A recent edition of Israel Today magazine featured an article by its editor, Ariel Schneider, titled, “How Long Will Israel’s Third Kingdom Survive?”
While thinking about modern day Israel’s 70th anniversary, it occurred to Schneider that “in its 3,500 year history, the nation of Israel has only three times been able to live free, united, sovereign and independent. And only for very short periods of time.”
The First United Kingdom
He argues that the very first time Israel truly existed as a sovereign, united nation state was during the kingships of David and Solomon — a period of 82 years, from 1010 to 928 BC. King David ruled a united Israel for 40 years (1010 to 970 BC). He was followed by his son, Solomon, who also reigned for 40 years (970 to 930 BC).
But two years into the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, a civil war broke out over excessive taxation, and the kingdom split between 10 tribes in the north and two in the south. The northern area became known as the state of Israel, with its capital at Samaria. The two tribes in the south called their state Judah, and its capital was in Jerusalem.
The Divided Kingdoms
The northern kingdom of Israel was apostate from the beginning. Never once in its 208 year history (930 to 722 BC) did it have a king who, in God’s eyes, was considered to be righteous. Its hard-boiled rebellion against God and His Word resulted in the kingdom’s destruction by the Assyrians in 722 BC.
The southern kingdom of Judah was blessed with great kings like Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, Hezekiah and Josiah. The kingdom was also blessed with prosperity. But its greatest blessing was spiritual, for the Shekinah Glory of God resided in the nation’s temple in Jerusalem.
But the Judeans gradually fell into apostasy as they intermarried with the Caananites and ended up worshiping their gods. The Lord sent remedial judgments to call them to repentance. But they persisted in their rebellion. God also sent many prophetic voices to call them to repentance and to warn them of impending judgment, but they had deaf ears.
Finally, God allowed the Babylonians to conquer them and take them into captivity. After Babylon fell to the Persians, the Jews were allowed to return to their homeland, but they remained under Persian domination until the nation was conquered by Alexander the Great in 332 BC. After his death, the Jews came under the rule of the Greek Seleucid Kingdom.
The Second United Kingdom
It would be 800 years after the United Kingdom of David and Solomon before the Jews would once again experience a united, independent kingdom. It was the product of the Hasmonean revolt against the Seleucid Greek occupiers that began in 164 BC. Eleven years later, in 153 BC, Jerusalem was conquered and the Temple was cleansed. In 135 BC John Hycranus was crowned King of Israel, and six years later, in 129 BC, he proclaimed Israel’s full independence. This sovereign state lasted 66 years, until 63 BC when the Romans conquered Jerusalem.
This means that all three of Israel’s united sovereignties added together equal only 218 years (David-Solomon, 82 years; Hasmonean, 66 years; and Modern Israel, 70 years).
If you count the existence of Israel as a state in one form or another from the time of King Saul (1030 BC) to its destruction under the Romans in 70 AD, you have a total of 960 years. During that time, the Jewish people lived under a unified, sovereign government for only 148 years (David-Solomon, 82 years and Hasmonean, 66 years), totaling only 15 percent of the time.
Some historians would add the period when Judah existed alone, from 722 to 586 BC, a period of 136 years. But during those years, the nation was often under the domination of foreign powers like the Assyrians and the Egyptians, requiring it to pay tribute as a vassal state.
The point is that Israel has never been able to exist for very long as an independent, unified sovereign nation.
Prospects for Today
And, for that reason and others, most modern experts on the Middle East suggest that the current state of Israel (the Third United Kingdom) will also have a short life. On the surface that estimation seems valid. After all, Israel’s seven million Jews are surrounded by 22 hostile Arab nations with more than 400 million people. Israel’s survival appears to be hopeless.
But, “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). Israel has been engaged in constant, never-ending warfare ever since the modern state was established, and Israel has miraculously survived. This is in fulfillment of Bible prophecy which says that in the end times, Israel will be like David against Goliath (Zechariah 12:8) and that Israel will consume its adversaries like a raging fire in the midst of a woodpile (Zechariah 12:6).
The Bible also promises supernatural protection of Israel when the nation is invaded in the end times by a mighty coalition of enemies led by Russia (Ezekiel 38 & 39). This overwhelming army will be destroyed by God with battlefield confusion, earthquakes, pestilence, torrential rain, hailstones, fire and brimstone (Ezekiel 38:20-22 and Ezekiel 39:6).
But the Bible also prophesies that the current state of Israel will be overthrown by the Antichrist in the middle of the Tribulation when the Jews reject him as their Messiah (Revelation 12:13-17). During the last half of the Tribulation (3½ years), the Antichrist will become obsessed with annihilating the Jewish people, and they will scatter to other nations, including modern day Jordan where they will be supernaturally protected (Daniel 11:41).
At the end of the Tribulation, we are told that the remnant of surviving Jews worldwide will put their faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10 and 13:1).
When Jesus returns to this earth at the end of the Tribulation, He will regather all believing Jews back to their homeland and establish them as the prime nation of the world, and they “will never be uprooted again”(Amos 9:15).