The restoration of Israel is one of the most important Biblical prophecies to be fulfilled. Israel had been destroyed centuries earlier by the Romans and its people dispersed throughout the world. Jerusalem – the capital city – was destroyed.
The Romans wished to destroy all memory of the ancient city of Jerusalem that was renamed Aelia Capitolina and then rebuilt in the style of a typical Roman town. The new Roman city would be inhabited by Romans, and the city dedicated to Jupiter – one of the Roman gods.
The Roman emperor had become so enraged with the Jewish revolts that he was determined to erase Judaism. Circumcision was forbidden, Jews were expelled from their capital city, and the ancient province of Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina.
The scattering of the surviving Jewish population of Israel throughout the world was known as the diaspora. Despite intense persecution throughout centuries of time, Jewish populations managed to maintain their own identity.
This is remarkable considering that no other ancient population has managed to maintain their ancient language, customs, heritage, and Jewish identity through centuries of time. They remembered the ancient warnings given in the Old Testament about intermarrying with other populations. Jews recognized that in order to keep their customs and identity they had to stay together, support each other, and not assume the customs and lifestyle of those around them.
Dispersed Jews Were Despised
The Jews were hated by uninformed Christians as they were blamed for the death of Christ. They were expelled from countries, their property was taken by state governments, and they were hunted down and mercilessly killed by Nazis.
Against all odds, the Jewish people have remained a distinct ethnic group and have not intermarried with their neighbors. They have kept the customs and traditions of their forefathers and maintained their ethnic identity.
Today, they have the only democracy in the Middle East, one of the highest GDP per capita in the Middle East including twice that of Saudi Arabia, even though they are surrounded by hostile countries.
Ezekiel and the Restoration of Israel
Ezekiel was an ancient prophet of Israel living during the 5th century BC during some of the most tumultuous times of his country. The Northern Kingdom had been carried away into captivity by the Assyrians generations previously, condemned to death if they were lucky; slavery if they were not. The southern two tribes of Israel, Benjamin, and Judah comprised the Southern Kingdom and were spared the onslaught of the Assyrians, only to be defeated by the Babylonians.
Ezekiel was born in Jerusalem into a priestly family and presumably enjoyed comfort and privilege during his early years. All of that changed when he was forcibly taken by Babylonian forces into the foreign country of Babylon – into an area now known as modern Iraq.
Ezekiel tried to keep Judaism alive among his captives living in a foreign country with different belief systems and foreign customs. Many in his enslaved group turned from their previous life and adopted the customs of their captors. It was Ezekiel’s mission to denounce this apostasy and to warn his brethren of serious consequences to themselves and to future generations if they continued in their disbelief.
His words fell on the ears of a largely disbelieving populace, but we war eventually buried in a great tomb along the Euphrates River in a town today known as al-Kifl located about fifty miles south of Baghdad in modern-day Iraq. Since Ezekiel is also revered by Islam, the burial site has been preserved and renovated by the local Islamic government.
The Ezekiel Plates
There is an old Talmudic tradition that the ancient prophets and sages were buried with copies of their writings. One such legend states Ezekiel was buried with the original book of Ezekiel to be revealed in the last days. Part of Ezekiel’s tomb was covered with sixty-six marble tiles approximately twelve square inches in size. These tiles did not elicit much attention for centuries until several were noted to be loose and in danger of falling and were removed for restoration.
Amazingly, the inner surface of the tiles which had been facing the wall was noted to have ancient Hebrew writing on them. This writing was not chiseled into the rock as is the usual custom with stone inscriptions; rather, the writing was embossed meaning that the rock around each letter was removed.
This technique is much more difficult than simply carving letters into stone as there is much more rock that needs to be removed and the embossed lettering is easily destroyed.
The history of the Ezekiel plates after their discovery supports their great historical importance. They were originally found about one-hundred years ago. The entire set was taken to Lebanon by a Christian Arab. Before moving to Paris, he sold them to a businessman named David Hacohen in 1947. Hacoben then smuggled the plates into Israel in 1953 and sold them to the second Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak ben-Zvi. Ben-Zvi was a historian and considered these plates to be of great historical importance.
After Ben-Zvi’s death, the plates then became the property of a historical museum set up in his honor; the plates were then unceremoniously placed into storage and large forgotten. Eventually, patrons of the museum recognized the importance of these plates and have convinced the curators to place them on display.
Upon examination, the ancient Hebrew Ezekiel plates upon translation are nearly identical to the modern version we have in our Bibles today.
The Ezekiel Prophecy of the Restoration of Israel
Biblical prophecy often carries little meaning until after the event prophesied occurs. For example, the famous Isaiah prophecy concerning the advent of the Messiah had little meaning prior to Christ’s birth,
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
Most Jews at the time of Christ’s birth were not looking for a “Prince of Peace” but rather for a “Prince of War” against the Roman occupiers.
