In the light of her unchangeable covenants, one of which is possession of the land of promise (cf. Deut. 30:1-8), it is essential that Israel's dispossessions of the land be recognized. These dispossessions, then, involve regatherings also. There was clear prediction of three dispersions and three regatherings. Three dispersions have occurred as predicted, and two regatherings. Israel is now scattered in her third and final dispersion, awaiting more or less consciously the last regathering. One of the most common impressions respecting Israel is that they always have been and always will be scattered among the nations, as they are at this time. Attention to the Word of God will correct such a misleading error. It should be observed that, unless Israel remains a separate people under the specific purpose and covenant of God, and in no way related to, or any part of, the Church, there would be no meaning to Israel's dispersions or regatherings. The three dispersions and regatherings may well be considered separately. As an introduction to this consideration, it may be observed that, since in the Scripture Israel is the key to all earthly prospects and blessings, nothing will ever be normal in the earth when this nation is out of her land. All peace and tranquility for the earth await the final placing of Israel on their own promised land.
1. Dispersion into Egypt. The history of Israel in Egyptian bondage, the manner of their going thither, and the miracle of their deliverance are all known to readers of the Bible, but it is not so generally known that the Egyptian bondage was predicted centuries before. When a deep sleep fell upon Abraham and Jehovah ratified His unconditional covenant with him respecting the everlasting title to the land, God said to him: "Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not their's, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full" (Gen. 15:13-16). The return of the nation to the land under the leadership of Moses and Joshua marks the end of the first dispersion. It began, continued, and ended as Jehovah predicted it would to Abraham.
2. The Captivities. Because of their sins, both the northern and southern kingdoms were allowed to go into bondage. The bondage ended seventy years after the southern kingdom was taken captive, but still not all that were taken abroad returned. The important fact is that a representation of the whole nation was reassembled in the land. A period of captivity for the southern kingdom was predicted by Jeremiah. He wrote: "And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I
will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the Lord, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations" (Jer. 25:11-12). Daniel learned from this specific passage when the time of bondage would be fulfilled. Of this experience Daniel records: "In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; in the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem" (Dan. 9:1-2).
3. Present Dispersion. The present dispersion exceeds the other two in point of duration and in the manner in which Israel is now scattered among all the nations of the earth. Beginning with the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 a.d., the final scattering continues to the present hour and is a major characteristic of the present age, which characteristic must continue until the Church be removed from the world. It is then that Israel will at once come under renewed blessing and guidance of Jehovah and return to her own land. However, the return is accompanied also by other mighty events, all of which are unprecedented and directly or indirectly related to Israel's restoration. In this aspect of prophetic truth very much Scripture is involved.
The final return to their land is one of the major themes of Old Testament prophecy concerning the Jew. Concerning the present captivity Moses wrote:
And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the Lord thy God. And it shall come to pass, that as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it. And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: in the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. And the Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you.— Deut. 28:62-68
That which was to serve to accomplish this dispersion is described at length: "Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations" (Neh. 1:8); "I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known: and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them" (Jer. 9:16); "Because my people have forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up; to make their land desolate, and a perpetual hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished, and wag his head. I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy: I will shew them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity" (Jer. 18:15-17); "And I will scatter toward every wind all that are about him to help him, and all his bands; and I will draw out the sword after them. And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall scatter them among the nations, and disperse them in the countries" (Ezek. 12:14-15); "I lifted up mine hand unto them also in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the heathen, and disperse them through the countries" (Ezek. 20:23); "And I will scatter thee among the heathen, and disperse thee in the countries, and will consume thy filthiness out of thee" (Ezek. 22:15). James must therefore address his Epistle "to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad." That Israel will yet return to her land and experience great national blessing is one of the Bible's most positive predictions—a forecast which yields to no fanciful notions for its interpretation. It must either be accepted in its literal form or ignored completely. Too often the latter is done. Men of course must ignore these Scriptures who deny any real distinction between Israel and the Church, for, as before declared, dispersion and regathering is utterly foreign to the Church. Upwards of fifty assertive passages declare that Israel will be regathered into their own land from this the third and final dispersion. Two of these passages may be cited:
"And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shall obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; that then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee" (Deut. 30:1-3); "And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore" (Ezek. 37:21-28).
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