Truth, Understanding, Insight

Flight in the Bible

6th June 2020, hej


Someone not familiar with the Bible asked if it had prophesied flight. The Bible is a modern book in the sense that it is still relevant, not just for moral principles, but in that it seems to have pre-figured much of modern technology.

If there are two things of the modern world that might be considered unique they are flight and the image-media. Both were prefigured by the Bible, in language which is ageless. Isaiah does not say they shall fly as eagles, but that 'they shall mount up with wings'

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31 KJV)

According to historical sources and dramatised in Exodus the book by Leon Uris this quote was used to persuade Yemen's Jews to enter planes to fly to Israel, as a fulfilment of prophecy.

That people fly with 'wings' now is only a partial fulfilment, but the passage clearly prefigured aeroplanes or a winged form of flight. In a future age, in the regeneration, there will be even more remarkable 'winged' transport available, or more literally 'to soar', such as the angels, as in accounts the angels mount up to disappear from sight.

But what is more intriguing is that there are specific prophecies that indicate the role of planes in war. In all wars since the emergence of war planes for reconnaissance and bombing at the end of WW1, air cover and control of the air are essential for victory.

For thus saith the LORD; Behold, he shall fly as an eagle, and shall spread his wings over Moab. Kerioth is taken, and the strong holds are surprised, and the mighty men's hearts in Moab at that day shall be as the heart of a woman in her pangs. And Moab shall be destroyed from being a people, because he has magnified himself against the LORD. (Jeremiah 48:40-42 KJV)

This may in part refer to a historical event, when Moab was for the first time destroyed by the Babylonians, whose symbol was a winged beast, but there is a strong sense in the context, that it might relate to events after they were brought again from captivity in the 'latter days' (verse 47). Much the same is said of Edom, after predicting its destruction it is written,

Therefore hear the counsel of the LORD, that he hath taken against Edom; and his purposes, that he hath purposed against the inhabitants of Teman: Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out: surely he shall make their habitations desolate with them. The earth is moved at the noise of their fall, at the cry the noise thereof was heard in the Red sea. Behold, he shall come up and fly as the eagle, and spread his wings over Bozrah: and at that day shall the heart of the mighty men of Edom be as the heart of a woman in her pangs. (Jeremiah 49:20-22 KJV)

Edom and Moab are both in modern Jordan, and they are on the path of the king's highway from Sinai. The indication is that the reference to flying in Jeremiah quoted above is in the latter days as the following is clearly future and it also speaks of flying in relationship to Edom, Moab and Ammon

And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. 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 envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim. But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them. (Isaiah 11:10-14 KJV)

If this is, perhaps, future it is likely to refer to planes based on another prophecy that shows that the Bible anticipated planes from their very beginning.

War planes over Jerusalem 1917

In addition there is a specific reference to deliverance of Jerusalem like “as birds flying”.

For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof. As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it. (Isaiah 31:4-5 KJV)

In 1917 just such a deliverance occurred. Yahweh is likened to the lion and young lion in opposition to shepherds. In 1917 the British and Commonwealth forces taking Jerusalem were characterized as a lion with young lions. In 1917 with Allenby leading it was as if they were fearless driving towards Jerusalem. The battle for Beersheba was the last success of an old way of fighting, with a cavalry charge. and also the beginning of modern warfare based on air superiority

The Australians fought a daring battle for the wells of Beersheba. Taking the Wells was critical as the horses needed water. The Australians staged perhaps the last successful cavalry charge, breaking through prepared Ottoman positions defended with barbed wire and machine guns. The Ottomans retired from Palestine. The Ottoman 8th Army fell back along the coast. The 7th Army retreated back to Jerusalem. Allenby used calvalry and aircraft to attack the retreating Ottoman troops (November 6-13)

