“Son of man, record this date, this very date, because the king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day.” (Ezekiel 24:2)
Ever since Israel was miraculously reborn as an independent state in 1948, she has been center-stage on the world scene.
That position became even more evident when Jerusalem was united in 1967 after the Six Day War. Against all odds, Israel prevailed when the Arab world once again mounted superior forces against this tiny nation.
Last week, there was a lot of talk about the safety and security of Israel when the US Secretary of State John Kerry was here for his eighth trip to the region.
It was his first meeting with Netanyahu since the United States and five other world powers struck a historic interim deal with Iran over its nuclear program.
Kerry said he was convinced that Israel is safer today because of the interim agreement.
“I can’t emphasize enough that Israel’s security in this negotiation is at the top of our agenda,” Kerry said.
Kerry also said that a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians was “closer than ever” and that the US was committed to a final status agreement that resulted in Israelis and Palestinians being “safer than they are today.”
“Neither peace nor prosperity is possible without security,” he said.
Despite his optimism, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) seems to be continually demanding the destruction of Israel as the price for that peace.
Recently, during the 26th anniversary celebrations of the start of the Second Intifada, the PLO said its basic requirements for a deal with Israel included full Israeli withdrawal from all lands liberated in 1967, including Judea and Samaria (West Bank), and east Jerusalem.
The PLO also demanded that Jerusalem be the capital of a Palestinian state. And they want the millions of descendants of those who fled Israel when she was established in 1948 to flood Israel.
Obviously, such a move would spell the end of the Jewish state.
Nebuchadnezzar Lays Siege to Jerusalem
The modern-day siege of Jerusalem brings to mind the onset of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar on the Tenth of Tevet in 588 BC, roughly 2,500 years ago.
The anniversary of that siege, the Tenth of Tevet, begins tomorrow night.
Although Jerusalem was not destroyed immediately, this siege began the battle that ultimately destroyed Jerusalem and the First Temple in 586 BC, and resulted in the 70-year Babylonian Exile of the Jewish People.
That siege was intense and the people were starving.
“By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat.” (2 Kings 25:3)
Zedekiah, the King of Judah, tried to escape through the walls of Jerusalem, but he was captured and forced to watch the murder of his sons. After that, he was blinded and taken to Babylon, where he remained in captivity until his death.
Nebuchadnezzar stripped the Temple of all of its furnishings, along with the Temple treasures and golden vessels that had been dedicated by King Solomon.
This wasn’t the last time that a conquering nation laid siege to Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.
About 650 years after Nebuchadnezzar, Rome besieged Jerusalem, eventually resulting in the walls being breached once again and the destruction of the city, including King Herod’s magnificent Second Temple.
The Tenth of Tevet also commemorates other events that took place on this day, or a couple of days prior, that the rabbis consider tragic.
For example, on the eighth of Tevet during the third century BC, the King of Egypt, Ptolemy, ordered that the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) be translated into Greek. That work became known as the Septuagint.
According to Jewish tradition, 72 Hebrew sages—six scholars from each of the 12 tribes—were placed in solitary confinement.
It was expected that this would result in the creation of 72 separate translations which would be edited together with attention placed on changing any context that might be offensive to pagans.
Miraculously, all 72 translations turned out to be identical, which the Greeks understood as a great feat.
The rabbis at that time, however, saw the translation of the Torah into Greek as a work of assimilation of the Jewish People into pagan culture, since large Jewish communities in Egypt, Syria, Greece, Asia Minor, Philo, Cyprus, Rome and Cyrene spoke Greek instead of Hebrew.
At the time of Yeshua (Jesus), the Septuagint was on equal standing with the Hebrew text. Newer generations of Jewish scholars, however, prefer the Masoretic text.
The Messianic Prophecy Bible, therefore, will consult many manuscripts, including the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Aleppo Codex to create a Bible that exposes the truth of the Messianic prophecies in a way that Jewish people understand and relate.
“Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, they will each turn from their wicked ways; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.” (Jeremiah 36:3)
In Judaism, the Siege of Jerusalem is regarded as a wake-up call that went unheeded.
Even before that wake-up call, however, God had been calling the nation to repentance.
The prophet Jeremiah warned the people to repent of their sinful ways or face the coming destruction. King Jehoiakim imprisoned Jeremiah for prophesying these things.
