Kosher Laws and Christianity

Summary

kosher laws

Israeli Cuisine. young shanahan, CC BY. Enlarge

The word “kosher” comes from the Hebrew root Kaf-Shin-Reish, meaning “fit, proper or correct”. Usually it is used in the context of “fit to eat”. It defines foods (everything a Jew eats, not just meat) that are fit for consumption by a Jew by labeling foods as either “clean” or “unclean”. The biblical concept of clean and unclean animals occurs as early as Genesis 7:1-9, and the food laws are defined in detail in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. Kosher can also describe ritual objects that are made in accordance with Jewish law and are fit for ritual use, link.

The image shows a typical meal in a Jerusalem restaurant, comprising falafel, hummus and Israeli salad.

Kosher constituted the basis of dietary regulations that are still adhered to by Orthodox Jews and by those Gentiles who are concerned with maintaining good physical health. Some Messianic Jews (Jews who see Yeshua as their true Messiah) also follow kosher and eat only “clean” foods, link.

Holiness: There is an even more important reason for kosher. The specific reason God gave the Israelites for forbidding them to eat any unclean animals, or even touching their carcasses, was to “be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45). Here God does not distinguish between clean and unclean animals specifically for health’s sake, but for the sake of holiness. As an example, before Halal slaughtering the named of Allah is invoked, link, making halal meat unclean for religious Jews. Similarly, some Christians abstain from halal meat on the grounds of Acts 15:20 and 1 Cor 10:28.

Kashrut (pronounced: CASH-root)

The biblical commandments (Torah Kosher) regarding dietary practices are in fact quite simple. Scavengers of either land or sea are to be avoided, whilst mammals that both chew the cud and have hooves may be eaten. The consumption of blood is to be avoided. But Kashrut makes things more complicated!

Like Kosher, the term Kashrut also comes from the Hebrew root Kaf-Shin-Reish and refers to traditional or Rabbinical Kosher. It is more complex than biblical or Torah Kosher which is simply following biblical instructions. Kashrut Torah includes not only which animals can be consumed, but how they should be slaughtered, and how and when it is served. For example, all utensils used for the animals must be kosher.

 

Clean and Unclean Foods

Kosher Foods

According to the Torah, only certain kinds of animals are considered kosher. For land animals, any creature that both chews its cud and has cloven hooves is kosher (Leviticus 11:3). A cloven hoof is a hoof split into two toes. For creatures in rivers and seas, any fish that has both fins and scales is acceptable (Lev 11:9). For example, cod, haddock, salmon and trout are clean. Some insects are clean, such as the locust, the cricket and the grasshopper (Lev 11:21,22). Whilst not specifically mentioned, traditional Torah considers birds such as chicken, duck, geese and pheasant as kosher. Some see the distinction between clean and unclean birds is in what they eat; clean birds eat living things, not carrion, link.

Categories of Kosher foods: Today kosher foods are divided into three categories, meat, dairy and pareve. Meat must come from an animal that chews its cud and has split hooves e.g. cows, sheep, and goats (these animals generally eat grasses and grains that were also designed for food). All foods which are derived from, or contain milk are classified as dairy e.g. milk, butter, yoghurt, and cheese. Pareve are foods that are neither meat nor dairy, such as eggs, fish, fruit, vegetables, grains, pasta, coffee, and tea, link.

Non-kosher Foods

Any land animal that chews the cud but does not have cloven hoof, or vice versa, is unclean. A pig has cloven hoofs but does not chew the cud, whilst a hare chews the cud but does not have cloven hoofs; both are unclean (Lev 11:6,7). Similarly, any water creature that does not have both fins and scales is unclean (Lev 11:10). For example, shrimps, crabs, shark and swordfish are unclean. Deuteronomy 14 describes many birds and insects that are unclean and cannot be eaten, as in the buzzard, raven and seagull (well-known scavengers).

Rabbinical Kosher

As already mentioned, Rabbinical kosher is more complex than Torah kosher and specifies how an animal should be slaughtered, and how and when it is served. Rabbinical Kosher slaughtering is claimed to be more humane than non-kosher methods in that the animal does not feel pain, link. It is also much more sanitary. A very sharp blade is used to cut the windpipe, oesophagus and the major blood vessels in the neck with one uninterrupted stroke. Proponents say this causes an instant drop in blood pressure in the head, leading to rapid loss of consciousness and insensibility to pain. The bleed-out of the carcass is particularly important as Jewish law forbids adherents to consume blood (Lev 17:13-14).

Secular Law: Kosher slaughtering claims are disputed by some EU countries, who insist that all animals must first be stunned, link, link. Unfortunately, Kosher slaughter forbids stunning and so these new laws have caused kosher meat plants to close in parts of Belgium, for example. In England, an animal must be stunned before being killed unless it is religiously slaughtered, as for kosher meat.

Rabbis use the term “trayf” for any form of non-kosher food, link. The word is derived from the Hebrew “terēfáh”, which refers to an animal which suffered specific injuries. Trayf actually means “torn” or “shredded”. For example, animals which are kosher become trayf, if during the process of slaughtering, the slaughter knife becomes nicked which would tear the flesh. The Torah forbids eating animals whose flesh has been torn (Leviticus 17:15). Rabbis extend this concept to anything that is “out of place”. For example, an event that contaminates a kosher food, like cutting clean meats with the same utensils used to cut unclean meats, link.

Kosher and Health

At first glance the Torah appears to provide no specific reason why the Hebrews were given the food laws in Leviticus 11. Why are some creatures declared clean and some unclean? But what we do know is that all living things have a purpose. The pig eats the dead and the filth of the land. Likewise, the shrimp, crab, clam and similar water creatures keep the waters clean. And birds like seagulls, buzzards and vultures are scavengers from the air, feeding on carrion, dead plant material, or refuse. All these creatures are described as “unclean”, but clearly they have a cleansing purpose. Not surprisingly, God also declared someone who touched the carcass of a dead creature to be unclean until evening (Lev 11:24).

Modern Discoveries support Kosher Laws

As medical science has advanced, it is now clear that the food laws have a health benefit, link. For example, the Israelites were commanded to avoid eating animal fat or blood (Lev 3:17) – as a perpetual statute. Now modern science has discovered that animal fat is bad for us since heart disease is most commonly caused by fat deposits that build up in the arteries.

In their book None of these Diseases, Drs. McMillen and Stern show how to obtain extraordinary medical benefits simply by heeding the Word of God. Diligently following the Levitical laws does indeed have health benefits for modern man, just as God promised the Israelites in the Exodus:

If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you (Exod 15:26).

For example, even though horses and rabbits are consumed in some countries, they do not have split hooves and so are biblically unclean. We now know that horse meat often contains viruses and parasites, and rabbits are the cause of tularemia (an infectious disease) in humans. It was only discovered in the late 1800’s that animals carry diseases dangerous to man. A modern-day example is coronavirus (Covid-19) that is thought to have spread from bats, via an animal, to man. Bats are thought to be the natural host of the Ebola virus, rabies, SARS and MERS, with the latter two both coronaviruses similar to the one that emerged in Wuhan [CNN, 29-01-20].

