Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher inadvertently predicted the outcome of the second Persian Gulf war 10 years before it was fought. Interviewed on an American breakfast television program, she observed: “The great lesson of the 20th century is that whenever the American and British peoples stand together, they always win.”
Certainly in the first two wars of this new century in which both were involved, they also won. The victorious allies triumphed over the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban in Afghanistan and over the fascist regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Prior to the 20th century, the great 19th-century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck predicted that the most important geopolitical fact of the coming 20th century was that Britain and America spoke the same language. This was to prove fateful for the German-speaking peoples, defeated in two world wars by the two major English-speaking nations and their allies.
Britain and America do not always speak the same language, of course. Sir Winston Churchill, whose father was British and mother American, quipped that British and Americans were “separated by a common language.” There are many subtle differences between the two languages (as with English elsewhere around the world) that can lead to misunderstandings.
America and Britain do not always speak the same language in a figurative sense either. Their national interests sometimes fail to coincide. Geographical location has a lot to do with this—the British sometimes seeing things more from a European perspective. This has increasingly been the case since Britain joined the European Union (formerly the EEC) in 1973. Many Britons remain fully committed to the ideals of European unity, though many others are either anti-European or skeptical at best.
But Mrs. Thatcher’s dictum remains true nonetheless. In both world wars and throughout the Cold War, the United States and Britain usually fought together—and won. Two notable defeats were Vietnam (which Britain stayed out of) and the 1956 Suez Crisis (where America’s president did not support British action against Egypt after Egypt nationalized the British- and French-owned Suez Canal). These two failures only serve to underscore the truth of Mrs. Thatcher’s observation.
She intuitively understood something that was revealed in your Bible thousands of years ago. It’s a prophecy about the “latter days” and the global role the United States and the United Kingdom would play.
Joseph’s historic role
In Genesis 49 we see the biblical patriarch Jacob, grandson of Abraham, calling his sons together that he might tell them what would happen to them “in the last days” (verse 1). Jacob, whose name God had changed to Israel, had 12 sons from whom the 12 tribes of Israel are descended.
The descendants of one of those sons, Judah, are known today as Jews. So are those who remained with the tribe of Judah at the ancient breakup of the nation. After the death of King Solomon, the Kingdom of Israel with its 12 tribes was divided into two separate kingdoms—the southern kingdom of Judah (comprising Judah, Benjamin and many of the Levites) and the northern kingdom of Israel, made up of the rest of the tribes (see 1 Kings 12; 2 Chronicles 10-11).
The northern kingdom of Israel was taken into captivity by the Assyrian Empire in the eighth century B.C., more than a century before the peoples of Judah met a similar fate at the hands of the Babylonians. While many of the Jews later returned from their exile, and those who didn’t at least retained their national identity, the 10 northern tribes forgot their identity over time and have been lost to the world. They are now called the “lost 10 tribes of Israel” in world history.
While they were lost to the world, they were not lost to God. In Genesis 49 we note that God foretells the destiny of these tribes “in the last days” prior to Christ’s return—in other words, in our time, now. God knows where the descendants of these ancient tribes are today, and He knew thousands of years ago the significant role they would play at this time.
In verse 22 we begin reading a description of the destiny of the descendants of Joseph, the foremost of the 12 tribes. “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall.” God was here using symbolism to point out that the physical descendants of Joseph were destined to be a fruitful people, a productive people who would spread and bring economic prosperity and development wherever they went.
In the previous chapter, chapter 48, we read more detail about Joseph’s destiny. Jacob, the grandfather, here is giving his blessing to the two sons of Joseph, promising them future greatness. Although Jacob had 12 sons, Joseph was his favorite. Through Joseph, Jacob would pass on the great blessings God had originally promised his grandfather, Abraham. Of Joseph’s two sons, Jacob says, “Bless the lads; let my name be named upon them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth” (Genesis 48:16 Genesis 48:16The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the middle of the earth.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout).
We should take careful note of the wording here. “Let my name be named on them.” What was Jacob’s name? God changed his name from Jacob to Israel (Genesis 32:28 Genesis 32:28And he said, Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince have you power with God and with men, and have prevailed.
American King James Version×). Israel (Jacob) is the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. The Jews are only a small fraction of those tribes. The modern Jewish nation in the Middle East calls itself Israel, but that is in some ways a misnomer. While the land of Israel is a biblical designation for this territory, the Jewish people who live there today are descendants of those who made up the ancient kingdom of Judah. The descendants of the northern kingdom of Israel, the 10 lost tribes, by and large live elsewhere.
