“The Crossing of the Red Sea”, Nicholas Poussin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In English, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is calling its effort – launched Wednesday – to strike a blow to Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure “Pillar of Defense,” but in Hebrew the operation’s name has another, deeper biblical meaning. In Hebrew, the IDF named its operation “Amud Anan,” that is Pillar of Cloud, a clear reference to the flight of the Children of Israel from Egypt and how God protected them.
In the Book of Exodus 13:21, as the Israelites flee Egypt and the oppressive Pharaoh, the scene is described this way:
The Lord went before them in a pillar of cloud by day, to guide them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, that they might travel day and night.
The pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire remained with them throughout their journey. Meanwhile, a very angry Pharaoh deployed his chariots, horses and warriors to chase after the departing former slaves. As the Egyptian soldiers began to catch up with the Israelites, this is what happened, according to Exodus 14:19-20:
The angel of God, who had been going ahead of the Israelite army, now moved and followed behind them; and the pillar of cloud shifted from in front of them and took up a place behind them and it came between the army of the Egyptians and the army of Israel. Thus there was a cloud with the darkness, and it cast a spell upon the night, so that the one could not come near the other all through the night.
Then the Red Sea split, the Israelites began to cross on dry land while the Egyptian military on horse and chariot chased after them into the now-divided sea. Exodus 14:24 reads:
At the morning watch, the Lord looked down upon the Egyptian army from a pillar of fire and cloud, and threw the Egyptian army into panic.
TheBlaze asked Haifa University bible scholar Dr. Jonathan Ben-Dov why he thinks the IDF chose this biblically significant reference as the name of the operation to strike Hamas. He said:
They chose it because it’s something for defense. The pillar of cloud stood to absorb the arrows of the Egyptians. That’s I think what they had in mind. It was in front of them and then behind them and then back in the front of them. The pillar of cloud is there to defend.
And now Israel seeks a modern day “Pillar of Cloud” to defend itself against relentless attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.
On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited the foreign ambassadors serving in Israel to Ashkelon – a city that’s suffered from rocket fire launched by terrorist groups in Gaza, including Hamas, to try to prepare international public opinion while he was planning the more wide-scale military operation in Gaza. Israel is investing great effort in emphasizing the defensive objective of its military mission, that is, to protect the million Israeli citizens living within the radius of Grad and Qassam rockets. According to IDF statistics, more than 12,000 rockets launched by Gaza terrorist groups have hit southern Israel in the past 12 years. It reports that since the beginning of 2012, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have fired 768 rockets into Israel. More than 120 were fired between Sunday and Tuesday.
The biblical passage refers to a specific example in which God was defending the Israelites from a cruel and merciless enemy – one with a hard heart. Thus, in those three words “Pillar of Cloud,” the IDF can convey Israel is on the defense, while Hamas and other terrorists – like the biblical Egyptian warriors – are unjustifiably chasing innocent men, women and children.
The IDF has in the past used biblical phrases for its operations’ names. For example, the 1996 battle Grapes of Wrath against Hezbollah in Lebanon.