The existence of the modern state of Israel is not merely historical happenstance. It was realized in accordance with the declaration of the God of Israel through His prophets. In fact, every significant event in the history of Israel has been foretold by the prophets of the Lord. They saw glimpses of the future, fragmented visions of God's redemptive plan. Why did He disclose these future events? He did it so that Israel would know that He alone is God, and that they should obediently trust in His promises to them. As He says, "I have declared the former things from of old; yes, they went forth out of my mouth, and I showed them: suddenly I did them, and they happened... I have declared it to you from of old; before it came to pass I showed it to you." (Isaiah 48:3,5 WEB) But not only did He tell them of events of those days, He also announced events of the distant future.
The establishment of the modern nation of Israel, the restoration of the land to the Jewish people, and the regathering of the people from around the world were all foretold and described in detail in the Bible. But, if in fact God speaks concerning all major occurrences for Israel, what has He said about the current "peace process?" The Bible does speak of a time when Israel, after having been gathered back into the land, will "live in safety," free from concern about their "malicious neighbors."
'"No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns. Then they will know that I am the Lord God." This is what the Lord God says: "When I gather the people of Israel from the nations where they have been scattered, I will show myself holy among them in the sight of the nations. Then they will live in their own land, which I gave to my servant Jacob. They will live there in safety and will build houses and plant vineyards; they will live in safety when I inflict punishment on all their neighbors who maligned them. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God."' (Ezekiel 28:25-26)
Could this really happen? Will Israel really experience what the prophet describes: the removal of their "malicious neighbors?" The people of Israel have returned to "live in their own land," but they do not now live in safety. Soon, however, they will, after the Lord "inflicts punishment" on those who clamor for their destruction. Notice that this does not happen as a result of the ill-advised "peace process" with the Palestinians. Indeed, the prophet Isaiah has instructions for Israel about the proper response to the Palestinian representatives.
It is common knowledge that today's Palestinians have identified with the Philistines of ancient times, even though there is no direct physical link. They see themselves as the successors to that group, which contended with the Israelites for that same land. In fact, if you listen to an Arab-speaking person refer to "Palestine", it is pronounced "Philistine" in Arabic.
In a reference to those "Philistines," (or as the King James Version translates, "whole Palestina") Isaiah provides us with a question that prophetically refers to the current peace process with the Palestinians. In chapter 14, Isaiah asks this question: "What answer shall be given to the envoys of that nation?"
This Scripture is one of God's replies to the claims of today's Palestinians for the land of Judea and Samaria. The "answer" to be "given" is in response to their impudent demands for land that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.
Examine the question. An envoy is a representative, a messenger, an ambassador. "That nation" is the Palestinians. So, we see a group of Palestinian envoys waiting for an answer to their demands. But the answer is not one that will be to their liking. It comes from God Himself.
What answer shall be given to the envoys of that nation? "The Lord has established Zion, and in her his afflicted people will find refuge." (v. 32 NIV)
How shall we answer the messengers that come to us from Philistia? We will tell them that the Lord has established Zion and that his suffering people will find safety there. (v. 32 GNT)
What an answer! The modern nation of Israel, which came into being in 1948, was a direct act of God. He established it, not the Zionists alone. It was His doing to found it, and He did it to provide a place of refuge for His afflicted people! In this one short incredible verse, we see implicit historical references to the suffering the Jewish people endured throughout history, culminating in the Nazi holocaust, and to the fact that the nation of Israel was founded in response to that suffering. After so many centuries of being afflicted wanderers among the nations, they finally have their homeland back, the land that was promised to their fathers. God did it, and He is not about to retract His sworn pronouncement!
Oh, if only the Israeli government officials would throw away their foolish offers of appeasement, and simply quote this phrase to the Palestinians! "The LORD has founded Zion, and the afflicted of His people will find refuge in it."
Among the many prophecies in the Bible that deal with specific times and places, we see a wide range of historical fulfillment, some past, some future. Certain prophecies have languished in relative obscurity for a long time, awaiting the future day when all things written in them would be accomplished. Suddenly, as the time approaches and the setting for a particular prophecy begins to congeal, the words which had previously been ill-understood now jump out of the page at us.
Such is the case with Ezekiel 36. These words, especially the first 15 verses, comprise the most cogent, relevant, and unambiguous declaration by God Himself regarding the epic controversy of our day: the land which is being claimed for a Palestinian state, for which God has other intentions.
The first four verses consist of God describing the plight he is witnessing in what is correctly referred to as Judea and Samaria. Other terms that the world uses to described this land are "disputed territories", "occupied territories", and the "West Bank". In this prophecy, the terminology God uses to describe it is "the mountains of Israel", so there is no doubt as to exactly the area to which He is referring. This can be easily confirmed by examining the topographic map to the right.
