The Jewish Heritage of Many Palestinians


“If we investigate the origins of the Felahim [Palestinians], there is no doubt that much Jewish blood runs in their veins.”

-David Ben Gurion, (first) Prime Minister of Israel (1948 -1953, 1955 – 1963)

The more I learn about the different groups involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the more interesting the whole situation becomes. There’s also plenty of irony to be discovered in the claims and policies of Zionists, Christian Zionists, and the Israeli government. For example, wouldn’t it be ironic if some Palestinians are more Jewish than some of the Jewish citizens of Israel?

Introduction 

It’s no secret that Israel has billed itself as “a Jewish State” for decades. Of course, this idea has created a dilemma, to say the least, for Arabs, Bedouin, and other non-Jews living in Israel and the Palestinian territories. How do non-Jews fit into “the Jewish State of Israel”? (For a parallel, imagine if America was called “a Caucasian State.”)

The ideal of “a Jewish State” apparently runs along ethnic/racial lines more than religious lines. According to Wikipedia, 43% of Jews in Israel identify as secular, and 47% of these secular Jews (i.e. 20% of all Jews in Israel) are Atheists. Only a slight majority of Israel’s Jews consider themselves to be religious.

Israel’s aim to be a Jewish state is instead a battle drawn up along ethnic lines. However, as was pointed out in an earlier article (“Who Are the Jews in Israel Today?“), a case can be made that a significant percentage of Jews in Israel are descendants of Gentile (non-Jewish) converts to Judaism centuries ago. Not only are many Jews in Israel non-religious, but many are also non-Semitic. Yet they are more than welcome in “the Jewish State.”

Another irony is that many with a Jewish background are destined to be excluded from “the Jewish State” – because they are identified as Palestinians. It’s shameful that this exclusion – of all Palestinians – is fervently supported by the Christian Zionist movement.

Hillel Fendel’s Article in Israel National News

There’s a lot to consider in the following article published in Israel National News in 2009 (“Arabs of Jewish Descent in Israel“):

Up to 85 percent of Arabs in greater Israel stem from Jewish ancestors, it is estimated. Some of them want to become fully Jewish, but most are scared to even talk about it.

“In our search for the lost Ten Tribes in India and Afghanistan, we seem to have forgotten to look for their descendants in our very own backyard.” So says the narrator in a new film about the efforts of a former hi-tech pioneer named Tzvi MiSinai to search out the Jewish roots of Israel’s Arab enemies – and to inform them of their Judaic heritage.

MiSinai has spent about a half-million shekels, he estimates, on these efforts. They include visiting dangerous places deep inside Palestinian Authority-controlled territory, hearing the stories of Arabs who remember observing Jewish customs, and distributing literature to Jews and Arabs alike.

One Arab says his father told him the secret of his family’s Jewishness on his deathbed, while another one, on the backdrop of a photo of the saintly Cabalistic sage Rabbi Abuchatzeira on his wall, says their roots have been known in his family for generations. Wrapping what apparently used to be kosher tefillin on his arm, he says, “My father used to do this, and he taught us to do it whenever someone was sick or in trouble.”

The Jews Who Didn’t Leave

It is generally accepted that most Jews left the Land of Israel after the failed Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE. Yet many remained, and of these, many are still here, after having been forced to convert to Islam. “It turns out that a large part of the Arabs of the Land of Israel are actually descendants of forced converts to Islam over the years,” says Rabbi Dov Stein of the nascent Sanhedrin rabbinical council. “There are some studies that say that 85 percent of the Arabs in Israel are descended from Jews; others say there are fewer.”

Ben-Gurion Agrees

The claims are not new. Early Zionist leaders David Ben-Gurion and Yitzchak Ben-Tzvi wrote in a book 100 years ago: “If we investigate the origins of the Felahim, there is no doubt that much Jewish blood runs in their veins.” The authors implied that these Jews loved the Land so much that they were willing to give up their religion. The reference is probably to an edict in the year 1012 by Caliph el-Hakim, who ordered the non-Muslims to either convert or leave the Land of Israel. It is estimated that 90 percent of the Jews chose the former, though many continued to practice Judaism in secret. The decree was revoked 32 years later – apparently too late for about 75 percent of the converts.

Tzvi MiSinai continues to convince Arabs in Judea and Samaria that they are likely Jewish. The film shows him passing through the Gush Etzion checkpoint and distributing  pamphlets both to Israeli soldiers – “so that you’ll know who you’re checking here” – and to the Arabs waiting there – “so that you’ll know who the majority of you are.” Asked by an Arab if he is from the peace movement, MiSinai answers, “Yes, yes, peace, so that we can live together as one nation.”

The Sawarka Bedouin Jews

One place where MiSinai has apparently found very strong Jewish roots is in the Bedouin tribe known as the Sawarka. There are about 3-4,000 of them throughout the Sinai and the Negev, and they “are all Jewish,” says a tribal leader in perfect Hebrew. With his face camouflaged for the cameras, the Bedouin says, “They had no choice but to convert; this was centuries ago… I remember my mother and grandmother wouldn’t light fire on Sabbath, and they had a special mikveh…”

Others, in a Bedouin village east of Hebron, also remember burning a small piece of dough (reminiscent of the Biblical command to separate a small piece of dough when baking bread), lighting candles at graves, and tearing clothes and sitting shiva for seven days, and not three as is Muslim practice.

Even today, ritual circumcisions are carried out after the seventh day of birth.  Many homes in some of the Arab villages have doorpost indentations for a Mezuzah, with a scroll placed in some of them.

In another village just south of Hevron, Muhammed Amsalem – a descendant of Spanish Jews – told Aharon Granot of Mishpacha magazine that everyone in town knows he and his clan are Jews: “Our elders tell us that our forefathers came to this land during the [15th century] Spanish Inquisition, via Morocco. They settled in Ramle. Then the Mamluks forced them to convert to Islam, and they moved to the South Hevron area.”

Amsalem says they decided to reveal their Jewish roots after the 1967 Six Day War when they learned that a Jewish community had been reestablished in Hevron. “But the Jews saw we had no knowledge of their religious practices and refused to accept us… If the Jewish community would be willing to receive us today, we would join them with great enthusiasm.”

In the area of the South Hevron Hills, half of the Arabs are aware of the Jewish origins. They used to talk about it openly, though no longer. One man who recently publicized a silver Chanukah menorah that had been passed down to him from his father and previous generations was hung by terrorists by his feet for six weeks, leaving him with permanent injuries.

Genetic Studies Back Claims

At the Hadassah Medical School labs, Prof. Ariela Oppenheim of Hebrew University performed an international genetic study that backs up conclusions of Jewish-Arab genetic similarities. “We found that despite the dispersion of Jews around the world for 2,000 years, they essentially kept their Jewish continuity,” Oppenheim said. “In addition, we found that the Jewish population is surprisingly close, genetically, to the Arabs living here in Israel.”

She said that the study shows that both the Arabs of Israel and the Jews are descended from the Kurds of Aram in Babylon – the birthplace of the Patriarch Abraham. 

“It’s clear that we’re all from the same family,” Oppenheim concludes. “Most unfortunately, however, there are conflicts even within families, and sometimes brothers fight as well. I wish this is what will bring the Redemption, but I’m very sad to say that I don’t think so.”

