Petra, the ruins of an ancient city of Edom carved out of rock and protected by high mountain walls and with a narrow access, has been a suggested location of the “place,” but this is pure speculation. The only stipulation possible is that it is a place of refuge for converted Israel during the last half of the seventieth week.1While we agree that the precise identification of Petra as the place of refuge is difficult to assert dogmatically, we disagree that it is “pure speculation.” There are numerous passages which pertain to the flight of the remnant and her divine protection in the wilderness. Given the importance of the preservation of a Jewish remnant, we should not be surprised by this. However, many of the passages are obscure and occur within settings which have both a local and a far-future reference and distinguishing between the two can be quite difficult. We offer some of these passages below in the hopes that they will prompt further study of this matter.In the midst of a passage by Isaiah describing a time of destruction coming upon the people of Moab during which they would court Zion’s favor for refuge, there is a stunning reversal in the scene:
Take counsel, execute judgment; make your shadow like the night in the middle of the day; hide the outcasts, do not betray him who escapes. Let My outcasts dwell with you, O Moab; be a shelter to them from the face [presence cf. Rev. 12:14+] of the spoiler. For the extortioner is at an end, devastation ceases, oppressors are consumed out of the land. In mercy the throne will be established; and One will sit on it in truth, in the tabernacle of David, judging and seeking justice and hastening righteousness. (Isa. 16:3-5) [emphasis added]Isaiah reverses the context and appeals to Moab for the protection of “My outcasts” (Israel). The context is a time of intense persecution and destruction which is followed by the just reign of Messiah upon the throne of David—the Millennial Kingdom.
Let mine outcasts dwell (sojourn) with thee, Moab (the KJV correctly follows the [Masoretic Text], as over against the LXX, Syriac, and Targum, who render it: “the outcasts of Moab”). . . . The LORD was saying to Moab, through the Spirit of prophecy in Isaiah, “When My people Israel will be outcasts, be a haven to them, hiding them from their persecutors.” Envisioned is that preeminent time of Israel’s trouble, the Great Tribulation . . . under Antichrist, Israel’s supreme “destroyer” (Rev. 12:6+-13:18+). . . . At the height of that persecution of the Jewish remnant, Christ will return in glory to sit upon His throne and judge the nations (Mat. 25:46).2The passage describes the path by which Moab should have sent its tribute of lambs to the king of Israel. “From Sela to the wilderness to the mount of the daughter of Zion Jerusalem” (Isa. 16:1 cf. 2K. 3:4-5). Sela means “Rock” and is understood to be a reference to Petra.3 Could it be that the path by which the Moabites should have sent lambs from Petra via the wilderness to Jerusalem is to be retraced by the sheep of Israel who are scattered in the time of the end (Zec. 13:7-9)?This occurs during the time when the Lord is testing those who dwell upon the earth (Rev. 3:10+). During this time, the faithful remnant will be hidden in their chambers—reminiscent to the time of the Passover in Egypt:
Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past. For behold, the Lord comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain. (Isa. 26:20-21)Daniel informs us that the domain of the Antichrist will have the following exceptions: “He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon” (Dan. 11:41+). For some reason the Antichrist is unable to overthrow these regions which include both Bozrah and Petra.4
Bozrah, the ancient capital of Edom, is without a doubt to be identified with the modern village of Buseirah, which is located in N Edom (M.R. 208018). It guards both the Kings’ Highway (the major N-S route through Transjordan) and a major route W to the Wadi Arabah and thence to the Negeb and S Judah. It is also within striking distance of the Edomite copper mines in the Wadi Dana and Wadi Feinan some 10-15 km SSW. No water source has been found within the site, the main supply probably being the spring at `Ain Jenin, about one km E, which until recently was also the source for the modern village.6Interestingly, several Second Coming passages also indicate that God is seen coming from these regions:
Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, this One who is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength? -“I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like one who treads in the winepress? “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, and trampled them in My fury; their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, and I have stained all My robes. For the day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed has come.” (Isa. 63:1-4) [emphasis added]
God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of His praise. (Hab. 3:3)