Some have supposed that this chapter was fulfilled when Israel was founded as a nation in 1948, but not so. Though Israel is once again a nation, the land under consideration in this chapter is precisely the land upon which many plan to create a Palestinian state. The predicted clash between God and certain foes is about to realize culmination before our eyes.
A sense of drama is conveyed here. In any good drama, there is a protagonist, an antagonist, and an issue of conflict. Keep that in mind as we examine the verses in detail. Both the protagonist (God) the antagonists (the Palestinians and the nations who support them), and the conflict itself are portrayed in extreme terms in this prophecy. There is a resolution to the dramatic conflict foretold in these verses, a resolution that is as dynamic and extreme as the conflict itself.
It is not surprising, of course, that God would foresee and foreordain that this particular area of land would be a source of future conflict. Out of all of the places on earth, this relatively tiny patch of land that is the focus of world contention is also the focus of this intense prophetic word. Coincidence? No. That He singles this land out for special attention corresponds to the way the world has now singling it out for special attention. Once again, we see how accurate the prophetic Scriptures are. This convinces us that God does indeed foretell the future for our benefit, so we can once again be certain that all his words are trustworthy.
An interesting contrast exists between this chapter and chapter 6 of Ezekiel. Both are prophecies to "the mountains of Israel." Chapter 6 consists of a description of severe judgments that would befall the people of Israel in Ezekiel's day, with extended consequences in exile. Chapter 36 is the opposite -- a description of "severe" reclamation of the land and the people.
In this commentary, I will present an extended paraphrase based on the 17 English translations I am using as reference in addition to a Hebrew dictionary. I will use the literal transliterations for the names for God.
"Now you, son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel and say, 'O mountains of Israel, hear the word of Yahweh. This is what Adonai Yahweh says:".... (v 1)
We can discern a very strong emphasis that this pronouncement regarding the "West Bank" is a forthright message from God, based on the fourfold emphasis of the terminology concerning speaking and listening to his word. In contrast to the many voices we hear today propounding various proposals, plans, accords, agreements, and resolutions for a Palestinian state solution, stands the declaration of El Shaddai. There is no negotiation possible with this Divine decree. It stands forever in heaven, inalterable, inflexible, unyielding.
"Because the sneering, gloating, hateful enemy has spoken against you, 'Hah! Those ancient hills have become our possession!'"... (v 2)
First, God makes his case against the antagonist, who is clearly enjoying in a spiteful manner the temporary claim he has laid on the land of the Bible. Though the enemy declares that the land in question belongs to him, there is no indication that this claim has been fully effected. This coincides with the present situation, where the Palestinians maliciously assert the land is for their state, which will not happen. I repeat, it will not happen, there will never, never, never be a Palestinian state, not tomorrow, not next year, never!
"Very well then, prophesy and say, 'Because, yes because, they ravaged you, and greedily, eagerly, lustfully panted after you and seized you from every side, as if you had been delivered up as property of the rest of the nations, and become the topic of those nations' disparaging, malicious discussions and slander, '"..... (v 3)
God's decree which is about to follow is in response to the outrageous actions and attitudes of the Palestinians, in league with the so-called "Quartet": the United Nations, the European Union, Russia, and the United States. The double "because" is for extra emphasis, to indicate that God is entirely justified in the sentence he is about to pronounce against the hostile parties. Those parties have presumptuously supposed that they have the right to make the final disposition of that land, to create a Palestinian state on land that was promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.
"Therefore, O mountains of Israel, hear the word of Adonai Yahweh: This is what Adonai Yahweh says to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and valleys, to the devastated wastelands and the and the forlorn, deserted towns that have become the scorned prey and derisive laughingstock to the rest of the nations around you-- this is what Adonai Yahweh says:..." (v 4)
Notice the threefold repetition of the divine names. We again see the emphasis, if it has not yet registered clearly with us, that these pronouncements are coming from none other than the Holy One on the throne of heaven.
Once again, God is directing his prophecy at the very hills where the patriarchs roamed, where at one time many populated towns full of Jews thrived during the period of the kings of Israel and Judah. Ezekiel presided as a messenger of God at the end of that era. He had been shown earlier the ultimate consequences of Israel's persistent rebellion against God -- the Beautiful Land would become largely a deserted wasteland.
And it did. But Ezekiel is also shown a vision of future recovery. It is not the past devastation, but the the modern radical hostility of the surrounding Arab nations to which God is directing his attention. Hatred seems too inadequate to describe the excessive, toxic contempt which the Arab/Muslim world holds for the Jewish nation in their midst. It is this extreme loathing for Israel that rouses God to the extreme white-hot pronouncement he is about to make in the next verses.