Shellfish: Shellfish can be placed in a body of water that is contaminated with cholera bacteria, and they will purify the water. Shrimp, oysters, crab, scallops and mussels are particularly efficient at this. They filter large volumes of water every day. Sewage laden with chemicals, toxins and harmful bacteria, parasites and viruses become concentrated in those shellfish [Rex Russell, M.D.].

Pigs: These are of course well-known for being non-kosher. Why? Because pigs are scavengers, eating for example garbage, feces, and even decaying flesh. And because of their gluttony (over-eating), parasites, bacteria, viruses and toxins can pass into the pig’s flesh. So eating pork can result in toxins and infectious agents being passed on to humans, Rex Russell, M.D.. The toxins are held especially in the fat, which is dispersed throughout the meat and so cannot be separated, Colbert, M.D.. Pork products, particularly liver, frequently carry hepatitis E, which can cause severe complications and even death in vulnerable populations. Thorough cooking is necessary to deactivate the virus, link. In his book, Russell comments:

Scripture and medical research agree that modern lifestyles lived without reference to God’s laws and design shorten life and hasten death.

Kosher Laws: a Spiritual lesson for the Hebrews

Besides the clear role of kosher for health reasons, there is also a deep biblical reason. In fact, some claim that the kosher laws are not premised on bodily health at all, link. Rather, God introduced the concept of “clean” and “unclean” to the Hebrew people to remind them to be spiritually holy before Him:

You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps; nor shall you make yourselves unclean with them, lest you be defiled by them. For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy … (Lev 11:43-44)

kosher laws

Israeli fruit. Enlarge

So kosher laws taught God’s people to not only make a distinction between what is clean and unclean, but to differentiate between what is holy and unholy. Alongside social laws, kosher laws constituted a sophisticated object lesson for the Hebrews. They were intended to teach about separation and holiness, so preserving the Messianic line in preparation for the birth of Yeshua (Jesus). Together, the social and kosher laws were, and still are, intended to preserve both the Messianic line and the moral purity of the nation of Israel. Similarly, the extra rabbinical requirements for kosher purposefully sought to socially preserve the religious sanctity of the Jewish home. Of course – you can always eat Israeli fruit instead!

To extend this teaching, we can use the following analogy, link:

  • Unclean animals represented pagan nations around the Hebrews
  • Clean animals represented the Hebrew nation
  • The sacrificial animals represented the priests

Clearly, God used food to illustrate the spiritual separation between God’s chosen people and pagan Gentile nations.

Did Jesus keep Kosher?

Yes. Yeshua, a Jew, lived in a Jewish culture in which there was little choice other than to keep biblical kosher i.e. the dietary laws as given in the Torah. There was no option during Jesus’ time; they all kept kosher, link. Yeshua’s point of contention was never with the Torah, but with Rabbinical kosher or Kashrut. He disputed with the scribes and Pharisees who held to the “tradition of the elders” i.e. Kashrut (Mat 15:1-20). To counter their arguments Yeshua said:

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law (the Torah) or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill – (you are) teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (Mat 5:17; 15:9)

If Yeshua had not kept Torah kosher it would have been used against Him at His trial; but it was not. So, yes, Yeshua kept kosher.

Messianic Jews today: That said, some argue that, because Yeshua kept biblical kosher, this does not mandate Messianic Jews to keep kosher, link. Paul argued that “there is nothing unclean in itself” (Rom 14:14), but sometimes the believing Jews should keep kosher in order not to be a stumbling block to weaker brethren (Rom 14:14-23). Paul’s main point was to win Jews under the law to Yeshua (1 Cor 9:19-23).

Are Kosher laws for Christians?

Orthodox Jews argue that since the kosher laws were given specifically to the Hebrew nation (to remind them to be “holy” before their God), then kosher does not apply to Gentiles. They maintain that kosher is strictly part of the Israelites’ particular path to holiness, link, and Christians are not bound by the dietary restrictions in Leviticus 11, link.

So why should Gentile believers try to keep the food laws that were given specifically to the Jewish people under Moses? After all, the NT says believers are no longer under law.

Christians are not under the Law, but under Grace

Today, the traditional view is that the kosher laws are not applicable to the Church. It is pointed out that the Jewish leaders of the early church simply settled on three recommendations for Gentile believers, link: to abstain from things polluted by idols, from things strangled, and from blood (Acts 15:19,20). Today, believers have died with Christ, and those who have died are not bound by the Law, link. To quote Paul:

For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace (Rom 6:14)

But what law is Paul referring to? The Ten Commandments are essentially a summary of the entire Old Testament law. Apart from the fourth commandment (remembering the Sabbath day), the other nine commandments are repeated in the New Testament, and the greatest of these is to love God (Mat 22:37-38). Now loving God means keeping His word (Jn 14:23), and Leviticus 11 is God’s word. As we have seen, the food laws were given to Israel as a daily reminder to be holy, and they did this by avoiding things not designed by God for human consumption. So why shouldn’t the church follow the same wisdom? If the church rejects God’s words of wisdom, is she still loving God?

That said, most Christians still reject kosher and site well-known NT texts in their defense.

1. Texts used by Christians to reject Kosher laws

There are a number of NT texts which (appear to) say that no foods are unclean:

Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body [thus purifying all foods]” (Mark 7:18-19)

A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy” (Acts 10:13-15)

One believes he may eat all things … I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. (Rom 14:2,14)

No one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink … why, as though living in the world, do you submit yourself to regulations – “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (Col 2:16,20,21)

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will … advocate abstaining from foods which God has created … For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer (1 Tim 4:1-5)

Christians use these scriptures to reject the need to observe kosher and see it as solely for religious Jews.

1 Cor 10:28:27-28: In Paul’s time most meat sold in the markets had already been dedicated to a pagan god. If the believers knew with certainty that it had been so dedicated, Paul advised against eating it in order to demonstrate that they did not worship idols. Otherwise they should eat with a clear conscience. Today, the same goes for meat in India offered to a Hindu god, or halal food dedicated to the god of Islam (Allah). It is the endorsement of the pagan religion that is the problem, not the food.

2. The Real Meaning of the above Texts

It is worth revisiting the NT texts just highlighted since invariably they are taken out of context:

Mark 7:18-19: Was Jesus really abolishing Kosher observance for the Jews? To put chapter 7 into context, Jesus was really teaching about the custom of hand washing (v2); not the Torah of God. Also, in the most prominent modern Critical text (NU), the text in brackets is understood to be Mark’s comment that Jesus was declaring all foods clean.

Acts 10:13-15: Many Bible commentators understand that God was using symbolism here in order to make a point. They maintain that the unclean or common animals in the vision symbolized Gentiles, and Peter’s vision was not a New Testament certification for the eating of previously declared unclean foods, link. As Peter eventually realized, all believers in Christ, Gentile or believing Jew, are clean in God’s sight (Acts 10:28). Kosher was not the issue here. After all, why would God suddenly cancel the Levitical laws for Peter (a Jew) and not inform other Jewish believers?

