Life was good for the Jews in the southern kingdom of Judah in the eighth century b.c.e. The nation was secure, prosperous and powerful. It was led by King Uzziah, an outstanding leader who had a special genius for fighting and farming, activities crucial to national triumph.
Judah’s success was built on the twin pillars of agriculture and the military. Innovative infrastructure projects, including hundreds of wells, allowed huge tracts of desert to be irrigated and converted into lush pastures and crops. The nation overflowed with fruits, vegetables and livestock.
On the military front, Uzziah established a smartly planned network of fortifications and maintained a large army. His soldiers were outfitted with the most advanced military hardware on the market. The kingdom faced threats: The Philistines in Gaza had made a comeback following their defeats by King David two centuries earlier; the Arabians in the southeast could be pushy. But Judah’s foes were defenseless against vigilant King Uzziah and his superior military.
Does this sound familiar? Today the Jewish state is more secure, prosperous and powerful than at any other time since its creation in 1948. This success is built on a healthy economy and robust military. Israel’s 21st-century resurgence has occurred mainly under the stewardship of one man—a divisive, but undeniably successful leader: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Is this parallel between ancient Judah and modern Israel mere coincidence? Jews in Israel know they are living in the land of their forefathers; most know they are the descendants of the southern kingdom of Judah. Is history somehow repeating itself?
The writings of the biblical prophets such as Isaiah, Amos and Hosea show that many of the events that occurred in Judah anciently were actually a portent, or forerunner, of events that would occur in Judah in the end time. Gerald Flurry, Watch Jerusalem editor in chief, calls this parallel between the past and the present “prophetic duality.” “Although many prophecies have been fulfilled in the past, most of them were only a small type of the greater end-time fulfillment,” he writes in his booklet Isaiah’s End-Time Vision (emphasis added throughout).
Was Judah’s resurgence under King Uzziah a type of Israel’s present success? The positive evidence is abundant and compelling.
Judah’s resurgence is recorded in 2 Chronicles 26 and 2 Kings 15. The Chronicles account meticulously describes King Uzziah’s military victories, his power and fame, and Judah’s impressive “economic, military and cultural renaissance” (esv Bible Atlas). Under Uzziah, Judah attained wealth and glory not seen since the days of King Solomon.
In The Land of the Bible, Yohanan Aharoni wrote: “Uzziah’s varied activities strengthened Judah and raised it in the second half of his long reign (52 years) to its greatest level of power.”
Victories over the Philistines in Gath, Ashdod and Jabneh helped Judah gain control of cities inside enemy territory near the Mediterranean Sea. Triumphs against Arabs in the area of Gurbaal (near Petra, Jordan) expanded Judah’s southern and eastern borders. Uzziah even recovered the coastal city of Elath, endowing his kingdom with a major Red Sea port (see map, page 26).
Judah’s king had a reputation for strength and was feared and respected across the region. “And the Ammonites gave gifts to Uzziah; and his name spread abroad even to the entrance of Egypt; for he waxed exceeding strong” (2 Chronicles 26:8). While Uzziah was the dread of his enemies, he was admired and loved by his people. His popularity, which sprang from his success at forging a strong, secure nation, helped King Uzziah become Judah’s longest-serving king.
Are there parallels here with Benjamin Netanyahu, who, in July, became Israel’s longest-serving prime minister? Mr. Netanyahu’s current tenure began in 2009 (he was also prime minister from 1996–1999). Bibi is a controversial figure and has many critics, especially in the political and media establishments. The result of the recent election indicates that Netanyahu’s grip on power is weakening. But among regular Israelis, he is generally, and very often privately, admired and appreciated. To many, he remains melekh yisrael—“king of Israel.”
Love him or loathe him, it is hard to deny the fruits. Since 2009, Israel’s per capita gross domestic product has grown by almost 45 percent, significantly better than most Western nations; unemployment has remained low; foreign direct investment has reached an all-time high; and Israel’s standard of living has significantly improved. Economists refer to the past 10 years as Israel’s “golden decade.” This year, for the third year in a row, tiny Israel was ranked the eighth-most powerful nation in the world.
Netanyahu’s greatest quality, at least to many Israelis, is his resolve to keep Israel safe. The years before Bibi were marked by carnage and suffering. During the Second Intifada (2000–2005), Palestinian suicide bombers killed more than 1,000 Israelis—more than were killed during the Six-Day War. The threat of bus bombs and café attacks caused many, especially in Jerusalem, to live in a perpetual state of fear. Terrorism remains an ever present threat, but over the past 10 years it has been forcefully and effectively addressed. The fear that once hung over Jerusalem has dissipated, and the nation is confident that it is well defended—mainly thanks to the vigilance of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Uzziah: Lover of Soil
Israel isn’t naturally endowed with abundant agricultural resources. The nation receives very little rainfall and can be miserably hot. More than half of the land is desert. Despite these handicaps, Israel produces 95 percent of its own food. In fact, it cultivates an excess of fruits and vegetables, which it exports all over the world.
