What Happened to the Lion of Judah?
In ancient Israel, each of the 12 tribes camped underneath their own tribal flag—called a standard or banner in Scripture (see Numbers 2:2). Some might find it surprising to learn that the ancient emblem on Judah’s flag was not the Shield of David, as it is on the flag Zionists adopted 60 years ago for the Jewish state. It was a roaring lion. Over this image, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, was an inscription taken from Numbers 10:35: “Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee” (article “flag”).
Judah’s tribal symbol traces its origin all the way back to the book of Genesis and the great patriarch Jacob. In this fantastic prophecy, Jacob gathered his 12 sons to tell them “that which shall befall you in the last days” (Genesis 49:1). To Judah, he said, “your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies …. Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as a lioness; who dares rouse him up?” (verses 8-9, Revised Standard Version). With these lion-like characteristics, Judah often assumed a lead position in marching against Israel’s enemies.
Moses also identified these warrior-like skills when, before he died, he bestowed similar blessings on the fourth son of Leah: Let Judah’s hands be sufficient in defending his cause, and may you, God, help against his enemies (Deuteronomy 33:7). Judah’s hands, with God’s help, were sufficient against his enemies.
Even in modern times, God has roused the warrior spirit of the lion of Judah to secure its independence in 1948 and to prevent its destruction in 1967 and then again in 1973. God has done this—not because the Jews are His favorites or because God takes sides in international disputes. God has helped them because of what He prophesied millennia ago!
The establishment of a Jewish state had to happen in our day because of what God said would occur in the latter days. The unification of Jerusalem under the lion of Judah in 1967 also had to happen because of what God has prophesied.
Yet, if all of this had to happen—and with God’s blessing and protection along the way—what in the world is happening to Judah now?
Israel’s First Defeat
Why is Israel’s current government so resolutely determined to hand over land and strategic positions to its enemies—even when it keeps backfiring? Israel pulled out of southern Lebanon in 2000 and Hezbollah moved in. Within months of taking over southern Lebanon, Hezbollah guerillas crossed into Israeli territory and abducted three idf soldiers near Shebaa Farms. That resulted in what, until this week, must have been the most lopsided prisoner swap in the history of hostage negotiations. Three years after their lopsided victory, Hezbollah again conducted a cross-border raid, kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and initiated an aerial attack against northern Israel with a barrage of Katyusha rockets.
Why, after responding to Hezbollah’s attack with force—after publicly stating that the fighting would not stop until the captives were returned and Hezbollah was destroyed—did Olmert back away from those promises within days and later end the conflict without fulfilling either of those objectives?
How—more importantly, why—did Israel lose its first war against a rag-tag group of Hezbollah fighters? And how could its government be so blind as to exult in the “unprecedented” gains Israel had supposedly made during the Second Lebanon War? Prime Minister Olmert said on Aug. 1, 2006, for example, that Hezbollah would “never again” be able to threaten Israel.
Just this week, Hezbollah was granted minority veto power in Lebanon’s newly formed government, two months after the Iranian-backed regime effectively conquered the whole of Lebanon.
Glutton for Punishment
In Gaza, Israel uprooted 9,000 of its own citizens—many of them forcefully—and handed the strip over to Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah regime. Overnight, it seems, Gaza transformed into the Iranian proxy of Hamastan. Since the Hamas reign of terror began in June of 2007, terrorists have launched more than 3,000 rockets and mortar bombs on southwestern Israel.
Even still, gluttonous for punishment, Israel’s government is now begging Bashar Assad for peace, even if it means relinquishing control of the strategically critical Golan Heights to Syria. Why—even when a majority of Israelis are dead-set against it?
And why, if Israeli and Syrian leaders have never been this close, did Assad ignore his Israeli counterpart at the Mediterranean Union last weekend? Hours before the summit began, Olmert sent Assad a note in which he expressed his “serious” desire for peace and requested direct talks between the two nations (instead of working through a Turkish mediator). During the summit, Olmert tried everything short of blowing Bashar a kiss in order to get his attention. But Israel’s newest partner for “peace” refused to even acknowledge Olmert with a glance, let alone shake his hand. About 20 minutes before Olmert’s speech at the summit, Assad got up and walked out.
How could someone like that—the dictatorial head of a state that sponsors worldwide terror networks, including Hezbollah—be given red-carpet treatment at the 43-nation union for the Mediterranean talks? What a diplomatic coup for yet another of Israel’s enemies—treated like a celebrity in France; his every move captured by an adoring throng of reporters.
Just three years ago, Assad turned the Lebanese government on its head when his assassins murdered Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Yet today, Western leaders reward him with superstar treatment for simply agreeing to tone down Hezbollah now that they’ve grabbed control of Lebanon’s government. Even the Associated Press expressed astonishment at this sudden turn in events, saying French President Sarkozy’s invitation for Assad to attend the summit “signaled a spectacular emergence from isolation in the West.”
