David Ben-Gurion’s love of the Bible, including the New Testament, is well known. I recall finding a copy of the Hebrew New Testament on the original desk of Israel’s first prime minister preserved on his tiny cottage office desk where he and his wife Paula lived in the Negev Desert at Sde Boker.
Ben-Gurion arrived in the Land of Israel at Jaffa port by ship on September 7, 1906, and eventually became a political and intellectual giant, though he stood just five feet tall.
When on the occasion of Israel’s tenth anniversary as a Jewish State in 1958, the very first comprehensive study dedicated exclusively to the correlation of archaeological and historical discoveries in Israel with biblical texts was published, Ben-Gurion, himself a great visionary, was fittingly asked to pen the introduction to the volume on the Former Prophets.
At the time, the five-volume masterpiece entitled “Views of the Biblical World” was acclaimed as a landmark bringing together the best of Jewish and Christians biblical scholars and archaeologists, including the likes of Benjamin Mazar, William Albright, Yigael Yadin, Michael Avi-Yonah, and the books’ Editorial Manager, biblical historian Prof. Ory Mazar.
Read Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s comments below and his passionate and forthright call to the People of Israel to connect the Bible with prophecy and politics in a clarion call for the Jewish State to stand alone as a unique light amidst the secularized culture of modern geo-politics. May his message continue to inspire Jews and Christians around the world who long for the fulfillment of the vision of the Prophets of Israel.
Israel, like all other nations, has both created its homeland and, in turn, has been created by it. But unlike all other nations, Israel has, in fact, two homelands, the one physical and the other spiritual: the Promised Land and the Bible.
In this indissoluble union of body and spirit lies the secret of the survival, uniqueness and recent resurgence of this people, “the smallest of the small.” Because of this, Israel has played so large a part in the history of mankind and its destiny, from ancient times to the present day, and has been set apart from that of all other nations. Israel is a spiritual no less than an ethnic entity: hence its history has been one not only of political and military struggle, but also of ideological and moral striving. Twice it has seen its independence destroyed and itself exiled from its land. For the last two thousand years it has been dispersed among the nations on the globe. Now, in our days, a great miracle has occurred, unique in the history of mankind. Hundreds of thousands of this exiled people have returned to their ancient homeland from east and west, from north and south. They have restored its waste places and established the sovereignty of Israel for the third time.
On its long and painful progress across the stage of history during these last two thousand years, the Jewish people have been sustained by its unbreakable attachment to the Land of its forefathers and its passionate, undying devotion to the Book of Books. It is this twofold loyalty that has given it the vigour to renew its youth and restore its ancient glory — the twofold glory of the Promised Land and of the Bible. There can be no firm foundation for the prosperity of the re-established State of Israel without a constant strengthening and deepening of its organic connection with the Land of Israel and with the Book of Books.
It is, therefore, no mere coincidence that the creation of the State of Israel has been followed by an unprecedented wave of enthusiasm for the Bible among its people and an intense nation-wide interest in biblical studies.
The outstanding event of Israel’s Tenth Anniversary celebrations is the profound and detailed knowledge of the Book displayed by young and old alike.
In the Land and in the Book the nation has ever found the roots of its physical existence, the fountainhead of its moral being, and its material and spiritual salvation. Hence, once again, it is no coincidence that, with the establishment of the State of Israel, the study of the Land and the Book has been restored to its rightful place as one of the main branches of Jewish scholarship.
Today we can see Isaiah’s prophecy of the ingathering of the exiles taking place before our eyes: “I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the east.” At the same time, we can behold the fulfilment of that other great prophecy of Israel’s divine mission: “I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations.” Israel’s future will be assured by the fruits of its homeland and by a way of life inspired the vision of the Book of Books.
The aim of these volumes of “Views of the Biblical World” is to set the Bible in the historical and geographical framework of its time, the epoch of Israel’s ancient independence.
The Bible was not created in a void, nor did the People of Israel live in complete isolation from their neighbors. On the contrary, the civilizations of the biblical period – of Egypt, Assyria, the Canaanites and others – exerted a constant influence on the Israelites, from the earlies days of their settlement in Palestine right down to the destruction of the First Temple. It is this very influence that throws into such striking relief the spiritual uniqueness of the People of the Book. The value and strength of this uniqueness finds eloquent testimony in the remarkable and significant fact of which we are witnesses in our time; in the whole of the Middle East there is only one nation that has preserved its language, culture and faith in an unbroken tradition form biblical times to the present day — the People of Israel.
David Ben-Gurion, Prime Minister of Israel
From the introduction to Volume 2 of “Views of the Biblical World.”
Israel Today will begin a series based on ”Views of the Biblical World” beginning with Volume 5 on the New Testament, where we will discover some of the Jewish and historical backgrounds of the events, parables and teachings of the Book of Books. Join us on this exciting journey through the Biblical World.