WND Claims May 1948 Date For Israel Predicted in Bible

More Biblical pseudo-interpretation from WND:

The author of “Covenant: G-d’s Plan for Israel in the Last Days,” a book by Baruch Battlestein published in Italy, cites prophecies by Ezekiel and Moses that pinpoint with precision the date of Israel’s return to the land in May 1948.

The book is actually by Baruch Battelstein (not “Battlestein”), and according to WND he is “a messianic Jew who lived in Israel until moving to the U.S.”

Battelstein’s method is to cross-reference isolated Biblical verses, to which he then ascribes cryptic mathematical significance. His starting point is Ezekiel 4:4-6, in which God instructs Ezekiel to undertake a “sign-act” in interpretation of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem:

Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity. For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year.

Battelstein explains that this total of 430 days refers to 430 years of punishment, 70 of which were undertaken during the Babylonian exile. This ended with the Edict of Cyrus in 538 BCE, leaving 360 years of further punishment ahead. However, further sinning by Judah multiplied this by seven, in accordance with Leviticus 26:23-24:

And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.

WND continues:

The 360 years needed to be multiplied by seven, for a total of 2,520 years.

Using the 360-day Hebrew calendar, that totals 907,200 days. When converted to the 365-day calendar, the 2,520 years or 907,200 days becomes 2,485 years and five months or 2,485.5 years and months. If you subtract 538 years B.C.E, you get 1,947 years and five months.

Battlestein reminds that there was no year zero.

“Therefore, the year 1,947.5 we call the year 1948.5,”…

This is all very dubious on a number of levels: why does God restore Judah in 538 BCE with 360 years of punishment still to go? And why does the second period of punishment supposedly begin on that date (which it has to do for the dates to work)? If the punishment is exile, then it begins again only 600 years later, in 70 CE. And what is Judah supposed to have done in 538 BCE to warrant the Leviticus multiplication by seven, anyway? There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that God was feeling particularly wrathful in that year – indeed, the opposite is to be inferred, with Cyrus acting as God’s “Messiah” by restoring Judah.

Ezekiel 4: 4-6 is difficult and ambiguous (one reason why prophetic texts endure), and can be interpreted in various ways. Does it even refer to “430 years of punishment”? And why is the “430” figure broken down into 390 and 40? An essay by Carl Gross for the United Bible Societies summarises the problem with reference to the scholarly literature:

In seeking to explain this verse, most interpreters try to retain the balanced structure of the passage. Thus, if the 390 years refer to the “punishment” of the “house of Israel,” the 40 years should also refer to the “punishment” of the “house of Judah”; likewise, if the years refer to the “sin” of the two houses. Some have found it impossible to maintain this linguistic balance. [Moshe] Greenberg (1983, 104-5), for example, can draw meaning out of 390 years of Israel’s “sin,” but not from the 40 years of Judah’s “sin”; similarly he can make sense of 40 years of “punishment” for Judah, but not of 390 years of “punishment” for Israel. There is, of course, another complication, if one accepts the meaning “sin” instead of “punishment.” In that case, the pattern cannot be strictly maintained, because the days of Ezekiel’s suffering cannot refer to anything but “punishment.”

The solution may be that the number 430 parallels the tradition of 430 years in Egypt, and that the “390 years” element refers back from Ezekiel’s time to the building of the First Temple:

[Walther] Zimmerli (1979, 167) suggests that the underlying message of Ezekiel’s numbers is that there will be “a new exodus of Israel after the period spent in exile.”… Familiar with this figure of 430 years of punishment, followed by an exodus, Ezekiel’s audience would be encouraged by the 390 of Ezekiel.

Thus Ezekiel may have been predicting an exile in Babylon of one generation, using the conventional round number “40 years”. This makes better sense: Ezekiel and his listeners were interested in their own time and the near future, not planning for the next 430 years.

Covenant was published by Destiny Image Europe; this is now known as Evangelista Media, after its appropriately-named neo-Pentecostal owner, Pastor Pietro Evangelista. The book appeared in 2005, and is doubtless being promoted now in the wake of Jonathan Cahn’s bestseller The Harbinger. Cahn, as I blogged here, claims that ancient Israel’s futile defiance against enemies sent by God described in Isaiah 9:10 is being literally re-enacted by Obama and other politicians in relation to 9/11.

In both instances, we have a form of Christianity in which the focus is primarily on quote-mining the Bible for esoteric references to current events or modern history. Messianic Jewish figures such as Cahn and Battelstein are also part of a general trend within the US Christian Right to emphasise the “Hebrew Roots” of Christianity. This does not just mean putting Jesus and the New Testament authors in historical context; it includes vicarious identification with Jewish cultural practices, as well as the idea that a Hebrew understanding of the Bible reveals hitherto secret spiritual realities. As well as promoting Cahn and Battelstein, WND editor Joseph Farah is also an enthusiast of a certain Michael Rood.

Dodgy Biblical exegesis is a WND specialism, and its bookstore page hawks numerous “prophecy” paperbacks and DVDs (I looked at items promoted in the wake of the Fukushima disaster here). The site has also run items claiming that the Bible predicts a Muslim anti-Christ and that Jesus named Satan as “Barack Obama”; there have also been bizarre forays into Biblical astrology and Pyramidology.