The mountains of Israel
In the 6th century BC, the prophet Ezekiel was inspired by God to utter a prophecy about the people and land of Israel.
In chapter 33 and at verse 28 he writes:
"For I will lay the land most desolate, and the pomp of her strength shall cease; and the mountains of Israel shall be desolate, that none shall pass through. Then shall they know that I am the LORD, when I have laid the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed."
These mountains are in the centre of the land of Israel in the territory known as Judah and Samaria. Jerusalem, the capital of Israel is located on these mountains.
However, the desolation of these mountains and the dispersion of Israel was not to be a permanent state of affairs.
In Ezekiel 34:13 and 14 we read:
"And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel."
It is remarkable then that we have seen this taking place. The Jews have returned to their land after being scattered from their land by various ancient nations, most notably the Romans in AD70. For 2000 years they have wondered around with no homeland. In 1948 the state of Israel was born. In 1967 Israel obtained control over this area - then called “The West Bank”. Since then Jews have been returning to their land.
In Ezekiel 36:8 we have another prophecy of the mountains of Israel:
"But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come. For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown: And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded: And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD. Yea, I will cause men to walk upon you, even my people Israel; and they shall possess thee, and thou shalt be their inheritance, and thou shalt no more henceforth bereave them of men.”
It is interesting to note that since the Jews have been returning they have been farming the land - turning it from desert wastelands into agricultural paradises showing amazing yields of crops.
In Ezekiel chapter 38 we have recorded a prophecy of our times - the time period when the Jews will have returned to their ancient homeland of Israel after a period of time in dispersion amongst the nations. He tells us that Israel will be invaded at this time. This is one of the things he says in Ezekiel 38:
"After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them. Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.” Ezekiel 38:8
This chapter explains that although the people of Israel are regathered an invading force described in verse 1-7 will come against these mountains of Israel. The ancient names listed indicate this invading force will be made up of the peoples of Russia, Europe, Iran, The Turkic nations and nations of North Africa. It is at this time that we read God acts. By piecing together this prophecy with others that speak of this great crisis we understand that it is at the point of this invasion that the Lord Jesus Christ will appear and save Israel. He will establish God’s Kingdom on the earth.
The controversy of the mountains of Israel
It is fascinating to consider that these prophecies, uttered 2600 years ago depict the situation we see in the Middle East today. In 1967, when the Israeli army took over the West Bank area from Jordan, the international community never recognised this as a legitimate conquest. On the other hand, this is the ancient homeland of the Jewish people so they began to build and settle in the area. They built settlements amongst the so-called “Palestinian" peoples who previously were part of the Jordanian controlled territory. The international community is in an uproar about these settlements. In their eyes, this is illegal because the United Nations never recognised this territory as being owned by Israel. It is termed an “occupied territory”
Many attempts over the years have been made to broker peace between Israel, the Palestinians and the nations of the world. Most of the world favoured a “two-state solution” which allocates some land to Arabs and some to Jews. Incidentally, this was already something which was attempted. Originally in the time of the British Mandate, the idea was to give the whole of last East of the Jordan river to the Arabs and that to the West to the Jews. This, however, was never accepted by the Arab peoples.
After years of failed peace attempts, the US President Donald Trump recently produced a radically new peace plan earlier this year. Within this plan it proposed that Israel annexed around a third of the West Bank territory, giving the further two thirds to the Palestinian peoples. It was rejected by the Palestinians and most of the rest of the Western world.
Not to be deterred, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would start the process of annexing parts of the West Bank starting on July 1. However, the US has indicated they believe this is too fast and the Israelis need to slow the process down. This, of course, brings a difficult situation for the Israelis. America is the only major power which would be in a position to support this move and there are US elections in November. If Trump does not get re-elected this opportunity of annexation might begin to disappear.
The 1st of July came and went. No annexation activity took place. The Jerusalem Post ran an article entitled "Four reasons why Israeli annexation is not happening July 1”.
In it they list these reasons as:
• The US team is uneasy.
• Gantz (who is the leader of a faction of Netenyahu’s coalition government) is uneasy.
• The Palestinians could be willing to talk if annexation is nixed.
• The coronavirus is raging in Israel.
This last point is very interesting. The article explains: "In the early days of the virus, Netanyahu and his government were praised for their quick and effective quarantine shutdown. In recent weeks, however, Israel has relaxed restrictions and reopened workplaces and schools — and seen a spike in COVID-19 cases. On Tuesday, the Health Ministry confirmed over 700 new cases that had been identified in the past 24 hours — the second-highest amount recorded in a day there since the start of the pandemic. Israeli reports claim that the ministry is pushing for curfews in dozens of cities to curb the spread of disease.”
In the meantime, warnings have been coming in thick and fast. On Wednesday 7th Newsweek ran a story entitled "Iran, Proxies Threaten Israel Over 'Evil' West Bank Annexation Plan”. In it, they report that Hamas in the Gaza strip and the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group had called for Muslim nations to unite against the Israeli plan. On Friday 10th July, The Middle East Monitor posted an article entitled "Fatah leader: Israel annexation plan a ‘declaration of war’” - Fatah was formally known as the Palestinian National Liberation Movement and is a Palestinian nationalist party. Also on Friday 10th Aljazeera ran a story entitled "France's Macron asks Israel to drop West Bank annexation plans”. It states: "The French president's office said in a statement on Friday that Macron on Thursday "emphasised that such a move would contravene international law and jeopardise the possibility of a two-state solution as the basis of a fair and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians”… The foreign ministries of France and Germany, along with those of Egypt and Jordan - the only Arab states to have peace deals with Israel - warned this week that any annexation could have "consequences" for relations.”
Watching for the return of Messiah
All of these things are very interesting to the student of Bible prophecy. We are witnessing the tensions outlined by the prophecy in Ezekiel and which will bubble over into the great crisis which will see the return of Jesus to the earth.
The problem with the West Bank has no doubt been orchestrated by God and His Angels to bring about the situation depicted by His prophets. It will eventually bring the nations down onto the mountains of Israel against the people of Israel.
In another prophecy of the Bible, Joel, we read this:
"For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land” Joel 3:1-2
The dividing of the land and the settlements on the mountains of Israel are all being discussed today - and they were predicted to be the sources of conflict in the Bible 2600 years ago.
And what of the Corona virus in Israel? Well in Ezekiel 38 we read something very interesting about the time after God acts to save his people. In verse 22 it states:
"And I will plead against him [the invading force] with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.” Ezek 38:21-22
The word there for “pestilence” means a “plague” or “disease”. Could this have something to do with the Coronavirus?
We will wait and see. However, one thing we know is that we are right on the verge of seeing these prophecies unfold. We must prepare then for the return of Messiah and for the restoration of the Kingdom of God on earth when he Jesus will sit on the throne of his father David in Jerusalem. It is for this coming Kingdom true followers of Christ were taught to pray by the Lord when he stated in Matthew 6:
"Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
The model prayer ends like this:
"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
This has been Matt Davies. Join us again next week as we watch the final times of the gentiles draw to an end in the Bible in the News.