The Modern Practice of Tithing in Light of Christ Fulfilling the Law: Part 1


The following post is the first in a series on the subject of tithing, as it’s taught in many churches today. This series is taken from a term paper I wrote in April 2006, and it examines all 17 passages in Scripture which mention tithing: 13 times in the Old Testament and four times in the New Testament. As noted in the outline below, all sources will be listed in the Reference section in the final part (out of discretion, one source is kept anonymous here).

OUTLINE

A. Introduction
B. A look at the 17 Scripture passages which mention tithing

I. Described prior to the Law of Moses: in the lives of Abraham and Jacob

1. Genesis 14:8-24
2. Genesis 28:8-22

II. Prescribed under Mosaic Law: three different tithes

3. Leviticus 27:30-33
4. Numbers 18:21-32
5. Deuteronomy 12:5-19
6. Deuteronomy 14:22-29
7. Deuteronomy 26:12-15

III. Reforms of King Hezekiah, Nehemiah, and the prophets Amos and Malachi

8. II Chronicles 31:4-12
9. Nehemiah 10:28-39
10. Nehemiah 12:44
11. Nehemiah 13:4-13
12. Amos 4:1-5
13. Malachi 3:5-12

          IV. Spoken of in the New Testament by Jesus and the author of Hebrews

14. Matthew 23:23
15. Luke 11:42
16. Luke 18:9-14
17. Hebrews 7:1-10

C. Tithing in history
D. Ways of viewing the Law of Moses today and a summary of Galatians
E. Tithing in light of Christ fulfilling the Law
F. New Testament giving
G. Conclusion/References

A. INTRODUCTION

Tithing is commonly understood to mean the practice of giving a tenth of anything. The term has a secular use, particularly with regard to finances. However, it is best known as a practice among religious groups. Webster’s Dictionary (1988), in defining the word “tithe,” even notes that it is “especially collected to support churches.”

Is it Biblical for churches and ministries to compel their people to tithe? Is the modern practice of tithing Biblical? In light of Christ’s fulfillment of the Law, I believe it is not. At the heart of this issue is one’s view of the Law of Moses, also known as Mosaic Law.

The Barna Group (2005), a well-known research company, determined that 65% of American Christians gave part of their income to churches or parachurch ministries in 2004. During the same year, however, only 6% “tithed” to a place of worship.

According to another study by Ellison Research (2006), a marketing research company out of Phoenix, 68% of all clergy in the US say that tithing is a Biblical mandate for Christians today. Pentecostal clergy are the most agreeable, at 95%. On the other hand, 20% of clergy affirm that Christians are commanded to give, but say that no specific amount or percentage is required.

Among Protestant laity, 59% believe that God’s people today are required to tithe. Pentecostals (80%) and Baptists (75%) are the most likely to hold this view.

Among tithing proponents, there is considerable disparity over whether tithes must be paid only to the local church, or whether a portion can also be given to other Christian ministries. They are almost equally split on whether to tithe on net income (48%) or gross income (52%). Clergy, interestingly, are much more in favor of tithing on gross income (72%).

If these statistics are true, then nearly 60% of Protestant Christians in the US believe that tithing is a Biblical requirement, but only 6% practice this belief. Many would say that the 94% who don’t tithe are guilty of disobeying Scripture. Some would even insist that they are under a curse for robbing God.

In looking into this practice, we will take a look at ALL the Scripture passages which mention tithing. Too often, when a case is made for tithing, only a few select passages are chosen to build the case, and they are often not viewed in their proper context.

I also intend to address the following relevant questions:

[1] How many tithes were commanded in Scripture?
[2] Who received the tithes?
[3] Do those who promote tithing today follow the prescriptions under Mosaic Law?
[4] Why isn’t tithing still required of believers today?

By quoting from those who don’t share my view, I do not intend to judge or attack them. Where they are serving the Lord and His people, I appreciate their sacrifice and their hard work. Their teachings and views, as well as mine, are always subject to the light of Scripture.

B. A LOOK AT THE 17 PASSAGES ON TITHING

I. TITHING DESCRIBED PRIOR TO THE LAW OF MOSES

Although Abram’s tithe is the first recorded in Scripture, some teach that he tithed because he was following an eternal principle. Pastors David Carter and Bryce Clark (2006) suggest that the offerings of Cain and Abel were a form of tithe, with Cain being faulted for what he failed to give. They conclude that from the beginning God had set in motion a law requiring either tithes or firstfruits, but Cain held back what was due to God. His sin was that his offering was lacking in quantity. The implication is that those who fail to tithe are like Cain.

