Covering the Bones
“And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them” (Ezekiel 37:8).
by Leonard Griehs
In this second stage of Ezekiel’s vision, he sees lifeless skeletons growing and changing into bodies. Sinews — tough fibrous tissue uniting muscle to bone or bone to bone, commonly called tendons or ligaments — appear
from nowhere and tie those bones together. Yet the skeletons still do not move. They must wait for the spirit from God to provide life and put
them on their feet. At that point, Jehovah’s query to Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” will be answered for all to see (Ezekiel 37:3).
A restored nation had been in the hopes of all the prophets since the destruction of the first temple in 587 BC. Throughout the second temple period, Israel had no national polity. After rejecting him as their Messiah, Jesus told the nation, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:38). With the fulfillment of the Times of the Gentiles (Luke
21:24),1 Israel’s presence as a nation began to emerge and has grown significantly ever since.
Sinews, the Strength of Community
In 63 BC, the Romans began an occupation of Israel that would continue until the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD and the end of the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 AD, just as Jesus had predicted. Signs of the return of
favor to Israel and the restoration of its homeland did not begin until the appearance of Zionism in the late 19th century.
The term Zionism first appeared in the writings of Austrian journalist Nathan Birnbaum in 1886. Today there is much misunderstanding about the term, which simply meant a return of the Jewish people to their ancient and biblical homeland. It was derived from a Biblical word that symbolized Jerusalem in Psalm 132:13-18: “For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest forever; here will I dwell; for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her priests with salvation; and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. There will I make the horn of David to bud; I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed. His enemies will I clothe with shame,
but upon himself shall his crown flourish.”
Until 1918, Palestine had been part of the Ottoman Empire, under Turkish rule for some 400 years. The tendons and ligaments forming on the bone is an apt description of how Israel was brought back to life with the strength
of its people revealed as they were joined together in community. Still under the control of the Ottoman Empire, Petah Tikvah (Gateway
of Hope), today Israel’s 5th largest city, was established by a group of religious Jews desiring to leave Jerusalem and establish an agricultural community. The initial settlement was short-lived due to disappointing harvests and an outbreak of malaria. In 1883, a new group of immigrants from Russia, known as BILU settled in Petah Tikvah and were soon aided
by Edmond Rothschild who provided funds to drain the area’s swamps. The draining of the swamps enabled the new residents to plant citrus groves which in turn led to economic development and more residents. By 1900, there were 818 residents in Petah Tikvah.
(1) See The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom, July/August 2014, “The Gentile Times Have Ended — 100 Year Anniversary.”
(2) See The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom, September/October 1980, “A Nation Born in a Day
As Albert O. Hudson suggested,2 “Money has often been called the sinews of war; in this case money became the sinews of peace.” In this beginning, financing came from wealthy American Jews. Baron Abraham Edmond
Benjamin James de Rothschild (19 August 1845-2 November 1934) was a French member of the Rothschild banking family. A strong supporter of Zionism, his large donations lent significant support to the Zionist movement during its early years, which helped lead to the establishment
of the State of Israel.
Rothschild’s goal was the establishment of a Jewish homeland. He promoted industrialization and economic development. In 1924 he established the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (PICA), which acquired more
than 125,000 acres (50,586 hectares) of land and set up business ventures. Rothschild likely spent over $50 million in supporting the settlements and backed research in electricity by engineers and financed development of an electricity generating station.
Jews and Arabs lived amicably on Rothschild’s land. According to historian Albert M. Hyamson, “Rothschild recognized that the overriding interest of Jews of Palestine was the confidence and the friendship of their Arab neighbors. The interests of the Arab cultivators of the land he bought were never overlooked, but by development he made this land capable of maintaining a population ten times its former size.”
End of Ottoman Rule
Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the British assumed control of Palestine. In November 1917, the British government issued the Balfour Declaration, announcing its intention to facilitate the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” In 1922, the League of Nations granted Britain a “mandate” over Palestine which included, among other things, provisions calling for the establishment of a Jewish homeland, facilitating Jewish immigration and
encouraging Jewish settlement on the land.
