On the 31st March 2017, Israel’s security cabinet voted unanimously to begin construction on a hilltop known as Geulat Zion near Shiloh, in the Shomron mountains, today known as the West Bank. Ge’ulat Zion means the redemption of Zion. It was to be built very near the site of Amona, which brings back all too painful memories of settler expulsions from that hill top in the past. In fact, Haaretz reported back in 2017 that this settlement would be constructed for the ‘former residents of the unauthorized Amona outpost’. This was one of the very few times when the government of Israel itself officially approved the building of a brand new settlement. At the time, Bibi Netanyahu, the then prime minister, had the wind in his sails due to the positivity of the Trump administration.
According to the Jerusalem Post, this ‘illegal Outpost’ was evacuated by the Israeli Police and the Civil Administration forces last week. This week, ynet news reported that the families and young people from the settlement returned and were evacuated a second time by the Civil administration.
The Jerusalem post, in the same article also reported that ‘Another settler outpost, Evyatar, is causing friction within Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition. Earlier in November, Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev pledged to block the authorization of Evyatar, hours after Bennett said he planned to move forward with plans to build a new West Bank settlement on the hilltop.’
A 'building' in Evyatar
This demonstrates the confusion of the Israeli government, because of the broad spectrum of opinion in Naftali Bennet’s coalition. Omar Bar Lev is a member of the left-leaning Labor party, whereas Bennet heads up the right wing Yamina party. The same thing could be seen when the right wing Itamar Ben Gvir, the leader of the Otzma Yehudit party in the Knesset said “At a time when areas in the south are being conquered by massive unauthorized construction, the government chose to enforce the destruction of Jewish homes that come to settle the land,”.
Ben Gvir is most likely referring to the widespread construction by Bedouin communities – nomadic Arab tribes – in southern Israel. While Ben Gvir is not in the government itself, this again shows the tensions in the coalition, since Naftali Bennett was widely viewed as an ally and a champion of the settlements until a few months ago.
We recall to mind the words of the prophet Ezekiel: (Eze 36:8-10)
‘But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come. For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown: And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded:’
Ezekiel prophecies that one day, after the long years of exile, the mountains of Israel would once again be populated by the Jewish people. God also refers to these Jews as ‘MY people’, in a latter day context. Throughout this section of Ezekiel, attention is drawn to the settlements on the mountains before the invasion by Gog (in ch 38) and the return of Christ.
This week the Times of Israel reported that Isaac Herzog, Israel’s new president was due to celebrate the first night of Hannukah on Sunday, at the tomb of the patriarchs in Hebron despite threats from Hamas. The very fact that there is a president of Israel and that there is a Jewish community in Hebron is a miracle, and a fulfilment of the words of Ezekiel. We are living in times far more momentous than that of the Maccabees. Back then, the likes of Antiochus with all his armies could not defeat Mattathias and his sons.
Today the settlements will continue to grow in the face of man’s condemnation from parliaments around the world. And when the Lord Jesus Christ returns, even the might of Gog and his allies will be crushed as the kingdom of Israel is re-established.
There are many scriptures in the prophets that refer the settlements on the mountains – Another is Isaiah 40:9 ‘O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!’
This passage ultimately refers to the good tidings, the gospel message being preached to the Jews living in the cities of Judah (by definition - on the mountains of Israel) when Christ returns.
We also recall to mind the words of brother John Thomas, that have been quoted many times on Bible in the News, who wrote this in Eureka, in the late 1800s: ‘It may be remarked here, that there will have been a considerable gathering of Israelites upon the mountains of Israel before the invasion of the country by Gog.’ John Thomas also wrote in Elpis Israel about the partial and primary restoration of the Jewish people that will serve as the nucleus for future operations when Christ returns.
We marvel at the extent to which the biblical prophecies have already been fulfilled. Today, the Jews are multiplying on the mountains, and each settlement, no matter how small stands as a defiant flame of opposition, refusing to budge in face of both international and domestic pressure. And still more Jews trickle back to their heartland, the cradle of Jewish civilisation, the mountains that were desolate in the not too distant past, and now bloom again as the prophet Ezekiel wrote.
God’s purpose with his people Israel and his mountains will continue to come to pass, in spite of the uncertain situation in Israeli politics, and in spite of the best efforts of the anti-Semites in the EU and UN. We do not know what will happen to the government of Israel but we do know that God’s word concerning the mountains of Israel will not return unto him void but it will prosper - heaven and earth combined could not change the course that God has set. We are watching the nucleus of the Kingdom of God being formed on the mountains of Israel.
And we pray for the day when the true Ge’ulat Zion (redemption of Zion) will come with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will come as Isaiah says to those who turn from transgression in Jacob, to restore the kingdom to Israel and sit upon the throne of David.
This has been Daniel Blackburn, joining you for this weeks edition of Bible in the News