Ancient Israel

In the Beginning: God’s Promises and Warnings to Israel

From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is a record of God’s dealings with Israel. God picked Abraham to be the father of the Jewish people, the apple of His eye. (Deut 32:10, Ps 17:8) He would be their God and they would to be a holy people set apart to serve Him and through whom He would rule the world.

God made promises to and through Abraham. Some of the promises were conditional (if you… then I….) some were unconditional (I, God, swear by Myself that… regardless of how you behave). God told Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation and that all nations would be blessed through Abraham’s descendants. (Gen 12:2-3, 22:15)  God showed Abraham the vast land promised to his offspring forever. (Gen 12:6, 3:14,15:18,17:7-8, 26:3-4, 28:13-15, 35:11-12) While God’s unconditional promise gave the Jews a forever home, He said their enjoyment of it would depend on living according to His commands and who they worshipped. In Deuteronomy we read of Moses’ warnings to the Jews prior to their entering the Promised Land. God sent numerous prophets to warn the Israelites over and over again that they needed to worship the true God and not the worthless idols of neighboring countries.

Again and again God tried getting the attention of His wayward people. He told them that if they persisted in their disgusting behavior He would punish them severely. Nothing changed. Finally He allowed the Assyrians to conquer the ten Northern tribes and take them as slaves or disburse  them into exile. The glory days of David and Solomon were long gone because of Israel’s persistent sin. All that was left of mighty Israel were the two Southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Again God sent prophets to point out their grievous behavior and to warn them of consequences. He strongly suggested that they ought to have learned from their “sister’s” behavior. (Ezekiel)

God was ignored. The people thought that The Temple of the Lord would save them.”We are the Lord’s people; no harm will come to us.” (paraphrased)  Wrong. God sent the Babylonians against them who conquered Judah and Jerusalem, captured the people and marched them into exile in Babylon. Finally, the Temple was destroyed in 586 BC as was the city. The Jews were eventually allowed to return from exile in Babylon and rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the Temple (prophesized in Is 44:28 – 45:1 about 680 BC naming Cyrus as His servant who would help Israel and fulfilled exactly as prophesized through King Cyrus of Persia in 538).

Note the absolute accuracy of prophecy: Isaiah prophesized about Cyrus – by name – about 150 years before he ruled over the Babylonian exiles. Skeptics point to this prophecy as proof that these passages had to have been written after the fact since no one could have that information 150 years in advance. Hmmm, God can. The prophets had also warned the people that if they did not turn from their sins God, would inflict the ultimate punishment and banish them from the land and scatter them among the nations where they would be constantly despised and afraid (anti-Semitism).

Finally, enough was enough and God used first the Greeks and then the Romans as the tools to carry out His will. The Romans ruled with a heavy hand and bands of Jewish rebels kept trying to overthrow them. In 70 AD the Romans surrounded and sacked Jerusalem and tore down the temple, just as Jesus had predicted. (Mt 24:2) After one final rebellious attempt, about 135 AD, the Romans had had it. They threw almost all of the Jews out, forbid them to return, salted the land so nothing would grow and erased the name of Israel from all the maps. In place of the name “Israel”, they wrote the name “Palestine”, the ultimate insult. Palestine is the Roman word for Philistine, the ancient and persistent enemy of Israel.

Israel told God that they would not listen to Him, so He said He wouldn’t listen to them. He told that they’d be scattered like a whirlwind and the land would be made desolate. (Zech 7:13-14)  He did as He said. However, He also said that His wrath would not last forever. (Ps 103:9, Is 57:16, Jer 3:5, Ez 16:42)  Eventually, He said, He would return them to the Beautiful Land.

And then there was silence.

No more country. No more Temple. No more Beautiful Land. No more priests. No more prophets. No more hearing from God.

Next time this blog will look at the modern day miracle of the return of the Jews to their Promise Land. The rebirth of Israel. After nearly 1800 years. And why it matters.

Please, neither offhandedly accept nor reject what is said in this blog. Check it out. Look it up for yourself in the Bible. If you are a child of God you are in good hands and there is the most wonderful eternity waiting for you. If you are not a Christ follower, now is a really good time to honestly explore the truth claims of the Bible.

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