Anonymous Pastor (2003) goes back even earlier: “The principle of tithing is one that can be traced throughout the entire Bible. In actuality, it was involved in the Garden of Eden, when mankind took of something which belonged to, or was designated for God.”

Before the Law was given through Moses, there were two accounts of voluntarily tithing. The first story was of Abram’s tithe to Melchizedek, and the second story involved his grandson, Jacob. These are both narratives, which, according to Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart (1993), are the most common form of literature found in the Bible (p. 78). Fee and Stuart point out that in narratives we are not always told how or why the characters did certain things (p. 81). Narratives are more likely to be descriptive, rather than prescriptive.

Passage 1: Genesis 14:8-24

And the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and joined together in battle in the Valley of Siddim against [4 kings]… Then [the 4 kings] took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. Then one who had escaped came and told Abram… Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants… So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him… Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ And he gave him a tithe of all. Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’— except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”

Abram and his men not only rescued Lot, they also brought back all the goods and people taken from Sodom and Gomorrah. Melchizedek, king of Salem, blessed Abram, and Abram gave him a tenth of all the spoils of war. The king of Sodom then told Abram to keep the rest of the spoils, but to give him the people. Abram, however, gave everything to him, except for what his men had eaten, and a small portion for three of his men.

Abram tithed on the spoils of war, not his income. Any idea that Abram regularly practiced tithing can only be presumed, for it is not in the text. Nor does the text say he was commanded to give this tithe. Abram gave away almost the entire remaining 90% of the spoils to the king of Sodom, whose territory was soon to be destroyed by fire and brimstone.

The Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2006) states that “a one-tenth tax was quite common in ancient Babylonian culture,” as well as throughout the ancient Near East, Lydia, Arabia, and Carthage, “and would have been well known to Abraham.” Carter and Clark (2006) say that because of this fact, Abram “kept God’s law of tithing.” They insist that Abraham tithed frequently, and that this instance illustrates “the tithing law given at Creation.”

Matthew Narramore (2004) would disagree. He says that by tithing on the spoils of war, Abram couldn’t have been following an eternal principle. God gave very different instructions to Israel in Numbers 31, regarding the spoils from their war with the Midianites. No tithe was involved. If Abram followed a universal principle, he says, then God would have required the same from His people in Numbers 31. He adds that Abram didn’t give a tithe on his own possessions. In fact, he tithed on something he had vowed to give away, so it actually cost him nothing (Chapter 2).

Jay Snell (1995), a frequent guest on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, has a different take on it. He believes Abram’s motive was to obtain a steady flow of wealth: “The first of the two things that he did to ‘begin and maintain’ the flow of wealth to himself was he gave a tithe” (p. 3). According to Snell, Abram recognized and tapped into the “Law of Sowing and Reaping.” He says that in order to gain wealth like Abram, we also need to take this same step and tithe (p. 5).

Passage 2: Genesis 28:20-22

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.

Jacob made a conditional vow, one that implied He might not even make the Lord His God unless he returned home safely and received protection, company, food and clothing from the Lord. There is no record that Jacob actually fulfilled his vow by giving a tenth back to the Lord, although we can’t assume he failed to do so either. As in Abram’s case, we don’t see that he was commanded by the Lord to tithe.

Going back several verses earlier (28:13-15), we see that God had already promised Jacob that He would be with him, never leave him, protect him, and bring him back to his land! God had also identified Himself as the God of Abraham and Isaac, and repeated the promise He had made to both his grandfather and father. Narramore (2004) notes several things about God’s promise and Jacob’s vow:

[1] It was God’s promise to him and it was based on faith alone. It did not depend on any conditional requirements such as tithes, offerings, or sacrifices… All God wanted Jacob to do was to believe him. God wanted to keep the promise for Jacob just like he did for Abraham, who became the father of faith… Jacob didn’t respond to God’s promise in the same way that his father and grandfather did.

