Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
You can view part one (History of the Land to 1917) here; and part two (History of the Land Since 1917) here.
How Christians approach the land/modern state of Israel today depends on their answer to an number of theological questions: the way they understand the Bible, their view of salvation history, who the people of God are and their understanding of the future.
Jesus said, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesars and God the things that are God’s.” This is useful to understanding the question of the State of Israel.
I sympathize most with the ancient Jewish land claims of the State of Israel, which far outweigh that of the Arab Palestinians; add to this Israel’s international recognition, defensive victories and productive sovereign presence and they have every right to exist, even if imperfectly. It certainly has a right to defend itself, remembering compassionate justice.
Yet the Arabs of Palestine have been there many centuries and likewise have a right to co-exist, either in Israel or over their own state (something that Zionism challenges). They have certainly been impacted by the arrival of Jewish settlers and refugees. However, the Arabs lost the wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973. The Arabs have clearly leveraged refugees against Israel when in all other international examples displaced people are reintegrated. Most Arab Palestinians simply want to live peaceably (and many do so as citizens of Israel). However, 5 times the PLO has turned down peace deals that would have seen them sovereign over Gaza and the West Bank, why? If Israel laid down their arms there are enough people who hate her that she would cease to exist. If the Palestinians laid down their arms (in the sense of terrorism and not police and military forces) then there would be peace. The adage that the conflict is “easy to explain, difficult to solve,” seems very true. One reason why the Jews are hated is theological, they are God’s “chosen” people; but this must be defined.
Religiously I do not sympathize with Israel with the exceptions of my Judeo-Christian heritage (Ro 9:5, chs. 9–11) and also my desire that all ethnic Israel may be saved (Ro 11:26). My sympathy stops here because I am a covenantalist (I see continuity between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant people of God, the elect, c.f. Ro 9–11—the Church is Israel) and an a-millennialist (the millennial Kingdom is today, Christ reigning over His Church on earth by His Spirit—the promises of land have been fulfilled).
Indeed, God choose to save a people to himself (the elect). He sought to bring salvations by choosing, under the OC, to work through one nation (Israel). Even in the OT Israel was made up of visible and believing Israel, or those elect to service and those elect to salvation. Under the New Covenant, unbelieving Jews remain “elect to service,” but in a much diminished sense, to bring about the salvation of the Gentiles. The New Covenant community are God’s people, believing Jew and Gentile, in salvation and in predominant service. However, because unbelieving ethnic Jews are still elect to service they are a hated people (anti-semitism). It seems clear that God, in His providence, has been kind to the Jews by allowing them back to their historic lands; a kindness no doubt intended to lead to repentance (Ro 2:4).
We must remember to read the whole Bible through the lens of Christ (Christologically, e.g. the road to Emmaus). The promises of the Promised Land were surely realized in a literal sense under Solomon. Because the promises were contingent on covenant faithfulness the Jews were expelled from the land for their unfaithfulness. It was according to God’s mercy they were even able to return to the land in part under the Persians. The destruction of the Jewish Temple and the expulsion of the Jews from the land was a judgement for not accepting the New Covenant of the Messiah. (During the first millennia Christians were disinterested in the land, except for its connection to Christ and the saints, for this reason). When secular Zionism emerged, Rabbis were quick to point out that the dispersion was God’s judgement and that the Jews would not return to the land, in their view, until the Messiah came. Today Israel is largely a spiritually godless Western nation of atheists and legalists. Even if the Old Covenant had not been fulfilled in Christ, ethnic Jews would have no claim to the land because of their covenant unfaithfulness. How much more so today because they reject the New Covenant.
