The “Gate of His Enemies” — A Fulfillment of Biblical Prophecies
The promise to Abraham included one unique and unusual provision which some have understood to apply to control of important and strategic passageways around the world. This idea is drawn from Genesis 22:17, which promises, “and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.” This promise is repeated to Rebekah, mother of Isaac, in Genesis 24:60.
It is a fact of history that the British and Americans have controlled the majority of both land and sea gates which have been critical to the economic and military dominance enjoyed by Britain and America in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Three vital sea gates
The acquisition of the three of the most important sea gates occurred in the context of God’s holy day seasons. The first example took place as a result of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). This conflict began as the result of a decision made in a Spring holy day setting. Over the last three decades of his reign, Spanish King Charles II (1661-1700) had “been a walking medical exhibit of half a dozen fatal diseases” (Joseph R. Strayer, et. al., Mainstream of Civilization, p. 451).
Since Charles II had no children the absence of a royal heir led to a controversy over succession to the Spanish throne. For a time, it appeared that the matter could be peaceably resolved. However, when Charles designated Philippe d’Anjou, the grandson of French King Louis XIV, as his lawful successor, he destabilized the European balance of power. That decision occurred on October 2, 1700 — the fifth Day of Unleavened Bread. Charles’ decision confirmed the worst fears of fellow-European statesmen concerning French intentions. At Versailles, the Spanish Ambassador, kneeling before the new king — now Philip V of Spain — was heard to murmur, “Il n’y pas de Pyrenees” — there are no more Pyrenees. He implied that the king’s ascension amounted to the union of France and Spain.
By 1701, the Grand Alliance constructed by English King William III was at war with France. William hoped to restore a favorable balance of power. In the end, the French bid to dominate the Continent failed. In fact, England emerged from the conflict with the largest European navy and her status as a world power confirmed.
As a result of the war, England acquired Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, the Hudson Bay territory, Minorca, and most importantly, Gibraltar which controlled entry and exit to the Mediterranean Sea. These terms of settlement — the Peace of Utrecht among others, were reached on April 11, 1713.
England gains Suez
Over a century and a half later, the British gained direct control of another critical sea gate at the other end of the Mediterranean. Since 1875, Britain had owned controlling interest in the Suez Canal. A short time later, Britain became more directly involved in Egyptian affairs along with the French, as part of the so-called “Anglo-French Condominium” (1876-1882).
Financial mismanagement on the part of the Egyptian government led to the establishment of a joint Anglo-French commission and “Dual Paramountcy” to restore Egyptian economic stability. But Egyptian political problems persisted. The continuing difficulties of the Egyptian government led Ishmail, the Khedive of Egypt on May 28, 1882, to recall Colonel Ahmed Arabi Pasha and other nationalists. This turn of event set the stage for the British occupation of Egypt from 1882 until 1956. Soon thereafter, Arabi eventually led a nationalist rebellion.
Strongly influenced by the popular anti-colonialism in France during the early- 1880s, the French government refused to get involved. On the other side of the English Channel, Arabi’s actions prompted a different response. The British dispatched an expeditionary army of 40,560 men to quell the rebellion.
Commanding officer General Garnet Wolseley’s bout with illness delayed any actual military engagements. When action came, it was overwhelmingly successful for the British. On September 13, 1882, Wolseley defeated Egyptian rebels under Arabi at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir about 50 miles northeast of Cairo. On the following day Wolseley”s triumphant army marched into Cairo.
Under the rulership of the “Veiled Protectorate,” Britain stood supreme in Egypt — in sole control over Egyptian affairs while the French found themselves on the outside looking in. The British remained there for nearly three-quarters of a century.
America acquires the Panama Canal
The third great sea gate acquired by Joseph’s seed was the Panama Canal. Like Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana territory or Benjamin Disraeli’s acquisition of Suez Canal stock, American President Theodore Roosevelt’s actions to secure Panama were taken with bold decisiveness but questionable legality. About his presumption, Theodore Roosevelt remarked, “I took the Isthmus, started the Canal, and then left Congress — not to debate the Canal, but to debate me” (The American Past, p. 323).