Some Want to Return to Observant Judaism

South of Hevron, in Yatta, there is a large formerly-Jewish presence – and some even want to return to active Judaism. It is widely known there that half the residents are of the originally-Jewish Mahamra clan – a name that means “winemaker,” a trade that is forbidden according to Islam. “The people in these areas converted to Islam later in history,” MiSinai says, “and therefore more customs and knowledge and artifacts have been preserved.” These include Jewish stars over the entrances to homes, while in at least one house, the family has hidden a mezuzah and tefillin in creative hiding spots. One man pulled out a small Hebrew booklet of Psalms and Tanya with which he says he continues to secretly pray.

Miro Cohen, a Jew from Tekoa, in eastern Gush Etzion, is very friendly with the Arabs in a nearby village known as Kawazbe – a name that he and they agree is merely a corruption of Kuzeiba, the original name of the famous Bar Kokhba.

“These people are the descendants of Bar Kokhba,” Cohen declares. One Arab sitting with him can count his ancestors eight generations back, ending with a grandfather named Kawazbeh.  Another village elder says openly that his grandfather was a Jew who converted to Islam. Some of the residents want to return to Judaism; they don’t call it converting, because they are “already Jewish.”  On the other hand, Arabs with the name Kawazbeh have been arrested for terrorist activity against Israel.

Other areas where Arabs of Jewish descent reside are Kfar Anzah in Samaria, Samoa in southern Judea, villages in the Tel Arad area, and more. Rabbi Stein says, “We know that up to about 200 years ago, the Galilee village of Sakhnin was a Jewish town, with an active synagogue. The Turks pressured them to convert to Islam, but the people there know that they are of Jewish origins.”

Rachel Avraham’s Article in the Jewish Press

There are also a number of things to consider in the following Jewish Press article published on January 6th, 2015 (“Most Palestinians in Judea and Samaria Were Formerly Jews“):

As a journalist, I was always very skeptical what the origins of the Palestinian people are. Some have argued that the origins of the Palestinians date back 1,000 years. Others claim that the ancestors of the Palestinians came much more recently, during the late Ottoman and British Mandate periods. And still others allege that the roots of the Palestinian people in the Holy Land are ancient. So what are we to believe?

The American archeologist Eric Cline reported in his book, Jerusalem Besieged: “Although some would disagree, historians and archeologists have generally concluded that most, if not all, modern Palestinians are probably more closely related to the Arabs of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, and other countries than they are to the ancient Jebusites, Canaanites, or Philistines. The major movements of those Arabs into the region occurred after 600 CE, more than 1,600 years after David and the Israelites had vanquished the original inhabitants of the land.” This fact is confirmed by Sherif Hussein, the Guardian of Islamic Holy Places of Arabia, who stated that the Palestinians ancestors had only been in the region for 1,000 years.

Numerous scholars have reported that following the Black Plague and Crusades in 1517, only 300,000 people were left in the Land of Israel, of whom 5,000 were Jewish, and that many of the ancestors of the modern Palestinians came in the late Ottoman and early British Mandate period. During the British Mandate period alone, 100,000 Arabs from neighboring countries immigrated to the Holy Land.

However, after conducting intense research into this issue, another story for the origins of the Palestinian people has appeared which further reaffirms Jewish attachment to the Holy Land. A Palestinian living in Jerusalem who wishes to remain anonymous has confessed in an exclusive interview that this persons’ family origins are 100% Jewish and that this person’s father’s family were Cohanim. He proclaimed: “Most of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria are former Jews. The Ottomans converted them by force. My family converted to Islam in the early 1900’s.”

This Palestinian explained that the town where this person originally came from and the seven surrounding villages had a Jewish majority up until the early 1900’s: “My grandparents tell me they were born Muslim. The entire town which is Islin and the entire collection of towns near Beit Shemesh were Jewish. The entire towns around us used a Jewish judge known as Khawaja Kakum, who was a rabbi.”

The Palestinian noted that in the late 1800’s, the Ottoman Empire started to pressure the local population to accept Islam, after Herzl informed the Ottoman Sultan of the Zionist movements’ intentions. This resulted in the Sultan going crazy and making sure that would not happen, although he did refrain from issuing a formal edict of conversion: “The Ottoman soldiers would arrive, investigating and making sure everyone was Jewish and that would involve a humiliating act. The locals would have to bring all of the fancy rugs so the soldiers could use them. They had to fix hay mixed with sugar for the horses of the Ottoman cavalry. And then, the locals had to cook food for the soldiers. They were forced to mix yoghurt with lamb in a dish known today as mansaf.”

The Palestinian noted that Bayt Itab, which was near Beit Shemesh, was inhabited by Sephardic Jews: “A particular family in the town began holding Friday prayers on both Friday and Saturday, so the Ottomans would be fooled into believing that they were not Jews. Now Beit Shemesh, another nearby town, had mostly Jewish families that would later on become Palestinian, except for one family.”

“Many Jews would never believe this but if you visit Zora; you will see the tomb or grave of Samson the Great,” the Palestinian noted. “You would learn that Palestinians used to glorify this man in this town. Whenever someone dies, Palestinians used to sing in sadness for him: ‘Oh my G-d, why have you taken him, he has never displaced his grandmother or given advice to a Muslim.’ Why would Muslim Palestinians sing folk songs like that?”

“One of the folk songs for children goes: ‘By the G-d of Moses, don’t make me lose my way,’” the Palestinian explained. “Why not Muhammed? Also, the local comments reflected in the entire Palestinian community used the term ‘he’s a Cohen’ to reflect someone who is wise or who could see stuff others could not see. Most Palestinians don’t know what a Cohen is. Why do they use the term ‘he is a Cohen’ to describe someone with G-d given knowledge?”

While such statements go contrary to pan-Arab propaganda and the standard Middle Eastern history books taught across the globe, this Palestinian is not the only one to make this claim. According to the Jerusalem Post, Tzvi MiSinai conducted research into the Jewish roots of the Palestinian people and discovered that 90% of the Palestinians have Jewish roots: “And what’s more, half of them know it.” He noted that many Palestinians maintain Jewish customs, including mourning rituals, lighting Shabbat candles and even wearing tefillin.

Misnai is not the only researcher to believe this. Genetic studies conducted by Hadassah Medical School found that the Jewish population is surprisingly close genetically to the Palestinian population, implying that many of them have Jewish blood in them. Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion evidently agreed that most Palestinians have Jewish roots, according to Arutz Sheva: “If we investigate the origins of the Felahim, there is no doubt that much Jewish blood runs in their veins.”

…Caliph El Hakim forced all of the Jews of the Holy Land to either convert to Islam or leave the country in 1012 and the Crusaders massacred numerous Jews in the Holy Land in the late medieval period. He maintains that until the British Mandate period, the influx of Muslims into the Holy Land was minimal and most of the locals had Jewish roots.

“When General Allenby, the commander of the British military forces, conquered Palestine in 1917/1918, only a few thousand Muslim Arabs resided in the Holy Land,” Mandelbaum writes. “Most of the Arabs were Christians, and most of the Muslims in the area either came from Turkey under the Ottoman Empire, or were the descendants of Jews and Christians who were forcefully converted to Islam by the Muslim conquerors.”

