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Bible verses about Israel
(From Forerunner Commentary)

When Jacob blessed Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, he said, "Let my name be named upon them" (Genesis 48:16). "Ephraim," then, also parallels "Jacob" and "Israel" (Hosea 6:10), as do "Joseph" (Obadiah 17-18), "Jeshurun" (Deuteronomy 32:15), and "Oholah" (Ezekiel 23:4).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
What's in a Name?


 

Genesis 17:6

God here repeats His promise of fruitfulness. Note the plural forms of the words nation and king.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part One): The Promises to the Faithful


 

Genesis 49:22

The people of Joseph are a productive lot. To produce goods and services requires a vast amount of energy—call it zeal, enthusiasm, or drive. They live in a well-watered land that enhances agriculture and industry. The people are so driven that they extend their influence and zeal beyond the boundaries of their countries.

Historically, the people of Joseph have moved into other countries, taken the raw materials to make their products, built manufacturing plants, and influenced the native culture. When the British or Americans colonized, they brought their way of life and imposed it on the natives. Americans continue to introduce movies, television, rock music, household appliances, big cars, etc., to impoverished nations around the globe.

These things just typify the inherent drive of the people of Joseph, a proclivity to expand beyond the frontiers in every endeavor. They are an aggressive and innovative people in science, industry, education, government, and religion. This is generally beneficial and productive, but in one area, religion, it has profound repercussions. Satan has taken advantage of this characteristic, producing a religion that allows Israelites to think that they are Christian and yet still be free to explore the frontiers of religious thought.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Christmas, Syncretism, and Presumption


 

Genesis 49:22

Genesis 49:22 and Isaiah 49:20 hint very strongly at Israel's colonization of other lands because of burgeoning population and prosperity. Though many nations have colonized other lands in the past, only the nations of northwestern Europe have done it to any great extent.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Israel: Present


 

Genesis 49:22

In Genesis 49:22, within the chapter that records Jacob's final words to his sons, God prophesies that Joseph will be growth-oriented, restive, not content with the status quo.

This is a difficult passage, so many of its words having more than one meaning. Young, in his literal translation, renders the Hebrew this way: "Joseph [is] a fruitful son, a fruitful son by a fountain: daughters overstep the wall." Here certainly is a description of the fecundity of Joseph: both his immense population and his material abundance. Here too, however, is almost certainly a description of the inclination of Joseph's daughters—the modern nations of Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States—to overclimb walls. Like an ivy plant not content to remain in its place, Joseph grows up wall and chimney, invading walkway and gazebo, re-rooting itself all over lawn and garden.

Charles Whitaker
Globalism (Part Three): America Runs Over the Wall


 

Genesis 49:22-26

Jacob devotes quite a few words to Joseph, "who was separate from his brothers." He will become "a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall." Although he would be "bitterly grieved" in war, his strength would be made strong "by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob." Joseph would be blessed "up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills."

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Two): Blessings in Faith


 

Genesis 49:22

Genesis 49:22 predicts regarding Joseph, Jacob's son through Rachel, "Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall." Joseph, modern Britain and America, is prophesied to be an unusually prosperous people whose influence spreads far and wide beyond their home locations. At the end time, they have been at the forefront of spreading the "wine of the wrath of her fornication" by means of their cultural influences.

Meanwhile in their homelands, Satan has convinced most Britons and Americans that everybody, regardless of personal beliefs and conduct, is worshipping the same God, the God of true Christianity! What mass confusion and a horrific influence this has been. In doing this, they make God to be a sovereign over mass confusion, unconcerned about what people believe about Him or how they worship Him. They make Him into a God with no purpose for His human creation except a vague concept of somehow "saving" them, whatever that means!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Six): The Woman's Character


 

Exodus 12:3

Since God instituted circumcision as the sign of the covenant He made with Abraham (Genesis 17:10-11), it predates the Old Covenant by several hundred years. When God called Israel out of Egypt and gave them His laws, He included the command to circumcise male babies (Leviticus 12:3). Circumcision identified the Israelites as physical descendants of Abraham, gave them a sense of national identity, and set them apart from other nations of the world.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Why We Must Put Out Leaven


 

Exodus 12:48

God made His covenant with Old Testament Israel, a type of the church (Galatians 6:16). God's focus and concern were overwhelmingly on them, and He dealt with other nations only as they came in contact with Israel. Though God makes provision in His law to accept non-Israelites who wanted to join Israel and worship the true God, He nowhere commands the Israelites to go out and make disciples of other nations. Rather, His approach is to attract outsiders by the example of obedient Israel being blessed by Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Who Is Doing the Work of God?


 

Deuteronomy 32:15

This prophecy regarding Israel confirms the power and influence of wealth. For a Christian today, living in a society whose wealth far exceeds the wildest dreams of most people on earth, this power of wealth cannot be ignored. We need to thank God for the opportunity to live in a nation receiving the blessings of Abraham, but we cannot allow its influence to change our attitudes toward God.

Does wealth or poverty have any intrinsic spiritual value? Physically, it is better to be wealthy, but riches can turn one's head spiritually. Incidentally, poverty has that same power because a poor person can become so busy with the cares of his daily existence, that he forgets God. That is why Solomon advises in Proverbs 30:8-9, "[G]ive me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food You prescribe for me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, 'Who is the LORD?' Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

2 Kings 16:1-6

II Kings 16:1-6 briefly summarizes one of the many wars between the Kingdom of Judah in the south and the Kingdom of Israel to its north. Appearing in this passage is the first occurrence of the word Jew in God's Word.

Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah, . . . king of Israel, came up to Jerusalem to make war; and they besieged Ahaz but could not overcome him. At that time Rezin king of Syria captured Elath for Syria, and drove the men of Judah from Elath. (verses 5-6)

The King James Version translates "men of Judah" with the single word Jews. During the military campaign outlined above, the Syrians captured the port city of Elath from Judah, driving the Jews out.

