Some four thousand years ago, God told Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation.
The Jews are the subject of more Bible prophecies than any other nation, simply because the Jews are God’s special people. Their entire history has been foretold including events which have taken place in the 20th century. The existence of the people of Israel, the Jews, and the existence of the nation in its biblical land can be considered to be evidence for the reliability of the Bible.
Israel have a history that goes back thousands of years. In fact the father of the Jews, Abraham, lived some 2000 years before Christ. Israel have had a chequered history; sometimes being a great nation and at other times oppressed and conquered by other nations. Yet Israel has been reborn as a nation. Jerusalem the centre of Jewish faith is under Jewish control for the first time in 1900 years.
The History of Israel
2000 BC Abraham, the father of the Jews.
1400 BC Israel invades and conquers Canaan and is established as a nation.
1000 BC King David
600 BC Jews taken captive to Babylon
538 BC Jews return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city
AD 70 Romans capture Jerusalem. Jews scattered throughout the world.
AD 1897 1st Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland.
AD 1900: a handful of Jews living in Palestine; Turks in charge.
AD 1917: British captured Palestine; Jews began to move there.
AD 1945—1948: many Jews who survived WW2 migrated to Palestine.
AD 1948: state of Israel proclaimed.
AD 1948—1995: many wars with Arabs; Israel maintains independence; Jews migrate in large numbers.
AD1994—1995: peace settlements with surrounding Arab nations.
History Predicted in the Bible
Israel have not only had a varied and chequered history, but astonishingly the history of the nation has been predicted in the Bible with amazing accuracy. The following table shows just some of the many prophecies about Israel and Jews and their fulfilment.
|Prophecy||Bible Reference||Date of Prediction||Fulfilment|
|1||Israel’s national birth was predicted by God to Abraham.||Genesis 15:13-16||2000 BC||Abraham’s descendants went into Egypt and came out hundreds of years later as the Nation of Israel|
|2||Israel’s disobedience, scattering, preservation and revival was predicted by Moses.||Scattering: Deut 28:36-37,62-67,Return: Deut 30:1-3||1500BC||Israel taken captive to Babylon in 600 B.C., returned to land in 538 B.C., then cast out of Palestine by the Romans in AD70. Return to the land in 20th Century.|
|3||Israel is a continuing witness to God’s existence||Isaiah 43:1-2, 10-12||700BC||The Jews continue to exist despite severe persecutions|
|4||Though scattered throughout the world, Israel would be preserved.||Jeremiah 30:10-11; 31:10||600BC||The Jews exist now in virtually every country in the world. Their existence is despite persecutions such as the Spanish inquisition, the Russian pogroms, the Nazi holocaust, and many other attempts to destroy them, God has preserved a remnant of his people.|
|5||They would return to the land and regain control of Jerusalem.||Luke 21:24-31||AD30||The nation reborn 1948, Jerusalem recaptured 1967.|
The Rebirth of Israel
Is the emphasis given here to the prophecies about Israel just because the rebirth of the nation of Israel has occurred this century? No. These prophecies were understood well before Israel became a modern nation.
“Testimony and reason thereupon show, that there must be a resettlement of the land by the Jews to a limited extent before the Battle of Armageddon . . . that will speak in unmistakable and infallible terms to the believer. It will be a sure and certain sign of a speedy appearing of the Son of Man in power and glory. No-one need expect that appearing to be manifested until a Jewish colony be lifted up “as an ensign upon a hill”.
J Thomas, Herald of the Coming Age, vol 2 (1852) p.138.
It is also important to note that the re-birth of the nation of Israel is a prophecy come true against amazing odds. The rebirth of Israel is a miracle.
In 1897 at the first Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland, a Jew named Theodore Herzl espoused his view of the necessity of a homeland for the Jew in the land know at that time as Palestine. It was in the control of Turkey and formed part of the Ottoman empire. At that time, there were only a handful of Jews living in what was then known as Palestine. With the Turks in control, Jews weren’t welcome.
Just 20 years later, in the concluding months of World War I, the British evicted Turkey from Palestine and liberated Jerusalem. For the next 20 years, Britain clung tenaciously to the mandate over Palestine given it by the League of Nations. (the forerunner to the United Nations) . Slowly, Jews began to move back to the land of their ancestors. The pace of immigration increased rapidly after World War II and the atrocities of Nazi Germany, and many surviving Jews returned to Palestine. The enormity of Jewish suffering in what was to become known as the Holocaust, and the concern and guilt of many nations, led to the establishment of the State of Israel, proclaimed on 15 May 1948. This new State of Israel was established nearly 1900 years after the Jews had been exiled by the Romans.