Certainly Teddy Roosevelt was one of America’s most decisive leaders. Moreover, the circumstances of his rise to the presidency were rather unique. The assassination of President William McKinley brought Roosevelt into that office on September 14, 1901. Notwithstanding Roosevelt’s various human faults and foibles, his administration was distinguished by justice. His “Square Deal” and “reputation as an honest and competent reformer” bears witness to this aspect of the fairness of his administrative style. Roosevelt played a critical role in the fulfilling of the Abrahamic promise relevant to Israel’s possession of important sea gates (Genesis 22:17, 26:40). He was the central actor in the American construction and acquisition of the Panama Canal.
On September 22, 1902, French engineer Philippe Jean Bunau-Varilla from Panama arrived in New York City to set in motion events which would lead to U.S. to accomplish what the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interocianique and renowned engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps had failed to do between 1881-1889.
On October 10 Bunau-Varilla met with President Roosevelt and predicted a revolution against the ruling Columbian government by those living on the Isthmus. Roosevelt was reported to have remarked in private: “I took Panama because Bunau-Varilla brought it to me on a silver platter” (David McCullough, Path Between the Seas, p. 384). Again, we see a historical example of Reuben’s passing of the Birthright to Joseph (1 Chronicles 5:1-2).
Working in cooperation with Panama’s Dr. Manuel Amador, Bunau-Varilla moved to receive the canal project under different auspices. On October 13, Bunau-Varilla held a meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in which the Panama Republic was born. Thereafter events moved quickly making possible American success in the canal zone region. (See David McCullough, Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870- 1914, pp. 342-343, 347-350, 356, 384. 392-393, 401.)
Sidebar: Benjamin Disraeli: Maestro of Empire
What is in a name? God often names things what they are. When the light-bringing cherub Lucifer rebelled against the authority of God (Isaiah 14:12-16; Ezekiel 28:14-19). He renamed him “adversary” or Satan. Adam’s name literally meant “red earth,” the substance from which the first man was formed and shaped (Genesis 2:7).
Abram received a name — Abraham (Genesis 17:5) — which connoted his very fatherhood — “father of a multitude” (Genesis 17:4-6). Solomon, whose name derives from the Hebrew root word for “peace,” presided over one of the most pacific periods in all Israelite history (1 Kings 4:24).
Is it so strange that God might still provide us similar signposts along the way through human history (cf. Hebrews 13:8)? One possible example of this is found in the story of growth and development of the British Empire. One of the most remarkable figures in English political history was Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881). This son of a Jewish family which had converted to Christianity rose to the pinnacle of British political life and served twice as Prime Minister (1868, 1874- 1880). He is sometimes described as the “Maestro of Empire,” the British statesman who gave the late-19th century British Empire a new emotional force. Historian Walter P. Hall and R. G. Albion observe, “Disraeli, it has been said, was the first modern statesman to pursue a frankly imperialistic policy” (History of the British Empire, pp. 705-706).
During Disraeli’s second administration, England underwent a revival of interest in empire and territorial expansion. Acting boldly and with remarkable independence, Disraeli paid nearly four million pounds — money borrowed from the Bank of Rothschild with “the British government” as security — for the purchase of 44% of the shares of stock controlling the recently constructed Suez Canal. It was the engineering masterpiece of Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps.
German Iron Chancellor Otto von Bismarck aptly described this passageway as the spinal cord of the British Empire. Indeed the construction of the Suez Canal had dramatically altered the balance of power in the Middle East. It necessitated British presence, or, better still, direct control of the region. The canal became Britain’s “lifeline” to India.
