Sermon 10-14-23

                                                    The reason for the Israeli/Arab conflict

       Genesis 12:1-2; The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.     

       God told Abraham to leave the area he was living in and move to the land of Canaan.  The land of Canaan was occupied by a people called the Canaanites who appear to be descendants of a man named Canaan, son of Ham and grandson of Noah.

       Abraham had a son named Isaac who had a son named Jacob.  The name Israel was given by God to Jacob and Jacob (Israel) had twelve sons who became known as the children of Israel.  The word Israel appears to have the general meaning of “one who overcomes” (Genesis 32:28).

       Because of famine in the land of Canaan, the family of Jacob (Israel) moved to Egypt where they sojourned for around 400 years and grew into a large nation that became slaves to the Egyptians. Moses led the descendants of Israel out of Egypt and into the land of Canaan where his successor Joshua successfully led the Israelite's into possession of the land by defeating the Canaanites in war. 

       After being initially ruled by judges, the Israelite's were ruled by a succession of kings beginning with Saul and followed by David and then Solomon.  After Solomon died, the nation of Israel split into two kingdoms. The kingdom located in northern Palestine retained the name Israel and had its capitol in Samaria. The kingdom to the south became known as Judah with its capitol at Jerusalem.

Divided Kingdom of Northern Israel and Judah Map

       The nation of Judah was made up of the tribes of Judah, Levi and Benjamin.  The other tribes made up the Kingdom of Israel to the north of Judah.  The area of the nation of Judah became known as Judea. The word Palestine is a generic term that historically has been used to describe the area along the eastern border of the Mediterranean once occupied by a people called Philistines.  The Philistines appear to have been contemporary with the Canaanites. 

       The Northern Kingdom of Israel was taken captive by the Assyrians around 722 BC and the Israelite's of the Northern Kingdom were dispersed by the Assyrians to nations under their control.  The Assyrians then brought people from nations under their control into the area that had been the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

       Various historians believe these imported people intermarried with Israelite's who remained in or returned to the land of Israel.  Whatever the mix of people was under Assyrian rule, they proceeded to develop an aberrant form of Judaism which was still extant in the first century when Jesus walked the earth. 

       It is instructive that in John chapter 4, it is shown that residents of Samaria, where the capitol of the Northern Kingdom had been located, speak of Jacob as their father and of looking for the arrival of the Messiah. This indicates there was a strong Israelitish influence among the residents of the former Northern Kingdom which in turn indicates the Samaritans were a mix of the foreigners brought in by the Assyrians and descendants of Israelite's who returned to or never left the area of the Northern Kingdom at the time of the Assyrian captivity.

       Archeology has discovered that at the time of the Assyrian assault on the Northern Kingdom, there was a significant increase in the population of the Southern Kingdom.  It would appear that some Israelite's from the Northern Kingdom escaped the Assyrian assault in 722 BC by migrating to the Southern Kingdom during this time. Some of these folks may have returned to the area of the Northern Kingdom and intermarried with the foreign residents brought in by the Assyrians.  Others may have stayed in Judah which resulted in the nation of Judah becoming composed of descendants of more tribes of Israel than just the tribes of Judah, Levi and Benjamin.

       It is to be noted that it wasn't just the Northern Kingdom that was assaulted by the Assyrians.  Around ten years after Assyria took the Northern Kingdom into captivity, they captured many of the cities of the Southern Kingdom of Judah as seen in 2 Kings 18:13 and Isaiah 36:1. Jerusalem, however, was spared. 

       Assyrian records show that forty-six cities of Judah and over two hundred thousand residents of these cities were taken captive by the Assyrians. If the Assyrians continued their practice of dispersing their captives to other nations and bringing in foreigners to occupy their conquered lands, it appears a number of Israelite's, who were part of the nation of Judah, would also have been replaced by foreigners when these residents of Judah were dispersed to the various nations under Assyrian control. 