Rom 14:2,14: Taking the whole chapter, Paul is really discussing whether it is acceptable for a believer to eat meat at all, since meat had often been offered to idols in a pagan temple (1 Cor 8:1). Paul is referring to the eating practice of vegetarianism, not kosher. Where there was uncertainty as to the meat’s history, the weaker brethren ate just vegetables (v2), presumably to “play safe”, link. They were not weak for keeping kosher. Paul concludes “eat whatever is sold in the meat market, but avoid it if you know it has been offered to idols” (1 Cor 10:25-28). Again, Kosher was not really being discussed in Romans 14.

Col 2:16-23: Here Paul is really asking believers to avoid legalism and look instead to Christ. He asks why are they following the self-imposed commandments and doctrines of men (v22) – as found in the complex regulations of Kashrut for example. When it came to food, Paul’s implication is that they should adhere to the relatively straightforward commandments of God, as found in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.

1 Tim 4:1-5: Here Paul argues that it is wrong to abstain from foods which God created, for every creature of God is good. What does Paul mean by the term “every”? An answer lies in God’s words to Noah when He said “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you” (Gen 9:3). Did this mean that Noah could now eat the offspring of the unclean animals on the Ark (Gen 7:2)? Was Noah now permitted to consume snails and mice and sit down to roast pig – creatures declared as unclean in Lev 11 and Deut 14? The answer must be that Noah (and Paul’s NT believers) could eat every creature that God has declared to be good for food. But not every creature has been declared good for food. So Paul’s listeners were really being encouraged differentiate between clean and unclean meat, not to abstain altogether, link.

Clearly, we must be careful not to read NT scriptures out of context. None of the above texts are discouraging Christians from trying to follow kosher.

Reasons why Christians should try to follow Biblical Kosher

Here biblical or Torah kosher is under discussion, not Rabbinical or Kashrut kosher. As we have seen, NT texts used to reject kosher laws are usually taken out of context and misused. Moreover, as discussed, a sign that Christians love God is if they keep His word. Consider:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness … for whatever things were written before were written for our learning … (2 Tim 3:16, Rom 15:4)

Early Church Teaching: In these texts Paul is pointing us to all the Hebrew scriptures, including the Torah (bear in mind there was no written NT). Timothy was not raised as a Jew and was likely converted to the Christian faith on Paul’s first missionary journey. As the younger man, he would have received his authority to preach in churches directly from Paul. So here, Paul was encouraging a new Christian and member of the early church to teach on all the inspired Hebrew scriptures. Undoubtedly, amongst his teaching Timothy must have upheld the Levitical food laws or he would have been in conflict with inspired scripture, and with the fact that Jesus followed kosher. So why has the church moved away from such teaching?

The Jewish Root of the Church: In Romans 11 Paul makes it clear that the Church is like a “wild olive branch”, grafted into Israel’s Olive Tree. So the true church is historically and spiritually connected to the Hebrew nation and God’s laws recorded in the Torah. Why then does the church ignore God’s food laws?

Furthermore, all trees begin from a root, and in Romans 11.16 we read of a holy root. This can be nothing less than a symbol for the one holy and eternal Creator God. So any branches of this tree must be holy since the root and the trunk are holy. Now recall that God used the concept of clean and unclean foods to repeatedly remind Israel of their need to be holy before Him. Likewise, the church is instructed to be holy before God (1 Pet 1:16), and the adoption of kosher laws would remind her of this.

Kosher in the Future: According to Bible prophecy, the world (Jew and Gentile alike) will adhere to the Hebrew scriptures in the (soon coming) Millennial age. For example, worship will be on the true Hebrew Sabbath (Isa 66:23), Hebrew will be the prominent language of Israel (Isa 19:18, Zeph 3:9), and nations will go up to Jerusalem to keep Jewish Feasts and worship Christ, the King (Zech 14:16). In those days, every cooking pot in Jerusalem will be declared holy to the LORD (Zech 14:21), which implies there will be no unclean food in the pot! Torah kosher will surely be observed.

Conclusion

Today’s institutionalized church invariably ignores her Hebraic background and adopts pagan concepts like Replacement Theology and Sunday worship. These are unholy acts and so it is not surprising that the Church also rejects biblical kosher (clean and unclean foods) and the daily prompting to be holy.

In order to please God, the Church should remember her Hebraic roots and acknowledge that she has moved away from Hebraic truths – and that must include what God declared good and not good to eat! Recall that as they entered Canaan the Hebrews were commanded to fear the Lord their God and to keep all His statutes and His commandments (which included the food laws). In return God promised that their days would be prolonged (Deut 6:2), which implies good health.

Christians also fear God (as in awe for Him) and keep His law (as written on their hearts). In return it seems that by trying to adhere to God’s wisdom on food, they can expect a long and healthy life, see Modern Discoveries. God didn’t change His mind regarding healthy and unhealthy foods between the Old and New Testaments! Unclean animals have a purpose – to cleanse land and waters as scavengers – but biblically, and according to modern science, generally they are not good to eat!

 

Who follows Kosher today?

Today kosher is a way of life for Orthodox Jews since they follow the Torah, but only some Messianic Jews observe kosher, link. In fact, today keeping kosher is an option for most Jews and only 8% of kosher consumers are actually religious Jews, link.

On the other hand, kosher has gone global and has become increasingly popular during recent years. For example, although only 2% of Americans are Jewish, over 40% of all packaged food in the US is certified kosher, link. Why is kosher so popular? It is because kosher is primarily seen not as a type or style of food; rather it refers to the ingredients, preparation process and inspection of the foods. Kosher foods are highly beneficial because of the strict rules under which they are produced, and because of the close inspection and monitoring that certification requires. For instance, kosher gives an assurance that a product does not include potential allergens such as shellfish. So today, most kosher consumers choose kosher for health and food safety reasons.


Revival of the Hebrew Language

Up to July 2018, tourist information said that Hebrew and Arabic were the official languages of the State of Israel, with English as a semi-official language. On the other hand, some saw only Hebrew as the official language in the future on the basis that Israel is not a multi-national country.

This Jewish view became law in July 2018 when the Knesset passed a new Basic Law – the controversial ‘nation state’ Law, link. Some key points:

  • Israel is the Jewish nation-state
  • Israel as the national home of the Jewish people
  • Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel
  • The state’s official language is Hebrew
  • The Arabic language has a special status in the state
  • Under certain arrangements, Arabic can still be used in state institutions

Apart from being the official language, there are other reasons why Hebrew is important today. One obvious reason is that a knowledge of the original text enriches a modern Bible translation. Another reason for studying Hebrew is found in Bible prophecy, which says that this ancient Canaanite language will soon be a common language in the Middle East, and especially in the Millennial Age to come:

In that day five cities in the land of Egypt will speak the language of Canaan
(Isa 19.18)
For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they may call on the name of the LORD (Zeph 3.9)

Here, prophecy clearly says that God will revive this ancient language as we approach the end of the age. This is amazing and unique in that Hebrew is the only ancient language that has survived into the modern era. In addition, Hebrew is a language known for its mind-boggling numeric and prophetic values, link.

