The Nation of Israel

Promises to Abraham

"Now Yahweh had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:1-3). "And Yahweh said unto Abram... Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered" (Gen. 13:14-16). "In the same day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates" (Gen. 15:18). God made these promises to Abraham, but "he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child" (Acts 7:5). Abraham "...died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them..." (Heb. 11:13).

Mosaic Covenant

God also told Abraham to "know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years" (Gen. 15:13). Israel was held captive as a nation by Egypt for 400 years. Then God used Moses to lead the nation of Israel to the promised land, and gave Moses a law for the nation to live under. Deuteronomy 28 relates the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience. "And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of Yahweh thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that Yahweh thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth... But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of Yahweh thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee... Yahweh shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou... shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth... Yahweh shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known;... And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither Yahweh shall lead thee... And Yahweh shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone" (Deut. 28:1-2, 15, 25, 36-37, 64). But God promised Moses that punishment for disobedience would not be forever: "Then Yahweh thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither Yahweh thy God hath scattered thee. And Yahweh thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers" (Deut. 30:3, 5).

The First Kingdom

After Moses died, Joshua led the nation of Israel into the promised land, and a theocracy was established, although all of the promises to Abraham were not fulfilled. But the Kingdom of God was rejected by the nation of Israel: "That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles... And Yahweh said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king..." (1 Sam. 8:20-22). Thus the Kingdom of God came to be ruled through kings, until the reign of Zedekiah, when Jerusalem was captured by Nebuchadnezzar and the Jews were exiled to Babylon in 604 B.C. This was the beginning of the times of the Gentiles.

Israel as a nation was overcome by idolatry and turned its back on Yahweh. Ezekiel had prophesied years before the destruction of Jerusalem: "And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end,Thus saith Yahweh; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him" (Ezek. 21:25-27).

Times of the Gentiles

God had told Moses how long this punishment would last, as related in Leviticus: "then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins" (Lev. 26:24). We believe the basic principle that "all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). In the interpretation of prophecy, scripture supports the day-for-a-year principle (Ezek. 4:6; Num. 14:34; 2 Pet. 3:8). Applying the day-for-a-year principle and the lunar calendar, seven times can be calculated to be 7 x 360 days/yr = 2520 years. This was to be the duration of Israel's punishment for disobedience.

The times of the Gentiles began in 604 B.C., and Moses had been told that the duration of national punishment would be 2520 years (Lev. 26:24). This prophecy was reinforced by the twelfth chapter of Daniel. "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. Then I Daniel looked, and, behold, there stood other two, the one on this side of the bank of the river, and the other on that side of the bank of the river. And one said to the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, How long shall it be to the end of these wonders? And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished" (Dan. 12:4-7). Three and one-half times for each hand is seven times, again interpreted as 2520 years, using the day-for-a-year principle. "And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24). The end of Gentile times was to be 2520 years from 604 B.C., in the year 1917.

Israel was to be resurrected as a nation, as foretold in Ezekiel 37. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin has affimed that "it is Ezekiel's image of a dried-up, exiled, and hopeless Jewish people coming back to life in their homeland that makes him as much a prophet of the twentieth century C.E. as of the sixth century B.C.E." Paul wrote to the Romans that "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew... Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name... For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" (Rom. 11:2; 16:8-9; 11:15).

Events Surrounding 1917-Ottoman Empire

"And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates" (Rev. 9:13-14). At its height, the Ottoman Empire controlled all of what is now Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa, but the empire began to degenerate more than 100 years before it finally ended. Revolutionary movements were developing within Turkey which promoted industrialization of the economy and governmental reform. Conflicting interests of European states sustained the Ottoman Empire until after World War I. Great Britain was determined to keep Russia from gaining direct access to the Mediterranean from the Black Sea. Britain, France, and Sardinia helped the Ottomans during the Crimean War of 1854-56 to block the Russians. The Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 brought Russia almost to Constantinople. The Ottomans were forced to sign the Treaty of San Stefano, which would have ended their rule in Europe, except that the Congress of Berlin propped up the old empire for a few more decades. Abdulhamid II (ruled 1876-1909) developed strong ties with Germany.

In World War I, the Ottoman Empire fought as an ally of Germany and Austria-Hungary and lost. The empire was restricted to Turkey, and European control of Ottoman finances was imposed by postwar agreements reached in 1920. A new parliament passed the National Pact, setting forth a goal of independence, and the sultanate was abolished. The name of the country was changed to Turkey. The last sultan, Mohammed VI, fled in 1922 after the sultanate had been abolished. The Lausanne Conference of 1923 settled the status of the new state, and the Turkish Republic was finally declared on October 29, 1923. All members of the former Ottoman government were expelled, and the centuries-old Caliphate was abolished. "And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared" (Rev. 16:12).

Events Surrounding 1917-Zionism

Efforts to resurrect a Jewish state were revived in the late 19th century, driven by the pogroms (persecution of the Jews) in Russia, Poland, and other Eastern European states. Under the leadership of Theodor Herzl, the Zionist Organization was founded and the First Zionist Congress convened in 1897, resolving that "the aim of Zionism is to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine, secured by public law." After Herzl's death in 1904, the movement's center moved to Germany. Austrian and German Jews led Zionism, but its greatest membership came from Russia. At the time only a small minority of Jews favored Zionism, and even within this minority there were divisions. Some wanted a strictly Orthodox religious homeland. Followers of Herzl wanted a modern political state.