[2] Faith takes God at his word; Jacob did not. Jacob responded to God’s promise by making a vow, which showed his unbelief. He said, ‘If You will do all this, then You will be my God, and I will give you a tenth of everything you give me.’ God had just promised to bless, protect, and fulfill the original promise that he made to Abraham. He didn’t ask for a tithe or anything else… Jacob wouldn’t even commit to having the Lord as his God. God didn’t ask for a tithe. He wanted faith… God didn’t praise Jacob for his vow to give him a tenth.

[3] Just because a story is in the Bible doesn’t mean that it portrays the will of God for the people involved. It certainly doesn’t mean that it is God’s will for us today in the New Covenant. The Bible records many things that men did which were not the will of God (Chapter 3).

——————————————————————————–

In Part 2, we will look at tithing as it was prescribed under the Law of Moses, and we will see just how different it looked from the way tithing is so often taught today. 

All posts from this series, and on the subject of tithing, can be found here.

Advertisements

The Scepter Shall Not Depart From Judah UNTIL…


Sometimes a whole lot of meaning is packed into one word. This is the case with the word “until,” where it appears in Genesis 49 in one of the earliest prophecies in Scripture.

Jacob, later named “Israel” (Genesis 49:2), was the grandson of Abraham, and he knew that he was about to die. So he gathered his 12 sons to bless them (verse 28) and to tell them what would “befall [them] in the last days” (verse 1). When it was Judah’s turn to be blessed, Jacob proclaimed the coming of Jesus in Israel’s last days (see also Hebrews 1:1-2, 9:26):

Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. Binding his donkey to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk” (Genesis 49:8-12).

The word “until” speaks volumes here. For many centuries, Judah’s tribe would hold onto the giving of the law and the scepter, which is defined in Strong’s Concordance as a staff of authority for ruling. However, Judah’s hold on the scepter and the law was only temporary. Shiloh (Jesus) was coming! He was to take over this scepter, and the people of God would be gathered to Him to obey Him.

The scepter shall not depart from Judah…until Shiloh comes=

The scepter will depart from Judah when Shiloh comes.

In David’s time, we see that God still referred to Judah as His scepter (Psalm 60:7, 108:8). Then after David and Solomon reigned, there was a split between the 10 northern tribes of Israel and the tribe of Judah, also known as the house of David (I Kings 11:29-36, 12:16-20). In 722 BC, the 10 northern tribes were defeated and captured by Assyria, and for the most part they remained scattered among the nations.

In 586 BC, Judah was also defeated and captured by Babylon. However, after Medo-Persia defeated Babylon (Isaiah 13, Daniel 5-6) in 539 BC, Cyrus the Great allowed the people of Judah to return to Jerusalem in 538 BC (Ezra 1:1-8, Isaiah 45:1-8). Zerubbabel, who led them, was from the lineage of David and appeared in the genealogies of Jesus (Matthew 1:12-13, Luke 3:27). During the next few centuries, Judah had rulers among themselves even while they were under Persia, Greece, Syria, and the Romans. By the time Jesus came, the people of Judah were submitted to the rule and the law of the Sanhedrin (e.g. John 18:31).

As Jacob prophesied, the scepter remained with Judah all the way up until Jesus came. The coming of Jesus is one of the reasons, and the greatest reason, why Judah was preserved and kept intact while the 10 tribes were not. In Revelation 5:5, it’s significant that Jesus is called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (see Genesis 49:9, quoted above). 

Christian Zionism, dispensationalism, and the Hebrew Roots Movement would nearly (or outright) have us believe that the scepter has not passed from Judah to Jesus. According to these movements, Jesus is not the center of prophecy; national Israel is. According to these movements, the plans, purposes, and promises of God do not belong primarily to Jesus and His followers, but to national Israel and/or the Jewish people. According to these movements, Jews are God’s chosen people (whether they love Jesus or hate Him), but Jesus and His followers are not God’s chosen people (or this is true of us only in a secondary sense). According to these movements, Torah (the law of Moses) is often preeminent, being at least as important as the law of Christ and His teachings.

Jesus has come, and the scepter is in His hands. To Jesus belongs the obedience of God’s people. He is the Desire of All Nations (Haggai 2:7), the One who has gathered “together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad” (John 11:52), and the One who draws all people to Himself (John 12:32). He is the “Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6; 7:22).