Israel is a global leader in several agricultural sectors, including irrigation, milk-production technology, seed development and aquaculture (fish farming). This agricultural success, an outgrowth of the kibbutz movement, testifies of clever planning, hard work and astonishing ingenuity. Much of this, especially the high-tech innovation, has flourished in just the past couple of decades.
Wherever you go in Israel, the land is a canvas of various shades of brown contrasted with plots and stretches of green. These colors tell Israel’s agricultural story and speak to its ability to harness the life-giving power of water. Drive north on Highway 90 through the parched, scorching hot wilderness of the Jordan Valley plain and you will see that even the desert hosts huge plantations of life (mainly date palm trees). Northern Israel is a paradise of hills clothed with vineyards and orchards, and valleys flowing with natural springs and dotted by vegetable farms.
State-of-the-art water treatment technology allows the nation to recycle 86 percent of its wastewater. Spain, second in the world for water recycling, recycles only 19 percent of its wastewater. While every other nation in the Middle East faces water shortages, Israel has water to spare. It is the only country in the world where the deserts are shrinking.
Israel is a world leader in desalination technology. It has multiple desalination plants, which together supply 60 percent of its domestic water needs, easing the pressure on the nation’s wells, natural springs and the Jordan River.
Israel teems with companies and start-ups that specialize in creating new agricultural technology and practices. Taranis, a Tel Aviv-based start-up founded in 2015, uses satellites, planes and drones to conduct aerial surveillance to collect data on crops and pastureland. It integrates this data with factors, such as weather conditions and soil type to give farmers the exact location of weeds, weed density, pests and diseases. Farmers use the information to develop customized treatments, saving time and money, and reducing the use of harmful pesticides.
BioBee specializes in the biological treatment of pests and natural pollination. The company breeds and trains predatory wasps and other insects, which it sends into battle against pests, cutting the need for chemical pesticides by up to 70 percent. BioBee combats fruit flies by breeding and releasing sterile male flies into native fruit-fly communities.
Yes, other nations have impressive technology and innovation. But no other nation of similar size, population or young age has enjoyed success quite like Israel.
Guess who else had a green thumb? “And [Uzziah] built towers in the wilderness, and hewed out many cisterns, for he had much cattle; in the Lowland also, and in the table-land; and he had husbandmen and vinedressers in the mountains and in the fruitful fields; for he loved husbandry” (2 Chronicles 26:10).
The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary says that Uzziah “loved and encouraged all branches of agriculture.” The Amplified Bible simply states: “for he loved the soil.” King Uzziah initiated vast engineering projects to manage Judah’s water resources. New wells were dug in the barren lands along the western shores of the Dead Sea. This new supply of fresh water irrigated pastures and crops. Judah’s sheep flocks and cattle herds grew exponentially. The economy thrived. New villages and cities had to be raised to accommodate population growth.
The “Lowland” lay between the Judean hills and the Mediterranean Sea, while “the table-land” refers to the fertile grazing lands on both sides of the Jordan River. Much like today, this territory during the time of Uzziah was adorned with vineyards, olive plantations, orchards and vegetable farms.
Verse 10 says Uzziah constructed “towers in the wilderness.” These towers served both agricultural and military purposes, sheltering sheep and cattle, while serving the kingdom’s defense strategy. Under King Uzziah, Judah was a land of deep green pastures and towering military lookouts, a land of cattle sheds and soldiers’ barracks, a land of vegetable farms and weapons factories.
Israel today is a comparable blend of agriculture and military—a land of tractors and tanks.
Judah’s Military Supremacy
Under Uzziah, Judah was a military state. The nation had a vast, smartly organized, well-managed military system. 2 Chronicles 26 continues by describing the army, a host of 307,500 disciplined soldiers, commanded by 2,600 skilled officers. The sheer size of the army suggests military service was likely mandatory. These warriors were highly trained and equipped with powerful weapons, including swords, spears, shields, bows and slings. The army “went out to war by bands,” or as it says in another translation, “by numbered regiments” (verses 11-14).
These verses show that King Uzziah himself had the mind and heart of a soldier. He took a personal interest in every aspect of Judah’s military, from broad strategy and logistics to weapons research and development.
