The absolute facts of ancient history, perhaps even modern history to some degree, are an interaction of legend and fact. Most of the stories regarding the lives of the people below come to us in writing only from the accounts documented in the Bible. Some of the earliest stories were recounted by word of mouth for scores of centuries before they were ever written down. What we present here is the Bible’s account, and the interraction of these stories, as allegories architected by God, with their intended purpose — a divine explanation of the reconciliation of mankind with God through through the unprecedented appearance of Jesus Christ.
Almost 4000 years ago, a man named Abraham was born in Ur, a town in the southern part of Mesopotamia. The place corresponds today to the southern part of what is now the country of Iraq — somewhere just above the present country of Kuwait, near where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet. When he was a very young man, his father moved the family several hundred miles northwest to a place called Haran in what is now southern Turkey (a few hundred miles south of the Black Sea). When his father died, God called Abraham to leave Haran and make a journey to the southwest, down to a land called Canaan (now Israel and Palestine), a lnad whose natives (the Canaanites) bore striking similarites to the indians of North America. .Abraham got his family together: his wife and some slaves, including his mistress, and his nephew Lot, and together they joined Abraham who obeyed God’s command. When they got to Canaan, God instructed Abraham to settle there.
Since his wife was barren, Abraham had a son (Ishmael) with his wife’s slave-girl, Hagar. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, quickly became jealous of Ishmael and Hagar and ordered him to dismiss the girl and her child from their camp. Abraham did as she requested and so Hagar, the mistress, and her child Ishmael returned to the land of the Euphrates, where their descendants grew into a great nation. Both the Arabs and the Persians claim to be Ishmael’s descendants, as do all Muslims. A very important allegory in scripture grew out of this circumstance. Sarah became known in legend as the wedded wife, the lawful bride of Abraham and her children therefore, the his ligitimate heirs. The allegorical implication revolves around the spiritual children of God and the physical children of the flesh. Hagar portrays ‘this world’ and her children all who are born into the flesh under the stain of Satan. Sarah, as the wedded wife, is seen (according to Paul) as the new Jerusalem, the spiritual mother who gives life in the eternal kingdom of God. The theme is repeated again in the story of Esther and Vashti. In this theme also revolves the important prophetic allegory concerning the future pre-eminence of the second-born son (i.e., the ‘born-again’ son).
For years Sarah and Abraham were childless, but in her very old age, she bore him one son — Issac. While Issac was still quite young, God asked Abraham to take the child into the wilderness and make a sacrifice. At first Abraham thought that God wanted him to sacrifice Issac to Him, but God showed him that this was not the case. God gave Abraham an animal to sacrifice in Issac’s place.
Although some of the stories of scripture seem very strange to us, we need to realize that Hebrew history is a series of allegories structured by God for the development of our understanding of His purpose. The story of Issac is very important in this regard.
In this allegory Abraham represents God. The near sacrifice of Issac represents God’s near sacrifice of His son Jesus on the cross. Just as Issac was spared, so was Jesus. God allowed the body of Jesus to be crucified — but then raised His body out of the dead and brought it back to life so that we would understand the power Christ had given us. God transcends the clothing of the flesh.
Issac did not die — God saved him by providing a substitute in his place. This mortal tent is only a substitute for an invisible heavenly body that lies invisibly surrounding our soul will be wrapped in later, if we follow Christ.
It is invisible now, because of the exile. We can see nothing of God or of His world, except the glimmer of it revealed by Jesus and the prophets. Abraham’s two women, are a part of this revelation. The descendants of the children they bore represent the two covenants and the people who were born into them. Hagar stands for the old covenant and her child Ishmael for the offspring of Abraham who reject Jesus. Sarah portrays the new covenant, and her child, Isaac, Christianity. All of scripture can be seen in a dual relationship that combines both metaphore and history. Abraham’s sacrifice of the substitute began a long history of sacrifice in the Hebrew religion. But all of it pointed ultimately to Jesus on the cross — the sacrifice God had in mind to rescue us from sin.