       Sometime thereafter, the Assyrians were conquered by the Babylonians. The Babylonians proceeded to take captive the remaining residents of the Southern Kingdom of Judah between 605 and 586 BC. In conquering the Assyrians, the Babylonians now controlled the cities where residents of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah had been dispersed during the Assyrian assaults. 

       When the remaining residents of the Southern Kingdom were taken captive by the Babylonians, it is very likely that some captives taken to Babylon were reunited with some of their fellow Israelite's from both the Northern and Southern kingdoms who had been scattered throughout the former Assyrian Empire.

       Around 539 BC. Babylon was conquered by the Medo-Persian Empire. Sometime later the Persian king Cyrus issued a decree instructing the Jews to go back to their land and rebuild the temple which had been destroyed by the Babylonians. This had been prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah and confirmed by Ezra.

        Jeremiah 29:10-14: This is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile."

       Ezra 1:1-2:  In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:  "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: "`The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.

       In Ezra chapter two, is a list of those who returned to Jerusalem and Judah 70 years after the Babylonian captivity. While this list primarily shows descendants of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi (The Nation of Judah), there were 775 descendants of Arah from the tribe of Asher (1 Chronicles 7:39) who returned as well. Luke 2:36 shows the prophetess Anna, who lived in first century Judea, to be a descendant of the tribe of Asher.  Ezra's list includes men from Bethel and Ai. Bethel had been part of the Northern Kingdom (1 Kings 12:28-29) as was Ai.

       It is noteworthy that in listing those who returned, Ezra did not provide a list of the men of the people of Judah but provided a list of the men of the people of Israel (Ezra 2:2).   It is also noteworthy that in 1 Chronicles 9:1-3, it is recorded that the first to resettle on their own property in their own towns after the Babylonian captivity were some Israelite's, priests, Levite's and temple servants. The writer then lists a number of Israelite's from the tribe of Judah and Benjamin and from Ephraim and Manasseh who lived in Jerusalem. Ephraim and Manasseh were sub-tribes of the tribe of Joseph and were of the Northern Kingdom. Apparently, some from Ephraim and Manasseh had returned to Jerusalem where they had been living before the Babylonian captivity.       

       I cite all this to show that it is apparent that some former residents of the Northern Kingdom were part of the group that returned to Jerusalem and Judea 70 Years after the Babylonian captivity of the Southern Kingdom.  Since there is no record of another captivity or dispersion of the Israelite's after their return to Judea from Babylonian captivity, it should be apparent it was descendants of this mix of Israelite's that inhabited Judea in the first century AD. This would explain why Peter and Paul often addressed their listeners as "men of Israel"and not just "men of Judah."                

       In Matthew 10, we see Jesus sending his disciples to the cities of Israel to minister to the “lost sheep” of Israel. (Matthew 10:5-6). It is often believed that the "lost sheep" of Israel are the ten tribes dispersed among the nations and lost from view as a result of the Assyrian captivity.  If, however, the ten tribes were lost from view, how could the disciples be sent to the cities of Israel?  What cities?  Other than the cities of Judah, there wouldn't be any identifiable cities of Israel if indeed the ten tribes had passed into oblivion and nobody knew where they were.  It should be obvious that these "lost sheep" were remnants of the Northern tribes that were living in cities accessible to the disciples and not physically lost from view. 

       It should be noted at this point that historically the term Jew has been used to designate not only descendants of the three-tribe nation of Judah, but to Israelite's in general and non-Israelite's as well who embrace Judaism as a religion.  In the NT we find the words Jew and Jews used interchangeably with the word Israel.  We also see as far back as the time of Esther (Esther 8:17) that non-Israelites who embraced the Jewish religion became known as Jews.  In Acts chapter 2, we see proselytes to Judaism referred to as Jews.  In the 700’s AD an entire Empire became known as Jews because they embraced Judaism as their religion.  This was the Khazar Empire once located between the Black and Caspian Seas. The Khazar’s are not of Semitic descent.