How can this be happening?
One Heavy Price
Then there is the humiliating capitulation that occurred on Wednesday—Israel’s newest, most lopsided prisoner swap ever. For the past two years, Hezbollah withheld every detail regarding the status of the two soldiers they kidnapped prior to the Second Lebanon War. They repeatedly denied requests by the Red Cross to visit the captives.
On the other hand, Samir Kuntar—the convicted murderer Hezbollah coveted most in the swap—was hardly rotting away in an Israeli prison. Sentenced to 542 years in prison in 1980, the portly captive had enjoyed three squares a day while incarcerated and received regular visits from international workers, friends and family members. He met the love of his life in prison and later married her behind bars. He learned Hebrew and earned his bachelor’s degree in humanities from a Tel Aviv university’s distance learning course. He concentrated his studies on Israel and its society, titling his final paper, “The Contradiction of Democracy and Security in Israel.”
In 1979, at the tender age of 16, Kuntar and his terrorist cell breached Israel’s border security in hopes of taking hostages back to Lebanon. After killing a security guard who stumbled upon the group off the Mediterranean coast, Kuntar and his gunmen then busted into an apartment in Naharia and Kuntar proceeded to murder the father of two before bludgeoning his 4-year-old girl to death with the butt of his rifle. The victim’s terrified wife along with her 2-year-old daughter had managed to hide in a crawl space during the struggle. The mom, however, inadvertently suffocated the toddler while trying to stifle her screams.
On Wednesday, Israel returned an unrepentant Kuntar and four prisoners captured during the 2006 war, along with 199 corpses, for two coffins containing the dead bodies of the idf soldiers. The day before, taking advantage of one last chance to rub salt into Israel’s already gaping wound, a Lebanese newspaper circulated the rumor that one of the Israeli soldiers was still alive. Thus, an already despondent Israeli public plummeted to the depths of despair once those two coffins were hauled out of the transport vehicle.
In Lebanon, on the other hand, Wednesday was declared a national holiday and Kuntar and company were welcomed home as national heroes. Even Lebanon’s Western-backed prime minister, Fuad Saniora, was seen kissing the terrorists at the Beirut airport.
What is happening to Israel? How can their leaders be so blind to the obvious—that Wednesday’s exchange will only drive up the price in future negotiations; that it possibly sealed the fate of Hamas’s captive Gilad Shalit now that corpses can generate such a handsome return; that it only puts Israeli soldiers and civilians at greater risk and will only lead to more abductions and murders?
Don’t they see how this emboldens their enemies? Don’t they see, as Melanie Phillips pointed out on her blog, that by choosing the path of least resistance now, they are guaranteeing catastrophic consequences in the long run? “Israel’s failure to grasp this essential fact is the most dismal indication that its current governing class lacks the moral vision and statesmanship essential to continue to defend the country against an enemy which gloats that Israel’s reverence for life spells its own collective death warrant,” Phillips wrote. “It is not an empty boast.”
The Age of Defeat
Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah couldn’t resist the urge to come out of hiding on Wednesday night in order to gloat over Kuntar’s release. “The age of defeats is gone, and the era of victories has come,” Nasrallah declared before cheering throngs of Lebanese. Arutz Sheva noted the stark contrast between Nasrallah’s “era of victories” speech and Ehud Olmert’s “tired of winning” address three years ago. “We are tired of fighting; we are tired of being courageous,” Olmert told the Israel Policy Forum. “We are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies.”
The once proud, lion-like roar of the tribe of Judah now purrs like one of the many harmless stray cats that roam the streets of Jerusalem.
That is what has happened to Israel today. And why?
Because of what God has prophesied in His Word! That’s right—the same God who helped establish the Jewish state in modern times also prophesied that Israel would be mortally wounded by an insoluble “peace” process (Hosea 5:13). Yes, the same God who arranged for Israel to gain full control of Jerusalem in 1967 also prophesied that the Jews would later lose that eastern half of their capital city (Zechariah 14:1-2).
These prophecies are sure. They will soon impact every individual on Earth because Jerusalem is the powder keg that will set off the biblically prophesied Great Tribulation to occur just before the Messiah sets foot on the Mount of Olives.
Are you prepared for that blessed event?
Just before Moses prayed that God would make Judah’s hands sufficient against his enemies, he asked for God to hear Judah’s prayers—implying that they were once a God-fearing, praying people. That has always been the key to Judah’s well-being—even its very existence—their dependency on the Most High.
While it may be past the point of no return for Israel as a whole, you—individually—can turn to the God of Israel in prayerful repentance.
If you do, God will hear.