Yet again, in Israel’s seventy-five years of modern history, it is at war with its neighbours. While war is being waged due to the invasion of Israel by Hamas, which targeted civilians of all ages, will it morph into a regional war? A world war? and does it have a link to Bible prophecy? Read on ….
It started off as a quiet morning, which it should have been considering it was the sabbath day and the end of the high holy days. These days include a time of communal fasting on the Day of Atonement, known as Yom Kippur. Then from fasting, the Jewish people go to the festive ‘Simchat Torah,’ rejoicing in the law. There is dancing and celebrating in the synagogues because God gave the law to Moses (Note: why don’t believers in Jesus match Jewish enthusiasm for the law? See Philippians 4:4).
Around 6:00 AM on Saturday, October 7, 2023, a surprise attack was launched against southern Israel. The invader was the Hamas regime which rules the highly-populated Palestinian coastal enclave known as the Gaza Strip. The invaders attacked by land, air (hang gliders), and sea, while thousands of rockets rained down on the Jewish state.
Once invaded, Hamas targeted the Israeli communities near the Strip. They raided homes, butchered men, women, and children, beheaded babies and kidnapped many others. Hamas attacked the attendees of a music festival and slew two-hundred and sixty of them, including many foreigners. One hundred were slain at a farming kibbutz near the border. The dozens of kidnapped Israelis, of all ages, were taken as hostages to Gaza. Some were shamefully abused and paraded in public. Rapes and murders were videoed and posted on social media, adding incalculable pain to already bereaved families.
The deliberations were short: the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war on Hamas. With Israel at war, what does it mean for the region and the world?
The Hamas attack on southern Israel occurred one day after the fiftieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War of 1973. This, too, was a surprise attack on a Jewish holy day by the armies of Egypt and Syria. This war could have brought the world to a ‘nuclear armageddon,’ including a worldwide US military alert. For three days, Israel was losing badly; Prime Minister Golda Meir telephoned US President Richard Nixon for an emergency airlift of military hardware. When Nixon demurred, Golda implied that, without American assistance, Israel would lose the ‘third temple’ and have no choice but to use the ‘nuclear option’ – literally. The prodding worked; Nixon sent the planes and changed the course of the war. At the end of three weeks of fighting, the price tag Israel paid was $4 billion and 2,500 deaths.
What is the significance of the 2023 Hamas surprise attack on Israel? With at least 1,300 dead (a number that is sure to rise), and 2,800 wounded, Israel experienced the highest death toll of Jewish people in a single day since the Holocaust. Hamas was the first entity to capture and hold Israeli territory – briefly – since the 1948 war. It was indisputably the biggest terrorist attack in the Jewish state, making it Israel’s ‘9-11,’ if not ‘Pearl Harbour.’
Even more puzzling was that this surprise attack happened under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister is known for his counterterrorism expertise and tough-guy approach to terrorism. Terrorist incidents tended to be less under his watch than other prime ministers. But not now. Perhaps the relentless, lengthy, months-long, protests against his proposed judicial reform legislation have drained and distracted him. Israel’s vaunted security sector and intelligence agencies were caught flat-footed as well.
Yet, there were prescient voices foreseeing a conflict at this very time. In Signs Of Possible War In September-October, Yigal Carmon wrote on August 31st the following: ‘Lately, there have been growing indications that a war against Israel may break out in September or October 2023. The trigger may be spiralling violent clashes resulting in many casualties, or the use of new weapons leading to many fatalities on the Israeli side, in the face of which Israel will be unable to suffice with its regular counterterrorism measures.’ Carmon adds that while neither Hamas nor Hezbollah want a comprehensive war at this time, the situation could spiral out of control.
What motivated Hamas to strike? According to their Charter, their goal is the dismantling of the State of Israel. Heavily funded and guided by Iran, Hamas is its Palestinian proxy and dutifully does the bidding of the Islamic Republic. With the Abraham Accords bringing peace treaties between Israel and four Arab countries, and Saudi Arabia talking seriously about normalisation with the Jewish state, Iran would dearly love to be the spoiler. What better way to crash the party than by an attack by Hamas.
Remember Hamas, founded in 1987 early in the first intifada (uprising) against Israel (1987-1993), is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest and largest Islamist organisation in the world. While claiming to be non-violent, the Brotherhood is the inspiration for many terrorist organisations. Hence, there is a theological/eschatological element to their motive. The Brotherhood is banned in many Arab nations.
Who is to Blame?