Isaac had two sons, but the first (the oldest) sold his birthright to the youngest for a bowl of lentils. Again, this is metaphore. It foretells how the people of the first covenant would sell their birthright to those of the new covenant for a paltry sum. Because Issac’s first son Esau bartered away his birthright, he lost his claim to it, and it passed to the younger son, Jacob. We can see this duplicated when Jewish authority over the covenant was passed to Christianity. This occured when Jesus (God) was sold by the apostle of the Jews for 30 pieces of silver, and handed over to the Romans who took him off to Babylon. These examples show how each story and each event have spiritual counterparts which fulfill a meaning written in the books of heaven. Just these few examples are enough to see how all the rest of Hebrew history duplicates this allegorical pattern.
When he was a young man, Jacob fought against an angel of God and because of this rebellion against heavenly authority he was renamed Israel by God. The name has to do with this rebellion against heaven, but has the special meaning of one who rebels against divinity and still lives. It relates to all mankind, born as participants in the active rebellion of Satan, but being allowed by God the grace of reconciliation. Throughout the rest of scripture, the two names Jacob and Israel are used interchangeably. This leads to much confusion. Israel had 11 sons. Ten of them took the youngest, Joseph, and sold him into slavery, He was promptly carried away to Egypt. There, Joseph secured Pharaohs favor and became one of the highest officials in his royal court. He was put in charge of Pharaoh’s graineries — the food supply of all Egypt — and when a famine arose, his skill in managing this supply found Egypt safely stocked with a huge supply of grain. The famine stretched throughout the Middle East.
Starving, Israel (Jacob) and his ten sons heard that there were vast food supplies in Egypt and promptly set off for the land of the Nile. They did not recognize Joseph when they first asked him for food, but he recognized them. Forgiving them for the evil they did to him, he rescued them from the famine. In gratitude, Israel (Jacob) granted Joseph’s two sons status with his other ten, and raised Joseph onto a plateau with himself — i.e., a patriarch of all twelve tribes.
When Israel (Jacob) was bestowing his patiarchal blessing on Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh, the oldest should have received the first (right-hand) blessing, and therefore been accorded the higher honor, but Israel crossed his hands, placing his right on the head of Ephraim, the youngest, instead.
“Joseph protested to his father, ‘Not like that, father! This one is the elder; put our right hand on his head. But his father refused. ‘I know, my son, I know’ he said. ‘Manasseh, too shall become a people; he too shall be great. Yet his younger brother (Ephraim) shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.” (Gn. 48:18-19).
This, of course, is a repetition of earlier metaphore, but it amplifies on the allegory to give us a better view of it. Again, the older brother was the Judean nation, a mighty people still. But the younger brother, Christianity, it is shown, will become a vast multitude of nations.
The family of Israel (Jacob) remained in Egypt basking in Joseph’s glory and partaking of Pharaoah’s favors. Four hundred years passed. The sons of Israel (Jacob) begat generation after generation of children. What had begun as 12 sons now sprouted into 12 tribes of people. A succession of Pharaoh’s mounted the Egyptian throne. Slowly Joseph had been forgotten and the Egyptian benevolence instead turned to bitter racial hatred. The children of Israel were taken captive and held as a workforce in terrible slavery and bondage.
At this point, God raised up a man from among them called Moses whom he directed to bring the Hebrew tribes out of Egypt and lead them back to the land they had previously occupied. Pharaoh would not let them go, so God visited on Egypt a great series of plagues, each one worse than the other until finally Pharaoh relented and allowed them to depart. It was the last plague, the death of the first-born that succeeded in changing Pharaoh’s mind, because it killed Pharaoh’s own son.
Set free, the Hebrews left their Egyptian houses and followed Moses who led them through the parted waters of the Red Sea into the Sinai desert. At the last minute, as the final departures were in progress, Pharaoh changed his mind and led his soldiers off to pursue them. When they reached the banks of the Red Sea, they could see that God had parted the waters and made the seabed a road for His children to cross. Hoping to attack them on the opposite bank, Pharaoh led his soldiers, in full gallop across the same seabed. But God allowed the waters to collapse on the army, killing them all, but leaving the Israelites safe from harm.