The term Jew usually refers to a person from the tribe of Judah. In fact, Jew is a shortened, or what semanticists call a "clipped," form of the word Judah. Strictly speaking, a Jew is genetically a member of the tribe of Judah; that is, the term Jew refers to a person who has descended from Jacob's son, Judah. The Jews make up one tribe of the children of Israel, the tribe of Judah, whose homeland was in the southern part of Canaan. The Jews, then, form only a subset of a much larger group of people, the children of Israel.

Of course, the Kingdom of Judah had in it individuals descended from the tribes Judah, Levi, and Benjamin. Today, Jews (for the most part) do not differentiate between these three tribes. A modern Jew, more likely than not, is descended from the tribe of Judah or the tribe of Benjamin or the tribe Levi—few, if any, know specifically from which tribe. Moreover, few even give the matter much thought, so irrelevant today have the tribes become as social and political entities.

The term Jew is not interchangeable with the term Israel. While all Jews are Israelites, not all Israelites are Jews!

There is an important distinction between them. Today, a Jew is an individual descended through one of three tribes. However, the term Israel has a number of broader meanings, all derived from the fact that Israel was the name God gave the patriarch Jacob.

  • The word Israel can refer to a person. When used this way, it refers specifically to the patriarch Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel (see Genesis 32:28).
  • The word Israel often refers to all the descendants of Jacob. Hence, "the children of Israel," a term much used in the Pentateuch, refers to individuals from all the tribes—literally, all the descendants of the man Jacob (Israel).
  • After the fissure of the Davidic monarchy, the term Israel came to have a more specific national meaning. Used in this collective sense, Israel refers to those Israelites who were citizens of the Kingdom of Israel, the ten tribes of the northern kingdom.
  • Often, the Scriptures use the word Israel in a specialized, limited way, where it refers only to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Jacob, remember, began his blessing on the two boys with the statement, "Let my name be named upon them" (Genesis 48:16).

These differences are more than "shades of meaning" or nuances. Readers of God's Word need to keep a keen eye on both the words Jew and Israel, ensuring that they understand their proper meaning in context.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Six): Israel Is Fallen, Is Fallen


 

2 Kings 17:6

When the Assyrians conquered the northern ten tribes of Israel and dispersed her population in the lands beyond the Euphrates, only the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained in the Land of Promise. Though the house of Judah had not yet forsaken Him, God began to raise up prophets to warn the southern kingdom that she was headed for the same fate as her sister Israel.

Through these prophets, particularly Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Hosea, God gives us directions by which we can find where Israel lives in the last days. Remember, all the following directions must be understood from the vantage point of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 3:12: "Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: 'Return, backsliding Israel,' says the LORD."

Jeremiah 3:18: "In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to your fathers."

Jeremiah 31:8: "Behold, I will bring them from the north country."

When Jeremiah prophesied—about a century after Israel went into captivity—Israel lived to the north, and even in the end time, the Israelites will still live primarily in the north. North alone, however, could be rather vague, so God adds more detail:

Hosea 11:10: "They shall walk after the Lord. He will roar like a lion. When He roars, then His sons shall come trembling from the west."

Hosea 12:1: "Ephraim [the leading tribe of Israel] feeds on the wind, and pursues the east wind [the east wind travels west]." This scripture implies that Israel migrated westward. Though this verse has a primarily spiritual meaning, its value as a clue to Israel's whereabouts is confirmed by

Isaiah 49:12: "Surely these shall come from afar; look! Those from the north and the west. . . ."

A line stretching from Jerusalem to the northwest cuts through much of Europe from Greece to the North Sea. Where along this line should we look for Israelites? We know that the line of David would continually rule over some part of the house of Israel (Jeremiah 33:17).

Psalm 89:20, 25: I have found My servant David. . . . Also I will set his hand over the sea."

David's dynasty would rule over a sea power somewhere to the north and west of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 31:10: "Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, 'He who scattered Israel will gather him.'"

Isaiah 49:1, 3: "Listen, O coastlands, to Me, and take heed, you peoples from afar! . . . You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified." (See also Isaiah 41:1, 8-9.)

Israel, headed by Ephraim, would inhabit islands and coastlands far from Jerusalem. This seems to eliminate any of the Mediterranean nations; they would be considered "near" to Jerusalem rather than "afar off." Now we are looking for a nation, dominating on the seas, living on islands and coastlands in the area of the North Sea. Are there any other clues?

Jeremiah 31:7: "For thus says the LORD: 'Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, "O LORD , save Your people, the remnant of Israel."'"

In the end time, Israel is regarded as among the leaders of the world's nations. This narrows our search considerably. Yet, one bit of evidence still remains:

Genesis 49:22: "Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall."

Isaiah 49:20: "The children you will have, after you have lost the others, will say again in your ears, 'The place is too small for me; give me a place where I may dwell.'"

These verses hint very strongly at colonization of other lands because of burgeoning population and prosperity. Though many nations have colonized other lands in the past, only the nations of northwestern Europe have done it to a great extent.

Do any nations fit all these criteria? Only one: Britain! We should be able to find Israelites, primarily of the half-tribes of Joseph, the birthright tribes, in Britain.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Israel: Present


 

2 Kings 17:6

Assyria conquered the ten-tribed Kingdom of Israel in 718 BC. According to II Kings 17:6, Assyria "carried Israel away to Assyria." She deported the Israelites en masse, to what is now northern Iran, just south of the Caspian Sea.

Conquering Israel was not easy; the siege of Samaria, Israel's capital, lasted three years. Assyria may have "overextended" herself in the effort. Whatever the reason, Assyria began her decline almost immediately after she conquered Israel. By 650 BC, Assyria was in an advanced state of decline.

The rapid decline of Assyria afforded some Israelites the opportunity to become aggressive. Early on, some Israelite groups actually became strong enough to mount a guerilla war against their captors. Although unable to turn the tables on Assyria, they did weaken her to the extent that a confederation of the Babylonians and the Medes found it relatively easy to capture Nineveh, Assyria's capital city, in 612 BC. A few decades later, other Israelites banded together to become the Scythians, whom historians recognize as a fierce and warlike people. Centuries later, these peoples would merge with others to become the Parthians, the scourge of the Roman Empire. For the entirety of the Roman period, the Parthians effectively contained the Roman armies at the Euphrates River, keeping them from ever invading the rich Indus Valley on the Indian sub-continent (now Pakistan).