An Example of the Ancient Hebrew Language

Most of the text in the Dead Sea Scrolls is written in ancient Hebrew.

Hebrew language

One of the Dead Sea Scrolls found in the Qumran Caves (located in the ancient Kingdom of Judah).
Image: Israel Antiquities Authority 1993, Wikimedia Commons

Modern Hebrew

Biblical (or Ancient) Hebrew is the archaic form of the Hebrew language and is best-attested in the Hebrew Bible (comprising 24 books). It is a Canaanite Semitic language spoken by the Israelites in Canaan. But as the Jews were scattered amongst the nations, spoken Hebrew gradually became confined to the reading of the Torah in the synagogues. It became the language of scholars and the scriptures, and in Jesus’ day Hebrew was the language of liturgy in the Temple. In fact, it is widely accepted that Jesus’s “everyday” spoken language would have been Aramaic, link.

So how does Modern (secular) Hebrew differ from biblical Hebrew? Just as the Ancient Greek of the New Testament differs from Modern Greek, so biblical Hebrew differs noticeably from Modern Hebrew, the national language spoken in modern-day Israel. But the differences are mainly in the areas of grammar, phonology, and vocabulary. Also the pronunciation of some of the consonants and vowels have changed over the centuries, but this does not affect the meaning of words and so speakers of Modern Hebrew can typically read an ancient text without difficulty, link.

Something Amazing

Today, Hebrew is spoken by some 90% of those who who arrived before 1989, link, link. This is quite remarkable since there is no other example in world history of an ancient language being revived as the spoken language of a modern nation. The restoration of biblical Hebrew to a modern day spoken language is a unique historical phenomenon, link. Like the restoration of Israel into their Promised Land, the restoration of biblical Hebrew is yet another sign of the God of Israel blessing His people.

 

Have a Look at the Hebrew Alphabet (Alephbet)

Hebrew language

Fig.1: The Hebrew Alphabet (click to enlarge)
By Assyrio , Wikimedia Commons

The English word “Alphabet” is derived from the first two letters of the Greek Alphabet; Alpha and Beta. The corresponding term in Hebrew is “Alephbet”, this being derived from the first two letters of the Hebrew Alephbet; Aleph and Bet. Figure 1 shows this Ancient Hebrew alphabet. It has 22 consonants and no vowels (the vowels are dots and dashes added above and below the consonants). The letters are in alphabetical order, written from right to left. Alef is the first letter of the Alephbet and Tav is the last.

Click on the image below to learn the Hebrew Alephbet. Listen to letter pronunciation and how to pronounce simple sentences.

Hebrew language

GO DEEPER

Jewish Festivals – Feasts of God

Jewish festivals

Most people have heard how the people of Israel were taken miraculously out of Egypt and away from the oppression of Pharaoh. To remember this event the religious people of Israel celebrate an annual feast called “Passover” (remembering how God’s angel ‘passed over’ the houses of Israel in Egypt and only struck the houses of the Egyptians). In fact, this is just one of seven annual Jewish festivals or feasts mentioned in the Old Testament.

But are these festivals or feasts really important in the 21st century? Are they of interest to Gentile nations?

Why concern ourselves with Old Testament Jewish festivals?

These festivals are important today for two basic reasons:

  • 1. They are vitally important to the people of Israel today (today’s ancestral “Jews”) since the God of Israel says so! God told Moses to instruct the people of Israel in the way of seven holy feasts (Lev 23). These are specific times in the Jewish year which are set apart to Elohim (God) in order to read and understand His laws and then apply them in their lives. So today’s Jewish festivals are really feasts of the LORD (Lev 23.2) – God’s feasts. They have a deep spiritual significance, and some are “statutes for ever” and go on into the next age on this earth.
  • 2. That leads us to the second reason why the feasts are important today. There is a hidden meaning (a coded message) embedded in the seven feasts conveying a message for all mankind. The feasts are not solely for the Jews. It speaks of how God deals with all mankind throughout this age and into the next (the Millennium). In fact, some of the feasts are mandated for both Jew and Gentile in the Millennial period, as in the Feast of Tabernacles:

    Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths (Zechariah 14 verse 16)

So Israel’s festivals (feasts) today are full of deep significance to both Jew and Gentile and should not be ignored.

GO DEEPER

Israel’s Blood Moons – Warnings?

See also Astronomical Signs in the Bible

At the end of this age there will be dramatic changes in the appearance of the sun and the moon. God says:

I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes (Joel 2.30,31)

This refers to the traumatic days and astronomical signs just prior to the Second Coming of Christ. Exactly what causes these events is not revealed.

In recent years there has been much interest in so-called “blood moons” as caused by the earth passing between the sun and the moon (a lunar eclipse). Such events are entirely predictable, see NASA lunar eclipses. But the events prophesied in the book of Joel seem unpredictable and sudden. Moreover, unless the present astronomical order is changed, Joel is probably not describing simultaneous solar and lunar eclipses since this is impossible, link.

blood moons

Blood Moon. Pixabay

Let’s look at those predictable blood moons. Some believe that even predictable events like this can be used by God as a sign of His interventions in world affairs, and especially in the affairs of Israel. There is special interest in the times when four consecutive lunar eclipses are all total eclipses, an event known as a tetrad.

There are eight tetrads in the 21st century, and two have already passed, link. Moreover, history shows that when the tetrad dates are close to, or coincide with the dates of Jewish festivals (God’s appointed feasts), then this may be a special sign or warning to Israel. Sometimes very serious events happen around these dates. So let’s first consider Israel’s appointed feasts.

Israel’s Feasts and Israel’s Blood Moons

Some of Israel’s feasts clearly continue beyond the end of this age and into the Kingdom age, the millennium. So, in passing, we might ask ‘Why are Israel’s feasts often overlooked by the church?’ Take for example Pesah (Passover). God instructed Israel to keep Pesah forever:

Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance (Exod 12.14)

Of course, Christ used His last Passover meal (Mat 26) to inaugurate the New Covenant to be made through His crucifixion, and Christians celebrate this in the Easter Eucharist (Holy communion) rather than through the Jewish Passover. Are Messianic Jews to obey Exod 12.14, or are they to accept Christ as the Passover Lamb? The answer is ‘both’. Yeshua’s Supper is temporary in nature – celebrated until He comes (1 Cor 11.26) – but the Passover is celebrated in the millennium, after Christ has come (Ezek 45.21), link.

