Israel Dwelling Securely in the Land –
Once again Russia is on the mind of many students and teachers of Bible prophecy. After the fall of the Soviet Union we didn’t hear much about Russia as a fulfillment of the Gog & Magog prophecy found in Ezekiel 38 & 39 but now that Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin have begun to assert their power on the world stage prophecy teachers are again taking notice.
Bringing attention to this subject is the new book, Russia Rising: Tracking the Bear in Bible Prophecy, by the popular Christian prophecy teacher Mark Hitchcock. Mr. Hitchcock is a respected voice in prophecy circles and he brings his level headed perspective to this important subject. Like all of us, Mr. Hitchcock brings his bias to the subject. This book is written from a pre-tribulational immanency world view. Thought I don’t always agree with Mr. Hitchcock I do appreciate seeing the subject of Bible prophecy through his eyes.
In this book I thought Mr. Hitchcock did a good job of describing current world events related to Russia and its concerted push to reassert itself as a world power. Mr. Hitchcock also provides a reasonable assessment of Iran, Turkey and their growing alignment with Russia.
To give you an idea of subjects covered in this book here are the 10 well written chapters in the book:
1. There is a Bear in the Woods
2. The Final Game of Thrones
3. Is Russia Really in the Bible?
4. Ezekiel’s Prophetic Intelligence Briefing
5. Triple Threat: Russia, Iran, and Turkey
6. Vladimir Putin, Rising Czar
7. Red Dawn: The War of Gog and Magog
8. How Close Are We?
9. What Does the Future Hold?
10. It’s Always Soon
As compelling as Mr. Hitchcock’s arguments are for the modern day Russia as a fulfillment of Gog & Magog, the book has a major weakness. That weakness relates to the timing of Israel dwelling securely in their land just before the invasion of Gog & Magog. On page 129 Mr. Hitchcock acknowledges the challenge:
“There are not many occasions in God’s prophetic program when Israel is secure and at rest. The Jewish people have been scattered and persecuted over the face of the earth, and not even in the future will Israel have many periods of rest and security.” (Hitchcock, Mark. Russia Rising: Tracking the Bear in Bible Prophecy (p. 130). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.)
Mr. Hitchcock goes on to explore four views on the timing of this Gog & Magog invasion:
• View #1 – Ezekiel 38-39 is the Same as Revelation 20:8
• View #2 – The War Can Happen at Any Time
• View #3 – The War in Ezekiel 38 -39 is the Same as the Campaign of Armageddon
• View #4 – The War Will Transpire During the First Half of the Tribulation
Surprisingly, in none of these four points of view does Mr. Hitchcock explore the OT prophetic context of Israel dwelling securely in their land.
In Ezekiel 38 & 39 the statement of Israel “dwelling safely” in the land just before the invasion of Gog & Magog invasion takes place, comes from the Hebrew words yashab betach. In Ezekiel 38 this context of Israel dwelling in safety is so important to the timing of the invasion that it is repeated three times. This timing is further repeated in Ezekiel 39:6, with the further explanation that they will dwell safely (yashab betach) with “none to make them afraid”. Here take a look:
• Ezekiel 38:8 8 After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou [gog & magog} shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely [yashab betach] all of them.
• Ezekiel 38:11 11 And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely [yashab betach], all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates,
• Ezekiel 38:14 14 Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely [yashab betach], shalt thou not know it?
• Ezekiel 39:26 26 After that they have borne their shame, and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against me, when they dwelt safely [yashab betach] in their land, and none made them afraid.
Here is the challenge to these passage which Mr. Hitchcock and many of his peers fail to explain. Yashab betach is conditional promise give to Israel in Leviticus 25 and 26 which is contingent upon the Israel’s obedience to the Torah.
• Leviticus 25:18 -Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell [yashab] in the land in safety [betach].
• Leviticus 26:3-6 – If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell [yashab] in your land safely [betach]. 6 And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.
