Turkey has a continuous identity crisis. It encompasses a land bridge that connects Europe with the Middle East, and its inhabitants have always been torn between identifying with its eastern Muslim neighbors and western trading partners.
Until recently, this predominantly Muslim nation leaned west. It allied with Israel; it joined nato; it sought membership in the European Union; it became an important partner of the United States in the then-called war on terror.
Now, though, that has all changed. Since 2002, when the Justice and Development Party (akp) came to power under Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, this once secular republic has turned to its Islamic roots.
When Erdoğan was elected to a third term by a landslide in June, Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center, said that the nation’s future is certain: “[N]ow Turkey is set on a path that is ending the republic established by Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s. The Turkey of secularism and Western orientation is finished. … In short, the akp is entrenched in power, and can now proceed with the fundamental transformation of Turkey” (Jerusalem Post, June 13).
Is Rubin correct? Is Turkey ready to abandon its connection to Europe and its friendship with the U.S. to cozy up to its Muslim neighbors?
Turkey, the core of a great empire that once ruled the biblical Promised Land for 400 years, is a regional power that profoundly affects Israel. Therefore the Bible, a book that prominently features Israel and its relations with major nations, must not be silent about Turkey. In fact, the Bible has many thunderous prophecies about Turkey, and the only way to understand them is by knowing where this nation is identified in those prophecies.
So who is Turkey in biblical prophecy? For the answer, we must look at its ancient and modern history.
A Brief History
Though Asia Minor was populated from immediate post-Flood times by numerous nations, the first great empire to truly dominate this territory hailed from the east: the Persians. Following their rule, the Persians were replaced by even greater empires from the West, the Greco-Macedonian and Roman empires. The collapse of the Roman Empire in the west led to its continuation in the east as the Byzantine Empire, whose capital, Constantinople, located on the strategic Bosporus Strait and now called Istanbul, was the center for the Eastern Orthodox Church.
After the Byzantines’ thousand-year dominance of the region, their decline led to invasion by the Seljuk Turks. They ruled from Anatolia to northern India between the 11th and 14th centuries. Weakened by the Crusades of Rome and by Mongol invasions, the Seljuks were succeeded by the Ottomans in the 15th century.
Thus a new empire was born from within Anatolia: the Ottoman Empire. This Turkic empire grew to encompass North Africa east to the Euphrates River and north into central Europe. During their rise, the Ottomans obtained the title of caliph, the spiritual head of all Islam. The empire lasted for 600 years, until the Allied powers dissolved it at the end of World War i.
Out of the Ottoman ashes, Mustafa Kemal established the Republic of Turkey in 1923 and was given the name Kemal Ataturk, meaning the “father of the Turks.” He pursued a policy of Westernization and secularization, abandoning Islamic law, religious courts and even the Arabic script for the Ottoman Turkish language.
Though the empire was lost, Ataturk managed to hold on to the strategic sea gate of the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits. For the last century his successors have built Turkey into a strong regional power, a counterbalance in the Middle East to Iran and Saudi Arabia.
So who are these Turks who once ruled the Middle East?
Of all the people who have migrated in and out of Turkey, it is the migration of the Turkic people from Central Asia, starting with the Seljuks in the seventh century and culminating in the rise of the Ottomans, that matters most in determining the biblical identity of Turkey.
What an Encyclopedia Will Tell You
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Turks are “any of various peoples whose members speak languages belonging to the Turkic subfamily of the Altaic family of languages.” The other identifying factor for these various peoples, it says, is their religion: “they are all Muslim.” As for Turkic history, the encyclopedia writes, “[L]ittle is known about the origins of the Turkic peoples, and much of their history even up to the time of the Mongol conquests in the 10th to 13th centuries is shrouded in obscurity.”
In other words, Britannica has no idea about the Turks’ origins. It sees them as a “great variety of ethnic types” of unknown ancestry that happen to share the same language and religion.
Two main groups of Turks are widely acknowledged: the western branch, which has settled in modern-day Turkey, and the eastern branch, which still lives in Central Asia. “Ethnologically, the Anatolian Turks differ greatly from their kin in Turkestan and other Turkish areas in Asia and Eastern Europe,” writes Charles Hostler in The Turks of Central Asia. “According to the clearest source, the Anatolian Turks are a people whose physique shows not the slightest trace of the Turkish type.”
But how could millions of migrating Turks, including the Ottomans, not impact the gene pool of Asia Minor when most of the inhabitants of Asia Minor claim descent from them? The reality is the classification of “Turk” does not help in identifying the people of Turkey in biblical prophecy.
Scholars assume that the western and eastern branches of the Turks are related from their time spent together in Central Asia and that the absence of Mongoloid features in Turkey is a result of the Turks mixing with the indigenous population of Anatolia. But when the assumption is removed, the identity of these Turks can be understood.
