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Biblical significance of dates and conflicts in Israel's history

Israeli artillery stationed near the Israel-Gaza border, in southern Israel, November 2, 2023. (Photo: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

God uses calendar dates to send messages. This is true not only for major fulfillments of Messianic  prophecy, such as Yeshua's death on Passover and resurrection on the Feast of First Fruits, but also throughout history in events that are not fulfillments of prophecy but rather just messages that God is sending to a group of people.

Some examples are as follows: 

The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, which became known as 9-11, was clearly a message for people who understand that 9-1-1 is the number to call for an emergency in the United States. It is not a biblical date, nor is it the number used for emergencies in many other nations, but it would have been clear to  the people of the United States – the people for whom that message was intended. 

Tisha B'Av is the Hebrew calendar date during which the first Temple was destroyed. Many events occurred in Israel's history following the destruction of the Temple on Tisha B'Av in such a way as to remind Israel of the spiritual state of their nation that brought about the destruction of the Temple in the first place. Most of those events were disasters, such as expulsions from nations or edicts issued for the destruction of the Jewish people, though in at least one of those cases, the Tisha B'Av reminder event was an archaeological discovery hearkening back to the destruction of the Temple. 

In modern Israel's history, there are two events which occurred on special biblical dates (aside from Tisha B'Av). The first was the Yom Kippur War in 1973. In 1967, in only 6 days, Israel reconquered territory corresponding to its biblical homeland including Jerusalem. Despite many miraculous aspects of the war, much of Israel as a nation looked upon the victory as a secular victory brought about by what had then become considered “the unbeatable IDF.”

Judgment came in 1973 when all of Israel's surrounding neighbors attacked on the holiest day of the year – Yom Kippur – while most soldiers were fasting. Israel suffered tremendous loss of life affecting the entire nation, and it looked as if Israel might lose the war. At some point, however, the Syrian tanks stopped moving forward for no apparent reason. At least one of the Syrian tank drivers later reported that he was stopped by an angel and told not to advance further. Thus, the war turned around. God was making it clear that He was the One who gave Israel victory in 1967 and that on their own, they would have lost the war. While the biblical Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – represents a national day of atonement, Rabbinic Judaism views Yom Kippur as the day in which God writes everyone's name in His books – some for another year of  life, and some not – that is, Yom Kippur is thought of as a day of judgment. 

On Aug. 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. In early 1991, in order to push Iraq out of Kuwait, the United States and a coalition of other nations attacked Iraq in what became known as the Gulf War. In response to being  attacked, Iraq began to launch scud missiles into Israel (despite the fact that Israel had not entered the war). Saddam Hussein claimed that the missiles were armed with poisonous gas. This was at a time before the Iron Dome existed, so missiles that landed in Israel often destroyed buildings. Israelis sat huddled in their bomb shelters wearing gas masks while the war continued. The war ended on Purim, thus sending a message to Israel that God had delivered them from their enemy as He had done many years before on the original holiday of Purim. 

On Oct. 7, on Shmini Atzeret, Hamas terrorists broke through the fence separating Gaza from the rest of Israel and carried out the worst terrorist attack in modern Jewish history since the Holocaust. Thus began the war in which Israel is currently involved – a war called “Iron Swords.”

From a human perspective, there were several reasons that Hamas chose Oct. 7 to launch the attack – an attack for which they had planned for several years. However, one cannot ignore the sovereign hand of God who sends messages through dates. While the deeper meaning behind that specific date might allude us until after the war is over and the results are known, it is worth looking at the possible messages that God may be sending us through use of this date. 

Oct. 7 of this year was the holiday known as Shmini Atzeret. It is also celebrated in Israel as the rabbinic holiday of Simchat Torah. There is a lot of confusion around the holiday of Shmini Atzeret. It occurs the day after Sukkot and is a separate holiday, though often celebrated as an extension of Sukkot. The Bible describes Sukkot as seven days long, but then describes the 8th day as Shmini Atzeret. 

