Moses to Alexander the Great
What we learn about Israel and the importance of Israel in the law comes pout of a couple of important passages in Exodus and Deuteronomy. Moses is told in Exodus 15:17, 18, "You shall bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of your inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which you have made for you to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established. The LORD shall reign for ever and ever." This is the very first indication of a single sanctuary, a place for God to dwell. The next passage that is important to us is in Deuteronomy chapter twelve. Remember, Deuteronomy was basically a sermon. This is Moses' last word to the Jews before he died, and he is reminding the sons and daughters of the Exodus generation of the Mosaic covenant. He is reiterating, reaffirming the covenant that God made with Moses. It is applied now to their generation and they are going to be the ones to apply this in the land. This is his parting instruction to them. They are not in the land, they don't have possession of anything in the land yet, they don't have possession of Jerusalem, there is no central sanctuary, there is just a sort of mobile home for God called the tabernacle.
In Deuteronomy chapter 12 we have what is called the law of the central sanctuary. Verses 5-7, "But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses (indicating that he would select a specific place for His dwelling) out of all your tribes to put his name for his dwelling place, and there you shall go. And there you shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks: And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice in all that you put your hand, you and your households, wherein the LORD your God has blessed you." So this is an indication that God always intended for there to be a central sanctuary. Verses 10-11, "But when you go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the LORD your God gives you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety; then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; there shall you bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which you vow unto the LORD."
So there is that statement that there will be a specific location. These statements in Deuteronomy and Exodus connect us to the fact that God is going to dwell in a specific place, and we know that that is going to be the same mountain where Abraham took Isaac on Mount Moriah. There He will have His own sanctuary, His own dwelling, and there all of the sacrifices and offering will be brought, and this is the center of Israel. So it ties together Israel, Jerusalem and the temple.
All of this is part of the contract that God is making between Himself and Israel. We call this the Mosaic covenant. In ancient contracts there was always a section at the end that identified certain judgments or negative things that would happen if the contract is broken and certain positive things that would happen if they fulfill the contract—the blessings and the curses. These are identified, first of all, in Leviticus 26 and also in Deuteronomy 28-30. We need to understand where this comes in the context of the flow of revelation. Leviticus 26 is still part of the Mosaic contract. This doesn't apply to any Gentiles, it has never applied to any Gentiles, and there is nothing in the Mosaic covenant for which the Gentiles are ever held accountable. It is for the Jews because the Jews are God's special covenant people. They are unique. No other nation down through history, no matter how much God has used them in history or how much God blesses them in history, has a covenant relationship with God. So it isn't appropriate to talk about Israel using the tern "client nation" like any other nation, because Israel is unique. No other nation has a contractual relationship with God.
Leviticus 26:1, "You shall not make idols for yourselves." Who is the "you"? The Israelites. This is not talking about any Gentiles or anybody in the church age. It is talking about the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who are going into the land. To have a nation you have to have a land, a constitution, and people. We must understand these blessings and cursings in relationship to the land that exists between the river of Egypt and the river Euphrates, the land that exists along the Jordan river. It doesn't apply to any other land. When God summarizes the law what are the three things He emphasizes in this first verse? 1) No idolatry. That relates to the first commandment in the ten commandments. 2) "You shall keep my sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary." So when the Jews get taken out of the land in 586, what is the issue? They had to be taken out for 70 years because that is how many sabbatical years they had violated. They were involved in idol worship, they didn't keep the Sabbaths, and they didn't reverence the temple (sanctuary). Then the blessings are listed from verses 3-13. There would be incredible agricultural fertility and productivity in the land. V. 6, "Peace in the land," so there would be domestic tranquility, low crime rate, as well as no threat from external enemies, and military victory. This is talking about Israel because Israel is God's people and Israel is in the land. This isn't talking about believers who are living outside of the land in Gentile countries. It can't be applied there, it would be inappropriate. Then from verse 14 the text goes on to identify the different stages divine judgment on the nation if they are unfaithful to this covenant. The commandments referred to is the Mosaic covenant. It is not just all the commandments in Scripture, it is not the New Testament, it is not establishment truth, it is talking about the contract that God is giving to Moses, the Mosaic law. Stage one is verses 14-17; stage two, verses 18-20; verses 21 and 22 is the third stage; stage four, verses 23-26; stage five, verses 27-33, where they are not only defeated by their enemies but they will be destroyed by their enemies and scattered throughout the nations. The ultimate discipline was to remove them from the piece of real estate that God had promised them.
We can't run around and start taking these five stages of discipline and then applying them to any nation in history, it is not appropriate. God uses different nations for different purposes but this is unique because Israel is a covenant nation to God.
Deuteronomy 28:25, "The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies: you will go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and will be troublesome to all the kingdoms of the earth."