The British army withdrew from the land of Israel on 14 May 1948. During its thirty-year dominion over the Promised Land, Britain kept the promise made in 1917 by its foreign secretary, Arthur James Balfour, in the Declaration that bears his name, “to favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” However, Britain neglected
to observe the Declaration’s final clause: “that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
Hours before the British mandate over Palestine officially terminated at midnight, May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the creation of the State of Israel and became its first prime minister. Longtime British advocate of Zionism, Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952) became Israel’s first president. The very next day, May 15, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States, publicly recognized the State of Israel and the Soviet Union soon followed suit.
Many challenges to the new nation quickly arose. It had to fight a war of survival against its Arab neighboring states which immediately invaded the fledgling nation. At the same time, Israel had to absorb shiploads of immigrants that were arriving daily to the Jewish homeland. Many were penniless refugees from Europe. They needed immediate health and social services. Possessing only three tanks and no air force fighters or bombers, Israeli forces successfully defended the land of Israel from a vast number of invading Arab armies equipped with both air force planes and bombers.
Nevertheless, the miraculous Israeli victory came at significant cost — the death of 6,000 Israelis, or 1 percent of the population. The war formally ended on November 28, 1948. Israel possessed more land than its original
partition proposed by the United Nations, but their sacred city, Jerusalem, under the final agreement signed on April 3, 1949, was now divided into two parts, one Jewish and one Arab. On May 11, 1949, Israel was admitted
to the United Nations as its 59th member. Two wars and almost 20 years later, the resilient and growing Nation of Israel gained the land that it
was originally promised.
The rebirth of ancient Israel in its same land and with its same language 2,500 years after its destruction, was truly a miracle. Israel’s recognition on the world’s political stage by the United Nations was a powerful modern event that fulfilled Jesus’ Great Prophecy in Matthew 24 of the fig tree “shooting forth” leaves. Today, after 72 years of nationhood, Israel is
a vital, growing, and powerful nation on the world’s stage and is now leading the world in many areas of technology, innovation, agriculture, and leadership.
Since May 14, 1948, when the Israeli State was formally proclaimed and became independent, it has gathered strength, stability, and solidarity. In 1948 there were only 650,000 Jews living in Israel. With the withdrawal of the British troops and polity that had provided funds and organization, the country was left without money, government, organization, or resources.
During the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, there were only 806,000 total residents. By 1949 the population crossed over the one million mark, and nine years later, in 1958, the population was over the two million mark. Today, Israel is home to 8.5 million people, including just over 6.5 million Jews — 44.5% of worldwide Jewry. Israel is the only country with a Jewish majority. Since 2006, its Jewish population exceeds that of every other country, including the United States.
In The Innocents Abroad, written in 1897, Mark Twain described the land of Palestine: “Nowhere in all the waste around was there a foot of shade … blistering, naked, treeless land … There is no dew, nor flowers, nor birds, nor trees. There is a plain and an unshaded lake, and beyond them some barren mountains … of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince. The hills are barren, they are dull of color, they are unpicturesque in shape. It is a hopeless, dreary, heartbroken land.”
Twain’s observations proved short-sighted. Barren land has been transformed to the fertility of ancient Israel in a miracle predicted in
Scripture (Amos 9:14-15, Ezekiel 36:34-35). Archaeologists have discovered the presence of more than 70 ancient settlement sites in one 65-mile stretch of the Jordan Valley alone, each with its own water well. Lot, over 3,000 years ago, was not exaggerating when he “saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, even as the garden of the LORD” (Genesis 13:10).
A Miracle of Agriculture
Today, deserts have been reforested, with over 250 million trees planted by hand. Rocky fields are now fertile. Swamps have been drained and planted. Ancient terraces have been rebuilt. Currently, farmers harvest some five million flowers daily with over 1.5 billion flowers exported annually. Fresh fruit is grown with brackish water. Special strains of apples and peaches have been developed to grow in a desert environment. Apples and oranges
are grown in the same field. Tropical bananas and pineapples appear alongside strawberries. Some 150,000 tons of fruits and vegetables are
exported each year. Israel grows the largest variety of fish in the world.