However, the majority of Israelites left the Middle East during the several decades just after Assyria's fall. They took a number of routes, of course, but in general they made their escape using several passes over the Caucasus Mountains, one of which, located in present-day Georgia, retained the name, Pass of Israel, until renamed by the godless communists of the last century.

The prophet Amos, as recorded in Amos 9:9, uses the metaphor of sifting grain to describe what God has done (and will do) to Israel. God, Amos says, "will sift the house of Israel among all nations, as grain is sifted in a sieve; yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground."

God will separate His people and scatter them, while at the same time keeping track of every Israelite. The Scriptures provide plenty of evidence regarding where this sifting placed the Israelites over a period of time. First, God's Word tells us where to look for Israel (Psalm 89:25; Hosea 12:1; Jeremiah 3:12-13; 31:10). Second, His Word tells us from where He will gather Israel in the last days (Jeremiah 31:10; 23:8; 31:8; 3:18; Isaiah 11:12; Hosea 11:8-10; Isaiah 49:1, 12; Isaiah 41:1, 9). The Scriptural evidence is conclusive: Israel (the northern ten tribes, not the two southern tribes now known as the Jews; see II Kings 16:5-6) is today—and will be until God re-gathers it—scattered around the world, but principally to the north and west of Jerusalem and in isles afar off.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Eight): The Scattering of Ten-Tribed Israel


 

Isaiah 49:1

In verse 1, God indicates His audience: the "coastlands" and the "peoples from afar." Then, in verse 12, He tells more about the areas from where He will gather His people: "Surely these shall come from afar; Look! Those from the north and the west, and these from the land of Sinim [Vulgate: Australi]." Israel, God says, will come to dwell at "the ends of the earth," even in Australia.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Eight): The Scattering of Ten-Tribed Israel


 

Jeremiah 31:31-33

The Israelites could have been the world's perpetual premier nation if they had done as God asked. But they failed, proving that no nation, no people - even with the righteous examples of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and with the great laws of God - could solve humanity's problems and live peaceful, abundant lives without a special ingredient only God can supply.

Men say, "With enough time and enough knowledge, we can solve any and every evil." But the record of humanity, foremost in Israel, has proved that it cannot be done. Even with God as their King, Israel could not succeed in this. Something was missing.

What was missing? God's Holy Spirit! It was evident, even during the days of the prophets, that the Old Covenant was insufficient, that its terms could not redeem a person from his sins or deliver eternal life. A new and better covenant was needed. God will make a New Covenant with Israel, one that will include an element whereby He can write His law on people's minds and hearts. By this means, His way of living will be their way too, and they will be faithful to Him.

Paul comments on this in Hebrews 8:7-8, adding that the failure of the Old Covenant lay in the Israelites themselves. They had hearts of stone on which God could not write His way of life. While that covenant was in force, He purposely withheld the vital, heart-softening ingredient, His Spirit, from them as a whole to depict to mankind that peace, prosperity, and redemption are impossible without a spiritual relationship with Him. He must be personally and individually involved in their daily lives.

One day, in the Millennium, He will give Israel that ability - that right heart - and allow them to succeed in the areas in which they failed. This is prophesied in Ezekiel 37:21-23, 26-28:

Thus says the Lord GOD: "Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God. . . . Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore."

Israel will then be given the New Covenant. They will be allowed wholesale access to God through His Holy Spirit, and they will keep His laws along with the statutes and the judgments. They will not just pay them lip-service. This time they will keep their covenant with God.

Moreover, the nations will notice when Israel finally does what it was chosen to do. The Gentiles will begin making the right connections. They will see that God has sanctified the Israelites by setting them apart, giving them His Spirit and His law, and blessing them abundantly for their obedience. They will say, "Maybe we should be doing this too!" and begin to fulfill Isaiah 2:1-4. Thus, during the Millennium, Israel will perform its original purpose as a model and mediatory nation for the rest of the world.

It will take time, maybe generations, but slowly, surely, the whole world will see in Israel, then part of God's church (see Galatians 6:16), how it should live under God. There will be conversions by the thousands - perhaps even by nations, as they realize what wonderful peace and prosperity can ensue when a nation obeys God and lives the way that He teaches!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Why Israel? (Part Two)


 

Jeremiah 33:14-18

This passage's main ideas are that, first, God's plan is focused on Israel through the fulfillment of the promises, and second, that the Israelites are thus God's primary agents for bringing His plan to pass, particularly the house of David and its greatest scion, Jesus of Nazareth. God will sometimes use Gentiles, but he predominantly employs Israelites to drive affairs along in His plan.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Israel? (Part One)


 

Hosea 7:11

When God uses the term "Ephraim," He may be referring to the actual family of Ephraim, but it is more likely that He is using it as He uses the term "Jerusalem": for the whole country. Ephraim represents or symbolizes the ten northern tribes, Israel as distinct from Judah, because Ephraim was its leading tribe.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 6)


 

Hosea 12:3-4

The prophet Hosea gives us a cameo that insightfully contrasts the combative, self-reliant, competitive supplanter, Jacob, with the overcomer he became, Israel. Hosea completes the picture Moses sketches in Genesis: Jacob wept, humbly begging God's favor. Jacob's experience in Bethel, where God changed his name, as well as his earlier experience in Peniel, where God wrestled with him, were milestones on his road to conversion. God understood that Jacob was bent on prevailing, that he was an overcomer. His new name, meaning "He prevails with God," was apt indeed!

Charles Whitaker
The Israel of God


 

Amos 2:6-8

The conduct of the average Israelite becomes glaringly apparent. In ancient Israel the social conditions during the reign of Jeroboam II had reached the proportions of what is extant in the United States today. A tremendous disparity between the rich and the poor existed just as in modern America, where most of the wealth is concentrated in only about two percent of the population. Soon, if the elimination of the middle class continues on course, only two classes of people will live in the U.S., the rich and the poor. A similar situation was developing in Israel during Amos' day.

