A Day of Infamy
Most Americans (those that got at least a “D” in history!) probably know who coined the phrase on which the title of this article is based. To this day we still pause annually to remember what happened on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. Although Hawaii didn’t become a State until 1959, it had been an American annexed territory since 1898, with the US Pacific Naval Fleet subsequently headquartered in Honolulu.
The day following the unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor, United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave what many consider the most famous address of all time to the United States Congress and to the American people. Excerpts of this video have been replayed countless times in movies and in television documentaries. But did you know that the expression, day of infamy, were not the actual words spoken by President Roosevelt. Somehow his words have been changed or misquoted down through the years; to the extent that if you looked them up on the internet you would find websites entitled, Day of Infamy.
Here’s what Franklin D. Roosevelt really said to begin his speech: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan…” (Italics for emphasis).
Is it really that important to correctly distinguish what President Roosevelt actually said? Yes, for two reasons: (1) a statement of this significance should be historically accurate no matter how many times it is repeated. (2) Historians tell us that Roosevelt chose these words very carefully, as he wanted to emphasize December 7th (1941) in order to memorialize the specific date, as opposed to merely recalling a past event when a foreign nation launched the deadliest attack on American military forces in our nation’s history.
Subsequently September 11, 2001 (referred to simply as 9/11) became another tragic date of American history, a date that partially shifted American defense focus from rival nations to international terrorism. It was a deadly attack that brought back memories of the dreadful onslaught against Pearl Harbor. Both events will forever remain seared on the American psyche as the most infamous dates in US history.
When it comes to gut-wrenching, heart-rending (man-made) disasters experienced by nations of the world, I suppose that many countries have their own date which will live in infamy. But no country can even come close to the nation of Israel, whose people can point to a specific date on the calendar for not just one, but two colossal calamities. And not just two epic tragedies; also other less traumatic, but nevertheless ominous occurrences on that same date. It is a coincidence that is no coincidence. It is nothing short of an astounding phenomena that can only be explained and understood through the providential sovereignty of Almighty God, whether people believe God was involved directly or indirectly or not at all.
This Hebrew phrase simply (literally) means the 9th of Av; a date in history that, indeed, will forever live in infamy with the Jewish race. The Jewish calendar month of Av encompasses the last part of July and first part of August on the Roman calendar. This year Av began on July 17th and will end on August 15th, 2015. All of the Eye of Prophecy articles (this is the 105th article) are posted on Saturday. Obviously the subject of this article was meant to coincide with the aforementioned catastrophic date of Jewish history; but it is especially relevant, if not intriguing, that this Saturday’s post (July 25th) just happens to be … you guessed it … the 9th of Av.
For those of you who may not know or have forgotten or want to know more about what happened on the 9th of Av; rather than me introducing the origin of this dreadful day in Jewish History, I will instead quote from an article written by Rabbi Benjamin Blech, published this past Sunday (7-19-15 or the 3rd of Av) in the online site of Aish.com, entitled: The Iran Deal and the Hebrew Calendar.
Said Rabbi Blech: “Jewish tradition acknowledges that God makes his voice heard in many different ways. One of them is by way of the connection between events and the calendar, between the linkage of a day’s meaning to its historic significance.
“…Jews around the world will be observing Tisha b’Av, the fast of the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. It is a day of tragic remembrance. On that day the first temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. That alone would have been enough for it to become marked as a day of fasting and mourning. But history reconfirmed Tisha b’Av’s tragic reality five centuries later. When the Romans approached the second temple and put it to the torch, the Jews were shocked to realize that their second temple was destroyed on exactly the same day as the first.”
Rabbi Blech continued: “Jews are meant to understand that history has divine meaning and incorporates heavenly messages. Coincidence is a concept utterly foreign to those who believe that God governs the universe.”
Rabbi Blech then goes on to identify other catastrophic milestones of Jewish history that took place on the 9th of Av. Such as the Romans final massacre of Jews on Tisha b’Av following a last-ditch rebellion led by the Jewish zealot, Simon bar Kochba in 135 AD. The few Jews left in Israel participating in this revolt believed Kochba to be the long-awaited Messiah.
Rabbi Blech also cited other painful misfortunes suffered by the Jews on the 9th of Av, such as the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290 AD and the banishment of Jews from Spain by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in 1492, giving the Jews until the 9th of Av to leave the country. And World War I (which some historians believe was just a prelude to World War II) began on that ominous Jewish calendar date, which was the beginning of more intense persecution of the Jews.
