It hasn’t happened for over 50 years, but an Israeli flag was proudly displayed on the Temple Mount on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. The only significant difference is that it wasn’t Jews holding the flag, but a group of Chinese Christian tourists.
Though, the Temple Mount is the former home of the Jewish Temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, and is located in Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, the Muslims basically control the Temple Mount that features the Muslim Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. They even have their own Jordanian Islamic security that works with Israeli police to enforce order on the Mount.
For the most part, the Muslims have successfully prevented Jews from praying on the Temple Mount and even displaying symbols of the Jewish religion or Israeli nationalism such as the Israeli flag.
The last time an Israeli flag appeared on the Temple Mount was shortly after the 1967 six-day war, when Israel captured East Jerusalem where the Temple Mount is located.
The Israelis flew their flag on top of the Dome of the Rock for a very brief period.
In the peace treaty that Israel signed with Jordan after the six-day war, it agreed to forbid the display of religious or national symbols on the Temple Mount. Then in 1994, Israel officially ceded control of the Temple Mount to the Jordanian Waqf.
So how did an Israeli flag end up being displayed on the Temple Mount in 2018?
The image of the flag appeared on the Facebook page of a Christian group called “Stand With Us.” Based in Los Angeles, California, it is an advocacy group supporting Israel. The flag appeared at the front of a photo of a group of Chinese tourists visiting the site.
Because they were Chinese, it appears security personnel obviously didn’t check them over very carefully. Typically, the Israeli police and Waqf guards will join any groups perceived to be Jewish to ensure no such displays. Obviously, a group of Chinese Christians did not seem much of a threat and they were left alone.
Flags have a long tradition in ancient Israel. Each of the 12 tribes of Israel had their own standard or flag that they used to organize the people in the wilderness. A tribe would raise up its standard and all the people of that tribe would assemble at the flag (Numbers 2:18).
The Psalmist says the raising of a flag or banner was also a declaration of victory over the enemy (Psalm 20:5), as the Jews did after the victorious six-day war.
The prophet Isaiah referred to flags or banners several times. He gave a prophetic word that God also has a standard that will be used to draw people to Himself.
22 Thus says the Lord God,
“Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations
And set up My standard to the peoples;
And they will bring your sons in their bosom,
And your daughters will be carried on their shoulders. (Isaiah 49:22 NASV)
Prophetically, I suspect God’s flag or standard was Jesus and maybe this is what Christ referred to when He said:
32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:32 NASV)
Christ’s resurrection declared His victory over death and the satanic realm, and the raising of God’s flag not only proclaimed that victory but also served as the standard that would draw people to the Kingdom of God.
One last point about standards or banners, it was also used as one of the names of God:
15 Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner; 16 and he said, “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.” (Exodus 17:15-16 NASV)
The Hebrew word “nēs” translated banner described a flag (such as a ship’s ensign Ezekiel 27:7) or a highly decorated flag pole (Isaiah 5:26). These poles often had flags on them and military leaders used them to send messages to their troops in battle. The pole was also raised to regroup soldiers who had been split up during battle, so they could become a formidable fighting unit once again.
In this context, the Lord was Israel’s banner and it was clearly tied to warfare, both physical and spiritual, as seen in the reference to the ongoing battle with the Amalekites. We see a hint of the spiritual warfare from another verse in Isaiah, where God hints at mustering angelic warriors for battle:
When the enemy comes in like a flood,
The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. (Isaiah 59:19b NKJV)