However, despite the massive influx of Muslims into the Holy Land during the British Mandate period, the Palestinian interviewed proclaimed: “I don’t know of a Palestinian family who does not have a Jewish story to their history. Just like Jews were forced to convert to Christianity in Spain, they won’t ever go back, but it would be helpful to remind us publicly of whom we were and what we were, to show that we must connect as humans.”

This Palestinian explained that both sides made mistakes in the years leading up to Israel’s establishment and afterwards. The Zionist movement did not recognize the Palestinians as having Jewish roots in their family while emphasizing that both sides suffered from anti-semitism and the Palestinians themselves also very much looked down on the newcomers from Europe. But this Palestinian hopes that this information can help bring the two peoples together at the very least to pursue peace in the future: “Unless we study our past, we won’t move forward to the future.”

About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel’s Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media.”

Conclusion

Whether “most” Palestinians have a Jewish background, or only a minority of them do, this information adds further irony to the Israel/Palestinian conflict. The Zionist/Christian Zionist agenda sidelines Palestinians, some of whose ancestors were ethnic Jews, but embraces those currently identified as Jews, even if they have no Jewish blood. It should be pointed out that plenty of Jews are opposed to the Zionist agenda. See this post, for example: Dueling Jewish Perspectives on the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.

Followers of Christ, in particular, should have nothing to do with an agenda that sidelines or oppresses anyone. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians,

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

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Here are two more articles dealing with this subject:

[1] “The Shared Genetic Heritage of Jews and Palestinians” (at Patheos Blog)
[2] “The Lost Palestinian Jews” (at The Jerusalem Post)

Why I Believe Israel Is the Apple of God’s Eye


Israel is the apple of God’s eye. This was true during the days of David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. It’s also true now, but of whom exactly is it true?

Two Passages Where God Said Israel Was the Apple of His Eye

Zechariah 2:8 is a well-known verse, often quoted by Christian Zionists with reference to modern Israel (as does this Christian ministry), and typically as a way of saying that Christians are bound to stand in loyalty to the nation of Israel:

For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.

Looking back at the history of ancient Israel, God did indeed refer to this nation as the apple of His eye:

Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you: When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the children of Israel. For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye” (Deuteronomy 32:7-10).

Of course, Deuteronomy 32 is overall a lament concerning Israel, where God

[1] speaks of “their end” in the days of “a perverse generation, children in whom is no faith” (verses 5, 20, 28-29; see also Matthew 17:17 and Philippians 2:14-15)
[2] denies that many within Israel are even His children (“They are not His children…“; verse 5)
[3] goes on to prophesy of a time when Gentiles would rejoice with His people over the avenging of the blood of God’s servants (verse 43; see also Matthew 23:35-36; Revelation 16:3-6, 17:1-6, 18:20-24). 

Other Passages Where This Phrase Is Used

The phrase “apple of my eye” is used in two other passages. David asks God to keep him as the apple of His eye, and Solomon advises his readers to value his instructions as much as they value their own eyeballs:

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 17:8).

Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye” (Proverbs 7:2).

Which Israel Is the Apple of God’s Eye?

From Deuteronomy 32 and Zechariah 2 it’s clear that God does have an apple of His eye. Is modern, national Israel the apple of God’s eye, as many say? If so, does this include even the Arab citizens of Israel, as well as expatriates living there? If so, who was the apple of God’s eye between 70 AD and 1948 when there was no nation of Israel?

Israel is indeed the apple of God’s eye. The apple of God’s eye is Jesus, true Israel, and His followers, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). 

When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, God shouted from the heavens how He felt about His Son:

And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased‘” (Matthew 3:17). 

When Jesus was transfigured on the mountain toward the end of His ministry, God proclaimed the same words over His Son (Matthew 17:5). Throughout the New Testament we see similar testimony indicating that Jesus is the apple of God’s eye, even if this phrase isn’t used there. For a deeper study of how Jesus is Israel, see this post (“Why I Stand With Israel”), which shows how Matthew, Luke, and John are among the New Testament authors who demonstrate that what was said of ancient Israel in the Old Testament is now said of Jesus, our Savior.

The Church of Jesus Christ is also the Israel of God, His beloved, the apple of His eye. This is because we abide in Christ, the apple of God’s eye. Of Jesus it is said that “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15). We who belong to Jesus are “a new creation” (II Corinthians 5:17), “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:10), and “a holy temple in the Lord…a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21-22; compare with Deuteronomy 32:7-10 quoted above). We are “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29, Colossians 3:10), and we are God’s chosen people (Ephesians 1:11-12, Colossians 3:12-13, I Peter 2:9-10).

When Saul persecuted God’s people, Jesus’ followers, He took it personally: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?…I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:4-5). When the beast made “war with the saints” for 42 months (Revelation 13:5-7), God saw it as making “war with the Lamb(Revelation 17:12-14).

The Context of Zechariah 2 

Who did God ultimately see as Zion when He called the “daughter of Zion” (Zech. 2:10) “the apple of His eye” (verse 8)? Was this prophecy simply about national Israel or all Jewish people? God spoke through Zechariah at a time when the people of Judah and Israel had been “spread…abroad like the four winds of heaven” (Zech. 1:19-21, 2:6), but God was calling them to escape from Babylon (2:7). He would shake His hand against the nations that plundered them and touched the apple of His eye (2:8-9). Zechariah prophesied of a time when God would come and dwell in the midst of Zion (verse 10). This was not to be a mono-ethnic or single-nation reality:

Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. And the Lord will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem” (Zech. 2:11-12).

The identity of Zion and the identity of Israel was destined to expand to include people from all nations. This has already been accomplished in Christ, and the church was born in Jerusalem as Jews were added to the church daily (Acts 2:47) and a short while later non-Jews began to flow in as well (Acts 11:18). God again chose Jerusalem, but His chosen Jerusalem is the heavenly one, not the one 43 miles from Tel Aviv (Galatians 4:21-31).

However, Zion would not include the corrupt and perverse, disobedient people who God didn’t even regard as His children. This was true even in Moses’ day, as we saw earlier (Deuteronomy 32:5). Most importantly, God’s people, Zion, would not include those who would not hear His Son, Jesus, for they would be cut off:

For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people‘” (Acts 3:22-23).

A study of the Old Testament reveals that Jews were cut off from among God’s people for quite a number of reasons (e.g. Exodus 31:14, 32:33; Leviticus 7:20-21, 27; 17:4, 9-10, 14; 18:29; 19:8; 20:3, 5-6, 17-18; 22:3, 23:29; Numbers 9:13, 15:30, 19:13; Deuteronomy 29:19). The ultimate reason for being cut off from among God’s people, from Zion, is being separated from Jesus. Today, the Christian Zionist movement doesn’t see the slightest reason for a single ethnic Jew to be outside of God’s people, not even if they are Atheists or they mock Jesus Christ. They are all God’s chosen people, and they are all the apple of God’s eye, if Christian Zionism is to be believed. 

