Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gaza: The Thorn in Israel’s Side

From: http://www.prophecyinthenews.com/articledetail.asp?Article_ID=242

by Gary Stearman

As this is written in mid-January, the Israeli action, code-named "Cast Lead," is in full operation. Directed against Hamas in Gaza, it has passed the two-week mark with no sign of abating. Reserve troops are being called into the action. Superior Israeli weaponry and tactics have smashed the Hamas infrastructure, yet they continue firing rockets at southern Israel, one smashing into an Ashkelon educational facility.
Predictably, world authorities are progressively solidifying their position against Israel, blaming the Israel Defense Force for launching a "disproportionate" response to the endless Hamas barrage of Qassam and Grad rockets from Gaza. Ignoring the criticism, Israel seems determined to put the continuing bombardment to a stop once and for all.
Hamas, using mosques, schools and public buildings as launching pads, continues the morally depraved act of using its populace as "human shields." When Israel strikes back and civilians are killed, this enables them to use the world media to protest the killing of "innocent civilians."
Under international pressure, Israel recently gave Gaza to the Palestinian Authority in the hope of obtaining peace. Now, uncertain days lie ahead, as elements of the Arab brotherhood – Egypt, Syria, Jordan and even Islamic Iranians are threatening to throw their weight into the battle.
From the dim mists of history until now, Gaza has been a thorn in Israel’s side. From the days of Joshua in the 14th century, B.C., and in the period of the Judges, which ended in the 11th century, B.C., to the reign of King David and on to the era of the major prophets, Gaza had a reputation for being both a landing place and safe refuge to Israel’s enemies.
The Philistines, known as "sea people," disembarked in this region and set up several fortified cities. Once in place, they proved to be among Israel’s most persistent enemies.
The ancient name, Gaza, means "strong," or "fortified." Joshua encountered the Philistines ("wanderers from afar") there, and Gaza was one of their fortified cities. Under Joshua, this city was allotted to the tribe of Judah, which was never able to conquer it, thus never received its land grant. Several centuries later, during the life of Samson (Judges 16), these encroachers from the sea were still well in control of the region.
In fact, until the 4th century B.C. and its conquest by Alexander the Great, Gaza remained a Philistine stronghold. The prophet Amos foretold this event, mentioning Gaza’s four principal cities. It makes reference to an event that happened during the reign of King Jehoram in the 9th century B.C., when the Philistines sold Israelites as slaves to Edom:
"Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom:
"But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof:
"And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that holdeth the sceptre from Ashkelon, and I will turn mine hand against Ekron: and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith the Lord GOD" (Amos 1:6-8).
After that, wandering Arab tribes drifted in and inherited the area by default. In the New Testament period, there were Graeco-Roman colonies there, but from the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D., until Israeli statehood, it was the desolate home of nomadic Arab tribes.
The name Palestine is a Roman invention, taken from the Latin pronunciation of Philistine. Thus, after the diaspora, the Romans heaped upon Israel the name of their historical enemy from the sea.
Following 1948, until very recently, Israel had populated the area, and for the first time in three thousand years, Gaza’s desert sands had begun to flourish, with Jewish towns and modern infrastructures. Its hydroponic gardens were the world’s largest source of Kosher produce.
Remember Disengagement?
Then, in 2004, under Ariel Sharon’s unilateral "Disengagement Plan," Israel voluntarily withdrew from the region in the name of "Land for Peace." Rockets had been flying into southern Israel, and Israel’s Laborite leadership thought that if Israel pulled out of Gaza, peace would ensue. The plan’s proposed deadline – a dark historical moment – came on August 15, 2005, when all Israeli citizens were forcibly evicted from the Gaza Strip. Overnight, it became the property of Arab terror groups, under whose rule it quickly reverted to a barren desert.
In 2006, Hamas scored a victory in Gaza by gaining 74 of the 132 seats in the municipal elections. The West continued with its "Roadmap for Peace," but Hamas leadership never honored any of the overtures made in their direction.
In the same year, through Russian news sources, Hamas leadership hinted that if Israel would recognize the 1949 armistice lines and withdraw from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, it might develop a long-term truce with Israel.
This never came to pass. Instead, Hamas terrorists continued its policy of randomly and indiscriminately firing hundreds of crude rockets toward Israel. Their barrage was a continual reminder that Hamas would never recognize Israel’s existence.
They laughed at the Disengagement Plan, announcing a new intifada, or uprising. This came after Hamas and Fatah reached an agreement allowing a united government between them. In June 2006, the Israelis finally answered Hamas’ rockets with artillery shelling. This resulted in the deaths of eight civilians, giving the terrorists a public cause for revenge. From that point, the Qassam rockets began to fly with even greater abandon, later accompanied by superior Russian Grad missiles, leading up to the recent Israeli incursion.
