Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Bartholomew on Zion Oil

Bartholomew has long been following the story of Zion Oil, a company trying to find oil in Israel on the basis of an absurdly interpreted verse in the Bible. His latest post on the subject says that their stock has dropped in half lately, probably because, frankly, there’s no oil there. He also points out the funny business going on between Zion and Hal Lindsey, who frequently pimps the project to his followers as Biblically sound without bothering to tell them that he owns 50,000 shares of stock that will only go up in value if more people buy shares.

I’ve written about this before and pointed out the absurdity of their Biblical exegesis. They make claims like this:

John Brown, a born-again Christian and founder of Zion Oil & Gas of Dallas, can quote chapter and verse about his latest drilling venture in Israel, where his company has an oil and gas exploration license covering 96,000 acres.

“Most blessed of sons be Asher. Let him be favored by his brothers and let him dip his foot in oil,” Brown quotes from Moses’s blessing to one of the 12 Tribes of Israel in Deuteronomy 33:24.

Standing next to a 177-foot derrick at Kibbutz Maanit in northern Israel, Brown said the passage indicated there is oil lying beneath the biblical territory of the Tribe of Asher, where the agricultural community is located.

Except that the verse is talking about olive oil, not petroleum. There was no word for petroleum at the time for a simple reason: no one had ever heard of it in the bronze age. The Hebrew word in this passage is shemen. Strong’s Concordance defines this word as “grease, especially liquid (as from the olive, often perfumed)”, which is consistent with biblical notions of annointing and a culture in which washing and annointing one’s feet was a sign of wealth. It has precisely nothing to do with petroleum.

Bartholomew quotes the former director of the Israeli state-owned oil company saying, “no oilman in his right mind would put money into the business.” That should be a big clue to any thinking person. Anyone trying to sell shares in an oil speculating business is almost by definition running a scam; if there was any reasonable chance of striking oil there, they wouldn’t have to beg credulous Christians in the US to support the project, the oil companies would have already bought up the rights and done the exploration.

There is a very good reason they haven’t done so here: the geologic data does not support the likelihood of there being oil there. If it did, Chevron and Shell would be digging there, not an old man who didn’t know a damn thing about oil until he became born again and started reading the Bible.


  1. #1 ndt
    October 2, 2007

    Hal Lindsey is still alive?!?

  2. #2 Avatar
    October 3, 2007

    Good grief. I wonder how much of the money goes to actually drilling efforts. Strangely, I suspect that quite a bit if it just might: This guy sounds like he actually believes his own nonsense. That would be pretty typical.

    Just when I think the literalists can’t get any stupider…the only thing I might get at all irritated by is the fact that the money invested in this is WASTED. Money that could have done some actual good somewhere else.

    Meanwhile, watch for when Lindsey sells his stock and takes off laughing to the bank.

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