The Jewish Problem - Its Solution or, Israel's Present and Future/Chapter 02
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The Jewish Problem
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Jeremiah xxx. 1-17.
THE word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book. For, lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.
And these are the words that the LORD spake concerning
Israel and concerning Judah.
For thus saith the LORD;
We have heard a voice of trembling,
Of fear, and not of peace.
Ask ye now, and see
Whether a man doth travail with child?
Wherefore do I see every man
With his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail,
And all faces are turned into paleness?
Alas! for that day is great,
So that none is like it:
It is even the time of Jacob’s trouble;
But he shall be saved out of it.
For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts,
That I will break his yoke from off thy neck,
And will burst thy bonds,
And strangers shall no more serve themselves of him:
But they shall serve the LORD their God,
And David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.
Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD;
Neither be dismayed, O Israel:
For, lo, I will save thee from afar,
And thy seed from the land of their captivity;
And Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet,
And none shall make him afraid.
For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee:
Though I make a full end of all nations whither I have
Yet will I not make a full end of thee:
But I will correct thee in measure,
And will not leave thee altogether unpunished.
For thus saith the LORD,
Thy bruise is incurable,
And thy wound is grievous.
There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be
Thou hast no healing medicines.
All thy lovers have forgotten thee;
They seek thee not;
For I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy,
With the chastisement of a cruel one,
For the multitude of thine iniquity;
Because thy sins were increased.
Why criest thou for thine affliction?
Thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity:
Because thy sins were increased, I have done these things
Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured;
And all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into
And they that spoil thee shall be a spoil,
And all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey.
For I will restore health unto thee,
And I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD;
Because they called thee an Outcast, saying,
This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.
Is there a yet Future Restoration?
UNTIL all the writings of the prophet were compiled in one book as we now have it, Jeremiah xxx. and xxxi. formed a distinct prophecy, and was doubtless in circulation amongst the people in a separate prophetic book; and in verse 2 we read that it is a "book" dictated by God Himself. The subject, then, with which it deals must be one concerning which He is especially anxious to reveal His thoughts. Whatever man may think of it, He considers this matter of immense importance, so that every word must be preserved.
"Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book."
This book, dictated by God Himself, is a very remarkable one; for though it concerns Israel, it is addressed chiefly to the Gentile nations.
For thus saith the LORD Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O LORD, save thy people, the remnant of Israel. . . . Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. (Jeremiah xxxi. 7, 10).
It is a testimony, then, not so much to Israel as to the Gentile nations about Israel. Just as, in the epistle to the Romans, we find, as it were, an epistle within an epistle; three chapters—ix., x., xi.—expressly indited by the Spirit of God, for the purpose of enlightening Gentile Christians with regard to God's purposes in Israel. The apostle is most impressed with the importance of the Church having correct views on this subject; and feels that he cannot leave them ignorant of this mystery, lest, through the erroneous notion that God hath cast away His people Israel which He foreknew, and that the special promises and privileges reserved to Israel nationally in the Word of God have been transferred to the Church, they should fall into the danger of self-conceit.
So here, through the prophet Jeremiah, there is a definite message, a proclamation, a warning, to the chief of the Gentile nations, and to the isles afar off, to the same purport, viz., that God is not yet done with Israel—that "He that scattereth Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd doth his flock."
In this special book, written at the express dictation of God, we have the only true solution of the apparently more and more difficult Jewish question. Apart from God's revelation, the Jew is an enigma, a problem beyond the vain attempts of man to solve; and attempts of the kind, if not based upon the Word of God, are futile and impious. The future of Israel is one of those subjects concerning which the great God has deigned to speak; and however difficult or improbable to man that future may appear, it behoves us to believe and receive, and not to speculate or rebel.
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith Jehovah."
Let us examine this special proclamation addressed to the Gentile nations with regard to Israel. It contains, I believe, a programme of events drawn up in chronological order, with regard to the future of that people, so wonderful and "terrible from their beginning hitherto."
The first item in that programme is Restoration.
