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Milepost 8: Israel's Birth Pangs

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Milepost 8: Israel's Birth Pangs

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Generally, birth pang prophecies show Israel subduing various enemies. During this time, Israel fights a progression of wars against increasingly stronger armies. These wars culminate with two cataclysmic battles during the seven-year tribulation but even prior to this, Israel successfully contends with many regional adversaries.  Zechariah 12:5-8 alludes to Israel’s military prowess in defending themselves:

And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the LORD of hosts their God.  In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem.  The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah.  In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them.

These verses contain several clues pointing these passages to Israel’s birth pangs.  The phrase ‘In that day’ appears several times in this passage and marks this as an end-time prophecy.  In addition, Israel did not fulfill them in either their first or the second incarnation so they must represent a fulfillment during their third incarnation.  Since Jesus’ return ends all wars, the events must occur before this and the fulfillment window is effectively restricted to the Israel’s birth pangs.  Key prophecies in these verses include:

  • Jerusalem shall be inhabited again
  • Judah shall devour all its enemies
  • God saves Judah first
  • In battle, each inhabitant of Jerusalem shall be as David
  • In battle, the house of David shall be as the Angel of the Lord

Zechariah’s focus on Judah and Jerusalem, and not Israel as a whole, helps fuel speculation of Israel’s possible end-time division into two nations especially since Revelation 6 clearly shows that at least twelve of the thirteen tribes are present in Israel during this time.

Passages such as this one show Israel has many end-time enemies and fights many wars but provide precious few specifics about these wars (e.g., who, when or where).  What they do show is the Jews are valiant fighters as these passages compare Israel’s fighting abilities to David who single-handedly defeated a lion, a bear and Goliath.  As mentioned earlier, there are striking similarities between David’s conquests and three of Daniel’s four beasts.  These similarities become even more interesting when Hosea declares that all four afflict Ephraim, an alternate name for Israel’s northern kingdom:

According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me.  Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them:  I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them. (Hosea 13:6-8)

By directing these pronouncements against Ephraim, Hosea seems to support the proposition that the end-time nation of Israel again divides into two parts and that Israel must face each of Daniel’s four beasts.  Interestingly, Hosea states that the leopard only observes and does not attack (at least individually).  This seems to be consistent with both the story of Goliath and Amos 5:18-19, which omit references to the leopard.  From these passages, it appears that the leopard is the most reluctant of the four beasts to attack the nation of Israel while the other beasts each take their turns afflicting Israel: the lion in Israel’s war of independence, the bear in Ezekiel’s future battle of Gog of Magog, and the last beast in the battle of Armageddon.

Today, Israel’s attention is not on these great beasts but on numerous smaller adversaries but scriptural references to them and their disposition is sketchy at best.  A couple of clues appear in Ezekiel’s description of the tribulation battle of Gog of Magog (Ezekiel 38-39) where none of Israel’s regional enemies appear in either the lists of invading armies or allies.  Their omission is even more striking when one realizes that invasion forces must pass through these countries to reach Israel.  Also intriguing is Israel’s belief they finally have peace and safety.

This combination suggests Israel’s neighbors such as Jordon, Lebanon, and Syria have either been eliminated or rendered impotent. While the modern names for most of these nations do not appear in the Bible, several ancient nations such as Ammon, Moab, Edom, Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, and the Philistines are present and may provide clues Israel’s current unrest. For example, Gaza and the Philistines appear in the following potential birth pang prophecy:

Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom: But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof: And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that holdeth the sceptre from Ashkelon, and I will turn mine hand against Ekron: and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith the Lord GOD. (Amos 1:6-8)

Today, this area in the Gaza strip is an armed camp filled with people full of irrational hatred aimed at Israel. Daily, it threatens to embroil the entire area in escalating violence potentially leading to another regional conflict. This passage suggests these people’s destruction, perhaps through war, comes after their fourth major infraction. Ezekiel 25:15-17 seems to pronounce similar judgments:

Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because the Philistines have dealt by revenge, and have taken vengeance with a despiteful heart, to destroy it for the old hatred; Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will stretch out mine hand upon the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethims, and destroy the remnant of the sea coast. And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.