Amos shows that those who had the money and power treated the weak, called "the poor," very harshly. Though they were not destitute, the poor had no strength in society. They had no power to change their situation for the better, while the rich and powerful manipulated the government and the courts to their advantage. The rich squeezed every penny out of the poor, even requiring them to relinquish overnight their outer garments, often used as a cover when sleeping. To top off the list, they were also guilty of sexual perversions and idolatry.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Amos 2:13-16

The wording of verse 13 provides two possibilities. The first is that God, in exasperation, refuses to carry His people any longer, as one might put down a burden that is too heavy. The second possibility pictures a heavily loaded cart with a broken wheel that carves deep ruts in the road and throws its occupants into ditches. The context implies that the heavy load is the crushing burden of sins that impede Israel from staying on "the straight and narrow" (Matthew 7:14).

This second meaning seems to fit the best, as He proceeds to foretell Israel's destruction. Israel had reached the end of her greatest period of prosperity since the time of Solomon. The nation was rich, powerful, and well-armed, proud in her might, abilities, wisdom, wealth, strategic advantages, and courage. Who could stand against Israel? But God thunders the warning that all the nation's natural abilities (Amos 2:14), acquired skills (verse 15), and outstanding qualities (verse 16) would not help her.

Men see the strength of a nation in its wealth, population, armaments, technology, and knowledge. But where does God look? "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34). The Bible reveals that the cause of the rise and fall of nations is moral and spiritual. As Amos shows, no nation can rely on its strength, power, and wealth to save it from the devastating effects of moral decay. Moral, ethical, and spiritual problems cannot be resolved by money, strength of arms, "Star Wars" projects, social programs, intelligence, or humanitarian goodwill.

Since Israel had forfeited her privileged status, God promised to destroy her as He destroyed the Amorites and the Egyptians (Amos 2:9-10; 4:10, 12). The people of Israel had gone so far that God expected no repentance from them. Like Ecclesiastes 3, Amos shows there is a time of opportunity and a time when opportunity is gone. Evidently, Israel's opportunity to repent had faded away. It was too late!

As He had fought their battles for them in the past, now God would fight against them. Whatever their courage or expertise, nothing would go in their favor. The things that had formerly given Israel strength in war would be turned against them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Matthew 15:26

When the Gentile woman says, "Lord, help me," Jesus up to this point had spoken only to His disciples. Now He speaks to the woman, telling her she is not of Israel and that, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs." By "children" He means Israelites (Acts 10:36), while "dogs" were symbols of unclean Gentiles, a proverbial expression used by the Jews to represent their sense of national superiority over the nations.

Jesus does not Himself call the Gentiles "dogs," using the term only here to point out the normal antipathy between Jews and Gentiles, which His disciples had echoed. The word He uses for "dogs" is a mild one, meaning "little dogs" or "puppies"—not large, wild dogs native to the area but domesticated animals like those the Romans had introduced during their occupation. It suggests the family puppy under the table at dinnertime, begging for a scrap.

Because of her faith and humility, the woman does not take offense at this. His words do not discourage her because she was hopeful with faith, and her works demonstrate that hers was not a dead faith, but a strong one. She was resourceful and knew enough about Jesus to believe that He was both compassionate and powerful. Feeling deeply unworthy and contentedly accepting her place among the dogs, she merely asks for spiritual crumbs from His merciful table—a little crumb for her daughter is all she seeks.

Counting herself a "puppy," she faithfully looks forward to being counted by God as His child (Galatians 3:26). Although she stands outside of the elect family of Israel, she trusts that Jesus' goodness would impart a blessing. By intervening on behalf of her and her daughter, Jesus shows that the Gentiles' potential for salvation is no less than that of Israelites.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Exorcising a Syro-Phoenecian (Part One)


 

Romans 11:26-32

The good news comes in two parts. First, God has not put Israel so far away that it has no hope of salvation. Paul says plainly, "So all Israel will be saved." He is very positive that the vast majority of Israelites will enter God's Kingdom. Peter says in II Peter 3:9 that God "is not willing that any should perish but that all [all humanity, including Israel] should come to repentance."

Second, because of what Israel experienced—and yes, because they failed—the called of God, Christians, have been given the opportunity for salvation now as the firstfruits. God knew all along that Israel would fail; it was part of His plan to create a historical record of a physical people attempting to keep His covenant. Among other things, He desired a people—Israel—to show His regenerated children the absolute futility of life without Him, even if it is lived under the best circumstances.

God loves Israel, so He did not commit them to eternal disobedience and condemnation. Very few of them have lost their opportunity for salvation. He has simply put them aside for the time being. Other places in the Bible explain that God will open salvation to them later, when conditions will be even better for them (see Ezekiel 37:1-14; Revelation 20:12-13). As Paul says in Romans 11:31, the salvation of Christians will eventually work out for the benefit of the Israelites: They will also obtain mercy (see also verses 11-15, 23-25).

Nevertheless, due to their being "broken off" from the vine (verse 17), a place has been made for others to be "grafted in." We should note that the vine's roots and trunk, as it were, were never rejected—just some of the branches. This means that God's Kingdom is still in large part an Israelite Kingdom! It is still rooted in the Patriarchs, the prophets, the teachings and promises, the house of David, the Twelve Tribes, and the most important of all Israelites, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

No, Israel, though blinded to God's way for now, remains a vital part of God's plan of salvation!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Why Israel? (Part One)


 

Galatians 3:19

At this point in his epistle, it occurs to Paul that it would only be normal for someone to ask the question, "What, then, was the purpose of the Old Covenant?" Thus, verse 19 begins with, "What purpose then does the law serve?" This broad question covers many more specific ones: Why was it needed? Why did God call Israel out of Egypt? Why did God write His Ten Commandments on tables of stone with His own finger? Why did God have Moses write the statutes and judgments in a book? Why did God establish the Levitical priesthood, the Tabernacle/Temple worship, the washings, oblations, and the sacrifices? What was the purpose of all the rules and regulations of the Old Covenant? Such questions would naturally come to the mind of anyone reading Paul's letter since he emphasizes that our salvation through Christ fulfills the promise made to Abraham. What need is there for another covenant?