The exodus from Egypt is an allegory for our escape from Babylon. The waters that God parted in the Red Sea stand for the waters of creation that God separated so that He could lead us from this ruined part that Satan contaminated , to an upper waters that still lie in pristine perfection and in which the Promised Land truly exists. The seabed is like a planet in space. The attack of Pharaoh will be repeated at the end and will culminate in a fearful catastrophe that is shown to be as much celestial as earthbound.
The Intermediary and the Ten Commandments
Moses led the twelve tribes to a place in the desert where they could meet God and receive His commandments face to face. They all assembled below the mountain, ready for this meeting, but as God approached, the earth began to quake and the skies clouded up and lightning began to flash. Thunder sounded everywhere and the moutain erupted in fire. The Israelites were terrified and begged Moses to ask God not to come to them in person lest many of them die.
They asked Moses to have God send an intermediary to them in God’s place. God agreed with this request, and in the interim gave Moses Ten Commandments around which Moses was instructed to create a temporary law to keep the people safe until the day came when the intermediary would arrive to finish the commandments and complete the Testimony. When the people asked him if he was to be the intermediary, Moses replied that it was not him, but someone else whom God would raise up for them out of their own people. Thereafter, the twelve tribes of Israel began searching the horizons for the coming of the Messiah.
God also directed Moses to build an ‘Ark of the Covenant’ to house the two stone tablets. The Law he drafted was to act as a guardian for the people until the coming of the ‘Messiah’ that this compromise had now structured. Called the ‘Torah’, the ‘Law of Moses’ comprised the first five books of what we now call the Bible. To show the difference between this Law and the Ten Commandments, God instructed Moses that the Bible be placed outside the Ark. Only the Ten Commandments (called the Testimony) were to be held inside of it.
40 Years in the Desert
On their journey, because it was so hard, many of the Israelites rebelled and tried to return to Egypt. All of those who tried to return died. As a consequence of these rebellions, the journey lasted forty years. During that time they wandered to and fro across the burning sands. They had no animals and they had to depend on sustenance from God who sent them a food from heaven to eat — called mannah, a white snow that seemed to fall out of the sky. Throughout this journey across arid and parched sands, they had to live in tents and had no permanent homes or land. Even their place of worship (the Tent of the Testimony) was mobile. They had no temple. Because they had no animals to sacrifice, the Israelites offered no animal sacrifices to God for the entire term of their journey. The prophets talk about this as a part of their denouncement of the bloody animal sacrifices that later came to characterize the religion.
After they reached the Promised Land, Moses cast lots to divide the countryside up among the various tribes, apportioning parts to each (see map). The Ark of the Covenant, the central object of Hebrew worship because it contained the Ten Commandments was set up in Shiloh, a town belonging to the tribe of Ephraim. At this point, the Jews, who occupied the land containing the town of Jerusalem held no special place among the other tribes. Ephraim, because its founder had received the special blessing of Jacob (Israel) was the center of worship. This did not last long. Because of the evil behavior of Eli the priest and his two sons who ran the structure, God allowed the temple at Shiloh to be destroyed and the Ark was finally brought to Jerusalem.
When the temple was removed from Shiloh to Jerusalem, the tribe of Judah (the Jews) became the center of worship for the twelve tribes. It was during this time that God raised up a shepherd boy named David. The twelve tribes of Israel had appointed a king to rule over them, a man named Saul. But God found this king to be evil and instructed the people through the prophets that He was going to turn that king out and raise up another in his place. In the events that followed, Saul was killed and David became king over the twelve tribes of Israel.
David was a Jew, so from this point on, the Jews held a special place among the other tribes. The prophets bore witness to this special place, tying the Jews and the promises of God together. They predicted that the Messiah would be a son of David, and would rule in his lineage. When David tried to build a temple for God in Jerusalem to house the Ark of the Covenant, God told him no. It was not David, but David’s son that would build God’s temple.