A great nation and a multitude of nations
Jacob’s new name, Israel, was to be carried by his favorite son and his two boys, Manasseh and Ephraim. Regarding these, Jacob upset his son Joseph by promising the greater part of the birthright promise, the inheritance passed down from Abraham through Isaac to Jacob and now to Joseph’s two sons, to the youngest son, Ephraim. The custom of primogeniture, whereby the eldest boy receives the bulk of the birthright, was overridden here by divine prerogative.
Under God’s inspiration, Jacob foretold that Ephraim was to become “a multitude of nations” while Manasseh was to “become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he …” (Genesis 48:19 Genesis 48:19And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.
American King James Version×). “And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh” (verse 20).
The multitude of nations was to become great before the great single people. It would also be greater in size, wealth and duration. This prophecy clearly was never fulfilled in the Jewish people.
It was, however, fulfilled in the British Empire and the United States of America—two brother nations that are, in fact, the modern descendants of the tribe of Joseph (for more information and detailed historical proof, be sure to request or download our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy).
The United States has been the dominant nation in the world since World War II, a period of almost 60 years. But before American preeminence, the British Empire was the dominant power for two centuries. In size and population the British Empire was greater than the United States. British territory at the fullest extent of the empire totaled 13.9 million square miles. America’s today is 3.9 million, 10 million less. America’s population is also smaller than was that of the British Empire.
Although the prophecy in Genesis 48 shows that the British Empire, “a multitude of nations,” and the United States, the great single nation, were to be separate political entities, the following chapter does not mention Ephraim or Manasseh. Rather, the prophetic term used to describe both of these peoples “in the last days” is Joseph, their shared common ancestor.
Genesis 49:22 Genesis 49:22Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:
American King James Version×foretells that Joseph would be fruitful, bringing economic development wherever his descendants went. When we look at the British Empire a century ago, and at the United States as the American people moved westward, we see that this has been very much the case.
Verses 23 and 24 of Genesis 49 add a further prophecy of the role these two peoples would fulfill. “The archers have bitterly grieved him, shot at him and hated him. But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob …”
Here we see a major military role for Joseph. The implication of these verses is that the descendants of Joseph would fight many conflicts against those who envied and hated them, but that God would give them victory. Interestingly, the term “archers” is used, suggesting attacks from afar. One of the great blessings the British and American peoples have enjoyed is a long period of peace at home. The wars they have fought generally have been overseas, sparing their own people from much of the suffering that comes from conflict.
Joseph’s historic mission
When we look back at the wars the United States and Britain have fought, we find a common theme. These two nations have fulfilled a common purpose. At first it was the British Empire that that fulfilled this destiny, followed by the British Commonwealth—independent nations including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, together with the colonies ruled by Britain itself.
Since World War II the United States has supplanted Britain in this role, but Britain and oftentimes those same Commonwealth nations have supported the United States as junior partners in an alliance of common purpose. In the latest conflict, Australia was the third military force supporting the United States and Britain.
What has that purpose been?
To understand this, we have to go back to the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. During a tumultuous period in English history, the nation was able to break away from the Church of Rome, initially under King Henry VIII, but more completely under the rule of his daughter, the first Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603). This year marks the 400th anniversary of her death, the passing of one of the most significant monarchs in world history.
The Protestant Reformation drew its name from the fact that many were protesting against the corruption of the Roman church and the church’s hierarchy. They broke the power of Rome, which for more than 1,000 years had dominated and held back the development of the continent of Europe. Not only did these reformers break Rome’s authority, they also gave us the Bible, a banned book under the Roman church.
The enthusiasm with which the people greeted the publication of the King James Bible in 1611 lasted for centuries, right up until 1900, the first year in which more secular books were published in England than books of a religious nature.
This English translation of the Bible gave people ideas that led to fundamental changes in society, including its form of governance. Democratic institutions, already in place, were gradually strengthened as an educated and self-disciplined Christian people increasingly began to rule themselves. Wherever the British settled in the world, they took with them their Bibles and established parliaments. Thirteen of these parliaments (or Houses of Assembly, or House of Burgesses) later formed the United States of America.
Fighting for freedom
Meanwhile, continental Europe remained largely under the influence of the Church of Rome, with absolute monarchs claiming rule by “divine right.” Encouraged by the Roman church, some of these monarchs attempted to bring England back under Rome’s authority.
