Jewish Restoration: Mathers to Herzl 1600s-1890
We have seen the importance of Israel as a centerpiece for understanding human history. Since the Abrahamic covenant we know that God's plan is to call out a special people for Himself, through whom He would bless all mankind. Ultimately that came through the Lord Jesus Christ as the promised Jewish Messiah who died on the cross for the sins of the world. But also that it is through Israel that all nations would be blessed at many different levels. Thus Ezekiel 5:5.
We are studying four questions:
1) Does Israel have a legitimate claim on its historic homeland today?
2) Does the existence of the modern state of Israel prophetically significant?
3) We then have to address the role of the believer in relation to modern Israel.
4) What is the history of the Jews since AD 70 in relation to their historic homeland?
Last time we came to a conclusion looking at the rise of what was called restorationism. The term Zionism really wasn't coined until the 1890s. Up to the end of the 19th century it was referred to as restorationism, the belief that the Jews should be restored to their historical homeland, that the Jews had a right to their historic homeland. This was fuelled by Protestant biblical teaching. Cromwell authorized the Jews to return to England in 1649. This was the first time they had been legally allowed into England since they were expelled out in 1290 under Edward I. It is because of the Protestant Reformation that there was a changed attitude towards the Jews. Theologians began to realize that God's plan is not amillennial—no literal kingdom—but it is pre-millennial, that indeed that the promises to Israel will be literally fulfilled in the future. It was that return to a pre-millennial eschatology, coupled with the printing and distribution of Bibles in English that created an environment in Puritan theology in the 1600s that turned the eyes of England toward the restoration of the Jews. Their theology affected their politics, their foreign policy.
This was not just a British phenomenon. Protestants all around Europe began recognizing that the Bible teaches that Israel should be restored to the land in the future. There were a number of restorationists in Holland during the time of the Puritan movement as well. The movement was widespread throughout Europe. Prominent theologians and pastors at that time believed that the Jews should be restored to the land. So it was not just England, it was throughout Europe and impacted by the Reformation thought.
From the beginning the American colonies had a strong biblical orientation, especially in Puritan New England. Puritan New England was settled by Englishmen who had either stayed in the Anglican church, and were known as Puritans, or separatists, the pilgrims. They brought into the new world ideas that they were taught in England and that included the restoration of the Jews. Then there was the dynasty of the Mathers. These were brilliant pastors and theologians who dominated the scene in England. Americans have always had a pro-Semitic attitude and have always supported the return of Jews to the land.
At the end of the 18th century was the radical destruction of the French monarchy in the French revolution. That sent shock waves through the civilized world, and part of the result of that was that it raised fears in Britain of the rise of Antichrist. Napoleon put forth his efforts to get the Jews back into their homeland. There were many French restorationists, including Alexander Dumas, the writer of The Count of Monte Cristo and the Three Musketeers. He was a strong Zionist. In 1798 Napoleon invaded the Middle East, and the interesting thing is that his invasion scares the English because that was the land route to their colonies in India. So they began to worry about getting blocked by the French. They want to make sure they stake their area of control in the Middle East so this orients Britain, all of a sudden, to the historic land of Israel. But it is not just political, not just trade, not just money, there is also the rise of a strong interest in Jewish evangelism. With Napoleon swinging through the Middle East and the chaos in France there is all of a sudden an interest in the end times. Biblical prophecy begins to be interpreted more futuristically, and so more and more concern is raised about what God is doing in the Middle East, what God is doing in history, and what God is doing with the Jews.
This raises a desire to convert the Jews and in 1809 Joseph Fry founded a sub-unit of the London Missionary Society which quickly spun off into its own organization known as the Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews. It was usually referred to as The London Jews Society. It was supported by prominent evangelical power houses such as William Wilberforce who was the architect of the anti-slave trade legislation for the British empire, as well as Lord Shaftsbury, and others. Their aims were evangelistic. They weren't prophetic, they didn't have a unified view even of biblical prophecy. Their motivation wasn't to bring in the end times or to bring back the Messiah, it was to get the Jews saved. In 1815 a wealthy businessman, Lois Way, became involved with the London Jews Society and uses his influence after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 to travel the capitals of Europe and to lobby the European leaders to provide a way for the Jews to go back to their homeland. He find an unlikely ally in Alexander I of Russia because he just wanted to get rid of the Jews. They worked in together but little happened.