After David died, Solomon, his son, built the temple that God wanted, just as scripture had forseen. The temple of Solomon was a beautiful edifice, showcased in Solomon’s taste for luxurious trappings. Even so, it was not the kind of temple any of these prophecies were actually pointing to. The son of David as far as the allegories were concerned was the royal heir defined in the prophecies — Jesus. It was Jesus who was to be the architect of God’s true temple. Solomon erected his temple in the city of Jerusalem, on a mountain prominence called Moriah. He built it on top of a special rock that was reputed to be the place where Abraham had almost sacrificed Isaac many centuries earlier. Great holiness was immediately attached to all of these things.
The House of Israel Divided
When Solomon died, a civil war broke out among the tribes of Israel. It was, for the most part bloodless, but it divided the land of Israel into what we now call two houses. The ten tribes to the north of Jerusalem broke away from this city and formed a new government and a new religion. To define their own religious worship in opposition to the Jews, the ten tribes of Israel set up renegade temples in Bethel and Dan.
The Jews and the tribe of Benjamine in the south remained loyal to Solomon’s son — loyal to the House of David. The metaphore, of course, points again to Jesus who is foreseen in scripture as royalty and heir to the throne of David. (See Is.9:6-7). The division between the two houses of Israel, then, foreshadowed the immense spiritual schism that was created when the Jews and the newly formed Christians divided the House of Israel in Christ. Here were two houses, both of Israel, and both thoroughly divided with respect to loyalty to the Davidic God of Israel. The roles, however are juxtaposed.
Capped by the rebellion, the sins of the Israelites brought them to the brink of the exile that Moses had foreseen. At that point, God sent His prophets to plead with them to change their ways. Some, like Isaiah and Micah were Jews, but others, such as Elijah, Elisha, Amos, and Hosea came from the tribes of the north.
The Ten Lost Tribes
The people did not listen to any of these voices that warned them from heaven and so the exile began. The first to go into slavery were the ten northern tribes. Assyrian invaders stormed their country and took them all off into what looked like apparent oblivion, because they were never seen again. Where Samaria had been, the Assyrians brought in foreigners and allowed them to occupy the country. Similarly, all the rest of the north was reoccupied by Phillistines and by foreign settlers. The name Phillistine is where our modern word Palestinian comes from.
The Jewish Exile to Babylon
After the ten tribes of the north had been exiled, foreign troops came against Judea and the Jews. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon appeared and carried the two remaining tribes (Benjamine and Judah) off to the the banks of the Euphrates. At the same time, the army of Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem and burned down the temple of Solomon. Just before the temple went up in flames, Jeremiah the prophet spirited away the Ark of the Covenant with the Ten Commandments still inside of it, and, according to one tradition, hid them in a cave on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. They have never been seen since.
At this point the exile seemed complete. But it was only the allegory which had been completed. Additional dispersions remained. Had the idea of Babylon been restricted to the Euphrates valley, the Jews could see themselves as the ultimate meaning of the prophecies, but a far worse captivity still lay in the future. At the time of Jesus, the Jews saw Babylon as symbolic and applied the title to Rome. It was a prophetic transposition of national identities. And it stemmed from the fact that Babylon was shown in the prophecies to be more than a single nation in the Middle East. It encompassed the sum total of world tyranny against the House of Israel — the whole pagan world. That meant that the Assyrians were every bit as much a part of this prophecy as Nebuchadnezzar or the Roman Empire to come. Therefore, all of the House of Israel — all twelve tribes — went into the dispersion of a type of Babylon.
Seventy years later, when the Persian ruler Cyrus destroyed Babylon, the Jews who wished to return to Jerusalem were allowed to leave their captivity. Cyrus made a decree to this effect. Some of the Jews in Babylon accepted Cyrus’ offer and went back to Jerusalem and began to rebuild its ruins. Many others, however, stayed behind, having attained security and comfort where they were.