Deuteronomy 30 is the blessing. Deuteronomy 30:1-3, "And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you shall call them to mind among all the nations, where the LORD your God drives you, and shall return to the LORD your God. And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you shall call them to mind among all the nations, where the LORD your God drives you, and you return unto the LORD your God [there is a future time when Israel will turn to God in repentance and accept Jesus as Messiah. The national salvation of Israel which occurs at the end of the Tribulation], and obey his voice according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart, and with all your soul; that then the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion upon you, and will return and gather you from all the nations, where the LORD your God has scattered you." This section has not yet been fulfilled. They were scattered through all the nations and have never returned from all the nations. In 722 and 586 BC they were scattered throughout the world. When they returned in 536 and up to the end of the exile period in 516 BC only a minority returned from Babylon.
Under Moses we learn that Jerusalem is prophesied as a future site of worship. This is the place God has set His heart on. There is going to be one central sanctuary. God is going to abide there. But then there is the promise of extreme discipline that if they don't obey God, God will depart from them and God will then take them out of the land. All of this relates back to the promise to Abraham, but there is the promise that no matter what happens there is a future restoration from all the nations of the earth to the land in regeneration.
The next period that relates to the significance of the land, Jerusalem and the temple is during the period of the united kingdom which extends from 1051 to 931 BC. The united kingdom involves three kings: Saul, David, and Solomon. All of the twelve tribes are united under that central monarchy. Saul is the first king but he is an apostate king. He is rebellious against God and so the kingdom is taken from him, he not able to found a dynasty, he and his son Jonathan are killed at Mount Gilboa, and then David is selected by God to be the godly king. It is David who will be allowed by God to capture the territory, to capture Jerusalem. Even though David's heart is set on establishing a home for God, the central sanctuary in Jerusalem, because he is a man of war God says he will not be the one to build His house. It would be built by his son Solomon. So the next major event that takes place in history is when David captures Jerusalem. This is covered in 2 Samuel 5:7-10. It has been 400 years since the Jews first entered the land under Joshua and finally they are beginning to capture this stronghold of the Jebusites. "Nevertheless David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the city of David." In 2 Samuel chapter 6 David moves the ark of the covenant up to Jerusalem. In 2 Samuel chapter 7 God gives the Davidic covenant to David promising an eternal dynasty. Then at the end of the book of Samuel we have the occasion of David's second great sin. He was going to take a census of the people. He wanted to number his mown strength rather than rely upon God, so God gave him a choice of punishments. David repented and built an altar to the Lord, and that was at the site of the temple mount, Mount Moriah.
When David dies Solomon comes along in 966 BC and builds the first temple. The first temple period is from 966 to 586 BC.
We move on to the divided kingdom. The kingdoms divide because of a tax revolt. After Solomon dies God is going to bring punishment on the house of David. The northern kingdom will be taken from his dynasty and so ten tribes in the north rebel under Jeroboam I because Rehoboam is just as arrogant as he can possibly be and he wants to increase the already burdensome tax upon the people. Jeroboam sets up an alternate worship site in Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom Israel. He builds a golden calf and says, "This is the god who brought you out of Egypt," and so this leads the northern kingdom into idolatry. They never recover from that. Every single king in the northern kingdom commits evil in the sight of the Lord and follows in the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. In the context, committing evil in the sight of the Lord isn't talking about whatever sin comes to mind in terms of evil; it is specifically talking about idolatry. Not one king in the north has one word of approval from God. In the south were several kings who were apostate and several other kings who were very positive. There was Josiah who at one point restores the temple because it had been left in disrepair because of apostasy, and the priests go in and discover the Mosaic law which everyone had forgotten about. Josiah reads it to the people and they completely clean up the priesthood and rededicate the temple, and God blesses them again. There was another period of prosperity that came under Hezekiah. But Hezekiah didn't start of well, he started in disobedience an just like the northern kingdom they were going to be disciplined by the Assyrians. The Assyrians invade into the northern kingdom which they destroy in 722 BC. Then they head south under Sennacherib, and according to 2 Kings 19:35ff the army of Sennacherib surrounds Jerusalem. Hezekiah finally repents, goes into the temple and bows down before God and confesses his sin. God is then going to relieve Jerusalem and He sends the angel of death, in this case the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ, to destroy the Assyrian army. Extra-biblical evidence from the Talmud tells us that the way God did this was that great stones fell from heaven on the Assyrian army, and it was these stones that were later used by the Jews to build the second temple. At that time, in preparation for the Assyrian invasion, Hezekiah builds a tunnel to bring water from outside the wall into the city of Jerusalem.
