The Burdensome Stone

“In that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people.”
—Zechariah 12:3

EVERY DAY THERE IS news about another attempt to hurt the residents of Israel and to destroy this nation of Israelites regathered in their own land. For example, on November 24, 2002, the New York Post reported typical terrorist attacks against Israel with the headline, “Terror on High Seas.” The subheading was “Suicide Boater Bombers.” The account said:

“Two Palestinian terrorists in boats packed with explosives blew themselves up yesterday and injured four Israeli soldiers after they were intercepted by an Israeli navy patrol vessel near the Gaza Strip.

“The Palestinian boat packed with bombs entered Israeli-controlled waters off northern Gaza when it was approached by an Israeli patrol boat.

“After the Israeli vessel fired warning shots to force the boat to turn around, it exploded.

“The Israeli army closed the waters off the coast of Gaza, barring all Palestinian fishing boats from entering those waters after the attack, Israeli officials said.”

The radical group, Islamic Jihad, later took credit for the blast, saying the two men were homicide bombers.


“The suicide attack came as Israeli forces demolished the homes of four activists from militias linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

“Israel reoccupied Bethlehem on Friday after a Palestinian man blew himself up on a Jerusalem bus the day before, killing eleven people, four of them children.

“Since that attack, Israeli soldiers have launched a wave of raids on homes in the West Bank, demolishing six homes and arresting twenty-two people.

“Meanwhile, the Israeli army said a British U.N. aid worker killed Friday during clashes between soldiers and Palestinian gunmen in the Jenin refugee camp, was mistakenly shot by an Israeli soldier who mistook a cell phone in his hand for a grenade.

“An initial army investigation showed that Iain Hook, 50, who was carrying the phone, came out of an alley from which Palestinian gunmen had been firing earlier, when the soldier shot him.

“During yesterday’s funeral of an eleven-year-old Palestinian boy who was also killed in the violent clashes, some 2,000 mourners marched through Jenin, carrying an empty coffin draped with a U.N. flag in memory of Hook.

“Hook was overseeing the reconstruction of homes in the camp which had been bulldozed during a previous Israeli raid.

“The mourners then unfurled a banner reading, ‘Israel killed Hook.’”


A few days later, on November 28, a car bomb blew up the lobby of the Paradise Hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, Africa, an Israeli-owned resort in this seaside city. The bombing that killed 13 people was coupled with a missile attack that narrowly missed downing a crowded jetliner, returning Israeli vacationers back to Israel. The New York Times, in reporting on the return of the second group of vacationers on November 30, 2002, had an article entitled “Israelis Return in Trauma from Supposed Haven.” The subheading said, “258 Back from Kenya, Some for Treatment, Some for Funerals.” The article said in part:

“In Israel it was a second day of emotional homecomings, of hugs and tears at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. On Thursday, the scene was similar as passengers aboard an Israeli charter plane carrying 261 passengers arrived safely, only hours after two missiles narrowly missed it just after takeoff in Kenya.

“It was the same plane that had just brought in the group of tourists checking into the Paradise Hotel when three suicide bombers in a four-wheel drive vehicle struck just outside the hotel lobby.

“On both days, there was the same unsettled feeling about the attacks in Kenya: many of the Israeli tourists had gone for relief from the violence and random explosions of the past two years of renewed fighting between Israelis and Palestinians.

“‘If there is going to be an attack; then this is the best place to be,’ one woman at the airport today said, then began crying.”

Reporting on the investigation taking place in Kenya, the Times also said: “The Kenyan police swept through this predominantly Muslim seaside city today for clues to who was behind the bombing that killed thirteen people here and the missile attack that narrowly missed downing a crowded jetliner.

“The police detained a dozen foreigners, but it was unclear what, if any, evidence they had against them.

“With smoke still rising from the ruins of the Israeli-owned hotel destroyed by a car bomb, the Kenyan police and Israeli investigators carried away charred pieces of the sports utility vehicle used in the attack. They posted tiny red flags to mark evidence throughout the ruins of the Paradise Hotel, which was popular with Israeli tourists.

“At the same time, the American Embassy in Nairobi, the capital, sent a team of legal experts to help with the investigation. The Kenyan police sealed off the area where a group of attackers were believed to have fired antiaircraft missiles in an unsuccessful attempt to shoot down the chartered passenger jet.

