Zion Oil Update

Yet again, Zion Oil and Gas makes it into the news. BusinessWeek reports:

John Brown, a born-again Christian who believes the Bible will guide him to oil and gas in Israel, is planning to test the faith of investors in the U.S. in the next few weeks. The Texas-based novice oilman who founded Zion Oil & Gas is aiming to raise between $2.45 million and $14 million in an initial public offering, tentatively slated for July, to fund drilling at a kibbutz northeast of Tel Aviv. God, Brown says, “has promised in the Bible to bless Israel with one of the world’s largest oil and gas fields.”

This is a bit slow off the mark; the annoncement was made back in January, and I blogged it at the time. Brown believes that a passage in the Book of Deuternomy that mentions Asher dipping his foot in oil in fact refers to a hidden deposit of petroleum (Biblical hermeneutics is not his strong suit), and that a “stranger” mentioned in the Book of Kings is reference to himself (square brackets from Zion Oil’s website):

…Moreover concerning a stranger [John Brown], that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country [U.S.A.] for thy name’s sake: (for they shall hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand, and of thy stretched out arm); when he shall come and pray towards this house; hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to ALL that the stranger calleth to thee for [Oil for Israel]: that all the people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel and that they may know that this house, which I have builded, is called by thy name.” (I Kings 8:41-43).

One well has already been drilled, with underwhelming results. BusinessWeek again:

Last spring, the team found luminescence in some of the rock they had fetched, suggesting it contained hydrogen and carbon—though that could amount to either natural gas or just tar. Still, they also saw gas bubbling up as they drilled. “Our sense is that the hydrocarbon is oil and gas,” says [CEO Eugene] Soltero. “We don’t know how much and whether or not we can produce it economically.”

That cost $8.8 million, apparently. BusinessWeek also notes a previous effort by Brown to raise funds:

He tried to raise money in an IPO two years ago, but couldn’t collect the $6.5 million required by the American Stock Exchange. He scrapped the deal and returned most of the $3.7 million he collected from hundreds of investors.

The details of this fiasco are included in certain documents posted on the Zion Oil website, which I blogged on last year. The problem was that one of Zion Oil’s major shareholders at that time was a man named Ralph DeVore, a cousin of Hal Lindsey and a director of Hal Lindsey Ministries. Lindsey used his status as supposed “prophecy expert” to promote the share option in his WorldNetDaily column (failing to mention that a relative stood to gain), but this was insufficient. Brown complained that DeVore had agreed to organise a number of meetings to promote Zion Oil, but he had failed to do so. DeVore’s bizarre response to suggest that the real reason why the IPO had failed was because Zion Oil was supposed to be an evangelical company, yet it had a number of Jews on its board. DeVore claimed to have received a personal message from Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, that this amounted to religious syncretism and rebellion towards God.

Brown is not the only evangelical to devote his resources to finding oil in Israel; before him, there was James Spillman and Hayseed Stephens. I covered both of these characters in a blog entry here.


(Hat tip: Christianity Today Weblog. Image via Jesus’ General)