The answer he gives is a key to understanding much of everything else he says in Galatians: "It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made." "It was added" means that the Mosaic covenant was in addition to the one God had made with Abraham. But what "transgressions"? Abraham obeyed all of God's laws, commandments, statutes, and ordinances (Genesis 26:5). He taught God's laws to Isaac, who taught them to Jacob. However, after Israel was in Egypt for many years, they forgot them and lived in ignorant transgression of them. Having absorbed so much Egyptian culture in their sojourn, they were even ignorant of the Sabbath day. Paul explains that God "added" the Old Covenant because Israel had gone so far into sin when they lived in Egypt.

Therefore, God had to call Israel out of Egypt and teach them His laws all over again to prepare them for the coming of Christ. He wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone, and Moses wrote the statutes and judgments in a book so that Israel would have a permanent record of His laws and statutes throughout the centuries. God gave them rituals of worship that made them different from other nations, and He forbade them to have anything to do with foreign, pagan customs. Circumcision identified them as a separate and distinct people. These rules and regulations put a hedge around Israel (Isaiah 5:5; Matthew 21:33) to preserve them pure for the coming of Christ.

Just prior to the scripture Paul quotes in Galatians 3:12, God says in Leviticus 18:3,

According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances.

For years, people have wondered how anyone could have transgressed the laws before they were given. Simply put, Paul is talking about the laws of God which have been in full force since creation! When he writes that the Old Covenant was added "till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made," he means that the Old Covenant was temporary; Christ would replace it with the New Covenant. Rather than saying that any of God's laws had become obsolete, he is explaining how important it was to preserve the knowledge of God's laws in Israel to prepare them for the coming of Christ!

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
What Was the Law 'Added Because of Transgressions'?


 

Galatians 3:21

The word is at the beginning of this verse is not in the original Greek. This is significant, because the rest of the verse is entirely in the past tense: "had been," "given," "could have given," "should have been." Given that the context has been the Old Covenant, and not God's eternal codification of right and wrong, if a word needs to be added to make the meaning more clear, the word "was" fits the context better: "Was the covenant against the promises of God?"

God's promises to Abraham were not contrary to the covenant. God's promises to Abraham and God's covenant with ancient Israel accomplished different things! The Old Covenant was a temporary agreement, given until the Seed arrived. It had health, wealth, national strength, and military protection and dominance as its benefits. The promises to Abraham had physical components as well, but with the promise that includes eternal life (see the notes at Galatians 3:14) comes a plethora of other benefits. The promises and the Old Covenant were not in disagreement with each other, but rather the Old Covenant was an auxiliary to the promises, to further the plan inherent within the promises so God would have a nation to send His Son to in order to begin the church—the Body of Christ, which will become His Bride.

God's Law is an extension of His very character and nature. When He codified it and set it before Israel, one of the results was that it showed anybody who was willing to look that mankind does not naturally gravitate to God's way; it is exceedingly difficult to live God's way because our human nature wants to fight it at every turn. The Old Covenant demonstrated to Israel, and to anybody who reads Israel's history, that man needs a different heart in order to come into alignment with God's intent for him. It also demonstrated that the blood of innocent animals was not sufficient to really take away the sins of the people. Those animal sacrifices were only a shadow of the reality to come—Jesus Christ. The whole system was on a physical level, without spiritual promises. The Holy Spirit was not generally available, and so all of Israel's experience also demonstrates that without the right heart, without the same intent and desire as God, it is impossible to come into alignment with Him. And that new heart is only available to those with whom He makes the New Covenant.

God is faithful in His promises. For Abraham to have a "great nation" come out of him, and for him to have a "great name" through his posterity, and for him to be a blessing, God had to enact a system by which an unlearned people could live in accordance with the natural laws that would bring about the desired results. The Israelites, after living in Egypt—sin—for so many generations, had that sin implanted into their national character, and it was perpetuated by their generations even after they left Egypt. God made the Old Covenant because of their sins, to show them just how far off course they had gotten.

This covenant also was to be a preparation for Christ's first coming and the New Covenant. If they had used the covenant properly, it could have given them a head start when the Seed arrived, and they could have seen what God was working out. Paul shows in his writings to the Romans that the Jews (Israelites) had "first dibs" (Romans 1:16; 2:9-10), but that the opportunities were no longer exclusive to the chosen people. Paul also shows that the Old Covenant was a means by which to preserve the knowledge of God's laws in Israel to prepare them for the coming of Christ! In this way Christ could return to a people already familiar with His laws and statutes, rather than coming first to a Gentile nation that He would have to teach essentially from scratch.

When He came as a man, He came to a people and a culture that had a long history of at least familiarity with His laws, if not complete obedience. They clearly did not understand the true intent behind the laws, and even abused them to the point of thinking they could be justified by keeping them, but this way of life was not entirely brand new to them in the way it would have been if Christ first appeared in Africa or the Orient. There would have been no hope of those Gentile nations recognizing how Christ fulfilled and personified the law. Without the history of the Old Testament, Christ would have meant very little to them, although He would have undoubtedly been worshipped as a type of deity because of the miracles He performed. But He was not seeking worship—He was seeking a people who would live as He lives.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:23-24

Tutor literally means "child-leader" and would be better translated "guardian" or "custodian." It was God's purpose to protect Israel from the sinful, pagan cultures of the world until Christ came. He found no other way to guard them except to put a hedge around them (compare Isaiah 5:5; Matthew 21:33) and make them a separate, distinct nation from all others in the world. He intended that the sacrifices keep them constantly aware of their need for a Savior.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
What Was the Law 'Added Because of Transgressions'?


