The seventeenth day of the Hebrew month Tammuz is a Jewish day of fasting commemorating the breach of the walls of Jerusalem before the destruction of the First Temple, and marks the beginning of the three-week mourning period leading up to Tisha B’Av (the ninth day of the month Av).
This 21 day period is referred to as “dire straits” or Bain-ha-Metzarim – “within the straits,” based on the verse from Lamentation 1:3 which states: “All of her pursuers overtook her within the straits. The Jewish Sages explained that “within the straits” refers to the days of affliction between the two straits, the seventeenth of Tammuz and the ninth of the month of Av (Tish b’Av).
Incredibly many tragedies fell upon the Jewish people during these three weeks and especially on the last day, Tish b’Av. This is just a partial list:
(421 BC) Destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnessar. About 100,000 Jews were killed during the invasion. Most of the Jews in the southern tribes were exiled to Babylon and Persia. (Jeremiah 52)
(70 AD) Destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans under Titus. Over 2,500,000 Jews died as a result of war, famine and disease. Over 1,000,000 Jews were exiled to all parts of the Roman Empire. Over 1,000,000 Jews were sold as salves, killed and tortured in gladiatorial “games” and pagan celebrations.
(135 AD) Bar Kocha revolt was crushed. Betar was destroyed and over 500,000 Jews were killed.
(133 AD) Temple Mount was completely plowed by Romans who then built the pagan city of Aelia Capitolina as the “new” capital of Jerusalem.
(1095 AD) Pope UIrban II declared the First Crusade. 10,000 Jews were killed in the first month, many Jewish communities in France and Rhineland were totally obliterated.
(1290 AD) King Edward I of England expelled all Jews amid pogroms (violent terror attack against Jews and their property) and confiscation of books and property.
(1492 AD) The Inquisition in Spain and Portugal forced Jews to convert to Catholicism. The Alhambra edit expelled the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula. All Jewish property was confiscated, families were separated and many died by drowning. It is thought that Christopher Columbus was a Jesus believing Jew as he sailed the night before the expulsion took place.
(1914 AD) Germany declares war on and World War I begins. War issues were unresolved leading to the Second World War. During the ensuing Holocaust over 6 million Jews were tortured and murdered. Over 400 pogroms immediately followed the war in Hungary, Ukraine, Poland and Russia.
(1940 AD) Himmler presents his plan for the “Final Solution” of the “Jewish problem” to the Nazi party. His plan was to exterminate all the Jews.
(1942 AD) Deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka concentration camp begins.
(1949 AD ) Jews banned from the “Wailing Wall” and the “Jewish Quarter” was renamed.
(1957 AD) Russia forbids Israel Delegation to distribute Jewish calendars.
(1994 AD) The AMIA (Jewish community center in Buenos Aires) was bombed killing 86 and wounding over 300.
(2000 AD) Arab violence erupts in Jerusalem as Jews observe Tish b’Av.
(2014 AD) Terror attack on bus in Burgas (resort town 400 km east of Sofia) kills 5 Israelis and two Bulgarians. Among the injured were an 11 year old boy and two pregnant women.
There is a traditional explanation for these many tragedies ocurring on this one day; an explanation without scriptural basis.
It is said that on this day Israel accepts the negative report of the ten spies and, crying in despair refused to enter the Promised Land.
During this period, the religious Jews lessen the extent of rejoicing. Marriages are not held. They refrain from listening to music, dancing, taking pleasure trips, and from getting haircuts or shaving themselves.
During the three Shabbat services leading up to Tish b’Av, God’s warnings in Jeremiah 1-2 are read. On Tish b’Av the entire book of Lamentations is read along with Deuteronomy 4:25-40.
The Deuteronomy portion reflects God’s holiness which demanded punishment for Israel’s sin AND His mercy offering the Jewish people forgiveness.
We see this duality of God’s character throughout the chaotic history of Israel. Regardless of their continued rebellion God’s faithfulness never fails.
Even the name of this month reveals God’s character. “Av” in Hebrew means ‘father.’ God calls Himself Israel’s father. He said to Pharaoh:
And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. 23 So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.”’” (Exodus 4:21-23)
The fact that Jewish people continue to survive while the Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, etc. are ancient history, is a solid reminder to us that we are not forsaken by our Father in Heaven.
But we must remember that while there are many tragedies in the Israel’s history, the worst is our rejection of Yeshua, Jesus our Messiah.
As we mourn the loss of the Temple and the scattering of the Jewish people, we can rejoice knowing God will fulfill His promises to Israel. There will come a day when the Jews will be regathered and return to the Land AND “all Israel will be saved!”