"For lo, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will bring again the captivity of My people Israel and Judah, saith Jehovah; and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it" (Jeremiah xxx. 3).
Note the frequent reiteration of the august and glorious name JEHOVAH in this, as in the other verses of this prophecy; as if to give credibility to the announcements made, and to test our faith in the accomplishment of those things for which the eternal, unchangeable name, Jehovah, stands pledged.
Now, what are we to do with this and other prophecies of a Restoration of the people of Israel to the land of their fathers?
There are several methods of interpretation which seem alike unsatisfactory, and are perhaps responsible for a great deal of Jewish and Gentile unbelief. There is, first of all, the old-fashioned way of so-called spiritualizing the prophecies making Israel and Zion to mean the Church, and The Land to signify heaven; but I confess this system of interpretation has no consistency about it, and makes the Word of God the most meaningless and unintelligible book in the world. For instance, we read here:
"I will bring again the captivity of My people Israel and Judah; . . . and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers."
If Israel be the Church, who is Judah? If Judah be the Church, who is Israel? What is the "captivity" the Church has endured ? and where is "the land" from which the Church has been driven out, and to which it will return? At the end of the prophecy we read:
"Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that the city shall be built to the Lord from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner. And the measuring line shall yet go forth over against it upon the hill Gareb, and shall compass about to Goath. And the whole valley of the dead bodies, and of the ashes, and all the fields unto the brook of Kedron, unto the corner of the horse-gate toward the east, shall be holy unto the Lord; it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever" (Jeremiah xxxi. 38-40).
In what particular locality in heaven are the tower of Hananeel and the corner gate? And what will our allegorical interpretations make of the hill Gareb, and Goath, and the brook Kedron? All these are known to me in the environs of the literal Jerusalem in Canaan; but I confess some difficulty in locating them in heavenly places. If Israel does not mean Israel, and "the land God gave to the fathers" does not mean Palestine, then I do not know what is meant.
The announcement is: "He that scattereth Israel will gather him." Now, when it comes to scattering—of course, this is allowed to refer to literal Israel, to the Jews, "scattered and peeled"; but when, in the same sentence, a gathering of the same people is mentioned oh, this is the gathering of the spiritual Israel. What consistency or honesty, I pray, is there in such interpretations!
"To what may we attribute the loose system of interpreting the language of the Psalms and prophets, and the extravagant expectations of the universal conversion of the world by the preaching of the gospel, which may be observed in many Christian writers?
"To nothing so much, I believe, as to the habit of inaccurately interpreting the word 'Israel,' and the consequent application of promises to the Gentile churches, with which they have nothing to do. The least errors in theology always bear fruit. Never does man take up an incorrect principle of interpreting Scripture without that principle entailing awkward consequences, and colouring the whole tone of his religion.
"I do not deny that Israel was a peculiar typical people, and that God's relations to Israel were meant to be a type of relations to His believing people all over the world. I do not forget that it is written, 'As face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man'; and that whatever spiritual truths are taught in prophecy concerning Israelitish hearts, are applicable to the hearts of Gentiles. I would have it most distinctly understood that God's dealings with individual Jews and Gentiles are precisely one and the same. Without repentance, faith in Christ, and holiness of heart, no individual Jew or Gentile shall ever be saved. What I protest against is, the habit of allegorizing plain sayings of the Word of God concerning the future history of the nation Israel, and explaining away the fulness of their contents in order to accommodate them to the Gentile Church. I believe the habit to be unwarranted by anything in Scripture, and to draw after it a long train of evil consequences."
Like thousands more, the writer has in the infinite grace of God been brought out of the darkness of Rabbinical Judaism into the marvellous light and liberty of the glorious gospel of Christ. He accepted Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the world, on the ground of a literal interpretation of the prophecies concerning Him; and he cannot consistently, without doing outrage to his convictions, accept one principle of interpretation for one set of prophecies which have already been fulfilled, and another principle of interpretation for another set of prophecies not yet fulfilled. Rather, he honestly believes that the manner of fulfilment of those prophecies which are now history, supplies the only sound basis for the interpretation of those prophecies with regard to Israel and the kingdom which yet await their fulfilment. "Though He tarry, wait for Him"; and when the fulness of time is come, it will be seen that though man's systems and principles of interpretation be diverse, God's manner of fulfilling His promises is one.