Meanwhile, Jewish settlers kept moving to Palestine. Many left Russia after the failed 1905 revolution and its subsequent persecutions. By 1914 there were about 90,000 Jews in Palestine with 43 agricultural settlements, many of them supported by the Rothschild family of France. World War I halted settlement. It also shifted the center of Zionism from Germany to Britain. Leadership passed to Jews of Russian descent, chief among whom was Chaim Weizmann. He was instrumental in British foreign secretary Balfour's letter to Lord Rothschild in 1917.

Events Surrounding 1917-Russia and Communism

The revolution that brought the Communist party to power in Russia in 1917 was a momentous political event. Its leader was Vladimir Lenin, a Marxian socialist. He was born in Russia on April 20, 1870. For several years he lived with relatives, studying law, languages, and the writings of Karl Marx. In 1891 he passed his law exam, but soon gave up his law practice to work full time in the revolutionary underground movement in St. Petersburg. Lenin spent years studying the technique of revolution and building up a following. At the right moment he skillfully carried out his plan.

Lenin was arrested in 1895, sent to jail, and later exiled to Siberia. When his jail term ended in 1900, Lenin went abroad. Most of the time until 1917 the Lenins lived in exile. His ideas split the Russian Social Democratic party in two: Lenin's radical group, the Bolsheviks (Majority), and the more moderate group, the Mensheviks (Minority). The Bolsheviks followed Lenin's instructions implicitly in carrying out acts of terrorism, and they organized cells in trade unions, among transportation workers, and in the army and navy.

The Lenins were in Switzerland during WWI. Most socialists supported their governments in the war, but Lenin called on the workers of all countries to revolt and end the war. This interested the German government, which wanted peace with Russia.

Revolution broke out in March 1917. The completely authoritarian government was rife with corruption and inefficiency. The poverty of the mass of the population was appalling and getting worse. The war against Germany was going badly. Food riots broke out in the capital in March, with the soldiers joining in. An uprising forced the abdication of Czar Nicholas II, and a republican government was set up in St. Petersburg, but the devastating war continued.

The German government, hoping to change the course of the revolution, agreed to allow the Lenins to return to Russia. They arrived at the Russian capital on April 16. The next day Leon Trotsky arrived from New York. In November the Bolsheviks seized control and Lenin formed the world's first Communist government.

Events Surrounding 1917-WWI

The First World War began on August 4, 1914, and ended on November 11, 1918. On one side were the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary, later joined by the Ottoman Empire; on the other side were the Allies of Great Britain, France and Russia, later joined by the United States. The nations of Europe had been arming themselves since the unification of Germany in 1871. France had lost a war to Germany-Prussia at the time and was seeking revenge and the return of two lost provinces, Alsace and Lorraine. Russia was determined to expand southward to the Mediterranean. Germany feared being trapped by Russia in the East and France in the West. England was threatened by a German naval building program. Austria-Hungary wanted to dominate the Balkans, as did Russia.

The war was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdi-nand of Austria and his wife in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Following this act, Austria declared war on Serbia, and Germany joined its ally and invaded France by way of Belgium. Russia mobilized its forces. England had pledged to protect the neutrality of Belgium.

All parties anticipated a short war, but it became the bloodiest conflict Europe had ever seen. The Western front was mired in four years of trench warfare in which hundreds of thousands died, and in the East it was a stalemate. Russia hoped to use the war as an excuse to gain access to the Mediterranean and perhaps capture Constantinople. However, the Russian Revolution took Russia out of the war in 1917, leaving the bulk of the war to be fought on the western front.

In June 1917, in the midst of World War I, General Edmund Allenby was put in charge of Great Britain's Palestine campaign. The Middle East was part of Britain's lifeline to India, its chief colony. Allenby's mission was to defeat the Ottoman Turks, who controlled the area, and assure British dominance there. He revived a demoralized army and won a great victory over the Turks along the Gaza-Beersheba line in November 1917. By December 9, 1917, his army was in Jerusalem.

Balfour Declaration

British foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote a letter, dated November 2, 1917, to Lord Lionel W. Rothschild, a prominent member of the Jewish leadership in Great Britain, affirming Britain's commitment to a Jewish national homeland. "His 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...."

The Balfour Declaration fell short of Zionist hopes because it did not call for turning Palestine into a Jewish state, but it was nevertheless hailed by Zionists as the fulfillment of Herzl's dream. The declaration was endorsed by the Allied powers of World War I, accepted as British policy, and incorporated into the League of Nations commitment to a British mandate over Palestine in 1922.

British Mandate Subsequent to 1917-The British White Paper

After two decades, England betrayed the Jews in 1939, when the British White Paper was issued on May 17. This limited Jewish immigration into Palestine to 75,000 people over a five year period. Further Jewish immigration would then be permitted "only if the Arabs are prepared to acquiesce in it... His Majesty's government now declares that is it not part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish state." The British strictly enforced this policy, indicating to Hitler that Britain really did not care what he did to the Jews. In 1939, David Ben-Gurion declared, "We shall war against Hitler as though there were no White Paper, and we shall war against the White Paper as though there were no Hitler." Thus was the atmosphere regarding Israel preceding World War II.

Steve Metzer
North Little Rock, Arkansas
(References available from publisher upon request.)

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