The prophet, under the form of a theophany, was given a vision of the second advent of the Messiah . . . seen coming from Teman, a district of Edom, poetically the part standing for the whole, . . . advancing from Mount Paran, the hilly country between Edom and Sinai (Deu. 33:2). Isaiah, in a vision of the second advent, similarly beheld the Messiah advancing in judgment upon His foes “from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah” (Isa. 63:1-6). [emphasis added]7In the Psalms, mention is made of the nation being led to Edom during a time when God has cast Israel off and is seeking help from trouble. God is appealed to as the one who will tread down (cf. Isa. 63:1-6) Israel’s enemies:
Who will bring me to the strong city? Who will lead me to Edom? Is it not You, O God, who cast us off? And You, O God, who did not go out with our armies? Give us help from trouble, for the help of man is useless. Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies. (Ps. 60:9-12 cf. Ps. 108:10-13) [emphasis added]The reference to “strong city” is thought to refer to Petra, “the strong city. (Petra or Sela) the rock-built city of Edom (Ps. 31:21; 2K. 14:7)”8 , also known as Sela:
Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the LORD, and declare His praise in the coastlands. The LORD shall go forth like a mighty man; He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war. He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud; He shall prevail against His enemies. (Isa. 42:11-13) [emphasis added]
Petra is located in a basin within Mount Seir, and is totally surrounded by mountains and cliffs. The only way in and out of the city is through a narrow passageway that extends for about a mile and can only be negotiated by foot or by horseback. This makes the city easy to defend, and its surrounding high cliffs give added meaning and confirmation to Isaiah 33:16 . . . The name Bozrah means “sheepfold.” An ancient sheepfold had a narrow entrance so that the shepherd could count his sheep. Once inside the fold, the sheep had more room to move around. Petra is shaped like a giant sheepfold, with its narrow passage opening up to a spacious circle surrounded by cliffs.9Micah describes an assembly of Jacob, a remnant, which will be gathered into a fold (bozrah). The one who breaks them out is clearly a reference to Messiah, the Good Shepherd:
I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together like sheep of the fold [בָּצְרָה [bāṣerâ] ], like a flock in the midst of their pasture; they shall make a loud noise because of so many people. The one who breaks open will come up before them; they will break out, pass through the gate, and go out by it; their king will pass before them, with the LORD at their head. (Mic. 2:12-13) [emphasis added]
The LORD will “gather” from their worldwide, age-long Diaspora the elect “remnant,” which will survive “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:5-7), the Great Tribulation (Rev. 8:1+-20:3+), preceding the establishment of the Kingdom over Israel (Rev. 20:4-6+; Acts 1:7). . . . The saved remnant will be the nucleus of the millennial Kingdom. The LORD declared, I will put them together like the sheep of Bozrah (a region in Edom well known as a sheep-raising center). . . . They (the returning remnant of Israel) will follow “the breaker,” the Messiah, who will break through and open the way, going up before them. They, following Him, will break through the gate and go out from their captivity to glorious freedom.10An appreciation of the ultimate setting of the previous passage sheds new light on the familiar teaching of Jesus:
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. (John 10:1-5)Will the Jewish remnant of the time of the end be in such a physical “sheepfold” of sorts? Will they be reading these very words of Jesus penned by John thousands of years before their situation—waiting for the “shepherd of the sheep” to bring out his own sheep? Only time will tell.These references to Edom and Bozrah are indicators that at the Second Coming, God has business to take care of in Edom. That business involves the defense of his sheep, the Jewish remnant represented by the woman who flees the dragon. See Campaign of Armageddon.
1 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1995), Rev. 12:14.
2 Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), Isa. 15:4.
3 [Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament, Isa. 16:1.] “Selah is generally supposed to be the same as Petra, which in Greek signifies a rock, the celebrated capital of Arabia Petraea.”—Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), 2K. 14:7.
4 “The passage [Dan. 11:41+] states that while Antichrist will conquer the whole world, there nations will escape his domination: Edom, Moab, and Ammon. All three of these ancient nations currently comprise the single modern kingdom of Jordan.”—Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 297.
5 Image courtesy of the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas at Austin. [www.lib.utexas.edu/maps]
6 Ulrich Hart and HÜbner, “Bozrah in Edom,” in David Noel Freeman, ed., The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1996, c1992), 1:774.
7 Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament, Hab. 3:3-7.
8 Ibid., Ps. 60:9.
9 Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 296-297.
10 Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament, Mic. 2:12-13.