“American officials said today that they did not know who was responsible for the attacks, but that early indications pointed to the involvement of either Al Qaeda or Al Ittihad al Islamiya, a Somali terrorist group believed to have links to Al Qaeda.”

Commenting further on the chief suspect, Al Qaeda, the Times article reported:

“Both American and Israeli officials have said the attack had all the hallmarks of an Al Qaeda assault: it was synchronized, it employed sophisticated weaponry, and it aimed to kill hundreds.

“It was clear that whoever was behind the attack intended to kill the maximum number of people. The attacks came on the one day of the week when Israel charters a flight in and out of the country. The suicide attack at the hotel was intended to kill the 140-plus passengers the plane had just dropped off, and the missiles were aimed at the passengers the plane had just picked up.

“Mombasa, a crowded sweltering city of more than 800,000, has long been believed to be one of Al Qaeda’s principal East African bases, the others being Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, and Mogadishu, the Somali capital. American intelligence officials first pinpointed the region in the spring of 1996, when they discovered that a group of Muslim extremists, with links to Osama bin Laden, had set up bases in the area.”


By the time this article goes to press there will be many more incidents of this type and the world will not have a clear picture of the reasons behind these attempts on Israel’s life. In mid 2002, the Simon Wiesenthal Center located in Los Angeles, California, sent a pamphlet to United States citizens. It was captioned, “Action Alert” * “Israel Is Fighting for Her Life” -“Here’s What You Can Do.” First they listed the lies and misconceptions concerning events taking place in Israel. This was followed by the names, phone numbers, and addresses of people and organizations to contact on behalf of Israel. The list began with the President and Vice President of the United States and principal Senate and House Members. We publish the entire pamphlet to show how truly the prophet Zechariah said that the Lord would in that day (our day) make “Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people.” (Zech. 12:3) The pamphlet began by saying:


1. “‘As a people under occupation, the desperate Palestinians must use violent measures, including suicide bombing, to gain their state. Only when Israel withdraws to its pre-1967 borders will the violence stop.’

“Response—At Camp David, then Prime Minister Barak offered Arafat a Palestinian state on 95% of the West Bank, all of Gaza and major portions of East Jerusalem, and the holy sites of the Old City. Arafat rejected the offer with the encouragement of major Arab leaders. President Clinton blamed Arafat for the collapse of the negotiations, saying, ‘I believe Chairman Arafat missed a golden opportunity to make that agreement … the violence and terrorism which followed were not inevitable and have been a terrible mistake.’

2. “‘The recent Saudi initiative—endorsed by all the Arab states—promises Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for Israeli withdrawal to June 1967 borders and is a real breakthrough for peace.’

“Response—Since 1948, the State of Israel has dreamed of nothing more than living in peace with her Arab neighbors. But no Arab state, except for Egypt and Jordan, has been willing to accept the notion of a Jewish State in the Middle East. Now, Saudi Arabia—tarnished by the revelation that fifteen of the nineteen September 11th suicide terrorists were Saudi citizens—has held out the possibility of peace with Israel. Israel regards this as a development worth exploring and has offered to discuss it with the Saudis directly. But the Saudis have refused. In addition, the recent Arab summit to discuss the peace plan insisted on the ‘right of return’ for millions of Palestinians to Israel, an idea which would lead to the immediate demographic demise of the Jewish State. Meanwhile, as Prince Abdullah talks peace, his Ambassador to London, Gosaibi, writes a poem praising suicide bombers. Also, official Saudi newspapers continue to give credence to the infamous ‘blood libel,’ while at the same time praising the Passover suicide bomber and raising millions of dollars to aid the families of the so-called Palestinian ‘martyrs,’—thereby encouraging young men and women from poor families to volunteer for such missions.

3. “‘The European Union has consistently labeled Israeli anti-terrorist incursions into Palestinian cities as violations of human rights, and was considering commercial sanctions against the Jewish State because of it. They also criticized Israel for barring Red Crescent ambulances from the fighting. A Portuguese Nobel Laureate, JosÀ Saramago, summed up the sentiments of some European leaders and media when he said the Jewish State’s incursion was “in the spirit of Auschwitz.’”

