Bible study is research into the unknown, one never knows where they will end up or what conclusions they will draw at the end. Such is true for me in this journey, the findings were not quite what I thought they would be!
I was stirred to do some research by the UN vote for the state of Palestine in November 2012. The world nations have shared their views, but what is the view of God and where will Israel and Palestine end up?
In any study it is good to start at the beginning with known facts. Fact: Archaeology has established that the Jews did inhabit the land of Israel evidenced by the sudden collapse and decline of the Cananaite civilization around 1200BC and the 9th Century BC inscription found referring to the 'house of David' contemporary with the remains of the construction of monumental places and public buildings relating to an advanced Isarelite kingdom, up until AD70 when the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem. The beginning for the nation of Israel was the entrance into Canaan under Joshua (Hebrew: Yehoshua; circa 1300-1200 BCE) after wandering forty years in the wilderness under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. In Joshua 1:4 God tells Joshua that the land to be inherited extends from the wilderness (the south) up to Lebanon (to the north), to the River Euphrates, the land of the Hittites (to the west) and the sea on the east. Joshua chapters 13 to 19 set out the inheritance and borders for each of the twelve tribes. The areas of inheritance are shown on Map 1. The cities in the modern day Gaza Strip were in the inheritance of Judah and were inhabited by the Philistines (Joshua 13:2-3). The cities in the modern day West Bank were in the inheritance of Judah (Hebron, Bethlehem), Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh. The inheritance of Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Gad and Reuben lie in the modern day Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
Map 1 Map of Canaan and the division of the land according to the tribes of Israel. From Bible history
It was Israel’s land, so why the contention?
From the maps it is clear that Israel’s inheritance did include the Gaza strip and West Bank, so why the big issue with the UN? Surely this should be an easy case, God doesn’t change…or does He? Surely the Christian world accepts that the land was given to the Jews…or do they? Surely even Atheists and Agnostics appreciate that the Jews believe in Moses’s writings…or do they? There has been over 3,000 years of history since the time of Joshua, two Diasporas, a multitude of military conquests and boundary changes. Christianity and Judaism have been replaced by secularism, a mild understanding of “a God” or a worship of a form of religion.
Israel exists now, is this important?
Jesus Christ makes a prophecy known as the “Olivet prophecy” in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. The disciples are admiring the Temple in Jerusalem and Christ shocks them by saying that it will be destroyed. In Matthew 24:3 the disciples of Jesus ask him three questions:
1. when would the Temple be destroyed
2. what would be the sign of his coming
3. the sign of the end of the world
Luke 21:20-24 gives us a picture of the answer to the first and third questions. Armies would compass Jerusalem and Jerusalem would not be inhabited again by the Jews until the time of the end (ie, the return of Christ). In AD70 the Roman armies laid siege to Jerusalem and the Jews did not regain Jerusalem as a nation until 1967. Jesus gives a hint of when his return will be, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh” (Matthew 24:32). What is Jesus referring to with the fig tree? In Luke 13:6 Jesus tells another parable about a fig tree, referring to the spiritual state of Israel. In the Old Testament the spiritual state of the nation of Israel and Judah was likened to a fig tree. Hosea 9:10 “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time”. Joel 1:7 laments the state of Israel when Joel prophesies that Israel is to be invaded from the north “He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white”. Jesus is stating that his return will be shown by a sign, a blossoming fig tree, the reinstatement of the nation of Israel.
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah is very clear that the Jews will be re-gathered a second time into the land of Israel, and that this re-gathering will be at the time of the return of Christ. The start of Isaiah chapter 11 is talking about Jesus and the Kingdom of God. In Isaiah11:11-12 it says “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt,, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth”. The Hebrew word for “ensign” means a flag, sign, token or banner. The sign to the world that Jesus is about to return is the re-emergence of the nation of Israel.
Map 2 Modern Palestinians areas Gaza and PA. From wikipedia
What land is to belong to Israel?
In Numbers chapter 24 there is a very interesting prophecy by Balaam the son of Boer, who had struggled for mercenary and power reasons not to give a blessing on the nation of Israel. “I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh (near): there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir shall also be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city” (Numbers 24:17-19). This is a really curious prophecy at the time, as God had not given the land of Seir or Moab as an inheritance to Israel (Deuteromony 2:4-9). The land of Seir and Ar was given by God to the children of Esau (the Edomites) and Lot (the Moabites). Israel was even commanded to pay for their food and water from them. This prophecy is a puzzle, and like all jigsaw puzzles we need to put a number of pieces together to get the picture. From this part of the puzzle we learn that a long time into the future there will be a great person to come out of Jacob (ie, Christ) and they will conquer Edom and Moab. History has shown that this has not as yet happened.