The western branch of Turks is a different people than the eastern branch, not because of population mixing, but because they have different ancestors. The eastern branch of Turks, found in Central Asia today, descend from Japheth and are Mongoloid. Those in the west descended from a different lineage than Japheth and are Caucasoid.
Where, then, did the Ottomans come from? There is a reason these western Turks migrated west while the other Turks stayed in Central Asia! The truth is quite contrary to what most encyclopedic sources claim. We must go to the source of all true knowledge, the Word of God, for verification of the patriarchy of the western Turk.
Bible Identifies the Western Turks
The key to their identity and their origins lies in their name, Ottoman. This name actually appears in biblical prophecy. Remarkably, the nation with this name was prophesied to be near Israel, in control of a major gateway, and to be a great empire in control of the Promised Land for a time.
This name is Teman—a grandson of Esau, grandson of the patriarch Abraham.
Genesis 36 gives the genealogy of Esau, the son of Isaac and brother of Jacob. It lists the rulers of the nation he founded and even the rulers of those with whom his descendants dwelt and intermarried. This genealogy, in a book primarily concerned with Israel, was recorded because the children of Esau were a prominent people at the time and would continue to play an important role in Israel’s future.
Esau was also named Edom (Genesis 25:30). Three times in this chapter, the Israelites are reminded that the Edomites are in fact their cousins—almost as if they could hardly believe it. Indeed, it is much harder for Israel to believe what the Bible has to say today!
In verses 11 and 15, the Bible records that Teman was a grandson of Esau through his firstborn, Eliphaz. Teman’s prominence is demonstrated in Obadiah, which prophesies about Edom and mentions Teman specifically in verse 9.
When Genesis 36 was recorded, the bulk of the Edomites lived at Mt. Seir, southeast of Palestine. There the kingdom of Edom was established. But the Edomites did not stay there. The chapter shows that their leaders ruled territory much greater than Edom proper.
Verse 37 states that the Edomites ruled land that reached all the way to the Euphrates River. In addition to Edom, they dwelt in what the Bible calls the land of Temani. This land is located near Persia and Central Asia, as Dr. Herman Hoeh proved in his Compendium of World History, Volume 2, by connecting the Husham in the land of Temani found in verse 34 with the Persian ruler Hushang. Hushang was a descendant of Teman who ruled over the Persians and Edomites.
The early kings of Persia ruled not just Persia, but Central Asia too. “In the vast stretches north of Persia live a medley of peoples,” Dr. Hoeh wrote. “Mongols, Tatars, Turks, Turkomen and Persians, among many others. The history of this area is intimately connected with ancient Persia.” The Bible shows that certain Edomites migrated northeast into Central Asia and Persia and lived among all those different people.
Eventually one Persian king, Alphidun, also known as Feridoun, split his kingdom among his sons, giving Turkestan in Central Asia to one son named Tur, and giving Persia to another son from a different mother. From Tur, the Temanite inhabitants took on the name of Turk, which they hold to this day. From then on, the Persians and Turks fought each other off and on.
This history can be found in several of the Persians’ and Turks’ own histories, such as History of the Early Kings of Persia, translated by David Shea, and A General History of the Turks, Moguls and Tatars, translated from a Tartar manuscript. However, anti-biblical scholars reject these accounts and relegate them to legend. They conclude that the origins of the Turks are obscure because they won’t accept the provable records of these people.
While myth and legend have no doubt been added to the Persians’ and Turks’ own historical accounts, there is much truth to these histories, mainly the names of rulers and the accounts of their reigns and conquests.
Later, the Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar, conquered Edom. Many of the Edomites continued to migrate to Central Asia, out of reach of the powerful empires emerging from Mesopotamia. “From the days of Nebuchadnezzar, who carried them captive, they disappear for 1,000 years from history,” Dr. Hoeh wrote in a Plain Truth article. “Then suddenly we find Amalek the name of a city in Turkestan in Central Asia (from Paul Herrmann’s Sieben vorbei und Act Verweht, page 451). [Amalek was a grandson of Esau (Genesis 36:12).] The Egyptians used to call the Amalekites Amu. In Turkestan is the River Amu today! In Bible times the Edomites inhabited Mt. Seir (Genesis 32:4). In Turkestan is the Syr Darya—the River of Syr or Seir” (July 1957).
There they inhabited the same land as the Mongoloid Turks—descendants of Japheth—and picked up their language. When the Turks rose to power, they migrated back toward the same general direction they had come from into Asia Minor. There they once again rose to prominence as the Ottoman Empire.