This is also true concerning a rather obscure prophecy in Ezekiel,
This shall be a sign to the house of Israel. Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity. For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bears the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year” (Ezekiel 4:4-6)
The prophecy was obviously considered very important to the writer as it would be a “sign” to the house of Israel. Figuring out what this “sign” means did not become apparent until after the re-founding of Israel in 1948.
Israel’s relationship to its land is a major theme of the Old Testament. The nation of Israel was given land for their posterity. The family of the ancient Patriarch Judah and his family settled in Egypt where they lived for exactly 430 years.
And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, to the very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:41).
The ancient prophet Jeremiah predicted the exact duration of the captivity of Israel in Babylon to be 70 years,
This whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the kind of Babylon seventy years. (Jeremiah 25:11)
Jeremiah lived in Jerusalem at the time of the Babylonian siege and it is believed he lived out his days in Egypt. History notes the first captivity of Israel started in 606 BC and lasted until 536 BC when they were freed by Cyrus the Great, King of Persia – exactly 70 years.
The Ezekiel prophecy stated Israel would be punished for a total of 430 years. However, they had already spent 70 years being punished in Babylon so there still remains 360 years of punishment left.
Nothing much happened after 360 years – but Israel never repented of her sins against God during their years of captivity and years spend rebuilding Jerusalem. Their sins against God and against fellow Jews included child sacrifice and refusal to recognize their Messiah. The vast majority of Israel stayed in Babylon and eventually intermarried with the Persians and disappeared over several generations.
The Seven-Fold Punishment
Multiple times throughout Scripture God declares to Israel their punishment would be increased seven times for failure to repent. God declares four times in Leviticus 26 that punishments for unrepentance would be multiplied seven-fold.
If also after these things you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. (Lev. 26:18)
If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins. (Lev. 26:21)
then I will act with hostility against you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins. (Lev. 26:24)
then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins (Lev. 26: 28)
Israel remained unrepentant and continued to follow their own desires which usually were not aligned with God’s desires for them. They continued to ignore the prophets, failed to recognize the Messiah, and developed laws that took advantage of the poor and least powerful among them.
The punishment of God upon the unrepentant Jews was significant, spanning over many centuries. The time for this punishment could be calculated using the clues given to Israel in Scripture.
They would be punished for 360 years (the prophetic year in Scripture is 360 days) times seven or 2520 prophetic Biblical years. This calculates to be 907,200 days. When changed to years, this calculates out to be 2483.8 years, and when added to 536 BC this gives 1947. Since there is no year “0”, Scripture suggests Israel’s punishment would end in 1948 – the year Israel gained independence.
The year of Israel’s restoration to the land was predicted more than two millennia ago.
Restoration of the Hebrew Language
There has not been a language spoken by a country that was lost and then regained – except for Hebrew
Hebrew was a dead language for many centuries. While many could read Hebrew, it was not the spoken language of any country.
Much of the credit for the restoration of Hebrew into the language of Israel belongs to Eliezer Ben-Yehuda. Hebrew now is a living, spoken language used by millions of people. He was born in what is now known as Belarus and was originally raised to be a rabbi by his parents. He became interested in languages and eventually learned Yiddish, German, French and ancient Greek.
He became interested in Zionism while learning languages and concluded the revival of a spoken Hebrew language could unit all Jews throughout the world. At that time, Yiddish was the common language of many of the Jewish groups but Ben-Yehuda felt Hebrew was more appropriate to unite the Jews into an ethnic group.
Furthermore, he felt that the future of Hebrew and a Jewish homeland were intertwined writing,
The Hebrew language can live only if we revive the nation and return it to the fatherland.”
Ben-Yehuda studied for years at the Sorbonne in France, finally moving to Jerusalem to spend his remaining years. At that time, Jerusalem – and all of Palestine – was controlled by the Ottoman Empire until it was freed by the British in 1917 during World War 1.
Ben-Yahuda was a major figure in the Committee of the Hebrew Language which later became the Academy of the Hebrew Language which still exists today. He was the author of the first modern Hebrew dictionary and became famous as the “reviver” of the Hebrew language. He had to invent many Hebrew words for objects that are important in modern life but which did not exist in ancient Israel.
While inventing new Hebrew words, he noted,
in order to supplement the deficiencies of the Hebrew language, the Committee coins words according to the rules of grammar and linguistic analogy from Semitic roots: Aramaic, Canaanite, Egyptian ones, and especially from Arabic roots.
Concerning Arabic, Ben-Yahuda noted
The roots of Arabic were once a part of the Hebrew language … lost, and now we have found them again.