The law, the covenant(s), and the priesthood were transferred out of Judah’s hand 2000 years ago, and there’s no handing back of the baton to Judah/Israel. All the types and shadows of the old covenant find their reality and fulfillment in Jesus. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.

Revelation 12:4-5 (Addendum to Earlier Study)


A couple days ago a friend pointed out that our study on Revelation 12 was missing commentary on verses 4-5 from a fulfilled (preterist) perspective. Whatever my reason for skipping those verses at the time (November 2009), it was a good reminder to add them now. The following study of Revelation 12:4-5 has been edited into our study of Revelation 12:1-17.

Introduction

This is a glossary of terms we included in our original study of Revelation 12:

Woman = [1] Old Testament Israel (i.e. the faithful remnant among the Israelites); and [2] later God’s people, the remnant among the nations, after Christ’s death and resurrection
Dragon = Satan, influencing Rome
Male Child = Jesus Christ

In verses 1-3 John was shown a vision of “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.” She was in painful labor. In that vision, John also saw “a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.” We noted that this is very similar to the description of the beast (Revelation 13:1) who received authority from the dragon (Rev. 13:2).

A Study of Revelation 12:4-5

Verse 4: In the first half of verse 4, speaking of the dragon with seven heads and 10 horns, we read:

“His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.”

There is reason to believe that these “stars” are angels. In Revelation 1:20, stars are seen as angels: “…The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches…” Here in verse 4, the dragon is able to throw stars (angels) to the earth, but in verses 9-12 we see that “the great dragon…that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan” would himself later be cast out of heaven to the earth, along with his angels.

Some believe that verse 4a is parallel to Jude 6:

And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own habitation, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.”

Others see a parallel to Daniel 8:10, which speaks of “a little horn” (Antiochus Ephiphanes, a Greek king of the Seleucid Empire from 175 – 164 BC):

And out of one of [the four horns] came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land. And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them…” (Daniel 8:10-11).

Albert Barnes, in his 1834 commentary on Revelation 12, took note of this parallel and wrote the following:

“The main idea here undoubtedly is that of power, and the object of John is to show that the power of the dragon was as if it extended to the stars, and as if it dragged down a third part of them to the earth, or swept them away with its tail, leaving two-thirds unaffected. A power that would sweep them all away would be universal; a power that would sweep away one-third only would represent a dominion of that extent only… Suppose, then, that the dragon here was designed to represent the Roman pagan power; suppose that it referred to that power about to engage in the work of persecution, and at a time when the church was about to be greatly enlarged, and to fill the world; …the conditions here referred to would be fulfilled…

The second half of verse 4 may be a reference to Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus by enforcing the death of all Hebrew children below age 2:

“And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.”

In Matthew 2:1-18 we read about the wise men from the east who came to Jerusalem asking about the birth of the King of the Jews (verses 1-2). This troubled Herod, who quizzed the chief priests and scribes and found out that, according to Micah 5:2, the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (verses 3-6). He instructed the wise men to find the Child, Jesus, and to let him know where he was (verses 7-8). However, the wise men were warned in a dream not to return to Herod (verse 12), and Herod, when he discovered that they had deceived him, put to death all children below the age of two throughout Bethlehem and its districts (verses 16-18). Joseph and Mary had already been warned in a dream to take Jesus and flee to Egypt (verses 13-15).

Duncan McKenzie, on the other hand, believes this is a reference to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead:

In Revelation 12 we are being shown this “birthing” of the Messiah. The male Child, after being born, is caught up to God’s throne. Once again what is being shown here is not Jesus being born on earth, but His being “born” when God the Father raised Him from the dead (Acts 13:33).* Thus, as soon as the male Child is delivered He is caught up to God’s throne. Jesus referred to the birthing analogy in talking about His death and resurrection in John 16:20-22. Notice how the dragon (Satan, Rev. 12:9) was expecting to devour the male Child. Satan thought he would be destroying Jesus at the cross. Instead the Child is caught up to the throne of God. Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God the Father at the resurrection (Acts 2:31-36). Satan, instead of devouring the Child as he had planned, ends up being cast out of heaven (Rev. 12:9).

*Acts 13:33 reads this way: “God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’”

Verse 5: The first half of verse 5 refers to the birth of Jesus, either by Mary (specifically) or through the seed of Abraham (generally). The second understanding is to be preferred when we note the progression of what happens to this woman – [1] giving birth to Jesus and [2] later being protected in the wilderness for 3.5 years (verses 6, 13-17). The first part of verse 5 is also parallel to Psalm 2:9 and Revelation 19:15.

