis emphasized that such a phenomenon requires an attempt to understand God’s will.
Satellite images recently revealed that Tehran, the capital of Iran, is sinking into the earth at a rate of 10 inches per year. Geoscientists Mahdi Motagh and Mahmud Haghshenas Haghighi from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam used satellite data to monitor subsidence across the Tehran region between 2003 and 2017. Their study, reported in Nature magazine, determined that roughly 10% of the city is affected, as well as areas adjacent to the city. Part of the cause is the drying up of aquifers for agriculture and drinking water for the city’s 13 million residents.
Nature reported that fissures several miles in length and several yards deep have opened up in the land to the southeast of Tehran. Such fissures endanger railroad tracks, roads, bridges, oil and gas pipelines, high-voltage electricity lines and buildings. It also disturbs irrigation, sometimes making agriculture impossible in previously arable regions. Another sinking zone is threatening to engulf Tehran’s airport.
Though this phenomenon referred to as ‘subsidence’ is a problem in many parts of the world, Tehran is among the worst cases. Efforts to restore the aquifers have been hampered by illegal wells, droughts and large dams which prevent the underground water sources from being replenished. Researchers fear that the effects are irreversible and the ground has lost its porosity.
Rabbi Pinchas Winston, a prolific end-of-days author, believes Tehran’s dilemma is clearly divine intervention but added a strong disclaimer.
“Everything that happens in the world is divine intervention,” Rabbi Winston told Breaking Israel News. “But we absolutely cannot ascribe a specific meaning to it. One day it could be Tehran sinking and the next it could be a city in California. The judgments are for God to make.”
Without usurping God’s role as judge, Rabbi Winston believes that the hand of God can frequently be revealed by a close inspection of history.
“We don’t always know why things happen but when we look back we can frequently see that some events we thought were insignificant were actually small sparks that set off a large explosion,” he said. ‘What is true is that anti-Semitism is always followed by economic depression and frequently by disaster.”
He noted that even without taking into account God’s wrath for Iran’s treatment of Israel, their difficulty could trace to their relations with the Holy Land.
“Iran had a problem with water. In June, Prime Minister Netanyahu offered Israeli water technology to Iran,” Rabbi Winston said. “But they wouldn’t take anything from ‘the Zionists.’ This anti-Semitism clearly made their current problem worse.”
“The Iranian people are victims of a cruel and tyrannical regime that denies them vital water. Israel stands with the people of Iran,” the Israeli Prime Minister said at the time.
This sentiment of helping the people of Iran, despite the intent of the regime to destroy Israel, was also addressed by Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi, an Israeli mystic with thousands of followers. In his weekly sermon last week, Rabbi Ben Artzi emphasized that God operates in the world via nature.
“God is hidden in the world but operates through the natural forces that he created,” Rabbi Ben Artzi said. “Through fire, earthquakes, winds, volcanoes – through every natural force. This is how God operates for countries, but for the individual, he works through his body.”
This was particularly true of Iran, the rabbi said.
“Every time Iran rises up against Israel, it will get hit by Hashem (God, literally ‘the name’),” Rabbi Ben Artzi said. “Hit hard,” he emphasized.
But Rabbi Ben Artzi noted a difficulty with ascribing divine wrath focused on Iran.
“Ninety percent of the people love the Jews and Israel,” Rabbi Ben Artzi said. “They hate the regime that is currently in power in Iran. They want to overturn their government and this will happen. There will be a revolution in Iran.”
Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, believes Iran’s current difficulties are a clear message their government should heed.
“It makes me happy to hear that Iran is having this problem,” Rabbi Berger told Breaking Israel News. “Not that I, God forbid, wish the people of Iran harm. There are enough reasons for them to disappear into the ground but the way this is coming into the world, as a gradual process, gives the people a chance to do tshuva (repentance) in order to avert disaster.”
He noted that this was the case with the Biblical story of Korach in the desert, who spoke out against Moses and Aaron.
And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with their households, all Korach‘s people and all their possessions. Numbers 16:32
“Since the Holocaust, there has not been any nation that has declared their intention to destroy the Jewish people like Iran has,” Rabbi Berger said. “Anyone who speaks out this way, wanting to wipe out another nation, Hashem will cause the earth to swallow them up. Everything they think that makes them great as a nation will simply disappear.”