       The Israelite's living in Jerusalem and its environs were largely killed in the war with Rome in the first century AD. The first century Roman destruction of the temple, the city of Jerusalem and many surrounding areas resulted in a million Jews being killed and 100.000 taken into captivity.  This destruction brought to an end facilitation of the Old Covenant system. There has been no physical temple, priesthood or sacrificial system since nor does there ever need to be. The Christ event did away with the need for the Old Covenant system as the book of Hebrews clearly points out.       

       In the years that followed the war with Rome, a number of Jews continued to live in Palestine but many had migrated to other nations in the Middle East and to various parts of the world.  Even before the war with Rome, it appears that many Jews were already living outside of Palestine. Alexandria Egypt had a huge Jewish population. The Jewish historian Josephus records that up to six million Jews were living outside of Israel at the time the temple was destroyed in AD 70. 

       These Jews had mainly migrated to Italy and Southern Europe. The Jews who remained in Palestine after the war with Rome continued to have conflict with Rome and many were killed in such conflicts. During a revolt against Rome in 132 to 135 AD (the Bar Kochba revolt), the Jews were expelled from Jerusalem.  By the end of the seventh century AD, Palestine had become largely occupied by Arab’s who embraced Islam as their religion.  Islamic Arab's remained the dominant ethnic/religious group in Palestine for the next 1,200 years. As recent as 1931, out of a total Palestine population of a little over one million, 800,000 were Arab.

        It wasn't until the Jewish Zionist movement of the 19th and 20th centuries that the demographics of the region began to change.  In the 1800's, Palestine was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. In 1922 Palestine was placed under British administration by the League of Nations.

       Due to a change in land ownership law, wealthy upper class Arab investors were able to take over large areas of the land in Palestine by denying tenure to Arab peasants who were farming the land.  This land was then sold to Jewish settlers.  This began the Jewish migration to Israel.  This migration was enhanced by the British Belfour Declaration of 1917. This statement was producd by then British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour. This declaration stated that the British government viewed with favor the establishment of Palestine as a national home for the Jewish people.  Here is what the Belfour Declaration said:

       His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

       As can be seen, this Declaration strongly encouraged the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.  As clearly seen, this Declaration discouraged this being done at the expense of the non-Jewish population in Palestine which at that time was largely Arab.  Unfortunately, this instruction to not prejudice the civil and religious rights of the indigenous population was largely ignored by the Zionist movement. Thus began the Jewish/Arab conflict.

        From the start, the Zionist goal was to take the land away from the Arab's and occupy it with peoples who are considered by many to be descendants of the tribes of Israel.  Let me be clear, from the beginning of the Zionist movement, the aim has been the displacement of the indigenous Arab population.  It has been a consistent position of the Zionist's that the land of Israel is rightfully theirs because of it being granted to them by God as the Promised Land of Old Testament history. Jews believe they have a historical right to the land of Palestine.  Many evangelical Christians concur with this view and have supported the Zionist objectives.    

       Are the current Jewish residents of Israel descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as commonly believed? No doubt many are. It is apparent, however, that a significant number are not. It is apparent a contingent of current "Jewish" residents of Israel are not ethnic Jews but descendants of non-ethnic Jews that once made up the Khazar Empire.

Map of Khazaria (Biggest Jewish Empire and they are also ...