“Moreover Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the corner gate, and at the valley gate, and at the Turning, and fortified them” (verse 9). Uzziah fortified Jerusalem, making Judah’s capital safe and secure. Its citizens were able to concentrate on trade, commerce and various cultural activities.
Verse 15 says, “[H]e made in Jerusalem engines, invented by skilful men, to be on the towers and upon the corners, wherewith to shoot arrows and great stones. And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong.” This is the only biblical use of the word “engines.” It refers to the invention of sophisticated military weapons (one commentary says “ingenious instruments”) and their deployment in Jerusalem: enormous crossbows, trebuchets and catapults, all terrifying weapons capable of raining down large stones and arrows—cutting-edge eighth-century b.c.e. military technology. “This is the first intimation on record of any warlike engines for the attack or defense of besieged places, and this account is long prior to anything of the Greeks and Romans” (Clarke’s Commentary).
Uzziah’s high-tech artillery was developed by “skilful men.” The Hebrew word for “skilful men” is chashab, which means “to think, calculate, design, devise, skillful, skillful workman.” Judah had outstanding scientists, engineers and inventors and a first-rate research and development program.
Again, similarities with contemporary Israel are inescapable. Today the Israel Defense Forces (idf) is truly exceptional, even by world standards. It has almost 170,000 active personnel and more than half a million soldiers in reserve. If needed, Israel could marshal a fighting force of more than 750,000 soldiers virtually overnight.
As anciently, Israel’s military is highly organized. The idf goes “out to war by bands,” or in named or numbered regiments. Military service is mandatory for Israeli citizens—men for three years, women for two. The military is a pillar of the nation’s culture and society. Many attribute Israel’s economic success—including its thriving start-up industry and world-class tech sector—to its mandatory military service. Army service helps young people mature faster and develop crucial life skills, such as work ethic, discipline and time management.
Israel’s ground forces comprise 64 maneuver brigades organized into 17 divisions. Israel’s firepower includes 2,760 combat tanks, more than 6,500 armored fighting vehicles and 650 self-propelled artillery. Israel’s air force has around 300 active United States-made F-15 and F-16 fighter jets and 16 F-35 Lightning ii jets, with 50 more on order. The Air Force maintains a fleet of attack helicopters, transport and reconnaissance aircraft, and owns the world’s second-largest inventory of precision-guided munitions. Israel could launch 1,600 to 1,850 sorties per day, the highest rate of any nation in the world.
Israel’s navy is small, yet highly capable. Operating in both the Mediterranean and Red seas, it operates three advanced Sa’ar 5 corvettes (warships), eight Sa’ar 4.5-class missile boats and six German-built submarines, some of which are believed to bear Popeye Turbo cruise missiles that can deliver conventional and nuclear warheads.
Where Israel really stands above other nations is air defense. The nation possesses the world’s most sophisticated ground-based, integrated air defense system. This multitiered missile defense system can intercept long-range ballistic and nuclear missiles, cruise missiles and short-range missiles, as well as rockets, aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Strategically positioned throughout the nation, Iron Dome batteries routinely shoot down short-range missiles fired from Gaza and Lebanon. David’s Sling is designed to intercept enemy planes, drones, tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and rockets from medium range. Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 enable Israel to intercept enemy missiles fired from long-distance. Arrow 3 became operational in January 2017 and has a flight range up to 1,500 miles. It can destroy an enemy missile above Earth’s atmosphere, enabling Israel to neutralize nuclear-armed missiles.
This is extraordinary; Israel is only marginally larger than New Jersey!
This air defense system gives Israel the freedom and confidence to plan and engage in offensive warfare. The idf can project power throughout the region knowing that enemy retaliatory strikes will be met by sophisticated safeguards.
Much of Israel’s air defense system was developed and installed in the last 10 years, under Netanyahu’s attentive leadership. This is no coincidence. Like many of Israel’s leaders, Bibi has a distinguished military career. He was an officer in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit. He has engaged in hand-to-hand combat with terrorists. His brother, Yoni, was killed in the famed Entebbe operation in 1976 and is a national hero.
Bibi is acutely aware of the existential threats Israel faces. His overriding focus has always been national security. In his book A Place Among the Nations, published in 1991, he warned that Iran was a threat and urged utmost caution in peace negotiations with Palestinian leaders. More than any other issue, Netanyahu has concentrated on strengthening the military to ensure that Israel is capable of defending itself.
