“Tremble, you earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob.” (Psalms 114:7)
Thursday morning, at 5:39 local time, a 4.4 magnitude earthquake occurred in the Dead Sea region of Israel, an area that is the deepest depression on the face of the planet. Though there were no reports of injury or damage in Israel or neighboring Jordan, it is certainly worth considering the meaning of the event, especially in light of other recent earthquakes that have hit Israel and the catastrophic earthquake that hit a struck Nepal a few months ago.
Biblical scholars explain that the name of God, “Elohim”, refers to the aspect revealed through nature and linked to judgment. For early man, and even today, every natural phenomenon can be an awe inspiring experience, an occasionally fearsome reminder of our mortality. An earthquake is, quite literally, a moving experience.
Scientists have noted that the Dead Sea Rift has affected human civilization through time as well as the flora and fauna of the region, causing migrations and creating water sources. However, it should be noted that the location of Thursday’s earthquake is the precise region of Jericho, known for its city walls that came tumbling down, and also the area of Sodom and Gomorra. A biblical perspective certainly seems in order when considering occurrences of geological proportions.
The recent quake was a result of tensions in the Dead Sea Fault which is part of the Syrian-African Rift, extending from Syria to Mozambique. Experts have predicted that a major earthquake could occur in the near future and local authorities have begun projects to bolster building against such an event. Tectonic tension is building and most geologists consider a major event to be inevitable.
An earthquake in 1837 in the area killed as many as 5,000 people. The last major earthquake to hit the center of Israel was a 6.2 magnitude quake in 1927, killing over 500 people and damaging sites, like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and al-Aqsa Mosque. On March 22, 2012, a 3.7 earthquake hit the exact region as well.
Prophecies connected to earthquakes abound, seeming to emphasize their biblical significance, especially in regards to End of Days prophecy:
“Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south…You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.” (Zechariah 14:3-5)
“The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry.” (Psalms 18:7)
“This is what will happen in that day: When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused, declares the Sovereign LORD. In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground.” (Ezekiel 38:18-20)
“I looked at the earth, and it was formless and empty; and at the heavens, and their light was gone. I looked at the mountains, and they were quaking; all the hills were swaying. I looked, and there were no people; every bird in the sky had flown away…” (Jeremiah 4:23-28)
“They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from the fearful presence of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.” (Isaiah 2:21)
While Thursday’s earthquake caused no damage in Israel, the geological occurrence has served as a wakeup call for many. Dr. Shmuel Marco, who has spent many years studying the timeline of earthquakes in the region, told the Jerusalem Post that geological experts should take a hint from the Bible when predicting the next “big one.”
Marco noted that prophets became active a certain number of years after major earthquakes. Major earthquakes were recorded in the Jordan Valley in the years 31 BCE, 363 CE, 749 CE and 1033 CE. “So roughly,” says Marco, “we are talking about an interval of every 400 years. If we follow the patterns of nature, a major quake should be expected any time because almost a whole millennium has passed since the last strong earthquake.”