Israel is God's stopwatch

When God does not count time


From Scripture we can see that God uses Israel as a stopwatch.

We use the analogy of a stopwatch because we can measure time with it, for example when an atlete runs a race. But we can also pause the stopwatch, for example during a practice run. The time in the "pause" is not reckoned as part of that run.

When He is dealing with Israel as a nation, and they accept and obey Him as their God, the stopwatch is running. But when they disobey and reject God, and He punishes them by exiling or dispersing them, or having other nations oppress them, God's stopwatch is paused. During these periods, God does not count the time.

From this we also learn the valuable lesson that God deals differently with Israel and with the Church.

Let us prove these statements from Scripture. Because we work with time, we will discuss a timeline, or time periods, in the history of Israel as described in the Scriptures.

 

In 1 Kings chapter 6, we find that it took about 490 years from the Exodus out of Egypt to the dedication of the temple that Solomon built.

1 Kings 6:1 And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.

2 And the house which king Solomon built for the LORD, ...

38 ... So he was seven years in building it.

1 Kings 7:48 And Solomon made all the vessels that pertained unto the house of the LORD: the altar of gold, and the table of gold, whereupon the shewbread was,

49 And the candlesticks of pure gold, five on the right side, and five on the left, before the oracle, with the flowers, and the lamps, and the tongs of gold,

50 And the bowls, and the snuffers, and the basons, and the spoons, and the censers of pure gold; and the hinges of gold, both for the doors of the inner house, the most holy place, and for the doors of the house, to wit, of the temple.

51 So was ended all the work that king Solomon made for the house of the LORD. And Solomon brought in the things which David his father had dedicated; even the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, did he put among the treasures of the house of the LORD.

From the Exodus up to when Solomon started building the temple was 480 years. They took 7 years to build the temple. Then it also took some time to make the temple vessels, before the temple was finally dedicated to God. Which gives us about 490 years.

 

But when investigating this time period, we find a problem though. When going through the rest of Scripture, and adding all the information at our disposal, we find that this time period was actually about 624 years, not 490 years!

Let's add the time periods individually:

The wilderness journey:

There were 40 years from the Exodus that Israel wandered in the wilderness before they entered the promised land.

Numbers 14:33 And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.

Acts 13:16 Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.

17 The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it.

18 And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.

The promised land:

They took about 40 years to conquer the promised land. This period's end is marked by the death of their leader Joshua. After this they were led by various judges.

Joshua was probably about 30 years old at the time of the Exodus:

An age that would fit all this data is about 30 years. But we could be wrong by 10 years either way. He could have been 20, or have been 40 years old. (We say 30 years, with an error margin of ±10 years).

After 40 years in desert, he would have been about 70 years old when he entered the promised land, and led Israel.

And he was 110 years old when he died.

Judges 2:8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old.

9 And they buried him ...

This leads to the fact that he led Israel for about 40 years during the conquest of the promised land. (110 years minus 70 years gives 40 years, with a possible error of ±10 years)

Led by various judges:

After the death of Joshua, Israel were led by judges for about 450 years.

Acts 13:16 Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.

20 And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.

Saul as king:

After the judges, Israel had their fist king. King Saul reigned 40 years.

Acts 13:16 Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.

21 And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.

David as king:

After King Saul, David ruled as king for 40½ years.

2 Samuel 5:3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the LORD: and they anointed David king over Israel.

4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years.

5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah.

Note how that the 40½ years (7½ years + 33 years) in verse five gets rounded to 40 years in verse four. This shows us that all these dates could be out by ±½ year.

Solomon started building the temple in the fourth year of his reign:

After David, Solomon became king.

1 Kings 1:29 And the king sware, and said, As the LORD liveth, that hath redeemed my soul out of all distress,

30 Even as I sware unto thee by the LORD God of Israel, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne in my stead; even so will I certainly do this day.

We now add 3 or 4 years before Solomon started the building project for the temple.

1 Kings 6:1 And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.

2 And the house which king Solomon built for the LORD, ...

Adding up the time periods:

Here is a summary of the time periods:

EventYearsError limitReference

In the wilderness

40 years

±½ year

Numbers 14:33

Acts 13:18

Conquering the promised land

40 years

±10 years

Verses in Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, and Judges

Ruled by Judges

450 years

±½ year

Acts 13:20

 Rule of Saul40 years ±½ year Acts 13:21
 Reign of David40½ years ±½ year 2 Samuel 4:4, 5

Fourth year of Solomon

3½ years

±½ year

1 Kings 6:1

Until the dedication of the temple10 years±½ year 1 Kings 6 & 7
624 years±13 years


 

 

We have two completely different times for the same period in history. The one calculation gives about 490 years (±1 year), and the other calculation gives 624 years (±13 years).

This looks like a serious contradiction in the Bible!

How can we explain this difference?

 

The explanation is found if we accept that God does not count time when Israel is in exile, or ruled by other nation, or dispersed (as at the current moment). To prove it, we look at all the times in this time period when Israel was ruled by other nations:

Served Chushanrishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, for 8 years:

Israel served Baalim, and God let them serve Mesopotamia for 8 years, until God raised up Othniel to deliver them.

