What Does the Bible Say about the Future of Gaza?
…Now, for those who are seeking to take a middle-of-the-road stance, it may be a hard pill to swallow that much of Gaza will become devastated and deserted, being left for the righteous remnant of Judah. This, however, is exactly what the prophecy declared. This is not a historical prophecy. The prophecy is ultimately pertaining to the Day of the Lord and the Return of Jesus.
Of course, Richardson is not quite saying that this must be the immediate outcome of the current conflict, but he drops some heavy hints:
As the prophecy [of the Book of Joel] continues, it goes on to speak of the Lord specifically executing vengeance against those from the regions of Lebanon and Gaza who have engaged in violence against the people of Israel:
What are you to Me, O Tyre, Sidon (Lebanon) and all the regions of Philistia (Gaza)? Are you rendering Me a recompense? But if you do recompense Me, swiftly and speedily I will return your recompense on your head. (Joel 3:4)
Where it says “Tyre, Sidon,” and “the regions of Philistia” one could nearly insert Hezbollah and Hamas. It is nearly pulled from today’s headlines.
Erm, not quite. Here’s the proper context, from the verses following:
Since you have taken My silver and My gold, brought My precious treasures to your temples, and sold the sons of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks in order to remove them far from their territory, behold, I am going to arouse them from the place where you have sold them, and return your recompense on your head. Also I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the sons of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a distant nation, for the LORD has spoken. Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men! Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up!
This makes absolutely no sense in terms of the modern world and the modern conflict in Gaza; the text clearly pertains to events in the ancient world, when it was written. The Philistines (themselves actually of Greek extraction) appear to have indulged in plunder and slave-trafficking at the time when the Southern Kingdom of Judah was up against the Babylonians, and the the author, writing a few years later, is rather sore about it. That’s it. Nothing to do with “Hezbollah and Hamas”, or “today’s headlines” in any meaningful sense: there are no pagan temples in Gaza with gold and silver expropriated from Judah; modern Israelis have not been sold by Gazan Palestinians into slavery in Greece; and modern Israel is not planning to sell Palestinians to a mercantile tribe in the south of Arabia.
Of course, its always possible to extrapolate from the text’s obvious meaning in an arbitrary way and impose some sort of “symbolic” meaning relating to current affairs (the “temples” as mosques, etc.), but there’s no sensible reason for doing so, and such a method is subjective and useless.
For the specific destruction of Gaza, Richardson turns to Zephaniah:
For Gaza will be abandoned. … Woe to the inhabitants of the seacoast, the nation of the Cherethites! The word of the LORD is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines; and I will destroy you so that there will be no inhabitant. So the seacoast will be pastures, with caves for shepherds and folds for flocks. And the coast will be for the remnant of the house of Judah, they will pasture on it. In the houses of Ashkelon they will lie down at evening; For the LORD their God will care for them and restore their fortune.
This is indeed a vision about the future. But again, looking at the text in proper context show that the author’s concerns belong very much in the ancient world. At home, he fulminates against worshippers of Milcom and royal courtiers in “outlandish clothes” at the Jerusalem Temple; abroad, Gaza is just at the head of a shit-list that includes Moab and Ammon, Ethiopia (which will “be run through by my sword”), and the Assyrians. It has nothing to do with twenty-first century politics.
Richardson is not a man without compassion – indeed, he’s quick to add that prophecy of Joel does not refer to “every single inhabitant of Lebanon and Gaza” – but “Gaza will become devastated and deserted, being left for the righteous remnant of Judah” is unambiguously eliminationist.
The Bible can help believers think seriously about where they should stand morally in relation to current events. But the ramblings of self-styled “prophecy experts” such as Richardson are a way to avoid thinking seriously about what’s actually going on in the real world.
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