While it seemed in this return of a remnant of the Jews, that the prophecies were having their fulfillment, most of the House of Israel still remained in exile. Ten tribes had disappeared completely — not even a remnant remained of their presence, so there was no possibility of their return, it was thought. The Jews who returned to Jerusalem immediately began to rebuild the wall and then the temple. This temple would be the House of Israel’s third. The first was at Shiloh, the second, the temple of Solomon, and then this modest construction at the time of the return.
Ezra and Modern Judaism
With the ten northern tribes gone and the tribe of Benjamine absorbed into Judah, the Jews took on a new identity. All the promises to the twelve tribes of Israel seemed to have come to a focus in one tribe alone. This fact completely changed the religion. Under the guidance of Ezra, the new venue for worship became the three fundamental principals of Law, Temple and the Chosen Race. These three principals continue to be the dominant themes of Judaism to this day. The Jews saw themselves as the Chosen Race — the undisputed heirs of the covenant — because the other tribes had disappeared.
The Temple was the mechanism for the animal sacrifices which permeated the pages of the Law. And the Law took on the central authority of the religion in the absence of the Ten Commandments. Because the Ark and the stone tablets were gone, the Temple which had been built to house the Testimony, was, from this point on, empty at its core. For this reason, God’s word was no longer the central object of worship in the Holy of Holies. In its absence, the ‘Law’ took on pre-eminant authority. Instead of the ‘Testimony’, the religion revolved around the Torah and all the legal traditions exploding from the pens of the scribes.
Alexander the Great
About two hundred years after the Jews returned from Babylon, Alexander the Great came and took possession of Judea as a part of his conquest of the world. When Alexander’s empire broke apart, control of the world was handed over to his four top generals. Control of Judea passed to Ptolemy, whose headquarters was in Egypt. Wars broke out between Alexander’s generals, especially between those who controlled Syria and Egypt. These two, the king of the north and the king of the south, are the models around which the Book of Daniel has been constructed. They and their descendants fought all the time and the country that separated their forces was Judea, so the Jews became an integral part of the battles. As a consequence, Jerusalem was occupied by invading armies on numerous occasions.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes
This see-sawing between the north and south went on for about one hundred years or so. At the end of that time a particularly evil monarch from Syria — the ultimate king of the north — a man named Antiochus IV Epiphanies — came down and defeated the king of the south and took possession of Judea. Antiochus personified the Rebel of the last days in the prophecies of Daniel — prophecies which took on immense significance when Jesus directed His followers to watch for the events he had predicted, and to run for the hills when they saw these events begin to unfold.
Antiochus had the Jewish High Priest assassinated, and installed a man of his own inclination in his place. He instituted Greek customs throughout the Jewish population and finally ordered the Jewish religion abolished completely and replaced with his own pagan gods. Anyone who failed to abide by his decrees he killed. His forces desecrated the temple and its altar of worship in Jerusalem and left a group of soldiers in the citadel located just adjacent to the temple to guard it, to make sure the Jews did not worship there any longer.
Led by a man named Judas Maccabees, the Jews rebelled. Under his leadership, they formed an army of Hassidean warriors and were able to get back control of their temple and cleanse it and reinstitute their sacrifices. The Jewish feast of Hannukah (the feast of lights as it is called) celebrates this cleansing of the temple which took place on a day that corresponds to the 25th day of our month of December, a day that would later be known as Christmas day. Antiochus died (in a catastrophe that foreshadows the death of the Beast to come) and his empire began to disintegrate.
What followed was a long series of battles between various Jewish contenders for control of Jerusalem. The whole era surrounding that bloody period was marked by intrigue and infighting. Because the times were so chaotic, and the need for a defining national leader so great, a charged atmosphere of expectation began to sweep through the people regarding the Mosaic Messiah, who many were convinced was about to appear. It was during this time that the Essenes formed in Qumran and began to proliferate throughout Judea. Their expectation of the Messiah was typical of the time — a military leader who would vanquish the foreign armies and raise Judea to a pre-emminent world power, greater than Rome.