Any teaching that uses Zechariah 2:8 to say that the apple of God’s eye is limited to the Jewish people, or limited to people living within the borders of ancient Israel, or that it includes people who reject Jesus Christ, is off-base. The apple of God’s eye is first Jesus, and by extension those who belong to Him (Galatians 3:16, 29). If you belong to Jesus, rejoice that you are the apple of God’s eye.

I hope you will enjoy this song by the worship artist, Jason Upton, which rejoices in this truth. This song is called “One Reason,” from his 2001 album, Faith

(Alternate link #1, alternate link #2, lyrics)

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.

“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!

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*** 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).

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

Pre-1948 Advertisements by the Jewish Agency for Palestine


A small series of decades-old photo advertisements was posted recently in a Facebook group called “Christians United for Peace.” These interesting advertisements (see photos below) were created by the Jewish Agency for Palestine at some point prior to 1948, when the nation of Israel was founded. This organization “began as the Palestine Office…founded in Jaffa in 1908, as the operational branch of the Zionist Organization.” Then in 1929 this organization was “renamed, restructured and officially inaugurated as The Jewish Agency for Palestine by the 16th Zionist Congress, held in Zurich, Switzerland.” It took on the name “Jewish Agency for Israel” after Israel became a nation in 1948 (source)

 

 

 

These advertisements are not only interesting and historical, but they also reveal [1] the fact that there was a region known as Palestine and [2] the push for “a Jewish State” (despite only 7% of the people in Palestine being Jewish in 1914, 11% being Jewish in 1922, 17% being Jewish in 1931, and 30% being Jewish in 1942 – source).

To some, the first point might be a no-brainer, but a simple Google search will turn up all kinds of claims that there never was a Palestine and there never were people called Palestinians before Israel became a nation. Dean Obeidallah, whose father was born in Palestine in the 1930’s, recently published an article in The Daily Beast titled “Do Palestinians Really Exist?” According to Obeidallah, “People will tell me to my face that there has never been a Palestine and there are no such thing as Palestinians. To them, I guess Palestinians are simply holograms.” He notes that this claim contradicts the official summary of the United Nations in 1947 that “Palestine is the common country of both indigenous Arabs and Jews, that both these peoples have had an historic association with it.” Dean’s article is an interesting one, and his perspective is worth considering.

What do you think of the seven photos above?

Related post: The Land of Palestine from 1896 – 1948 (Two Videos)

Postal Stamp from 1850 (Photo Source); Khan Yunis is now a rapidly growing city in the south Gaza Strip, and was the site of a massacre in 1956

Blessed Are the Warmongers? (When Christians Pray for War Instead of Peace)


Blessed are the warmongers*, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9, Christian Zionist version)

*Of course, Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are the warmongers,” but rather, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” A watching world, however, could be forgiven for thinking that Jesus taught His people to love war, killings, and bloodshed when some of His professing followers say the things they do. 

A couple days ago, a good friend shared a link to an article titled, “Unite Against the Ceasefire.” This article literally contains a prayer asking God to “collapse” a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza so that Israel could “go back with full force into Gaza,” and Christians were asked to agree with that prayer. In other words, this prayer asked God to allow war and bombs to continue.

The article in question was posted on August 26, 2014 by Stan Goodenough at the Jerusalem Watchman website. Stan is or was connected with International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ). As the website’s “About” page reveals, Stan believes that peace efforts for the Middle East are “always doomed to fail.” The following is the prayer that Stan asked other believers to pray together with him (I have underlined certain parts of this prayer and will comment on them at the end):

If the following resonates in your spirit, fellow believer, then stand in prayer with me right now, and get all you believe will agree to join with us. Call on Heaven to bear witness to the massive humanistic and Islamic effort to propagate the enemy’s plan, and pray – with the high praises of God in your mouths, the two-edged sword of His word in your hands, for the speedy and total collapse of the ceasefire that was set to begin at 19:00 tonight. (August 26, 2014)

More than 60 rockets were fired from Gaza in the hour leading up to the ceasefire. One Israeli was killed and five were injured in the barrage.

Arise, O Lord, in Your anger;
Lift Yourself up because of the rage of my enemies;
Rise up for me  to the judgment You have commanded!
So the congregation of the peoples shall surround You;
For their sakes, therefore, return on high. (Psalm 7:6-7)

This is my prayer:

Our Father in heaven, holy, righteous, glorious and eternal King,

Concerning Your determined, declared purpose to restore the kingdom to Israel, and in and through Israel to finalise the complete redemption of this world, may Your name be hallowed in and through all that is happening in and around Your land today; may Your will be done on the earth.

Lord God of Israel – Your ways are not our ways, and Your thoughts are not our thoughts. We do not presume to know everything there is to know about the outworking of Your plan – the methods You employ, the forces and currents You bend to Your will. You alone can see into the heart of man. You alone can see into tomorrow and into the future. Far be it from us to do anything to in any way hinder what You are accomplishing.

What I do see from Your Word – clear as the daylight – is that You have sworn that as long as the sun hangs in the sky, Israel will remain a nation before You.

What I see in Your Word, and what we see all around us in the world today – is that an apocalyptic battle is already raging against this nation, which You have physically reconstituted in Your land as You swore to do. The battle is raging to undo what You are doing, to reverse the restoration that You are bringing about.

It is a war against Heaven itself.

Tonight, from my post on the walls of Jerusalem where You have placed me (and many of Your children), I hear how Hamas is celebrating their “victory” over Israel and, LORD God of Israel, over You.

Just as the ancient Philistines once thought they had beaten You – and carried Your ark triumphantly down to Gaza, so too are the Palestinian Arabs today believing that their god has defeated You. Tonight they will sing his praises throughout the streets of Gaza as in their minds they believe they have triumphed over the armies of Israel.

Rise up, LORD God, for the sake of Your great name. I pray that You will bare Your holy arm in the site of the nations of the world who – in one accord, are pushing for this ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in their vain and bankrupt apparent belief that this is a way towards peace.

The ceasefire will not lead to peace but only to more violence, more terror, more destruction and death.

Make every plan that dishonours You Lord come to nothing at all, no matter how big or how small, no matter who makes it, grind it into dust under the heel of Your Foot, I beseech You.

Stop it – LORD God, I pray. Command Your angels into the fray to bring about the undermining and collapse of the ceasefire as quickly and as irreversibly as possible.

Undermine the work of Secretary of State John Kerry and his boss Barack Obama. Confound Egypt’s Sisi. Expose the evil in the hearts of Turkey’s Erdogan and Iran’s Khamanei

I see Hamas nearly against the wall, LORD – hundreds of its fighters and commanders have been destroyed; years and years of plotting and working to build tunnels to carry out massive terror against the Jewish people have been nullified; its rocket stocks are nearly depleted; it is bordered by the powerful State of Israel and an Egypt today unsympathetic to its cause.

The heart of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also in Your hands – and You can turn it like the watercourses in the desert. Turn it. Turn him, Lord. Use the poll results that show he is massively losing support as Israelis see him failing to crush Hamas; failing to stop the rocket fire and terror. Use these results to reinvigorate him – to prepare him, when the ceasefire collapses, to go back with full force into Gaza, and to show Hamas no flag but the black flag – no quarter for the mujahedin in the armies of Allah.

