Defining Israel

Below is a good article written by John J Parson (Hebrew for Christians) Please note we do not support or encourage this mans theological stance. We only post this to help in explaining the history of Israel. This article only confirms Elohim is in control of all matters. He is the Aleph and the Tav, from the beginning to the end.

Defining Israel

As we will see, each of these systems leads to radically different conclusions, but before we attempt to explore them in detail, we will need to define some terms. In particular, we will need to define “Israel” and the “Church.”

In the Torah (i.e., first 5 books of the Bible), Israel refers to the new name that Adonai gave to Jacob (or Ya’akov, meaning “heel holder” or “supplanter”), who was the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham, and the father of the twelve patriarchs of the tribes of Israel.  The name Israel (yisrael) is formed from a wordplay using the verb yisreh (the imperfect form of sara, meaning “will fight”) combined with the suffix -el (God), which is used to indicate the subject of the verb.  Etymologically, then, Israel means “God fights.” The wordplay occurs in the phrase “for you have striven (sarita) as a prince (sar) with God and with men and have prevailed” (Gen. 32:28).

Israel further refers to the 70 descendants of Jacob who entered into Egypt (under the auspices of Joseph), and that later grew into a great nation during the time of the Pharaohs. During the time of Moses, the clan fathered by Jacob is collectively called “The Children of Israel” or the “Israelites.” It is this group of 600,000 men (not including women and children) that Moses led out of Egypt during yetziat Mitzraim, the great Exodus from Egypt, and who established them as the covenant nation of the LORD under the terms of the Sinai covenant. It was this same group of people who, under the leadership of Joshua, began to take possession of the land originally promised to Abraham by God Almighty.

After Joshua led the Israelites to victory in the land of Canaan, the fledgling nation of Israel functioned as a sort of priestly theocracy with the mishkan (tabernacle) as the central point of worship.  In later centuries, after national apostasy, various shofetim (judges) arose that led battles against Philistine and Canaanite oppressors. Eventually, however, the people asked for a monarchy, and the prophet Samuel anointed Saul as Israel’s first king. Later, King David succeeded him. It was King David who wanted to build the great Temple to honor the LORD God of Israel, and on account of his passion, God made covenant with him by solemnly promising that one of his descendants would rule over Israel forever (2 Sam 7). David died, however, without building the Temple, though his son Solomon took the throne and completed the Temple project (1 Kings 5).

During the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam, Israel became a divided kingdom. The southern kingdom, called Judah, included the city of Jerusalem and the Temple. The northern kingdom continued to be called Israel. The two kingdoms often fought with one another until the Assyrian Empire conquered the northern kingdom around 721 BC. The Assyrians forced 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel out of Israel (the first Diaspora) and brought in foreigners to resettle the land (called Samaritans). Later, the the Babylonian Empire overpowered the Assyrians under the reign of king Nebuchadnezzar, and Babylonia sought to expand its influence by forcing Judah into submission. Shortly thereafter the Babylonian army attacked Judah and took more captives to Babylon (the prophet Ezekiel, one of the captives, explained that God was allowing Babylon to punish Judah because the people had been unfaithful to God). The aggression of Babylon continued until they destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple that Solomon built (c. 586 BC). Most of the remaining Jews were taken away as captives to Babylon.

After the death of Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian Empire was conquered by Cyrus the Great (c. 539 BC), the king of the Medo-Persian Empire whom God anointed as a “messiah” by giving the Jews their freedom to return to Judah. A faithful remnant of the Jews returned to Judah and began to rebuild the Temple (c. 536 BC). The Temple was consecrated exactly 70 years after the Babylonians had destroyed it (c. 586 BC).

The Greeks began their rise to power under Alexander the Great, who defeated the Persian armies in Macedonia (333 BC) and eventually conquered the land of Syria-Judea. Later, a Greek ruler named Antiochus Epiphanes ruled Syria (from about 175 BC to about 164 BC). Antiochus also ruled over Judea and tried to destroy the Jewish religion by defiling the Temple and burning copies the Torah. This led to the Maccabean revolt which opened the way for Jewish independence in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. This victory is commemorated during Chanukah.

After the death of Alexander the Great, the Greek empire was divided up among four generals, which weakened the empire. Eventually the Romans invaded Syria (under the leadership of Pompey) and Jerusalem fell under Roman rule. Awhile later, Jesus was born and performed His ministry to captive Israel.  Several years after Jesus was crucified, the Roman Army (under Titus) destroyed Jerusalem and Herod’s Temple (70 AD), in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy (Matt. 24:1-2). Later, in 135 AD, the Romans (under Hadrian) suppressed the Bar Kochba uprising, completely destroying the Holy City of Jerusalem,  and sending all the Jews into exile. In an attempt to end all Jewish hope for an independent state, Hadrian renamed the land from Judaea to “Palestine” – after the Jews’ historic enemies, the Philistines. This is the start of the Galut, or great Jewish Diaspora.

In the late 1800’s the Zionist movement began in Europe. Theodor Herzl, a journalist from Austria wrote The Jewish State which called for the creation of a Jewish nation as a solution to the Diaspora. Herzl also organized the first World Zionist Congress, unifying diverse Zionist groups into a worldwide movement.

During World War I, the British forces defeated the Turks (Ottoman Empire) and governed the area (falsely) called “Palestine.” Under the Balfour Declaration, the Jews were permitted to return to resettle their ancient homeland. Later, Hitler’s reign of terror in Germany eventuated in the Holocaust – the Nazi’s systematic murder of 6 million Jews – which caused worldwide support for the Jews to reestablish the state of Israel as a permanent homeland.  After further immigration to Palestine, on May 14, 1948, the Jews declared independence for the democratic state of Israel (medinat Yisrael), a modern miracle that revealed the providential care of God for the Jewish people over the millennia. The rebirth of the nation of Israel meant that after nearly 2,900 years (since the time of King Solomon) the nation of Israel was both independent and united. Within hours of Israel’s declaration of independence, however, the surrounding Arab countries launched an invasion of Israel. Israel was victorious, however, and the nation was born. Later, in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Israeli forces recaptured more of their ancient Jewish homeland, and during the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel retook control of Jerusalem. During recent years, the Intifada and the rise of Islamic militarism have again threatened to destroy the nation of Israel, despite various peace accords by world politicians.

Note:  This historical definition of Israel implies that it is composed of those descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who are otherwise regarded today as ethnic “Jews.” Of course not all Jews are Israelis today, just as not all Israelis are Jews, but for the purposes of this discussion I am restricting the scope of the term “Israel” to refer to this group of people.

 

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