Ben-Yahuda eventually had to invent about two-thousand words for modern items such as bicycle and tomato making up about twenty percent of modern spoken Hebrew.
Many rabbis were less than happy with this popularization and modernization of the Hebrew language, claiming it was sacrilege. He was excommunicated by the rabbis of Jerusalem, and also got into trouble with the Ottoman Empire for sedation.
He would die in 1922 from complications related to tuberculosis, a disease that ruined his health over many years. He is buried on the Mount of Olives. His grave was defaced with spray-painted graffiti from an ultra-Orthodox group protesting his sacrilege. When word reached his family about the graffiti, the family asked what language was the graffiti! When they were told the graffiti was in modern Hebrew, they replied, “Ah, then Ben-Yehuda won!
The Old Testament Prophecies about Modern Israel
The restoration of Israel was foretold by the ancient prophet Jeremiah about twenty-six hundred years ago along with other Jewish prophets like Isaiah and Hosea. Not only is ancient prophecy very specific concerning this restoration, it actually predicts in what order this restoration would occur; namely, they would first come from eastern Arab countries, then from Western Europe – especially Germany. Then, during the end of the 1980s with the fall of the Soviet Union, they came in great numbers from the north – Russia. Today, many are coming from the south – from African countries such as Ethiopia and zimbabwe. This exact order – east, west, north, and then south – was predicted many centuries ago.
Most of the land during the time of the restoration of Israel was dry, arid, unable to grow much of anything. It was originally part of the Ottoman Empire that sided with the Germans during World War 1. The Empire was defeated by the British who then occupied Jerusalem in 1917, and the British assumed governance of the land.
Much of this land was owned by Arabs who often leased the land to others; it was considered to be a wasteland of little practical use consisting of the desert in the south and marshland heavily infested with malaria-carrying mosquitoes in the north.
Very few people even lived in Palestine because the land was so inhospitable. But the Jews did not just come as squatters and start to live on land that was not theirs. They actually purchased the land upon which they lived. This purchase of land by the Jews was also foretold in Scripture,
The purchase of land in Israel by Jews is documented by the British Palestine Royal Commission who were not exactly friends of the Jews. That bit of history is very important, as it contracts the common modern narrative that the Jews are “occupiers” of land belonging to others.
In order to purchase this land, the Jewish National Fund set up blue and white (Israel’s national colors) collection boxes all over the world which were used to purchase property in the Hold Land. By 1948 almost 90 percent of the land that was available for sale had been bought by the Jewish people, with the rest being forgotten desert that was not owned by anyone.
The Jewish National Fund helped turn a “wasteland” into a productive territory by investing heavily in the country. It was founded to buy and develop land originally owned by the Ottoman Empire for Jewish settlement.
Since its inception, the Jewish National Fund has planted over 240 million trees, built 180 dams and reservoirs, developed 250,000 acres of land, and established more than 1000 parks.
The League of Nations became involved in this situation trying to settle the land in a fashion that would be agreeable to all parties concerned. In 1922, the League of Nations (a precursor to the United Nations), stipulated that Britain
should work together with the Jewish Agency to encourage intensive settlement of the land by Jews, which should include the land owned by the state and the uncultivated or waste land, as long as this land is not needed for official purposes.
Partition of Israel and the Peel Commission
England controlled Palestine after World War 1 and was trying to make peace between Jews who wanted to repatriate to Israel, and their Arab neighbors. There were at least two times England tried to partition Palestine. One was in 1937 with the Peel Commission which concluded that the only solution to resolve the contradictory aspirations of the Arabs and the Jews was to divide Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states.
The Peel Commission would have partitioned Palestine into a Palestinian state and the remaining part for Israel. However, the Arabs rejected this plan because it forced them to accept the creation of a Jewish state, and required some Palestinians living in a Jewish state to live under “’Jewish domination.’ The Arabs insisted they would not share any partition of the lands with the Jews, and demanded the full cessation of Jewish immigration.
The Zionists were not happy with the plan because it restricted the Jews to only 1,900 square miles out of the 10,500 square miles remaining in Palestine; however, the Jews agreed to at least negotiate while the Arabs refused and the entire two-state solution fell apart.”
The British would try again to find a solution where both the Arabs and Jews might be able to live in harmony together. The British White Paper called for the establishment of an independent Arab state in Palestine within ten years, and for the limitation of Jewish immigration to no more than 75,000 over the following five years. Afterward, no one would be allowed without the consent of the Arab population.
Although the Arabs had been granted a concession on Jewish immigration, the ability to strictly limit Jewish immigration, and an independent country, they again refused to negotiate. In short, they again refused a Palestinian state with an opportunity for self-determination if it meant there would be an independent Jewish state as well.