The next and perhaps most grandiose expression of Disraeli’s imperial policies was in connection with the linchpin of Empire, India itself. On May 1, 1876 Disraeli saw that the Royal Titles Bill made Queen Victoria “Empress of India.” In January of the following year in Delhi, India, with great fanfare and ceremony the Viceroy of India pronounced Victoria Empress as a grand celebration in her honor. Later that same year, Disraeli annexed the mineral-rich Transvaal in South Africa. Three years later, at the Congress of Berlin, he acquired the strategic outpost of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea.
It is a remarkable coincidence that one of the chief architects of the British Empire literally bears the name of “Israel.” Or is it? Given what we know about the identity of Jacob’s modern-day descendants and the timing of the issuance of the physical, material, national promises to Abraham, the name Disraeli reads more like a providential signpost.
Anglo-American dominance to continue?
And so, the 19th and 20th centuries have seen the domination of world history by the Anglo-American peoples. As we rapidly move toward the 21st century, will this pattern continue? British world dominance is already a thing of the past.
The two great world wars of the 20th century took a terrible toll on Britain and her people. These conflicts robbed her of much of her manpower. They drained her economically. By the end of World War II, the British found themselves with neither the resources nor the will to preserve their empire.
From the realization of Indian independence (1947), the dissolution of Britain’s imperial edifice occurred with dizzying speed. British superiority has given place to American dominance during the final half of the 20th century.
If American military, economic, and technical power remains supreme, the moral decay of the United States does not bode well for the future. The biblically based values on which the founding fathers and American people built the U.S.A. have given place to the same kind of selfish, self-serving materialistic orientation which led to the collapse of the Roman Empire of antiquity. Without a change in direction and emphasis, will the outcome for America be any different?
It is both interesting and important that Bible prophecy depicts God’s people Israel in dire straits — even captivity (e.g., Deuteronomy 4:27-28; Jeremiah 29:14; Amos 9:14) — at the time of Jesus Christ’s return. Israel will be punished for her departure from the ways, truths, and laws of God — a theme that we shall explore in the final chapter of this booklet. Happily, prophecy also reveals that God will not abandon Israel forever. There is coming a great exodus and restoration, which will form a bridge into the new Millennial age, established by Christ at His Second Coming.
A future exodus and final restoration?
Is there unfinished business in Bible prophecy? There is good news and bad news. Numerous Bible prophecies portray a repentant Israel, turning at last to God and obedient to His laws. Herbert W. Armstrong frequently reminded us, that punishment was effected with a positive end — a “glorious purpose” — in mind:
“God is going to keep multiplying chastening — correction — on our peoples until they do turn from their evil ways — until they turn to the ways that cause peace, happiness, prosperity, all the good things! ... The prophecies record also the RESULT of that intensified punishment. The result will be a corrected people. The result will be an eyeopening realization of what we have done to ourselves. The supreme punishment will teach us, at last, our lesson! The punishment will break our spirit of rebellion” (United States and Britain in Prophecy, pp. 167-168, 170).
Not only will this generation of Israelites repent; they will receive deliverance at the Hand of the returned Jesus Christ.
The time is just before the resurrection of the just, at Christ’s coming. As Moses delivered the ancient Israelites from Egyptian slavery, so Jesus Christ is coming to deliver modern Britain and America from the now-impending Babylonish slavery (See Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 7:37; Jeremiah 23:5-8) (Ibid., p. 177).
This deliverance entails the fulfillment of some of the most exciting and encouraging prophecies in the entire Bible. These predictions foretell a second exodus of unparalleled magnitude — one which will literally dwarf the experience of Moses and the Israelites: “Therefore behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that it shall no more be said, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.’ For I will bring them back into their land, which I gave to their fathers” (Jeremiah 16:14-15).
Further prophetic testimony
Isaiah writes about the same unprecedented re-gathering of Israel: “It shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left ... He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isaiah 11:11-12).
Moses forecast this event as well. “And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you. And there you will serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress [compare Matthew 24:21-22], and all these things come on you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice” (Deuteronomy 4:27-30; 28:68).