While Zionism is a powerful and tantalizing drug that even the disciples dappled with (Acts 1:6). Jesus in the Kingdom of God, however, had far more in mind. At the Fall God’s presence in His place (Eden/earth) was lost. Since that point His presence on His place has been expanding. The Promised Land was a type of Eden. Today the Kingdom’s reign through the New Covenant People of God (the Church) is typologically expanding His rule all over the earth, not simply in one place (Israel). In the words of the Reformers Luther and Calvin, the restoration of Israel is a mere “Jewish myth.” When Christ returns His rule over earth will be completed in the New Heavens and New Earth. Perhaps the most we might say of Israel in this is that it is likely Christ will return to the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:11), and so in that sense Israel might feature in future events.
But what of God’s promises to Abraham of the land? It was fulfilled in Christ just like all Old Covenant promises. We must covenantally understand the expansive nature of this promise. Imagine a father promised his son a carriage as a gift for his marriage in 1900. However, when he was married in 1910 he gave him a new automobile. Did the father not give what he had promised? Abraham never lived to see an inheritance in the Promised Land. This was because he was hoping in what the Promised Land signified, the New Heavens and New Earth, God’s reign over all (Heb 11:10).
Civilly I sympathize with Israel; religiously I also sympathize with Israel, but not in a way many ministries and Christians have paraded on social media since the recent conflict began. It is a modest sympathy. My sincere sympathies lie here:
Existing in both Israel and Palestine are believing Jews and Arabs, members of the New Covenant, Christians. These are our brothers and sisters. These are the ones caught between a worldly power struggle (unbelieving Palestinians and Israelis) that we ought to sympathize the most with, whether it is an Israeli Christian being killed by Hamas rockets or a Palestinian Christian being killed by Israeli missiles. Our great desire for Israelis and Palestinians is that they might join Christ’s kingdom through repentance and faith and thus be assured of a place in the New Heavens and New Earth.
A Brief History of the Land since 1917
This blog is a three part series on the State of Israel, the land, etc. The first two blogs are historical and meant to be presented in a way that anyone, objectively, could agree with them.
To read part one click here.
In the late 1800s, partly due to growing Ottoman weakness and partly due to a rise in Christian (either for Dispensational reasons or anti-semitism) and Jewish Zionism (that a people need a place, Theodore Hertzl) in Europe, more Jews began to emigrate to the Ottoman Empire. In 1917 about 20% of Palestine was Jewish.
In 1917 the British liberated Palestine during WWI. They had promised the Arabs who helped them defeat the Ottoman’s independence. However, in 1916 the British and French secretly agreed to split the land in the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Palestine became British. In 1917 Lord Balfour published the Balfour Declaration, which favoured the creation of “a national home for the Jewish people.”
Under British rule more and more Jews immigrated to British Palestine, the British being very sympathetic to Zionism.
Prior to WWII, many Arabs increasingly came into armed conflict with the Jewish settlers and the British. When the British tarried in agreeing to a Jewish state some Jews likewise targeted the British.
In 1939 the world’s attention shifted to WWII; issues simmered, while Jewish immigration increased because of Nazism. Post-WWII the British abdicated responsibility for the tensions to the newly formed United Nations and the world was sympathetic to a home for the Jews because of the Holocaust. In 1947 the UN passed Resolution 181, calling for the partitioning of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and the other Arab. The Arabs rejected it. As soon as Israel declared independence in May 1948, neighbouring Arab states immediately attacked Israel. The result was that young State of Israel won a surprising victory and increased its territory and some 700,000 Arabs were displaced. (They were also told to leave until the state had been defeated and they could return). Egypt occupies Gaza and Jordan the West Bank. (The Palestinian flag dates to 1964). Some 650,000 Jewish refugees also fled from their Arab countries, where they'd lived for years, to seek peace in Israel.
Under the Israeli constitution Jewish and Arab citizens, Muslims and Christians, have full equality.
While it is not true the land was barren and disused under the Arabs (as the British had said) the Israelis did much to improve the land.
In June 1967 came the Six-Day War when Israel was attacked on all sides by Egypt, Jordan and Syria. The Arabs were defeated, resulting in Israel occupying the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, Gaza and West Bank. Following the war several Arab nations issued the “Three Noes” or the Khartoum Resolution: no peace, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations.