In America was a president by the name of John Quincy Adams who was president from 1825-29 and he expressed his desire that "the Jews again were in Judea, restored to an independent government and no longer persecuted. He was raised out of that Puritan New England background. He was very much pro-Israel.
The next person we meet is John Nelson Darby, the first systematiser of dispensationalism—not the first dispensationalist—and was the first to present a clear doctrine of the pre-Tribulation Rapture. He is often credited wrongly with influencing the rise of Christian Zionism, but that is not the case. There is no doubt that Darby believed in a future for national Israel, and he would be a restorationist, but that wasn't his focus. There is no historical evidence that Darby influenced any of the evangelical Anglican Zionists at that time. In fact, none of them make a mention of Darby. Even though he was not a player in British restorationism there is no doubt that his dispensational theology, once it came to the United States, eventually became the framework in which Christian Zionism developed.
In England the real advocates of Christian Zionism were Anglican pre-Millennialists. In the mid-19th century about half of all Anglican clergy were evangelical pre-Millennialists. One of the well known Pastors was J. C. Ryle, 1816-1900. Because of his pre-Millennialism Lord Shaftsbury became greatly involved as the chairman of the London Society for Promoting the Gospel Among Jews. This society manages to establish an Anglican-Protestant bishoprick in Jerusalem and they install a converted Jew as the first bishop of Jerusalem. Shaftsbury had a ring on which was engraved the statement, O pray for the peace of Jerusalem. He was deeply convinced that the Jews would return to their homeland and this would be in conjunction with the second coming of Christ. His greatest contribution to the restoration movement was his attempt to accomplish something in the political realm in order to provoke England to develop a policy in favor of the Jews. In 1838 he wrote an article in the Quarterly Review that Palestine could become a British colony of Jews that could provide Britain with cotton, silk, herbs and oil. So he sees this as being helpful, on the one hand, economically but it would also provide a toe-hold for Britain in the Middle East and it would provide a safe haven for the Jews. He used his influence on his father-in-law, Lord Palmerston (1784-1865), who readily took to pre-Millennialism and a support of Israel, and while he was the British foreign secretary in 1840 he wrote a letter to the ambassador at Constantinople on behalf of the Jews. He wrote: "There exists at the present time among the Jews dispersed over Europe a strong notion that the time is approaching when their nation is to return to Palestine."
That was a lie, by the way; it wasn't true. At this time the Jews didn't want to go back. This was 1838. Standard rabbinical theology said that the Jews couldn't go back until the Messiah came. Jews aren't looking for a homeland in the Middle East. But what has been going on for 200 years? There is this movement among Christians, pre-Millennialists, to create a homeland for the Jews. The Christians are influential in setting it up and then things start to happen. God has to have a place for them to go before He is going to start moving them.
So Palmerston writes this letter to try to encourage them to allow the Jews to return, but things really don't work out that way at that particular time. They push very hard to get Europe to recognize a restoration of the Jews but Europe in not ready.
Then there is a man named George Gauley—1796-1869. His restorationism was sparked by his religious convictions. He was at one time Governor of Australia, he was Colonel in the British Army, and he was a zealous and influential restorationist. He was a senior commander at the Battle of Waterloo and when he returned to England in 1841 he was a strong advocate of the Jews returning to the land. He worked with Moses Montefiore, a British Jew who was one of the first Jews to be knighted by the British Monarchy, and he was instrumental in providing an agricultural strategy for Jewish resettlement. That was the problem they had. They could go back to the land but there wasn't anything there. Everything had fallen apart under the Ottoman empire. Other influential Zionists at that time would include Benjamin Disraeli who was Prime Minister, Lord Manchester, Holman Hunt. The idea of Jews going back to the land was permeating the society.