 

Galatians 3:24

The Old Covenant - the agreement between God and ancient Israel - was a "guardian" or "custodian" for the children of Israel. It provided a means by which the Israelites could have health and wealth and many of the good things this life has to offer - if they would have followed the laws contained within that covenant. For example, the law of the Sabbath has tremendous physical benefits, for man, animals, and even the land. The law of tithing teaches good financial handling, and when it is done in faith it ensures financial stability. The laws which were a part of the covenant agreement would have kept Israel heading in the right direction, and would have helped prepare a people who should have recognized and accepted their rightful Ruler when He was born a man - except their hearts were not changed. God wants a change of action that proceeds from a change of heart - not a change of action just for the sake of the action.

The Old Covenant was a legitimate system, ordained by God, with fantastic physical benefits - if Israel had obeyed. That contractual agreement was meant to be a means to an end, and not the end in itself. It was meant to teach the people and hedge them in, to prepare them for the next stage of their existence - just like a guardian teaches and prepares a child to take over a business or inherit an estate. The covenant - not God's holy, spiritual law - was a step in the process, but that agreement became obsolete when the Master arrived and began His instruction. However, many of the laws contained within that covenant pre-dated the agreement with Israel, and thus are just as relevant today as they were for Israel.

Even though God's law is eternal and thus still required to be kept, justification has always been by faith. Abraham was justified by faith, even though God says he also "obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws." (Genesis 26:5) His obedience to God's law did not justify him, for his obedience was not perfect. Justification has always been on the basis of faith, because the instant a man sins - as all men have (Romans 3:23) - it becomes impossible to come before God on the basis of sinless perfection. Faith in the Savior is thus required for justification, and the law then lights the path the repentant and justified sinner must walk in order to keep from sinning further.

The Old Covenant was a system ordained by God to include His "royal law" (James 2:8) for the purpose of teaching Israel how to live. Even though the Old Covenant is obsolete, that same royal law is at the core of the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:7-13) because it teaches us how to live. But since we have transgressed that law, faith in the Savior is required for our sins to be forgiven and for us to be justified before God.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 6:16

Characteristically, God's true church is a spiritual organism whose members, with God's help, will ultimately prevail over their own sinful natures, over the world, and over Satan. The Israel of God, like Jacob, prevails with God. Christ certainly remembered His wrestling match with the unrelenting Jacob when He inspired Paul to call His church "the Israel of God."

Charles Whitaker
The Israel of God


 

Galatians 6:16

As members of the God Family—children of God, we will be God, ruling as He would rule. Spiritually speaking, we will be the kings God promised would descend from Jacob (Genesis 35:12). Yes, Israel is an apt designation for God's church; the Israel of God will rule as God.

Viewed in the present tense or in the future, we in the true Israel of God have a great deal in common with our patriarch Jacob. Like him, we will eventually have a new name (Revelation 3:12). Like him, we struggle to overcome. And like him, those who remain faithful among us will someday prevail, qualifying to rule as God—princes forever with Him.

Charles Whitaker
The Israel of God


 

Ephesians 1:11

Notice Paul says God "works all things according to the counsel of His will." This thought comes in the midst of a paragraph in which some commentators believe Paul reflects on how God arranged every detail to bring Israel out of a seemingly impossible situation in Egypt and into the Promised Land. It is perhaps most directly tied to Deuteronomy 7:7-8.

Consider Israel's roots, geographic location and history. They were a slave people in a foreign land, freed without a revolution, taken on a 40-year journey during which their needs were supplied, led to a stronger people's land and given it when they should have been easily defeated. This land, situated between stronger and larger nations, was constantly fought over, yet Israel somehow survived. Even today, they continue to exist, though the world thinks they have virtually disappeared!

Did all of this happen more or less accidentally? Paul is saying indirectly that even as Israel's history is no accident, and since the church has succeeded Israel as God's inheritance, God has a far grander purpose that He will just as surely work out in His sovereignty. Who can withstand what He wills to do? It is no accident that we are in the church because God has been working toward these events from the beginning, and what God wills is done. God is sovereign over His creation in all things.

Stretch that "all things" generally into other areas of life. It makes this subject very interesting in light of Jesus' statement that a sparrow cannot fall without God taking notice (Matthew 10:29-31). Perhaps we could make a case for saying that some things occur out in the world that are of no significance to God's purpose, but what about in His church, the apple of His eye, the focus of His attention? This is Paul's theme in Ephesians 1. Is God so unaware, so unconcerned about His children that things happen without His notice, without His scrutiny and His judgment about what He should do?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Introduction


 

Philippians 3:12-14

The word picture in Philippians 3:12-14 is of men straining to win a foot race. The Christian life is especially like the longer races where the runner must sustain a winning frame of mind over a longer period of time. We cannot run our race like the hare of the "Tortoise and the Hare" fable, in which the hare took a nap during the race.

Paul illustrates that after having received God's grace, our responsibility is to return full effort to God in striving to perfection in moral, ethical, and spiritual areas. He did not see the struggle against sin, fear, and doubt as being accomplished by God alone. The apostle is here urging his erring brothers to follow his example in persistently concentrating on our common goal.

Life for us now consists of discarding wrong attitudes and habits accumulated in the past. In modern, psychological terms, we must lose our baggage. For us, the past is dead, buried in the waters of baptism. With that behind us, we must diligently make unwavering progress in putting out the leaven of sin, growing in God's love, producing the fruit of God's Spirit, moving toward the Kingdom of God, and putting on Christ's perfection, His image in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Revelation 11:8

That identification is pretty clear: Sodom—Egypt—Jerusalem, all in one hand, each describing the other. God is giving evidence here to solve the identity of the prostitute by comparing Israel to Sodom and Egypt. Sodom is noted in all of the history of mankind for its sexual sins, and Egypt is known to all biblical students of a harsh and exacting slavery of the Israelitish people.

These two stunning and dramatic comparisons are of Israel's immoral characteristics, so why not compare Israel to Babylon? He has already compared Israel to Sodom and Egypt. Could it get any worse? None of those is a beautiful comparison. Every one of them is putting Jerusalem and Israel on the spiritual and moral level that they deserve—to be compared to Sodom and to Egypt. God reserved His harshest judgments for those who should know better but waste their gifts in prideful self-indulgence.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 5)


 

Revelation 11:8

Babylon is called great (Revelation 14:8; 16:19) in the same way that Jerusalem, representing all of Israel, was called great (Revelation 11:8). When "great" is used in this manner in this kind of a context, it not complimentary. The word in the Greek is megas, and it literally means "big." It can mean big or great in size, magnitude, intensity, or rank, in either a good or a bad sense. It depends on the context. This is interesting, because when God symbolically dwelt in the Holy of Holies, Jerusalem was known by its citizens as the "Holy City."

