THE history of Israel is given to us in a threefold manner in the Scriptures: First, it appears in the prophetic word found in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28; second, we have the historical account found in such books as Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles; and third, under the symbolism of a vine. We are especially interested in this third presentation in the present study.
In Joel 1:7, Israel is represented under the figures of both a vine and a fig tree. The vine here mentioned can be none other than the grape. At the same time, she is presented under the symbolism of a fig tree. "He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig-tree; he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white." The fact that this symbolism is used in such passages as this one is no evidence that every time a fig tree is used in the Scriptures it signifies Israel. For instance, in Matthew 24:32, the Lord says, "Now from the fig tree learn her parable." An examination of the facts of the context indicates that He is using the term fig tree literally and has no reference to the Jewish nation. We are never to understand that either the vine or the fig tree is used symbolically, referring to Israel, unless the facts of the given context indicate clearly such a signification. We must be very careful in concluding that a passage is used symbolically. Only the facts of the context can determine that question.
AS INDICATED in the chart above, the history of Israel divides into four chief periods. They are the epochs when the vine of Israel is developing on foreign soil; when it is in its natural soil; when it is uprooted and scattered in foreign fields; and when it is restored to its native land, filling the earth with fruit.
Again let me remind the readers that the chronology which is used in this chart is what is known as the true Bible dates expressed in the terms anno hominis, that is, in the year of man. Unlike the usual reckoning of chronology, which begins the count from the birth of Christ and goes backward to Adam, this system begins with the creation of Adam and counts the years as they are presented in the Scriptures. It is needless to say that the biblical chronology is the correct method of enumerating time.
THE nation of Israel is the people of destiny. God said to Abraham, when He called him from his native land, that He would bless him and make him a blessing and that in him and his seed should all families of the earth be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3). Here is the fore-announced plan of the Almighty to bless all nations through Abraham and his seed. God makes no mistakes. He does not have to change His plans when a new situation arises, because He sees the end from the beginning. Although He allows man to exercise the freedom of choice, nevertheless He steers the course of history aright and will carry out everything which He has announced. We may therefore be positive in the conclusion that He will yet use the seed of Abraham in blessing the entire world.
Israel and her history are the miracle of the centuries. This race began by a miracle of creation and has been sustained by a miracle of preservation. When Abraham and Sarah were past the age of parenthood, God visited them and performed a biological miracle upon their bodies, which made possible the birth of Isaac. Thus the Lord could say in Isaiah 43:1 that He had created Jacob. This was as much a miracle of creation as the bringing into existence of the heavens and the earth. The same verb is used in both instances. The Hebrew race literally began in the year 2108 A.H. by the creation of Isaac.
God spoke of the nation of Israel as a vine and called it "the choicest vine" (Isa. 5:1-7). The reason for its being the finest vine is this: At the creation of Isaac, the Lord injected into the blood stream of the Jewish race potentialities, powers, and capacities, both spiritual and intellectual, such as are enjoyed by no other people. This race, therefore, is "the choicest vine."
THE first period of Israel's history, as indicated on the chart, was when the vine was developing on foreign soil and was growing to nationhood. This period is subdivided into three sections, which are: The time when the patriarchs were in Palestine (2108 A.H.-2298 A.H.); when the Hebrews were in Egypt (2298 A.H.-2513 A.H.); and when they were in the wilderness (2513 A.H.-2553 A.H.).
God called Abraham to leave his native land and to go to Canaan, the land which He promised to show him. This was when Abraham was 75 years of age, which was the year 2083 A.H. The law was given 430 years after the promise was made (Gal. 3:17). According to Exodus, the Law was given when Israel came out of Egypt to Mt. Sinai. That would put the Exodus in the year 2513 A.H. and the entrance into Canaan in 2553 A.H., forty years later.
From the call of Abraham in 2083 A.H. to the Exodus, according to Paul, there were 430 years. It therefore occurred in 2513 A.H. How long was Israel in Egypt? To this question the usual reply is 430 years, but is that correct? There were only 430 years from the call of Abraham to the Exodus. The first 25 years of this period passed before Isaac was born in the year 2108 A.H. when Abraham was one hundred years of age. Isaac was sixty years of age when Jacob and Esau were born. Jacob was one hundred and thirty years old when he went down into Egypt. From the call of Abraham to the descent of Jacob and his family into Egypt, there was therefore the sum of 25 plus 60 plus 130 years, a total of 215 years. But the first 215 of the 430 years were spent by the patriarchs in Palestine. During this period, the land was under Egyptian control. There Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob dwelt in tents as if they were in foreign territory. For all practical purposes and intent, Palestine was foreign soil to the patriarchs. The children of Israel, having descended into Egypt in the year 2298 A.H. and having come forth from there in 2513, were in Egypt exactly 215 years. While they were there, they were under the same influences as they were in Palestine; their environment however was purely Egyptian whereas in Canaan it was Egyptian plus Canaanitish and Babylonian. During Israel's sojourn in Egypt, she developed into a nation, approximately three million strong.