When the prophecy was read to King Jehoiakim, he had the scroll burned. God, therefore, instructed Jeremiah to dictate the prophecy a second time, adding the following:
“Also tell Jehoiakim king of Judah, ‘This is what the Lord says: You burned that scroll and said, ‘Why did you write on it that the king of Babylon would certainly come and destroy this land and wipe from it both man and beast?’
Therefore this is what the Lord says about Jehoiakim king of Judah: ‘He will have no one to sit on the throne of David; his body will be thrown out and exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night. I will punish him and his children and his attendants for their wickedness; I will bring on them and those living in Jerusalem and the people of Judah every disaster I pronounced against them, because they have not listened.’” (Jeremiah 36:29–31)
Eighteen years later, the prophecy was fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple and took the people of Judah into captivity in Babylon.
Two and a half centuries earlier, Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest, also warned of God’s impending punishment for disobedience:
“Then the Spirit of God came on Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, ‘This is what God says: Why do you disobey the LORD’s commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the LORD, He has forsaken you.'” (2 Chronicles 24:20)
In 661 BC, the people stoned Zechariah to death in the Temple courtyard on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
According to the Talmud, Zechariah’s blood miraculously continued to bubble up from the soil where he was stoned until the Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.
Tradition has it (Talmud, Gittin 57b) that when the chief of Nebuchadnezzar’s army entered the Temple, he found Zechariah’s blood still bubbling.
When he was told that this was the blood of a prophet that they had killed, he said, “I will appease him,” and proceeded to kill close to 100,000 Jerusalem residents beginning with the members of the Sanhedrin and ending with school children.
When the blood still continued to bubble, the army chief cried: “Zechariah, Zechariah! I have slain the best of them; do you want all of them destroyed?” At this, the blood sank into the ground. (Chabad)
Preventing Exile and Destruction
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachim Mendel Schneerson, who is still mistakenly regarded by many as the Messiah, although he died in 1994, noted that the siege was a missed opportunity to wake up and understand what God wanted from them.
The fast of the Tenth of Tevet, he said, is especially sad because the Jewish People could have averted God’s judgment through repentance.
As proof of this, Schneerson pointed to an earlier siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib, king of Assyria.
At that time, King Hezekiah prayed to God for deliverance and an angel of God destroyed Sennacherib’s entire army.
Therefore, the Rebbe reasoned, similar acts of teshuvah or repentance during the siege of Nebuchadnezzar could have prevented the exile, as well as the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. (Chabad)
The Central Role of Jerusalem
Jerusalem has always held the central role in the history of the Jewish People.
Its destruction in 586 BC followed by additional devastation in AD 70 and its total destruction by the Emperor Hadrian in AD 131 led to the banishment of most of the Jewish population.
This process was finally reversed in the late 19th and 20th centuries, leading to the establishment of the modern Jewish state in 1948.
In 1967, as the result of the Six Day War, all of Jerusalem was returned to the Jewish people, including the Temple Mount where the First and Second Temples once stood.
Although the Arab countries attacking Israel had superior military might, Israel had the Lord, and He gave Israel a miraculous victory in only six days.
The present peace talks under the sponsorship of the United States will likely only “succeed” if all of the Palestinian demands are met, which would mean that East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount would once again be torn from the Jewish People and delivered to the Arabs to serve as a capital of a Palestinian state.
This would leave the Jews only with that portion of the city situated west of the Green Line (the 1949 Armistice Line).
Delivering the Temple Mount to the Palestinians, who even now are busy trying to erase any trace of Jewish history there, would represent a terrible loss and historic move backwards.
There are many, however, who would rather move forward.
In fact, many people and organizations are ready to rebuild the Jewish Temple and share the Temple Mount with the Muslims. They are no idle dreamers. They have accumulated all of the necessary materials, fixtures and even priests (descendants of Aaron) to make the Third Temple possible.
Bible prophecy indicates that in the days before the return of the Messiah, there will be a final siege of Jerusalem:
“Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.” (Zechariah 12:2–3)
Of course, we see the beginnings of the fulfillment of that prophecy now. The prophetic clock is ticking and we need to wake up.
As Yeshua (Jesus) said, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28)
In these final days, the nations will turn against Jerusalem and the Jewish People, but the Word of God reassures us that the Messiah will defend Jerusalem and give it ultimate victory:
“Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east.” (Zechariah 14:3)