Another way of dealing with these prophecies of a Restoration is to make them refer to the gathering of the Jews into the Church. But this position also is untenable. The Jews will not be nationally gathered into the Church; for even in the New Testament we have the Jews, as well as the Gentiles, as nations, running parallel with, and continuing separate from, the Church throughout all the period of its history on earth; and in Rom. xi. 25, the inspired apostle is commissioned to announce to the Gentile believers the fact that all Israel will not be saved; that the "hardness in part" which has befallen that nation will continue until after the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
"He that scattered Israel": From whence? from the Church, or gospel blessings? No, no; but from Palestine. "Will gather him:" Where to? why, surely, to the land which He gave to their fathers, from which Israel, on account of disobedience, was banished and scattered.
But perhaps the most plausible way of explaining such predictions is to represent them as having had their fulfilment at the restoration from Babylon, since they were given before the Babylonish captivity. To this I reply that this and other pre- dictions are in terms of which we vainly seek an adequate fulfilment at that period. It may be as well to give here a few reasons in justification of the position that there is a future Restoration of the literal Israel to the land which by unconditional promise and covenant was given to them as an everlasting possession.
I. The Restoration promised here is a complete one:
"I will bring again the captivity of My people Israel and Judah;"
and the number who will return shall be "a great company," so that even the whole of the promised land will not be large enough for them. The same appears in that remarkable prophecy of Isaiah xi., which, on whatever system of interpretation we adopt, is admittedly future in its application, where "the outcasts of Israel" and "the dispersed of Judah" are to be gathered together. The same appears again in Ezekiel xxxvii., where there is a future announced for the whole twelve tribes reunited in one kingdom. Many more passages might be cited which speak of a complete Restoration of the entire nation in terms most unequivocal and minute; which certainly could not be said to have received their fulfilment in the—comparatively speaking—mere handful who returned from Babylon.
II. After the Restoration predicted in this and other prophecies, Israel is to enjoy at least national independence, if not supremacy.
"For it shall come to pass in that day, saith Jehovah of Hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him" (Jeremiah xxx. 8).
Backsliding Israel, because he served not Jehovah with joyfulness and with gladness of heart for the abundance of all things, was to be taught a lesson by comparison; and was given over by God to be in servitude for a time to the Gentiles.
"Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies, which Jehovah shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in want of all things; and He shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck" (Deut. xxviii. 47, 48).
But this iron yoke of Gentile oppression was not to last for ever. This is clear even from the solemn words of the Lord Jesus, when, after announcing the fact that Israel "shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations," He suspends in the midst of the darkness of threatened judgment the bright star of hope which ultimately shall banish the darkness, and cause judgment to be forgotten in the abundance of mercy; inasmuch as He announces a limit to the time of Israel's servitude to Gentile oppression:
"Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."
And when they be fulfilled, the yoke will be broken, and Israel will once more not only be free and independent, but nationally supreme among the nations.
But has this ever yet taken place? Let those who point to the restoration from Babylon as an exhaustive fulfilment of these prophecies compare, for instance, such a passage as Isaiah xiv. 1-3, where we read that after
"Jehovah will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob. And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of Jehovah for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors."
Let them compare this with Nehemiah ix. 36, 37. which describes the actual condition of the people after their restoration:
"Behold, we are servants this day, and for the land that Thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it; and it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom Thou hast set over us because of our sins; also they have dominion over our bodies and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress."
III. According to the express declaration of the prophet Isaiah, there is to be a "second" Restoration, which is to be universal in its character.
"And it shall to come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah xi. 11, 12).