“She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron…”

Psalm 2 is a Messianic prophecy about the coming reign of Jesus, of whom the Father would say, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You” (verse 7). Jesus would be set on God’s “holy hill of Zion” as King (verse 6), would receive the nations as His inheritance (verse 8), and would “break them with a rod of iron” and “dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (verse 9).

This prophecy is repeated in John’s vision of Christ sitting on a white horse, judging and making war (Revelation 19:11). The armies in heaven would also follow Him riding on white horses (verse 14), and a sharp sword would come out of His mouth, which He would use to “strike the nations” and “rule them with a rod of iron” (verse 15).

The second half of verse 5 refers to Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:9-11).

“And her Child was caught up to God and to His throne.”

Acts 1:9 records Jesus being “taken up” and received by a cloud out of the disciples’ sight. Two angels confirm that He was taken “into heaven” (verse 11). Daniel 7:13-14 reveals that He then appeared before the throne of His Father and was given the everlasting kingdom:

I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”

As Daniel reveals, this kingdom was then promised to “the saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:18). The “time came for the saints to possess the kingdom” when the horn and the fourth beast was making war against them and prevailing “until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints” (verses 21-22; see also Revelation 13:5-7 and Matthew 21:43). The fourth beast and the persecuting horn would prevail over the saints for 3.5 years (“a time and times and half a time”) before his dominion would be taken away and the saints would receive the kingdom (Daniel 7:25-27).

Revelation 12:6-17 goes on to record a Satanic battle leveled against God’s people, which would precede the giving of the kingdom into the hands of the saints (Daniel 7; Revelation 11:15).

————————————————————————————————–

The rest of our study on Revelation 12 can be found here, including a comparison of the preterist (fulfilled) view, the futurist view, and the historicist view.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

“The Diaspora & Aliyah of Judah-Israel (Fulfilled)” by Steve Thomas


The following article is an excellent analysis and critique of a key idea promoted by Christian Zionists (and dispensationalists). This idea is that Old Testament prophecies concerning a regathering of Judah/Israel to the land were not fulfilled under Ezra and Nehemiah, but rather have been fulfilled since Israel became a nation in 1948 (some 2600 years after these prophecies were given). Steve Thomas shows that this idea does not stand up to the light of Scripture or history. Steve lives in the United Kingdom and moderates a Facebook group called “Christian Zionism – Deconstructing the Myths Biblically, One at a Time,” where this article was posted two weeks ago.

The Multinational Dispersal & Return: Christian Zionist Presumptions

Presumption 1.) It is presumed that the 70 year exile of the people of Judah (605-536BC) in Babylon, up to the time of Nehemiah’s return in c. 445 BC was

a.) in only one nation Babylon,

b.) in just one direction East of Israel

Presumption 2.) Upon the 1st is based a 2nd – That as the Babylonian captivity did not fulfil these two  basic criteria, a far greater dispersion (Diaspora) must be intended within the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel & Zechariah. In contrast to the Babylonian exile, they say, these prophecies define the location of the Diaspora as:

a.) nations (plural),

b.) all points of the compass – especially to the north.

Presumption 3.) Upon this 2nd is based the 3rd – That the steady migration of Jewish people to Israel, in the 20th & 21st centuries, must necessarily therefore be the prophetic fulfilment of the promises given forth in the following 4 primary dispersion-retrieval passages, as the former exile fails to meet the necessary criteria:

=> Jeremiah 3:18   In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers.

=> Jeremiah 16: 14-15  “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; 15 But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.”

=> Zechariah 2: 6-8  “Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the LORD. 7 Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon. 8  For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.”

=> Isaiah 11: 11  “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.”