Of course, Hamas is to blame for launching a murderous, barbarous, and unprovoked ISIS-style attack against Israel. But what caused them to act so audaciously, knowing full well their invasion would trigger a fiery response? Here are some possibilities:
- The anti-Netanyahu judicial reform protests, which lasted for months, with Israeli military reservists refusing to show up for duty, sent the wrong message to Israel’s enemies: the Jewish state is divided, weak and vulnerable. The unprecedented politicisation of Israel’s military was a dangerous move.
- The Gilad Shalit hostage deal of 2011, where a single Israeli soldier was freed from five years of Hamas captivity in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners by Israel. The Shalit deal may have set a bad precedent, possibly causing the current hostage crisis.
- Ariel Sharon’s unconditional and unilateral Gaza disengagement of 2005, where twenty-one Israeli settlements and eight thousand settlers were evacuated by the strip and handed over to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Two years later Hamas snatched the territory from the PA in a violent coup and has ruled it with a rod of iron ever since.
- There is a strong consensus that the main motivator for conflict is Iran. The Islamic Republic has hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East and is often credited for being the hidden hand behind all turmoil in the region. The $6 billion released by the current US administration in September is credited with funding and inspiring the invasion from Gaza. The Daily Wire on 7 October wrote: ‘[One] month ago Trump predicted the $6 Billion that Biden gave Iran would be used for terror attacks across the Middle East and specifically kidnapping,” conservative Jack Posobiec captioned a screenshot of Trump’s prediction on X. “This is exactly what we are seeing in Israel this morning.”
- During the time of the Bible, Gaza was part of the ‘land of the Philistines,’ Israel’s historic enemy. Rivalry and hostility emanated from that part of the country, especially during the reigns of Saul and David. As Ecclesiastes says, ‘There is nothing new under the sun’ – Ecclesiastes 1:9
Remember that the core of the Zionist dream was to establish a Jewish state in Palestine where the Jews could defend themselves from anti-Semitic Gentiles. So while the Hamas invasion revealed Israel’s governmental and intelligence failure, it also unleashed the instinct to hit back hard. Over three hundred thousand reservists have been called, the largest mobilisation in the nation’s history. Already Israel has installed a blockade of food, water, and power from going into Gaza in order to weaken Hamas.
What Does It For Us All?
In this unfolding drama, there are moves towards an Israeli unity government but one thing is for sure – Israel is on a total war footing. In previous wars with Gaza, the goal was containment; this time it is the total overthrow of the Hamas regime.
Yet the price of regime change could be frightfully high. While aerial bombings over Gaza can soften up the enemy, only a ground offensive can capture territory. The Gaza Strip, with two million people squished into territory forty-three kilometres by six kilometres in dimension, is one of the most densely populated places on earth. The city itself can be booby-trapped and the death count on both sides will potentially be high.
In addition, there is the danger that the conflict will grow into a multi-front regional war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran from Syria, the potential involvement of the PA in the West Bank, and even East Jerusalem and Arab citizens of Israel.
While this may seem to be a conflict confined to Israel and its neighbours, the strategic location as the land bridge between Africa and Eurasia, oil, and theology (yes-theology), means it has ramifications for the wider world. Like the war between Russia and Ukraine, the widening of the Israel-Hamas conflict could morph into a larger war, with the dreaded possibility of a shower of missiles or weapons of mass destruction, be they nuclear or electromagnetic-pulse (EMP). With a mighty push, a regional war can go global.
Conflict in the Middle East can affect oil prices and stock market rates. The interconnected global economy can spread these changes very quickly.
A Word About Prophecy and Prayer
Then there is the underappreciated yet highly consequential theological component. Matthew 24:6 says we will hear of wars and to be not troubled when we do. Key prophecies about end-time wars against Israel include Psalm 83, Ezekiel 38-39, and Zechariah 12,14 (Armageddon). We will look at these separately in our next teaching letter.
We should all ‘stay awake’ and become prophecy watchers (Mark 13:32-37); we also need discernment to separate the true from the false. Regarding the accurate interpretation of prophecy, take note of the place names written in the Bible and make sure your interpretation of them is correct.
Pray for the protection of Jewish and Arab civilians; the leadership on both sides (1 Timothy 2:1-4); and for a quick, even supernatural end to this conflict. Above all, pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6): those who do shall prosper.
Intercessors will save the world! They did so in the British war effort during World War II, they did so at other times in history. They will do so again. Let’s join them.