Under the leadership of Moses and Aaron, the Chosen People came forth into the wilderness and to Sinai where they received the Law. Having remained at Horeb for a year, they started northward to Kadesh-barnea, the gateway into southern Palestine. The Lord instructed them to go forward and to possess their possessions. On account of their lack of faith they drew back, and the Lord would not permit them to enter but pronounced punishment upon them because of their unbelief. They therefore had to wander in the wilderness for forty years, during which time those who had rebelled died. There arose a new generation in Israel during this period. Finally, in the year 2553 A.H., Joshua led Israel across the Jordan into the Promised Land.
At this time the Lord planted the vine which He had gotten out of Egypt in its native soil.
Thou broughtest a vine out of Egypt:
Thou didst drive out the nations, and plantedst it.
Thou preparedst room before it,
And it took deep root, and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with the shadow of it,
And the boughs thereof were like cedars of God.
It sent out its branches unto the sea,
And its shoots unto the River.
The psalmist was eager for Israel to remember the fact that their being planted in the land was not due to their own efforts, but to the overruling providence of God. This is set forth in Psalms 44:1-3:
We have heard with our ears, O God,
Our fathers have told us,
What work thou didst in their days,
In the days of old.
Thou didst drive out the nations with thy hand;
But them thou didst plant:
Thou didst afflict the peoples;
But them thou didst spread abroad.
For they gat not the land in possession by their own sword,
Neither did their own arm save them;
But thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance,
Because thou wast favorable unto them.
In the Lord's planting Israel, the choicest vine, in the very fruitful hill of Palestine, He spared no effort in preparing the soil in which it was planted. Thus Isaiah called attention to this fact:
Let me sing for my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: 2 and he digged it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine and built a tower in the midst of it, and also hewed out a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. 3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. 4 What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? 5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; I will break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: 6 and I will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned nor hoed; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. 7 For the vineyard of Jehovah of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for justice, but, behold, oppression; for righteousness, but, behold, a cry. Isa. 5:1-7.
Although the history of Israel while she was in the land was marked with great difficulties and much trouble, she, like a vine, spread out and filled the entire land. Read Psalm 80:8-16, which is the poetical version of her growth and development in her native soil and of the judgment which God was forced to bring upon her under the existing circumstances.
From 2553 to 3520 A.H. the Lord's vineyard, concerning which Isaiah sang in 5:1-7, was intact. It, as the prophet affirmed, was especially blessed of Him, having every advantage conceivable. His loving-kindness and grace left nothing undone which was calculated to be of service, blessing, and benefit to His Chosen People. Nevertheless, instead of bearing the luscious grapes of justice and righteousness, they bore the bitter grapes of oppression and injustice. This fact made it necessary for the Lord to withold His special blessings from them and to bring upon them various strokes of judgment.
According to the prediction of Psalm 80:12-16, the Lord withdrew this special care and protection from His people and allowed the wild boar from the forest and the beast of the field to enter His vineyard and to tread down the vines. Since vine is used symbolically in this and parallel passages, it is evident that the wild beasts mentioned are likewise symbols. Whenever they are thus used, they always indicate, as we see in Daniel 7, civil governments. One of the wild beasts that came into the vineyard and trod down the vines was the Assyrian nation, which did great damage to the northern part of the vineyard, the land of the ten tribes. Later the Lord allowed the Babylonian beast to come into His vineyard and to tread it down, crushing it to the earth. Nevertheless, the unprotected vines remained in their native soil until the year 4111 A.H., which in the usual reckoning was the year 70 A.D. At that time, the Lord allowed the Roman beast to tread the vineyard down. This was a special judgment which He brought against His people because of their having rejected the Messiah in the year 30 A.D. When the Romans conquered the Jews, they cast them out of the land of their fathers and scattered them among the nations in fulfillment of the predictions of such passages as Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. Thus in the year 4111 A.H., the period when the vine was in its native soil was brought to a close.
