Three Weeks Called, “DIRE STRAITS”
Five years ago at this time my wife and I were in the CNN Tower Hotel in Atlanta for a Business Trip we had earned with the insurance company I worked for. The first night was during this time referred to as “DIRE STRAITS.” We were at the pre-dinner gathering for hors d’oeuvres when we met two insurance agents from Los Angeles who were orthodox Jews. They had ordered a kosher meal for the banquet. I mentioned to them if they were aware that this was the time of year called “Dire Straits” and the 9th day of Av? They got excited and asked me how I knew about this important time of the Jewish Calendar. I then told them what I have written below. They were amazed, saying, you know more about this than we were taught in the Synagogue.
For those unfamiliar with the period called the “dire straits”, it is a 3 week time period between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av on the biblical calendar. This year, 2017, it falls between July 11th and August 1st. The first day and the last day are two of the fast days as mentioned in Zechariah 8:19. This is a time period set aside to repent and ask for forgiveness for the sins of our forefathers as Daniel did in Daniel 9:3-19.
These three weeks have always been troublous times for the nation of Israel. The 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av are linked together historically as days on which Israel has been punished for sin. The Lebanon war that broke out a few years ago started on the 17th of Tammuz. In Zech 8:19 it is prophesied that some year that day will turn to a day of rejoicing.
Tzom Tammuz – The Seventeenth of Tammuz
Five great catastrophes occurred in biblical history on the 17th of Tammuz:
- Moses broke the tablets at Mount Sinai — in response to the sin of the Golden Calf. (Exo 32:19)
- The daily offerings in the First Temple were suspended during the siege of Jerusalem, after the Kohanim could no longer obtain animals.
- Jerusalem’s walls were breached, prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD.
- Prior to the Great Revolt, the Roman general Apostamos burned a Torah scroll – setting a precedent for the horrifying burning of Jewish books throughout the centuries.
- An idolatrous image was placed in the Sanctuary of the Holy Temple – a brazen act of blasphemy and desecration.
Notice that two of these events have a second fulfillment yet to come –
The daily sacrifices will be stopped and an idolatrous image will be set up (Dan 11:31; Eze 8:3-5; Rev 13:14-15).
Tisha B’Av – The Ninth of Av
The Israelites were in the desert, recently having experienced the miraculous Exodus, and were poised to enter the Promised Land. But first they sent out a reconnaissance mission, to assist in formulating a prudent battle strategy. The spies returned on the eighth day of Av and reported that the land was unconquerable. That night, the 9th of Av, the people cried. They insisted that they’d rather go back to Egypt than be slaughtered by the Canaanites. God is highly displeased by this public demonstration of distrust in His power, and consequently, with only two exceptions, that generation of Israelites never entered the Holy Land. Only their children had that privilege, after wandering in the desert for 40 years.
Many calamities have occurred on this date in history:
- The spies returned from their scouting mission into the Promised Land and 10 of the 12 gave an evil report filled with fear. Standing in doubt, they were slanderous of God’s Word and promise because He said He would go before them, fight their battles and deliver them into the land. Only Joshua and Caleb gave a report filled with faith. The Israelites were sentenced on Tisha B’Av to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until that generation had died out. Only Joshua, of the tribe of Ephraim and Caleb, of the tribe of Judah were permitted to enter the Promised Land. (Num. 13-14)
- The 1st Temple, Solomon’s Temple, was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. 100,000 Jews were slaughtered and millions more exiled. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin were carried captive to Babylon. The actual fire was set on the 9th of Av. (2King 25:8-9; Jer. 52:12-13)
- The 2nd Temple, Herod’s Temple, was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD on the 9th of Av led by Titus. Some two million Jews died, and another one million were exiled. The Roman army laid siege to Jerusalem and on the 17th of Tammuz the Daily Sacrifice was again stopped. Roman centurions on the 9th of Av burned the Second Temple. The extreme heat of the fire caused gold of the Temple to melt and run into the cracks and crevices between the stones. When the fire cooled the Roman soldiers used wedges and crowbars to overturn every stone in their search for the gold. Luke 19:44 fulfilled. One year later on the 9th of Av the Romans plowed the Temple Mount and the city of Jerusalem to prepare the area to be turned into a Roman colony. Micah 3: 12 fulfilled
4. The Bar Kochba revolt was crushed by Roman Emperor Hadrian. The city of Betar — the Jews’ last stand against the Romans was captured and liquidated. Over 100,000 Jews were slaughtered. (135 AD) The Temple area and its surroundings were plowed under. Jerusalem was rebuilt as a pagan city — renamed Aelia Capitolina — and access was forbidden to Jews.
