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Watchtower describes the "back to Palestine" movement as directed by the "spirit of Jehovah's archfoe, Satan." This is astonishing, as for over 50 years Watchtower was supportive of the Zionist movement.
Pastor Russell, founder of the Watchtower Society, was a Zionist. He was strongly against converting Jews to Christianity and actively involved in encouraging the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine. Benjamin Netanyahu, the ninth prime minister of Israel, when he was the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations stated, "A recognition of Pastor Russell's important role as an early American Christian advocate of Zionism is long overdue."1
Russell made the following comments regarding the nation of Israel and Jews:
"There are now in the world more than ten million Jews, about three-quarters of whom are in Russia, Poland, the Balkan States, and Turkey. If the movement toward Palestine should get the impulse that the Hirsch committee is able to give it, an imaginative person can conceive of the country's doubling or trebling its Jewish population before the close of our century, and of its having a larger Jewish population fifty years hence than it had in ancient times, when its census ran up to three millions. Should the restoration be accomplished, all hail to the New Jerusalem!" Watchtower 1892 Nov 1 p.329
"The more closely we investigate the New Covenant, the more we must be convinced of this fact - that it belongs to Israel alone." Watch Tower 1909 Jan 15 p.28
"Although the Jews are gradually flowing into Palestine, gradually obtaining control of the land of Canaan, and although reports say that already nineteen millionaires are there, nevertheless, prophecy requires an evidently larger number of wealthy Hebrews to be there before the Armageddon crisis be reached. Indeed, we understand that "Jacob's trouble" in the Holy Land will come at the very close of Armageddon. Then Messiah's Kingdom will begin to be manifested. Thenceforth Israel in the Land of Promise will gradually rise from the ashes of the past to the grandeur of prophecy." Studies In the Scriptures Series IV - The Day of Vengeance - Forward pp. xviii, xix
"… expected the year 1914 to mark a significant turning point for Jerusalem." Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom p.135
In reference to the prophecy of Amos 9:11-15, Thy Kingdom Come stated:
"That the re-establishment of Israel in the land of Palestine is one of the events to be expected in this Day of the Lord, we are fully assured by the above expression of the Prophet. Notice, particularly, that the prophecy cannot be interpreted in any symbolic sense." Studies in the Scriptures Series III - Thy Kingdom Come p.244
Until 1909, the Watchtower magazine was titled Zion's Watch Tower Herald of Christ's Presence.
When advertising Thy Kingdom Come, Russell teased that the book will teach;
"This is the reason for the beginning of the Return of Divine Favour to Fleshly Israel-blinded for centuries-to permit the gathering of an elect class from among the Gentiles?
This favor is gradually taking shape and known as Zionism." Studies In the Scriptures Series I - The Divine Plan of the Ages 1909 edition end notes
After Russell's death, International Bible Students Association furthered Russell's Zionist teachings, with the 1917 pamphlet Parable of the Penny explaining that 1980 could be the year the Jews receive their resurrection.
"The date 1980, mentioned on pages 61, 62, probably marks the regathering of all of Fleshly Israel from their captivity in death." Parable of the Penny p.6
Modern day Bible Students still have a Zionist view of Jews. As stated on agsconsulting.com (20 Apr 2005), a website run by modern day Bible Students:
"Bible Students were the first to appreciate and act upon the commission of Isaiah 40:1: "Comfort, oh comfort My people." (TANAKH, Jewish Publication Society) And they took this commission very seriously. In 1891 Charles Russell, the Pastor of Bible Students congregations around the world, proposed to Baron Rothschild and Baron Hirsch a practical plan for Zionism that involved the purchasing of all government lands (lands not held by private owners) in Palestine from the impoverished Ottoman Empire of Turkey. (Years later Herzl made similar proposals). Pastor Russell prefaced his proposal with the prediction of a massive exodus of Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe. As he predicted, history records over 3 million Jews emigrated from Russia and Eastern Europe by 1924."
The Finished Mystery mentions Russell's preaching work to the Jews.
"It is possible that A. D. 1980 may have something of special interest for Fleshly Israel, but certainly not for us. It is 70 years beyond 1910, the date when Pastor Russell gave his great witness to the Jewish people in the New York Hippodrome." Studies in the Scriptures - The Finished Mystery p.62
Until 1932, Rutherford continued upholding Russell's ideal that the Jews and Jerusalem had a special place in prophecy. It was believed that the Jews had remained as God's chosen people and Jerusalem was to be restored. The Finished Mystery, on pages 536 and 555 was openly Zionist, as was Comfort for the Jews p.55
"The promise, time and again repeated, that the Lord would regather them and bless them in the land and keep them there and bless them for ever is conclusive proof that the promise must be fulfilled ... Behold, that time is now at hand!"