Almighty God – do not enable Hamas to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Crush Hamas and, with it, humble Islam and shake the faith of the Muslim world.

LORD God of Israel – why should the Islamic world say, concerning Israel “Where is their God?” Why should the godless Russian and Chinese people say, concerning Israel, “Where is their God?” Why should the increasingly secular and ungodly United States, European and other western countries deride Your name and say, concerning Your people and Your land: “Where is their God?”

Show them where Israel’s God is, LORD. For the sake of Your name, arise, we beseech You. Do not forget Your promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to their seed.

Again, humbly acknowledging that we do not know all there is to know, I nonetheless pray this way with boldness and with faith, believing that, if our prayers are in line with Your will at this time, You will hear from heaven and move to secure, until you have completed it, the deliverance of Israel and her firm establishment in the land You gave her forever.

I pray this in Your name.

Redemption is available for this world, not “in and through” a nation in the Middle East (Israel), but in and through Jesus. This is the core message of the Bible. This is Christianity 101. This message is represented by probably the most famous verse in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). 

It’s both absurd and inaccurate to say that “Palestinian Arabs today [are] believing that their god has defeated [the God of the Bible].” Stan’s words here suggest that all Palestinian Arabs follow the same religion, Islam. Some Palestinian Arabs are Christians! Of course they don’t believe that the God of the Bible has defeated the God of the Bible. Furthermore, plenty of Arabs don’t support or appreciate Hamas, the public face of this recent war that made a declaration to this effect.

It’s ironic that Stan speaks of “the godless Russian and Chinese people” and “the increasingly secular and godless United States” in contrast to Israel and “their God.” Phil Zuckerman, Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, published a survey in 2005 revealing the top 50 most Atheistic/Agnostic countries in the world. Russia came out only slightly higher than Israel in terms of the percentage of its people who identify as Atheists or Agnostics (24 – 48% in Russia versus 15 – 37% in Israel). China, which is seeing an incredible and amazing movement to Christ, was well below Israel (8 – 14% Atheist or Agnostic), as was the United States (3 – 9%). There is all kinds of godlessness in Israel, including the brutality with which this recent war was carried out.

Who is “the God” of Israel? Well, according to Wikipedia, 55% of the people in Israel say they are traditional Jews, 20% are secular Jews, 17% are Zionist Jews, 16% are Muslim, 2% are Christian, and 1.5% are Druze. It turns out that only 2% share Stan’s faith in Christ. A notable survey carried out by the Avi Chai Foundation in Israel in 2009 actually found that 46% of Jews there describe themselves as “secular.” Interestingly, among American Jews nearly 50% doubt God’s existence while only 10 – 15% of non-Jews in America feel the same way (source).

I am grateful that God did not honor the prayer of Stan and others who agreed with it for a “total collapse” of the Israel/Gaza ceasefire “as quickly and as irreversibly as possible.” Thank God that a 50-day war, which caused more than 25% of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents to flee their homes and killed more than 2000 of them, is finally over. Thank God that humanitarian aid and goods are being allowed in now:

Vital humanitarian aid poured into Gaza on Thursday as residents began rebuilding their lives following a devastating 50-day war between Israel and Hamas that experts say left no winners.

Millions in and around the war-torn coastal enclave were enjoying a second day of peace after the guns fell silent.

The truce, which went into force on Tuesday evening, saw the warring sides agree to a “permanent” halt to seven weeks of bloodshed in a move hailed by Washington and the United Nations.

Israel agreed to immediately lift restrictions on fishing, allowing boats to work up to six nautical miles from the shore in a move which went into effect early on Wednesday.

It also pledged to ease restrictions at the two crossings into Gaza, Erez and Kerem Shalom, to allow the entry of goods, humanitarian aid and construction materials.

Debate on crunch issues such as Hamas’s demand for a port and an airport, and the release of prisoners, as well as Israel’s calls to demilitarise Gaza have been postponed for another month until the sides resume talks in Cairo.

The focus is catering for the immediate needs of the 1.8 million residents of the Gaza Strip, nearly half a million of whom were forced to flee their homes because of the fighting.

Jesus is known as “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) and He has called His people to make peace, to “be peacemakers.” It would be nice if a watching world could know from our words and actions that we take that calling seriously.

Who Are the Jews in Israel Today?


Growing up under Christian Zionist and dispensationalist teachings, I took for granted that the following narrative that was presented to me was the correct one:

The Jewish people in Israel are direct descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and God restored them to their land as a nation in 1948 in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are newly-arrived Arabs, mainly from Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, who flooded the land when they saw the Jews beginning to come back from Russia, Europe, and elsewhere.

Although it’s been a number of years since I learned that this narrative is far from correct, more recently I’ve learned some details that, if true, take this distortion to the next level. They show the claims of Christian Zionism and dispensationalism to be even further off-base, not only Biblically but also in terms of history. 

I recently read an article written by Schlomo Sand, an Israeli history professor at Tel Aviv University, whose parents were Polish Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. I don’t agree with Sand’s stance on the Old Testament, but he makes some interesting statements regarding the inhabitants of Palestine in the centuries prior to Israel becoming a nation in 1948:

“[After Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD], apart from enslaved prisoners, the population of Judea continued to live on their lands, even after the destruction of the second temple. Some converted to Christianity in the 4th century, while the majority embraced Islam during the 7th century Arab conquest.

Most Zionist thinkers were aware of this: Yitzhak Ben Zvi, later president of Israel, and David Ben Gurion, its first prime minister, accepted it as late as 1929, the year of the great Palestinian revolt. Both stated on several occasions that the peasants of Palestine were the descendants of the inhabitants of ancient Judea.

[See David Ben Gurion and Yitzhak Ben Zvi, Eretz Israel in the past and present, 1918 (in Yiddish), and Jerusalem, 1980 (in Hebrew); Yitzhak Ben Zvi,Our population in the country, Executive Committee of the Union for Youth and the Jewish National Fund, Warsaw, 1929 (in Hebrew).]

Sand goes on to talk about the large impact of Jewish proselytizing, especially during the Middle Ages, when non-Jews, ethnically speaking, converted to the Jewish religion. He adds,

“The most significant mass conversion occurred in the 8th century, in the massive Khazar kingdom between the Black and Caspian seas. The expansion of Judaism from the Caucasus into modern Ukraine created a multiplicity of communities, many of which retreated from the 13th century Mongol invasions into eastern Europe. There, with Jews from the Slavic lands to the south and from what is now modern Germany, they formed the basis of Yiddish culture.”

[Yiddish, spoken by the Jews of eastern Europe, was a Germano-Slavic language incorporating Hebrew words.]

Sand was an Israeli soldier for three years and fought in the Six-Day War of 1967, so it’s interesting what he says next:

“The Israeli forces who seized Jerusalem in 1967 believed themselves to be the direct descendents of the mythic kingdom of David* rather than – God forbid – of Berber warriors or Khazar horsemen. The Jews claimed to constitute a specific ethnic group that had returned to Jerusalem, its capital, from 2,000 years of exile and wandering.