Atzeret comes from the Hebrew word for “stop.” Numbers 29 and Leviticus 23 both describe Sukkot as being only seven days long (Lev. 23:34, Num. 29:12). Each of these passages then mentions that on the eighth day, there is to be a Sabbath rest. Numbers 29 outlines the large amount of burnt offerings that are to be presented each day of Sukkot in such a way that they are counting down toward the last day, with 13 bulls being sacrificed on the first day down to seven bulls (the number of completion) on the seventh day (again, the number of completion).

The eighth day is then described in Numbers 29:35. The Hebrew בשמיני עצרת b'shmini atzeret, that is – on the eighth, atzeret. Or on the eighth day, there is an atzeret or a stop. There is also a single bull offered on the eighth day. Thus, the eighth day is referred to as the biblical holiday of Shmini Atzeret – both a holiday in its own right and a holiday that is connected to Sukkot. 

Shmini Atzeret, being a holiday that is separate from Sukkot is, therefore, the last holiday in the calendar cycle of holidays. From a Messianic perspective, if Sukkot represents the future millennial reign of Messiah, Shmini Atzeret would represent the events immediately following the millennial reign. Rev 20:7-10 describes the events immediately after the millennial reign of Messiah. Satan is released from his prison. He deceives the nations to make war against Israel in the battle of Gog and Magog. God destroys the nations that come up against Israel and throws Satan into the lake of fire. 

What about Sukkot? Sukkot is also referred to in the Bible as the 'Feast of Ingathering,' since it occurs at the end of the harvest season. God commanded the people of Israel to build temporary structures and live in them for seven days as a remembrance of their time in the wilderness. Shmini Atzeret, being the day  after Sukkot, is the day after they are to dwell in those temporary structures. 

Simchat Torah is also celebrated in Israel on Shmini Atzeret, though in the diaspora, it is celebrated  one day later. Simchat Torah is a rabbinic holiday which celebrates completion of the yearly Torah reading cycle in the synagogues. The last verses of Deuteronomy are read. Then the Torah scrolls are wound back to the beginning and the first part of Genesis is then read. Afterward, there is a great celebration involving dancing with Torah scrolls and rejoicing. 

There are thus at least three different holidays that one could ascribe to Oct. 7 of this year, and different messages associated with each of the three.

It may have a Messianic significance, as corresponding to the battle of Gog and Magog in which God destroys Israel's enemies; it can be significant as being the day after Israel would be living in temporary dwellings; and it could be associated with Simchat Torah – either with the aspect of new beginnings or with rejoicing over God's word. 

If God was speaking to Israel through the current war, Simchat Torah is the least likely of the holiday's meanings to be involved, given that the horrendous terrorist acts caused the opposite effect of any kind of rejoicing and led instead to shock, mourning, and anger in the nation. With the possible exception of ushering in a time of new beginnings, I think that the correspondence of Oct. 7 to Simchat Torah is the least likely to be relevant for the message that God might be sending.

If the correspondence of the past Oct. 7 to a potential Messianic fulfillment of Shmini Atzeret was most relevant, then perhaps we will see a supernatural victory for Israel as God Himself intervenes to destroy nations that are rising up against Israel. Only time will tell whether or not that happens. So far, there is no indication that this is the direction to which circumstances are taking us, however, if Iran decides to enter the war either directly or through its many proxies, things might go in a different direction. 

If the message is related to “the day after Sukkot” then it may be a message being sent to Jews living  abroad. Diaspora Jews have been living in the temporary dwelling of the nations for many years and  God might be sending a message to them that it is time to leave those temporary dwellings and come home to Israel. The level of antisemitic attacks that we are seeing all over the world is far beyond what is normally seen when Israel fights back against its enemies.

The level of antisemitic attacks abroad and the various foreign governments' inability or refusal to do anything about those attacks has probably made some Jews reconsider the wisdom of remaining in the diaspora. It is still unclear whether this will actually lead to a significant uptick in aliyah, immigration to Israel.

Only time will tell whether or not this war was the trigger for the final ingathering of the Jewish people, started as a result of a war that began the day after Sukkot – The Feast of Ingathering – or if the message God is sending us will be related to a different aspect of Shmini Atzeret, Sukkot or Simchat Torah. 

Avraham Jungreis made aliyah from the US in 2012. He lives in Ra'anana with his wife and four  children.

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