As with the Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles was also decreed a ‘statute forever’ (Lev 23.41), and so we read that this feast continues into the Kingdom age, the millennial reign of Christ:

And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall … keep the Feast of Tabernacles (Zech 14.16)

Clearly, God requires at least some of Israel’s feasts to continue today and through into the next age on earth – the Millennium. They are certainly not past their sell-by date; they are incredibly relevant! So when we find some feasts synchronized in time with blood moons (often to the day), especially with tetrads (four consecutive total lunar eclipses), we might ask, “Is this a strange coincidence or is it planned by the God of Israel?” Is God’s synchronized celestial timing telling man – and especially Israel – that something very significant for Israel is to happen around that date?

 

Alignment of Israel’s Feasts with Blood Moon Tetrads: Warnings to Israel?

Not all tetrads appear significant for Israel. For instance, nothing of real significance happened in Israel around the 1927-1928 tetrad, link. But then none of the blood moons coincided with a Jewish feast, link. But occasionally, all four blood moons in a tetrad coincide with the start e.g. Pesach I, or close to the start, of the feasts of Pesach (Passover) or Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).

Consider the following tetrads from NASA [Format: blood moon date (Jewish feast and date)].

The 1493-1494 Tedrad

02-04-93 (Pesach 11-04-93), 25-09-93 (Sukkot 05-10-93), 22-03-94 (Pesach 31-03-94), 15-09-94 (Sukkot 24-09-94)

Here, the blood moons did not align exactly in time with the start of Pesach and Sukkot, link. Nevertheless, we can ask, ‘What happened to the Jews around this time?’ Answer: During 1492, in Grenada (Spain) the razing of the Jewish quarter was ordered by King Ferdinand, and the Church called for the expulsion of Jews from Spain. In 1493 some 37,000 Jews had to leave Sicily, and in 1494/95, Jews suffered in Poland, Lithuania and Italy, link. So this tetrad saw Europe-wide persecution of the Jews.

The 1949-1950 Tetrad

13-04-49 (Pesach 14-04-49), 07-10-49 (Sukkot 08-10-49), 02-04-50 (Pesach), 26-09-50 (Sukkot)

Here, there is near perfect alignment of blood moon and festival dates. So what happened to Israel around this time? Answer: the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli War, when five Arab armies (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq) invaded Israel. Armistice agreements were signed February-July 1949, link, resulting in the UN “Green Line” – simply a temporary, armistice line and not a border. Ever since, there have been repeated Palestinian demands for Israel to return to this so-called ‘border’.

The 1967-1968 Tetrad

24-04-67 (Pesach 25-04-67), 18-10-67 (Sukkot 19-10-67), 13-04-68 (Pesach), 06-10-68 (Sukkot 07-10-68)

Again, there is near perfect correspondence of dates. What happened to Israel around this time? Answer: the Six-Day War of June 5–10, 1967, when the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon (and later Iraq) attacked Israel. Their goal was “to wipe Israel off the map”, but instead Jews gained full access to all of Jerusalem – the fist time in nearly 2,000 years! A few months later an Arab summit conference formulated the Arab consensus that underlay the official policies of most Arab states for the next two decades and beyond: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”

The 2014-2015 Tetrad

15-04-14 (Pesach), 08-10-14 (Sukkot 09-10-14), 04-04-15 (Pesach), 28-09-15 (Sukkot)

There is near perfect correspondence of dates. In addition, this tetrad is rather unique in that it spans a Shemittah (sabbatical) year, starting 25-09-2014 and ending 13-09-2015. This is a time of rest for Israel’s agriculture and a time for strengthening bonds with God. Since past tetrads have been difficult times for Jews, the Shemittah year is timely! When ancient Israel observed sabbatical years God provided enough food in the sixth year for three years (Lev 25.20,21)! He is still the same God who provides for those who keep mitzvot (God’s commands).

What happened around this time? Many regarded the time around Sukkot 2015 as the start of the third Intifada (Palestinian uprising) against Israel. Early October saw the start of unprovoked stabbings of Israeli citizens, link, link.

The 2032-2033 Tetrad

25-04-32 (Pesach 27-03-32), 18-10-32 (Sukkot 20-09-32), 14-04-33 (Pesach), 08-10-33 (Sukkot)

Here, only the blood moons in 2033 coincide with Pesach and Sukkot. But the time alignment is closer than for the 1493-94 tetrad. So again, this may be a crucial time for Israel and for the world. For instance, NASA says there is a remote possibility of a huge asteroid impact in 2032, and the Bible suggests such an impact in Rev 8.8. On the other hand, since 2032 is rather distant, Christ may have returned by then anyway!

TAGS FOR ISRAEL’S BLOOD MOONS
For in-depth discussion, see for example Pray4Zion
For the Jewish Calendar for a specific year, see for example Calendar_1 or Calendar_2
For NASA blood moon dates, and tetrads, see for example NASA_tetrads

 

End-time Blood Moons

As already noted, the prophet Joel described major disturbances in the sun and the moon immediately prior to the return of Christ. Jesus also said that there will be cosmic disturbances just prior to His return to earth:

The sun and the moon will not give their light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven
(Mat 24.29,30)

No blood moon here – but look at the traumatic times just prior to this:

There was a great earthquake; the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to earth
(opening of the sixth seal, Rev 6.12,13)
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood
(cosmic disturbances visible in Israel, Joel 2.31)

Do these prophecies indicate a simultaneous solar and lunar eclipse? No, at least not according to the present astronomical order. The sun-moon-earth alignments are distinctly different for the two eclipses; a total solar eclipse can only happen at a new moon when the moon passes between the sun and the earth (sun-moon-earth alignment), whereas a total lunar eclipse can only happen on a full moon (sun-earth-moon alignment). So, since the lunar cycle is about 29.5 days, the minimum amount of time that can possibly occur between a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse is two weeks, link.

image1

Let us assume that the current astronomical order is undisturbed and so discount simultaneous eclipses. There may be some other astronomical reason for the sun darkening and the moon turning to blood. Note that Mat 24 and Rev 6 both refer to ‘stars falling from heaven’ (meteorites?). And in Rev 8 we read of ‘a great mountain burning with fire’ being thrown into the sea, and ‘a great star falling from heaven burning like a torch’ (asteroids?). Some argue that it could be these cosmic impacts upon the earth that cause the possibly simultaneous darkening of the sun, and the reddening of the moon. Huge impacts, possibly related to the great earthquake of Rev 6, could cause massive and long-lasting atmospheric disturbances on earth. It has also been proposed that a simultaneous solar and lunar eclipse might occur in the presence of a large asteroid (or near earth object), link.

Conclusion: End time blood moons as in the Joel and Revelation prophecies may not be created by lunar eclipses, but rather by prophesied earth impacts from space. Having said that, the present astronomical order predicts that between 2016 and 2030 there will be a total of twelve more total lunar eclipses (full blood moons) visible in different parts of the world, link.

Jews

Jewish Customs – Kingdom Clues

Some Jewish customs allude to major world events in the near future. They act like parables, giving clues and pointers to events in the future. Jesus Himself spoke in parables about a coming kingdom on this earth – the Kingdom of God. According to prophecy, Jesus will soon meet His true church “in the air” and He will soon be “King over all the earth”, governing firmly from Jerusalem with a “rod of iron”. Let’s consider two of these customs which point to these momentous events.