Reforestation and cultivation have changed Israel significantly. In the past hundred years, Israel has cultivated twice as many plant species (3,000) as Egypt, which contains the fertile Nile Delta. The country has introduced 460
species of birds — coming from both South Africa and Greenland. This small country has both African leopards and Siberian wolves. Zoologists are undertaking the reintroduction of all animals mentioned in Hebrew scripture.
“You will arise and have compassion on Zion; for it is time to be gracious to her, for the appointed time has come. Surely Your servants find pleasure in her stones and feel pity for her dust. So the nations will fear the name of the
LORD and all the kings of the earth Your glory. For the LORD has built up Zion; He has appeared in His glory” (Psalm 102:13-16). The exploration of Israel has been a boon to archaeologists. Biblical cities have been excavated
and, in some cases, rebuilt. Much of Israel’s tourism arises from the opportunity for the visitor to be involved in an archaeological dig. New building construction is halted when a historical site is uncovered. There is a maxim in Israel that “Every Israeli is an archaeologist.”
Israel Predestined as a Nation
“For thou art a holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be His own treasure, out of all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people — for ye were the fewest of all peoples: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers” (Deuteronomy 7:6,7).
Jehovah chose Israel as a nation to be holy because of His oath to their fathers — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Ezekiel prophesied that Israel would be brought back to its own land and God’s Spirit put within it (Ezekiel 36:24-27). This promise for the future does not apply to individuals, but to the nation itself. Today, many individual Jews in the world have little faith in
the promises given to Abraham. God will not violate the free-will of His creatures and will not have any serve Him who is unwilling.
A question arises as to why God would bless a nation in spite of her unbelief. The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel
does not mention God at all. After the Jews failed to keep his Law and after they rejected His Messiah, why does God again show His favor? The Bible reveals three reasons:
(1) It was originally given to them by God because of the faith of their fathers. “As touching the gospel, they are enemies for your [Gentile Christians] sake: but as touching the election they are beloved for the fathers’ sake” (Romans 11:28). The Jewish people are different from all others, not because of any genetic, ethnic, moral, or political quality, but because God promised to bless the seed of their ancestors (Deuteronomy 9:5).
(2) God’s favor returns to the Jewish people to remove the discredit brought upon His holy name during their exile in the Diaspora (Ezekiel 36:21-33). He does it to sanctify His great and holy name which was profaned during the time Israel was lost amongst the nations. “With your sweet savour will I accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered; and I will be sanctified in you in the sight of the nations” (Ezekiel 20:41).
(3) God brings the nation back so that he can fulfill His original promise to make them a holy nation and His inheritance (Jeremiah 31:34, Ezekiel 36:25, Isaiah 19:25, Joel 3:2). He will resurrect the nation, purify it, and put
His spirit within it (Ezekiel 37:13,14) because He has a purpose for it (Isaiah 55:11). The sinews that were formed on the skeleton bodies indicate that God’s favor has returned to Israel because He has a work for it to do in the restoration process of mankind — to “declare my praise” (Isaiah 43:21).
With the sinews in place and Israel established in the integrity of their strength, they are being prepared for a great work. While not now a religious nation, Israel is definitely influenced by its history with Jehovah God. Public lands are adorned with scripture. The Shabbat is observed throughout the land. Scriptures are discussed openly. For the first time, many immigrants are now getting exposure to God and to Scripture.
God desires that the human creation be restored and receive full salvation and restoration. As God’s witness and servant under the New Covenant, Israel, when under the New Covenant, will reflect the light of God to that
creation (Romans 1:16).
Just as God’s election of the nation and the gift of the land were unconditional, so the final restoration and return of national favor are
also unconditional. God’s plan for blessing all peoples is to be realized only after His beloved Israel is again a “united kingdom” in possession of their inheritance.
God’s promise to Jacob will be fulfilled when all nations become Israelites
in heart. “Behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the Jacob and Rachel earth be blessed” (Genesis 28:14).