- In 1290 King Edward I (Longshanks) ordered the expulsion of all Jews from England on the 9th of Av. (And they did not settle there again until Oliver Cromwell gave them that right in 1657.)
- During the Spanish Inquisition, Ferdinand and Isabella issued the Alhambra Decree, on March 31, 1492, ordering all Jews to leave Spain by the end of July 1492. July 31, 1492 was Tisha B’Av. It was during this time that Christopher Columbus, who may himself have been of Jewish descent, left to ‘discover’ America.(Note that if you use a Jewish calendar converter to check this, it may show July 31 as the 27th of Tammuz. If so, the converter has failed to take into account the Gregorian Reformation, which skipped 11 days on the calendar. If you add the 11 missing days and convert August 11 instead of July 31, you will see that “August 11” 1492 is the 9th of Av.)
- World War I broke out on the eve of Tisha B’Av in 1914 when Germany declared war on Russia. German resentment from the war set the stage for the Holocaust.
- On the eve of Tisha B’Av 1942, the mass deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka
9. On Tisha B’Av, August 14, 2005, 8,000 Jewish settlers were forcefully expelled from their homes in Gush Katif, the Southern Gaza strip.
Typically the book of Lamentations is read on the 9th of Av
God would allow such events to befall their people. What was the cause of such a harsh punishment? Their sages have taught (Talmud, Yoma 9b) that the First Temple was destroyed because of following three things:
1. Sexual immorality
2. Widespread murder
The Second Temple, however, the sages taught, was destroyed because of one singular reason: baseless hatred (sinat chinam).
Gemora teaches that such a severe judgment was meted out despite the fact that Jews at the time occupied themselves with Torah, observed mitzvot and practiced charity. People would hate one another without a cause, slander their fellow Jews for having differing beliefs, hypocritically accuse each other of violating halachic standards, and be uncharitable to those from other Jewish sects who may not have been living up to their specific customs:
“In the times of the second Bais HaMikdosh, the “murderers” of the time did not feel that what they were doing was wrong. They did not consider their murderous actions as transgressions. Rather, they viewed them as appropriate, and even a “mitzvah!” And why was that the case? When these people saw their brethren committing various transgressions, they said to themselves “These people are Sadducees; these people are apostates who deny the validity of the Torah and the supremacy of G-d. These people are rebellious and must die, as they legally deserve such!” Were these “righteous” murderers correct? No.” (Rabbi Yehudah Prero, A Hate Worse Than Death)
It has been said that the Messiah would come “in a generation that is totally innocent or totally guilty”. Jesus called the generation of his day a “wicked and adulterous generation” (Matthew 12:39). It was said of him that he was sent to save his people from their sins. We are also told that he too became a target of that same baseless hatred that the sages taught was prevalent at the time:
If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. (John 15:24-25)
It is precisely in that environment of baseless hatred by a sinful generation that Messiah was rejected by the corrupt Rome-appointed Jerusalem leadership who were in charge of the Temple at that time. Jesus foresaw what would happen to Jerusalem and to his beloved temple within its walls
And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. (Luke 19:41-44)
Today, we are the spiritual temple of God. Though this temple be besieged from without, we are to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered and avoid the baseless hatred that destroys from within.
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (1Cor 3:16-17)
Our Lord taught us to love one another. As end time events unfold, let’s remember that our Lord warned us that we would be betrayed by those who are of our own house (Matt 10:17-36) and that those who persecute us will think that they are serving God (John 16:2). But He also told us that we should love one another even to the point of laying down our lives for our brother. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34-35)
Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1John 3:15-16)
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13