Judea Falls to Rome
Rome became the ultimate victor in 63 B.C. when Pompey captured Jerusalem. Thereafter, Judea became a province of the Roman empire. This foreign occupation of their country by a pagan military giant vastly intensified the Jewish search for a Messiah who would lead the Jewish nation in a military conqest over Rome by the power of God.
The Temple of Herod
About forty years after Pompey’s conquest of Jerusalem, an Idumean Arab named Herod married into the Jewish royal family. He was declared king of Judea by the Roman senate and was able to wrest control of Jerualem away from those who opposed him. He was a wicked man who loved monuments. He built the Antonia Fortress and the fourth Jewish temple — a magnificent edifice that took over forty years to complete. This was the temple Jesus came to. The empty temple that had no word in it — no Ark and no Ten Commandments. Herod was still in power when Jesus was born, and when word reached him that a king had been born to the Jews in Bethlehem, he ordered the killing of all the first born sons in that city a few weeks after Jesus came into the world. This is the reason why Joseph and Mary had to take Jesus to Egypt soon after he was born. Herod died in 4 B.C., and Jesus and his family returned to Judea and settled in the northern provinces — in the city of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up.
Jesus of Nazareth
The Word of God Returns to the Empty Temple
When he went to Jerusalem, Jesus was the Testimony of God returning to the empty Temple. But the caretakers of that building refused to allow him in. They would not relinquish their custody of the Holy of Holies to God and, instead, cast him out and in the end sold him to the Romans for 30 pieces of silver. That sale sent the Testimony to Babylon where it quickly grew to dominate the Roman grainery. Thereafter, anyone who wanted to eat the food of God had to go to Babylon to get it.
“To Babylon you must go and there you will be rescued; there God will ransom you out of the power of your enemies.” (Micah 4:10).
This brought the allegory of Joseph who was sold into the captivity of Egypt, full circle. Joseph was sold by his brothers and became the head of the Egyptian food supply, and in the same way, Jesus was sold by his brothers and did the same in Babylon. A spiritual famine encompassed the rest of the world, but in Babylon the bread of life was stocked in overflowing graineries. By the power of God all of Jesus’ brothers were brought to Babylon, just as famine earlier had brought all of Joseph’s brothers to Egypt.
A People in Revolt
The Jews hated the fact that their country was occupied by the Romans, and continually plotted how to overthrow this occupation. Jesus was born and lived at a time when this hatred was just beginning to seeth to the surface. For this reason, scripture was quite correct when it prophesied that Jesus would be born into a people in revolt. When he was crucified in either 30 A.D. or 33 A.D., the Jewish leadership was bitterly dividing itself into rival groups. At the same time, outsiders as well were involved in plots to gain political control over the country. Consequently there was deep and intense intrigue throughout Judea, with many rival groups embarking on separate programs of assassination and rebellion, making the country a very dangerous place. This strife grew worse until finally the rebels grew so bold that they defied the Roman empire openly and defeated a Roman battalion that had come to quell the uprising.
The Jewish War
At this point, Rome decided to end the mutiny once and for all with a full-scale invasion. War was declared and Nero ordered the 60,000 man Roman tenth legion to Palestine. This battle-skilled army invaded Judea starting in the most northern provinces and then swept south. First under the direction of the Roman general Vespasian, and finally under the direction of his son Titus, this professional legion easily conquered the Jewish armies that confronted it and ultimately secured complete control of Palestine. The Roman generals ordered a great many of the leading Jewish citizens and combatants taken away in the chains of slavery.
The depth of the Jewish rebellion can be seen in the closing days of Jerusalem’s war with the Roman empire. While they were tryng to fend off the Romans on one side, three rival Jewish gangs, each claiming control of Jerusalem, were holed up in different cloistures of the Temple, engaged in full-scale combat against each other. At the very moment they were being surrounded and destroyed by Titus and the Roman army they were battling one another with even greater fervor.
