Friday, February 27, 2004

EARTHQUAKES IN ISRAEL: The Jerusalem Post has a historical review:
When the earth trembles

The tremors felt throughout Israel earlier this month had been predicted for some time by seismologists.

There is a fault (no pun intended) that runs through our country, and every so often the seismic plates shift and rub against each other, causing the earth to tremble.

Our country has a long history of earthquakes. In the Book of Isaiah and the Book of Kings, we are told of the great earthquake that occurred during the reign of King Uzziah in First Temple times. That earthquake made such a great impression upon the populace that later events were dated from the time of the quake.

Not entirely correct. There is no mention of this earthquake in Isaiah or Kings but the prophet Amos dates his visions by it in Amos 1:1 and it is mentioned in passing in an anonymous oracle in Zechariah 14:5
According to the Talmud, the earthquake coincied with King Uzziah's contraction of leprosy; subsequent references to the physical earthquake connoted the "spiritual earthquake" that befell the king.

This earthquake also foretold the decline of the Kingdom of Judah, even though that would not occur for a number of centuries. Because of this, the earthquake during the time of King Uzziah became a watershed in Jewish history.


The prevalence of earthquakes in Israel during Second Temple times is indicated in the prayer of the High Priest on Yom Kippur. He included a special wish that the people who lived in the Sharon should be spared the fate of "having their houses become their graves." Apparently, there were frequent and damaging earthquakes in that area. The messianic era is also to be marked by earthquakes in Israel. The mountains of Jerusalem are predicted to split, though it will occasion more joy than sorrow.

Elijah's vision of God was accompanied by an earthquake in 1 Kings 19:11-12 and Jesus' death and resurrection likewise according to Matthew 27:52-54 and 28:1 (but not according to the other Gospels). Paul and Silas were delivered from prison in an earthquake according to Acts 16:26. Earthquakes are also mentioned as an element of the eschatological crisis in Isaiah 29:6, Ezekiel 38:19, and Mark 13:8 (//Matthew 24:7, Luke 22:11) and various places in the Book of Revelation. Whether or not all of these happened (or will happen), this shows that people in biblical times were used to frequent earthquakes.

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