The regathering and restoration of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland of Israel is one of the most prominent and recurring prophecies in Holy Scripture. As previously mentioned in past articles in this series, the Bible mentions two periods in which the Jewish people would be scattered from the land of Israel due to their disobedience to God.
The first dispersion initially began with the Northern Kingdom of Israel being taken into exile and captivity by the Assyrian invaders around 721 B.C. and was completed when the Southern Kingdom was conquered and deported to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.
The Jews from the Northern Kingdom and Southern Kingdom were allowed to return to the land seventy years under the joint and capable leadership of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. The Jews remained in the land for over four hundred years under Gentile supervision and control. The second dispersion of the Jews from the land, that was predicted by Jesus thirty years before it happened, occurred by the Romans in 70 A.D.
It is important to determine and distinguish which of the two dispersions is meant when looking at the prophecies that deal with the scattering and regathering of the Jewish people because the prophecies about the second dispersion and regathering are frequently made as an antecedent and conspicuous sign indicating the soon return of the Messiah to save the Jewish people (e.g., Deuteronomy. 30:1-3; Isaiah 11, 49, 51, 59-66; Jeremiah 3, 16, 23, 30-33, Ezekiel 11, 20, 34, 36-39; Hosea 2, 6, 11, 14, Joel 3; Amos 9; Obadiah 1 and so forth).
Whenever these restoration/regathering prophecies to the land are found in Scripture they are prefaced or include the word “again” to thus denote a second time and must refer to the regathering after the second dispersion from Israel in A.D. 70. With both dispersions, the Jewish people never forgot their God-given homeland of Israel or its capital Jerusalem.
The Psalms and the Prophets are filled with the Jewish longing and ardent desire to return to the land and worship the Lord in Jerusalem by those Jews who were scattered and removed from the land God gave to them forever (Genesis 17:7-8).
This longing of several millennia is what the Jewish people simply call Zionism. Zionism has its roots squarely in the Jewish Bible and has been the unifying force for uniting Jews together as a people and a nation to return to the land of Israel and permanently remain there never to be removed or dispersed again. Zionism derives from the word Zion—another name for Jerusalem and by extension the land of Israel that has biblical, national, religious political, and Messianic overtones and implications.
Wendell Stearns in his excellent Biblical survey of Zionism provides a good comprehensive overview on the central place Zionism holds in the life of the Jewish people when he writes:
Zionism, formerly a desire realized in a movement first to establish, now to support the State of Israel, is a national, religious, and spiritual concept that goes back for millennia. It is debated as a concrete, geo-political concept and was struggled over, up to and since the physical restoration of the State. It has become the unifying concept of world Jewry, as much in the woes as in the wonders of Israel’s regained nationhood…
For many, Zionism has become so completely identified as a national and political movement that secular Zionists resent the claims Judaism and Christianity have made upon it…Nevertheless to identify Zion and Zionism only as a recent phenomenon or to reckon it solely as a Jewish expression of mankind’s aspiration for ethnic and governmental sovereignty is a mistake. We err if we overlook the historical and spiritual foundations and core that make it such a pivotal force in today’s world” (Biblical Zionism, pp. xi-xii).
In the latter part of the nineteenth century Zionism enjoyed a strong reemergence and took on a more secular and geo-political outlook for the return of the Jewish people back to the land of Israel with the chief pioneer of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl. Yet despite the lack of biblical of emphasis that is at the core of modern secular Zionism, God moved on Herzl to become one of the major influences to see the Jewish people return to the land.
In several articles to come in this series, we will examine and explore how Zionism was the impetus God used for the rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948 and was thus the greatest single fulfillment of Bible prophecy in the last two thousand years since the time of Christ. Zionism no doubt enjoyed a popular resurgence in the latter half of the nineteenth century due directly to the increasing hatred and hostility explicitly shown toward the Jews throughout Europe. That hatred and hostility has always been an inherent part of European culture dating back to the days of the Roman Empire.
The greatest concentration of anti-Semitic hostilities against the Chosen People was in Eastern Europe and Russia. In fact, hatred for the Jews was so bad in Russia that the Czar in 1903 commissioned his secret police to forge a document titled, “The Protocols of the (Learned) Elders of Zion.”
This forgery allegedly was supposed to be the blueprint and planned conspiracy for Jewish world domination drawn up by a group of influential Jews as codified in the twenty-four protocols. The Czar was to use this fabrication to justify a bloody pogrom carried out throughout Russia and the Ukraine from 1903 to 1906.
Such a tidal wave of anti-Semitism that had and would engulf Europe in the 19th and the 20th centuries created a strong and unquenchable desire among many European Jews to return to their ancient homeland of Israel. This prompted an early leader and pioneer of Zionism, Russian Doctor, Leon Pinsker, to write a seminal work of Modern-day Zionism titled Auto-Emancipation in 1882. In it, Pinsker basically proposed that the only solution to protect the Jewish people from ongoing anti-Semitism was for them to have a national homeland of their own. Initially, he thought this Jewish State could be established anywhere in the world, but eventually came to the firm conviction that such a homeland could only be planted where ancient Israel had originally been located.
A decade after this, Zionism’s political ideas and concepts for a Jewish homeland was formally defined by its leading proponent, Theodor Herzl, in his foundational work, The Jewish State. This book formed the constitutional basis for the First Zionist Congress convened on August 27, 1897, at Basle Switzerland; 204 delegates from 17 countries attended the Congress. Herzl worked tirelessly to gain support and backing for a Jewish State constantly traveling throughout Europe meeting with the monarchs, statesmen, and politicians to obtain legal acceptance for a Jewish homeland.
At the Fifth Zionist Congress held in August 1903 (Herzl’s last before his death in 1904), Herzl tentatively accepted the British proposal to establish a Jewish State in the country of Uganda located in East Africa. After much debate and deliberation among the delegates of the Fifth Congress, the Uganda proposal was rejected. The delegates came to the firm and uncompromising conclusion that a Jewish State could only be established in the land of their ancestors—the land of Israel. This unshakable resolve would only grow, intensify, and be carried to eventual fruition some forty-five years later with the birth of the modern nation of Israel.
Theodor Herzl’s vision was really the greater vision of God to restore His people, Israel, to the land He gave to Abraham, their founding father, and his Jewish descendants after him for an eternal possession in fulfillment of those end-time prophecies that the Jews would be regathered back to Israel as a sign and pre-condition for the return of the Messiah—Jesus of Nazareth. Satan knows of these prophecies and, within a generation of these pioneers of Zionism, was allowed by the providence of God to try to subvert and prevent the Jewish people from returning to their ancient God-given homeland.
But the die had already been cast. In the modern day movement of Zionism, God was beginning to focus His attention again on the “everlasting nation” so that many of the promises of their latter day restoration to the land in preparation for the Messiah’s return would be realized as supernaturally foretold in the Word of God. The prophecy of Isaiah 41:8-10 stands fulfilled in this distinct regard:
“But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham My friend. You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest regions, and said to you: ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away. Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’”