      As already alluded too, in the 700’s AD an entire Empire became known as Jews because they embraced Judaism as their religion.  This was the Khazar Empire once located between the Black and Caspian Seas. The Khazar’s are considered Ashkenazi Jews because their ancestry has been traced back through Ashkenaz who was a son of Gomer who was a son of Japheth, son of Noah (Genesis 10:1-3).  Israelite’s trace their lineage back through Abraham who is a descendant of Noah’s son Shem.  Therefore, it is apparent the Khazar’s are not ethnic Jews.  They are not descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 

       In the eleventh century AD, the Khazar Empire came to an end and the people of this Empire migrated to Russia, Poland and other Eastern European countries where they greatly increased in number.  Since they had embraced Judaism and continued to embrace Judaism, they were looked upon as Jews.  It has been shown that a large majority of “Jews” who have migrated from Europe to various parts of the world, including modern day Israel, are Ashkenazi Jews.  It has been estimated there are more than 10 million Ashkenazi Jews living throughout the world today with around 2.8 million living in Israel.  Jewish scholars clearly recognize and admit to the fact that many Jews living in Israel and throughout the world are of Ashkenazi lineage. Some historians of the Second World War believe that a significant number of “Jews” killed in the holocaust were Ashkenazi Jews.

       The true descendants of Abraham are called Sephardic Jews.  Sephardic Jews have been shown to be from Middle Eastern countries around the Mediterranean Sea such as Israel, Jordan and Syria and also from Portugal, Spain and Northern Africa.

       Debate continues as to the ethnic heritage of modern day Jews. Recent genetic research has indicated that the ancestry of many Jews can be traced back to ethnic Jews who migrated from the Middle East to Europe and married nor-Jewish women who had become converts to Judaism.  This has resulted in many of today's "Jews" being a genetic mix of Jewish and non-Jewish heritage.  This mixing of Jews with non-Jews has been going on for thousands of years and can be traced to before the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities.  OT Scripture shows that intermarriage with non-Israelite's was one of the sins for which the nations of Israel and Judah were punished by God. 

       It should be apparent that intermarriage between diverse ethnic groups over the centuries has greatly mingled the human race as to ancestry. It appears a substantial number of Jew’s living in Israel today are of Ashkenazi descent. As already mentioned, Hebrew scholars readily admit to this.  Many others are the product of mixed marriages where their heritage is a mix of Jewish and non-Jewish ancestry. 

       Palestine has been occupied by a variety of different ethnic groups throughout history. Israel was given this land at one point in history in fulfillment of God's land promise to Abraham. Later, Israel was removed from the land by God because of their failure to keep the Covenant He established with them.  Some of Israel was restored to the land 70 years after the Babylonian captivity.  Then in AD 70, much of Israel was again removed from the land as judgement for their failure to keep the Covenant and acknowledge Jesus as the promised Messiah.

       After AD 70, the land of Palestine began to be occupied by various ethnic groups and by the end of the seventh century AD, Palestine had become largely occupied by Arab’s and remained so until the Zionist movement of the 19th and 20th centuries facilitated the reoccupation of this land by a mix of ethnic and non-ethnic Jews. In 1948, The United Nations established Israel as a "Jewish" state which precipitated a war with the Arabs which the Israelis’ won resulting in the creation of over 700,000 Arab refugees. Israel took over 77% of Palestine at the time.  Hundreds of thousands of Arab peoples were systematically dispossessed of what had been their homeland for over a thousand years. At the end of the 1948 war, the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem were controlled by Egypt and Jordan. 

       In 1967 a number of Arab states attacked Israel and were soundly defeated in what became known as the six-day war.  Israel annexed the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.  This war resulted in the creation of thousands of additional Arab refugees. In October of 1973, Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israeli forces in the Sinai and the Golan Heights. Israel ultimately repelled the attack and regained lost ground.

       Israel occupied Gaza from 1967 until 2005, when international and domestic pressure forced Israel to withdraw its military and some 9,000 Israeli settlers from Gaza. This opened the door to Palestinian self-rule of Gaza. Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, gaining a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council, and subsequently took control of Gaza from Fatah in 2007.  Since Hamas took control of Gaza, there have been many ongoing hostilities between Israel and the Gaza Palestinians. Hamas has become a terrorist organization that is determined to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. A similar group in Lebanon called Hezbollah has the same goal. Hamas has lunched rockets into Israel numerous times in recent years and in response, Israel has launched four major military assaults on Gaza (2008-09, 2012, 2014 and 2021) in efforts to destroy Hamas' military capabilities.

