The Danger of Cursing Israel
History is littered with powerful empires that attacked Israel...and lost
If you are a regular reader of these articles, or if you have ready my book Tipping Point, you are certainly familiar with the promise God made to Abram about His people, Israel:
“I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
You may be less familiar with the prophecies in Zechariah. The prophet Zechariah described his visions after his people returned from their 70-year exile in Babylon. His book is his description of those prophetic visions, covering the first coming of Jesus Christ as well as His second coming. The Lord made it clear to Zechariah that Israel would be judged for its sins but also restored and rebuilt.
One verse in Zechariah 2 has always captured my attention, especially as I think about both Israel’s past and her future:
For thus says the Lord of hosts: “He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye. 9 For surely I will shake My hand against them, and they shall become spoil for their servants…”—Zechariah 2:8-9
God says He will curse those who curse Israel.
He promises to “shake [His] hand against” those nations that plunder Israel.
Any nation that supports and defends Israel will be blessed by God. But any nation that seeks to harm Israel will face an outcome far worse than expected.
This isn’t just an empty promise. History is full of examples of this prophecy being fulfilled. Some happened long ago. Others are more recent.
The first nation to oppress Israel was Egypt. God sent Moses to warn Pharaoh, telling him, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.” But Egypt refused.
The outcome of this refusal was the series of terrible plagues the Lord unleashed on Egypt, culminating in the death of the firstborn of every household. This caused untold suffering on the Egyptian people.
Eventually Pharaoh let the Israelites go, and the chariots and horsemen of Pharaoh were destroyed when Israel crossed the Red Sea.
While heading toward the Promised Land, Israel sought to pass through the land of the Amorites, sending messengers to King Sihon asking if they could go directly through without drinking any water or disturbing any fields. Sihon refused, gathered his people together and amassed an army to fight against Israel.
Sihon’s kingdom was annihilated:
Then Israel defeated him with the edge of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the people of Ammon; for the border of the people of Ammon was fortified. 25 So Israel took all these cities, and Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon and in all its villages.—Numbers 21:24-25
After Israel “did evil in the sight of the Lord,” God delivered them to Midian, who oppressed them for seven years. The book of Judges says Israel was “greatly impoverished” by the Midianites and cried out to the Lord for rescue.
The Lord raised up Gideon and used him and a small army to save Israel. Miraculously, this tiny group was able to overcome an overwhelming army of Midianites and Amalekites who numbered “as the sand by the seashore.” Israel captured several of the leaders of Midian and killed them.
This wasn’t even the first time God had destroyed the Midianites. They were also defeated earlier in the history of Israel after Midianite women seduced Israel’s men into idolatry. Moses and Israel responded with warfare:
They also burned with fire all the cities where they dwelt, and all their forts. 11 And they took all the spoil and all the booty—of man and beast.—Numbers 31:10-11
It wasn’t even close.
After King Nebuchadnezzar and Babylonian armies destroyed Jerusalem and captured all its inhabitants, many Jews were exiled from their homeland. The book of Daniel takes place during this period of exile.
Years later, Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, commanded his followers, wives and concubines to drink from the gold and silver cups that had been plundered from the Temple in Jerusalem. They drank wine from the cups and blasphemed until a disembodied hand wrote a warning on the wall of the king’s palace.
Daniel was brought in to give the interpretation of the words, which were a warning that God had numbered Babylon’s kingdom. “You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting,” Daniel told the king.
That very night, Belshazzar was killed and Babylon invaded by the Persians and Medes. Isaiah 13 describes this destruction in graphic detail:
And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,
The beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride,
Will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
20 It will never be inhabited,
Nor will it be settled from generation to generation;
Nor will the Arabian pitch tents there,
Nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there.—Isaiah 13:19-20
The Seleucid Empire and its ruler, Antiochus IV, was known for persecuting the Jews when Israel was under Seleucid rule several decades before the birth of Christ. Antiochus outlawed Jewish traditions and religious practices and ordered the people of Israel to worship the Greek deity Zeus. He sent an army to slaughter those who would not obey.