A RESPONSE

The Bible record of the Diaspora shows that, contrary to CZM [Christian Zionism] assumptions detailed above, the historical dispersion was definitely multinational, and was certainly multi-directional:

EVIDENCE 1. => Jeremiah 44:1 “The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews which dwell in the land of Egypt, which dwell at Migdol, and at Tahpanhes, and at Noph, and in the country of Pathros…”

Pathros was situated in southern Egypt, in the region of Aswan, south of today’s Cairo:

http://www.world-guides.com/images/egypt/egypt_map1.jpg

^This^ was written during the exile, in the time of Gedaliah’s governorship of Jerusalem (Jer 40:5), following the 586BC destruction of the temple: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gedaliah

EVIDENCE 2. The following map, from an encyclopaedia of Egypt showing equivalent modern nations, shows the extent of the Diaspora at the time of Esther – from India to Ethiopia:

http://encyclopediaegypt.com/israel/persia.jpg

=> Esther 8: 9   “Then were the king’s scribes called at that time in the third month, that is, the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are FROM INDIA UNTO ETHIOPIA, an **hundred twenty and seven provinces**, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language.”

The book of Esther is set in the 7th year+ of the reign of the Persian King Xerxes (479BC), in Shushan, 200 miles east of Babylon. This places these events during the exile of Judah, some 35 years prior to Nehemiah’s return.

From this evidence it is clear that, far from the Diaspora being to one nation, in one direction, it proves to be well over 100 international provinces, to all four points of the compass.

Source

FURTHER EVIDENCE – provided within the prophecies themselves

1.) The nations surrounding Babylon were all part of the Chaldean empire during the captivity of Judah:

=> Jeremiah 25:11  “And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”

2.) Zechariah 2:6-8 (above) defines the dispersion as encompassing: 

a.) Babylon

b.) the land of the north

c.) the nations (plural).

3.) Jeremiah similarly defines the location and extent of the captivity:

a.) Babylon

b.) for 70 years

c.) the nations (plural):

=> “‘For thus says the LORD, that after seventy years are accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place’; ‘And I will be found of you, says the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place where I caused you to be carried away captive’; ‘Hear therefore the word of the LORD, all you of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon’” (Jeremiah 29:10,14,20).

This evidence removes all doubt as to the multinational and multi-directional nature of the Babylonian captivity, being the only captivity detailed in these pre-exilic and exilic prophecies.

NEW TESTAMENT EVIDENCE

The Book of Acts describes the gathered Jewish community – resident in Jerusalem and gathered from the Diaspora – identifying their places of origin. The list of locations matches the Diaspora destinations predicted in Isaiah 11:11 (above) from which God said he would gather the children of Judah-Israel. These are comprehensively summarised at Pentecost, being “out of every nation under heaven.” Whether this is emphatic hyperbole, or not, it serves to complete the evidence – that the Diaspora was certainly as full as possibly necessary to fulfil criteria given within the prophecies of dispersion & retrieval:

=> Acts 2:5-11 “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of **every nation** under heaven. 6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7   And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”

We see that ^these^ locations perfectly match the very places listed in Isaiah 11 – please do see the following maps of the dispersion of Judah under Chaldean Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar and his successors to Belshazzar) and subsequently in the Medo-Persian Achaemenid Empire (Cyrus and his successors, Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes et al.):

Isaiah 11: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b3/Map_achaemenid_empire_en.png

 

Acts 2: http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/kathyschiffer/files/2014/06/Pentecost-in-Jerusalem-Map.jpg

Other maps relating to the Acts 2 list:

http://www.travellinkturkey.com/images/auxilary/phrygia.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontus#mediaviewer/File:1stMithritadicwar89BC.png

http://www.talentshare.org/~mm9n/articles/Paul/Image19.gif

CONCLUSION

When presented with ^this^ conclusive evidence, Christian Zionist & Messianic protagonists generally forego the opportunity to respond to the ‘evaporation’ of those initial presumptions listed at the top of this post. When shown the evidence, I have not yet encountered a CZ enthusiast who admits that, “OK, the Babylonian captivity was, after all, many nations, and multiple directions; and those who suggest otherwise do seem to be unfortunately mistaken.” Instead, they tend to ‘move swiftly on,’ reverting to a couple of further arguments in favour of a modern Diaspora & Aliyah:

Presumption 4.)   It is said that, “the OT prophecies must have had a *double meaning*. Sure – they referred to the Babylonian exile in the near term (and well done for pointing that out in such detail, etc.), but today’s events are the *bigger* picture in view – the final and greater intended dual fulfilment.” Strangely, no evidence from within the prophetic texts is then presented to support this response, if challenged. It appears to be a case of prophetic guesswork – the 4th uncorroborated presumption.

