Elam does not always refer to Iran in the Bible
Sometimes it refers to the kingdom of Elam before it was absorbed by Persia
By Craig C. White
As a Bible prophecy student you may run across these verses in Jeremiah chapter 49. They describe the fate of Elam which often refers to Persia (or today’s Iran) in the Bible. Before you ascribe these verses to the end time fate of Iran please allow me to caution you. These verses don’t apply to Persia as a whole but to the smaller kingdom of ancient Elam.
Jeremiah 49:34-39 The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet against Elam in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, saying, 35 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, the chief of their might. 36 And upon Elam will I bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and will scatter them toward all those winds; and there shall be no nation whither the outcasts of Elam shall not come. 37 For I will cause Elam to be dismayed before their enemies, and before them that seek their life: and I will bring evil upon them, even my fierce anger, saith the LORD; and I will send the sword after them, till I have consumed them: 38 And I will set my throne in Elam, and will destroy from thence the king and the princes, saith the LORD. 39 But it shall come to pass in the latter days, that I will bring again the captivity of Elam, saith the LORD.
Even though the term Elam is now used to describe Persia (or Iran); Elam was originally a separate kingdom located along the Persian Gulf northwest of Persia. Around 600 BC Elam helped Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar to conquer Jerusalem and Judea.
Isaiah 22:6 And Elam bare the quiver with chariots of men and horsemen, and Kir uncovered the shield.
God proclaimed Elam’s punishment in Jeremiah 49:34-39 because Elam had lifted its hand against Judea. God promised that the nations from the four corners of the earth would attack Elam and scatter them all over. That is exactly what happened.
The Assyrian King Assurbanipal conducted a series of devastating assaults on Elam between 647 and 646 BC. Around 600 BC the Medes conquered an already weakened Elam. In 596 BC Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar attacked Elam. After 539 BC the Persian Empire conquered Elam. King Cyrus made Susa in Elam one of Persia’s capital cities. During these invasions the people of Elam were deported to Assyria, Israel, Media, Babylonia, and Persia.
Elam as an independent kingdom ceased to exist when it became a part of Persia. Since then the name Elam has been used to describe Persia at large. Jeremiah 49:39 says that in the latter days God will once again bring the people of Elam back into their own land. It seems likely that this will happen after Jesus Christ returns.
Elam was a separate kingdom from Persia. Elam was then attacked over a period of one hundred years by every neighboring nation. The people of Elam were carried away to every other nation until Elam as a kingdom ceased to exist. Persia finally took control over Elam and converted it into one of their capitals. The term Elam is often used to describe Persia (or Iran) in the Bible. But Jeremiah used it to describe the smaller kingdom of ancient Elam before it was absorbed by Persia. So this passage is not about God’s judgement towards modern day Iran.