The prophet Amos wrote of a time when God promised to “bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them” (Amos 9:14).
Those prophecies about an end time restoration of Israel give us much to anticipate. Inspired by these passages, Herbert Armstrong wrote:
“The house of Israel is yet to return, at Christ’s coming, to their original homeland — yet to plant grapes in Samaria, their original country... . At the future exodus, at Christ’s coming, they are to return to the Holy Land out of the land of the NORTH! [Hosea 11:8, 10]... This prophecy is for consideration in the ‘latter days’ (Jeremiah 30:24; 31:1), and is addressed to ‘Israel’ (verses 2, 4, 9), to ‘Ephraim’ (verses 6, 9), and ‘Samaria’ (verse 5).”
Here is added another hinge — “the coasts of the earth” (verse 8) — evidencing that they are dominant at sea and indicating they have spread abroad widely by colonization.
Referring to the house of ISRAEL, not Judah (Isaiah 49:3, 6), God says: “Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the NORTH and from the WEST; and these from the land of Sinim” (Isaiah 49:12) (Ibid., p. 95. Compare Psalm 107:3-7; Isaiah 48:20-21).
The restoration of Israel
These predictions tell about a bringing of the descendants of physical, national Israel together to Palestine from all four corners of the earth at the return of Christ. “And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord will thresh, from the channel of the River to the Brook of Egypt; and you will be gathered one by one, O you children of Israel. So it shall be in that day: The great trumpet will be blown [compare Leviticus 25:8-10]; they will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, and they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem” (Isaiah 27:12-13). The prophecies of Ezekiel point to a dramatic reunion of “lost Israel” with brother Judah. “As for you, son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it: ‘For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions.’ Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand... . “And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all... [and] David My servant shall be king over them ..” (Ezekiel 37:16-17, 22,).
“For the first time in some three thousand years, for the first time since the days of Solomon, the house of Israel (the 10 Tribes) will be reunited with the house of Judah. They will become one 12-tribed nation!” (United States and Britain in Prophecy, p. 184).
Twelve tribes to be reunited
The fact that the restoration prophecies have physical as well as spiritual fulfillment demands that Israel have a post-captivity existence. In fact, the notion of a restoration and reunion of the 12 tribes is as old as the Assyrian captivity itself:
“The belief in the restoration of the 12 Tribe Kingdom of Israel survived every storm which subsequently broke over its remnants... Even in the course of the Exile itself the prophets started to proclaim the return of the people and the restoration of the destroyed 12 Tribe Kingdom. It crystallized as a central conviction in late Jewish eschatology and apocalyptic literature... The author of the Letter of Aristeas presupposes this restoration in his story of the seventy two scholars, six from each of the 12 tribes, who produced the Septuagint” (A. S. Geyser, “Some Salient New Testament Passages,” pp. 305-306).
The expectation of a reunion of the tribes was alive and well in the days of Jesus and the 1st century Church. “In parables and debates he [Jesus] taught them [the 12] its nature and the signs of its coming, and to pray for it daily. The ‘12’ (eleven) asked him after the resurrection, ‘Are you now going to establish the Kingdom for Israel?’(Acts 1:6)” (ibid., p. 310).
From that time to this, the restoration of Israel has been a periodic focus of theological interest among the Christian clergy and the religiously sensitive laity. American historian Barbara Tuchman describes how around mid-century well-meaning men like Lord Shaftesbury actually nurtured the formation of government policy designed to promote “an Anglican Israel [by which he meant the Jews] restored by Protestant England, at one stroke confounding popery, fulfilling prophecy, redeeming mankind” (Bible and Sword, pp. 175-207, excerpt).
In a spirit which is admirable, Shaftesbury and many others have aspired to do their part. But what exactly should that be? And as we now reflect on the prophecies about Israel’s punishment, repentance, and restoration, what is our responsibility? Is this message about Israel’s modern identity a part of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God? And if it is, how should this understanding affect and influence our personal behavior? We will examine these questions in the final chapter.