There are a couple more 9th of Av Jewish tragedies not listed by Rabbi Benjamin Blech. Such as commencement of the First Crusade in 1096 that would result in the subsequent slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Jews throughout Europe and in Israel. Also the deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 that accelerated exponentially their mass extermination in concentration camps.
As gleaned from the article’s title, Rabbi Blech begins by correlating the final date when the P5 + 1 nations (United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany) recently reached a “nuclear deal” with Iran on July 14 (27th of Tammuz on the Jewish Calendar) which is in the middle of the three-week period of mourning that begins on the 17th of Tammuz (this year … July 4th) and culminates in the milestone date of the 9th of Av.
During this three-week period, Jews in varying degrees—depending on how observant they are— refrain from activities that are considered joyous, including weddings. Jews cannot marry during this time. They often sit on the floor (a sign of mourning and sorrow) and read from the book of Lamentations.
Rabbi Benjamin Blech writes, “That (17th of Tammuz) was the day on which the walls of Jerusalem were breached. That was the beginning of the end—and the sages were smart enough to recognize that the wise mourn the imminence of a catastrophic event even before its actual occurrence…”
Thus, Rabbi Blech is very perceptive in his identification of and warnings about the significance of events leading to the two greatest tragedies of the Jewish race, the first and second destruction of Jerusalem and the temples, but also successive events throughout history. But one thing he doesn’t explain (most likely because of the limited topic of the 9th of Av itself, but also because it is still a contentious subject to Jews the world over) is why these horrible events occurred, let alone on the same date.
It’s important that peoples from every nation take the time to remember historical dates that are both good and bad in terms of what happened and why it happened. Hence, America celebrates our independence and freedom from tyranny on the 4th of July. But we also solemnly recall the viciously evil attack by Japan on December 7th. With either event, we are concentrating on something we all know to be true … freedom is not free.
It is one thing for the Jews (or for anyone) to set aside time to ruminate about their past and realize they must never forget some things (which is why Jews the world over continually say, “Never again,” in reference to the Holocaust). Whereas, it is quite another matter to fully comprehend why tragedy struck them any time of the year, let alone on the same date. If they or we ignore the reasons or just don’t bother with anything other than the remembrance itself, then is there really any purpose for remembering the 9th of Av? Or any other date of infamy?
Why the Destruction of the Temples and Why on the Same Dates?
Why did God through his providential sovereignty allow these disasters to fall on Israel? God frequently answers that question through his prophets, especially Ezekiel. The phrase, “Then they will know that I am the Lord,” or “Then you will know that I am the Lord,” occurs 65 times in the book of Ezekiel. Thus, the primary purpose of God’s punishment for both Israel and the nations was to remind them that he alone is God. That he alone knows what is best for them, for us; that the Lord will use whatever means it takes to get that point across. It is literally a matter of life and death, both physical and spiritual.
“Then this message came to me from the Lord: ‘Son of man, this is what the Sovereign Lord says to Israel: The end is here! Wherever you look—east, west, north, or south—your land is finished. No hope remains, for I will unleash my anger against you. I will call you to account for all your detestable sins … Then you will know that I am the Lord … Disaster after disaster is coming your way!’” (Ezekiel 7:1-5, italics for emphasis).
Often, in the midst of God’s prophetic warnings of judgment, we find Biblical promises of hope and restoration for Israel, final fulfillment of which began in the 20th century. Isaiah, in particular, provides one prophecy after another that encompasses short-term and long-term prophetic events all wrapped up in the same proclamations. Until recently, I hadn’t really grasped the significance of one of these prophecies, which fits with the main subject of this week’s article. When placed in the context of the two most devastating tragedies in Israel’s history, the prophecy is remarkable. Here it is:
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1-2, italics for emphasis).
The twice over is not merely a symbolic reference to the severity of God’s punishment. It is a literal time-sensitive expression that references the actual destruction of both Temples. Which is also why the word comfort is repeated. According to Moses with regard to promises of blessings if Israel followed the Lord and discipline if she abandoned God, the ultimate punishment was being conquered by her enemies, expelled from the Promised Land, and banished to foreign nations. Historically we see that this is exactly what happened to Israel. Not once, but twice … Israel, Jerusalem, and the Temple were destroyed, and the Jews exiled to gentile nations. The first time for only seventy years, the second time for some 1,900 years. Let’s examine these two horrendous calamities a little closer.