The nation has survived against incredible odds with its hostile neighbours seeking to destroy it on numerous occasions. The most notable of these wars occurred in 1967 when an extraordinary event took place. The city of Jerusalem, divided since partition of the State in 1948, and out of Jewish control for nearly 2000 years, was once again united and brought under sovereign Jewish control.
Why has Israel survived? Because God said it would. Consistently through the prophets, God repeated his intention that despite their wickedness and despite his punishment of them, ultimately he would remember the promises which he made to their faithful ancestors, and bring them again to their own land.
Consider these examples:
None of the promises contained in these verses were conditional on Israel’s obedience! God promised to fulfil them despite Israel’s behaviour and because of his relationship with their faithful father, Abraham.
Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones
Ezekiel prophesied in about 590 B.C. when the nation of Israel was in captivity in Babylon. He gave many fascinating prophecies, including the vision of a valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37:1-14. It is a very clear prophecy with each element of the prophecy being clearly explained.
Ezekiel’s vision was of a collection of dry bones lying at the bottom of a valley. The bones come together and were covered with tendons, flesh and skin but the bodies which were formed remained dead. Then breath entered the bodies and they become a vast living army.
In verses 11-14, the prophecy is explained. It depicts Israel’s revival in two stages.
|bones||house of Israel|
|dried bones||hope gone, cut off|
|bones come together||Jews return to the land of Israel|
|breath in them||God’s spirit in his people|
The prophecy is unambiguous and clearly explained. The Jews were to be gathered out of many nations around the world and become one nation in the land their ancestors originally lived in, the land of Israel. This is precisely what has happened over the past century.
No other nation has maintained a national identity after 2000 years of exile. But no other nation has had these prophecies made concerning their history. Other nations which have been dispossessed of their land have lost their identity within a few years. What has happened to Israel is extraordinary. The fact that it was predicted shows the Bible is God’s book.
We have only seen the first stage of Ezekiel’s prophecy fulfilled. Israel has returned to their land as predicted, but they remain a secular nation uncommitted to God. God’s spirit does not yet dwell in them. These prophecies indicate they are yet to become a religious nation relying on God and obeying him.
What about Jerusalem: That burdensome stone?
Jesus said to his disciples, “I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King” (Matthew 5:34–5). What did he mean by this?
Old Testament Jerusalem
If we go back to Genesis and read the story of Abraham, we find the great promises that God made to him. God promised that Abraham would have many descendants; that he would possess the land we call ‘Israel’; and that one of his descendants would bring blessing to all mankind. This is a short summary of what God said to Abraham in Genesis 12:1–3; 15:4–7 and 22:15–18; it is well worth reading these verses. Genesis chapter 22 tells us that Abraham had such faith that he was even willing to sacrifice his son Isaac to God, although at the last moment God’s angel stopped him. This happened on Mount Moriah, which is the place where Jerusalem was built many years later.
A thousand years later King David and then his son Solomon lived and reigned over a kingdom where the laws were God’s laws, so that for a time it was actually described as ‘the Kingdom of the Lord’ (see 1 Chronicles 28:5). Jerusalem was the capital of this kingdom. 400 years later, the city was destroyed by the Babylonians because most of the Jews disobeyed God’s laws, but God spoke through the Old Testament prophets and reassured everyone that in time to come David’s kingdom would be restored. Here are some promises God made in Amos 9:11–15:
“On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” says the Lord who does this thing… “I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them,” says the Lord your God.
Jesus, the Great King
Before Jesus was born, the angel promised his mother that “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32–3). Isaiah chapter 2 shows us that the kingdom ruled from Jerusalem will be worldwide:
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come and let us walk In the light of the LORD.” (Isaiah 2:2–5).
The prophet Micah prophesied at the same time as Isaiah and gives a very similar promise. Please also take a look at Micah chapter 4, which is a parallel to Isaiah 2. Micah adds the lovely picture of everyone sitting under their vine and fig tree, and no-one making them afraid.
Fulfilment in Our Time
These promises are beginning to be fulfilled in our own time. The Jews have suffered terribly for nearly two thousand years, and many still do. Even today very few of them accept Jesus as their Messiah, but God has allowed them to rebuild a state in the land of Israel. They still have many painful experiences ahead, including invasion and defeat: see for instance Ezekiel 38:1–15 and Zechariah 14:1–2. However, we can be sure that all of God’s promises will be fulfilled, and that Jesus will be established as king in Jerusalem.
It is true that most nations will not hand their power to Jesus willingly. It will take the terrible events summed up in the Bible word ‘Armageddon’ (see Revelation 16:16) to persuade them. Eventually the announcement will be made that “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15).
In that wonderful time, we are told clearly that Jerusalem will be established as the capital not just of Israel, but of the world: Then everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16).
The fulfilment of God’s long-term plan for the earth is within sight!
By John Woodall
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