Tradition tells us (especially through Josephus) that God departed His residence there shortly before AD 70. The "Holy City" title for Jerusalem does not come back into the story-flow of the book of Revelation until Revelation 21:2-3.

In Revelation 21, the title "Holy City" is once again going to be applied to Jerusalem, but until that time, when God dwells there, it is known as the "great" city. It is great just like Babylon in its anti-God, sinful influence and economic, political, and military power. But most certainly it is not great in holiness. Israel's conduct puts its place next to Sodom, Gomorrah, Egypt, and Babylon in great defiance against God, against His message and His messengers, and thus it lost its identification as "the Holy City" and became "great."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 5)


 

Revelation 12:4-5

It is clear that Israel (the woman) gave birth to the Messiah (Jesus Christ) because He is the One who is described here who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron. He was put to death, but then He ascended to heaven. Plainly, the woman is Israel, the child is Christ, and we all know who the dragon is.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 3)


 

Revelation 12:6

Mark this, and mark it well. The woman who fled into the wilderness is not the church. It is the nation. Nothing has changed in the prophecy. The woman who gave birth to the child fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 3)


 

Revelation 17:1

Revelation 17:1 plainly declares that she sits upon many waters, and Revelation 18:17, 19 add related material through the mention of ships, sailors, and trading by sea. She sits, meaning that she rules, exercises her authority, operates, or is located, upon many waters. We cannot exclude the dual possibilities here of waters representing both peoples and literal waters. Please recall that this is a description of an end-time Babylon.

The ancient city of Babylon sat astride the Euphrates River, but the nation itself had relatively limited access to the sea. If God is describing the ancient nation, it is a poor application. By way of contrast, every nation of modern Israel except Switzerland sits on an ocean and has a multitude of deep-water seaports.

End-time Babylon has a large number of sea gates and is graced by great rivers and many large freshwater lakes. What this entire word picture in Revelation 17 and 18 describes is its political, military, economic, and geographic dominance. It is especially dominant worldwide in trade - so much so that Revelation 18:23 says that its merchants, not its priests, are called "the great men of the earth."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Ten): Babylon the Great Is a Nation


 

Revelation 17:5-7

It is interesting that God labeled this woman as a mystery. He goes on to say, through the angel, "I will show you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast." Revelation 17 and 18 contain many clues as to her identification.

Now the word mystery is Strong's #3466 in the combined Strong's Concordance and Vine's Expository Dictionary. The word is defined there as: "Mystery is that which denotes, not the mysterious (as with the English word), but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by Divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those only who are illuminated by His Spirit."

In other words, a "mystery"—in the biblical sense, in the Greek sense—is something that is unattainable by common human research but is revealed by God so that His children, His people, can understand.

This word then parallels Daniel 12:10, which says that at the end "the wise shall understand." Here we are, in the end-time, and God has revealed where Israel is. Israel is a mystery to those in the world. They do not believe, even though they are told. They do not believe that the people of Northwest Europe, the United States, Australia, South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand are the descendants of Israel. It just does not sink in. They can be presented with proof, not from the Bible, but from the world—from historical researches and such—and they still do not believe it. It is something that has to be revealed.

This revelation is not something that is just contained in words, but it is something that God gives to the heart and mind of His children so that they are desirous to believe it. And they do. It does not take a lot of brain power, but it takes instead a gift from God to believe, which His children will do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 17:5

Now what about this statement that this woman is the mother of harlots? In the past we have referred to her harlot children as being the Protestant churches that revolted from the Catholic church; however, there is a weakness in this concept found in the Bible's use of the terms "daughter," "son," "harlot," and other similar terms.

God had Hosea physically act out what had happened to God in God's relationship with Israel. He says, "Plead with your mother" (Hosea 2:2). Who would be the mother of Hosea and all the people of Jerusalem? It would be Jerusalem, or in a larger context, Israel.

"Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife." This makes it clear that He is talking about all of Israel. God did not marry just Jerusalem; He married all of Israel. Does Israel only consist of men or women? No, both. We are beginning to see that the term "wife" can include both male and female people, depending on the context in which it appears. And, obviously, so does the word "children" indicate both male and female.

The word "daughter" also includes men, the word "son" also includes women, and the word "harlot" means both men and women. It does not mean just women, because Israel was made up of men and women. Children are made up of men and women. The Bible uses these terms interchangeably, and one gender almost always includes the other.

Consider Hosea 2:2-4 and Hosea 4:11-13. Were women the only ones who committed whoredom? No. The men committed whoredom too. And spouses? Was it only women who were committing whoredom? No. "Spouses" includes men and women who were sinning. Hosea 7:4 says they were all adulterers—male and female.

Daughters, in Ezekiel 16:44-48, includes everybody within the city.

Ezekiel 16:53-55 describes the Jews coming back to their former estate in Jerusalem. Was it only women who came back? Can we see the way "daughters" is used? It is being used in a collective sense.

In Lamentations 3:51, God also refers to all of Jerusalem's inhabitants, male and female, as "daughters." Why is this true? The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, page 194, speaks about "daughters" or "daughters of":

The Hebrew idiom reflects a double metaphor common in the culture of the ancient Near East. A capitol city was personified as a woman, and the inhabitants of that city collectively as her daughter. Jerusalem remains distinct as she whose Husband is the One God, Yahweh. Thus her daughters, the collective inhabitants, depended on her for identity, but also shaped her future by their action.

