Politics and Bible fascinate me. Both characterize life in the Land. Biblical ideas are part of Israeli society and often dominate in conversations, as they also do in the media. The biblical narrative is the foundation for understanding our history, as well as modern political dynamics and social phenomena. Today, for the first time in the history of the State of Israel, a sitting Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is on trial.
How does the Bible view legal proceedings?
- What can we learn from the court hearing against the winegrower Naboth, whose vineyard King Ahab coveted?
- What does the distribution of the manna bread in the desert teach us about economic measures and regulations?
- Does Samson’s intervention with the Philistines uncover a history of evil intent in contract law?
- Or how did the famous verdict of King Solomon influence the Hebrew justice system in Israel?
Lawsuits in the Bible bring to light legal questions and dilemmas regarding values that arise naturally from the biblical text itself and are reflected in contemporary court proceedings. The past helps us to understand the present. This explains why leading attorneys, judges, psychologists and graduating students in Jerusalem annually put biblical figures on trial.
This has a reciprocal effect. First of all, the Bible comes alive through these cases and then consequently we understand the spiritual implications of our present social situation, as people and as a nation.
The Bible is God’s Constitution on this earth. Naturally, it depends whether we believe in it or not.
- Even before the founding of the State of Israel, our first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, emphasized that “the Bible is Israel’s mandate for the Land.”
- Israel’s current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared a few months ago that “the Bible is the basis of Israel’s eternal existence. What we are achieving in the Land is part of the redemption of Israel, and all that we do is based on spiritual and biblical authority.”
- For late-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israel was the open Bible, the written testimony, the identity and the right to exist for the Jewish people: “Under these skies the prophets of Israel expressed their claims for justice.”
- Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated while in office, also related Israel’s claims to the Land to the Bible: “We have returned and have rebuilt our national home here.”
- A Saturday evening, the end of the Sabbath, in the year 1980. At the home of Israel’s national leader, Menachem Begin, the phone rings. On the line is US President Jimmy Carter. Begin asks his advisor to inform Carter that he does not have time now because he is holding his weekly Bible class. He will call back later.
- Golda Meir said that Israel exists because of biblical fulfillment, which emanates from God Himself.
In Israel, the Bible is incorporated into politics and society, and this is often rather strange for outsiders.
For instance, biblical reasons underlie Israel’s rejection any compromise on Jewish control of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, as well as parts of the biblical heartland in Judea and Samaria. And this leads to tension, both at home and abroad, just as it did in biblical times.
The media here regularly debates whether or not religious Jews wielded as much power in ancient times as they do today. Or whether or not a modern Israeli prime minister should be able to get away with the things an Israelite king might have.
The Israeli media often draws parallels between current events and biblical events and trends. But it’s even more exciting to discuss such things among close friends and colleagues who hold differing opinions on modern politics. A group of us get together for this very purpose every two weeks. We debate the current political affairs from a biblical perspective.
My liberal left-wing friends know the Bible just as well as my conservative religious friends. But often each interprets a biblical idea differently. And actually, why not? In this way we are inspired to new ideas and thoughts from the Bible which we would probably have never discovered and would have overlooked like wallpaper without the political events before our very eyes.
Of course, people are bothered by this if the Bible means nothing to them, and they freak out if the Bible is mentioned in connection with a political theme. For the majority of people abroad, the Bible is just a book for fundamentalists, who are then easily condemned as extremists.
But for us this is not the case. In Israel, the majority of the Jewish population respects the Bible, each in his own way. It is true that we have to be careful not to abuse the biblical text by trying to connect certain prophecies to every political event. The idea is to understand together with the Bible the present times.
In the Christian world this is often not the case. What interests them more than anything else is the future. For many Christians in Europe, but even more so for the Evangelical Christians in America, the Bible is often just a book for the future. Their focus is on predicting the next major war in Israel.
- When is Armageddon?
- When is the rapture?
- When will the great tribulation from Revelation happen?
- When is the Messiah coming?
The present and biblical morality in life today are less relevant.
Over the years it has become clear to me that anyone who simply concentrates on the future is missing the present, is missing life. I can’t count the number of times people have come to me with precise predictions of when this or that would happen, thus fulfilling biblical prophecy. I remember how I once laid out all these predictions on my desk for comparison. Each speculated over events very differently. Each was absolutely certain of its accuracy.
There is no escaping the future, that is clear to me. The Bible is first of all a guidepost to stand by us so that we can cope in our private lives, in society and in politics. This is why the Bible fascinates so many people in Israel, no matter who they are and what they believe.