 

The Jewish Chair Dance (the ‘Hora’)

CLUE

Jewish Chair Dance. Image: Orí / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The Jewish wedding and the chair dance … an allusion to the Resurrection?

A Jewish wedding is not complete without the famous chair dance. The bride and the groom sit in chairs carried up in the air by the guests and the bride meets her husband “in the air”. Bride and groom are connected with a piece of cloth.

This is a familiar imagery for readers of the New Testament. The book of Thessalonians says that Christ will be like a bridegroom meeting his bride (the church) up “in the clouds” at the end of this age:

Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thes 4.17)

Spiritually speaking, the bride is “connected” to the bridegroom since individual believers (forming the church) are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ. Christ then returns to this earth with resurrected believers to reign as King during the Millennium. Is this pure coincidence, or purposeful injection of imagery into Jewish customs?

 

Bread Making – Rising Dough

Jewish customs: rising-dough

Photo credit: nathanborror / Foter / CC BY

The Jewish tradition of high-rising bread dough evokes the coming kingdom that will fill the whole earth

Jews have an excellent reputation for making good bread. The soft, chewy New York bagels, the nutty pretzels and many other baked delights have been mastered by this people. It is noteworthy that the Bible is replete with text related to bread. The coming kingdom of God is likened to a woman’s dough that rose and rose from a simple batch of flour and leaven. The Kingdom of God is said to be a kingdom that will “fill the whole earth”:

For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Isa 11.9)

The Hebrew holy festivals are marked by bread offerings that are “a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”


Genesis 12 verse 3: a verse that shapes history

Summary

When God told Abram (Abraham) to go to “a land that I will show you” (Canaan), He promised to make him “a great nation”, and that in him “all families of the earth shall be blessed”. This was an unconditional promise: the nation turned out to be the Jewish nation, Israel, and through Abraham’s descendants came Christ, the Saviour of the world. God also said:

And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. (Genesis chapter 12 verse 3, NASB).

This verse has never been abrogated and since it refers to both Abraham and his descendants it is true today until the the end of the age. Some 3,500 years have now passed and, in accord with this verse, world history has been shaped by how individuals, people groups and nations have treated the Jewish people. Yes, they have suffered, but a remnant always survives:

All things are mortal but the Jews; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality? [Mark Twain, 1897]

Understanding Genesis 12 Verse 3

The Abrahamic Covenant is formally given in Genesis 15 and 17, but the elements are laid in Genesis 12:2-3. The covenant is wholly gracious and unconditional. The descendants of Abraham only had to abide in their own land to inherit every blessing. Unfortunately, verse 3 is often mistranslated from the Hebrew, so let’s look at a few English translations:

And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee … (King James Version, KJV)

I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you … (New King James Version, NKJV)

And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses [reviles] you I will curse [bind under a curse] … (New American Standard Bible, NASB)

I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse … (English Standard Version, ESV)

And I will bless (do good for, benefit) those who bless you, and I will curse [that is, subject to My wrath and judgment] the one who curses (despises, dishonors, has contempt for) you … (Amplified Bible, AMP]

 

Working backwards from the English to Hebrew can be misleading, but let’s try it. Taking the NASB text and inserting the corresponding Hebrew word from Strong’s Concordance we get:

And I will “baruch” those who “baruch” you, and the one who “qalals” you I will “arar” …

Here, the Hebrew ‘baruch’ (Strongs 1263) means ‘to bless’, ‘to praise’, ‘to give thanks’. Now note that the two verbs ‘curses’ and ‘curse’ have different Hebrew roots; both Hebrew verbs ‘arar’ and ‘qalal’ can be translated “curse,” link. The Hebrew ‘‘arar’’ (Strongs 779) means to ‘execrate’ (express great loathing for), ‘bitterly curse’ or ‘bind under a curse’. In contrast, some take ‘qalal’ (Strongs 7043) to mean ‘make light of’, ‘treat as trivial’, ‘revile’ or have ‘contempt’ for. But is this translation correct?

Working forwards: Hebrew to English

Genesis 12 verse 3

As stated, working backwards from English to Hebrew can be misleading. The query concerns the root ‘qalal’ since it is the root for two Hebrew verbs. In its most basic form, L’hakel (להקל), it means to ‘make light of’ or ‘to belittle’ (as mentioned). But in its intensive form, l’kalel (לקלל), it means to curse or revile, link. The significant point is that Gen 12:3 uses the intensive form, link. See l’kalel.

Having identified the correct form of the Hebrew root ‘qalal’ in Gen 12:3, we can identify the more accurate translations. The ESV and AMP translations seem misleading, whilst the NASB with alternative meanings inserted seems more accurate:

I will bless those who bless you, and the one who reviles you I will bind under a curse … (Gen 12:3, NASB)

To revile means to criticize strongly, to hate, to be contemptuous, speak of abusively, or say unpleasant things about a person or people group e.g. Israel.

Application of Genesis 12 verse 3

Having a clearer understanding of the Hebraic background to this verse, we can now ask ourselves ‘to whom, and when, does this verse apply?’

First, the personal pronoun ‘you’ must translate to Abraham’s descendants; after all, Abraham himself was not made into a great nation, but his descendants were (see Gen 26:4). So God’s blessing applies to all those Gentiles who at least speak well of Abraham’s descendants, Israel, whether they have faith (Gal 3:7), or not. All Gentiles in the world, throughout history, should bless and befriend the Jews if they want to earn God’s favor (using today’s common terminology, ‘Jew’ is any descendant from Abraham, link). For example, Gentiles bless Israel when they “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Ps 122:6-9). Remember also that, through Abraham, “all the families of the earth” were to be blessed (Jew and Gentile) – a reference to the true Jewish Messiah, Yeshua (verse 3b).

Similarly, ‘the one’ must apply to all individuals, groups or nations throughout history. For example, in the millennial age rebellious nations are judged harshly for not honouring Israel:

the nation and the kingdom which will not serve you [Israel] will perish … (Isa 60:12)
And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them (Zech 14:17)

In summary, God’s warning was never abrogated and applies to all time dispensations. It applied during Israel’s exodus from Egypt, to Babylonian rule, to Germany and the holocaust, and to Arabic aggression against Israel today. In short, how nations and individuals treat Israel has shaped history, and still does. It is dangerous to severely criticize, treat with contempt, hate or try to eliminate the Jewish nation, Israel. To do so endangers God’s curse. History shows God’s curse for such lack of respect and disdain is to invoke harsh judgment. It is better to be blessed by God by blessing Israel His people than to come under God’s curse. ‘Blessing’ in the Old Testament essentially relates to divine bestowal of prosperity onto humans, link.

Genesis 12 verse 3 in History

Destruction of the Egyptian army

God sometimes leads Israel’s enemies against her in order to honor His name. This happened in the case of Pharaoh when He hardened his heart to chase the supposedly trapped Israelites at the Red Sea (Exod 14). It will happen again in the imminent Gog-Magog war (Ezek 38 and 39).

