Israel, a small democratic nation about the size of New Jersey, is virtually surrounded by 22 Islamic nations, some of which have regularly called for its total demise.
Typical of such statements is the most recent utterance of open hostility from Khaled Meshaal, leader of the terrorist group Hamas: “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land. We will never recognise the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation” ( The Observer, Dec. 9, 2012).
“From the river to the sea” is typical Islamist shorthand for the territory between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea—meaning the entirety of the land of Israel. No “two-state solution” there!
Even more hostile statements have periodically come from the lips of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who regularly threatens Israel with annihilation.
Recently installed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has also joined in such calls. He presented himself as the arbiter of the cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas-ruled Gaza and in July 2012 called Israeli President Shimon Peres a “great and good friend.”
But when interviewed on video in Arabic earlier in 2010 he called Israelis “bloodsuckers” and “descendants of apes and pigs.” Morsi also argued for Muslim “military resistance” against Israel and referred to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations as “a waste of time.” In addition he firmly declared: “There is no place for them on the land of Palestine,” adding that Jews “are hostile by nature—they have been fanning the flames of civil strife wherever they were throughout history. There should also be political resistance and economic resistance through a boycott, as well as supporting the resistance fighters.
“This should be the practice of the Muslims and the Arabs outside Palestine. They must not be given any opportunity, and must not stand on any Arab or Islamic land . They must be driven out of our countries” ( The Jewish Chronicle , Jan. 11, 2013, emphasis added throughout).
Morsi also stated on video in 2010: “Dear brothers, we must not forget to nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred towards those Zionists and Jews, and all those who support them. They must be nursed on hatred. The hatred must continue” (posted at the Middle East Media Research Institute [MEMRI] website, Jan. 10, 2013).
Has President Morsi softened his approach toward Israel since becoming head of state in Egypt? Time will tell, but his actions to date don’t offer a great deal of hope. (For more on him, be sure to read “ Winter Advisory: The Arab Spring That Wasn’t “)
As foretold in the Bible, the Jewish state has been and will increasingly be a focal point of enemy rage and global conflict. What does this mean for Israel, and what lies ahead?
What the Bible reveals
The Bible remains an up-to-date, now book, continually commenting on current affairs with astounding accuracy.
You may be surprised to learn that some 3,000 years ago a psalm of “Asaph the seer” (2 Chronicles 29:30 2 Chronicles 29:30Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise to the LORD with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped.
American King James Version×) was right on target with these prophetic words about Israel in the end time: “O God … Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones.
“They have said, ‘Come and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.’ For they have consulted together with one consent; they form a confederacy against You” (Psalms 83:1-5 Psalms 83:1-5 1 Keep not you silence, O God: hold not your peace, and be not still, O God.
2 For, see, your enemies make a tumult: and they that hate you have lifted up the head.
3 They have taken crafty counsel against your people, and consulted against your hidden ones.
4 They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.
5 For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against you:
American King James Version×).
While Israel has faced its share of enemies throughout its turbulent history, this vivid description applies even more now. Today the Arab nations are partially divided among themselves, but they generally agree on one point—their fervent desire for Israel’s demise. Today the ominous threat level has increased on all of its borders.
Truly Israel today remains a fulfillment of Ezekiel 5:5 Ezekiel 5:5Thus said the Lord GOD; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the middle of the nations and countries that are round about her.
American King James Version×: “Thus says the Lord God: ‘This is Jerusalem: I have set her in the midst of the nations and countries all around her.’” This passage reflects a lot deeper meaning than its historical context alone would indicate. Throughout Israel’s history, God has always understood her fragile position in a hostile world. (For further historical and prophetic insight, see “A Biblical Prophecy of an Arab Confederation .”)
A free world unfriendly to Israel
British author Melanie Phillips, also a Daily Mail columnist and contributing writer for The Jewish Chronicle, concluded a recent Internet piece with this stark statement about current world conditions—especially in the West:
“You are looking at the emergence of a new world order: the eclipse of the west, brought about by the unholy alliance between the Obama administration and death-wish Britain and Europe—and leaving Israel, once the forward salient of the west in the Middle East, emerging instead as the lonely and isolated defender of liberty in the face of a gathering Islamic storm” (“Into the Abyss,” Dec. 12, 2012).
Britain and Western Europe have a history of often favoring the Arab countries over Israel. But the United States has long been a loyal supporter and ally of this tiny democratic state. That threatens to change, perhaps more radically than we could ever imagine.