“Response—The policies and posturing of the EU are hypocritical and based on a double standard. While they are quick to threaten Israel with sanctions and boycotts, they ignore the anti-Israel terrorism emanating from the Arab world. They cite Israel for barring ambulances, but say nothing of the fact that some of those ambulances were caught transporting explosives. Sadly, wars create innocent victims. But, the civilized world must never accept a moral equivalency between those who commit evil and those forced to respond to it. Israel had no desire to invade Palestinian cities, but when Arafat ignored the suicide murders of Israeli citizens on buses, in restaurants and at shopping centers—most committed by Arafat’s own al Aksa brigades—she was left with no choice. If this is called ‘in the spirit of Auschwitz’ then there would be no difference between Hitler’s Blitzkrieg attack on Europe and the Allied landings on Normandy…no difference between Himmler’s cattle cars deporting innocents to the gas chambers and Allied planes that bombed European and German cities in the fight against Nazism. Europe, once late to recognize the threat from fascism, is again blinded because of her dependence on Mideast oil and cannot recognize that Israel is fighting for her very existence against the forces of terror.

4. “‘French President Jacques Chirac says, ‘There is no upsurge in antisemitism’ in his country.’ (Feb. 26, 2002)

“Response—Since the outbreak of Intifada II, there have been over 400 attacks against synagogues, Jewish institutions, school children, and pedestrians in France’s major cities, including Paris, Marseilles and Lyons. In one incident the attackers wrote on the destroyed Jewish school ‘Death to the Jews’ and ‘Bin Laden Will Conquer.’ More recently, a Jewish soccer team was attacked by a group of assailants wearing hoods. Yet it wasn’t until April 2002, when a spate of arson attacks over Passover finally forced French Leaders to acknowledge that this anti-Jewish hate was inspired by the events in the Middle East and influenced by al Qaeda-style extremist clerics. The Center has issued a ‘travel alert’ for Jewish travelers to exercise ‘extreme caution’ when traveling to France and neighboring Belgium, where the Chief Rabbi was assaulted and many religious Jews no longer feel safe walking in public wearing the distinctive kippah (religious skullcap).

5. “‘Israel may not like him, but if peace is to be achieved, they can only reach a deal with the Palestinian’s duly elected leader, Yassir Arafat.’

“Response—Israel has no desire to choose a leader for the Palestinians, but since the 1993 handshake in the Rose Garden, successive Israeli governments, both Labor and Likud, have been forced to conclude that Arafat is either unwilling or unable to make peace. Despite winning a Nobel Peace Prize, he has thwarted every opportunity for peace. At Camp David, he not only spurned Barak’s generous offer for a Palestinian State in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, but he made no counter-offer whatsoever. Instead, he launched Intifada II as a deliberate attempt to gain further concessions from Israel such as the return of the 1948 refugees. Both Ehud Barak of Labor and Ariel Sharon of Likud agree on one thing: Arafat has shown himself more a supporter of terrorism than a reliable peace partner. Despite this, Sharon seeks peace with the Palestinians and has proposed a regional peace conference with the major Arab states to seek ways of finding a solution.

6. “‘Israel should put its trust in the United Nations and heed the UN’s resolutions on the Middle East conflict.’

“Response—It is difficult for Israel to rely on the UN since it was the UN that precipitated the 1967 war when then-Secretary General U Thant agreed to Nasser’s demands and withdrew UN forces. In addition, a General Assembly dominated by 60 Arab and Moslem countries has a voting bloc that assures the passage of any resolution to condemn Israel. In fact, in the history of the United Nations and its agencies, there have been more than 1,000 resolutions condemning Israel. Yet not a single resolution has ever been passed specifically condemning Arab terror against the Jewish State. Even terrorist groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah have never been repudiated by name in a resolution from the rostrum of the United Nations. Given this history, one can hardly blame Israel for doubting that the UN can play an objective and constructive role in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

7. “‘In light of the recent Church of the Nativity standoff, Israel cannot be entrusted by the international community to safeguard the religious sites in the Holy Land.’

“Response—The Church of the Nativity standoff occurred when armed Palestinian gunmen, among them terrorists, stormed the Church hoping to create an international incident in order to avoid being captured by the Israelis. Prior to the 1967 Six-Day War, the Old City belonged to Jordan, which barred Jews from praying at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site. Under Arab control, the Old City’s synagogues were destroyed, the Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives was desecrated, and Jewish tombstones were used to construct urinals. Since 1967, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron have been opened by Israel to Moslems, Christians and Jews without restrictions.