What is fascinating to understand is that the context of Jeremiah 32, Ezekiel 28, Ezekiel 34, and Zechariah 14 all confirm that this dwelling securely (Yashab betach) is a condition Israel experiences during the millennial reign of the Messiah, after they have returned to Him. From Yeshua’s own words we know that He does not return until they acknowledge Him as the promised Messiah. This means that Israel will not dwell safely in their land until Yeshua reigns in Jerusalem. This as we know will not happen until the millennium.
• Jeremiah 32:37-40 Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely [yashab betach]: 38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.
• Ezekiel 28:25-26 Thus saith the Lord YHWH; When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered, and shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen, then shall they dwell in their land that I have given to my servant Jacob. And they shall dwell safely [yashab betach] therein, and shall build houses, and plant vineyards; yea, they shall dwell with confidence [yashab betach], when I have executed judgments upon all those that despise them round about them; and they shall know that I am YHWH their God.
• Zechariah 14:9-11 And YHWH shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one YHWH, and his name one. All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin’s gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king’s winepresses. And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited [betach yashab].
What I find hard to understand is why Mr. Hitchcock does not address the statements of Ezekiel 28 & 34 which clearly demonstrate that yashab betach (dwelling safely) is prophetic statement of Israel’s status during the Millinnium. Keep in mind both these statement come before Ezekiel statements of Israel dwelling securely just prior to the invasion of Gog & Magog as found in Ezekial 39 & 39.
Further consider Ezekiel 39:26 where it states that Israel dwelt safely “with none to make them afraid”. This phrases is only repeated one other time in the Old Testament and it is found in Ezekiel 34:28 where again it is describing conditions during the millennium. Here take a look:
• Ezekiel 34:28 And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely [yashab betach], and none shall make them afraid.
• Ezekiel 39:25-26 Therefore thus saith the Lord YHWH; Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name; After that they have borne their shame, and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against me, when they dwelt safely [yashab betach] in their land, and none made them afraid.
As you can see the balance of the Old Testament record shows that Israel dwelling securely is a reference to Israel’s status during the coming messianic age. At the very least Mr. Hitchcock needs to clearly explain to his readers why this OT context is not relevant to his interpretation. As a final thought on this aspect of the book consider this.
Revelation 20 describes a period of time during the millennium when the following conditions are present (based upon other OT prophecies).
1. Yeshua reigns from Jerusalem
2. Israel is dwelling safely in the Promised Land.
3. Weapons of war have been exchange for implements of agriculture (Isa. 2:3-4)
4. Israel is the head of the nations to whom the others bring tribute. (They are wealthy)
5. They live in peace with none to make them afraid.
6. Gog and Magog invades Israel with nations from four quarters of the earth.
7. Their weapons of war are rudimentary by our standards. (because modern weaponry was converted to agricultural use at the start of the millennium- see Isa. 2:3-4)
8. YHWH supernaturally destroys the armies of Gog and Magog.
Based upon the above context a couple of questions come to mind. If Ezekiel 38 & 39 is read within a millennial context as suggest by Ezekiel 28 & 34 how many of the above conditions would be present? Would the Russia of today have any relevance to the prophecy of Gog & Magog?
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of YHWH, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of YHWH from Jerusalem. 4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:3-4)
In closing I would like to better understand how Mr. Hitchcock sees the context of Israel dwelling safely (yashab betach) as it relates to Leviticus 25, 26, Jeremiah 32, Ezekiel 28, 34, Zechariah 14. This context is fundamental to understanding the identity of Gog & Magog as well as the timing of this great invasion of Israel. Until this subject is adequately addressed I believe the interpretation as presented in this book must be considered in light of a Berean’s skepticism. I’d encourage you to read the book and then open your own Bible and see what it has to say about Israel dwelling securely in the promised land.
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Author: Mark Hitchcock
Book Title: – Russia Rising: Tracking the Bear in Bible Prophecy
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Book Reviewed by: William Struse