Earthquakes in the Old Testament!

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Earthquakes in the Bible!
New Testament Earthquakes
Earthquakes in Bible Prophecy!
What does the Old Testament say about earthquakes? How did God use them to not only humble his people but also to render his judgment against rebelliousness? What is the link between a massive Old Testament earthquake that took place in ancient Israel and Jesus' Second Coming?

An Active Zone

What makes Israel prone of earthquakes? The areas of what once was the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah are considered one of the most tectonically active regions in the Middle East. This is primarily due to the Dead Sea Transform fault system (Dead Sea Rift).

The Dead Sea Rift is a series of faults that run south from modern southeastern Turkey to the Sea of Galilee, then through the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea. From the Dead Sea the rift travels further south to the Gulf of Aqaba all the way down to the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

The rift forms the boundary between two continental plates where earthquakes can arise. The African plate lies to the west of the rift and the Arabian Plate lies to its east. The African plate is by far the biggest of two, encompassing an area more than twelve times bigger than the Arabian. Both plates are moving in a north-northeasterly direction on the earth's surface, with the Arabian plate moving faster than the African.

African and Arabian Continental Plates

The First Mention

Job is the first person, chronologically, to write about earthquakes. His Old Testament book, written in the 1660s B.C., mentions the shaking of the earth as a manifestation of God's power.

God is so wise and powerful; no one can stand up against him. Without warning he moves mountains and in anger he destroys them. God sends earthquakes and shakes the ground; he rocks the pillars that support the earth. (Job 9:4 - 6, TEV).

Shaking in God's Presence

The Old Testament Israelites, after being led out of Egyptian bondage by Moses, proceeded to travel to Mount Sinai. After setting up their wilderness camp they are told to prepare themselves in order to meet with God!

And the Lord said to Moses, "Go to the people and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. And be ready for the third day; for on the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai." (Exodus 19:10 - 11, HBFV).

On the third day God manifested His glory to all the people by setting Sinai on fire with his presence. He then also caused a great earthquake to shake the mountain along with thunder and the appearance of lightning. All this was done to humble the people and prepare their hearts to receive the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20).

And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God. And they stood at the base of the mountain. And Mount Sinai was smoking, all of it because the Lord came down upon it in fire. And the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly (Exodus 19:17 - 18).

God's Judgment on Rebellion

Korah's rebellion is named after a Levite named Korah. He, three leading men from the tribe of Reuben, and 250 other prominent Israelite leaders led an effort to challenge the authority Moses and Aaron had over the people (Numbers 16:1 - 3). Korah and those Levites who followed him also demanded the same priestly rights and privileges as Aaron.

God's punishment on these rebellious people, who questioned his wisdom and right to give responsibilities to whoever he chooses, was severe. He first caused a great earthquake to crack open the earth and swallow up Korah, the three Reubenites and their families. He then burned to death the 250 Israelites leaders who rebelled with holy fire!

And it came to pass, as he (Moses) had made an end of speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. And the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who were for Korah, and all their goods . . . and the earth closed upon them . . . And there came out a fire from the Lord and burned up the two hundred and fifty men who offered incense. (Numbers 16:31 - 33, 35, HBFV).

Dead Sea Transform Fault
Dead Sea Transform Faults
(red dashed lines)

A Sign from God

The Old Testament prophet Elijah, fearful at Jezebel's threat to kill him, flees south out of Israel. The Lord, knowing where Elijah was ultimately headed, sends him an angel to feed him for the long journey. After traveling for 40 days he arrives at Mount Horeb (an early name for Mount Sinai). At Sinai Elijah stays in a cave and is asked a rather pointed and rhetorical question by God.

And he came there to a cave and stayed there. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (1Kings 19:9, HBFV).

Elijah, after answering the Lord, goes and stands outside his mountain cave. God then causes a great wind, followed by an earthquake and a fire, to be experienced by the prophet.

And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains, and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire (1Kings 19:11 - 12, HBFV).

The Lord then reveals his will in a still small voice which informs the prophet to go back to work (1Kings 19:15 - 17)!

Amos' Quake

The minor prophet Amos pinned the start of his prophetic ministry to two years before a violent earthquake took place in Israel!

The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake (Amos 1:1, KJV).

King Uzziah (Azariah) reigned over the Kingdom of Judah from 792 to 740 B.C. Jeroboam II ruled over the Kingdom of Israel from 793 until his death in 753. The earthquake Amos predicted, which likely took place around 760 B.C., was massive and undeniable.

"The epicenter was north of present-day Israel . . . A large area of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah was shaken . . .

"The earthquake was at least magnitude 7.8, but likely was 8.2 . . . (the earthquake) appears to be the largest yet documented on the Dead Sea transform fault during the last four millennia." (Amos' Earthquake, International Geology Review).

The Bible Background Commentary further confirms that a massive earthquake took place during the reign of Uzziah.

"Seismic activity in Syro-Palestine is a common occurrence. The region lies over the Jordan (Dead Sea) Rift, which stretches from Damascus to the Gulf of Aqaba, and is therefore subject to periodic shifts of the earth. There is evidence of a sizeable earthquake in the stratum 6 excavations at Hazor, dating to approximately 760." (Bible Background Commentary).

This powerful earthquake had such an affect on the people that it was still recalled many years later. Zechariah, more than 225 years after Amos wrote his Old Testament book, referenced this violent shaking of the earth in his prophecy revolving around Jesus' Second Coming.

And His (Jesus') feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east . . .

And you shall flee to the valley of My mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah (Zechariah 14:4 - 5, HBFV).

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