…Since the 1970s supposedly scientific research, carried out in Israel, has desperately striven to demonstrate that Jews throughout the world are closely genetically related… By validating an essentialist, 
ethnocentric definition of Judaism it encourages a segregation that separates Jews from non-Jews – whether Arabs, Russian immigrants or foreign workers… But Jews worldwide have always tended to form religious communities, usually by conversion; they cannot be said to share an ethnicity derived from a unique origin and displaced over 20 centuries of wandering.

*Please note that I disagree with Sand when he says that David’s kingdom was mythic.

Arthur Koestler (1905 – 1983) was a Jewish author and journalist from Hungary (later a British citizen) who wrote a book in 1976 titled, “The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and Its Heritage” (available in PDF form here). Koestler’s thesis was that a majority of Jews today have ancestral roots in the ancient Khazar region (corresponding to modern SW Russia, Eastern Ukraine, and Western Kazakhstan), where many members of the Khazar royalty and also of the general population converted to Talmudic Judaism in the 8th century AD and adopted the Yiddish language, which is based on the Hebrew alphabet. Toward the end of Koestler’s book, he summarized its contents with these words:

“In Part One of this book I have attempted to trace the history of the Khazar Empire based on the scant existing sources. In Part Two, Chapters V-VII, I have compiled the historical evidence which indicates that the bulk of Eastern Jewry — and hence of world Jewry — is of Khazar-Turkish, rather than Semitic, origin. In the last chapter I have tried to show that the evidence from anthropology concurs with history in refuting the popular belief in a Jewish race descended from the biblical tribe.”

Koestler stated that his research undermined many accusations of anti-Semitism, since many Jews are not even Semitic. His work was understandably considered to be controversial. Some DNA experts were critical or skeptical of it, while others agreed. Dr. Eran Elhalk and Dr. Avshalom Zoossmann-Diskin are two geneticists who agree with Koestler’s hypothesis. They conducted a 2012 study at John Hopkins University, finding that the European Jewish population featured a mix of Caucasus, European, and Semitic ancestries. Their work is summed up in this abstract published by Oxford University Press:

The question of Jewish ancestry has been the subject of controversy for over two centuries and has yet to be resolved. The “Rhineland hypothesis” depicts Eastern European Jews as a “population isolate” that emerged from a small group of German Jews who migrated eastward and expanded rapidly. Alternatively, the “Khazarian hypothesis” suggests that Eastern European Jews descended from the Khazars, an amalgam of Turkic clans that settled the Caucasus in the early centuries CE and converted to Judaism in the 8th century. Mesopotamian and Greco–Roman Jews continuously reinforced the Judaized empire until the 13th century. Following the collapse of their empire, the Judeo–Khazars fled to Eastern Europe. The rise of European Jewry is therefore explained by the contribution of the Judeo–Khazars. Thus far, however, the Khazars’ contribution has been estimated only empirically, as the absence of genome-wide data from Caucasus populations precluded testing the Khazarian hypothesis. Recent sequencing of modern Caucasus populations prompted us to revisit the Khazarian hypothesis and compare it with the Rhineland hypothesis. We applied a wide range of population genetic analyses to compare these two hypotheses. Our findings support the Khazarian hypothesis and portray the European Jewish genome as a mosaic of Near Eastern-Caucasus, European, and Semitic ancestries, thereby consolidating previous contradictory reports of Jewish ancestry. We further describe a major difference among Caucasus populations explained by the early presence of Judeans in the Southern and Central Caucasus. Our results have important implications for the demographic forces that shaped the genetic diversity in the Caucasus and for medical studies.

Khazaria in 850 AD, Map Source

Martin Trench, the lead pastor of Gateway Alliance Church in Edmonton, Canada, shared similar thoughts in a closed Facebook group recently and gave permission to quote him:

“[There is a] modern misunderstanding of the terms ‘Israel’ and ‘the Jews.’ Moses and the people of Israel who crossed the wilderness were not ‘Jews.’ They were Israelites. The Jews of the post-Babylonian period until the time of Jesus were also Israelites, with some Edomites mixed in too who lived in Judea, but not in Galilee. And the Jews of today are a different ethnic group – roughly 80% of them are an ethnic mixture of non-Israelites who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages and follow a different religion than the Biblical Israel. They follow the religion of Talmudic Judaism, which was developed AFTER the time of Jesus, not the Old Covenant religion of Israel which requires a Temple, priesthood, and sacrificial system.

The true Israelite Jews in Judea at the time of Jesus either accepted him as the Messiah and so fled to Pella before 70 AD; or they stayed on and fought the Romans in the 66-70 AD war, with many being taken as slaves to Pompeii (which itself was destroyed a few years later by Vesuvius). The survivors who weren’t taken as slaves (because the Romans did not do whole-sale exile, like the Babylonians and Assyrians did – they left most poor people behind) stayed in the land as poor peasants, and the Pharisees, etc. went to different places – mainly Babylon where they wrote the Babylonian Talmud (which is very anti-Jesus and is quite vile and blasphemous). Those were the genuine Biblical Jews, but they were very small in numbers. In the Middle Ages, the Khazar kingdom in Eastern Europe converted to Talmudic Judaism. They were pagans before, known as the “serpent people,” but they had Muslims on one side and Christians on the other, so they converted to Judaism so they could trade with both – they became Ashkenazi Jews, the vast majority of Jews today.”

Concerning the point about “Ashkenazi Jews,” see the Wikipedia entry on this subject for a lot of well-documented information. Notable Ashkenazi Jews have included Theodore Herzl, Albert Einstein, Anne Frank, and Golda Meir.

Concerning Talmudism, interestingly Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister of Israel, submitted a new Basic Law to the Knesset in early May of this year that “would establish the Talmud, the core work of Jewish law, as an official basis for Israeli state law” (Source:Report: Netanyahu Promises Talmud Will Be Israeli Law,” Israel National News).

To whatever degree the above information is true, it doesn’t make Jews today, whether they are Semitic or non-Semitic, any more or any less valuable, human, or worthy of respect. What it does likely do, however, is further confirm that key claims within Christian Zionism are false.

The New Testament already clearly refutes the Christian Zionist idea that ethnic Jews (rather than followers of Christ) are God’s chosen people (see this post and this post and this post and this post for more on this). The New Testament also refutes other such ideas that emphasize Jewish ethnicity over faith. Christian Zionism stands strong on the idea that many of the plans, purposes, and promises of God flow to the ethnic descendants of Abraham, even those who despise God’s Son, Jesus. This is despite the fact that Scripture says all of God’s promises are made to Jesus and His followers (e.g. Galatians 3:16, 28-29). Christian Zionism has also chosen as its foundation the assumption that modern Israel is nothing less than the national gathering of Abraham’s ethnic descendants in fulfillment of Bible prophecy.* Biblically, these claims are far-fetched, and they are looking to be far-fetched historically as well.

*See this article for a refutation of the idea that Israel became a nation in 1948 in fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

Here is another brief article of interest on this subject: “DNA of Ashkenazi Jews shows ancient female ancestors were converts from Europe.”

All of our studies related to Christian Zionism can be seen here.