Thus the terms "sons," "daughters," "children," "harlot," as well as other descriptive terms like "seed," "adulterers," and "liars" are used collectively without regard to specific gender when the sense of the term is "those showing the characteristics of." That is what a child does. A child shows the characteristics of its parents regardless if it is a male or female. And so the inhabitants of Jerusalem showed the characteristics of Jerusalem. That is why Hosea is told to write "they are all adulterers." Male and female.

Thus in Revelation 17, the city is Babylon (symbolically a woman) and is said to be the mother of harlots, which is used in the same way as "daughters"—that is, collectively, including the male gender; thus all of her offspring—male and female—are to be considered as harlots. It is not something limited to church denomination.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 17:5

In Revelation 17:5, "harlot" is to be understood as including men too, involved in what the Bible specifies as "harlotry," something that in normal circumstances would only be said of a female, but biblically includes both men and women. Therefore, "MOTHER OF HARLOTS" specifically refers to unfaithfulness within a covenant relationship with God, not a specific human sexual sin.

The Protestant churches that revolted from the Catholic Church were certainly not unfaithful to God as churches. Neither was the Catholic Church unfaithful to God as a church. Why? Because they never entered into a covenant with Him! They were never His church! But the citizens of the nations of Israel were certainly unfaithful to God within a covenant relationship.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 5)


 

Revelation 17:5

In the past, we have been taught that this refers to the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, does this truly refer only to a church, or is it something more politically, economically, and militarily powerful and influential? Notice her identification contains the name "Mystery." (I Corinthians 2:7-9 also uses this term.)

A biblical mystery is something that God must reveal for one to understand. It is not something right on the surface that anybody looking into Revelation can stumble across and quickly understand. This Woman's identification is not something easily seen. Of "mystery," William Barclay's The Letters to the Corinthians says: "The Greek word musterion means something whose meaning is hidden from those who have not been initiated, but crystal clear to those who have" (p. 26). Thus, commentaries are of virtually no help in identifying the Woman of these chapters.

Protestant biblical commentators pay little or no attention to the end-time twelve tribes of Israel. To them, that Israel does not exist! Conversely, evangelical writers and a few mainstream groups focus exclusively on the tiny nation of Israel in the Middle East. However, the Mystery Woman of Revelation 17 and 18 is much more than what that nation displays.

Commentators wholly disregard God's promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to make Israel into a populous, powerhouse nation both physically and spiritually—promises that affect both race and grace. Ignoring the race aspect altogether, they teach that the promises of grace were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

However, God, as a blessing to His church, revealed the knowledge of the end-time location of Israel to Herbert Armstrong through other men who were seeking to find the "lost ten tribes." God did this so the church can make better sense of what is happening regarding the fulfillment of prophecy as the return of Christ approaches. In Daniel 12:10, God promises that the wise would understand, and the wise are those who keep the ways of the Lord (Hosea 14:9).

Almost all Protestants claim, as Herbert Armstrong did, that the Woman is the Roman Catholic Church, against which they have a prejudice. But Revelation 17 and 18 are a continued revelation of the same Woman, Israel, who appears in chapter 12!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot


 

Revelation 17:5

Is it really wild, unjust, and perhaps outright wrong that God could refer to Israel as a great prostitute, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots? Notice, however, Revelation 11:8: "And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." In the same book, He calls Jerusalem "Sodom and Egypt"! Both were despicable places. God is providing evidence to solve the identity of the prostitute by comparing Jerusalem—representing all Israel—to Sodom, noted in history for its sexual sins, and Egypt, known to biblical students for its harsh slavery of the Israelites and as a type of the anti-God world we must come out of.

These are two stunning and dramatic comparisons of Israel's immoral characteristics! Why should God not also compare her to Babylon? God reserves His harshest judgments for those who should know better but waste their gifts on prideful self-indulgence. Jesus says, "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more" (Luke 12:48; see Amos 3:1-2).

In Ezekiel 16:46-51,56, God not only compares Jerusalem to both Samaria and Sodom, but He judges it to be more immorally vile than even those two well-publicized examples of ancient sin run wild! God portrays them as sisters under the skin! We all know the perversity of Sodom's sins. God goes so far as to say that Samaria had not committed half the sins that Jerusalem had. These verses put Israel's conduct into a perspective that we find difficult to accept, but it is true nonetheless—it is God's own judgment and testimony! That God calls Israel "Babylon" gives evidence of the magnitude of Israel's unfaithfulness to her Husband and Benefactor, God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot


 

Revelation 17:5

The phrase "mother of harlots" in Revelation 17:5 might be misleading and therefore misinterpreted because of the Bible's peculiar practice of frequently using terms such as daughters, sons, harlots, thieves, adulterers, and idolaters collectively, fully intending both genders. In other words, sin is not limited to one gender.

In collective usage, the term "daughters" includes males; the word "sons" includes females; and words like "harlots," "adulterers," "idolaters," and "thieves" include both males and females. This practice is what the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery calls a "double metaphor": one word, which may have a specific gender because the context demands it take that gender, but which actually includes both genders. Thus in Revelation 17:5, "harlots" is to be understood as including men involved in what the Bible specifies as harlotry.

Therefore, "mother of harlots," in Revelation 17:5 specifically refers to unfaithfulness within a covenant relationship with God, not a specific, human, sexual sin. The Protestant churches that revolted from the Catholic Church were certainly not unfaithful to God as His churches. They never made the Old Covenant with God, entering into a figurative marriage; they, as an entire nation, had never vowed to keep His laws. Nor were the Protestant and Catholic churches unfaithful to God as a church because neither ever had a New Covenant relationship with God as churches. However, the citizens of the nations of Israel were certainly unfaithful to God within a covenant relationship. Revelation 17 and 18 are describing a city/nation, not a church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot


 

Revelation 17:16-17

Within the practical realities of international political, economic, and military affairs, the Beast may be resentful and unwilling to do as the Woman directs. As a wild animal would, it will undoubtedly buck and resist, but until God is ready, it ends up most of the time doing what the Woman wants. The Beast submits to the Woman because she possesses power greater in certain areas than the Beast, a power the Beast resents, envies, and plots to have for itself.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible


 

Find more Bible verses about Israel:
Israel {Nave's}
 




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