Now, there has been no second Restoration as yet; neither could the return from Babylon be said to be a gathering from the "four corners of the earth"; that captivity having been local in its character, and of short duration. Never before the dispersion inaugurated by Titus, could the scattering of the people be said to have been universal; hence they could never before have been gathered from the four corners of the earth.
IV. Israel has never yet in all its fulness possessed the land which God has promised them; and Palestine may still be said to be "the land of promise." Its boundaries are given in Gen. xv. 18; Ezek. xlvii. 13; and xlviii. 1. Dr. Alex. Keith, author of "Evidences of Prophecy," has given us the results of his personal investigations and measurements in his book called "The Land of Israel," according to which the extent of the promised land is 300,000 square miles.
The infidel Voltaire is said to have scoffingly remarked on Exod. iii. 8, where God says that He has come down to deliver Israel from the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land into a "good land and a large," that the God of the Jews must have been a petty God, because He gave them a land not larger in size than Wales, and called it a "large land." But this is only in keeping with the style of infidel scoffers in general, who find it easy to ridicule things about which they know very little. It is only ignorance that could represent the land called in Exod. iii. 8, a "large land" as being no larger in size than Wales. Why, it is twice and a half as large as Great Britain and Ireland. And yet Christians who do not believe in a future possession by Israel of the whole land which God has promised them, really give occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme; for if there be no future occupation of the land by Israel, the solemn word of God, on which His oath is staked, would fail of fulfilment.
What though generations may pass, and instead of the fathers may be the children: "heaven and earth shall pass away," but God's oath and promise cannot fail.
It is very remarkable that when we come to the future re-division of the land in the last chapters of Ezekiel, it is no longer merely from Dan to Beersheba with which the prophet deals; but faith and inspiration combine to claim all the promised land contained within the boundaries of the original covenant in Gen. xv. This, by the way, is a sufficient answer to those who ask whether there is room enough in Palestine for the 12,000,000 Jews at present in the world. Note also that according to these same last chapters of Ezekiel, there is to be a different location of the twelve tribes at the re-division of the land. What can we make of this, if there be no future Restoration of Israel to the promised land?
V. Leaving out for the moment the brief ordeal and baptism of suffering which awaits Israel immediately on their return to their land, with which we shall deal presently, the Restoration announced in this and other prophecies is to be followed by a National Conversion (Jer. xxx. 8-10). Israel nationally is then to enter into the blessing of the New Covenant announced in this very prophecy; which the election of individuals from all nations now enjoy, as it were, by anticipation. The same is clearly announced in Ezek. xxxvi. 24-28:
"For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God."
And by the same prophet in the following chapter xxxvii. 21-23; and many other passages of Scripture. Now, such a national conversion has surely never yet taken place. The restoration from Babylon was followed by the most appalling and universal national apostasy, which culminated in the rejection of the Son of God, and the consequent dispersion of the people into all the four corners of the earth.
VI. There is to be a gathering of Israel to the land of their fathers, which is to be final This is announced in this very prophecy, where, at the end of chapter xxxi., after describing with the greatest minuteness and geographical exactness the rebuilding of the Holy City, it closes with the declaration "it shall not be plucked up nor thrown down any more for ever." The same is again emphatically proclaimed by the prophet Amos:
"I will bring again the captivity of My people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God" (Amos ix. 14, 15).
Now, supposing that since these inspired announcements by Amos and Jeremiah there had already taken place a hundred dispersions and a hundred restorations, we would still be justified in believing in yet another gathering, after which there should be no more scattering.
- Romans xi. 25.
- Isaiah xviii. 2.
- Proverbs xxvii. 19.
- "Scattered and Gathered" by John Charles Ryle, D.D., Bishop of Liverpool.
- I Corinthians x. 32.
- Genesis xv. 7-21; xvii. 7, 8, 19, 21.
- Jeremiah xxxi. 8.
- Zech. x. 10; xlix. 19, 20.
- Luke xxi. 24.
- Isaiah lx. 9-16.
- 1 Genesis xv. 8-18.
- Jeremiah xxxi 31-34.