The Meaning Behind the Israeli Flag

The Israeli flag can be seen all around the country, and is a symbol of joy and dreams realized to many. If you love Israel, it is likely dear to you too. The meaning and symbolism behind the flag are important to know for all who love Israel, as it tells the story of God and His people.

The base is a prayer shawl

The background is white, with two blue stripes. This is to represent the “tallit” – the Jewish prayer shawl. The wearing of a tallit has developed from this commandment in Numbers:

Again the LORD spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners.
“And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them…and be holy for your God” Numbers 15:37-40

The tassels had to be attached to a garment, and that garment came to be known as the tallit, or prayer shawl. Note that God specifies that blue thread had to be used. Blue represented holiness, blue spoke of the heavens. A blue cloth was used to cover the ark of the covenant, and appears many times in the descriptions of the tabernacle. Yeshua looked up to the sky when praying towards the heavens, and we are supposed to associate blue with the divine. Tassels are important too, and have a royal connotation. When tassels were added to a garment in ancient times it symbolised the wearer’s authority. They were not worn by commoners, but by the nobility or royalty.[1] Israel were called to be a kingdom of priests, and the tallit is symbolic of that identity and calling.

“Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” (Ex 19:4-6)

The command to have blue threaded tassels was not in the law handed down at Sinai. It actually came about later, as a result of Israel’s sin, by way of helping the people of Israel to remember God’s laws. Numbers 15 tells us of a man caught collecting wood on Shabbat, and who was stoned to death as a result. God explains that there is one Torah for sons of Israel and for those living among them (remember there were a great mixed multitude who had joined Israel – Ex 12:38) and that there are consequences for sin done defiantly, but also unintentionally. Even in the case of forgetfulness or ignorance, sacrifices are still necessary to restore purity and right relationship with God.

The tassels were God’s way of giving the people of Israel a tangible reminder to keep his commandments, a bit like a piece of string tied round your finger or a knot in your handkerchief.

So the base of the flag just with a couple of blue stripes on a white background tells us quite a lot of the story between God and His people: The blue of the tallit represents the heavens, the white is purity brought about by the necessary sacrifices. The whole basis of the tallit came about in the context of God responding to Israel’s sin by giving symbolic, colour-coded instructions to help them remember His commandments. He had already given his law at Sinai, but the people were failing, and God was already graciously creating useful devices to remember His covenant and keep on the right path. The tassels were a visible reminder of God’s laws, but also signified the special calling of Israel to be a kingdom of priests, set apart for His purposes. It is a perfect picture of Israel’s permanent, covenantal relationship with God: they are His people, and though they may fail, God’s faithfulness to them is eternal.

The Star

Often known as the Star (or shield) of David, this hexagram is more likely from the time of his son Solomon. When inside a circle, the star is known as the Seal of Solomon, and seems to have some rather dark origins. It is possible that it was introduced from one of Solomon’s pagan wives, but it’s hard to know for certain. It could even be the “Star of Rephan” mentioned in Acts 7 in Stephen’s impassioned speech to the religious leaders who were about to stone him:

“You took up the tent of Moloch
    and the star of your god Rephan,
    the images that you made to worship;
and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.” (Acts 7:43)

The symbol of Israel had always traditionally been the menorah – a right and fitting representation of God’s plan and purposes to bring forth the Messiah to the world from within the people of Israel. The star was used on amulets, but not used as a symbol for the Jewish people until the 14th century, but throughout 17th century it came to represent Israel more and more.[2] In 1897, it became the emblem of the Zionist movement, and ended up on the flag in 1948.

Without going too far into the sad story of how the enemy has deceived the children of Israel over and over again, suffice to say that this star is not very godly. However, it does represent part of the reality in Israel today. Whenever God acts and creates, the enemy is not far behind twisting, distorting, and producing counterfeits. But these counterfeits do not do away with the original any more than fake bank notes invalidate real ones. They exist side by side, and can cause a great deal of confusion and mess. Though Israel was reestablished and brought about by the hand of God (and preserved through divine intervention on many occasions) the modern state of Israel is not immune from the enemy’s meddlings, and we are naive to think that everything is pure as the driven snow. It is not. There has been much Freemasonry active in the very foundations of the modern state, but this in no way takes away from the fact that the descendants of Israel have been regathered from 2000 years of exile. The Bible tells us that God called Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that he rescued the twelve tribes of Israel through Joseph in Egypt, gave them his Torah through Moses at Sinai and preserved them throughout history… and he is regathering them now in our days, just as He promised. These facts remain true. The two stories exist side by side.

Wheat and tares

Yeshua gives us this helpful illustration:

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

Both the good and the bad are mixed in together, but make no mistake, God knows which is which! And He will sort everything out in the end. So in many ways, the flag is a perfect emblem of the state of Israel today, telling the two stories: The chosenness of the kingdom of priests, the people of Israel and their permanent, covenantal relationship with their divine God, and the symbol suggesting the enemy’s interference in among it all. I do not see the need to reject the flag because of the star – God is aware of what is going on, He knows all and is over all. The story is not over yet. Judging by God’s faithfulness to his promises so far when it comes to Israel, we can be sure it will all work out exactly as He says in His Word.

[1] The Tallit and Tzitzit by Rich Robinson | Jan 1, 1994
[2] HaAretz, The Star of David: More Than Just a Symbol of the Jewish People or Nazi Persecution, Ronen Shnidman, Feb 17, 2014

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