If one wants to measure the incredible accuracy of the Bible, comparing prophecy to Israel’s history is the perfect vehicle to do so. The Bible revolves around God’s dealings with mankind, and Israel is in the very center of the Lord’s redemptive plans and purposes. God chose Israel to be His royal priesthood, a Holy nation (Ex19:6) to be a light to all the other nations of the world. Israel’s destiny and calling was to be a shining example of how to live a Godly existence. Israel was created to be a nation of priests, prophets and evangelists. To preach repentance and thus to be a vehicle to bring redemption and salvation to the rest of the world.
This was high calling indeed and it was a case of ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’. Of course, the Lord knew man’s weaknesses and so gave the Israelites as much assistance as He could. In the third month of their journey after leaving Egypt, Moses and the people of Israel arrived at Mt Sinai. Moses was summoned to the top of the mountain, where the Lord gave the ‘Torah’. The Hebrew word ‘Torah’ is more accurately translated ‘instructions’, rather than ‘law’, as it has been referred to in the Christian world. The Torah instructions were God’s living standards for Israel and the Levitical sacrificial system was given as a means of making atonement for the transgression of the Torah.
The key scriptures regarding the dispersion of the Jewish people are found in Deuteronomy 28. Having made many incredible promises of blessing to Israel, conditional upon their obedience to His voice, (v1 –14) the Lord then issues a severe warning to Israel if she does not listen to the voice of the Lord (v 15). The threat of dispersion is made very clear in Deuteronomy 28:64: the Lord will scatter you among all peoples from one end of the earth to the other, and again in Leviticus 18:25: For the land is defiled; therefore I will visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it and the Land will vomit out its inhabitants.
The first major dispersion of the Jewish people occurred in the time of the prophet Jeremiah (626 –585 BC). The Lord explicitly warned the people of Israel through Jeremiah’s prophecies. Commencing in verse 1 the Lord speaks through the prophet to Israel concerning her idolatrous behaviour. In verse 11 the warning becomes very explicit: And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the King of Babylon for seventy years.
True to that word, in 586 BC the army of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, plundered Jerusalem and the majority of the Jewish people were taken and exiled to Babylon for exactly the seventy years that Jeremiah had prophecied.
In the previous article (Part 1 – Introduction) in we learned that the Covenant that God made with Abraham was eternal and was not conditional upon Israel’s part. The Lord confirmed this in Jeremiah 31:35-36: Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night…. “If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the LORD, “then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.”
When God warned Israel of the impending punishment, He made it very clear that this would not be Israel’s end. Jeremiah 30:11: “For I am with you,” says the LORD, “to save you; though I make a fullend of all the nations where I have scattered you, yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice and will not let you go altogether unpunished.” (see also Jeremiah 4:27 and 5:18).
After the seventy years had been completed, the Lord miraculously moved His hand and the Jewish people began to make their way back to their ancestral homeland, the land of Israel.
Unfortunately the Jewish people did not learn their lesson. The pain of the Babylonian exile was soon forgotten, and they returned to their sinful, disobedient ways. The years between the return from the Babylonian captivity and the birth of Yeshua (Jesus) have been called ‘the time between the Testaments’. A time that God remained silent. The silence was broken when another Jewish prophet began to speak to Israel around the year 29 AD.
John the Baptist called Israel to repentance and prophecied of One who was coming who would be the Lamb of God. One whose blood would not only wash away the sin of Israel but would wash away the sin of the world. Around the year 30 AD, the short 3 ½ year ministry of Yeshua began. He was and is the greatest prophet of all and He reiterated the prophetic warnings to Israel. (see Luke 19:41-44)
As always, the Word of the Lord came to pass. In 70 AD the Roman army sacked Jerusalem, destroying the Temple and the second major dispersion of the Jewish people began. This was to be a much longer time of exile than the first. It was to last for 1,900 years and this time the Jewish people were scattered literally to the ends of the earth, but as we will see in the next article the words of Jeremiah 30:11 still applied, and the Lord had His plans and His perfect timing to reach out His arm a second time to bring His people home. We will look at the miracle of Israel’s second restoration in the next part.
Israel’s Turbulent History
1446 BC Hebrews Cross the Red Sea
1406 BC Israelites enter Canaan
1011-970 BC King David
626 – 585 BC Jeremiah
605-530 BC Daniel
593-571 BC Ezekiel
586 BC Fall of Jerusalem
597-527 BC Babylonian Exile
538-432 BC First Restoration
432 BC – Between the Testaments
26 AD John the Baptist
26 AD Jesus ministry begins
30 AD Crucifixion & Ascension
70 – 135 AD 2nd Temple destroyed, Jerusalem sacked & the 2nd dispersion
(copyright: 1985 Zondervan Bible Corporation)