In September 1972 11 Israeli athletes were killed at the Munich Olympics by the [Palestinian] group Black September.
In October 1974 the Yom Kippur War erupted as Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack, with heavy casualties on both sides. Egypt fared better than Syria, who lost more of the Golan Heights.
In September 1978 the Camp David Accords see Israel return Sinai in return for peace.
In 1987 the first intifada, or Palestinian uprising, erupts leading to ongoing deaths.
In 1993 the Oslo Accords set out a peace process between Israel and the Palestinian authority. Unresolved issues include Israeli settlements in West Bank and the status of Jerusalem. In 1994 Jordan and Israel sign a peace deal.
In 1995 Israeli PM is assassinated by a Jewish shooter who opposed the Oslo Accords.
In 2000, after Ariel Sharon (later PM) visited the Temple Mount, the second intifada erupted leaving many dead on both sides. Following this conflict Israel builds the West Bank barrier.
In 2005 Israel gives Gaza. However, in 2006 Hamas, a terrorist group backed by Iran with the aim of exterminating Israel, is elected.
In 2006 Israel fought a war with Hezbollah (an Iranian backed militia in Lebanon). Flare ups have continued.
In 2008 Israel attacks Hamas in Gaza. Since this time there are often flare ups of violence.
Israel continues to build settlements in the West Bank.
In total Israel offered the PLO peace five times and five times the PLO rejected it. This is often because of an unwillingness to recognize Israel.
In 2017 the USA recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Israel has been normalizing relations with many Arab nations.
Several things may be observed:
5. European= 191
*The Jews have been the longest culture and religion to be in the land; though Christians and Muslims have considerable claims too.
5. It must be remembered Israel is not an exclusively Jewish state. It tolerates other religions and some 20% of Israelis are Arab.
6. Palestinian, like Israeli, are NEW terms. Prior to the 20th Century there were no Palestinians or Israelis, simply Arabs, Jews, etc, living in an artificially created land named Palestine.
You might benefit from:
A three part series on the land/state of Israel and what Christians should make of it.
The news of the recent Israel-Hamas war has put the region, and its complex civil and religious questions, back into the international spotlight again. What should a Christian response be? While this three part blog will give a basic overview it’s interest is primarily theological and not social or political. It must be stated, this is a complex issue and many have devoted their entire lives to its study. However, we can ascertain some basics.
A Brief History of the Land to 1917
The Canaanites are the earliest known residents of the Levant; the region at the crossroads of two continents. They were descended from Ham who was the father of the ancient Egyptians, Canaanites and Arabs (Gen 10:6, 19). Because of Ham’s sin (and perhaps foreseeing Canaan’s evil), Noah cursed Canaan.
c. 2166 BC. God promised Abraham the land of Canaan (“the Promised Land”) as part of his wider promise (Gen 12, 15, 17). Abraham, however, died only owning a grave in Canaan.
C. 1446/or 1260. Moses and then Joshua led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. The nations there were so godless and so evil God used Israel to bring judgement on them.
C. 1051 BC. Saul/David formed the Israelite monarchy. It later split between the northern Kingdom (Israel) and the southern Kingdom (Judah). In 725 BC Israel was taken into exile by the Assyrians, their land resettled with other peoples who mixed with the Israelite lower classes (the Samaritans). In 586 BC Judah was taken into exile by the Babylonians. Likewise, many others came to dwell in the land with the lower class Jews.
Under the Persians they were permitted to return to Judea and be semi-autonomous.
Though many Jews returned to Judea many remained abroad to build their lives across the Ancient Near East. This is called the Diaspora or dispersion.
The Persians were conquered by the Greeks. The Jews rebelled against the Greeks and formed the Maccabean Kingdom (167–63 BC).
In 63 BC the Romans intervened in the Maccabean civil war and came to incorporate Judea as a province within the Empire.
