Evangelical Christians commonly feel warm toward today’s State of Israel. Christian “pilgrims” seek to travel to Israel at least once. On the record, at least, the governing officials welcome them, and their tourist dollars, and their word-of-mouth praises in their home countries.
But American Jews seem to split on Israel. Some of them regard Israel as their homeland. At every Passover seder they say, “This year, we are here. Next year, we shall be in Jerusalem.” But maybe most American Jews, especially ultra-religious ones, do not welcome Israel. They contend mere humans cannot redeem Israel and regather the Jews from across the world. Only God can redeem Israel, they say. And God has not seen fit to do this yet.
Or has He? Rabbi Chaim Zimmerman gave a discourse on Israel’s Return and Restoration. Prof. Paul Eidelberg of Bar Ilian University edited it for prose. Today he sent a twenty-page document to all on his mailing list, including CNAV. That document gives six religious arguments why the present State of Israel does not represent God’s plan to redeem His people. It also refutes each of those arguments, from Jewish law. CNAV can rebut those arguments for still other reasons.
Who is Paul Eidelberg?
First, who is Paul Eidelberg? He was an American Jewish citizen. He served in the United States Air Force, and left it at the rank of first lieutenant. (Read sagan in the ranks of the Israel Defense Forces.) In 1976 he “made Aaliyah.” Which is to say, he “made his way up.” When a Jew moves to the Land of Israel, the Jews call that “making one’s way up.” After that he joined the faculty at Bar-Ilian University. He also set up the Foundation for Constitutional Democracy. He writes regularly for Arutz-7 and independently.
Why would God not redeem Israel now?
The Zimmermann-Eidelberg paper sets out six grounds on which religious Jews object to setting such store by the current State of Israel:
- They see no “signs or wonders” that would herald the return of the Messiah to restore Israel.
- They see no trace of the Messiah abroad in our world today.
- Most of the people of Israel do not follow the Torah.
- Those who set up the State of Israel, rejected the Torah.
- Since the State of Israel came to exist, more Jews have turned away from their Torah. They (the religious Jews) would never expect that.
- Jews swore an oath never to try to storm the Holy Land ahead of their time.
An outside observer might at first believe those arguments. After all, no specific event happened in any of Israel’s wars from 1948 onwards, that would break physical laws. (For instance, neither sun nor moon has ever stood still as they did for Joshua.) Theodor Herzl, the first Zionist pioneer, did not act from religious fervor. He acted after seeing the French persecute Alfred Dreyfuss.
And Eliezer ben-Yehuda dropped out of his studies to become a rabbi. The world credits him, and justly so, with teaching Jews the world over to speak Hebrew again, after two thousand years (or more, if you count the time they spoke Aramaic instead). The Orthodox rabbis of his day even opposed his efforts. They objected to the modern Hebrew words he developed from existing Hebrew roots. Yet today Ben-Yehuda’s Dictionary Committee survives as the Academy of the Hebrew Language at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
This history shows a pattern. Religious Jews opposed Eliezer Ben-Yehuda’s efforts to teach the Jews to speak Hebrew, not only in religious studies or at prayer but in everyday commerce. Their modern descendants oppose the modern State of Israel. They find the institution much too modern, and too much a human work, not a Divine miracle.
Why God is redeeming Israel:
From Jewish law
Rabbi Zimmermann then rebuts each of those six arguments:
- God does not have to work visible signs or wonders to do His work. When God says He will do a thing, He does it.
- Jewish law does not (in Zimmermann’s view) need the Messiah to start to redeem Israel. The community itself can impel that process to start.
The smallest one will become a clan. And the least one a mighty nation. I, YHWH, will hasten it in its time.
- The way to redeeming Israel must start somewhere. Must everyone re-embrace the Torah at once? A number of “sage” writings suggest Jews will begin to return to the Law once they see a goal within reach.
- The State of Israel stands. If God did not will Israel so to stand, she would not stand.
- Even “wicked” people will often do a thing God wants to happen.
- Those who invoke the “not-before-its-time” oath, misapply it.
Zimmermann gives rich detail to justify each point he makes. He cites authorities both from Scripture and from various Jewish law sources. To rebut the sixth objection, Zimmerman invokes a curious, but still valid, observation: events need not occur in narrative sequence. Other commentators (like Victor McAllister, “Changing Earth Creationist”) throw out the notion of “time” and “sequence” as a Western, or at least a Greek, concept. A concept the Hebrews might never have run their lives around. Why not? McAllister, among others, observes an elementary thing about Hebrew verbs. They have only two tenses: perfect and imperfect. One translates those into the Western concepts past, present and future largely by informal convention, or even rote. Thus under Jewish law, no law says the people of Israel must conquer the land before they dwell in it.
But Christians can recognize for themselves why the “religious” arguments fail.
- Jesus Christ always rebuked the people for constantly asking for a sign. He often would tell people: if they wanted signs, why couldn’t they see what’s happening in front of them?
- God is abroad in the world today. The Holy Spirit is at work.
- Apostasy, or standing apart from God, does not limit itself to Jews. Nominal Christians do the same. And Paul of Tarsus specifically wrote (see 2 Thess. 2:3) that the apostasy must happen before Christ comes back.
- The Rabbi argues the standing of Israel as a miracle from Jewish law. To a Christian, the Jewish state appears as one more sign out of many. Not all miracles break physical law in an obvious way. More often, miracles break the Law of Averages. The history of the Israel War for Independence, the Six-day War, and the Yom Kippur War shows soldiers of Israel winning against astronomical odds.
- Before the world saw the State of Israel, it saw a young man named Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery. The slavers took him to Egypt. In Egypt he landed in the notorious “House of the Curve,” a royal prison at a sharp curve of the Nile. Yet he came out of that prison and became grand vizier of Egypt. Joseph’s brothers never intended that result. But God did. And what God intends, God gets.
- Those who criticize the people of Israel for “storming the gate ahead of time,” make the same mistake people made in Jesus’ day. They don’t know it’s time, because they can’t read the signs. They wait for a sign that might dazzle but would be no more than a cheap parlor trick. And they miss the real sign, an event one can describe as improbable, but not flatly impossible.
To sum up
This week, Jews the world over will mark Yom haShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. Oddly enough, this will begin at sundown on the American Income Tax Day! Anyone who has visited Yad VaShem, the World Holocaust Institute, remembers what one sees after coming out of the Hall of Remembrance: Jerusalem, spread out in all her glory, in victory over one who sought to kill all the Jews forever. If that is not a miracle, where else shall we find one?
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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