"Assuredly, in the blazing heat of my zealous wrath I have spoken out against the other nations, and especially against all Edom, for with wholehearted glee and with contemptuous malice in their hearts they arrogated My land as their own possession so that they might plunder its pastureland and justify their claim that (the Jews) have been cast out as prey." (v 5)
This, the beginning of God's detailed response to the Palestinians and the rest of the nations that support their nefarious goals, could hardly be more scathing or emphatic. It is important to point out the intensity of the emotional commitment that God himself is expressing in reaction to the utter scorn, the "disdain of soul" of the Arab Muslims.
"All Edom" is singled out, which we may recall from the prior companion chapter 35, is the Muslim Arab world. Once again the charges against them and the nations are presented, charges penned 2600 years ago that accurately resound today.
The question of to whom does the land belong is concisely rejoined: "My land." Since it is Yahweh's property, he can assign it to whomever he wishes, despite Allah's baseless assertions to the contrary. All of the laughable arguments that the Palestinian spokespersons concoct are powerfully refuted here, and will be effectually refuted as well when God fully executes the intentions described.
"Therefore speak your prophetic word over the land of Israel and say to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and valleys: 'This is what Adonai Yahweh says: 'I speak in my furious, jealous rage because you have suffered the scorn of the nations, insulting and humiliating you. Therefore this is what Adonai Yahweh says: I swear with uplifted hand that the surely the nations that surround you will also suffer scorn, shame, humiliation, and disgrace." (v 6-7)
The CEV translation ends that last portion with "I will now insult and disgrace them. That is my solemn promise." Peterson's "The Message" puts it, "it is their turn to be humiliated." Can there be any doubt what the God of Israel is about to do to the Arab Muslim nations because of their outrageous offenses against the land and people of Israel? Once again we see profound emotions in full view. The breathtaking ferocity of the vow that God swears should be enormously frightening to anyone about to experience the brunt of it.
"'But you, O mountains of Israel, will shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit for my people Israel, for they have drawn near to soon come home. Truly I am for you and will look on you with favor; you will be cultivated and sown. I will multiply the number of people upon you, a large population, the whole house of Israel, yes, all! The ruined towns will be rebuilt and inhabited. I will increase your population, both humans and animals upon you, and they will be fertile and become numerous. I will settle people on you as in earlier times and bring you even greater benefits and prosperity than at your beginnings. Then you will know that I am Yahweh." (v 8-11)
In a remarkable change of tone, the Lord begins to speak tenderly and consolingly to that land. Affirming his care and concern, he indicates the initiation of a new era of blessing and favor, with his objective that Israel realizes it was he who accomplished all these things. Once all notions of a Palestinian state upon that land are forever banished to the annals of history, God will perform astonishing feats of goodness to that land and the people there. The brown, rocky, barren hills will once again bloom and be resplendent with green.
"'I will cause people, my people Israel, to walk upon your soil again. They will possess you, and you will be their inheritance; you will never again bereave them of their children.' This is what Adonai Yahweh says: 'Because people say about you, "You devour men and bereave your nation of its children," therefore you will no longer continue to devour men or make your nation childless,' declares Adonai Yahweh." (v 12-14)
"You are a man-eater" is how the NJB translation reads. But it is not the land that is guilty; it is the terrorists who live there. Thus, in these verses the Lord directly addresses the problem of Palestinian terrorism. Normally, it should not be extraordinary that people would walk upon that land. But currently they cannot, because most places in the West Bank are extremely dangerous for Jews. To solve that problem. God says he is going to eliminate the terrorists from that land. Mothers will never again weep after being deprived of their children through cruel, cold-blooded terror attacks from Muslims in the name of Allah.
"And I shall never again let you hear insults from the nations anymore, nor will you bear the taunts from the peoples any longer, nor will you cause your nation to stumble any longer," declares Adonai Yahweh.'" (v 15)
Now the picture is complete. After God finishes all that he has said in this section, there will be no more abusive, unwarranted talk about how the Israelis are the cruel occupiers of an oppressed people. All of Judea and Samaria will become an official part of the state of Israel, occupied by multitudes of Jewish people. The land itself will blossom in seemingly miraculous ways. Hebron, Shechem, Bethel, Bethlehem, and scores of other towns will be thriving Jewish communities, ready for a new influx of Jews to make aliyah there. Ramallah and Nablus and Jenin will be dusty, empty wrecks to serve as a reminder of the absurdity of opposing the God of Israel.
