The Resurgence of Israel’s Military in Bible Prophecy (Part 1 of 2)
By Dr. David Reagan
Israel is the major focus of End Time Bible prophecy. That’s the reason that the re-establishment of the nation in the 20th Century was so important. That event signaled the fact that we are now living in the end of the end times.
Prophecies Concerning Israel
During the 20th Century, we were privileged to witness God beginning to fulfill in whole or in part seven prophecies regarding the Jewish people:
1) The regathering of the Jews from the four corners of the earth (Isaiah 11:10-12). Theodor Herzl’s book, The Jewish State, published in 1896, helped motivate Jewish migration back to Israel. There were 40,000 Jews in Palestine in 1900. Today, there are over 7 million in the land of Israel.
2) The re-establishment of the state of Israel (Ezekiel 37:21-22). This prophecy was fulfilled on May 14, 1948, when the Israeli declaration of independence was proclaimed in Tel Aviv.
3) The reclamation of the land (Ezekiel 36:34-35). When the Jews started returning to the land just over 100 years ago, it was a malaria-infested swampland that had been denuded of all its forests. Today, it produces food in abundance and the forests have been replanted.
4) The revival of the Hebrew language (Zephaniah 3:9 and Jeremiah 31:23). When the Jews were scattered worldwide, they stopped speaking Hebrew. But in the 1800s, God raised up a Lithuanian Jew named Eliezer Ben-Yehuda to resurrect the language from the dead. Hebrew now predominates as one of the three official languages of Israel.
5) The re-occupation of the city of Jerusalem (Zechariah 8:4-8). When the Israeli War of Independence ended in 1949, the Old City of Jerusalem was under Jordanian occupation. The Israelis reclaimed the city during the Six-Day War on June 7, 1967.
6) The resurgence of the Israeli military (Zechariah 12:6). Even though Israel is one of the smallest nations, its military is considered one of the top ten in the world.
7) The re-focusing of world politics on the nation of Israel and its city of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:2-3). Today world attention is focused on Israel and Jerusalem — as has been abundantly evident in late 2023.
Military Power in Prophecy
From its humble beginnings in 1948, the Israeli military has become a highly professional and capable force.
The prophet Ezekiel referred to the revival of Israel in the last days as producing “an exceedingly great military force” (Ezekiel 37:10). Zechariah was more specific, prophesying that God would make “the clans of Judah like a firepot among pieces of wood and a flaming torch among sheaves” and enable them to “consume on the right hand and on the left” all their enemies (Zechariah 12:6, NASB). He proceeded to state that in the end times, the nation will be so strong that the “one who stumbles among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of Yahweh before them” (Zechariah 12:8).
Let’s look now at the major conflicts of the past that offer evidence of the fulfillment of these prophecies.
The War of Independence (November 1947 – March 1949)
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations adopted a resolution providing for the ending of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, replacing British rule with a partition of the land that would result in the creation of two states, one Jewish and the other Arab.
Jews worldwide were elated, even though the territory they were offered was merely a portion of what they had been promised in the British Balfour Declaration of 1917. But the Arabs were outraged because they wanted all the land of Palestine. They immediately launched a civil war that continued right up to the day that the Jews issued their declaration of independence on May 14, 1948.
The surrounding Arab nations repeatedly warned that they would attack in mass if the Jews declared independence. For example, the Secretary General of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, declared, “It will be a war of annihilation. It will be a momentous massacre in history that will be talked about like the massacres of the Mongols or the Crusades.”
On the Jewish side, there was considerable concern that such boasting could become a reality. Thus, on the eve of the war, Yigael Yadin, the Chief of Staff of the Israeli forces, told David Ben-Gurion, the Jewish leader, “The best we can tell you is that we have a 50-50 chance.”
The fears materialized within hours of the declaration of independence when five Arab armies (Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq) attacked the new nation. At the time, Israel had only 30,000 rag-tag fighters who were ill-trained and poorly equipped.
The Arab armies, particularly the Jordanians, were well-trained and equipped with aircraft, tanks, and modern artillery. Transjordan’s army was even led by British officers under the command of General John Glubb.
President Harry Truman officially recognized the new state of Israel immediately, but his Administration refused to provide any aid under the naive assumption that it would help avert bloodshed. Britain openly supplied arms to the Arabs, while Israel had to smuggle surplus weapons from Eastern Europe.
But despite the overwhelming odds against them, the infant Jewish state prevailed, albeit at enormous cost. 6,377 Israelis were killed — nearly one percent of the population (equivalent to an American loss today of 3.4 million!). In the end, Israelis controlled not only the territory allotted to them by the UN but also 60% of the area that had been proposed for an Arab state. The only key area that the Israelis were unable to conquer was the Old City of Jerusalem.
Overall, the war represented a miraculous victory for Israel.
In the second and final part of this fascinating look into the resurgence of Israel’s military in Bible prophecy, we will explore God’s miraculous victories during the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War.