On this date, 104 years ago, British General Edmund Allenby walked through Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem.
Only a month before the famous “Balfour Declaration,” Britain’s official consent to begin the process of turning Palestine over to the Jews so that they could reconstitute their ancestral home, was issued. The British in World War 1 were engaged in battle in the Middle East with the Turkish Ottoman Empire, rulers in the area for 400 years.
For us that study Bible prophecy, we can now see the interesting details that went into the drive for statehood, realized of course on May 14, 1948.
In Europe, where Jews had been persecuted for centuries, the publication of a vile book, The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, by Houston Stewart Chamberlain, further turned Germans against the Jews. Chamberlain, who had married Richard Wagner’s daughter (Wagner or “Vahg-ner” as the Germans pronounced it, was the famous composer. His music was played in the extermination camps during World War 2), was a vile anti-Semite whose views influenced Hitler.
It was time to get out of Europe and Jewish activists like Theodor Herzl used this to their advantage, to try and rouse Jews out of their slumber, and depart for Palestine.
It is interesting to note at this very time, when the Jews were beginning to fulfill epic Bible prophecies for the resettlement of Palestine, the world at large was working overtime to delegitimize the Jews’ rights to the land. Ironically and tragically, much of this emanated from the Church in one way or the other.
Since about 1870, American preachers were becoming more and more enamored of the views of Charles Darwin. This philosophy of naturalism, as it was known, kept at its core a belief that the Bible was myth. Particularly Genesis. And, among other things, the Book of Beginnings traced the history of the Jewish people. By relegating it to legend, fewer people considered that the Jews had a future history.
In 1902, when Herzl was really working to find a national home for the Jews, certain biblical scholars in Germany were also pushing their “Bible as myth” garbage. One of these, Friedrich Delitzsch, delivered a paper entitled “Babylon and the Bible” in 1902 (the Kaiser was in attendance). In this paper, Delitzsch proposed that the Bible had been influenced by Babylonian myth—not the other way around. This was a diabolical but surprisingly effective attack on Scripture. I sat in a lecture in 2002, by Marcus Borg, and the Oregon St. professor outlined the same view.
Remember, if the Bible is myth, then its claims are no more relevant than any other sacred book.
But Allenby’s entrance into Jerusalem a year before World War 1 ended is a marvelous evidence that God was working through history to return His people to their land. As Sir Martin Gilbert wrote in his monumental work, Israel: A History—
“With the British conquest of Jerusalem, the way was clear for the Zionists to work with the British to begin building up the Jewish National Home promised by the Balfour Declaration, and to create the Jewish national institutions through which that home could prosper. One of the earliest steps in this direction was the purchase on 31 January 1918 of the house and property of Sir John Gray Hill on Mount Scopus, on which the Zionists had acquired an option just before the outbreak of the war. For the sum of £6,500, the site was acquired that day for the future Hebrew University.”
Thus was the modern state of Israel on its way. We would do well to remember history and celebrate it, for one reason: God’s sovereignty shines like a beam of light in the darkness.
I’ve walked through Jaffa Gate myself, many times. Not with the fanfare of Allenby! When I do, I am reminded once again that God alone decides History. Only He is in charge, and that goes for our individual lives, too.
Think on that this Christmas season, especially if you are worried about your present or future circumstances.
He is bringing us all home.