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Balfour, Britain & the Bible
The Centenary of the 1917 Declaration
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November 3, 2017 - Audio, 10.30 MIN
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This is Paul Billington bringing you this week's Bible in the News - and it has been the centenary of the Balfour Declaration of 1917 that has been a major news item.
When the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, hosted the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu at 10 Downing Street in London, she said that she was proud of the U.K.'s "pioneering role" in assisting the birth of the State of Israel.
She had warm words to say about Israel and Israel's right to exist, but it was qualified by referring to what she called "illegal settlements." The Balfour Declaration signaled British support for Jewish settlement in Palestine, but it was also a fudge, not defining the extent of settlement. The key passage read:

"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."
As Barbara Tuchman has pointed out in her book "Bible & Sword,"
"The Mandate, not the Balfour Declaration, gave a footing in public law to the restoration of Israel in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration was simply a statement of policy that any subsequent government could have ignored, allowed to lapse, or even repudiated. But the Mandate was an international engagement, signed and ratified by the Principal Allied Powers acting through the League of Nations, and as such it raised the Balfour Declaration, which was incorporated in it, to the status of a treaty."
So it was the Mandate rather than the Declaration itself that gave the Jewish State its legitimacy, and it was the League of Nations that was responsible for it, and it was the United Nations that assigned land for this in November 1947.
But what most commentators miss out of their analysis is the fact that behind the whole issue there is something that no one seems to want to acknowledge - and that is the influence of the Bible. It is Barbara Tuchman again, in the book "Bible & Sword" who points out:
"In Balfour the motive was Biblical rather than imperial. If the Biblical culture of England can be said to have any meaning in England's redemption of Palestine from the rule of Islam, it may be epitomized in Balfour... Long before he ever heard of Zionism Balfour, steeped in the Bible from childhood, had felt a particular interest in the "people of the Book." According to his niece, companion, and biographer, Mrs. Dugdale,  it was a "life long" interest that "originated in the Old Testament training of his mother and his Scottish upbringing."
It was  not only Balfour who saw the connection between the Bible and a Jewish return to their ancient homeland in the Middle East. Many writers had expected the restoration of the Jews on the basis of Bible prophecy, and over many years. For example:
* Thomas Brightman in 1615 * John Prideaux in 1621 * Joseph Mede in 1649 * Increase Mathein 1669 * 
Peter Jurieu in 1687 * Thomas Newton 1754 * Alexander Keith 1839 * John Thomas 1849 and others. 
Balfour would have been no stranger to many of these books. One writer whose work was published in 1806 
referred to the prophecy of Isaiah 60:9: "Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far..." His conclusion is summarised as follows:
"From what has been said concerning the restoration of the Jews the following positions may indisputably be collected. 1. The Jews most certainly will be restored. 2. They will as certainly be converted to Christianity. 3. They will begin to be restored as soon as the 1260 years shall have expired. 4. They will successively be 
restored in two great divisions. 5. The main agent in restoring the first of these divisions will be the prevailing protestant maritime power of the day..."  (George Stanley Faber).
Why ignore such writers? Is there a fear that after all the Bible may be true, and that the Jews are a chosen 
people? Consider the words of Jeremiah chapter 31:
" Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither. They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock"  (Jeremiah 31:8-10).
Can we not see this in the post-war history of the Jewish return to their land? As Britain and Israel celebrate the Balfour Declaration, why not give God the glory?
It was in 1849 that the author of the book "Elpis Israel" (John thomas) wrote the amazing words which he firmly based on the Bible:
"There is then, a partial and primary restoration of the Jews before the manifestation, which is to serve as the nucleus, or basis, of future operations in the restoration of the rest of the tribes after he has appeared in the kingdom. The pre-adventual colonization of Palestine will be on purely political principles; and the Jewish colonists will return in unbelief of the Messiahship of Jesus, and of the truth as it is in him. They will emigrate thither as agriculturists and traders..."
And he finishes by saying:
"But to what part of the world shall we look for a power whose interests will make it willing, as it is able, to plant the ensign of civilization upon the mountains of Israel? The reader will doubtless, anticipate my reply from what has gone before. I know not whether the men, who at present contrive the foreign policy of Britain, entertain the idea of assuming the sovereignty of the Holy Land, and of promoting its colonization by the Jews; their present intentions, however, are of no importance one way or the other, because they will be compelled, by events soon to happen, to do what under existing circumstances, heaven and earth combined could not move them to attempt. The present decisions of "statesmen" are destitute of stability. A shooting star in the political firmament is sufficient to disturb all the forces of their system; and to stultify all the theories of their political astronomy. The finger of God has indicated a course to be pursued by Britain which cannot be evaded, and which her counsellors will not only be willing, but eager, to adopt when the crisis comes upon them."
This is a remarkable prediction that ought not to be ignored. Anyone who could write those words 168 years ago, and point out that they were based upon the Bible must acknowledge that they express the Truth. That is the only rational explanation, and if Balfour had read Elpis Israel - as well he might have done - it explains his motivation and puts the declaration into a whole new light. 
We do know that a Mrs Armstrong of Huddington in Scotland had been tutor to Balfour and that she was a member of the Christadelphians who were founded upon the work of John Thomas. In any event, there is enough evidence to show us that the Balfour Declaration was inspired by the Bible - a fact that ought to be 
acknowledged more readily than it is.
Rather than trying to promote and force the so-called "Two-State solution," the British Government would be better to return to the Biblical culture that once made Britain Great.
Listen again next week to The Bible in the News.

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