However, the last phrase of verse 15 may seem curious at first. How did that land cause the nation of Israel to stumble? Israel stumbled by not placing their confidence in the God who still cares for them, choosing instead to place their faith in foolhardy and destructive "peace plans". Not only were those plans doomed from the start because the Palestinians never had any intention of renouncing violence; more importantly, they were a betrayal by Israel of their historical and Biblical heritage to those lands. Snubbing the God who birthed Israel originally and who regathered Israel back in modern times, they chose to ignore his promises once again.
The God who graciously granted those lands long ago to Abraham cannot be pleased that Israel for a time largely relinquished that land grant in favor of the Oslo process. "Land for peace" was an abomination because of the land itself that was being offered up, the land addressed in this prophecy. This is how that land caused Israel to stumble. Yet after what is written here in Ezekiel 36 has been accomplished, we pray that Israel will have the hindsight to see what God was doing all along. He is renewing his compassion for Israel, and is revealing himself as the loving God whose mercy endures forever.
Zionism is a term which is emotionally charged and poorly understood. At the simplest level, it describes the return of the Jews back to their promised land after centuries of exile, to form a new nation. That nation, and the concept of Zionism, are vilified by many. One would think after sixty-plus years the legitimacy of Israel would not be in question, but sadly that is not the case. Yet even among those who would not have the audacity to openly question Israel's legitimacy, a great deal of hostility exists.
Much of that hostility originates in the Muslim world, where the concept of Zionism is almost universally regarded as repugnant. They detest the existence of a Jewish state on what they consider Arab and Muslim land. Zionism is regarded as an affront to their religion and their "god". It is not an exaggeration to state the elimination of the nation of Israel is a dominant theme among Muslims.
The Islamic anger at Israel is accentuated by the defeats they have suffered whenever they have tried to destroy Israel. Immediately after the founding of Israel in 1948, several Muslim armies attacked, and failed. Over the years, those attempts have changed in tactics, but still have not ceased, as we all know too well. The emergence of violent, extremist, jihadist Islamism in both Shia and Sunni Islam has become a driving force behind the efforts to destroy Israel.
No one expresses the Islamist hatred of Zionism more forcefully than the Iranian maniac Mahmoud Ahmedenejad. Here are some of the droppings from his mouth: "The Zionist regime is counterfeit and illegitimate and cannot survive." "The Zionists and their protectors are the most detested people in all of humanity, and the hatred is increasing every day." "The Zionist regime is an injustice and by its very nature a permanent threat. Whether you like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation. The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm." "Israel must be wiped off the map. The establishment of a Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world ."
And while Zion-hatred persists and intensifies through ever more radical Islamist ideologies, Zion-hatred originating in the non-Muslim world intensifies as well. It appears the collective guilt over the Holocaust which had restrained antisemitism has now run its course. The haters who poorly masquerade as "peace activists" do all they can to demonize Israel, yet loudly protest they are not anti-Jew, only anti-Zionist. For them, it is only Jews who dare step outside of their designated boundaries of behavior who are the object of scorn. How dare they think they could have their own uniquely-Jewish nation!
Indeed, those who conform to the world's circumscription, those Jews who are embarrassed about the existence of Israel and the Biblical pronouncements regarding its reestablishment, are more than welcome among the anti-Zionists. However, those "impudent" Jews who have the audacity to insist on and defend their own homeland, they are the ones who are scorned by the academics and power brokers and intelligentsia.
To justify their enmity, the pugnacious pro-Palestine pundits use terms like "colonialist", "oppressor", "occupier" to describe those Jews who until recently could do little but play the victim. But now that Jews can take a stand on their own land to defend their own people, their former tormentors foam at the mouth in rage against the "insolent" Zionists.
To a great extent, the sympathy for the Palestinians which some invoke to hurl their spite towards Israel, is only a pretext for that spite. It's much more acceptable in some circles to express extreme anti-Zionist disgust when speaking on behalf of a supposed victim. But pro-Palestine sentiments are largely a ruse to disguise the real issue - that Israel exists, and cannot be allowed to stand.
Yes, Israel has become a nation once again, and stand it will. Does that mean Zionism is complete? No, it is not, for two reasons. First, all of the land designated for the Jews is not yet in their possession. Second, there are spiritual aspects of Zionism yet to be fulfilled. Those two reasons are intertwined, for according to the Biblical prophets, God's ultimate spiritual regeneration of Israel would only happen when they are completely restored to their complete geographic inheritance.