Pharaoh was clearly an enemy of the Israelites. It took nine plagues and then the death of Egypt’s first born for Israel to be released from humiliating slavery. But, it seems, Pharaoh needed one more demonstration of the power of the God of Israel. The Bible says that when Pharaoh’s army entered the dry land in the midst of the sea it was destroyed (Exod 14:26-31). Archaeological evidence for the biblical exodus is available, link, link.

The Defeat of the Amalekites

The Amalekites were an ancient biblical nation living near the land of Canaan, link. They are notorious since they were the first nation to attack the Jewish people after the Exodus from Egypt. It happened while the Jews were recuperating from their escape from Egypt (Exod 17:8-13). The Amalekites launched a vicious surprise attack on them — even though the Jews had no designs on Amalekite territory. In response, Moses asked Joshua to fight against the Amalekites, whilst Moses himself would stand on a hill top with the rod of God in his hand (v10).

The Amalekites were finally defeated, and subsequently God ordered Moses to record the treacherous attack of the Amalekites for everlasting memory. Today the Jews regard Amalek as representing the worst form of evil, link.

The Destruction of Tyre

Modern Tyre. Wikipedia. Ankara, Creative Commons

Ancient Tyre was in two parts. The first part was on the mainland and the second was on an island about a kilometer from the shoreline. Over time, the island portion of the city became very wealthy and heavily fortified. It also served as the city’s religious center, where they worshiped pagan gods, particularly the fertility god “Baal”. Despite pagan worship, God’s anger against Tyre appears to have been aroused only when she declared her aggression against Jerusalem:

‘Aha! She is broken who was the gateway of the peoples; now she is turned over to me; I shall be filled; she is laid waste.’(Ezek 26:2)

To this, God declared:

‘Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring up many nations against you … they will destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; and I will scrape her debris from her and make her a bare rock. She will be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea’ (Ezek 26:3-5)

This prophecy was fulfilled by Alexander the Great when he built a land bridge from the mainland to the island of Tyre in 333-332 BC. Alexander’s forces took rubble (stones, timber and soil, v12) from Tyre’s mainland and built a causeway to capture the island. Ancient Tyre (the island) is no more, see archaeological verification. Modern Tyre occupies the northern half of the island and also sprawls across Alexander’s causeway and onto the mainland, link, link, link.

Judgment upon Russia – Communism

Pogroms (antisemitic violence) erupted in Russia in the late 19th century and went on into the early 1920’s. Pogrom is a Russian word meaning ‘to wreak havoc’ and at this time Russian authorities initiated violence, including slaughter, against Jews.

But, in turn for Jewish persecutions, did God ‘wreak havoc’ upon the Russian people themselves by bringing in repressive communism? The Russian (or Bolshevik) Revolution took place in 1917 when working class people of Russia revolted against the Tsar. They were led by Vladimir Lenin and a group of revolutionaries and a communist government set in. Stalin came to power after Lenin in 1924. In the 1930’s Stalin’s communist terror engulfed the USSR, sending millions to labour camps or firing squads. He destroyed the remnants of individual freedom and failed to promote individual prosperity, link, link.

Stalin’s war against the Soviet Jews: A gradual liquidation of Jewish cultural institutions also set in with Stalin’s ascent to power, link. Part of Stalin’s antisemitism was to conjure up the so-called Doctor’s Plot, in which the Kremlin doctors, most of them Jews, ‘confessed’ under torture that they had deliberately misdiagnosed health problems of Soviet leaders. In fact, the doctors were released immediately after Stalin’s death and completely rehabilitated.

Genesis 12 verse 3

Coat of Arms of the Russian Federation. Wikimedia. Enlarge

Stalin’s timely death: Stalin suffered a stroke on February 28, 1953. Curiously, it was on the same day as the Jewish holiday of Purim. This festival commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia (Iran) from Haman’s plot to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews in a single day (see the Old Testament book of Esther). It was also on the same day that deportations to Siberia of more than one million Jews from Moscow alone and millions more from other parts of the Soviet Union were to begin, link. Was this the outworking of Genesis 12 verse 3 – God’s judgment upon those who hate the Jews?

Russia’s Jew-hate Today: It is claimed that today Russia is the global leader in Jew-hate (does the Coat of Arms of the Russian Federation imply this? See Israel’s enemies). Germany has by no means been history’s top purveyor of global antisemitism. That distinction goes to Russia, which has spread antisemitism more widely and durably, link. Will God’s judgment upon Russia for her treatment of Jews be completed in the imminent Gog-Magog war? Here Russia is totally defeated and humiliated.

Germany’s Jew Hatred

Hitler capitalized on antisemitic ideas that had been around for a long time. By blaming the Jews for the WWI defeat, Hitler created a stereotypical enemy. In the 1920’s and early 1930’s, the defeated country was still in a major economic crisis, but the Nazis argued that expelling the Jews was the solution. This political message and the promise to make Germany economically strong again won Hitler the elections in 1932.

After Hitler came to power, the laws and measures against the Jews steadily increased. Nazi anti-Jewish policy constituted legal measures to expel the Jews from society and strip them of their rights and property, while engaging in incitement, abuse, terror and violence, link. It ended in the Shoah, the Holocaust, the murder of six million European Jews, link.

As promised in Genesis 12 verse 3, it appears Hitler’s Germany experienced God’s curse for hating the Jews. At the end of the war Germany was in utter chaos, link:

Displaced Persons’ were roaming about the country, often looting as they went. Transportation and communication services had ceased to function. Agriculture and industry were largely at a standstill. Food was scarce and there was a serious risk of famine and disease during the coming months. And to crown it all there was no central government in being, and the machinery whereby a central government could function no longer existed [Field Marshall Montgomery, 1945]

The leaders of this people cause them to err, and those who are led by them are destroyed (Isa 9.16)

Britain’s Blessing – Prosperity

In the 18th and 19th centuries you’d be hard pressed to find Bible teachers who weren’t defenders of the Jews, men such as Lord Shaftesbury, William Wilberforce, J.C. Ryle, Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley and more. Interestingly, this was an age of great evangelistic efforts, notably among the Jews, and particularly among the Jewish population of the East London of Charles Dickens, link.

When it comes to Britain’s leaders, the Jew Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881) twice served as UK Prime Minister and led the Conservative party for nearly three decades. It has been said “Many modern Conservatives look back on Disraeli as their prophet, high priest and philosopher rolled into one”. Notably, there was a lack of anti-Jewish violence in Britain in the 19th and early 20th century, link.

It was during these centuries that Britain prospered through the revolution of industry and transport, link. For a few decades in the 19th century British manufactured goods dominated world trade, link.