The Roman purge of Judea — called the Jewish war — lasted seven years. It began in 66 A.D., breaking out a little more than 30 years after Jesus died, and it ended in 73 A.D. with the famous battle of Masada at the southern tip of the nation. Before it occured, virtually all of the Christians and their leaders in Jerusalem had left for Rome and safer areas of the Roman empire.
As a consequence of this war, a second major change occurred in the Jewish religion. The Jewish culture of Jesus’ time — all the things we read about in the Gospels — disappeared. This included the Pharisees, the Sadducees and even the Essenes. Temple worship was at an end, too, and along with it, the two priesthoods. The Jews attempted to reconstruct their Temple by building another modest building on the ruins where Herod’s Temple previously stood, but this structure lasted only a few years.
Another rebellion by the Jews in 135 A.D. ended the Jewish state completely. The leader of that revolt, the false Jewish messiah, Bar Kocheba was killed. The Romans decimated what was left of the Jewish leadership, marching most of them into slavery, and forbid all Jews entrance to the city of Jerusalem forever. On the holy places (which included the rock of Abraham on the temple mount) they erected temples for the worship of Roman emperors and Greek mythological gods. The exile that followed lasted almost 2000 years. The Jews were not permitted to return to Palestine until this century after a United Nations treaty allowed them to set up a small nation there beginning in 1948.
Israel and Prophecy
There can be little doubt that the allegorical exile to Babylon described by scripture applied to the Roman conquest and destruction of Judea. Nothing in the history of the House of Israel even comes close to comparing with it in terms of intensity, adversity and length of servitude. Two thousand years is a long, long exile.
Like their ancestors who were freed by Cyrus twenty-five hundred years ago, the Jewish pioneers that are returning to that nation in this century now see themselves as the fulfillment of all the prophecies regarding the ingathering from Babylon. But there are several problems with this vision.
Scripture teaches that the ingathering from exile will be led by a messiah in the image of David. No such figure exists for these returning refugees.
“The Lord himself, therefore, will give you a sign. It is this: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel.” (Is.7:14-15). “For there is a child born for us, a son given us and dominion is laid on his shoulders; and this is the name they give him: Wonder-Counsellor, Almighty-God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Wide is his dominion in a peace that has no end, for the throne of David and for his royal power, which he establishes and makes secure in justice and integrity. From this time onwards and forever…” (Is.9:5-7).
Scripture also teaches that this ‘son of David’ will be so powerful (and of such august stature in God) that he will be able to institute a new covenant, one that will replace Moses. (Jer.31:31-34). This exchange of covenants is to be so incompassing, says Jeremiah, that the ingathering will replace the celebration of Passover. We saw just such an exchange of covenants in Jesus, of course, but precisely the opposite is happening now in Palestine. The Jews are resurrecting the Mosaic covenant there instead.
Third, the prophecies strongly call for the lost ten tribes to return to Israel in advance of the Jews. Jewish leaders still hold to the thought that they are the chosen race of God and that the other tribes of Israel have been unconditionally foresaken by Him.
Fourth, all of the House of Isreal, including the Jews were exiled for their sinfulness. That behavior has not changed. Who can tell the difference between Israel and the rest of the world today? The militarism is the same, the violence is the same, the behavior is the same.
Militarism is, in fact, a key issue in today’s return. Jeremiah foresaw that a group of military people would go to Babylon and get permission to rebuild Jerusalem in advance of the official end of the diaspora. That permission was granted by God who influenced the leaders of Babylon to allow the undertaking on the condition that the remnant returning remain peaceful and seek God’s righteousness. Further, they were cautioned to stay within their boundaries and ‘not to go down to Egypt’. At the conclusion of the prophecy, the military remnant broke all three conditions. They turned out not to be peaceful, not to be righteous and they made straight for Egypt. They were summarily destroyed. For the purposes of prophecy it should be noted that a military coalition under very similar circumstances was deeply involved in the construction of modern Israel set up in 1948.