From the moment he became prime minister in 1999, Netanyahu has maintained a laser focus on Iran. In an interview with Israel Hayom in July, he noted how underprepared Israel was in 1996 for conflict with Iran. “The first time I was elected prime minister, I saw that the matter still hadn’t sunk in. We weren’t in complete agreement, to say the least. We were busy with the Palestinians. … [O]ur systems weren’t calibrated for a confrontation. Not in terms of diplomacy, not in terms of intelligence, not in terms of the military. There was a need to turn the ship around” (July 21).
Netanyahu turned the ship around and now wants to keep Israel locked on course. He is drafting a national security paper to codify Israel’s military strategy, the first official documentation of security doctrine since the nation’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, did it in 1953. Several attempts have been made since, but previous prime ministers have all come up short. Benjamin Netanyahu appears determined to finally accomplish it.
Earlier this year, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies released a memo giving insight into Israel’s new security strategy. Written by Jonathan Schanzer and Brig. Gen. Jacob Nagel, a former national security adviser to Netanyahu, this memo parses recent speeches and other sources. It describes how much personal interest the prime minister has taken in this updated strategy. “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally wrote the document, with the assistance of his top advisers and close staff,” it says.
Schanzer and Nagel say the prime minister’s new strategy will send a “clear message to the world about the way Israel plans to respond to strategic and existential threats, as well as large-scale terror attacks.” It will “likely serve as official Israeli policy for years to come.”
Uzziah and Jeroboam II
One of the most compelling pieces of evidence indicating that Judah’s ancient resurgence was a type, or forerunner, of Israel’s present success revolves around Judah’s connection to its northern neighbor.
Anciently, the northern kingdom of Israel experienced a national resurgence at the same time as Judah. The northern kingdom of Israel formed in the 10th century b.c.e., when 10 of the tribes of Israel split from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin following the death of King Solomon (see map). Israel was dominated by Ephraim and Manasseh—the two largest tribes, and those on which God’s promise of national greatness, originally made to Abraham, had been conferred (Genesis 48).
The modern descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh are Britain and America. When Bible prophecy refers to Israel, it is referring to these two nations. (The reader can prove this thoroughly by reading our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, by Herbert W. Armstrong.)
During the first half of the eighth century b.c.e., the northern kingdom was led by King Jeroboam ii. Like his counterpart in Judah, Jeroboam oversaw a period of tremendous affluence and power. Territorially, Jeroboam ii secured Israel and even expanded its northern border as far north as Hamath (see map). Israel’s resurgence is recorded in 2 Kings 14.
It is important to note the ultimate source of the simultaneous national success of these kingdoms. Regarding Israel during Jeroboam’s reign, the Bible records: “And the Lord said not that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven; but he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash” (verse 27).
Regarding Judah under Uzziah, the Bible records: “And he set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5).
So the Bible relates two crucial details about the resurgences in Israel and Judah. First, they occurred at exactly the same time. Second, though Jeroboam ii and Uzziah were extraordinary leaders, the ultimate source of their success was God. He sponsored the revitalization in both Israel and Judah.
How does this history connect to today?
For more than two years, Watch Jerusalem editor in chief Gerald Flurry has explained that U.S. President Donald Trump is an end-time type of Jeroboam ii. This conclusion is based on an end-time prophecy in Amos 7 that specifically forecasts the emergence in Israel (modern-day America and Britain) of a modern Jeroboam. “God is telling us we have now entered the time frame of Amos chapter 7,” Mr. Flurry writes in his booklet Great Again.
This prophecy has been dramatically fulfilled! Like his ancient predecessor, President Trump has presided over a stunning national resurgence. The U.S. economy is booming and its liberal-minded and lawless “deep state” is being exposed and confronted. Trump is readily challenging America’s competitors, such as China. Friends and foes alike are once again being made to respect U.S. power. The UK appears to be having a similar experience under Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
But what about the State of Israel, the end-time descendant of Judah?
Anciently, the northern kingdom of Israel was much larger than Judah and was strategically situated between Judah and the aggressive powers of Assyria and Babylon. Israel’s resurgence under King Jeroboam enabled national Judah’s resurgence under King Uzziah. “It seems most likely that good relations between Israel and Judah were restored during the reigns of Jeroboam ii and Uzziah. The two sister kingdoms were the strongest powers in Palestine and Syria during that period, and together they ruled an area about as great as the kingdom of David” (The Land of the Bible). For two powerful kingdoms to coexist side by side like that would require some kind of alliance or cooperation.
There is a parallel here with the relationship between Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu. America and its president are a significant contributor to Israel’s success, as well as its confidence and optimism. At a time when anti-Semitism is growing globally and Israel is increasingly maligned and isolated in the international community, the support of America’s president has been indispensable. No other nation or world leader has even come close to supporting Israel as enthusiastically as America and Donald Trump.