Solomon’s Temple & the First Captivity of the Jews:
Why was Solomon’s Temple destroyed and the Jews conquered, with the survivors exiled to Babylon? No one needs to wrestle with or agonize over this question, as the answer is absolutely crystal clear in Scripture. Furthermore, religious Jews down through the centuries, especially Rabbis, as well as and the majority of contemporary Jews who are even partially observant of the Jewish faith fully comprehend why Israel was conquered first by Assyria in 722 BC (ten northern tribes), then by Babylon in 586 BC (two remaining southern tribes).
Hundreds of verses, indeed, entire chapters, in many of the prophetic books—particularly Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel—tell them and us the reason why the Jews were expelled from the Promised Land and the (what they thought would be) indestructible Temple built by Solomon utterly destroyed by a foreign nation. And, don’t forget, there are many passages that also list the destruction of Gentile nations and the reason for their demise … a combination of ungodly defiance of the true and living God, and either participating in or condoning and rejoicing over the destruction of Israel.
The Jews knew the reasons before, during, and after they were conquered by Assyria and especially by Babylon. Time and time again they violated the Mosaic Covenant of the Law; and time and time again God warned them about the consequences. Not just the greater populace of Israel, but also their religious and governmental leaders were guilty of gross immorality plus the depraved worship of idols and practice of astrology. Several prophets record this, as represented in the following passage spoken by God through Jeremiah just a few short years before Jerusalem fell.
“For the land is full of adultery, and it lies under a curse. The land itself is in mourning—its wilderness pastures are dried up. For they all do evil and abuse what power they have. Even the priests and the prophets are ungodly, wicked men. I have seen their despicable acts right here in my own Temple, says the Lord … For I will bring disaster upon them at the time fixed for their punishment. I, the Lord have spoken!” (Jeremiah 23:10-12, italics for emphasis).
This passage not only is representative of hundreds of other verses warning Israel of her imminent ruin; it also contains an extraordinary phrase that gives us insight into God’s meticulous timetable for fulfillment of prophecy, both ahead of time and in hindsight; to demonstrate that certain dates of history were selected by God to fulfill a precise prophecy. One of the most astonishing of these is the 483 years (173,880 days on the Jewish calendar) prophesied by Daniel from the time that rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem began to the actual time that Messiah would be revealed … the triumphant entrance of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
I believe that, the time fixed for their punishment is even more specific than we might otherwise infer from this verse. Meaning that God is referring not just to a future general period of time, but a precise FIXED date when his punishment would take place. Space does not permit extensive documentation in this article; suffice to say that the concept of fixed relates to actual calendar dates. For example, all of the Jewish festivals listed in the book of Numbers are to be celebrated on select days of the year … which were tantamount to fixed or appointed days. (See Numbers 20: 1-2). Moreover, this fixed time of punishment applied not only to Solomon’s Temple, but to the subsequent and even more severe (long-lasting) dispersion of the Jews in the first century, when the 2nd Temple was demolished.
Destruction of Herod’s Temple and the Great Diaspora of the Jews until the 20th Century:
About six hundred years after the second temple was built, it was destroyed and the Jews were vanquished and exiled, this time to nations all over the earth—culminating in the most tragic event of all … the Holocaust. How could any of this be possible? Unlike the first destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the Roman conquest of Israel was completely unexpected and even worse than the first, with regard to the scope of defeat and the duration of exile.
The Jews lamented that there were no warnings from God’s prophets. Didn’t God claim that, “Indeed, the Sovereign Lord never does anything until he reveals his plans to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
Wasn’t it totally unfair for God not to give his people another chance to come back to him before he allowed the Romans to destroy Jerusalem and demolish the rebuilt Temple? In fact, hadn’t they returned to the Lord upon their homecoming from Babylonian captivity? What had they done to deserve such discipline? They had already admitted all of the wrong things they had done leading to the Assyrian victory over Samaria and later the Babylon conquest of their beautiful Jerusalem, and eternal Temple. But even that was only a 70-year captivity in the land of their conquerors.
