Week 2, Lesson 4: Israel’s Miraculous War History
89 I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever;
With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations.
2 For I have said, “Mercy shall be built up forever;
Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.”
5 And the heavens will praise Your wonders, O Lord;
Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the saints.
8 O Lord God of hosts,
Who is mighty like You, O Lord?
Your faithfulness also surrounds You.
Welcome back, Israel friends! It is good to praise the Lord for His faithfulness, isn’t it! We have discovered His faithfulness in so many ways, and my prayer is that you have grown in your own faith as well! We have so much more ahead of us as we experience the land, the people, and the culture of Israel. God has special blessings for you!
In Israel, well over half the population is secular, not following closely with any form of Judaism. Yet virtually every Jew will acknowledge the hand of God upon their nation, particularly when it comes to their war history. Why? Because God has performed miracle after miracle on behalf of the Jewish people. Let’s set the stage by learning bare basics about Israel’s miraculous war history.
War of Independence (1948)
Four hours after Israel was reborn, several Arab nations attacked. Tensions had risen when the UN issued the Partition Plan on November 27, 1947. The plan signaled to the Arab world that Jews would soon have a homeland, and they were not happy about it. So, it was no surprise that Israel was attacked by Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq as soon as they declared statehood.
Imagine coming fresh out of the Holocaust and having to work particularly hard to establish a home in a barren wasteland. Israel was not prepared for battle! Short-handed and untrained, Israel had 3 partially functional tanks and 4 aircraft not built for battle, yet they faced hundreds of Arab tanks and aircraft and many more soldiers and equipment.
But God had fulfilled His promise to bring the Jews home and He was not about to allow the enemy to “wipe them off the map.” Miracle after miracle occurred and when the battle was over, Israel stood!
That victory partially fulfilled Psalm 83. Read verses 1-4 of that chapter.
- What pleas did the psalmist make? Is that understandable in this context, given the Jewish people had no military or military equipment?
- What was the enemy’s stated goal in verse 4?
- What is the significance of the name of Israel being remembered no more?
Now, to verses 5-8, where the attacking nations are identified:
- Edom, Moab, and Ammon are areas of Jordan.
- Ishmaelites and Hagrites were descendants of Ishmael, the son of Abraham through Hager (Sarah’s handmaiden). They lived east of the Jordan River, and it is believed some migrated to Egypt.
- Gebal and Tyre were located in Lebanon.
- Amalek was a grandson of Esau, who struggled against his brother, Jacob (whose name later became Israel). The Amalekites had been the first enemy to attack the Jews following the return from exile in Egypt. They remained enemies and occupied parts of Palestine.
- Philistia was up the Mediterranean coast from Egypt, in what is today the Gaza Strip.
- Assyria included parts of modern-day Syria and Iraq.
Psalm 83 goes on to record the pleadings of the prophetic author (Asaph), requesting God’s intervention on behalf of the Jewish people. What is the plea in verse 17?
Verse 18 is obviously not prophetically fulfilled yet, but God did faithfully defend the land and the people of Israel.
Suez War (1956)
Israel’s victory in the War of Independence only frustrated Arab leaders in the region who longed to overtake the Jewish state now that the Jews had begun making something of the land again.
Soon after their defeat in 1948, the Egyptian Foreign Minister said: The Arab people will not be embarrassed to declare: We shall not be satisfied except by the final obliteration of Israel from the map of the Middle East. Thus, tensions continued to build.
In 1949, Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser, who had been a Nazi supporter during WWII, denied Israel access to the Suez Canal and Gulf of Aqaba. The UN made a half-hearted demand to open it in 1951, which the Egyptians ignored, and Nasser vowed to “cleanse the land of Palestine.” But the tables would ultimately turn.
In October 1956, following rumblings of another Arab attack, Israel preemptively launched Operation Kadesh and, again despite being much smaller, less equipped, and less trained, Israel thoroughly defeated Egypt in only 8 days.
Six-Day War (1967)
The 20-year-old nation of Israel was forced to contend with brutal neighboring regimes who constantly threatened to wipe them off the map. The tiny nation, still coming out of mental anguish and financial poverty inflicted by the Holocaust, never became a great military force until much later.
But Israel’s enemies were not waiting around for Israel to become powerful. They grew more humiliated by defeat and embarrassment, so vowed all the more to destroy Israel.
The 1960’s were tumultuous everywhere, and the Middle East was no exception. Arabs in Israel had a “nationalist” movement of their own as they embraced Palestine as their heritage (though the term was originally given as an insult to the Jewish people by the Roman emperor Hadrian centuries before). Out of that, the Palestinian Liberation Organization was founded in 1964 during a summit in Cairo Egypt. Terror attacks in Israel, including Syria bombing from the Golan Heights ensued.
