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Walls of Protection

by Douglas Berner

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. (Isaiah 49:16 KJV)

There is a theme woven throughout a number of Old Testament passages where a wall, or a fence, or a hedge provides a measure of protection from one’s enemies. Walls, fences, and hedges were physical barriers to unauthorized entry.

In Ezekiel 38, God declares that Gog will have an evil thought. God says regarding Gog, And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, …(Ezekiel 38:11 KJV)

God is describing some of the conditions which will exist at the time of an invasion of Israel by an alliance of nations generally referred to as Gog and Magog. The people of Israel are characterized as living safely and without walls. The Hebrew word “betach” which is translated as “safely” in this verse can also mean “carelessly” or a “false sense of security.” This is the better understanding of the meaning of the word “betach” as it is used in the context of the pending war of Gog and Magog.

This sense of carelessness is also reflected by the translation of the same word in Ezekiel 39:6 where it refers to those peoples who dwell “carelessly” in the isles. And I will send a fire upon Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am the LORD.

The prophet Jeremiah also used this word “betach” in the same sense in a prophecy against Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor, referring to nomadic Arabs dwelling in tents in Saudi Arabia. Arise, get you up unto the wealthy nation, that dwelleth without care, saith the LORD, which have neither gates nor bars, which dwell alone. Here, in Jeremiah 49:31, betach is translated as “without care.” The nomadic Arabs situated their clusters of tents in isolated locations and lived without the protection of walls, bars, and gates.

Ezekiel’s prophecy stresses the point that Israel will be “unwalled” or “dwelling without walls.” Except for the nomadic Arabs, this was a physical condition that Ezekiel would have not known during his own time. The typical condition for a city or a village during those times was to be surrounded by a rock wall and to have a gate or gates which provided protection from both wild animals and hostile peoples.

Today Israel is largely a land of unwalled cities and settlements. However, it is not completely without walls or gates. We know that Israel is mired in controversy regarding the construction of a barrier fence and wall between certain Jewish controlled areas and certain Palestinian controlled areas. Israel’s planned route for this barrier fence has been challenged by law suits and altered by several court decisions. Also, most Jewish settlements have security fences and gated entrances with security guards for protection.

While Ezekiel is most likely pointing to the modern condition of Israel physically dwelling without rock walls, is there another message imbedded in this prophecy? Is Ezekiel hinting at something more than Israel’s vulnerability due to a lack of physical barriers?

Does the passage of Ezekiel 38:11 say anything about Israel’s spiritual condition?

What does a people’s spiritual condition have to do with physical barriers of protection? While walls and hedges can help provide physical protection, that is not enough. People and nations need spiritual protection as well as physical protection. Belief in God, trust in God, and following God’s word leads to a supernatural wall, fence, or hedge of protection that is built in the spiritual realm and carries over into the physical dimension. This supernatural hedge of protection is partly built by the faith and actions of God’s believers and partly by God Himself, but God can completely remove the hedge of protection if it is not maintained by our faith.

The book of Job relates a conversation between God and Satan where Satan accuses God of putting a hedge of protection around Job. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blest the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land (Job 1:8-10). We see from the story of Job that Job’s faith and relationship with God created a condition characterized as God placing a hedge of protection around Job and all that he had and did. We also learn that Satan was not able to exercise his own power over Job until God first removed His own supernatural hedge of protection from Job and granted Satan authority over Job.

The Bible and Israel’s history reveal many instances where God’s protection saved Israel and other times where the Israelites were left without supernatural protection leading to their defeat and exile from the land. Consider the parable of the vineyard in Isaiah 5:1-7, where Israel is specifically identified as the vineyard which God cultivates and builds a fence around. But later God removes the hedge and breaks down the wall which protects the vineyard because the vineyard produces wild grapes instead of good grapes.

Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out  the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay it waste: It shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry. (Isaiah 5:1-7)

Psalm 80 contains a plea for God to return His face and His protection to Israel. It describes Israel as the vine that God removed from Egypt and the vineyard which God then planted. In Psalm 80:12, the psalmist asks why God broke down the hedges surrounding the vineyard leaving Israel vulnerable. Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her?

Referring to this verse, John Phillips wrote, “The world was to know that there, in that little land, God’s Word, God’s worship, and God’s ways could be seen and studied as in an open book. That was Israel’s mission. Buy they failed in that mission. And the fence of spiritual separation—God’s presence and God’s protection—was destroyed.”[i]

The ancient Israelites failed to maintain God’s hedge of protection. They failed to heed God’s commandments and to live by God’s Holy Word and thus the ten northern tribes of Israel were conquered by Assyria and the two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin were conquered by Babylon. Israel failed to recognize God’s promised Messiah when God came to Israel as prophesied in the form of His Son, Jesus. Jesus condemned that generation to God’s judgment and thus there was no supernatural hedge of protection when Israel revolted against Rome in the 60’s A.D. leading to Rome’s destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple in 70 A.D.