In 1831 Egypt under their leader Mohammed Ali invades Ottoman territory into Palestine and attacks. The Egyptians take Jerusalem in 1832 but in order to get support from the Europeans that they are desperately in need of they open up the land of Palestine to European missionaries. So now British missionaries could go into the land and start taking the gospel to the Jews. In 1833 Campbell, the British Consul in Cairo, urges the British Government to establish a British consulate in Jerusalem. This works together with the desire of the London Jews Society to establish a church there. They can't do it on their own because there has been this treaty since the 1500s for this balance of power thing between the Orthodox churches, the Roman Catholic churches, and the Muslims, and nobody else can get in. But if the British will establish a consulate then the consulate can have a chapel and they were in. They could get some missionaries in there to get the gospel to the Jews and establish a church. Alex Carmel, a historian, states: "The political context of Palestine during the 1830s facilitated the marriage of British religious sentiments and strategic interests. The clergymen, whatever divergences of opinion among them on other matters, were unanimous in their aspiration to prepare suitable conditions in the holy land for the conversion of the Jews." They were driven by an evangelistic motivation.
The end of the 1830s is where we see the beginnings of Zionism. The term isn't coined until the 1980s. We need to define the term. What is Zionism? The term Zion has an unknown origin but it probably meant fortress. It originally referred to that fortified city between the Kidron and the Valley of the Cheese-makers, and it was the site of the early Jebuzite stronghold. Then it came to refer to the temple mount, then the city, and then the land of Israel itself. There are at least 163 verses in the Scripture that refer to Zion. Psalm 132:13, "For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place." Psalm 87:2, "The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob."
The concept of Zionism, i.e. the desire to return to the homeland, is a biblical concept. It was present in the Old Testament. Psalm 137:1, the exiles during the Babylonian captivity write, "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion." That essentially is what Zionism is, the desire of the Jews to go back into the land to live in their national historic homeland.
There are some folks today who go too, we think, far in support of Israel. We should be in support of the Jews, that they should have a homeland. But there are those who think that any decision that Israel makes we should back. We can be too activistic politically in terms of Israel. We need to support them but also be careful that we are not becoming hyper-Zionists.
We look now at the modern period from 1839 to 2006. Judah ben Solomon hai Alkali. He was born at the end of the 18th century and he was an obscure rabbi in a small town near Belgrade. He published a Hebrew text book called The Present task. In that book he alludes to the need to establish Jewish colonies in the homeland as a necessary prelude to the redemption of the nation. Up to this point the Jews have always said they had to have the Redeemer come before they could go back to the land. But he is saying all of a sudden that they go back to the land and then the Redeemer comes. He writes a book later on emphasizing the fact that the Jews should establish the nation before the Messiah comes. That is in 1839.
In 1840 Britain comes along, because they have a treaty with the Ottoman empire, and kick Egypt out of the land. But they have already got missionaries there. Palmerston and Shafstbury now propose a Jewish homeland which is rejected by everybody. It can't happen until God is ready. So this idea that the Jews getting back into the land is just something manipulated by evangelicals or dispensationalists just doesn't fit the details of history once it is realized just how complex the restoration was. All areas west of the Jordan River are now made into one administrative province. It is not a country, it doesn't have its own ethnic group, but it become an administrative province that is governed out of Beirut.
What was happening was a framework being established ideologically that the Jews can go back to the land, then there was the support of the British who are going to provide something of a framework, and then the Tsar in Russia where three quarters of the world's Jewish population lived, begins persecuting them. When he starts applying the pressure they have to go somewhere. God had just created an environment for them before that. The dispensationalists in England worked out a behind-the-scenes deal with then Tsar to start persecuting the Jews so that they would go home. Thousands of Russian Jews started to go home. There had been 70-100,000 Jews living in the land and then all of a sudden the curve starts to go up. By the end of the 19th century the graph was almost going straight up. Was this coincidence, or did God have a plan?
Then there was a blood libel in Damascus. Then comes an ancestor of Winston Churchill, Charles Henry Churchill (1814-1877), a British military officer stationed in Damascus in 1840. He is Zionist and he comes in to support the Jews against the non-Zionist Christians of Damascus. Later on he is honored by a grateful Jewish community where he spoke of "the hour of the liberation of Israel that is soon approaching when the Jewish nation would once again take its place among the powers of the world." He stated this in a letter to Moses Montefiore in 1841.