WITH this event was ushered in the period in which the vine was uprooted and scattered in foreign fields. This era, as indicated on the chart above, began with the fall of Jerusalem and Israel's world-wide dispersion and continues for 1900-plus years. It closes with the second coming of our Lord at the conclusion of the Tribulation. In speaking of Israel's rejection during the present era, our Lord set this thought forth in the parable of the vineyard found in Matthew 21:33-46 and parallel passages. The kingdom of God, according to verse 43 of this quotation, is, during this period, taken from Israel and given to another nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
Let us note the fact that at the beginning of this dispensation there was a period of overlapping. The Christian Era began with the first Pentecost after the resurrection of our Lord, but the Jewish Dispensation, or the period of the vine's being in its native soil, did not terminate until 40 years later, when Titus in 70 A.D. conquered the Jews and scattered them among the nations. Just before this disaster occurred, God sent out His call to Israel of that generation, to whom the gospel had been given, to accept the Lord Jesus Christ. This clarion summons went forth in the form of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Our Lord again referred to this period, during which Israel is uprooted and is scattered in foreign fields, in His statement concerning the fall of Jerusalem and the dispersion of Jewry found in the Olivet Discourse, as recorded in Luke 21:20-24. Jerusalem is trodden down, and Israel, the vine, is scattered in foreign lands "until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." The period called "the times of the Gentiles" in this passage is the latter portion of the times of the Gentiles which are set forth by the metallic image of Daniel 2 and the beast visions of Daniel 7. During this time Israel as a nation elected to leave the main line of God's plan and purpose. Throughout this dispensation the church of Jesus Christ, consisting of believers from both Jews and Gentiles, has been going forward on the main line of God's purpose; whereas, Israel as a nation has been running along on the siding. For a full statement of her past, present, and future, see the Jewish section of Romans chapters 9, 10, and 11.
According to the prophetic word, the Christian Dispensation, the year of Jehovah's favor will be followed immediately by the Tribulation, "the day of vengeance of our God." The rapture of the church, according to the teaching of the New Testament, occurs before the Tribulation. Whether or not any time intervenes between the rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation, I personally cannot say. Some students are of the opinion that immediately upon the rapture of the church the Tribulation begins. As yet I have not found sufficient evidence in the Word to justify my taking that position, although I would not oppose it.
The Tribulation, according to a number of statements in the Old and New Testaments, continues during the seventieth week of Daniel a period of seven years. This is brought to a close by the personal return of our Lord at Israel's invitation for His coming to take the world situation in hand and to bring deliverance to her.
ACCORDING to the prediction of Hosea, 5:14-6:3, the Lord upon Israel's rejection of Him ascends to glory and remains there until she acknowledges her offense and seeks His face earnestly. This prophetic statement by Hosea is supported by our Lord's lament over Jerusalem found in Matthew 23:37-39. When Jesus went up to Jerusalem at the last passover during His personal ministry, the masses of the people welcomed Him as Messiah, the Son of David. The leaders poisoned their minds against Him and turned the current of public opinion from Him. He, knowing what they had done, declared that He would go away that is, return to heaven and would never come back to earth until the leaders of Israel take the same attitude toward Him as that which was assumed by the multitudes who welcomed Him at that time.
A close study of Hosea 5:14-6:3, in the light of relevant passages, makes it clear that Israel will have to repudiate the national sin of rejecting Him and must implore His return before He will ever leave heaven and come to deliver her. (Let no one confuse the rapture of the church with the second coming of Christ. The rapture is pre-Tribulation and relates to the church; the second coming pertains to Israel and comes at the conclusion of the Tribulation.)
There are two versions of the confession which penitent Israel will make in the year 1942-plus—Isaiah 53:1-9 and Isaiah 63:15-64:12. If one will study these passages very closely, one will see that the prophet was carried forward in vision to the year 1942-plus and identified himself with the penitent remnant of his people as they acknowledge the national sin of rejecting Messiah and plead for His return. Only when these two passages are studied from this angle can one understand their full import.
The liturgical prayer that Israel will offer to God is also expressed in Psalm 80. Let the reader note the first seven verses and the three last ones, which reveal the fact that the nation at this future date will have been given the facts relating to her Messiah and will in genuine repentance call upon Him to return for her salvation. Only after she has acknowledged her sin of rejecting Him and has pleaded for Him to return, will He come and bring the desired deliverance.
WHEN her long-rejected King hears her cry for Him to return, He will arise and hasten to her rescue. The restoration of Israel, which has already begun in fulfillment of the vision of the valley of dry bones, will then be completed. She will be established in her own land according to Genesis 12:3 and Isaiah 27:6 and will fill the earth with fruit. At that time will also be fulfilled the promise found in Romans 11:15, which contrasts the conditions that now exist with those which will obtain when Israel accepts the Messiah. Paul declares that the difference is as great as that between a corpse lying cold in death and the same restored to life in full power of all its faculties. Great will be the day, therefore, when Israel, evangelized and convicted of her national sin, repudiates it and accepts her Messiah. May you and I, dear reader, do all that we can for these people, persecuted and ill-treated, yet beloved for the fathers' sake (Rom. 11:28).