Which leaves us wondering what the modern Christian Zionist theory is actually based upon. Certainly the details of the captivity, the people involved, the timing, and the location, are very precise, and given to the people at the time to show them the direction of travel intended by God. The return to the land was intended to prepare for the coming of Messiah – the prophecies of His advent being interspersed amongst the return prophecies, as God’s intended end in view.

Presumption 5.)    When it is pointed out that no post-exilic OT prophecies of another, later return can be found, and none are given in the New Testament (other than the final ingathering of the elect on the Day of the Lord,) this is brushed aside. It is said that “Israel *needs* to be back in the land for Zechariah 14 to occur” etc., which is another story, but not a proof that the Aliyah prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah can be transferred across millennia or responsibly replicated to today’s calendar without any biblical precedent. Ironically, the protagonists of this eschatology generally like to present their position as a literal reading of the bible.

Presumption 6.) Finally, the 6th presumption is called upon, when faced with the logical collapse of the previous five. It is said that, “such a global phenomenon as the Jewish repatriation of 20th and 21st century Zionism is so profound and large-scale, that it cannot be anything other than the work of God.”

But we know that nations and empires do come and go, by the wit and will of men. Organised campaigns have great power to effect enormous political change; to raise ethnic solidarity across the continents and the centuries. Just thinking of the power of the Soviet Union to coalesce and disperse populations; The modern democratic ideology; Globalisation; Nationalisms of other people groups like Kurds, Palestinians, Albanians, Kosovans and Serbs, ethnic Russians in modern Soviet satellites, the international Chinese community, Brits abroad, Irish and Scottish nationalism  etc.

It may be for instance, that the Jewish identity is intended by God to remain intact, but for the purpose of displaying the evidence and veracity of biblical history – to authenticate the bible narrative – to remind the world to take the bible seriously as the largely FULFILLED Word of God. There are several reasons that Israel might exist today – not least, the possibility that a counterfeit Kingdom of God is in view. After all, even Christian Zionists themselves propose that an antichrist kingdom will prevail in Jerusalem in coming days, so this is not too farfetched an idea…

Whichever way we take this – basing an eschatology on a set of disproven assumptions, then continuing to hold to this once they have been exposed, would seem to be to somewhat irrational. Various psychological and emotional responses come into play to defend a belief so strongly held, in the discomfort of ‘cognitive dissonance’. Evidence is compiled to bolster a preconceived ‘confirmation bias’ that persists over and against contrary evidence, no matter the strength and validity of the counter-evidence.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

SUMMARY

Finally, a 7th presumption is presented, more in the way of a ‘threat’: It is said by CZM enthusiasts, “If God is not going to be faithful to Israel – in bringing the nation back again – how do you know for sure, as a Christian, that God will remain faithful to you?”

This is a poor argument, and easily resolved. The opposite is in fact the case. Having seen the comprehensive evidence above, how does the CZM enthusiast – in claiming that the prophetic fulfilments recorded within the very bible itself are *not* the intended completion of those anticipations – then go on to have confidence that *anything* will happen according to these unfulfilled aspirations? Especially aspirations that to all intents and purposes are widely expected within the CZM movement to conclude in a sinister covenant with the Jewish people, under a satanic regime in Jerusalem, ruled by an antichrist devil-man, in defiance of the Almighty.

Far better, is it not, to accept the well-attested faithfulness of God in:

1.) the fulfilment of the promises to the Fathers in the initial entry to the land (Joshua 21:43-45)

2.) the completion of the promises of exile and return to the people of Judah in the 6th and 5th centuries BC (Ezra 2:70),

3.) the Messianic deliverance in the New Covenant by Jesus,

4.) the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon his people at Pentecost, and

5.) the Word of the Lord going forth from Zion in the Great Gospel Commission?

6.) the remaining, future, final return of Christ in glory to gather his saints from the four winds into the eternal kingdom (Mark 13:27).***

HalleluYAH! Yes indeed God *IS* faithful to his promises and his people – and we can prove it, with biblical evidence, every step of the way!

—————————————————————————–

*** Adam’s note: I believe that Mark 13 (The Olivet Discourse), and parallel accounts in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, were fulfilled in the first century AD (my study on this topic can be seen here).

——————————————————————————

Related Post: Galatians 4 Shows That Isaiah 66 Is Not About Modern Israel