That is not to say that all the Turks migrating into Asia Minor in the seventh century were descendents of Esau, but it is clear from the names and the history available that the bulk of the Turks in Turkey, especially the Ottomans, are Edomites.
This must be why a king of the Khazars, a different Turkic people who converted to Judaism and created a kingdom north of the Black Sea, referred to the Byzantines as the “kingdom of Edom” in a late-10th-century letter to the Jewish chief minister of the Caliph of Cordoba in Spain, just at the time of the greatest Turkic migrations into Asia Minor.
Greatest Proof in Biblical Prophecy
Here is what Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in The United States and Britain in Prophecy concerning Esau: “In Isaac’s dying prophecy, he foretold that Esau’s descendants would come to a time when they should have dominion, and then break the yoke of the Israelites from off their necks. That has happened. The children of Israel, through sin, were driven out of the Promised Land that belonged with the birthright. The Turks came to power and dominion and for many centuries possessed that land. Those descendants, the Turkish people, occupied Palestine 400 years before Britain took it in 1917. Esau’s descendants always have lusted for that land, central promise of the birthright! The Turks have truly lived by the sword!”
This prophecy is recorded in Genesis 27:39-41. There are more prophecies concerning Edom, and specifically Teman, in Obadiah. In verses 11 and 13, the Bible prophesies that the descendants of Edom would control an important gate. Another prophecy in Psalm 83 indicates that Edom would also be located in close proximity to Moab and the Ammonites, which is modern-day Jordan, and also close to the Ishmaelites, modern-day Saudi Arabia. The only country that can fulfill these prophecies, and therefore be the descendants of Edom, is Turkey!
Turkey is located close to all these countries and controls an important gate, the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits. All other sea gates in that area are controlled by countries whose peoples are definitely not Edomite, such as Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Edom can only be Turkey!
It is in the same prophecy found in Psalm 83 that we are told whether or not Turkey will completely end its friendship with the West in the near future.
Turkey in Prophecy
Psalm 83 contains an important prophecy of a future alliance against Israel that is soon to be fulfilled. “For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee: The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarenes; Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assur also is joined with them” (verses 5-8).
This prophecy declares that Assur, the father of the Assyrians, whose descendants are now the nation of Germany, will ally with several Middle East nations, including Turkey, in an effort to destroy the descendants of Israel, which consist of the Anglo-Saxon nations of America and Britain as well as the Jewish nation of Israel. (For more information on the identity of these people in Psalm 83, request our free booklets The King of the South and Germany and the Holy Roman Empire. Request The United States and Britain in Prophecy for a detailed proof of who the descendants of Israel are.) Such an alliance has never formed in history, so this is an end-time prophecy yet to be fulfilled!
These names have been listed so we can know who they are and how this prophecy would unfold today.
Turkey plays a major part in this prophecy. In many ways, this prophecy is a repeat of history. The Ottoman Empire allied itself with Germany and the Central Powers against the Anglo-Saxons in World War i. In World War ii, many of the Muslim nations were allied with Germany or at least sympathized with Hitler’s goal of destroying the Jews.
Ataturk’s program of westernization, however, could never rewrite a thousand years of culture. In its struggle to find a balance between its Islamic roots and its Western outlook—and with its economy booming and its entry into the EU perpetually delayed—Turkey has been losing its desire to be seen as Western.
However, the Ottoman Empire knew its prosperity was tied to Europe. That is why the Ottomans first conquered southwest Europe before acquiring the much less valuable lands in the Middle East. Psalm 83 shows that Turkey will not completely cut its ties with Europe.
However, the increasing Islamization of Turkey, and its steady rejection of Western values and secularism, play an important part in this prophecy as well. Though historically Turkey has had a strong relationship with the Jewish nation of Israel, its latest moves have cemented Turkey’s direction toward the Muslim camp and will lead to a widening split between Turkey and Israel (article, page 22). This trend, however, will not overcome Turkey’s need for economic opportunities. In the end, Turkey will continue to look to Europe for prosperity, eventually allying again with Germany in its prophesied destruction of the nations of Israel!
So while biblical prophecy indicates that Turkey will not align itself with the radical Islamic states of Iran and Egypt, it will still be in an alliance to overthrow Israel.
Turkey’s friendship with the U.S. and Israel is all but over, but its European orientation is not finished!
Once we know the Turks’ origins, we can trace their history. This history has certain repeated patterns of behavior that will reemerge in our day. Thus, with biblical prophecy as our guide, we can predict their future with a degree of certainty.
This advance forecast can only be known by believing what the Bible has to say about the Edomites in the past and what it prophesies about them for the future. With the Bible as our foundation, and certain of the more reliable histories written by their prominent leaders, the history of today’s Anatolian Turks can be known!