Is there any other help from the Bible to make out what this is all about? Again it is in the Old Testament prophets that help us out.
Puzzle piece 2
Amos 9:9-15 “I will sift the house of Israel among all nations…in that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen…that they may possess the remnant of Edom…and I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel”. The possession of Edom will come at the end times when Israel is recovered from the nations.
Puzzle piece 3
Daniel 11:40- 12:2 “At the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. He shall enter also into the glorious land (ie, Israel), and many shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, Edom and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon….And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain (ie, Jerusalem); yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him. And at that time shall Michael (ie, Jesus Christ) stand up, the great prince that standeth for the children of thy people (ie, Israel): and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt”. Edom and Moab are again referred to in the end times at the return of Christ, but it is clear that they are still not part of Israel. This part of the puzzle also validates the Zechariah 14 prophecy that links the return of Christ with contention and a battle over Jerusalem.
Puzzle piece 4
Obadiah 1 is another very curious prophecy. There are several areas mentioned in verses 19 and 20 that shall be possessed by Israel when “saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’S” (v21):
· Mount of Esau (Edom, Sier, modern day Jordan)
· Plain of the Philistines (modern day Gaza strip)
· Fields of Ephraim, Samaria and the Canaanites (modern day West Bank)
· Gilead (modern day Jordan)
· Zerephath (near Sidon in modern day Lebanon)
· Captivity of Jerusalem
The most curious part about this prophecy is that ALL the areas mentioned are not in current day Israel, showing how accurate Bible prophecy is! Even more accurately reflecting the modern UN conflict is Obadiah1:11 which gives us the reason why a saviour (ie, Christ) will judge these areas: “In the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them”. The reason God gives is the casting of lots of division on Jerusalem and the taking away of Jerusalem from the Jews. If we look at the current situation in the Middle East, the stone of contention is Jerusalem and the UN is wanting to carve Jerusalem into sections and give part to the Palestinians!
Puzzle piece 5
A number of other prophets have much to say about Moab, Edom and the Philistines in Ezekiel 25, Zechariah 9 and Zephaniah 2. These prophecies agree with the ones considered above with Numbers, Amos and Obadiah.
Map 3: From Ezekiel Chapter 48, with a reed approx. 12 feet or 3m and each portion is 25,000 reeds wide which is ~75km. Damascus was a region, not just the city. Map is by us and may be used please refer to biblefocus.net.
Puzzle piece 6
For all the New Testament Christians who feel that the Old Testament is finished, outdated, no longer relevant, so discounting its value, there is another puzzle piece in Revelation chapter 21. In verse 2 we see a new Jerusalem coming down from heaven. In verses 12-14 Jerusalem has twelve gates with names of the twelve tribes of Israel and its foundations have the twelve names of the Apostles of Christ. In Matthew 19:28 Christ makes a promise to his twelve apostles; “when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel”. Luke 22:29-30 is another confirmation of this promise and Christ is very clear that they are to receive a kingdom and that they will eat and drink at the table in the Christ’s kingdom.
For those of you who discount the Old Testament, my apologies as we now go back there to Ezekiel chapters 47 and 48. There are a lot of similarities between Revelation 21 & 22 and Ezekiel 47 & 48. We have the twelve gates of the tribes of Israel (Rev. 21:12-13 vs Ezek. 48:31-34). There is a river coming from a hill, there are trees on the side of the river for healing of the nations (Rev. 22:1-2. vs Ezek. 47:1-12). Most importantly “and the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there” (Rev. 21:3 vs Ezek. 48:35). (see here) One could feel that either John is remembering rather to much detail from Ezekiel when he is writing Revelation, or otherwise that the two prophecies are the one and the same event. Assuming that they are the same event, Ezekiel 48 has one other important point to finish with; the division of the land of Israel into the twelve tribes. Now these boundaries are not the same boundaries given by God to Joshua when Israel first entered the land. These boundaries include the area of Edom, Moab, Ammon and Lebanon, the areas prophecied in the Old Testament in the previous puzzle pieces.
Is the Bible true and accurate? Time will be its witness.
For more puzzles for Christians Law of Moses
Or for Gaza in the Bible Gaza, Palestine