On 17th October 1920, Rutherford delivered a lecture in Jerusalem in which he is quoted in The Golden Age 1921 Easter pp.369-382 'Zionism Certain to Succeed' as saying;
"Israel is absolutely certain to be fully established as a nation and the Jews again as a specially favored people of God. The zealous workers in Zionism today are fulfilling prophecy Zionism is one of the steps in the great divine program."
This was more than just an expectation as the Proclaimers book puts it, it was "absolutely certain". Up until the 1930's, the events happening to the Jews in the 19th and 20th century were even considered to be proof that this is the time of the end.
"(The) regathering of Israel to Palestine would be one of the most conclusive proofs of his presence." The Harp of God (1921) p.256
"In the spring of 1918, the Jews began to rebuild Palestine; … This is another physical fact or circumstantial proof of the Lord's presence at the end of the world" Creation (1927) p.306-307
Anti-Semitic comments crept into the Golden Age during the late 1920's, and in 1934 Zionism was renounced by Rutherford.
"Be it known once and for all that those profiteering, conscienceless, selfish men who call themselves Jews, and who control the greater portion of the finances of the world and the business of the world, will never be the rulers in this new earth. God would not risk such selfish men with such an important position" The Golden Age 1927 Feb 23 p.343
"The Journal of the A.M.A. is the vilest sheet that passes the United States mail. Nothing new and useful in therapeutics escapes its unqualified condemnation. Its attacks are generally ad hominem. Its editorial columns are largely devoted to character assassination. Its editor (Morris Fishbein) is of the type of Jew that crucified Jesus Christ." The Golden Age 1934 Sep 26 p.807
Rutherford contradicted his previous views when renouncing them in the 1932 book Vindication - Book II, pages 258.
"In 1917 the Balfour Declaration, sponsored by the heathen governments of Satan's organization, came forth, recognized the Jews, and bestowed upon them great favors. ... The Jews have received more attention at their hands than they really deserved."
In 1946, during the time the horrors of the holocaust were emerging, the Watchtower made the following comments about Jews.
"Nothing in the modern return of Jews to Palestine and the setting up of the Israeli republic corresponds with the Bible prophecies concerning the restoration of Jehovah's name- people to his favor and organization … The remnant of spiritual Israelites, as Jehovah's Witnesses, have proclaimed world-wide the establishment of God's kingdom in 1914" Let God Be True (1946) Second ed. pp.217-218
"There is no evidence in the Scriptures that the Jews as a people are meek. On the contrary, Jehovah's Witnesses only find it stated in the Bible that the Jews are "stiff-necked and hard-hearted", but when they call at their homes with the message of God's kingdom they witness the same characteristics. They seem to think that because they are Jews, and were once God's chosen people, they must ever remain that way." Consolation 1946 Jan 2 pp. 14,15
The Zionist teachings, once of absolute certainty, was henceforth said to have no Scriptural support. This change in doctrine is discussed in the Watchtower 1955 May 15 p.296, and the "back to Palestine" movement that the Watchtower had promoted became labelled as a teaching of Satan:
"By the publication of Volume 2 of the book Vindication that year, Jehovah's witnesses came to see that such a "back to Palestine" movement was by the spirit of Jehovah's archfoe, Satan, who has deceived the entire inhabited earth."
How ironic for the Watchtower to denounce Zionist teachings as from Satan, after the Organization had spent the previous 60 years actively preaching it. Is this saying Satan had been influencing Russell and Rutherford? If Satan was behind this prominent Watchtower teaching, how many other prominent Watchtower teachings is Satan influencing? At what point did the reasonings of Satan stop being promoted by the Watchtower Organization?
Watchtower now makes clear that it does not support Zionism, or that modern day Palestine has any relationship to Bible prophecy.
"Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Zionists?
No, they are not. Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians who base their beliefs on the Scriptures. While some religions teach that the gathering of Jews in Palestine is related to Scriptural prophecy, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not hold this view. They do not believe that this political development was specifically foretold in the Scriptures." (As of 28 Dec 2015)
1 David Horowitz, Pastor Charles Taze Russell: An Early American Christian Zionist (New York: Philosophical Library, 1986) Back Jacket
Written 2005. Latest update Oct 2016.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2023