“Can we ever live together in peace?” asked my Orthodox Jewish friend. She was despairing over the situation in Gaza and the ongoing fermenting of terrorism by radical Islamists. Like her, many of her fellow Israelis have lost hope in a future peaceful co-existence with their Palestinian neighbours and especially with those living under Hamas in Gaza.
‘Will there ever be peace?’ my Orthodox friend repeated. I found myself unable to answer her question, and decided to study the Scriptures to see what the Bible reveals about the future of Gaza.
What I found surprised and excited me, and gave me hope that this horrible situation will one day be turned into a beautiful picture of co-existence and harmony in submission to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!
Gaza in Bible Times
During Old Testament times, Gaza was the home of Israel’s feared archenemy – the Philistines. It was from Gaza city that Samson carried away the city gates up to hilly Hebron (an impressive feat!), and it was here that Samson spent his days in prison until his spectacular death while tearing down the Temple of the Philistine god Dagon.
Many might find it surprising that the Bible record places the territory of Gaza within the inheritance God allotted to the tribe of Judah (see Joshua 13:1-3, 15:21,47). God has outlined many specific promises to the Jewish people throughout the Scriptures. The unconditional promise of specific land including Gaza as part of their inheritance is one of many yet unfulfilled promises of the Scriptures. We know that God is faithful to keep His promises, and I therefore believe that at some point in the future God will place Gaza firmly under Israeli control.
The Judgment of Gaza
But what about the Palestinians living in today’s Gaza? Although modern Palestinians are not descended from this ancient and long-extinct Philistine people, Palestinians have inherited much the same geographical areas and share a similar antagonistic relationship with Israel just like the ancient Philistines.
The destiny of Gaza and her Palestinian inhabitants is foretold in the prophecies of Zephaniah and Zechariah. In the context of “the day of the Lord’s anger”, Zephaniah 2:4 foresees a time when Gaza shall be ‘forsaken’ or abandoned. In verse 5, the Lord pours out judgment on Gaza, and in verses 6-7, the prophet foresees the coast of Gaza being allocated for the ‘remnant of the house of Judah’.
Similarly, Zec. 9:5 predicts that the ‘king shall perish from Gaza’. Ultimately the spiritual law of sowing and reaping will come into effect, and the terror that has emanated from the mouth of the Gazan leadership will return in judgement upon these leaders. God is a God of justice, and will in His timing render to ‘each his due’.
Is there Hope for Gaza?
It is important to note that the very same Scriptures that predict the judgment and destruction of Gaza, also give a message of radiant hope for the ‘remnant of Gaza’.
Zec. 9:7 (NKJV) says that those who remain in Gaza shall:
- “Be for our God”
- “Be as a governor in Judah”
- “Be as a Jebusite"
The first promise tells us that the remnant of Gaza shall experience a great turning to the Lord – the Lord God of Israel. They shall not all be wiped out, but many shall have a change of heart and turn from a religion of violence to the find the true Prince of Peace.
The second promise is that this remnant of Gaza is to be ‘as a governor in Judah’. The word ‘governor’ can also be translated intimate friend. Not only will the remnant of Gaza turn to the Lord, but they will also become true friends of Israel. What an amazing miracle! Furthermore, the word translated ‘governor’ is today used to describe officers in Israel’s army. Perhaps this scripture is foretelling that one day Gazans will become trusted leaders in Israel’s army!
The third and final promise reinforces the first two promises given to the remnant of Gaza. This promise confidently declares that this remnant will one day be ‘as a Jebusite’.
Who were the Jebusites? The Jebusites were an ancient people who once controlled Jerusalem. Many Jebusites remained living among the people of Israel after the conquest of Canaan – and the most famous of these Jebusites in Scripture is Araunah. Araunah was going about his daily business as the owner of a threshing floor, when in 2 Sam. 24 King David comes rushing to him. At the time, divine judgment was coming on Israel, and an angel assigned to destroy Jerusalem was spotted at Araunah’s threshing floor.
As King David encounters Araunah, we can observe several key facts about this Jebusite and his relationship to Israel’s King, People and the God of Israel (2 Sam 24:18-23):
- Although he lived among the people of Israel, Araunah was still known as a Jebusite and maintained his separate identity
- He bowed down and honoured the King of Israel and even described himself as the King’s servant
- Araunah believed in and honoured the God of Israel
Zechariah’s prophecy foreseeing the Gazan remnant being ‘as a Jebusite’ thus tells us that the remnant of Gaza will live among the Israelites, but maintain their own separate identity. It further foresees that they will live in peaceful submission to Israeli authorities, and ultimately that they will turn to and believe in the Lord God of Israel.
Yes, There is Hope for Gaza!
To answer the question of my Orthodox Jewish friend, I believe that despite the current conflict between Hamas and Israel, there is indeed hope for Gaza. A day of reckoning is coming for wicked terrorist leaders unless they repent. On the other hand, the Scriptures give us hope for a remnant from Gaza which will one day live peacefully among Israelis, be in submission to the Israeli government and most importantly be believers in the one true God of Israel.
In these days of escalating Palestinian / Israeli tensions, let us pray for the Lord’s mercy on individuals on both sides of the conflict. Let us pray that His spirit will be poured out on both sides in an even greater measure, and for a continued strengthening of the unity between Arab and Israeli Believers. Let us also look forward to the prophetic destiny of the remnant of Gaza knowing that at some point they will be turning to the Lord and in fact become true and trusted friends of Israel.