Caroline Glick called Mr. Trump “the most pro-Israel president in U.S. history.” In April, Shmuley Boteach, a popular American rabbi, described the sentiment many Jews have toward Donald Trump.” Hearing the most powerful man on Earth acknowledge the rise of Jew-hatred all over the globe, and his declaration of war against it, helped to greatly assuage Jewish feeling of isolation and abandonment,” he wrote. “U.S. President Donald Trump told us that we’re not in this fight alone. There will be no modern Masada. There is no Fortress Israel. The most powerful nation on Earth is by Israel’s side” (Jerusalem Post, April 10).
Is Judah repeating history and experiencing a prophesied resurgence at exactly the same time as America and Britain? The facts and evidence answer with a compelling “Yes!”
What Comes Next?
This is the most important question of all. Anciently, almost immediately after Jeroboam ii died, the kingdom of Israel began to be invaded by the Assyrians. In 745 b.c.e., Tiglath-Pileser iii gained control of Assyria and quickly turned it into a terrifying superpower. Within a decade, Pileser had invaded the northern kingdom, killed thousands, and enslaved tens of thousands more. By 718 b.c.e, Israel had been conquered entirely.
What happened to Judah?
First, notice what the Bible says about King Uzziah: “But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up so that he did corruptly, and he trespassed against the Lord his God; for he went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense” (2 Chronicles 26:16). King Uzziah mistakenly considered himself the architect of Judah’s successes. He became overconfident and proud. He forgot that he had been “marvelously helped” by God.
Nearing the end of his reign, Judah’s king entered the temple and began to perform tasks exclusive to the priesthood. He became corrupt and began to consider himself to be above the law. The priests warned him, but the king rejected their admonitions. God severely chastened him. “And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a house set apart, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord; and Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land” (verse 21).
King Uzziah’s ignominious end contains a powerful lesson: We must obey God and always give Him the credit for success!
The kingdom of Judah never recovered the wealth and power it had during Uzziah’s reign. Following his death, the nation entered a period of turbulence that culminated in its invasion by the Babylonians. Judah met its end in 585 b.c.e., when Jerusalem was razed and the last remaining Jews were taken captive back to Babylon.
This history holds powerful and inspiring lessons for the people of biblical Israel and Judah today!
Anciently, the prophets Isaiah, Amos, Hosea and Jonah all served during the resurgences in Israel and Judah. These prophets delivered powerful warnings to kings Jeroboam ii and Uzziah. We can read these warnings in the writings of these prophets. And just as those ancient events have parallels with today, so do these prophetic warnings! These books are filled with awesome prophecies that describe events that will precede the coming of the Messiah!
The history of Israel and Judah, including the accounts of Jeroboam ii and Uzziah, is also recorded in the former prophets, which consist of the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. Many think these books contain only history. If this is true, why are they called prophets? “There is a special message in all the former prophets” writes Mr. Flurry in his book The Former Prophets. “They are mostly about history, but they are called former prophets for a reason. The word former simply means that they are the earlier prophets. These books were written by prophets and are filled with end-time prophecy.”
There is prophetic duality all through the Hebrew Bible. The history of ancient Israel and Judah contains numerous crucial end-time prophecies. These wonderful books are incredibly relevant for
Israel today is thriving and the nation is strong, confident and secure. But the seeds of Judah’s downfall are evident. Look at the level of vitriol and dysfunction in Israel’s political system. Dramatic changes are underway morally and culturally. Many celebrate the shift away from tradition and convention, but it conflicts with God’s law. Israel right now is relishing the benefits of its national resurgence, but the success comes with a cost morally and socially, culturally and politically.
More than ever, Israelis need to look to their history. Remember the example of King Uzziah. “And [King Uzziah] did that, which was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. And he set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the vision of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:4-5). When Uzziah remembered God, God blessed the king and his people. The trials and tribulations began when Uzziah and Judah forgot God.
God will bless and prosper the nation—and the individual—that strives to obey Him.
The Prophet Isaiah also delivered a warning to King Uzziah and Judah (Isaiah 1:1). This book also contains numerous end-time prophecies, including the awesome admonition in Isaiah 40:9: “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, Get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, Lift up thy voice with strength; Lift it up, be not afraid; Say unto the cities of Judah: ‘Behold your God!’”
Amid the prosperity of today, and the trials and suffering prophesied to come soon upon Israel and Judah, God has one all-important message that He wants delivered to His people: “Behold your God!” Learning this humbling lesson is crucial for Israel and Judah to ensure that the next resurgence isn’t temporary. If we learn to obey and fear God, He will happily bless us for eternity.