God truly desires this bountiful, happy life for His people. Yet the terrible punishment that He inflicts upon the people of Israel—war, famine, pestilence, captivity, slavery, exile—is in itself a necessary and painful test of their professed faithfulness. Verse 9 parallels Romans 11:26 where Paul says, "All Israel will be saved." God wants to give salvation to all Israelites, and these calamities are His last-ditch effort to get their attention and turn them back to Him.
The smallest grain would be better translated "a pebble." God puts His people through a sifting process, and the sieve is designed to catch the stones and other things that are not grain. In the metaphor, what passes through the sieve—the grain—will be saved. The pebbles caught in the mesh of the sieve are those God will destroy.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)
Clearly, these prophecies have not yet been fulfilled. To date, God has not actually scattered Israel among all nations. Historically, He did not use the Assyrians to scatter Israel so much as He used them to resituate Israel to locales south of the Caspian Sea, in what is now northern Iran. In process of time, God further resituated Israel through a number of migrations into rather localized areas of the earth, such as northern Europe, the British Isles (including Ireland), the North American continent, Australia, and New Zealand. Notice that these areas are isolated from the capitals of the Gentile world. The British Isles and New Zealand are islands; Australia is a continent-sized island. North America is separated from other northern hemisphere power centers by two large oceans.
These lands to which God led Israel were generally under-populated before Israel invaded them and displaced the aboriginal—Gentile—populations. These aboriginal peoples did not constitute the bulk of Gentiles. Far from it. The majority of the Gentiles lived, and continue to live, in areas isolated from the lands of national Israel. The Gentiles are concentrated in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Asian Subcontinent, and South America, as well as in certain areas of southern and eastern Europe. With the exceptions of the State of Israel and South Africa, Israelite migrations to these Gentile areas have generally not been extensive to date.
So today's world looks like this: The Gentiles are concentrated in certain areas of the world, while Israel is concentrated in other areas of the world. Relatively low numbers of Gentiles live among the Israelites, and, again in relative terms, even fewer Israelites live in Gentile areas, such as Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Africa. Clearly, those Israelites residing in South Africa make up an exception to the pattern. However, when God scatters Israel to all nations, the exception will be the rule. The present plight of Israelites living in South Africa will become Israel's commonplace plight everywhere.
To this day, God has not yet scattered Israel among the Gentiles en masse, not yet sifted them "among all nations." Today's demographic reality does not look at all like the population distribution of which God speaks in Deuteronomy 28, Ezekiel 20, or Amos 9.
This level of scattering is yet to come. A number of scriptures appear to connect this vast displacement of Israelites with Israel's fall and the time of "Jacob's Trouble." For example:
One-third of you shall die of the pestilence, and be consumed with famine in your midst; and one-third shall fall by the sword all around you; and I will scatter another third to all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them. (Ezekiel 5:12)
Does the scattering mentioned here occur before Israel's fall or after? As an approach to that question, it may be instructive to compare Matthew 24 with Ezekiel 5. Note, however, that the order in which the terrible events cataloged in them is not the same. Comparing the number of thens in Matthew 24 with the number of thens in Ezekiel 5 suggests another difference. Matthew wins out, with his ten to Ezekiel's two. As Herbert Armstrong so often pointed out, Matthew 24 is sequential—first this, then that, "immediately after" the other.
However, aside from the last clause of Ezekiel 5:12, where it is quite obvious that the sword will follow the third God has scattered "to all the winds," there is no explicit idea of sequence in the Ezekiel passage. Nothing in verse 12 (or in its companion, verse 2) argues for a sequence of events: first pestilence, then famine, then war, then scattering. Even though war is mentioned in this passage after pestilence and famine, the war of which God speaks could cause—and hence, precede—the pestilence and famine. Historically, this is not at all an unusual sequence. War comes first, causing famine.
So, it is possible, even plausible, that some part of the prophesied scattering could take place before the pestilence. It could even take place in a time of relative peace and prosperity.
Of course, none of this denies the fact that the final dissolution of the nations of modern-day Israel will not be accompanied by vast, involuntary migrations. That will certainly be the case. Yet, given the magnitude of the prophesied sifting/scattering, it remains plausible that God may at least begin to scatter Israel before her national destruction, using as His vehicle the widespread "open borders" established by a globalized international community. Such borders would facilitate easy migration from nation to nation (just as between Canada and the United States today).
Globalism (Part Nine): Running To and Fro
Other commentary entries containing this verse:
2 Kings 4:35
2 Kings 17:6