Prime Minister Golda Meir’s pleas to the United Nations went ignored, so on April 7, 1967, Israel shot down 6 Syrian fighter jets, though it did not deter the Arabs. Thus, in a 6-day conquest amidst Arab threats of jihad, Israel utterly destroyed Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian air forces, and made good on the miracles of God during a 20-hour uphill push on the Golan Heights to push back the Syrian ground forces.
It was a stunning victory filled with untold miracles. (If you were there for our video with Arie Bar David, you heard about a few of those miracles!) Again, lots fewer aircraft, ground equipment, and soldiers, but a faithful God who would not allow them to be destroyed. In fact, Israel conquered the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and the Sinai Peninsula, almost tripling the size of Israel! But alas, for the false promises of peace, Israel ceded back the Sinai Peninsula and controversy over the Golan Heights and West Bank continue to this day!
Perhaps the most significant victory during the Six-Day War, though, was Israel’s retaking of Temple Mount (after about 2,000 years) and Jerusalem, which had been vastly destroyed in the hands of Arabs. It was a joyous time, but very short-lived.
War of Attrition (1968-1970)
Totally humiliated, Egyptian President Nasser resigned amid his country’s pleas to remain. He agreed to the ceasefire with Israel but needed to prove his people’s confidence. Thus, he devised a plan of slow, drawn-out war intended to wear Israel down.
Three weeks after the Six-Day War Israeli troops were bombed near the Suez Canal and the PLO and Fatah (another political party with military ambition) began systematic raids from Jordan. This became standard operating procedure for the Arabs. Yet, God remained faithful and miraculously Israel lost very few soldiers or citizens to such attacks. But revenge remained on the minds of the humiliated Arab nations.
Yom Kippur War (1973)
Still coming into their own, and very much acknowledging the protective hand of God, Israel remained vigilant in the face of constant threat. But Yom Kippur is Israel’s holiest day, when most soldiers spend the day at home with their families. It was the perfect time for humiliated Arab generals to strike, and that is what they did on October 6, 1973.
It was a vicious attack from nine Arab and four other Muslim nations, and they immediately got the upper hand. Well out-numbered and out-gunned, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir called US President Nixon in the middle of the night, requesting assistance. Nixon wanted time to run the request through process, but Meir told him, By the time you [American aid] get here, we won’t be here! In that moment, President Nixon remembered the words of his mother who used to read Bible stories to him as a young boy. She allegedly told him, Richard, if you are ever in a position to help the Jewish people, do it!
That admonition came to him, and he immediately sent aircraft and military equipment that arrived on October 12 and helped turn the tide. A week later, Israel had the upper hand and a UN ceasefire resolution halted Israeli advancements on Cairo Egypt and Damascus Syria.
It is becoming “old hat,” but once again, if not for the miracles of a faithful God, Israel had no chance. Arab leaders that border Israel backed off, as if to know they could not achieve the mission of wiping Israel off the map using the same strategy over and over. Fulfillment of the Psalm 83 prophecy was at hand, as the nations listed either made peace with Israel (Egypt and Jordan) or chose to wage war a different way: via proxies from nations beyond Israel’s borders.
Gaza Conflicts (2008-2009, 2014, 2018, 2020)
Through the years, it has become obvious the Middle East will never be settled as long as God’s people are in the land God promised them. However, after much humiliation, Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 and Jordan signed a similar treaty with Israel that officially ended the state of war that existed between the two since 1948. More recently, the Abraham Accords brought the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco into the fold.
While tensions have calmed with those nations, proxy wars are being fought in places like the Gaza Strip and Syria. From time-to-time, mostly Iranian-supplied rockets fly from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon via proxy terrorist groups, reigniting conflict. Contrary to previous times, though, Israel’s military has become the 8th most powerful in the world and they have military superiority over the region. Besides that, God apparently reroutes enemy rockets!
Syria is another story altogether and we will consider the situation there in next week’s study.
But here is the takeaway for today: For decades, Israel was poor financially and militarily. The Holocaust took its toll and almost destroyed the Jewish people. They had nothing and were not capable of defending themselves, but a faithful God stood on their side. How about you? Do you encounter situations that are just entirely too big to handle? Do you need the faithful hand of God to redirect some “rockets” in your life? The faithful God of Israel is just as faithful to you!
So, I leave you with Psalm 124, written by a warrior-king, David. It so aptly reveals just how faithful God is when He is on our side!
124 “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,”
Let Israel now say—
2 “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,
When men rose up against us,
3 Then they would have swallowed us alive,
When their wrath was kindled against us;
4 Then the waters would have overwhelmed us,
The stream would have gone over our soul;
5 Then the swollen waters
Would have gone over our soul.”
6 Blessed be the Lord,
Who has not given us as prey to their teeth.
7 Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers;
The snare is broken, and we have escaped.
8 Our help is in the name of the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
(You can learn more about Israel’s war history in The Wars of Israel – Part 1 and The Wars of Israel – Part 2)