Judges 3:7 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.

8 Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years.

Served Eglon the king of Moab for 18 years:

Israel served Baalim, and God let them serve Mesopotamia for 8 years, until God raised up Ehud to deliver them.

Judges 3:12 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.

14 So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.

Oppressed by Jabin, king of Canaan, for 20 years:

Israel did evil, and God let them be oppressed by Canaan for 20 years, until God raised up Deborah and Barak to deliver them.

Judges 4:1 And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead.

2 And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.

3 And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.

Served Midian for 7 years:

Israel did, and God let them serve Midian for 7 years, until God raised up Gideon to deliver them.

Judges 6:1 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.

Oppressed by the Philistines for 18 years:

Israel served Baalim and many other false gods, and God let them be oppressed by the Philistines for 18 years, until God raised up Jephthah to deliver them.

Judges 10:6 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the LORD, and served not him.

7 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon.

8 And that year they vexed and oppressed the children of Israel: eighteen years, all the children of Israel that were on the other side Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead.

Served the Philistines for 40 years:

Israel did evil, and God let them serve the Philistines for 40 years, until God raised up Samson to deliver them.

Judges 13:1 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years.

Oppressed by the Philistines for 20 years:

Israel did not obey God, and God let them be oppressed by the Philistines for 20 years, until God raised up Samuel to deliver them.

1 Samuel 7:2 And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjathjearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.

3 And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.

Adding up these years:

Here is a summary of the times when Israel were ruled by other nations:

EventYearsError limitReference

Chushanrishathaim (Mesopotamia)

8 years

±½ year

Judges 3:8

Eglon (Moab)

18 years

±½ year

Judges 3:14

Jabin (Canaan)

20 years

±½ year

Judges 4:3

Midian7 years ±½ yearJudges 6:1
Philistines18 years ±½ yearJudges 10:8

Philistines

40 years

±½ year

Judges 13:1

Philistines20 years±½ year1 Samuel 7:2
131 years±3½ years


 

 

When we now take the total time for this period, and subtract the time that Israel as a nation were oppressed or served other nations, we get very close to the 490 years written about in 1 Kings 6, and definitely within the error limits!

624 years (±13 years) - 131 years (±3½ years) ≈ 490 years

It seems that God pauses His stopwatch when Israel is not in the place where they should be. As soon as they are in the right place again, he continues with His timeline.

 

Note that the wilderness journey is not included in the "paused" time, because God was still dealing with Israel in the wilderness; revealing His law to them, revealing the tabernacle, etc. They were also not “oppressed” by or served other nations.

 

In this study we found a period on God's stopwatch of 490 years. There might be times where God's stopwatch is on "pause", but the total time given to Israel is 490 years.

From our studies it seems that this is a recurring pattern when God works with Israel. We see another example of a 490 year time-period in Daniel chapter 9. This is commonly referred to as Daniel's 70 weeks. In that case God's stopwatch has been on "pause" for almost 2000 years while the Jewish nation is dispersed.

 

An important lesson from this is also that God deals differently with Israel (the Jewish nation) than with the Gentiles. In Scripture we find that God deals with Israel and the Jews in specifics, and with the Gentiles in “vague” general terms.

Let's look at some examples:

 

God gave very precise instructions to the Jews in the Old Testament concerning specified and specific feast days, dimensions of the tabernacle, exact weights, what they are allowed to eat, when and where and how they should worship Him, the number of people, full genealogies, etc.

When God deals with the Church in the New Testament, we find a total lack of precise dates and times, no specific and specified feast days, no physical tabernacle or temple with exact measurements, no specified tribes, no exact counts or genealogies, etc.

It might shock you to discover this, but neither Christmas day, nor Easter, are specified in Scripture as feast days for the Christians!

Luke 21:24 ... and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. -- It is not specified how long this will be.

When the disciples asked Jesus for a date, He told them it is not for them to know it. (They were basically asking Him how long the stopwatch will be on "pause".)

Acts 1:6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, ...

You might think that you have to celebrate communion every Sunday. But that is not in Scripture. We again only have a "vague" time given in the description of "as often as".

1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

Paul described the ages to come:
Ephesians 2:7 That in the ages to come...
Ephesians 3:5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men...

One of the most striking passages that illustrates how God deals differently with Israel and the Church is found in Revelation. John is told to measure the temple of God (exact Jewish measurements), except the portion given to the Gentiles, which he is told to not measure.

Revelation 11:1 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.

2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: ...

In Revelation 7 the 144 000 are mentioned. Because this is an exact number, these have to be Jews! (Jehovah's Witnesses and other groups say that these are Christians. But that does not fit in with God's pattern.)

 

From the difference in the way that God deals with the Jews (Israel) and with the Church, it also becomes clear that the Church does not replace Israel.

If we do not see this difference, we will not understand that Israel is God's stopwatch. Without this insight, we will also not understand Scripture and prophecy properly.