Britain’s well-being seems linked to how she has responded to the Jews. History shows that when Britain clearly supported the Jews she seemed to be blessed. From Cromwell’s time until the early 1920’s Britain acted favourably towards the Jews, and during this time Britain became wealthy through industrial innovation and global trading. Conversely, when Britain clearly failed the Jews between 1922 and 1948, she saw a sudden and dramatic loss of influence and wealth. Today, her lack of clear support for the State of Israel could be further contributing to Britain’s decline.
Blessing and Cursing in the Abrahamic Covenant
When God called Abraham (Abram) He made the following unconditional covenant (Genesis 12.2-3):
I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed
Inserting the original Hebrew, Gen 12.3 reads, link:
I will bless (Heb: barak) those who bless (Heb: barak) and the one who curses (Heb: qalal) you I will curse (Heb: arar) (Gen 12.3, NASB)
Here, ‘barak’ (Strong’s 1288) means to bless, to kneel down, to congratulate, to praise, to salute. The Hebrew “qalal” (Strong’s 7043) means to despise, to afflict, to treat as trivial. The Hebrew ‘arar’ (Strong’s 779) means: to curse, to be under a curse, to bring a curse. In modern terminology, the term ‘curse’ can be seen as “A solemn utterance intended to invoke a supernatural power to inflict harm or punishment on someone or something“, link. So curse can convey the notion of judgement on an individual, organization or even a whole nation.
At first reading, the text appears to point to the blessing (or cursing) of Abraham himself, link. But later texts clarify that this covenant applies to Abraham and his descendants (Gen 12.7, Gen 13.15, Gen 15.18, Gen 17.7-8). Abraham’s descendants were Isaac and Jacob (Israel, Gen 35.10)) and the 12 tribes of Israel. So when Isaac blessed Jacob, he said to him:
May peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you; be master of your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you (Gen 27.29)
We also read:
Blessed is everyone who blesses you, O Israel, and cursed is everyone who curses you (Num 24.9, NLT)
So clearly, the ‘blessings’ and ‘curses’ of the Abrahamic Covenant apply to those who bless and curse the people of Israel – the Jews.
The Covenant is ‘Everlasting’
God told Abraham to ‘look to the stars’. His descendants would be uncountable, as are the stars. So it is not surprising that the Abrahamic Covenant is ‘an everlasting covenant’ (Gen 17.7); it applies today and in the future. For example, the land of Canaan (modern Israel) is given to Abraham’s descendants ‘as an everlasting possession’ (Gen 17.8). This was in mind when the British Government made the Balfour Declaration in 1917, and over the past 100 years Jews have immigrated to Israel for this very reason, link. Also, Jewish males are circumcised today as a sign of this everlasting covenant (Gen 17.11). The everlasting aspect of the covenant also means that those who ‘curse’ Israel today, or in the future, will endanger God’s anger. This could be a factor in Britain’s decline.
Cursing of the Nations
In Biblical Times: What happened to those nations who opposed Israel in biblical times? The nation of Egypt was judged for its treatment of the children of Israel. In the times of Joshua and the judges, the Canaanites were conquered and subdued, and those that remained became tributary to the Israelites. In the times of David (a descendant of Jacob in the line of Judah) the Philistines, Moabites, Syrians, Ammonites, and Edomites, became subject to him. In these examples, whole nations were singled out for cursing.
In Modern Times: We must ask ourselves what it means to curse (Heb: qalal) Israel today. Recall that the Hebrew ‘qalal’ means “to be slight, to be swift, to be trifling, to be of little account, to despise, to afflict, to treat as trivial”, link. Would support of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement qualify? Probably. Would the Replacement Theology of many institutionalized churches qualify? Probably. Would the lack of church teaching on Israel qualify? Probably. Would the frequent UN sanctions against Israel qualify? Probably. Would the hate speech against Israel from Iran’s leaders qualify? Probably. Would Hitler’s slaughter of 6 million Jews qualify? Most definitely.