       As already discussed, the Belfour Declaration, while strongly encouraging the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, also discouraged this being done at the expense of the non-Jewish population in Palestine which at that time was largely Arab.  The instruction in this Declaration to not prejudice the civil and religious rights of the indigenous population has been largely ignored by the Zionist movement.  This has resulted in the ongoing conflict we see in Palestine to this very day with ramifications felt throughout the world. A major ramification is Islamic terrorism which, while having its roots in religious ideology, is also driven by hatred over what has transpired in Palestine since 1948.   

       Because of their mutual historical association with Palestine, it would appear both Jews and Arabs have a legitimate claim to the land.  Therefore, a two-state arrangement appears to be a reasonable solution. Yet this solution will be very difficult if not impossible to implement because of longstanding mutual animosities and distrust. The Government of Israel, in conjunction with the United States and other countries, has proposed a two-state solution a number of times. The terms of such solution have not been acceptable to the Arab authorities.  The Arabs have insisted they be allowed to return to land confiscated during the 1967 war.  Except for having relinquished control over the Gaza strip, Israel has consistently rejected this proposal and is not only unwilling to return additional confiscated land but continues to build Jewish settlements on such land, primarily the West Bank. This has led to escalation of the tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. This activity on the part of Israel has greatly contributed to the ongoing conflict.        

       Another demand of the Arabs is that in any two-state arrangement, Jerusalem must be the location of their capitol along with it being the capitol of the Jewish state.  Israel has outright rejected this demand and with the recent establishment of the US Embassy for Israel in Jerusalem, the prospects for Jerusalem being shared as the capitol of an Arab state has become even more remote.  This has further infuriated the Arabs. Christians, Jews and Arabs all see the city of Jerusalem as holy and important to their religious beliefs.  The Jews in particular see Jerusalem as historically belonging to them.  This makes relinquishing any of part of the city very problematic.     

       Israel is slightly bigger than Vermont with a population of nine million. The Gaza Strip is about twice the size of Washington, D.C.  It is a mere 140 square miles.  Over 2 million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip. Many live in abject poverty and squalor. The other Palestinian territory in Palestine is the Israeli-occupied and controlled West Bank, a 2,200-square-mile area just west of the Jordan River. It houses around three million Arabs and 500,000 Israeli’s.

Israel Maps & Facts - World Atlas


      The Old Covenant system was associated with the physical nation of Israel and included the physical promise of land. This promise of land was realized when Israel, under the leadership of Joshua, defeated the various nations occupying Canaan and took possession of the land (See Deuteronomy 34:1-4).  The Old Covenant was terminated by the death and resurrection of Jesus and the subsequent Roman destruction of the Temple in AD 70. 

       Without the temple, facilitation of the requirements of the Old Covenant system ended. The New Covenant system is now in place and relates to spiritual promises. The New Covenant has to do with spiritual promises of eternal life rather than promises of land. Provision of physical land is no longer a dynamic of God's purpose for Israel or mankind in general.  There is no "two-tiered" system where God is working out one purpose for Israel and a different purpose for the Gentile world as some in the Christian community believe.

       A major detriment to solving the Israel/Arab conflict is the failure by both Jews and non-Jews to understand that the land promises were fulfilled under the Old Covenant and have been abrogated by the New Covenant. This being the case, the Jews do not have a "Divine right" to the land as is often believed. Both Jews and Arabs have right to the land based on their historical presence in the land. It would be prudent for both sides to fully acknowledge this and proceed accordingly.

     Until and unless the world comes to see God’s purpose for mankind is in and through the Christ event of 2000 years ago, the Israeli/Arab conflict and all other conflicts will continue to be unresolved.     

      Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Gentile (may I say Arab), neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

       Unless and until this statement of Paul’s comes to be understood as a reality, religious, political, social and cultural conflict will continue unabated at all levels of human society.