The Aliyah Bet
Jews became a target of German Nazis during World War Two, and millions were exterminated. There was a sense of desperation among Jews to get out of Europe and establish their own country. The Aliyah Bet – or “second Immigration” was the program whereby Jews would immigrate to Palestine in violations to restrictions laid out in the British White Paper.
Multiple groups worked together to facilitate Jewish immigration to Palestine. While many countries gave tacit approval for the mass movement of Jews to Palestine, the British government was vehemently opposed. Over 100,000 people attempted illegally to enter Palestine, and most of the ships were stopped by British patrols and sent to internment camps on Cyprus. The British held as many as 50,000 in various camps. Over 1,600 drowned at sea and only a few thousand were successful in entering Palestine.
Internment Camps on Cyprus for Jews
The Jews learned they could not trust their fate to any nation or group of nations. They learned from their mistakes of the past that they needed to take care of themselves. The Jews as a group decided to move to the land of Israel where hopefully they might be safer.
The British controlled this land after felt pressure from many Arab nations to halt the influx of Jews into Israel. They established “internment camps” on the island of Cyprus where Jews were placed if they were caught trying to immigrate to Israel. These camps operated from August 1946 to January 1949 and held about 51,000 people behind fences strangely reminiscent of their Nazi experience.
The SS Exodus Incident Leading to Rebirth of Israel
The pivotal event in this program of Jewish repatriation was an incident involving the ship SS Exodus. In July of 1947, the British navy intercepted the refugee ship SS Exodus which was bound for Israel with more than 4,500 Jews on board in international waters. The British sailors forcibly boarded the ship killing several passengers and crew members forcing everybody on board to return to Europe. This was a public relations nightmare for the British government who were seeing themselves in a no-win situation and became more eager to divest themselves of the entire mess.
The British were tired of facing international pressure from various interest groups to do something about the Arab-Jewish conflict and so turned to the newly formed United Nations for help.
Mandate Palestine Partition Plan
At that time, the English were just getting over the destruction from another World War and were ready to divest themselves of overseas colonies and concentrate on their own problems. London lay in ruins from relentless German bombing, and the economy was destroyed.
The UN took the problem up and on November 29, 1947, they established the Mandate Palestine partition plan which divided Palestine into two areas.
In this plan, the Jewish state was to receive about 56 percent of the land excluding Jerusalem which was designated an area to be administered by the United Nations. The plan was accepted by most of the Jews but outright rejected by the Arabs. The plan was to take effect in October 1948, but then the unexpected happened.
The British were becoming increasingly impatient of the slow diplomatic process and decided to pull out all troops and officially end the British Mandate on May 14, 1948.
That posed a particular problem for the Jews because the British refused to hand over any authority or territory to Jewish control ahead of their departure. David Ben-Gurion – the Jewish leader at the time – knew that the day after the British left, the Jews would be attacked by their Arab neighbors. They quickly raised money to purchase arms and military supplies which were then smuggled into the country. The stage was set for a confrontation.
The Jewish State of Israel Declared
In a very dramatic fashion, David Ben-Gurion standing in front of a portrait of Theodor Herzl read Israel’s Declaration of Independence that had just been approved by the Israeli People’s Council. He also declared the “establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel to be known as the State of ISrael.
Israel could not have come into existence without the early withdrawal of the British troops and administrative personnel that day; Israel – a country that had not existed as an independent political entity for about 2600 years – was literally reborn in a day. The next day, tiny Israel was attacked by the combined power of four Arab nations – Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, and Iraq.
The ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah had forecast this exact sequence of events centuries earlier,
Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no soon is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. (Isaiah 66:8)
Furthermore, there are hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the re-establishment of Israel; how it would be a place of gathering for Jews from around the world. Many of these Jews who gathered in Israel worshipped in synagogues, but there are other ethnic groups throughout the world who retained the customs and belief system strangely similar to ancient Judaism. These other ethnic groups live in diverse places like Ethiopia, India, and Zimbabwe, and are now recognized as being of Jewish descent by prominent Jewish rabbis. Many of these groups are also emigrating to Israel.
The story of Israel is still being written. It is a diverse country with a large Muslim population, as well as many different ethnic Jewish populations. These divergent groups live in constant threat of destruction by hostile neighbors who would drive the population into the Mediterranean Sea if allowed.
The date of the establishment of Israel had been forecast many centuries earlier, the manner of its coming forth was predicted by Isaiah, the rebirth of the Hebrew language long lost as a national tongue, and the amazing ability of the Jewish population to protect itself against hordes of invaders in multiple wars.
Israel has an important part in the eschatological future of mankind; events are rapidly coming together for the violent future of the country predicted in Scripture.
But we have read the last chapter – and we know who will eventually win.