This gave rise to the Jewish Maccabean rebellion, which is described in ancient, extra-biblical Jewish books, God struck him with an incurable, torturous disease and his body was swarmed with worms when Antiochus learned the Jews had defeated his army.
More recently, in the 19th century, the Russian Empire once was home to the world’s largest Jewish population but confined them to ghettos, forced them to convert to other religions and attacked them in pogroms. Because of Russian anti-Semitism, the people blamed Jews for everything from economic problems to political instability. This anti-Jewish violence continued into the 20th century, and many Jews were beaten and murdered. Russia’s leaders were slow to intervene.
The Romanov dynasty had ruled Russia for three centuries but lost the throne in 1917 because of the Russian Revolution. The last czar, Nicholas II, and his family were executed in 1918.
You don’t need a history lesson to understand what happened to Hitler’s Germany after he destroyed six million Jews in the Holocaust. Hitler had begun referring to his Third Reich as the “Thousand-Year Reich,” but it ended after only 12 years. The Allies defeated Germany, Hitler committed suicide, and his corpse was set on fire.
In 1967, the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria collaborated in an attack on Israel during the Six-Day War. While Israel only had 75,000 troops, the Arab armies totaled more than 500,000. Israel was outgunned and had far fewer resources.
Israel then staged a successful ground offensive and seized the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. The brief war ended with a U.N.-brokered ceasefire, but it significantly altered the map of the Mideast and gave rise to lingering geopolitical friction.
Israel routed Egyptian forces before the ceasefire took effect. Estimates showed that around 20,000 Arabs had died in 132 hours of fighting.
Fewer than 900 Israelis died.
Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser resigned in disgrace and the leaders of other Arab states were reportedly “shocked” by their defeat.
This history matters. The nations of the world would be wise to remember it.
In 2015, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reminded them of it in an address to the United Nations when the U.S. and other world leaders were entering into the nuclear deal with Iran. He refused to celebrate the deal, complaining that the deal didn’t make peace more likely, but made war more likely. He warned that the deal would make Iran more dangerous.
In fact, a week before Netanyahu gave the speech, the commander of Iran’s army publicly proclaimed, “We will annihilate Israel for sure.”
This was Nethanyahu’s response:
For in every generation, there were those who rose up to destroy our people. In antiquity, we faced destruction from the ancient empires of Babylon and Rome. In the Middle Ages, we faced inquisition and expulsion. And In modern times, we faced pogroms and the Holocaust.
Yet the Jewish people persevered.
And now another regime has arisen, swearing to destroy Israel.
That regime would be wise to consider this: I stand here today representing Israel, a country 67 years young, but the nation-state of a people nearly 4,000 years old. Yet the empires of Babylon and Rome are not represented in this hall of nations. Neither is the Thousand Year Reich. Those seemingly invincible empires are long gone. But Israel lives. The people of Israel live.
Keep this history in mind as you see Iran continue to flex its military muscle in the Middle East, or as further talks take place about a nuclear deal with Iran. Keep this history in mind when you see anti-Israel protests. Keep this history in mind when you hear casual anti-Semitism from friends or larger-scale anti-Semitism on the news.
Those who seek to challenge Israel find themselves facing an outcome they did not expect. The promise God made to Abraham is eternal, and God curses those who curse His people.
Israel is the only nation ever created by God. There never has been another nation formed by God Himself. In fact, Israel’s existence is a testimony to God’s existence. The miraculous survival of the people of Israel is one proof of His active providence in the lives of His people.
There has never been a world power that persecuted the Jews that remained great. That has been true in the past and it will remain true when the Gog-Magog War erupts before the events of the Tribulation, and when the entire world converges in battle against this tiny nation.
Israel may be tiny, but she is far from insignificant.