Just how much Allenby relied on aircraft is revealed

Photos of planes in Palestine

On the 7th the weather broke, and for three days rain was almost continuous. The hills were covered with mist at frequent intervals, rendering observation from the air and visual signalling impossible.
The Turks had withdrawn during the night, and the London troops and yeomanry, driving back rearguards, occupied a line across the Nablus-Jerusalem road four miles north of Jerusalem, while Welsh troops occupied a position east of Jerusalem across the Jericho road.
These operations isolated Jerusalem, and at about noon the enemy sent out a parlementaire and surrendered the city....
More than twenty airplanes were destroyed by our airmen or burned by the enemy to avoid capture.
I entered the city officially at noon, December 11th, with a few of my staff, the commanders of the French and Italian detachments, the heads of the political missions, and the Military Attaches of France, Italy, and America.
The procession was all afoot, and at Jaffa gate I was received by the guards representing England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Australia, New Zealand, India, France, and Italy. The population received me well.

It was before the battle for Beersheba that air superiority was sought, and gained in 1917

In May 1917, Murray requested additional aircraft from the War Office to supplement his efforts and, coupled with Allenby’s subsequent insistence on achieving air superiority, one month later the RFC finally received aircraft able to compete with the Germans across the operational spectrum. June 1917 proved to be a pivotal month for the Royal and Australian Flying Corps in Palestine. With the arrival of the Vickers Bullet, Bristol monoplane fighters, and the single-seater S.E.5 aircraft, the EEF had the technological superiority needed to achieve theaterwide air superiority. With fighters able to reach speeds of over 100 miles per hour and climb faster than any German aircraft, the British quickly set out on offensive missions aimed at regaining command of the air. Though limited in numbers, the new fighters and scouts “spread a feeling of exhilaration, not only among the squadrons, but also in the army.” By September 1917 the RFC was well on its way to recovering air dominance, which it would subsequently retain until the end of the Palestine campaign.

In the Battle for Beersheba the preparations were informed by discoveries from the air,

Commanders turned to the air to fill in the gaps. Relying on aerial photographs,

and it was these discoveries that allowed them to see where the cavalry could charge

Oct. 1 - Allenby reorganized his army of 92,000 into 3 groups: the Desert Column, the 20th Corps, and the 21st Corps. He increased his artillery to 400, received Bristol airplanes that gave him control of the air. He planned to surprise the Turks with a feint attack at Gaza, where the Turks expected the attack, and make his main thrust on his right toward Beersheba.
On December 22, 1916, the 10 aircraft from No 1 Squadron supported the ANZAC Mounted Division attack on Magdhaba that fell to the Anzac forces. Other support was given in the capturing of Beersheba, Gaza, and Jaffa.

In the relentless push of the lion power and the young lions from Beersheba to Jerusalem to be there before Christmas, was the first time in military history that the air power was used strategically.

Operationally, he began to see the rewards of effective coordination between air and ground units and how strategic and tactical reconnaissance from above was vital to maintaining mobility below. The destructive power of aircraft was all too evident in the pursuit from Gaza to Junction Station, Wright Flyers

Some attribute the easy Turkish surrender to British and Allied forces attacking Jerusalem to the leaflets dropped by British planes over the old city, but it might have been as much the lack of German support as the German commander didn't want to destroy Holy sites. In any case dropping leaflets did have an effect as Mustafa Kemal lamented them, actually preferring bombs!

Concurrent with aerial combat, Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots—the RAF being officially formed on 1 April 1918—continued their photography missions while also dropping propaganda leaflets among the already demoralized Turkish troops

The end of the battle for Jerusalem was the exit of the Turk from Palestine in 'operation Armageddon', and this was again one of co-ordinated air and ground, where the RAF in co-operation with cavalry was responsible for much of the destruction of the Turkish seventh army. This was a war won by the use of “birds flying” and “passing over” in reconnaisance.