A complete vision of Zionism would incorporate the prophetic spiritual aspects of the Biblical mandate. This was summarized by the Psalmist: "You, O LORD, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come. For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity. The nations will fear the name of the LORD, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. For the LORD will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory." (Psalms 102:12-16 NIV)
The early Zionists were pragmatic people. They were concerned primarily about the immediate daunting political obstacles, and, once in the land, the exhausting physical tasks they faced daily. But a few people saw a broader vision, most notably, David Ben Gurion. Perhaps one of the reasons he rose to prominence was his ability to articulate a mode of Zionism which encompassed the lofty spiritual aspects.
Ben Gurion was not a religious man, of course, but he was an avid reader of the Scriptures. He was not at all hesitant to refer to the Bible when attempting to inspire and strengthen his fellow Jews in their Zionist endeavors. And his citations of the Holy Scriptures were not wielded in an insincere manner as merely a political tool, but in sincere, heartfelt belief.
Since that time, Zionism has sorely lacked this kind of prominent clarion voice echoing the prophets of the Almighty. Perhaps this is a reason why the Zionism of today has lost much of its clout. Assailed relentlessly for decades by the intellectual left, Zionism has only weakly defended itself. A key reason for that weakness: the leaders have largely ignored its true, noble, prophetic basis.
Ben Gurion seemed to have understood the Hebrew prophets did not just write quaint aphorisms, but were in a very real sense seeing what would happen in modern times to the Jewish people. Their lofty, passionate declarations often sound like they could have been written last week rather than dozens of centuries ago.
Yet contemporary Zionism often seems almost ashamed of the prophetic pronouncements. Many Jews today seem to prefer to make their case for the rights to the land on any basis but the Biblical one. This is presumably for two reasons, one, a concern of how this would be received by the world audience, and two, many still do not put much genuine credence in the sayings of the prophets.
'"In those days, at that time," declares the LORD, "the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the LORD their God. They will ask the way to Zion and turn their faces toward it. They will come and bind themselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten. My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place."'(Jeremiah 50:4-6 NIV)
The "resting place" they forgot was not their land, but their God. The Biblical prophets were repeatedly very clear about the cause of the extended exile from the land. And the way back to the land is the way back to their God. Will this new kind of Zionism, this asking of "the way", be reserved for those in Israel who are regarded as religious? No, not at all. In fact, it is very probable it will take root more quickly among those who do not consider themselves as religious.
In the same manner that Ben Gurion could clearly see the wisdom of the prophets without fitting into the category of the "religious," so too a new generation of Israelis will awaken to the new kind of Biblical Zionism. They will look outside their traditional religious systems, eschewing them as not helpful in their pursuit of the Almighty. Casting their eyes upward, they will look to their Maker anew for answers, answers their own rabbis, the "shepherds who led them astray", could not provide.
"The people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them. They will no longer be plundered by the nations, nor will wild animals devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid. I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations. Then they will know that I, the LORD their God, am with them and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Sovereign LORD. You my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are people, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign LORD." (Ezekiel 34:27-31 NIV)
This is not dissimilar what He did for Israel at the time of Moses, when He redeemed them from a terrible plight in response to their calls to Him. As King David recalls,
"And who is like your people Israel--the one nation on earth whose God went out to redeem a people for himself, and to make a name for yourself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? You made your people Israel your very own forever, and you, O LORD, have become their God." (1 Chronicles 17:21-22 NIV)
We all know God selected our father Abraham to make a great nation of him, to bring the knowledge of the true God to all nations. In the Bible, it says the primary reason God has returned Israel to the land after these many days is to bring renown to Himself, to show the world that the God of Israel is still actively working on their behalf, even during this time of trouble.
This is why a new kind of Biblical Zionism is a necessity, and an inevitability in Israel. It is a necessity because there is no other solution for Israel's increasingly dire, unsolvable situation. It is an inevitability because the prophets foresaw it. They foresaw a new spiritual awakening of the Jewish people in the end times. This awakening is spoken of in the same breath as the predictions of the return to the land, in conjunction with the return. The old Zionism served its purpose, but its purpose is now complete. The time for the new Zionism has arrived.
This Zionism will be a movement of passionate and genuine seeking of God, the kind of mindset that characterized the life of David as he become the preeminent ruler of Israel. It will not be a movement of ritual form or external practice, but a movement of the heart.
God Himself is passionate for Zion, and His personal passion will be the compelling force behind the new Zionism. He is "very jealous for Zion, is consumed with jealousy for her," according to Zechariah. That passion will work against all of the haters of Zion, who are violently determined to stop His purposes.
"They have greatly oppressed me from my youth-- let Israel say-- they have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me. Plowmen have plowed my back and made their furrows long. But the LORD is righteous; he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked. May all who hate Zion be turned back in shame." (Psalms 129:1-5 NIV)