Britain’s betrayal of the Jews

In 1917 the British Foreign Office stated:

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people … it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine [A.J. Balfour, British Foreign Office]

This became known as the Balfour declaration. The 1920 San Remo Peace Conference gave Britain a provisional ‘Mandate for Palestine’ based upon the Balfour Declaration and this was formalized in 1922 by the Council of the League of Nations, link. The primary objective of the Mandate was to grant political rights in respect to Palestine to the Jewish people. The 1920 Mandate defined “Palestine” as spanning both west and east of the Jordan.

 

Britain Reneged on the Mandate

The 1922 League of Nations sub-division. Image courtesy Eli E. Hertz. Enlarge

The Peel and Woodhead commissions of 1937/38 recommended partitioning Palestine into a small Jewish state and a large Arab state, a proposal hardly honouring the Mandate. It was rejected by the Arab leadership. There’s worse. The British White Paper of 1939 was a statement of policy that severely compromised the British commitment to the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The White Paper limited Jewish immigration to Palestine to just 75,000 over a five year period. The policy therefore repudiated the Balfour Declaration and Britain’s commitments under the League of Nations just at the time of greatest need for a sanctuary for Jewish refugees, link.

It got even worse. In July 1947 the ship ‘The Exodus’ was carrying Jewish emigrants to British Mandatory Palestine, link. It carried 4515 men, women and children – most of whom were Holocaust survivors. The British navy attacked the Exodus to resist her landing in Palestine. When she did eventually land, some Jews were forcibly removed to be reloaded onto ships sailing back to Europe.

In Summary: Britain essentially failed in her charge to establish a Jewish homeland, and it was left to the UN and to the Jews themselves.

Did God Judge Britain for Betraying the Jews?

Some see Britain’s general decline commencing around 1947/48, when she finally reneged on her Mandate for Palestine and handed it over to the United Nations, link.

Britain’s Declining Navy: Britain once boasted the most powerful navy in the world. The British Navy steadily increased from the 1700’s to reach a peak fleet size in 1945 of some 800 destroyers and frigates, link. But by 1950 there had been a rapid decline to 250 destroyers and frigates, and by 2017 Britain had just 19!

Britain’s Declining Empire: Around 1920/21 Britain’s Empire reached a territorial peak, covering 24% of the Earth’s land area, link. It is interesting to note that this occurred when Britain was mandated with helping the Jews find a homeland in Palestine (1917, 1920, 1922). But between 1945 and 1965 the number of people under British rule outside the UK itself fell from 700 million to just 5 million, link.

The merits and sins of such an Empire are debatable, but the fact remains that Britain very rapidly lost her world influence from about 1945, and this continued to the close of the millennium.

Over the next decade, Britain’s pretensions to be a great power will evaporate … with rapidly shrinking military and diplomatic influence” [The Guardian, 2009]

For many, the transfer of Hong Kong to China in 1997 marked the end of the British Empire.

Britain’s Declining Economy: In the early 1950’s Britain was an industrial giant, with an output per head 30% ahead of the six founder members of the EEC. But within 50 years it had been overtaken by many European and several Asian countries. Today, UK manufacturing accounts for just 11% of GDP. See “The Slow Death of British Industry: a 60-Year Suicide, 1952-2012” [NewStatesman, 2013].

Genesis 12 verse 3 Today

According the Genesis 12 verse 3, today’s institutionalized church is in danger of God’s judgement. Why? because in general it embraces some forms of Antisemitism. This is often in the form of antisemitic rhetorical speech or writing, or in social action and political maneuvering against the Jewish State.

The world will also see God’s anger vented upon Islamic nations who today revile, and in the the near future, war against the Jewish state.

Antisemitism in the Institutionalized Church

The World Council of Churches (WCC): The WCC is an ecumenical movement promoting Christian unity across many denominations, including Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed churches and the United Church of Christ. It represents over 500 million Christians in more than 100 countries and territories. A key objective is the breaking down barriers between people and seeking justice and peace.

WCC’s flagship project on the Arab-Israeli conflict is called EAPPI, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel. Despite WCC’s noble objective of ‘breaking down barriers and seeking justice and peace’, the activities of EAPPI are biased against Israel. In particular, it is claimed EAPPI recruits activists abroad, sends them to Israel for three months and trains them to lead anti-Israel campaigns, link. In addition, NGO MONITOR claims EAPPI:

  • rejects the link between Israel and the Jewish people
  • rhetoric accuses Israel of ‘apartheid’ and ‘war crimes’
  • strengthens work on sanctions and suspension of US aid to Israel
  • encourages civil disobedience action
  • encourages churches to join campaigns for economic boycotts e.g. BDS
  • supports Palestinian ‘Right of Return’
  • stresses Israel’s ‘land occupation’
  • lobbies the EU to impose sanctions on Israel
  • supports the call for the UK to apologize for the Balfour DeclaratiOn

 

The Kairos Document: The WCC is a promoter of the Kairos Palestine document. This group of Palestinian Christians repeatedly claims Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, claims Israeli settlements ravage Palestinian land, claims daily humiliation of Palestinian workers, and stresses the ‘right of return’ of refugees. It is also claimed that Kairos characterizes terrorist acts of armed resistance as ‘Palestinian legal resistance’, denies the Jewish historical connection to Israel in theological terms, compares Israel with the South African apartheid regime, and calls churches worldwide to engage in BDS.

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS): This is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. In 2005 the WCC encouraged its member churches ‘to explore ways of avoiding economic participation in illegal activities related to the Israeli occupation’, link. The BDS campaign is an example. It is claimed that major UK churches have adopted the anti-Israel BDS agenda, link.

Jewish Reaction: Given such activities, it is not surprising that the UK Jewish Board of Deputies has described the EAPPI (aka WCC) as ‘inflammatory and partisan’ and accused it of ‘creating a climate of hostility towards Israel within the Church of England’.

Given how the WCC reviles the Jewish people, it’s an open question as to how the God of Israel will enact Genesis 12 verse 3. Is the WCC (and the member churches that support its views) part if the apostate church of Revelation 17 which is eventually ‘burned with fire’?

Aggression from Islamic Nations

Some see today’s Arab-Israeli/Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be rooted in biblical history, namely in the hostile Amalekites. The nation of Amalek is long gone, but many Israelis see Amalek living on in their daily enemies, link. One such enemy is Iran.

Today, Islam repeatedly reviles the Jewish state. Israel is criticized in the most hateful way:

Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it [Hamas Charter, 1988]

The very existence of the Zionist regime is an insult to humanity [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, August 2012]

Israel is a malignant cancerous tumor … that has to be removed and eradicated [Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, April 2018]

How will Genesis 12 verse 3 Apply? In the immediate future there will be an Islamic invasion of Israel from the north. Many see this as being headed by Russia and Iran. Meanwhile, the western nations simply standby and observe (Ezek 38:13). What happens? The invaders are completely defeated by the God of Israel (Ezek 38:18-23). They will “fall upon the mountains of Israel” (Ezek 39:1-8). Moreover, God will be magnified in the eyes of many nations (Ezek 38:23, 39:21), and Islam will be humiliated. Is this an example of the curse God places upon those who curse Israel?