Tragically the worst violence in years has broken out in Israel between the Palestinians and the Israelis with Jerusalem being a focal point in the conflict. In today’s episode we look at this recent conflict in the light of Bible prophecy. Welcome to another Bible in the News.
The city of peace
The name “Yerushalayim” (as Jerusalem is in Hebrew) indicates the hope that one day this ancient city will indeed be the city of peace.
In Psalm 122 believers are encouraged to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem”. The Psalm looks forward to a time when God’s temple is built in the city and it becomes a focal point for worship.
In the prophecy of Isaiah chapter 2 we also have a prophecy of that future time. We read there of God’s house being established, and people flowing up to it to hear God’s law. We read of the nations beating their weapons of war into agricultural tools and not “learning war anymore”.
This is a description of the time when the Kingdom is restored again to Israel (Acts 1:6). The time when he will "come whose right it is” to sit on the throne of David (Ezekiel 21:27). This is the time when the long-awaited Messiah returns to the earth to save God’s people Israel and reign in peace and righteousness, when “the whole earth (shall) be filled with God’s glory” (Psalm 72:19). This is the time when Israel becomes “the first dominion” and “the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem” (Micah 4:8).
This is the glorious and wonderful picture painted in the Bible of the destiny of Jerusalem and the people of Israel.
Time of trouble before time of peace
Looking up from the pages of scripture we see a very different picture - a picture none-the-less which we, as Bible believers expect to be witnessing in the time that leads up to the wonderful peace which has been prophesied.
We say that because it is clear in the Bible that before the peaceful time of God’s Kingdom and before Messiah appears, there is a time of great trouble “such as never was” as it says in Daniel 12:1. This time of trouble happens before the “people shall be delivered” (as we read in the same verse).
In Zechariah, we read that God will “make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about” (Zech. 12:2). In Zechariah 14 we read that God “will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.” (Zech. 14:2). This happens BEFORE the prophecy goes on to state that, “The LORD shall be king over all the earth” Zech. 14:9.
In the prophecy of Ezekiel 38 which is a “latter day” prophecy (v8 and v16) we read of a great army coming against the “mountains of Israel” (v8). This army comes against the Jews who have been regathered to their land - and the fact the Jewish state exists is testament that this prophecy is unfolding before our eyes, for the Jews have been back in their land since 1948. The area of the "mountains of Israel" is the area of Judea and Samaria. Today known as the so called “occupied West bank”. This army is said to consist of a number of nations which, when reviewed and traced from their ancient names listed lead us to believe this prophecy is speaking of a global alliance between Russia, Iran, Europe, the Turkic nations and some North African nations. The leader of this alliance is called “Gog” who is a prince of the Rus or Russia. The prophecy speaks of these nations coming against the people of Israel when they are at a time of peace. During the invasion, God acts to save Israel. The end of the prophecy tells us that God will then be known in the eyes of many nations for the salvation He brings to the people of Israel after the armies of the nations are destroyed.
So you see, the Bible teaches us that before the peace of the Kingdom we should expect growing anger, antagonism and violence against God’s people, the Jews and that this will eventually bring about the great war mentioned in these prophecies when Jerusalem is made “a burdensome stone for all people” as the prophets describe it.
Isn’t it remarkable that these prophecies are thousands of years old and yet they paint a picture of international anger against Jerusalem and against the area of the West Bank. Is it just a coincidence that when we look up from these ancient prophecies, (which pre-date Islam, predate the Holocaust and the United Nations), we see a situation exactly as the prophecy outlines?! Of course, it is no coincidence. They are testament to a God who “declares the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done” (Isaiah 46:10).
The recent conflict
On May 10th Israel celebrated Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day). This day is a national holiday, marking Israeli control over the Old City of Jerusalem which was achieved in 1967 in the Six-Day War. This event happens every year and many Jews gather at the Western Wall in Jerusalem to celebrate and mark the occasion. Above the Western wall is the area known as the temple mount where once the Jewish temple built by King Solomon stood. Now the Al-Aqsa Mosque stands there above the Western Wall. During this time of Jerusalem Day the Muslim holy month of Ramadan was also in progress.
Leading up to Jerusalem Day there were various violent incidents by Arabs on Jews. Unprovoked attacks were happening randomly on Jews in Jerusalem’s streets. A mass riot occurred on the Temple Mount and Israeli police had to step in to keep the peace and disperse the angry crowds - over 200 people were injured. The BBC reported that “Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades as Palestinians threw stones and bottles.”
On May 8th The Times of Israel ran an article entitled “Palestinians stocked rocks for Temple Mount riots, police caught unawares”. The report states “Authorities said to have had no knowledge of caches of slabs, stones, and fireworks at Al-Aqsa compound, used by rioters during Friday’s mass unrest”
On the 9th of May The Times of Israel ran another article entitled “Police on high alert after Palestinian riots in Jerusalem, Gaza rocket fire”. The report went on to state “According to Channel 12, current discourse in the Palestinian street is of a “war for Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” The network also said Hamas is encouraging its West Bank operatives to carry out attacks there and inflame tensions.”
