And the bones came together, bone to his bone.—Ezekiel 37:7
One of the time periods in the Bible is called “the day of his preparation” (Nahum 2:3). This phrase is descriptive of the preliminary work necessary for the introduction of Messiah’s kingdom. In this period the present political, economic, and social structures are weakened in preparation for their final collapse in the Battle of Armageddon which closes this age. Most Bible Students date this period from the capture and death of Pope Pius VI in 1799 or from the French Revolution which began a decade earlier.
During this period, every step in the decline of nominal spiritual Israel is matched by a corresponding step in the reestablishment of natural Israel in preparation for its kingdom role.
There were some preliminary stirrings in the dispersed Jewish community before 1799. The first Hassidic aliyah (return) to Israel began in 1742 with the immigration of Rabbi Abraham Gershorn of Kitob in today’s Uzbekistan.
In 1789, as a result of the French Revolution, Jews in France were granted full rights, including that of conditional citizenship. In 1790, President George Washington wrote a letter to the Jews of Rhode Island, envisioning a country “which gives bigotry no sanction, persecution no assistance” and assured them of full rights under American law.
In 1796, the Netherlands granted citizenship and
equal rights to the Jews. In 1830, Greece granted citizenship to the Jews. In
1851, Norway allowed the Jews to enter, though they were not granted full rights
until 1891. England emancipated its Jewish population in 1858; Poland followed
in 1862, Hungary in 1867, Italy in 1870, and Germany in 1871.
The underpinnings of Zionism had its roots in the Haskalah, or Jewish enlightenment movement of the seventeenth century. Moses Mendelssohn (1726-1789), father of the noted composer Felix Mendelssohn, is credited as the father of this movement. Because this movement advocated the secularization of Judaism, it furthered the assimilation of the Jews with their Gentile neighbors. This had the contrasting effects of a loss of Jewish identity, balanced with the political muscle to advance Jewish causes, including equal rights and Zionism.
The Sephardic Jew, Judah ben Solomon Hai Alkalai (1798-1878), is considered a major figure in the founding of modern Zionism. He believed that the return to the land of Israel was a precondition for the redemption of the Jewish people. Incidentally, Alkalai was a close friend of the grandfather of Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism.
While this period saw the declining use of the hybrid Yiddish language, it saw increased interest in reviving the ancient Hebrew tongue. From 1783 to 1811, Chevrat Dorshei Leshon Ever (“Society of Friends of the Hebrew Language”) published a quarterly journal in ancient biblical Hebrew, entitled Ha-Me’assef (“The Gatherer”).
Immigration to Palestine by Jews began as early as 1700, but it was not until 1740 that a large group of Lithuanian and Turkish Jews followed the Rabbis Luzatto and Ben-Attar to the holy land. Most European or Eastern Jews, however, viewed the concept or a movement to settle the holy land as unimaginable.
In 1799, in preparation for the siege of Acre, Napoleon drafted a proclamation declaring a Jewish state in Palestine. However, as a result of the failure of the siege, the proclamation was never issued. Soon after, the spiritual bonds between the Jews and their ancient homeland found more tangible means of expression. In 1808 a group of Lithuanian Jews arrived in Palestine and purchased land to start an agricultural settlement. In 1836, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer petitioned Anschel Rothschild to buy Palestine, or at least the Temple Mount for the Jews. This was followed by an unsuccessful attempt by Sir Moses Montefiore to seek permission for land purchase and settlement by European Jews. Miqveh Yisrael, an agricultural school was founded in 1870 by the French Alliance Universelle on a gift from the Turks of land southeast of today’s Tel Aviv. The name of the school means “Hope of Israel” and is derived from Jeremiah 14:8 and 17:13 (Encyclopedic Dictionary, “Zionism and Israel”).
Moses Hess was the first to publicly advocate a Jewish state in Israel in his 1862 book, Rome and Jerusalem: The Last National Question. Each of these events was instrumental in awakening world-wide Jewry to the necessity for having a land of their own, and that in their ancestral homeland of Israel.
The first census of Jerusalem, taken in 1844, showed 7,120 Jews, 5,760 Muslims, and 3,390 Christians. Jewish settlement expanded beyond the Old City in 1860 when Montefiore founded Mishkenot Sha’ananim, a small development on a nearby hill, still identifiable by a gristmill erected in Montefiore’s honor.
Columbia University Professor Pierre Birnbaum wrote this in his synopsis of a course on “Jews in Nineteenth Century France”:
“French Jews followed a unique path of emancipation.
The very presence of a strong state shaped their long-term history. Assimilation
through regeneration was expected from them, leading to a kind of ‘statization’
of Judaism. Jews nevertheless were able to face this specific challenge,
resisting even against Napoleon’s authoritarian attempt to destroy their culture
and sociability. While disappearing as a recognized nation or even a minority,
threatened also by the growing secularism, they protect their subculture and
their solidarity within the nation. Being citizens, they often became State
Jews, climbing to the highest level of the state without conversion, and played
a crucial role in the public sphere, thus provoking a new form of political
anti-Semitism against their presence within the state. From the French
Revolution to the Dreyfus Affair, by many aspects, they were symbolically at the
core of France’s nineteenth-century history.”