Many observers have pointed out that President Barack Obama’s recent choices for two key cabinet posts, State and Defense, do not have an encouraging history of support for the state of Israel. As Melanie Phillips, who also appears as a commentator on radio and TV programs in Britain, observed, “John Kerry, tipped to become Secretary of State, is an anti-war activist and left-wing fantasist.”
As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry warned against “prejudging” the Muslim Brotherhood as it prepared to take power in Egypt. And he gave assurances that Egypt’s President Morsi was committed to freedom and good relations with Israel and the United States—despite much evidence to the contrary (“Exclusive: Muslim Brotherhood Preaching Israel Destruction After Election,” IPT [Investigative Project on Terrorism] News, June 27, 2012).
Phillips went on to remark: “The record of Chuck Hagel, is more troubling still … He has consistently voted against sanctions on Iran to stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons capability; he voted against naming Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization; and he refused to sign a letter calling on the European Union similarly to name Hezbollah—which has the blood of countless Americans on its hands—as a terrorist organization. Instead he advocates engaging with Iran.”
A Wall Street Journal editorial adds that Hagel “has long advocated engagement with Syria’s dictator [Bashar al-Assad] and the terror group Hamas” (“A Hagel Education,” Jan. 9, 2013).
The Economist quoted Lindsey Graham, Republican U.S. Senator of South Carolina and a member of the Arms Services Committee as stating that Hagel is “well out of the ‘mainstream’ in his foreign-policy views” and, if confirmed, would be “the most antagonistic Secretary of Defense towards the state of Israel in our nation’s history” (“Obama Picks His Soldiers,” Jan. 12, 2013).
Texas Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz echoes this observation, stating: “His record on Israel strongly suggests that he views Israel not as a friend, but as a nuisance. The U.S.-Israel alliance is critical to our national security, but Hagel has been far too willing to undermine that alliance” (“Why I Expect to Oppose Hagel,” USA Today, Jan. 9, 2013).
We should also recognize that President Obama’s foreign policy has favored Islamists during and following recent uprisings (see “ Puzzling U.S. Support for Islamists Over Moderates “). And Islamists are hostile to the state of Israel.
Israel’s long history of encirclement
Douglas Murray stated in his article “Israel Under Siege” in The Spectator: “Since 1973 Israel has suffered a status quo of quiet enemies and even quieter friends. Now it is surrounded by disappearing friends and even louder enemies” (Nov. 24, 2012). He spoke of “the overarching movement that has been overlooked for too much of the [20th] century since its birth [in 1948].”
But Israel has faced many enemies since the nation left Egypt some 3,500 years ago. The late British theologian and historian F.F. Bruce tells us, “The departure of the people of Israel from Egypt marks their birth as a nation” ( Israel and the Nations, 1969, p. 13). He had observed earlier: “Yet Israel’s national history was not lived out in isolation from other peoples. The Israelites were surrounded by nations greater and mightier than themselves, who impinged upon the life of Israel, at many points” (p. 11).
During Israel’s early days as a nation, “it was not only Canaanite cities in the land that tried to reduce them to serfdom; from time to time they suffered from incursions from beyond Jordan, by their own kinsman of Moab and Ammon [descendants of Abraham’s nephew Lot] and Edom [the descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau], and more disastrously by the beduin [or Bedouin] from remoter parts of Arabia, who mounted on camels, raided their territory year by year at harvest time and destroyed their crops” (pp. 19-20).
Yet ancient Israel also had her share of national heroes and deliverers—Joshua, Gideon, King Hezekiah and King David, the latter conquering the city of Jerusalem and founding it as his nation’s capital. In more recent times we think of Israel’s modern founder David Ben-Gurion (1948), Moshe Dayan (of the 1967 War) and even of Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu.
Still, throughout too much of Israel’s history its peoples have been in either actual or virtual captivity. In the eighth century B.C. the northern 10 tribes of the kingdom of Israel were taken captive into Assyria, followed in the sixth century B.C. by the southern kingdom of Judah being invaded and exiled by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. In the days of Jesus Christ and His apostles and the early Church, the Jews were under the occupation of Rome.
After two failed revolts against Rome’s might, the Jewish nation was crushed and its people scattered. Many centuries later the tragic experience of the Holocaust (with 6 million Jews perishing) was followed by the prophesied return of many Jews to their ancient homeland.
These hardy survivors were determined not to become slaves yet again. Thus we see the strong survival mentality of the modern state of Israel, again threatened by a host of enemy countries and now also hindered by waning friendships with key supporter nations.