What exactly had they done wrong in the first century or any century between the Babylonian captivity and the Roman destruction of Israel… bad enough to deserve so great a punishment? The more time that went by, the more poignant and intense these questions became. By the time the Holocaust ended, most Jews gave up any hope whatsoever of finding answers, either human or divine. In fact, many became atheists. There was no God. How could there be a God who would allow six million Jews to be murdered? Or for that matter even permit a second world war? What crime of the century had the Jews committed that would demand such a disproportionate penalty? Some concluded that it wasn’t God’s punishment; but at the very least, God had abandoned them. At the very, very least, God had withdrawn his protection from their enemies.
In the aftermath of the Roman Empire’s violent conquest of Israel, it was absolutely inconceivable that the Lord wouldn’t have warned his people; to give them a chance to repent and turn to him, if they had sinned against the Lord. After all, they had disposed of their idols; and, as much as they thought was possible, resumed the keeping of the Law of Moses, as epitomized by the Pharisees and Sadducees—who emerged during the post Ezra and Nehemiah age beginning in the 4th century BC.
Once again, space doesn’t permit. Read the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, for partial answers to these questions concerning the spiritual condition of Israel, through a dialogue of questions and answers between God and his people. The book ends with God’s promise that he would send the prophet Elijah to turn the hearts of his people. Then God was silent for four hundred years. There were no more prophets to lead, guide, and warn the people of God’s intentions.
(*Note: There didn’t need to be, because God had already announced his magnificent plan to bring Messiah to the world. There are hundreds of prophecies to this effect in the Old Testament, every one precisely fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth. The prophet Daniel even gave the exact period of time when Messiah would arrive!)
Ah, but there were prophets to warn them in the first century! Two mighty prophets to be exact, but one much greater than the other, greater even than Moses and all of the prophets after him. These men were contemporaries in the first century AD. One of them was John the Baptist (symbolically representing the return of Elijah), whose sole purpose was to pave the way for the greatest prophet, priest, and king of all time.
The Biggest Mistake (Sin) in Jewish History
Through the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, and especially Jeremiah, God had clearly promised his people that a New Covenant would be implemented between God and his people, a covenant that would be extended to all mankind.
“Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David … and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey…” (Isaiah 55:3-5).
“I will make a covenant of peace with my people…” (Ezekiel 34:25).
“The day is coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors … They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife, says the Lord. But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day … I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jeremiah 31:31-33).
Long before that, God had promised through Moses that another prophet would come in response to the people’s request to Moses that God not appear to them like he did at Mount Sinai when they were terrified of his voice and blazing fire. But Moses said to the people about this coming prophet (with obvious implication that this prophet would be greater than Moses, himself), “You must listen to him.” And that God would, “…personally deal with anyone who will not listen to the messages the prophet proclaims on my behalf.” (See Deuteronomy 18:15-20).
Now let’s listen to what God said about Jesus of Nazareth, when Jesus met with Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration: “…This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him” (Matthew 17:5).
Later, this same Jesus, born a Jew told his Jewish disciples (and the whole world), “…This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood which is poured out as a sacrifice for you” (Luke 22:20).
A few days before that Jesus told the religious leaders of Israel, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate. For I tell you this, you will never see me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matthew 23:37-39).
And shortly after that, Jesus prophesied again concerning the pending and imminent destruction of the Temple, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!” (Matthew 24:2).
For many years, their Messiah was right in front of the Jews. He walked and talked with them. He healed the lame, the sick, and the terminally ill among them. He changed water into wine and walked on water. He silenced storms and fed thousands of people with just a few fish and loaves of bread. He raised the dead!
Repeatedly, Jesus told them that he spoke the words that God, his Father, had given to him … just like Moses said would happen. He claimed to be God, by telling them he existed before Abraham (see John 8). He told them that if they didn’t believe his words, then believe his miracles as proof positive that he was who he claimed to be. He told them that Moses, himself, would condemn them for not believing that Jesus was the Messiah.
Yes, the evidence was irrefutable. So much so, that the religious leaders had no basis to argue with him or dispute his claims, though they tried. So much so, that the only recourse open to them was to silence him because he claimed to be God and Messiah.
Thus, they turned him over to the Romans to be crucified. Even when Christ arose from the dead, they still wouldn’t believe in him! However, this was God’s plan from the start. When Jesus arose from the dead, he validated and sealed the New Covenant between God and man. For the next few decades, the Jews also rejected the writings of a former Jewish Pharisee, Paul, who had been miraculously redeemed and changed by the living Christ. Jewish apostles Paul and John and Matthew and Peter wrote about the great love and grace of God. They confirmed that Jesus was the final Prophet of God, the ultimate High Priest who is the mediator (go-between) of the New and better Covenant, and who will return as the King of all kings to save Israel from their enemies and from themselves.