4 BC–30/33 AD. The time of Jesus.
During this time a tense relationship existed between the Romans and the Jews until the Temple was destroyed in AD 70 and the Jews were finally expelled from the land in AD 139; leaving only a small number. The Romans re-named Judea Palestinia, after the Jews old Phoenician enemies the Philistines, as a slight against them. This resulted in a second Jewish dispersion.
As Christianity grew Palestine had a minority of Jews and a majority of, primarily, Roman/Greek Christians.
*Islam is founded by Mohammed. Jerusalem is claimed as a holy site.
In 636 the new Muslim Arabs conquered Palestine. It became part of a Calaphate that existed until the Crusades (1100–1291) when it was controlled by European Christians. Christians saw it as the “holy land” because of holy events, saints, etc. After its fall to the Arabs there always remained a minority of Jews and Christians.
A group of Muslims called the Mamluks then occupied Palestine until conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1516. Palestine would be part of the Ottoman Empire for the next 400 years.
To be continued...
, …The Israel of God. (Galatians 6:16)
Who did Paul have in view in his benediction? After all the Galatians were comprised of both believing ethnic Jews and believing ethnic Gentiles.
The NLT says, “May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.”
The NIV says, “Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.”
The ESV says, “And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and [which can translate ‘even’] upon the Israel of God.”
It is clear from the context of Galatians that Paul is referring to the Galatian believers as “the Israel of God.” The term Israel can mean a number of things in the Bible: a definition (one who struggled with God), a man (Jacob), a nation, the Old Covenant community, a political entity or generally God’s people. Here it is in the last sense that Paul is using “Israel.”
In fact, this is a great sub-theme of Galatians, especially, chs. 3–4. Contrary to the Judaizer’s false gospel, one doesn’t have to become Jewish (i.e. the Old Covenant community, which ethnic Israel had embodied) to be saved or be part of God’s family. God’s people are those who relate to God through faith in Christ/Gospel/NC. There is a newness in the NC. It is not merely a reforming of the OC. Christ had fulfilled the Old Covenant and ushered in the New Covenant governed by His 12 Apostles (think 12 tribes of Israel). We become Abraham’s offspring through faith (3:7) and there is no saving or meritorious distinction between “Jew and Gentile” (3:28), we are all “one in Christ Jesus.” Together we form God’s “new creation.” (Gal 6:15). Just as the word ‘church’ was used in the Greek Old Testament to speak of Israel (OC people of God) so today we can speak of Israel as referring to the Church (NC people God). From a NC perspective these are interchangeable words. Throughout Galatians Paul has been arguing that the Gospel produces a new multi-ethnic people of God who are justified by faith in the Messiah/Christ and live in accordance with the Law of Christ (moral law) by His Spirit. To enjoy the benefits of this Covenant one did not have to go backward in salvation history but forward. (Yet understandably transitions are not always the easiest to perceive when we are in the midst of them, Lk 5:3739, Acts 15).
This isn’t replacement or supersessionist theology but fulfilment and continuationist theology. Jesus was Jewish. The earliest New Covenant believers (until Acts 11:19) were Jewish. Though many Gentiles believed and joined Israel under the OC under the NC this became a fuller ingathering (c.f. Isa 49). Since Abraham/Moses there had always been a mixture of ethnic Jews and Gentiles in the OC community (Israel), because God’s plan of salvation had always been to redeem a people for Himself from every tribe and tongue and nation (Gen 12; classic view 1689.26.1). This he did progressively through Covenants, of which the New Covenant is most expansive.
What then of ethnic Israel? Paul addressed this in Romans 9–11 (Romans very much being an expansion of Galatians). You can see a brief visual depiction of this here. In short, the faithful remnant of ethnic Israel under the OC believed in the NC (the early Jewish believers, Acts 1–9). While some ethnic Jews presently believe many do not. Yet at the end of the age Paul envisions a great revival of ethnic Jews and their ingathering into the Body.
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