We could go on, but the point has surely been made. These individuals, organizations, and even complete nations appear to be in danger of God’s curse or judgement. Britain’s decline can be seen in this light. The judgement of complete nations is seen by the prophet Jeremiah:
At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it (Jer 18.7-8)
God’s Dealing with Nations in the Future
At the end of this age the God of Israel will call the nations to account:
I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land. (Joel 3.2)
‘Jehoshaphat’ means ‘the judgment of Jehovah’. So the ‘Valley of Jehoshaphat’ may be used as a general term for the theater of God’s final judgments or curse on Israel’s foes. The prophecy says that the nations will be judged as to how they have treated God’s people (the Jews) and how they have treated the land (Canaan) promised to Abraham’s descendants. Jesus may be referring to the same end-time scenario in His parable of the sheep and the goats:
But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left (Mat 25.31-33)
There are various interpretations of this parable. But given the similarity to Joel 3, and taking the ‘dispensational view’ of prophecy, the parable can be understood to apply to whole nations. Note that Jesus separates “one (nation) from another” before judgement (verse 32). Then He says that whatever good these nations have done to His brethren they have done to Him (verse 40). Who are His brethren? The context here appears to be the Jewish people. So the parable is often taken to refer to how nations have treated God’s people Israel, link.
In the Millennium: The blessing and cursing also extends into the Millennial age. The prophet Zechariah says that those nations who refuse to worship Christ the King in Jerusalem will suffer drought (Zech 14.17-19). It seems that those nations who refuse to bless God’s people, Israel, will suffer. Here God singles out individual nations, as in Egypt.
The Covenant and Britain
We have seen how the Abrahamic Covenant is ‘everlasting’ and how it applies to individuals, to organizations and to whole nations. Historically, those nations who have mistreated Abraham’s descendants, the Jews, have been judged (cursed). What about Britain? A detailed examination of Britain’s history shows that Britain has been ‘blessed’ and ‘cursed’ over a span of hundreds of years, depending upon how Britain has responded to the Jews. In particular, Britain’s decline (economically, politically and morally) mid-20th century can be linked to her failure to carry out her promises to the Jews in the 20th century.
How has Britain Blessed Israel?
Britain welcomes Jews: The Abrahamic Covenant says “I will bless those who bless you” (Gen 12.3). So when Britain opened up her borders to Jews under Oliver Cromwell around 1656 AD this was a way of blessing God’s people. Jews came to England in increasing numbers, and by 1919 the Jewish population in England had increased from 46,000 in 1880 to about 250,000 link. For the most part Britain’s Jews have been well-treated, and over the years many Jews served in the British Parliament, including Benjamin Disraeli as Prime Minister. It has been said that Jews in Britain have provided the perfect example of an immigrant people able to retain their identity while playing a full part in society, link.
British support for Zionism (a Jewish homeland): The mid-late 19th century saw a great move of God amongst leading Protestants. Protestant leaders like Bishop J.C. Ryle and Charles Spurgeon taught about the restoration of Jews to their biblical homeland, as seen in Bible prophecy. So with the support of influential Jews like Theodor Herzel, ‘Zionism’ was born. Importantly, Prime Minister Lloyd George (who had an evangelical upbringing) made the decision to publicly support Zionism. In fact, many believe the British government was used by God to encourage the formation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This came through the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the 1922 British Mandate for Palestine. Alongside the liberation of Jerusalem by General Allenby in 1917, these were the last great acts of the British Empire, link.
Did God Bless Britain?
Given generally strong British support for the Jewish people from Cromwell’s time, it is reasonable to ask; “Did God bless Britain as a result?” Consider the following:
- Britain’s industrial revolution (eventually giving the country great wealth) started around 1700 AD, link
- In the mid-1700’s, the ministries of preachers like Wesley (1703-1791) and Whitefield (1714-1770) ushered in a period of great spiritual revival
- From the 1730’s to the mid-20th century, Britain was a world leader in missionary activity through individuals such as John Wesley, William Carey, Robert Morrison, David Livingstone, Robert Bruce, Hudson Taylor, C.T.
Studd and Gladys Aylward
- By the late 1700’s Britain had a large empire, with colonies in America and the West Indies, link. It was not all ‘good’, with Britain profiting from slavery. But in 1833 Britain countered her errors with the Slavery Abolition Act.
- In the 18th and 19th centuries Jews established banking and businesses in Britain and abroad. They also became academics, scientists and horticulturalists with worldwide reputations. Eastern European Jews brought with them a long history as skilled entrepreneurial middlemen. London provided excellent financing opportunities for entrepreneurs, link.
- The years 1815 to 1914 are referred to as Britain’s imperial century. This period is also referred to as ‘Pax Britannica’ (“British Peace”) – a time of relative peace in Europe during which the British Empire became the global hegemonic power and adopted the role of a global police force. At this time, the Empire included more than a quarter of the world’s population. Global trade made Britain a wealthy nation.