Latter-Day Gaza
The Bible overtly states that there is a specific "Day of the Lord" judgment awaiting Gaza. A very early prophecy, written in the days of King Josiah of Judah (the 7th century B.C.), speaks of global judgment, looking outward from Israel, first to the west, then east, south and north. Its context calls overwhelming judgment down upon a world that has forgotten God:
"The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.
"That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness,
"A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.
"And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung.
"Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’s wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land" (Zeph. 1:14-18).
These words are the preface to a proclamation of doom upon the nations that surround Israel. They recall the prophecy of Joel, regarded as the definitive "Day of the Lord" prophecy. Both prophets call for the sounding of the shofar as an alarm that something horrible is coming.
They both see that day as obscured by thick clouds and darkness, accompanied by fire. They also envision it as a day from which there is no escape, not even for the rich, who are perennially accustomed to using their wealth to save them from the ravages of war, or storm, or deprivation.
In short, the nature of the judgment is such that there will be no escape. Rich and poor alike will experience deep suffering. Zephaniah’s warning words preach repentance to an apostate nation.
He sounds the danger alert to an Israel with enough spiritual perception to see the foreboding signs ahead. As Christians, we have recounted these signs so often that we tend to take them for granted. They are the words of Jesus, as He foretold Israel’s fate in the latter days:
"And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
"For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
"All these are the beginning of sorrows.
"Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake" (Matt. 24:6-9).
It is in the context of these warning words that Zephaniah’s prophecy focuses upon Israel. He addresses the tiny nation as a social outcast ("not desired") on the world scene. To anyone today who reads a newspaper or watches television, no explanation is required. The Israel of the latter days has become an international pariah. He commands them to pull themselves together as a strong unit:
"Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired;
"Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD’s anger come upon you.
"Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’s anger.
"For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up.
"Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant.
"And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks.
"And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon: in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening: for the LORD their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity" (Zeph. 2:1-7).
Here, in the first of a long list of judgments, we find the four ancient Philistine cities, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron. They line Israel’s southeastern Mediterranean coast. The southernmost of the four is today’s Gaza City, headquarters of Hamas.
As we have often pointed out, this prophecy is directed against "the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites." This name is more a description than a proper noun. In Hebrew, these kerethim are called "executioners," or more properly, "running assassins."
This is an absolutely perfect epithet for a terrorist, who specializes in killing the innocent, usually with some sort of homemade bomb. The accuracy of this prophecy, both in its location and the nature of the judgment pronounced upon Hamas and its shadowy associates, is astonishing. It predicts that the four ancient fortified cities will be reduced to rubble in the coming judgment.
But after that, they will be rebuilt in the glorious days of the coming Kingdom. Judah, the tribe originally designated to inherit this land will, at last, receive its inheritance. About 3,400 years will have elapsed since Judah first tried to take possession of its land!
The present military action in the region is far from Gaza’s final judgment. Though one could argue that the "remnant of the Philistines" perished centuries ago, as prophesied by Amos, it is equally possible to see the present "Palestinians" as the namesakes of Israel’s ancient enemies, "the sea people."
They have sought to present themselves as the legitimate heirs to the land on the basis that they bear the ancient name that has cursed Israel since the Roman occupation. But instead of creating an inheritance for themselves, they have invoked a centuries-old prophetic curse.
As we have seen, the territory of the four ancient fortified cities will be reduced to ashes, not by Israel’s present military action, but by a future judgment from the Lord.
When Ariel Sharon’s 2005 Disengagement Plan was activated, the friends of Israel deeply lamented the settlers’ loss. But taking the long view, their brutal eviction was perhaps a manifestation of God’s providence, since that area is scheduled for a future destruction of the first magnitude. As is it now, those in possession of this blighted parcel of ground will soon regret their claim to own it.
From the dim mists of history until now, Gaza has been a thorn in Israel’s side. From the days of Joshua in the 14th century, B.C., and in the period of the Judges, which ended in the 11th century, B.C., to the reign of King David and on to the era of the major prophets, Gaza had a reputation for being both a landing place and safe refuge to Israel’s enemies.

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