Thanksgiving Special: The Pilgrim Settlers & The Israelites :: By Bill Wilson

Over the ages, there have been many parallels drawn between the United States and Israel. Close allies since the declaration of Israel as an independent state in 1948, America and Israel have shared economic, political and spiritual links.

One of those commonalities dates back to the original Pilgrims who ventured across the Atlantic to escape persecution and claim a new land in the “Name of God” and “Advancement of the Christian Faith,” as is written in the Mayflower Compact. William Bradford, an author of the Compact and leader of the Pilgrims, alluded to being driven out of England “as the heathen historians asserted of Moses and the Israelites when they went out of Egypt.”

Indeed, the allusion to the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land was not lost on the Pilgrims as they prepared and eventually traveled from Leyden, the Netherlands, to the new America and the establishment of the Plymouth Colony in 1620.

The parallels between the Israelite’s Exodus and the Pilgrims are significant. Bradford’s history of the Plymouth Colony, carefully written in great detail in his work, “Of Plymouth Plantation,” documents the persecution that the Separatists endured from both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England under King James. The Separatists were poor and heavy-labored to survive and “submitted to bondage” by not being allowed “to enjoy the ordinances of God in their purity, and the liberty of the gospel.”

Thus, Bradford wrote, “They cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations, or at least of making some way towards it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work.”

Even so, King James would not grant the Separatists “religious freedom by his public authority, under his seal, [it] was found to be impossible.” They decided to move ahead and “trust to God’s providence for the outcome, as they had done in other things.” Bradford later wrote they “endeavored to establish the right worship of God and the discipline of Christ in the Church according to the simplicity of the gospel and without the mixture of men’s inventions, and to be ruled by the laws of God’s word.”

Bradford compared the Pilgrims’ plight to the Israelites’ migration from Egypt to Canaan:

“Our fathers were Englishmen who came over the great ocean and were ready to perish in the wilderness, but they cried to the Lord, and He heard their voice and looked on their adversity…. Yes, let them who have been redeemed of the Lord, show how He has delivered them from the hand of the oppressor.  When they wandered forth into the desert-wilderness, out of the way, and found no city to dwell in, both hungry and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them [Psalm 107:1-6].  Let them confess before the Lord His loving kindness, and His wonderful works before the sons of men.”

Indeed, as Psalm 107:13 states, “Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress.”

Moreover, Bradford and his Mayflower colleague William Brewster are credited with bringing the Hebrew language to America. Some 400 books, many in Hebrew, were in the hold of the Mayflower.

Bradford was a student of Hebrew. Why? In his own words:

“Though I am growne aged, yet I have had a longing desire to see with my own eyes, something of that most ancient language, and holy tongue, in which the law and Oracles of God were write; and in which God and angels spake to the holy patriarchs of old time; and what names were given to things from creation…”

The Exodus from Europe to a new land; The wilderness of starvation and death; The deliverance by the hand of God; and The Thanksgiving “sukkot feast”—the first Thanksgiving. And the making of a new nation under God—the parallels of the Israelites and the Pilgrims.

Posted in The Daily Jot