A Great Shaking
Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:7) begins with “a great shaking,” which stirs up the bones and rekindles Jewish hopes for a homeland. The American Standard Version translates this as “an earthquake.” Earthquakes in the Bible usually represent social or political revolutions.
In the book of Revelation three “great earthquakes” are mentioned. One is during the pouring out of the seventh vial (Revelation 16:18). A second precedes the sounding of the seven trumpets (Revelation 8:5). The other occurs in connection with the opening of the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12). We suggest that the first of these is still future and is associated with the Battle of Armageddon, the second refers to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and the third is associated with the French Revolution. Here is the description of the third earthquake: “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind” (Revelation 6:12,13).
These verses foretold the effect of the French Revolution upon the religious world. Not only did the revolution spawn a growth in atheistic thinking, but the writings of Rousseau, Voltaire, Carlyle, Locke, and others prompted a spurt in secular Deism. This, in turn, gave birth to higher criticism, which darkens the gospel’s sunlight by denying the inspiration of the Bible. It also turned the moonlight of the Old Testament law into the blood of meaningless sacrifices and needless slaughters. The natural result was for the ecclesiastical stars to drop from their position as spiritual leaders and become preachers of earthly reforms.
In his book, A Short Exposition on Revelation, T. E. Stracy notes a possible connection between these effects on Christendom and parallel effects on Zionism:
“And the stars of heaven (not stars in any earthly calling, but ‘stars of heaven,’ bright ones in the ecclesiastical firmament) fell unto the earth (came down from spiritual things as a result of having their faith destroyed, to preach almost exclusively upon social, political and ethical subjects—1 John 4:5), ‘even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.’ Just as a mighty wind will strip a tree of its fruit, so the winds of false doctrine have denuded Churchianity (in some respects fore-shadowed by Israel; the fig tree) of her spiritual fruit. Just as the immature fruits of Zionism were dashed to the ground by the Great War, A.D. 1914-1918, so the great winds of false doctrine that have swept through Christendom during the ‘time of the end’ have entirely bereft the Church nominal of her fruit. All her spiritual riches have been brought to naught—Joel 1:16-20.”
In a letter to Pastor Russell, William Smith quotes a Rev. S. Manning’s observation on the phrase “untimely figs”:
“In the early spring, when the first leaves appear, an immense number of small figs are produced, which do not ripen, but fall from the branches, crude and immature, to the ground. To these we find a reference in Rev. 6:13. The true crop is not produced till later in the year. This first crude, ‘untimely’ growth, though of no commercial value, is yet plucked and eaten by the peasantry, sometimes with a pinch of salt, sometimes with bread.”—Reprints, p. 4844
Similarly, these early fruits of Zionism, based on Nationalistic and Deistic values, failed to reach their fruition. Nevertheless they were precursors of later developments under Theodor Herzl, Chaim Weisman, and others.
A fourth passage appears to refer to two of these earthquakes: “And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly. ... And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament; and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail” (Revelation 11:13,14,19).
The first of these is the French Revolution in which
France (a tenth part of the Holy Roman Empire) fell and, according to Smith’s
Bible Dictionary, seven thousand civil and ecclesiastical titles were
abolished. As both the civil and religious power of the Papacy was diminished,
there were corresponding advancements in the lot of the dispersed Jewish people.
The Day of His Preparation
The book of Nahum is a prophecy about Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. That nation had defeated and taken captive the ten-tribe northern kingdom of Israel. This fact is somewhat obscured by a faulty translation of Nahum 2:2. Here is a correct translation from the American Standard Version: “For Jehovah restoreth the excellency of Jacob, as the excellency of Israel; for the emptiers have emptied them out, and destroyed their vine-branches.”
The next verse from Leeser reads: “The shields of his mighty men are made red, the valiant men are (clothed) in scarlet: with the fire of the steel the chariots (glitter) on the day when he prepareth himself (for battle), and the spears are shaken.”
This context has been variously interpreted as applying to railways (Thy Kingdom Come, p. 272) or to the automobile (Question Book, p. 759), but more likely refers to battle preparations. The period of “the day of his preparation” is generally applied to the period from the Napoleonic era to the return of Christ, 1799-1874.
It has certainly been true that this period has seen the buildup of forces. One of the byproducts has been to deliver God’s chosen people from nearly two millennia of bondage in preparation for their return to their ancient homeland, and ultimately for their future role in Christ’s Messianic kingdom.
The word for “preparation” in Nahum 2:3 is from the Hebrew word kuwn (#3559). Strong’s Concordance defines this word as “to be erect (i.e., stand perpendicular).” This meaning—to stand upright—reminds us of Daniel 12:1, which says “at that time shall Michael stand up.” And the gap between Daniel 11:45 (1799) and Daniel 12:1 (1874) matches the “day of preparation” in Nahum. So both the time periods indicated in these passages, and the concept of “standing,” links these passages together.
“Michael [shall] stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1).
In this passage Michael (Jesus) stands “for the children of thy [Daniel’s] people,” the Israelites of some generation future from that of the prophet. Though it is generally conceded that Michael “stands up” at his return in 1874, there might also be a sense in which he stands up during Israel’s reawakening from 1799 and onward. It behooves all true Christians to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” (Psalm 122:6) for “Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come” (Psalm 102:13).