The Palestinian Christian: Betrayed, Persecuted, Sacrificed (An Essay by Abe W. Ata)


The following essay was written in 2006 by Dr. Abe W. Ata, a Palestinian Christian who was born in Bethlehem. I read it once before, but was reminded of it a couple days ago when my friend, Mark Church, shared it on Facebook. Whether or not one agrees with every word Dr. Ata says, it’s instructive to hear his perspective and it’s good for Christians to be made aware of how many of their brothers and sisters in Christ are being affected by the dire situation in Israel/Palestine, a situation that has become even more heart-breaking in recent days.

The Palestinian Christian is an endangered species.

When the modern state of Israel was established there were about 400,000 of us. Two years ago the number was down to 80,000. Now it’s down to 60,000. At that rate, in a few years there will be none of us left. When this happens non-Christian groups will move into our churches and claim them for ever.

I fear that when/if the last Palestinian Christian leaves, extreme groups will move instantly to our churches and schools and have a field day hatching world plots. It would be too late for Bush (or Kerry) to do anything about it!!

Palestinian Christians within Israel fare little better. On the face of it, their number has grown by 20,000 since 1991. But this is misleading, for the census classification “Christian” includes some 20,000 recent non-Arab migrants from the former Soviet Union.

So why are Palestinian Christians abandoning their homeland?

We have lost hope, that’s why. We are treated as non-people. Few outside the Middle East even know we exist, and those who do, conveniently forget.

I refer, of course, to the American Religious Right. They see modern Israel as a harbinger of the Second Coming, at which time Christians will go to Paradise, and all others (presumably including Jews) to Hell. To this end they lend military and moral support to Israel.

Even by the double-dealing standards of international diplomacy this is a breathtakingly cynical bargain. It is hard to know who is using whom more:

bullet The Christian Right for offering secular power in the expectation that the Jewish state will be destroyed by a greater spiritual one; or
bullet The Israeli Right for accepting their offer.

What we do know is that both sides are abusing the Palestinians. Apparently we don’t enter into anyone’s calculations.

The views of the Israeli Right are well known: they want us gone.

Less well known are the views of the American Religious Right. Strangely, they find the liberation of Iraqis from a vile dictator just, but do not find it unjust for us to be under military occupation for 38 long years.

Said Senator James Inhofe (R-OK):

“God Appeared to Abraham and said: ‘I am giving you this land,’ the West Bank. This is not a political battle at all. It is a contest over whether or not the word of God is true.’”

Inhofe must have got it wrong. Promises are being made to earthly Jerusalem, that again, God did not make! For Paul wrote that the Holy Land was promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. These are the Palestinian Muslims, Christians, and Jews, who have been living in the land for thousands of years. The Bible never mentioned that God promised it solely to Jews. Anyone can be a Jew, but not anyone can be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. James Inhofe and followers are unable to tell the difference between Jew, Israelite, and Israel.

It is very clear, that in Israel, there will be no continuing city!

bullet (Hebrews-13-13-14) Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His Reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek on to come!
bullet His Promise to Abraham! (Hebrews-11-10) For he looked for a City which has foundations (Christ The Foundation) whose builder and maker is God!
bullet (16) Now they desire a better Country, that is, An Heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He HAS prepared for them a City!

Heavenly Jerusalem, of Heavenly Israel!!

House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) was even more forthright:

“I’m content to have Israel grab the entire West Bank…I happen to believe that the Palestinians should leave.”

There is a phrase for this: Ethnic cleansing.

Silencing us, from seeking your support and enlightening you about our suffering, goes counter to what Jesus has mandated us to do. We all know that Muslims and Jews get ceaseless support (political, spiritual and financial) consecutively from Saudi Arabia and America respectively; We, the Palestinian Christians, get nothing from the Australian and other Western “Christian” governments. (The Pope has been an exception.)

Prior to the 1967 war, the Christian youth at the Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist and other churches in Bethlehem used to pray and rejoice and have a good chat with hundreds of American Christian pilgrims. In particular Texas and California were two places from where many came from to visit us in the Holy Land. Today only fading memories prevail. Christian families have vacated Bethlehem. The remaining Christians are paying the price by experiencing curfews which last for weeks. They remain sandwiched between Muslims and Jews without drawing the slightest concern from the many so-called Western Christians.

So why do American Christians stand by while their leaders advocate the expulsion of fellow Christians? Could it be that they do not know that the Holy Land has been a home to Christians since, well … since Christ?

Do not think I am asking for special treatment for Christians. Ethnic cleansing is evil whoever does it and to whomever it is done. Palestinian Christians — Anglican, Maronite Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Armenians, Baptists, Copts and Assyrians — have been rubbing shoulders with each other and with other religions: – MuslimsJews, Druze and (most recently) Baha’is – for centuries. And we want to do so for centuries more. But we can’t if we are driven out by despair.

We are equally frightened by those who commit suicide bombings. None of us Christians have condoned it or even contemplated the idea. Our commitment to Jesus’ teachings will never shake our resolve in this matter.

American journalist Anders Strindberg makes a clearer conclusion. He says Palestinians are equated with Islamists, Islamists with terrorists. Presumably because all organized Christian activity among Palestinians is non-political and non-violent, the community hardly ever hits the Western headlines. Suicide bombers sell more copies [sic] than people who congregate for Bible study.

What we seek is support: material, moral, political and spiritual. As Palestinians we grieve for what we have lost, and few people (the Ashkenazi Jews are one) have lost more than us (the Ashkenazi Jews are one). But grief can be assuaged by the fellowship of friends.

Source

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From his bio: “Prof. Abe W. Ata was a temporary delegate to the UN in 1970 and has lived and worked in the Middle East, America and Australia. Dr Ata is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for the Advancement of Research, and lectures in Psychology at the Australian Catholic University. Dr Ata is a 9th generation Christian Palestinian academic born in Bethlehem.”

TK Burk: $1000 Challenge to Dispensationalists


“$1000 For One Scripture That Says…” On the heels of the previous post being about dispensationalism, I find this long-standing challenge by TK Burk to be an interesting one. For those who may have seen the last post, but weren’t sure what dispensationalism is, Burk’s eight points below should help give you an idea of what is taught in this school of thought:

A biblical doctrine is not biblical unless it has biblical passages proving it is biblical fact. That may sound a little simplistic, and maybe even a bit of a tongue twister, but it is still the main rule to follow when rightly dividing God’s Word. Please, keep this in mind when reading through this $1000.00 challenge.

Each of the following eight points are taken from foundational teachings in the prophecy view called “Dispensationalism.” If Dispensationalism is truly biblical then there should be Bible passages that clearly speak of these points. If there are no such scriptures, how then can Dispensationalism be said to be biblical? For this challenge, I am offering $1000.00 to the first person that can give just one Bible verse that actually says any of the following Dispensational teachings:

  1. God delayed His Kingdom because the Jews rejected Jesus.
  2. There is a gap between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel.
  3. There will be a secret pre-tribulation rapture of the Church.
  4. God will require the building of a physical third Jewish Temple.
  5. God will no longer accept grace and Jesus’ blood for salvation but will instead return to the Law and animal blood sacrifices.
  6. An Antichrist will make a seven-year covenant with the Jews.
  7. There will be a future seven-year tribulation period.
  8. A physical Jesus Christ will return to establish a 1000-year reign on earth.