Jeremiah gives us an example of God’s desire and promise to Israel. If Israel would just return to God, then God would respond and protect Israel from her enemies. And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brazen wall: and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 15:20)

What about the nation of Israel today? Has Israel erected a supernatural hedge to surround it from its enemies based upon a faithful relationship with God?

Unfortunately, we do not see any evidence of that national faithful relationship between Israel and God. Israel rejected its responsibility over the Temple Mount after its miraculous victory in the Six Day War in 1967. Israel has allowed itself to be pressured into dividing up God’s Promised Land. Israel has largely rejected its responsibilities as caretakers of the land under God’s land covenant with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

What does God have to say about this type of behavior and relationship to Him. Ezekiel 13:3-5 gives us an idea about God’s attitude:

Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts. Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle of the day of the LORD. In his book Covenant, Conflict & Salvation In The End-Times, Baruch Battelstein draws a comparison between present day Israel and this passage from Ezekiel 13. “Just as it was prophesied long ago, Israel’s leaders and prophets are not listening to the word of the Lord; rather they are choosing to do what is right in their own eyes. They have not gone into the breaches, nor have they built a wall of faith and trust in their G-d around the house of Israel.”[ii]

Ezekiel 38 describes Israel as a land of unwalled villages. While we may see a picture of Israel without physical walls, we can also see Israel as lacking the needed wall of protection built by a foundation of faith in God and His Holy Word and doing His will.

Where does this leave Israel in terms of God’s protection against future enemies?

Israel is in harm’s way. God may further respond to Israel’s rejection of Him and His Son, Jesus and allow some significant destruction to impact the nation. This is indicated in the prophecy of Isaiah 17. At the same time as the complete destruction of Damascus, Isaiah 17:4 hints that Israel is also subjected to partial destruction. And in that day it shall come to pass, that the glory of Jacob shall be made thin, and the fatness of his flesh shall wax lean.

How extensive the destruction will be to Israel or to other possible areas of the Middle East: Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, we cannot know. The prophecy regarding the destruction of Damascus seems quite devastating. Some destruction to Israel may actually serve God’s purposes. At the time of the invasion of Israel by the alliance of Gog and Magog, as described by Ezekiel 38, Israel will be vulnerable and totally dependent upon God for its protection. God will supernaturally intervene to save Israel in spite of Israel’s lack of faith because of God’s need to protect and magnify His own holy name.

Israel is a land of unwalled villages, physically and spiritually. Only in the Messianic Kingdom will Israel become a land of cities or villages which are truly fenced or walled. Some believe that Israel will dwell safely without walls under a future covenant of peace enacted by men. But all earthly treaties and covenants that Israel enters into will at best result in an increased false sense of security. The only source of true security that Israel can ever count on is God.

What promise does God give to Israel regarding its future relationship to Him and Israel’s ultimate walls of protection?

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. (Isaiah 49:16)

Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. (Ezekiel 36:33-35 KJV – bold face emphasis added)

Why does God make a point about cities becoming fenced in the Millennial Kingdom setting?

The situation described by Ezekiel in these verses cannot exist until after the war of Gog and Magog, the war of Armageddon, the second coming of Christ, and the beginning of the Millennial reign of Christ. Why would cites considered unwalled or unfenced prior to the Millennium then be considered becoming fenced?

Because the real walls or fences that the scripture mentions are spiritual in nature and describe the relationship that will exist between Israel and God during the Millennial Kingdom after Israel has completely turned to God and Jesus Christ in faith and accepted the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

But God takes this message to an even deeper level.

In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. (Isaiah 26:1-2)

Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise. (Isaiah 60:18)

God draws a distinct parallel between walls of protection and salvation. God is telling Israel, and all other peoples as well, that in order to have a wall of protection, or a gate by which to enter into true fellowship with God, we must have salvation.

The Hebrew word that is translated salvation in both of these verses from Isaiah is yeshûw‘âh  ישועה  which points us directly to Yeshua  ישוע  the Hebrew name of Jesus. Jesus Christ is our salvation, our wall of protection, and our gateway to fellowship with God. Have we as individuals truly accepted God’s wall of protection and His gateway to fellowship with Him?

We should ask ourselves just what national relationship that the United States, or any other western nation, has maintained with God. Have we maintained an adequate national and supernatural hedge of protection based upon faith and obedience to God and Christ?

Or, are we a land of unwalled cities, just like Israel, dwelling carelessly in the isles?

[1] John Phillips, Exploring Psalms, Volume One: An Expository Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1988), p. 662.

2 Baruch Battelstein, Covenant, Conflict & Salvation In The End-Times, (Italy: Destiny Image Europe, 2007), p. 65.