The late historian Barbara Tuchman wrote in her book Practicing History: “With all its problems, Israel has one commanding advantage—a sense of purpose: to survive. It has come back. It has confounded persecution and outlived exile to become the only nation of the world that is governing itself in the same territory, under the same name, and with the same religion and the same language as it did three thousand years ago. It is conscious of fulfilling destiny . It knows it must not go under now, that it must endure” (“Israel: Land of Unlimited Impossibilities,” 1981, p. 134).
What Bible prophecy clearly reveals
So what does Bible prophecy tell us about what will happen to Israel and Jerusalem in the years ahead? One specific prophetic passage in the Bible becomes supremely important at the time of the end of this age of human misrule, which will be followed by the utopian, millennial reign of Jesus Christ and His saints (Revelation 20:4-6 Revelation 20:4-6 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
6 Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
American King James Version×). This key scripture is found in Zechariah 12:2-3 Zechariah 12:2-3 2 Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling to all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. 3 And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
American King James Version×, where God says:
“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day [of God’s direct intervention] that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.”
Although Jerusalem (often meaning not only the city itself, but the nation of Israel as a whole) has been a source of contention throughout much of its history, this prophetic passage primarily speaks of the time of Armageddon (see Revelation 16:14-16 Revelation 16:14-16 14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
16 And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
American King James Version×). This occurs just prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ. (For a detailed account, read the article, “Armageddon: The End of the World? “)
But what decisive geopolitical events lead directly to this most crucial of all benchmarks in future world history? In brief, a new European-centered superpower will arise and take control of Egypt and the Holy Land. The leader of this power is identified in Bible prophecy as “the king of the North.”
Another end-time leader referred to as “the king of the South” (most likely leading an alliance of Islamic Middle Eastern nations, possibly a restored Islamic caliphate) will attack or “push at” the king of the North. This will provoke the North into a blitzkrieg-like invasion of Egypt and neighboring lands, with northern forces also entering the “Glorious Land”—the Holy Land (Daniel 11:40-42 Daniel 11:40-42 40 And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.
41 He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.
42 He shall stretch forth his hand also on the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape.
American King James Version×).
But then what happens to these conquering enemies? Zechariah 14:3-4 Zechariah 14:3-4 3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
4 And his feet shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall split in the middle thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
American King James Version×gives us the answer with a basic prophecy about Christ’s return to the earth: “Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations … and in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east.” These nations will have been gathered together at Armageddon to fight the Messiah, Jesus Christ, at His coming.
Shortly before that time, “half of the city [of Jerusalem] shall go into captivity” (verse 2). So the clear indication is that Israel will once again be occupied by foreign armies, coming under gentile control for 3½ years just before Christ’s second coming (Revelation 11:2 Revelation 11:2But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given to the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
American King James Version×).
As mentioned at the outset of this article, a number of surrounding nations are already intent on destroying the nation of Israel. Yet in spite of all the troubles they may inflict on Israel, Bible prophecy indicates that these Middle Eastern nations will not be able to eliminate the Jewish state.
Ultimately Israel’s captivity and occupation is destined to come from an unexpected source—the aforementioned prophesied European-centered superpower. Then the peoples of Israel will finally learn how dependent they are on God for safety and security (these peoples being more than just the Jews—see “Where Are the ‘Lost 10 Tribes’ Today? “). Then they will welcome the Anointed One, their-long-sought-for Messiah.
Christ will rescue Israel
An encouraging, yet-to-be-fulfilled prophecy of Christ enters this end-time picture: “ ‘Behold, the days are coming’ says the Lord, ‘that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness’ ” (Jeremiah 23:5-6 Jeremiah 23:5-6 5 Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
American King James Version×).
The fulfillment of this prophecy will be so important to Israel’s future that it is repeated almost verbatim in Jeremiah 33:15-16 Jeremiah 33:15-16 15 In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up to David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.
16 In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name with which she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness.
American King James Version×.
The context of this particular prophecy makes it even more intriguing. These wonderful, inspiring words are uttered by Jeremiah in the midst of a series of prophecies relaying the terrible news that the nation of Judah was going into Babylonian captivity at that time.
Yes, even in the most discouraging of circumstances, God keeps His plan of ultimate rescue and deliverance fully in mind.
Whatever troubles the peoples of the tiny Middle Eastern nation of Israel may have to endure before that ultimate outcome, we may be absolutely sure that God Himself will come to Israel’s rescue through the direct intervention of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Our Creator keeps His eyes on Jerusalem and Israel. And so should we!