Another thing that happens in this time period is in 1840 Frederick William IV becomes the king of Prussia. Remember, in 1839 there was Rabbi Judah ben Solomon hai Alkali. Then in 1840 there was pressure from the Tsar, Jews going back to the land, the influence of Palmerston and Shaftsbury, and the desire of the London Jews Society to establish a Protestant bishoprick in Jerusalem. In 1840 Frederick William IV has a vision to unite all the Protestants, but it is going to have to start in Jerusalem. In 1841 he approaches the British with the plan to establish an evangelical bishoprick in Jerusalem. So they work out a deal together with the London Jews Society and in 1841 they establish an Anglican bishoprick in Jerusalem. The presence of the London Jews Society and Christian missionaries is a vital link in understanding what happens, because as more and more Jews come back to the land through the 19th century there is not a framework. They are starving to death, there is disease, and who moves in to help? Who establishes the first hospital in Jerusalem? It is the Christian missionaries who will use their opportunities to get the gospel to the Jews.
Next key person is V. Herschcallesher, 1843, and he publishes several pamphlets and books encouraging a return to the land before the Messiah. With him it becomes a secular return for the Jews and he argues that four steps need to be taken. First of all, there needs to be the formation of a society of wealthy Jews to begin colonization. He recognizes their need to have money, a solid economic base. There needed to be settlements of Jews from all backgrounds throughout the land so that they have the tradesmen, the doctors, lawyers, politicians. There needed to be a training of young Jews in self-defense so that when they get back to the land and they have to deal with marauding bands of Arabs and Bedouins that they are ale to defend themselves. And he argued for the establishment of an agricultural school in the land to teach farming and other agricultural sciences. So things began to build.
But it is not just the Jews. There are other Europeans who become Zionists. There is a German Lutheran, C.F. Zemple, who was a Ph. D. He published pamphlets in the mid-1800s on Israel going back into the land. Then there was Abraham Lincoln in America, and in a meeting with a Canadian Christian Zionist by the name of Henry Monk in 1863 Lincoln said, "Restoring the Jews to their homeland is a noble dream shared by many Americans." The idea of Americans supporting the Jews is mainstream from the time of the colonies all the way up into the modern era.
In 1866 there was Moses Hess who was born in Bonn, Germany. Hess read Calisher and was motivated by him into a systematic study of Jewish history. He wrote a book called Rome and Jerusalem in 1862 and theme of that book was that a return to the land was indispensable if the Jewish people were going to shed their image of a historical unreality or social parasite in other lands. He recognized "we shall always remain strangers among the nations." He didn't have much of a response initially but eventually he did.
Then there was the influence of William Hekler, the son of Protestant missionaries in Africa. Later on he becomes the tutor of the Grand Duke Frederick of Badin and influences him on the importance of a national Jewish homeland. Later on he went to Switzerland to meet with Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism in the 1890s. Then Hekler is also a missionary with the London Jews Society. So all the dots start getting connected. He becomes the mentor for Herzl, and Herzl's emphasis on Zionism.
In the late 1870s there was a group of popular Zionist study circles which were almost like social clubs that pop up all over the area between Germany and Russia. They start teaching about Hebrew. The people adopt Old Testament names. Their creed was, There is no salvation for the people of Israel unless there is established a government of their own in the land of Israel. They meet secretly throughout Russia and their purpose is to start planning and preparing to move Jews out of Russia and into the land.
Towards the end of this period there was also Lawrence Oliphant who was another evangelical British Protestant. He was an officer in the British foreign service, a writer, world traveler, unofficial diplomat, and he is passionate about Jewish restorationism. Then in 1881 was the assassination of Alexander II, the Tsar of Russia, and a Jewess is involved so this sparks major riots and pogroms against the Jews. Prior to 1881, from about 1865 to 1880 there was this period of assimilation. What happened under Napoleon was that there was a resurrection of a new Sanhedrin, and their goal was for the Jews to just blend in to European society—just to blend in and disappear and maybe this would get rid of anti-Semitism. The same kind of things started happening in Russia in the 1860s. It seems like God's plan is that as soon as the Jews thought that they could assimilate then all of a sudden there was this rise of virulent anti-Semitism against them which motivates them to move back to the land.