If you’re a Dispensational believer, and if you believe that any or all of the above eight teachings are biblical, would you please give us at least one Bible verse that actually says any of the above? Though Dispensational teachers claim to have much scriptural evidence to support their teachings, you only need one Bible scripture to qualify for the $1000.00.

This $1000.00 offer has been around for many years. To date not even one verse has ever been sent to prove any of these Dispensational teachings are in fact biblical…not one. This silence alone should be enough to prove that these main points in the Dispensational theory are not biblical. However, since Dispensationalism is still claimed by some to be biblical, this $1000.00 is still being offered to the first person that can give such a verse. If you are a Dispensationalist and you cannot find such a scripture, I hope you realize that this means you are missing much more than just $1000.00–you are missing the fullness of God’s Truth.

For continuity, responses to this challenge must use the King James Bible. Use the below “reply” area to send in any Bible verses. Comments concerning the lack of any such scriptural evidence are also welcomed.

(Source)

Burk is right – not one Scripture passage substantiates any of those eight points. As a side note regarding #5, my understanding is that dispensationalists/pre-millennialists would probably say that God’s grace and Jesus’ blood will still be the basis for salvation in an alleged future millennium, but that animal sacrifices will be re-established as some kind of a memorial. It’s still a very strange idea, though, in my opinion, and certainly without Scriptural basis.

CUFI’s Replacement Theology (Replacing Jesus)


For several years now I’ve been receiving email updates from CUFI (Christians United for Israel), not because I’m a fan but simply to remain aware of what is coming out of this organization. Yesterday’s email was a head-scratcher.

CUFI was founded in 2006 by John Hagee, the well-known mega-church pastor in San Antonio, Texas. Hagee and his Executive Director, David Brog, are fond of attaching the “replacement theology” label to those who fail to give unconditional support to the nation of Israel. Hagee defines “replacement theology” as believing that “the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and God does not have specific future plans for the nation of Israel.” Accurate or not, he adds that adherents believe “God has replaced Israel with the church” (Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World, 2006, pp. 72, 165).

Check out the email/infomercial CUFI sent out yesterday and see if you don’t observe a different “replacement theology,” one that assigns the role of “light unto the nations” solely to the nation of Israel and not rightfully to Jesus:

God Commanded the Children of Israel to Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Show everyone who enters  your home that you Stand with Israel! Receive this beautiful custom made in Israel CUFI Mezuzah and special CUFI Mezuzah scroll for a gift of $36 or more.
Dear Friend, Isaiah 49:6 tells us that the Jewish people will be a light unto the nations and a brief look at Israel’s humanitarian actions around the world prove the truth of this prophecy!Israel is a light unto the nations… Israel is the world’s first responder to natural catastrophes and humanitarian crises. Over the last few years, Israel has sent humanitarian, medical, recovery, and security teams to Haiti, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, India, the Philippines, and even to the USA after Hurricane Katrina, Super Storm Sandy, the floods in Colorado and tornadoes in Oklahoma.

Israel a light unto the nations… Israeli innovation is saving and improving lives around the world. The list of Israel’s technological advances is endless, but among the many: An Israeli bandage that stops intense bleeding has saved the lives of American troops in Iraq as well as Congresswoman Giffords. An Israeli baby breathing monitor has protected over 600,000 babies from SIDS. And a new Israeli medical device can detect an oncoming heart attack

Israel a light unto the nations… While Christians are being attacked and murdered throughout the Middle East, Israel is the only country where the Christian population is safe and flourishing. Israel’s Christian population has increased from 34,000 in 1948 to 140,000 today. The truth is that the safest and freest Christians in the Middle East are the Christian citizens of the Jewish state.

In order to constantly remind us that Israel is a light unto the nations, we have designed a second mezuzah to add to our CUFI collection. A “mezuzah” is a small box that Jewish families affix on their doors reminding them of the Lord’s presence in their lives.

The new CUFI mezuzah is not only a daily reminder that Israel is still a light unto the nations, but it is also a public declaration that your home stands with Israel and the Jewish people. We encourage you to mount a CUFI mezuzah on the entry and interior doors of your home as well as selected rooms within your home. We also have a special blessing for children if you choose to place them on the doorposts of your children’s rooms.

Every symbol on this custom-made mezuzah has special significance. The seven branch menorah is the official emblem of the State of Israel. The torch illustrates that Israel is a light unto the nations. The American and Israeli flags symbolize the importance of the US-Israel relationship.

May God Bless You and The Ones that You Love,

Pastor John Hagee
National Chairman
Christians United for Israel
David Brog
Executive Director
Christians United for Israel
For an additional $14 gift, you can become a “Watchman” member of CUFI. Watchman membership benefits include a personalized CUFI membership card, a CUFI membership pin, a personalized membership certificate, Because I am a Christian I stand with Israel Luggage tag, a CUFI car magnet, a 10% discount on registration for all CUFI events and a subscription to The Torch- CUFI’s quarterly magazine.

CUFI’s letter references Isaiah 49:6 as Biblical evidence that “the Jewish people” and Israel are “a light unto the nations.” (In CUFI’s language, “the Jewish people” and Israel seem to be used interchangeably, as if there are no non-Jews living in Israel.) Seven times in this letter, CUFI’s followers are told that Israel is the world’s light:

“Isaiah 49:6 tells us that the Jewish people will be a light unto the nations and a brief look at Israel’s humanitarian actions around the world prove the truth of this prophecy!” (1x); “Israel is a light unto the nations” (3x); “In order to constantly remind us that Israel is a light unto the nations…” (1x); “The new CUFI mezuzah is not only a daily reminder that Israel is still a light unto the nations…” (1x); “The torch illustrates that Israel is a light unto the nations” (1x).

I won’t deny that Israel has done some humanitarian deeds in its history. However, the role of “light to the nations” belongs to Jesus, and there was zero acknowledgement of this in CUFI’s letter. Jesus spoke this very thing concerning Himself and His disciples:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12; see also John 9:5).

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14).

Isaiah 49:6 was likewise a prophecy about Jesus, His role in bringing Jacob back to His Father, and the light of His salvation for the whole world:

And He said to me, ‘You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’ Then I said, ‘I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain; Yet surely my just reward is with the Lord, and my work with my God.’ And now the Lord says, Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him (For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and My God shall be My strength), indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:3-6).

If this was about national Israel, how could Israel bring Jacob (itself) back to God? How could Israel “raise up the tribes of Jacob” and “restore the preserved ones of Israel” (itself)? This would be God’s doing, not Israel’s own doing. As I wrote in a March 2014 post (“Why I Stand With Israel“), 

Albert Barnes (1834), Adam Clarke (1831), John Gill (1746), The Geneva Study Bible (1599), Jamieson/Faussett/Brown (1882), Matthew Henry (1708), The Pulpit Commentary (1880′s), and John Wesley (1754) all stand in agreement that Isaiah was speaking here of Jesus, and that Isaiah referred to Jesus as “Israel.” See their commentaries on verse 3verse 4verse 5, and verse 6.

CUFI’s exaltation of modern, political Israel amounts to blatant idolatry and pushing Jesus to the side, even replacing Him. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament bear witness that Jesus is the light that the world needs.

Related post: “Why I Abandoned Replacement Theology