When Will Israel Return?
In order to answer this question, we will examine in this article the verses in Deu 30:3-4 in which God has said that He shall turn back Israel’s captivity and gather them from all the peoples. Is this one return of Israel God speaking of stated twice in two different ways, or two returns of Israel?
then Yehovah your Elohim shall turn back your captivity, and shall have compassion on you, and He shall turn back and gather you from all the peoples where Yehovah your Elohim has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under the heavens, from there Yehovah your Elohim does gather you, and from there He does take you. (Deu 30:3-4)
The Hebrew word used here for “he will return” is not veheishiv—which means “he will bring back”— but veshav, which literally means “he will come back.” The sages learned from this that the Presence of the Most High resides among Israel wherever they are in their exile, and when Israel is redeemed, YHVH speaks of it as His own redemption— He Himself returns along with His people.
Another interpretation by Rashi of the above verses is that the day on which Israel’s exiles will be gathered will be so monumental, that it is as though He Himself will take each individual Jew with His very hands out of the exile. Thus, the verse says,
You will be gathered up, one by one, O children of Israel. (Isa 27:12).
We find this also regarding the exiles from the other nations, as the verse says,
I shall return the exiles of Egypt. (Eze 29:14)
And indeed, it is so since the verb used by YHVH in Deu 30:3 is shuv to turn back, to return. This is the same verb from which teshuvah (repentance) comes.
So, what does this prophecy say to us? First, we need to notice the unusual wording in the passage, as if the prophecy of returning of Israel from exile is repeated twice. Is this one return YHVH speaks of stated twice in two different ways, or two returns of Israel? Why should that be necessary when only one single statement would be good enough to convey the message? Unless, of course, there is a deeper meaning hidden here.
Let us use the Chiastic analysis of Deu 30:3-4 may reveal to us the hidden message. Let us keep in mind that a chiastic structure is an inversion in a second of two parallel phrases. For more on how the chiastic structures have been used to analyze particular text in the Hebrew Scripture, please, refer to chapters (click on the links) In the Beginning and Daniel’s 70-week Prophecy of the present authors book The Reckoning of Time.
In our verses, an ABAB Chiastic structure’s concepts are placed in a symmetric order or pattern to emphasize them and draw a parallelism. For example, topic A in the Creation story is all about filling and topic B is about separating the creation. Because the topics in the text appear in the order ABAB so that the first concept A is repeated again and so is the second topic B, this comes to tell that topics A and B complement each other to teach.
In the second case, a different chiasm is used of type ABC…CBA chiastic structure. The ABC…CBA chiastic structure is used in many places in the Torah. This kind of chiastic structure is used to give emphasis to the inmost concept, i.e., C, the concept that appears either twice in succession or only appears once. Also, it shows that the other ideas are all leading up to the middle idea or concept. The idea behind this type of structure is to point the reader to the central idea, in this case, that of C-statement.
Having said all that, let us break Deu 30:3-4 into two segments of the chiastic structure, as seen below:
A: then Yehovah your Elohim shall turn back your captivity, and shall have compassion on you,
B: and He shall turn back and gather you from all the peoples where Yehovah your Elohim has scattered you.
B: If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under the heavens,
A: from there Yehovah your Elohim does gather you, and from there He does take you.
The analysis of the verses shows us that this is the same chiastic structure as in Daniel’s prophecy: type ABBA, which shows that the middle statement behind this type of structure is to point the reader to the idea that this is not one return stated twice in two different ways, but two returns of Israel.
Again, is this one return stated twice in two different ways, or two returns? According to the chiastic analysis of Deu 30:3-4, it is a prophecy of two returns: one stated in statement A and the other stated in statement B. And indeed, the sages also believe there will be two returns of the exile and these two returns may look like this:
- 1948 Return: YHVH your Elohim shall return your captivity, and shall have compassion on you (Deu 30:3A), from there YHVH your Elohim does gather you, (Deu 30:4A), (also Eze 11:17-20)
- 20XX Return: and He shall return and gather you from all the peoples where YHVH your Elohim has scattered you, (Deu 30:3B), and from there He does take you. (Deu 30:4B), (also Eze 36:22-28)
Could these two returns be 70 years apart: 1948 and 2018, as in Daniel 9? If this will be the case, then we see that statement B is in the middle, that is, it is in the focal point of the prophecy, and it refers to the Greater Exodus, or the final exodus, of Israel when the nation will be called from the four sides of the earth.
In the present author’s opinion, statement B clearly refers to the Greater Exodus when YHVH will gather Israel from all the peoples, that is from all the world, versus statement A where this clause is not presented which refers to the first exodus of Israel after the second world war when only the European Jewry returned to the land. Time will tell whether this interpretation has a valid point.
Now, let us see what purpose the two returns of Israel from exile will serve, if not to glorify the Name of the Most High:
The days are coming when it is no longer said, ‘Yehovah lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘Yehovah lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.’ For I shall bring them back into their land I gave to their fathers (Jer 16:14-16 and Jer 23:7-8).
In Talmud, Pesachim 87b the sages give another explanation of the purpose of the great gathering of all Israel:
It is a kindness that God did to Israel, that He scattered them amongst the nations. … Does a person then sow a measure of grain, if not to harvest many measures? So too, the people of Israel were exiled amongst the nations only so that converts be added to them . . .
This statement echos the statement of another great sage, the same one who wrote Romans 11.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.