A contemporary account shows a what seems a fulfilment of Isaiah

An elderly man in a black robe, whose pinched pale face told of a long period of want, caught me by the hand and said : ' God has delivered us. Oh how happy we are.'
And while war had wrought this beneficent change the population saw in this epoch- marking victory a merciful guiding Hand, for it had been achieved without so much as a stone of the City being scratched or a particle of its ancient dust disturbed. The Sacred Monuments and everything connected with the Great Life and its teaching were passed on untouched by our Army. Rightly did the people rejoice.
When General Allenby went into Jerusalem all fears had passed away. The Official Entry was made while there was considerable fighting on the north and east of the City, where our lines were nowhere more than 7000 yards off. The guns were firing, the sounds of bursts of musketry were carried down on the wind, whilst droning aeroplane engines in the deep -blue vault overhead told of our flying men denying a passage to enemy machines.

Only a few years from the first flight, never before had planes been used so effectively. Truly by the actions of those flying like 'birds' the city was preserved, in reconnaissance they passed over, and in air superiority they passed over even on the day the British commander entered, and defended it.

And it is a lesson of warfare that from that point on in history air superiority was needed, and that command of the air by those in machines “as birds” was required for victory.

War planes over Jerusalem 1967

But the most decisive fulfilment of the prophecy came in 1967, 50 years later. Once again deliverance for Jerusalem was “as birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem” as Martin Gilbert notes,

It was not until after midnight on the first day of the war that the public were told.. the astounding news that more than 400 Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian aircraft had been put out of action, many while still parked on their runways” Israel a History Doubleday p 384

Gilbert quotes Golda Meir,

“I stood alone for a few minutes at the door of my house, and looked up at the cloudless and undisturbed sky and realised we have been rescued from the terrible fear of air raids.” ibid

Gilbert reports that the decisive lightening strike on Egypt's aircraft was a risk as it left only 12 planes defending all of Israel. They took out 180 planes miraculously with no resistance. Israel then had to face the combined air attack from Syria, Iraq and Jordan. They managed to effectively destroy the Jordanian and Syrian air forces in the air and on the ground.

To preserve Jerusalem intact and undamaged the Israelis attacked in a pincer and, as birds flying fulfilled the prophecy that “defending also he will deliver it”,

To prevent Jordanian tanks entering the Jerusalem battle Israeli air attacks concentrated on the Jericho-Jerusalem road...the Jordanian tanks and armoured vehicles were held up sufficiently to enable Israel to win French Hill, and the nearby Ammunition Hill p386

With some thought that the UN might order a ceasefire, described in the prophecy as the world's “shepherds” called out by the nations to oppose Israel. From this point the command went out to take the Old City using of all things, a unit of paratroopers (which are trained to be parachuted from planes into battle). Paratroopers are 'as birds'. Like as the lion Israel's leaders were not afraid, the Paratroopers broke though the Lions Gate into Jerusalem. They were led by Mordechai Gur, commander of the 55th Paratroopers Brigade (Reserve). Gur in Hebrew means 'Young lion',

Late on the morning of June 7 Gur reported that his troops had penetrated the Lions' gate and were approaching the Dome of the Rock... Dayan and Rabin flew to from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and hurried to the Wailing Wall ...'When we reached the Western wall,'Rabin later wrote, 'It seemed all the tears of centuries were striving to break out of the men...It is a moment of redemption, of hope.' p390

But yet it was not enough to deliver the city, or to redeem Jerusalem, but the prophecy required that it be preserved also like 'birds flying' which was fulfilled by the Israeli air forces' total control of the skies that allowed them to retain control of the city.

These that fly as a cloud: World Aviation

The following is an intriguing reference to world aviation in the last day. The context is how in the future the wealth of the nations will come to Jerusalem. A question is asked, 'who are these that fly as a cloud?'

Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the LORD. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory. Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows? Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the LORD thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee. (Isaiah 60:4-9 KJV)

The answer to the question 'who are these that fly as a cloud', is “surely the isles” or as in Hebrew also “coasts”. This is is graphically illustrated here with global aircraft movements mapped

Link to Youtube

The description of the conditions of the last days is,

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.' (Daniel 12:4)

The Bible prediction that there will be many that 'run to and fro' combined with the direct description of those flying like doves (or carrier pigeons) to their windows, show that flight was predicted, not only flight but that it be the type of flight that is for many and leaves 'clouds'.

For more Doing things in space