The next thing that takes place with regard to the temple is that God promises discipline on Judah eventually. Despite Hezekiah's repentance and that God is going to bless him, eventually there will be judgment on Judah. In Ezekiel 11:23 Ezekiel has a vision where he sees the departure of the glory of God from the holy of holies in the temple. He sees the glory of God leave the ark of the covenant, the holy place, go out through the entry to the temple, and then cross over the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives. "And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city." From there the glory of the Lord departed into heaven. It is from that same sight that the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven at the end of His earthly ministry, and it is to that place that He will return. The temple then is destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonian armies under Nebuchadnezzar, and this is the end of the first period of Israel being in the land.
The next period is the period of the exile. Seventy years they are out of the land, from 586 to 516. Actually the exile doesn't end until the temple is dedicated in 516 BC. The exile is important to study because the exile shows us the pattern, the historical forerunner of the second great disciplinary time which is what we are in now. The Jews were out of the land for seventy years. Jerusalem was destroyed, the temple was destroyed, the Jews were out of the land. But Israel was still there. God's divine viewpoint still viewed the land as Israel even though they were under discipline out of the land. He is the landlord; He owns the land; He has just temporarily evicted them because they haven't been "paying the rent," so to speak. But it is still theirs; they still have the contract. The contract is an eternal contract. So that is a pattern for helping us understand Israel's right to the land even today. Just as that land was theirs and was repopulated in 722 BC when the Assyrians took the Jews out, so in the church age the land is repopulated by Bedouins, and then in the 19th and 20th centuries as Jews were moving back into the area they brought in migrant workers from all over the place to work in the fields, and that became the base for what is called the Palestinian people. They are not an indigenous people. Just as there wasn't an indigenous group in the land between 586 and 536 BC there is not an indigenous group in the land now. The Jews still had the right to go back before they built the temple. God hasn't gone back on His word.
The Babylonians are defeated in 539 BC. In 538 there is a decree by Cyrus to come back to the land, ment8ioned in 1 Chronicles 36:22 and Ezra 1, and there are four different waves of Jews that return from Babylon. They come back under Zerubbabel, under Ezra, and under Nehemiah. Zrubbabel is born in captivity and he is a descendant of David through Jeconiah, one of the evil kings in the south and God cursed his line and said he would not have a king on the throne that would come from Jeconiah. Zerubbael is not the king, he is a governor who is appointed by Cyrus. Throughout this period, all of the way down to the Greek period the governors of Israel are all appointed by Gentile powers and served the pleasure of Gentile powers. Zerubbabel organized the people in conjunction with the prophetic ministries of Haggai and Zechgariah, and at their insistence they finally completed the rebuilding of the temple in 516 BC. In 516 we have Zerubbabel's temple or the second temple. The second temple period goes from 516 to AD 70. It goes through a couple of different stages. There was the initial Zerubabbel's temple, but then under the Syrians Antiochus is going to desecrate the temple, and then under the Hasmonaeans they are going to have to clean the temple and rededicate the temple. Then when Herod comes into power he is going to start refurbishing the temple. This is all the second temple period.
The image of Daniel chapter two was a picture of the flow of Gentile nations, and this indicates the beginning of what is referred to by Jesus in Luke as the times of the Gentiles. Because even if there was a semblance of an autonomous power in Israel they were still existing under the protection of a Gentile power. In 605 BC Babylon attacks the first time. This is when Nebuchadnezzar ascends to the throne and when the kingdom of Babylon really begins, and it extends down to its defeat in 539 BC under Cyrus the Great. Then the Medo-Persian empire lasted from 539-331 BC. In 331 BC Alexander the Great finally defeats his enemy, the Persians, and there was the establishment of the Greek empire from 331-146 BC. This includes the break-up into groups after Alexander's death. Then from 146 BC to AD 1453 was the Rome/Byzantine empire. Even though the Roman part falls much earlier the Byzantine empire extended much longer until Constantinople is destroyed by the Moslems in May of 1453. Then the revived Roman empire was yet future, pictured by the iron and the clay. That gives the flow of the Gentile power.
This message during the exile from Daniel and all the different visions in Daniel 2 through 7 reinforce the fact that there is a future for Israel in God's plan. At the end of history there will be a full restoration, just as Deuteronomy 30 had promised. At the end of the exile they returned. The return began in approximately 538-536 BC.
Alexander defeated the Persians. His father was Philip of Macedonia, and Philip was assassinated in 336 BC. Alexander took control and united the Greek states. They attacked their historical enemies the Persians in 334 BC. Then he died eleven years later in 323 BC and his empire was divided among his four generals. One note about Alexander: he heard about the temple in Jerusalem and he didn't attack Jerusalem. But as he swung his armies down through the land of Israel he sent representatives to invite the high priest and the priestly families to come and negotiate with him. So even though he doesn't replace the high priestly family they do serve under his control.