How has Britain ‘Cursed’ Israel?
The Middle Ages: The first large groups of Jews came to England from France in 1066 at the invitation of William the Conqueror, and by the late 1200s England had a small Jewish population of around 3000. In the years that followed, ruthless kings taxed Jews unmercifully. In outbreaks of Antisemitism Jews were accused of blood rituals and massacred. Many Jews were employed as money lenders, but their lending records were conveniently destroyed during these outbreaks. Then, in 1290, Edward 1 expelled all Jews from England and for some 365 years it was illegal for an Israelite to live in England. That fateful year for Jews, 1290, saw the first general expulsion from any country of that era, link. In the light of how nations should treat God’s chosen people (Gen 12.3) Britain failed miserably during the Middle Ages!
The British Mandate for Palestine: What did Britain do with the 1922 Mandate for Palestine? In 1923 Britain (illegally) traded the Golan Heights, originally part of the Mandate, to France in exchange for the oil-rich lands of Mosul in Iraq. And in 1937-38 the Peel and Woodhead commissions recommended partitioning Palestine into a small Jewish state and a large Arab state (this was rejected by the Arab leadership), link. Then, in 1939, a British White Paper limited Jewish immigration to Palestine to just 75,000 over a five year period. This policy 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. The White Paper remained the basis of British policy until the end of the British Mandate. Britain essentially failed in her charge to establish a Jewish homeland, and it was left to the UN and to the Jews themselves.
Israel’s 1948-49 War of Independence: During this war, Britain effectively supported the five invading Arab armies rather than Israel, link. On New Year’s Eve 1948 the British Government issued an ultimatum to Israel threatening war if Israel did not halt its counter-attacks on Egyptian forces in the Gaza Strip and Sinai. In fact, Britain was the only country in the UN that came to Egypt’s aid.
Political Bias against Israel: The British Foreign Office (BFO) has shown political bias against Israel since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Since 1948, the Queen or Prince Charles have visited Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya and Qatar. All Arab countries. But over this period the BFO has repeatedly prevented the Queen from visiting the only democracy in the Middle East – Israel. During her reign, the Queen has made over 250 official overseas visits to 129 different countries, but she has never been to Israel on an official visit, link. It seems the UK does not wish to upset her Arab friends!
When it comes to Jerusalem, the British Government does not support Israel in her claim for Jewish sovereignty over the city. In 1994 the government stated, “the British Government does not recognize Israeli sovereignty of any part of Jerusalem” [Malcolm Palmer, Private Secretary to the British Prime Minister]. Currently the British Government takes an anti-Israel stance, notably by pressurizing Israel to make peace with an Arab coalition that states it wants to obliterate Israel.
Did God ‘Curse’ Britain?
Middle Ages: History shows that in this period of Jewish persecution in England, the country saw traumatic times. Britain, along with northern Europe, suffered the Great Famine between 1315 and 1317, when a large portion of the population died of hunger and disease. The Hundred Years’ War began in 1337 when the Kingdom of England waged war against the Kingdom of France. The war continued on and off until 1453. The Black Death killed 1.5 million people in England out of an estimated total of 4 million people between 1348 and 1350, link. It has been estimated that 40% of England’s priests died in the epidemic. Around 1555 Mary I (‘Bloody Mary) burned nearly 300 Protestants at the stake for heresy against the Catholic Faith. Was all this God’s curse?
Post 1948: Although Britain initially encouraged recognition of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, she ultimately failed in her mission. What happened? On May 14 1948 the Jews proclaimed an independent State of Israel and the British withdrew from Palestine. On the same date, Britain, as Trustee for the 1922 Mandate turned over her responsibility to the UN and withdrew from Palestine. Shortly after that the British Empire collapsed and became a shadow of its former ‘glory’ (Fig.1). Note that the Empire peaked around the time when Britain supported a Jewish homeland, and fell rapidly when Britain officially failed to meet her mandate in 1948.
The latter half of the 20th century saw Britain fall under EU control, with loss of Parliamentary powers to Brussels. At the same time, Britain fell into moral and social decline and generally abandoned biblical ethics.
Sadly, Britain’s decline is likely to continue given the growing anti-Israel theme in Britain, from the general public, to government (left or right), to the church, link. Today, a recent poll shows that Britons regard Israel less favorably than any other country besides North Korea. More at Britain under Judgement.