Christian Company’s $150 Million Dream of Israeli Oil Boom May Go Bust

Zion Oil & Gas has failed to find commercially viable oil wells in Israel. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

A born-again Christian’s crusade to find oil in Israel may be ending, after 35 years, with a dry hole.

In late November, Zion Oil & Gas Inc., a Dallas-based company founded by self-described “Christian Zionist” John M. Brown, acknowledged that its latest oil well in Israel “is not commercially productive.”

The publicly traded company, which has spent more than $150 million of investors’ money looking for petroleum in the Israeli sands, said it had only enough remaining money to continue operating through the end of January.

Should the end of January mark the end for Zion Oil & Gas, it will close a fateful chapter in the faith journey of Brown. He claims to have been saved by Jesus in 1981, when he was a tool company executive in Michigan, his marriage was on the rocks and his drinking was out of control.

“I had been hospitalized for alcoholism four times, but God changed my life dramatically when I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior,” he wrote in an online history of Zion Oil & Gas.

That year, he said, Jim Spillman, an evangelical Christian author, visited Michigan and convinced Brown that the Bible prophesied something few geologists believed, and no working wells affirmed: that Israel was sitting atop an ocean of oil.

John M. Brown, founder of Zion Oil & Gas. (Globe Newswire via AP)

By finding and extracting it, he said, he could transform the fortunes of the ancient Holy Land.

Oil has never been found in commercially viable quantities in Israel. The few biblical mentions of “oil” are generally thought by religious scholars to refer to olive oil.

Brown, however, was undeterred by the shortage of exegetical or physical evidence.

“God’s faithful,” he said in a promotional video on the company’s website. “He says it’s going to happen.”

Among other biblical passages, he cited Genesis 49:25 as a reason for starting Zion Oil & Gas:

“Because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below…”

Then there’s Deuteronomy 8:9, promising God’s faithful “a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing … ”

“It says the land will not lack anything,” Brown said in a 2013 interview. “Well, oil is anything, right?”

The November announcement of disappointing results from Zion’s Megiddo Jezreel No. 1 well in northern Israel was the culmination of a difficult year for Zion Oil & Gas.

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Source: Religion News Service