Since Biblical prophecy is so stunningly accurate, it can be likened to history written in advance. It was written in ancient times, even a few millennia ago that Israel would be scattered and regathered and that they would again become a nation. Some say that when a prophecy is written individuals can cooperate to make that prediction happen. Partly because of that old chestnut, details of the prophecies and the means by which they were fulfilled will be presented to demonstrate that these events didn’t happen by accident, forced fulfilment or even a geographical anomaly, but they were in fact miraculous and point towards both a sovereign and providential God.
You may be thinking what the distinctions are between sovereignty and providence? Sovereignty relates to God’s dominion and His ability, vast knowledge of past, present, and future and the realm and capability of His many perfect attributes. Providence speaks of that same God though one who acts and intervenes in a wonderful and remarkable way in our events. A Deist of even some Theists might believe in a sovereign God, though have no relational fellowship with God. A true believer knows God and learns to understand His ways (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
Leviticus 26:1-46 and Deuteronomy 28:1-68 outline precise and specific blessings of obedience and cursing of disobedience to God. We must remember that Israel is the only country in the world that was designated as a theocracy and as the chosen nation (Deuteronomy 7:7-9; 14:2). If you have a good study Bible with references in the margins it is possible to trace many of those predictions throughout the Tanakh.
Concerning the dispersion we read that as a consequence of disobedience “I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities waste (Leviticus 26:33).”Additionally in Deuteronomy 28:64, “Then the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known-wood and stone.” Furthermore Deuteronomy 30:1-5 links both the dispersal and regathering of Israel.
Now some would jump to hasty conclusions and point out that the Northern Kingdom (Israel) went into Assyria in 722BC and that the Southern Kingdom (Judah) were forced into Babylonian exile in 586BC and subsequently returned after 70 years and were enabled to do so by Cyrus and that both the seventy years and the events concerning Cyrus were prophesied and have been fulfilled. And they would be right. But they would not be correct in understanding that to relate to the entire fulfilment contained in these verses. If we read those verses carefully it is noticeable that Israel and Judah would be scattered across the nations with a wider and more far reaching dispersal than the Assyrian and Babylonian kingdoms. Moreover in Isaiah 11:11, there is mention of a second regathering from many nations.
There is plenty of Scripture to support the regathering of the Jewish people to Israel. First, however consider if the same could be said of any other nation and whether they had those events prophesied regarding dispersal, regathering, and reestablishment as a Nation State in such precise detail? Then ask whether any people has survived such intense and sustained persecution and survived against such odds?
Isaiah wrote, “Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, “Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’ Bring my sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth- (Isaiah 43:5-6)“
Ezekiel wrote of the regathering and also connects it with the giving of the land of Israel.
“Therefore say, ’Thus says the Lord God. “I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel (Ezekiel 11:17).”
Isaiah 60 speaks of the Gentiles blessing Zion and even mentions the means of transportation by which the Jewish people would return.
“Who are these who fly like a cloud, and like doves to their roosts? Surely the coastlands shall wait for Me; and the ships of Tarshish shall come first, to bring your sons from afar, their silver and their gold with them, to the name of the Lord your God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because He has glorified you (Isaiah 60:8-9).”
The re-establishment of Israel as a Nation
Let us consider some of the key events leading up to Israel being established as a nation on May 14th, 1948. Many Jewish people from Eastern Europe and Russia had fled to America and other countries following the pogroms. Small numbers of Jewish people had begun to settle in Palestine. Theodore Herzl was in some ways an unlikely leader of the Zionist movement and it was the Dreyfus case that influenced him to become a Zionist.[i] Around three decades before Israel was re-established, the Ottoman Empire came to an end in 1917. Subsequently, in the Balfour Declaration, for the first time since the Temple was destroyed in AD70, a great world people recognised the Jewish people as a people and entitled to a national home.[ii] Following the holocaust a homeland was needed more than ever.
Theodore Herzl -an unlikely hero
But firstly, if we consider Theodore Herzl in human terms, one may consider him an ‘accidental hero’ or even a fluke of history. In the light of the series of events that follow, we need to consider God’s sovereignty and providence as the events unfold.
‘Herzl was Jewish, but for most of his life he didn’t define himself as such. He was, quite to the contrary, a most dedicated secular European. Herzl loved Vienna’s symphonies, operas, and coffee houses. He admired the precision of the German language. And he dreamed that one day he could be accepted as a full Austro-Hungarian instead of being marginalised as a Jew.[iii]
It was not the case that Herzl was intent on fulfilling biblical prophecy. One can easily gloss over that various other lands were proposed including Argentina and Uganda. Herzl wrote. “Shall we choose Palestine or Argentine? We shall take what is given us, and what is selected by Jewish public opinion. The Society will determine both these points.[iv]These may seem strange options though we must never forget that the existence of the Jewish people was at stake here. The British government had offered Uganda as a replacement. Herzl did not view Uganda as a replacement but to prevent the loss of those detached fragments of his people.[v]
Herzl expressed the difficulties of using the Hebrew language. “It might be suggested that our want of a common language would present difficulties. We cannot converse with one another in Hebrew. Who amongst us has a sufficient acquaintance with Hebrew to ask for a railway ticket in that language? Such a thing cannot be done.”[vi]Herzl’s solution was for everyone to preserve their home language and cited Switzerland as an example. He then suggested that the language which proved to be of greatest utility among general intercourse would be adopted.[vii]
It seems unlikely that Herzl was aware of Zephaniah’s prophecy, “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord (Zephaniah 3:9).”No doubt Herzl would have been both pleased and astonished that Hebrew became the adopted language and that most Israeli’s have no problem purchasing their railway ticket. In 2018 the Tel-Aviv-Jerusalem railway opened, and I am glad to have used it!
What the Bible says about Israel becoming a nation
Probably the most well- known prophecy about Israel becoming a nation and the trials leading up to that and the speed at which the event occurred is found in Isaiah 66:8-9.
‘Who has heard such a thing?
Who has seen such things?
Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day?
Or shall a nation be born at once?
For as soon as Zion was in labor,
She gave birth to her children.
9 Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?” says the Lord.
“Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?” says your God.’
Zechariah spoke of life in Jerusalem following the regathering in vivid terms.
‘“Thus says the Lord of hosts:
‘Old men and old women shall again sit
In the streets of Jerusalem,
Each one with his staff in his hand
Because of great age.
5 The streets of the city
Shall be full of boys and girls
Playing in its streets.’
6 “Thus says the Lord of hosts:
‘If it is marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days,
Will it also be marvelous in My eyes?’
Says the Lord of hosts.
7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts:
‘Behold, I will save My people from the land of the east
And from the land of the west;
8 I will bring them back,
And they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.
They shall be My people
And I will be their God,
In truth and righteousness.’ (Zechariah 8:4-8)
Amos added that when Israel was replanted in the land, they would no longer be pulled up from the land that He had given them.
“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.
15 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.” (Amos 9:14-15)
The history of Israel is written in advance through prophecy in the Bible. God is sovereign and through His providence intervenes and uses individuals to fulfil His purposes. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has foretold the scattering and regathering of many Jewish people and has indeed gathered many Jewish people to their homeland and from there they will never be uprooted.
[i] Amos Elon Understanding Israel (Behrman House, 1976; New York), p73
[ii] Ibid, 88
[iii] David Brog Reclaiming Israel’s History Roots, rights, and the struggle for peace (Regnery Publishing, 2017; Washington),p63
[iv] Theodore Herzl The Jewish State (Penguin; London), p29
[v] Elon, p18-19
[vi] Herzl, 86
[vii] Ibid, 87