Hamas is the elected terrorist organization that controls the Gaza strip. As is reported here it incited and encouraged the violence. This incitement was also instigated by the Palestinian Authority (who govern large areas of the West Bank). This is the reason for this recent flare-up.
Reporter, Melanie Phillips had this to say about the recent conflict:
“These organisations are currently fighting each other for political supremacy, with the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas having cancelled planned elections for fear that his Fatah organisation was about to lose. This rivalry provides at least part of the context for the violence and incitement against Israel. As Palestinian Media Watch reports, in the run-up to Ramadan Palestinian Authority TV broadcast a video inciting terror 20 times between April 2 and 10, declaring: “We will defend Palestine with our bodies. Our bullets will make sounds of joy to herald signs of victory in order to cut off the invading occupiers, who came from across the sea and settled in our lands… My brother, throw my blood on the enemy like bullets.” Since then, Abbas and his Fatah outfit have been heavily ramping up the incitement against Israeli Jews with fabricated Note: Israel is the only country in the Middle East to guarantee freedom of religious worship to all faiths. The people who are forbidden by Israeli law to pray on Temple Mount (out of fear of Muslim violence) are not the Muslims but the Jews, for whom the site of the ancient Temple is their holiest place. But said Abbas: We salute our people in Jerusalem for their resolve against the Israeli plans to take control of the holy city. Official PA TV broadcast the call by a Fatah official who urged young people to join the Jerusalem riots and “to defend the holy sites”.
This incitement was successful. In the following days, hundreds of rockets were fired indiscriminately from the Gaza Strip towards Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Beersheba. Sirens sounded out warning civilians. Violence erupted across the land of Israel with Arab riots and terror on the streets.
In response, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) set up “Operation Guardian of the Walls”. In response to attacks on their population, Israel deployed ground forces, artillery and armoured troops along the border. They fired hundreds of artillery shells and dozens of tank shells against targets in the Gaza Strip. The airforce also neutralized a number of targets including senior Hamas leaders.
In the North, rockets were fired by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group which also led to targets in Lebanon being neutralized by Israel.
Along the way civilian casualties were inflicted on both sides - mainly because Hamas hides its military capabilities within civilian buildings endangering their own people and because they fire on Jewish civilian areas.
The international community and the media were largely in condemnation of Israel. There were calls from most national leaders on Israel to “show restraint”. Typically Israel was painted as the aggressor in the conflict.
Across many European cities Palestinian demonstrations were witnessed with protestors chanting “free Palestine” and other Anti-Jewish slogans. Anti-Semitic attacks rose across the world.
The remarkable headline in the Express. Oritinally it read "Putin told Netanyahu Russia could declare war on Israel"
until it was changed a day later.
What was most interesting was the stance of Russia. Some astounding headlines were seen which were very remarkable in the light of the Bible prophecies of Russia being the lead in the nations which will come against Israel. Here are some of the headlines:
- "Israel must be taught a ‘lesson’, Erdogan tells Putin" (Aljazeera, 12th May)
- “Vladimir Putin Calls Escalating Israel Conflict a 'Direct Threat' to Russia's Security“ (Newsweek Friday May 14th)
- “Putin says Israel-Palestine escalation poses threat to Russia’s security” (AA Friday May 14th))
- “Putin told Netanyahu Russia could have 'military clashes' with Israel before Palestine row” EXPRESS May 19th
- “Death Toll Continues To Rise: Putin Warns Israel, Netanyahu Says Russia Is Close To Attack” VOI Thursday 20th May
- “Russia Warns Israel It Won't Tolerate More Civilian Casualties in Gaza Conflict“ (Newsweek Friday May 21st)
After 11 days of conflict on Friday 21st of May a ceasefire came into effect. According to the BBC above 250 people have been killed in the conflict. In an article entitled “Israel-Palestinian ceasefire comes into effect” The following was reported “A member of Hamas's political bureau, Izzat al-Reshiq, issued a warning to Israel. "It's true that the battle ends today but Netanyahu and the whole world should know that our finger is on the trigger and we will continue to ramp up the capabilities of this resistance," he told Reuters.”
So there is currently a ceasefire. A calm after 11 days of terrible violence.
So we watch from the sidelines to see what happens next. Will this recent flashpoint be a spark in a sequence of events that might eventually turn into the great international invasion of Israel in the latter days led by a Russian “peace keeping force”? We are certainly seeing remarkable signs of Bible prophecy in the news. Even just a few years ago who could have imagined seeing Russia seriously threaten to go to war with Israel?
In the meantime we put our confidence in God. We are encouraged that he has revealed His purpose in His Holy Word the Bible. We pray for the soon return of Jesus Christ to establish the period of peace and the Kingdom of God on the earth.
This has been Matt Davies joining you for another Bible in the News. Let us end this weeks considerations with Psalm 122:
“[A Song of degrees of David.] I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD. For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.”