And still, God’s people said, “No.” They would not listen.
The Real Reason for the Second 9th of Av Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple
It’s so lamentably sad, so unnecessarily tragic. Had God’s people accepted Jesus as their Messiah, the Kingdom of God would have been established right then and there in Israel. But as only God can do in making all things work together for good, the Kingdom of Heaven was established in the hearts of men and woman all over the world, both Jew and Gentile. However, by refusing to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah, Israel rejected the New Covenant promised to them through their own prophets. As a result, the Lord permitted his people to continue under the Mosaic Law, even though that Covenant had been replaced. Even though the Temple Curtain in the Holy of Holies had been supernaturally ripped apart while Jesus was still on the cross.
In fact, the only thing left of the Old Covenant were its clauses of punishment, which included God’s withdrawal of his protection.
Therefore, once again the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple took place on the 9th of Av. But the story doesn’t end there.
Once Israel was reborn as a sovereign nation in 1948 and then recaptured Jerusalem (1967), no longer would she be under Gentile domination. Both the physical and spiritual rebirth of the Jews has begun, with the spiritual restoration currently lagging behind the corporeal existence and prosperity of the Jews as a nation. But it was the Lord who initiated this revival and restoration of Israel by bringing the Jews back a second time, not his people; just as God commenced the twice over discipline of his rebellious people.
Read Ezekiel Chapter 34 where God says that Israel’s religious leaders (shepherds) neither could nor would lead the chosen people. So, God himself would, “search and find my sheep.” And he would give them a “covenant of peace” with one Shepherd (Messiah) to watch over them.
Then and now God’s people could not and would not see who Jesus really was/is. Thus they were not only stunned that the 2nd temple was destroyed on Av 9, but that the temple was even destroyed at all, to include the absolutely horrific result of the Jews expelled from Israel and exiled all over the world, not to return for nearly 2000 years.
Most Orthodox Jews acknowledge that the Diaspora and even the Holocaust could have been prevented by God; therefore, there must have been a reason. But they attribute this to several factors, none of which include rejection of Jesus Christ as the Mediator of the New Covenant of Grace and as their Messiah. Thus, they still discard the real reason for the destruction of the 2nd Temple, which Jesus, himself, predicted.
Nevertheless, there are thousands of Jews the world over who have recognized Jesus as Messiah and Lord. They understand that most of their ancestors (and gentiles as well) rejected Yeshua as prophet, priest and king. They understand that God turned this denial into the greatest life-giving, life-saving sacrifice of all time … the blood of Messiah poured out to save us from our sins. They understand that all it takes is to believe in Christ and receive him as personal Savior. But they also understand that during the last two millennia, that God allowed his people to make this choice to go their own way, to deny Jesus as Messiah, to spurn the New Covenant … which kept them under the discipline imposed by God (as given by Moses long ago) for not listening to his prophet (Jesus), who also is God’s very Son.
Things to Ponder
I love the Jews and I love Israel.
Twice God imposed punishment on his people to bring them to their spiritual knees and purify them.
Twice the Lord rescued them from exiled captivity and returned them to the Promised Land, the first time from Babylon and Persia, the second time from nations all over the earth … this time to remain forever in the land.
Twice God freed them from bondage. First through Moses who delivered them from human bondage in Egypt. Then spiritually, from slavery to sin, through the Cross of Messiah Jesus who delivered them and all who believe and receive him as their personal Savior. This second deliverance will be consummated when Christ transforms both the dead and living believers at the Rapture. Then the Kingdom of God will be established forever when the entire remnant of Israel—every man, woman, and child—is rescued physically and born-again spiritually at the glorious return of Jesus Christ to the earth.
May our heart’s desire and prayer be that of the Jewish Apostle Paul: “…the longing of my heart and prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved” (Romans 10:1).
Hear the passionate plea and loving invitation that God, himself, extends to his chosen people:
“…O Israel, if you would only listen to me!” (Psalm 81:8).
Please take a few more minutes to listen to Amy Grant’s beautiful rendition of El Shaddai, originally written and composed by Michael Card. The song is set in the backdrop of film clips from The Ten Commandments & Passion of the Christ.