King Philip II of Spain, the most powerful monarch in the world at the time, launched the Spanish Armada against England in 1588—and lost. Many similar struggles would take place in the following centuries against the forces of despotism. At first these wars were mainly, or partly, over religion. Later, as Britain became a global power, they were mostly against tyrants and despots trying to expand their control over other nations and peoples.
Often the historic role of the British peoples was to fight for freedom against despotism. A cornerstone of British foreign policy for four centuries was to stay out of Europe and concentrate on its empire beyond the seas. The only times Britain would involve itself in European affairs was when one European country was becoming so powerful it threatened the balance of power on the continent. Through the centuries the British (and later the nations of the British Empire) thwarted, among others:
- The forces of Louis XIV of France, who tried to extend his influence into the Iberian Peninsula during the War of the Spanish Succession.
- His great-grandson Louis XV who tried to conquer the American colonies during the French and Indian Wars (1755-63).
- Napoleon, who brought two decades of war to Europe in his attempt at continental subjugation, ending in 1815.
- Russian Czar Nicholas I, who attempted to take over the crumbling Turkish Empire in the Crimean War (1854-56), a move that would have given Russia control over the Middle East.
- Kaiser Wilhelm II, who tried to dominate Europe in World War I.
- Adolf Hitler, whose goal was world supremacy in World War II.
Many of these major conflicts were against powers that saw themselves as a continuation of the ancient Roman imperial system.
Additionally, numerous smaller wars broke out around the world as the British often tried to keep apart warring tribes and ethnic groups in the interests of peace and trade.
Drained and battered after World War II, the second world war in 30 years, the British retreated from their global responsibilities, choosing instead to support the United States, which had effectively taken over Britain’s role. The Cold War followed for nearly half a century, with the United States and Britain as allies. In the tumultuous years surrounding the Soviet Union’s collapse, other despots clawed their way to power. Again, America and Britain were at the forefront in combating tyranny.
This is not to say they’ve been perfect. The two have certainly made their share of mistakes. They have committed serious errors of judgment at times in both their foreign and domestic affairs. Worse, the two peoples have moved significantly away from God’s laws in recent decades. Yet God has still chosen to bless their military efforts, especially when they pull together and support each other. But will this continue indefinitely?
Will America and Britain continue to win?
The Bible warns these two nations, the nations on whom Israel placed his name, of the consequences of turning away from God. Our Creator is very patient. He does not always punish immediately when sin—defined in the Bible as the transgression of God’s law—is committed. But there are always consequences for sin. And the peoples of the United States and Britain, once nations dedicated to the Bible—even though they often did not interpret and understand it correctly—have turned progressively further and further away from God’s way.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people,” the Scriptures tell us (Proverbs 14:34 Proverbs 14:34Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
American King James Version×). When the United States and Britain were perceived as a righteous, Christian people, other nations around the world generally held them in much greater respect.
Today the perception is very different as these two nations turn their backs on God and churn out endless sexual filth and gratuitous violence in the form of music, movies and television programs, which are then exported around the world. This has contributed greatly to the rise of Islamic anger, which now threatens the American and British peoples at home, seriously diminishing their sense of security.
Of course, many nations have long been deeply resentful of America’s wealth and power and would like nothing more than to see the world’s only superpower humbled if not defeated outright. Even a substantial number of Americans, unaware of their country’s God-given blessings and role, would like to see the United States unilaterally surrender its supremacy and subordinate its national interests to others.
Facing the consequences
If the United States and Britain (and other English-speaking nations around the world) do not turn back to God, He warns that eventually “the Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them; and you shall become troublesome to all the kingdoms of the earth” (Deuteronomy 28:25 Deuteronomy 28:25The LORD shall cause you to be smitten before your enemies: you shall go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shall be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.
American King James Version×).
God alone will decide when that moment has arrived, the time when He removes His hand from these two nations whose alliance has been such a formidable force for as long as anyone alive today can remember.
Most people today neither understand or appreciate God’s involvement in the history of the British and Americans peoples, the descendants of Joseph. But the Bible makes it clear. Joseph’s great military strength, witnessed again in the latest Persian Gulf conflict as it was in the first, was directly attributable to God. As the patriarch Jacob long ago prophesied of Joseph’s descendants “in the latter days,” “the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob” (Genesis 49:24 Genesis 49:24But his bow stayed in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from there is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
American King James Version×).
But what God gives He can also take away. And if the American and British people don’t return to the God who has blessed them, He warns that He will withdraw His blessing and protection. GN