The UK Bible Students Website
Israel in God's Plan
LET MY PEOPLE GO
— Moses (Ex. 7: 16) —
Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version
Israel is the Hinge of History. Never herself a world empire, ancient Israel was always a vexation and ʻburdensome stoneʼ to the powerful Gentile nations around her, to whom she was sometimes captive (Zech. 12: 2, 3). And it is true today. The Palestinian-Israeli question, one of the world's more intractable problems, tackled by popes, presidents, pundits and presidents, is never far from the news headlines. The Middle East is today what it has long been – a crossroads of crisis, on which great empires have been made and broken.
In his book, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War, historian Benny Morris writes:
. . . Palestine was ambiguously omitted from the future Arab domain (in the letter of 24 October 1915 from Henry McMahon, Britain's high commissioner in Egypt, to the Hashemite sharif of Mecca, Hussein ibn Ali). Instead, it was alternatively vouchsafed for future Anglo-French condominium (in the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of 3 January 1916) and, more vaguely, as a Jewish ʻnational homeʼ (in the Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917). That one-sentence declaration by the British foreign secretary, Arthur James Balfour – ʻHis 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 countryʼ – was to be seen by the Zionist movement, which had vigorously lobbied for it, as a historic breakthrough and a basis for its future sovereignty over Palestine. And indeed, the British, including Balfour, and despite the avoidance of the word state, regarded the embodied promise as necessarily leading to self-determination. ʻMy personal hope is that the Jews will make good in Palestine and eventually found a Jewish State. It is up to them now; we have given them their opportunity,ʼ Balfour was to say three months later. The Arabs, who greeted the declaration with ʻbewilderment and dismay,ʼ came to regard it as a (negative) milestone, an act of betrayal. Thereafter, no matter what the British did to the contrary, the Arab world was to regard London as the protector and facilitator of Zionism.
The British had been driven by Zionist lobbying, spearheaded by the able, charming Chaim Weizmann, a Russian Jewish chemist who had made Britain his home. But Weizmann had been preaching to the converted to the extent that many in the imperial cabinet, including Prime Minister David Lloyd George and Balfour himself, had long been philo-Zionists, for Protestant religious and humanitarian reasons. To be sure, there had also been imperial concerns: a British-created Jewish state might help guard the eastern approaches to that vital waterway, the Suez Canal, only recently imperiled by the Turks. And empowering the Jews in Palestine might reap rewards among the Jews of the United States and Russia, whose goodwill the British wanted, against the backdrop of World War I, either to acquire or sustain. – Yale University Press; 2008, pp. 9, 10.
In the late nineteenth century most of the world's Jews lived in imperial Russia. Beginning around 1881, government-sanctioned pogroms (massacres) forced large numbers of them to flee the country, many seeking refuge in Palestine. This was no accident of history. As prophesied by Jeremiah, God had sent ʻfishers and huntersʼ in the shape of Zionism and the ‘tough love’ of persecution to compel them to return to their ancient home (Jer. 16: 14-16). The First World War (1914-18) was a continuation of this process, one which affected most countries.
Viewed solely through the lens of secular history, the conflict was an unmitigated disaster, a potentially terminal assault on European civilisation. But from the divine standpoint, the principal aim of the war would prepare conditions conducive to the settlement of the Jewish people in their land of promise. When the British General Allenby captured Jerusalem from the Ottoman Turks in 1917, a new phase of history began. During the 1920s and ʼ30s large numbers of Jews quit Europe and made their ʻreturnʼ (aliyah) to Palestine, which had by then become a British protectorate.
By 1938 Adolf Hitler's regime was evicting all Jews from Germany. By 1941 it was consigning them to prison camps and ghettos. And by 1942 Jews in German-occupied territories were hunted down and exterminated on an industrial scale in a thousand death camps – a holocaust of unspeakable brutality, liquidating millions of lives and destroying the faith of many of those who survived.
Though modern Israel is by rights a sovereign, independent nation, she is not free to act as she might. She is still circumscribed by the ongoing Gentile pre-eminence in world affairs, particularly by the role of an imperial United States, which can (and may yet) exert political, diplomatic and economic pressures against her to comply with its own far-reaching national interests. And she will remain the victim of much political pushing and pulling for years to come. Despite her regional dominance Israel is still the tail and not yet the head (Deut. 28: 13).
Full liberation for the Jewish nation cannot come until the powers of this world complete the ransacking of their own institutions. Then Christ will step in to take control under a new covenant, which He will make first with converted Israel, through whom the blessings will flow to all. (Jer. 31: 31-34; Isa. 2: 2-5).
May-June 2018. no copyright