8. “‘Israeli settlements on the West Bank led to the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization and constitute the central impediment to peace. They must all be dismantled.’

“Response—The Palestinians keep citing the settlements as an obstacle to peace, but those settlements would have been largely dismantled if Arafat had accepted Barak’s offer. It is worth remembering that when Arafat first began his terrorist attacks against Israel in 1964, the entire West Bank, Gaza and the Old City of Jerusalem were under Arab control. There was no Palestine, and the Arab states never considered offering the Palestinians their own state. Arafat’s attacks against Israel then clearly had one objective: the destruction of the Jewish State. Given his rejection of the countless opportunities for peace, there are many who believe he has not altered that objective.

9. “‘America’s response to the September 11th attacks, unlike Israel’s response to suicide bombers, is justified because it is not occupying someone else’s land. Israel, however, is an occupying force.’

“Response—Israel is the only democracy in a region dominated by dictatorships and feudal states, and is entitled to the same rights of self-defense and has the same responsibility to the welfare of its citizens as any other country. Facing deliberate attacks against their civilian populations, European countries, now criticizing Israel, would do exactly as she has done. On September 11, America was attacked by Arab terrorists from al Qaeda. The United States responded by immediately warning the Taliban to give up the terrorists or face the consequences. When they refused, the US attacked Afghanistan by air, sea and land. Israel has said the same to Arafat since he was elected Chairman of the Palestinian Authority. But Arafat refused to rein in the terrorists, and worse, his own military unit, the al Aksa Brigades, has carried out most of those attacks.”


The purpose of the pamphlet was to have responsible citizens write to the President, Congressmen, World Leaders, World Organizations, and the News Media on behalf of Israel. If the Simon Wiesenthal Center knew about the prophecy of Zechariah they would realize that such petitions would be of no avail. Zechariah plainly said, “All the people of the earth be gathered together against it [Jerusalem].” (Zech. 12:3) This would be disheartening news to them, except that the prophet also said, “All that burden themselves with it [Jerusalem] shall be cut in pieces.” Salvation for Israel will not come from other nations assisting them. It will only come from the Lord.

What did the Lord mean by Jerusalem being a burdensome stone? Young’s Concordance defines the Hebrew word, maamasah, a ‘weight of very heavy stone.’ The Septuagint translates this phrase as a trodden stone, and gives the impression that the peoples of earth will all tread upon her. It reminds us of the words of our Lord Jesus, when he said, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24) However, the ‘times of the Gentiles’ have been fulfilled, so the Septuagint translation is not giving the correct thought. All other translators stress that anyone trying to lift this stone will be badly hurt.

This appears to be the correct thought which is substantiated by words that follow. We note how appropriate is the symbol of Jerusalem being a burdensome stone. Over the centuries when God had blessed Israel and they were in covenant relationship with him, he promised them blessings if they would obey his commandments and keep his law. This they did not do and the punishment for their idolatry was clear, eviction from their land. This punishment continued until our Lord’s return. God promised to regather his people and establish them in their own land again. God faithfully kept his promise and we all have witnessed the miracle of this people being regathered and established as a nation. It is now pictured as a heavy stone, and those who have tried to lift it and cast it into the Mediterranean Sea have been hurt, and will continue to be hurt by so doing. The New International Version states the matter well when it says, “On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.”—Zech. 12:3


What follows in the prophecy are details of how Israel finally turns to the Lord for help. There is a change in the heart of Judah. God gives them dynamic leadership. Also it tells how they will consume right and left her surrounding enemies, but Jerusalem will remain intact in her place. (vs. 6, NIV) The tents of Judah will be saved first as the Lord sets out “to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem.” (vs. 9, NIV) It is at that time that God pours out his spirit upon this people. “I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication.” (vs. 10, NIV). Then Jesus their Lord and Savior says, “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” (vs. 10) Judah’s acceptance of Jesus as their Savior shall be extended to all Israel, as they all witness God’s salvation.

The days of stress and prejudice, of being persecuted and cast out, will be ended. The prophecy of their persecutions will come to a close. Instead, the prophecy spoken by Amos will become a reality, “I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.” (Amos 9:14,15) God’s promises are true and faithful.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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