The monstrous attacks by Hamas have thrust Today’s Israel into the news. Unspeakable brutalities against Israeli women and children fill the news reports. There is neither excuse nor justification for these terrible crimes targeting civilians, especially women and children.
Some popular news commentators, trying to rally support for Israel, are suggesting that today’s Israel is the same Israel of biblical times. Is it? Christians may support Israel because it is our staunchest ally in the region. They see Israel as one of the most stable democracies in the world. In short, the Israelis are our friends. Supporting Israel because they are supposedly “God’s chosen people” is an error.
Today’s Israel is not the Israel of the Bible.
Origins – Biblical Israel
The Lord promised Abraham that his offspring would be a great nation. He also promised them possession of the land where nomadic Abraham traveled (Genesis 12:1-3, 7). Two generations later, God changed Abraham’s grandson Jacob’s name to Israel. He would have 12 sons who would become the basis for the Biblical nation of Israel.
Almost 500 years later, Jacobs’s 12 sons would grow to over two million people. By then, they had become slaves in Egypt. They prayed to God for deliverance; he heard their prayer and remembered his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 2:23-25). When Pharaoh refused to release the slaves, the Lord brought a series of plagues upon the land. Eventually, Pharaoh could withstand God no longer and released the Hebrews (future Israelites).
The Hebrews traveled eastward to Mount Sinai where God formed them into a nation. Because of their lack of faith, they then wandered for 40 years in the wilderness. Finally, God brought them into the land of Canaan and settled them there. Although the Israelites were in and out of captivity in their new homeland, they maintained a presence in the land until the year 70 A.D., when the Romans utterly destroyed them.
Origins – Today’s Israel
for almost 1900 years, the Jews had no homeland. In the late 1800s, Jews began to move back to Israel from their dispersion into Europe. In 1896, the development of Zionism began, which is the call for a formal nation of Israel in the original land. After World War I, the League of Nations granted Great Britain a mandate to govern Palestine. Under that mandate, Jews began to return to the British-controlled region. In 1948, as the British mandate was ending, a representative of the Jewish population in Palestine declared the establishment of the State of Israel. The United Nations had given the Jews about 55% of the land of Palestine, despite the fact that previously, the Jews only owned about 6% of the land.
Armed conflict began immediately. Since that time, multiple attempts at peace have largely failed. Today’s conflict in Israel is but the latest in a long line of wars and conflict.
God governed biblical Israel as its king (One Samuel 8:7). Later, earthly kings ruled over Israel. The ancient nation reached its zenith under King Solomon. The spiritual life of the nation was under the direction of Levitical priests. All Israelite priests were from the tribe of Levi without exception.
10 of the 12 tribes entered Assyrian captivity. Babylon took the remaining two tribes into slavery. Even after their release from captivity, Israel was little more than a vassal state to the superior kingdoms of the region. In 63 BC the Romans conquered the region. The Jews had a puppet king until A.D. 70 when conflict with Rome exploded into war. Jerusalem and the Temple were completely destroyed.
From A.D. 70 until 1949 the Jews had no land to call their own.
Today’s Israel vs. Biblical Israel: Key Differences
Ancient Israel was a theocracy. Today’s Israel is a democracy. Put differently, one was ostensibly ruled by God, while the modern-day nation is ruled by its people.
Ancient Israel was served by a large cohort of Levitical priests. Today’s Israel has no Levitical priests. Divinely specified sacrifices were daily offered in the Temple. There is no Temple today.
Ancient Israel was God’s chosen people (Leviticus 26:11, 12). Today’s Israel is not. Today, God’s chosen people are Christians regardless of their ancestry (1 Peter 2:9, 10).
Has God Broken His Promises to Today’s Israel?
By no means! Let God be true though everyone were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” (Romans 3:4)
We forget that God’s promises were conditional. For example, in the passage above from Leviticus 26, notice verse three: “if you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them then…” This is a classic if/then statement. The covenant required both God and the people to comply with the terms of the covenant. Once one party broke the terms, the other party was freed from the covenant.
God was no longer obligated to continue to bless them because Israel had broken the covenant. Remember, this was the nation that crucified his Son. They rejected their final prophet. They rejected the one who came to save them. Consider these verses:
For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know for certain that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the LORD your God has given you. (Joshua 23:12, 13
But just as all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the LORD your God has given you, if you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you.” (Joshua 23:15, 16)
There are two important points in this last passage. Notice that Joshua says God fulfilled all of his promises to Israel. He made them a nation. He gave them the land. God provided the heritage through which one would come to bless all nations. God did what he said he was going to do.
Just like the previous passages (Leviticus 26, Joshua 23:12, 13), there is an if/then clause. If they transgressed against God, they would “perish quickly from off the good land.” Ancient Israel violated every command God gave them. As a result, Israel lost their place as God’s chosen people. Today, God’s chosen people are his church (Isaiah 53:1 – 12; Acts 20:28; Hebrews 9:12 – 14; 1 Peter 1:18, 19; Revelation 5:9).
We may choose to support today’s Israel for diplomatic, military, or political reasons. But we must not support Israel because they are God’s chosen people. To do so ignores clear biblical teaching.