The 9th of Av is one of the saddest annual events on the Jewish calendar. On this day, the Jewish people mourn the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, the burning of Herod’s Temple, the crushing of the final Jewish rebellion against Rome, the expulsions of the Jews from England in 1290, Spain in 1492 as well as Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005 (which led to years of cross-border rocket attacks from Hamas). All these calamities have one disturbing feature in common, and that is that they all ‘happened’ to occur on the 9th of Av.
It is as if the 9th of Av has been cursed in Jewish history. To understand this phenomenon better, let us take a closer look at the ministry of Jeremiah the prophet and the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in his day.
The Destruction of Solomon’s Temple
At the time of Jeremiah, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah had consistently and stubbornly refused to listen to divine warnings of judgment.
We read in 2 Chr. 36:15-17 that God did not want judgment to come on His people, and ‘rising early’ He sent warnings – but the people mocked and despised the call to repentance. They persisted in their way until ‘there was no remedy’ and judgment came as foretold by Jeremiah and the other prophets – on the 9th of Av.
Looking back at the devastation of Jerusalem, Jeremiah records that God “has called an assembly against me to crush my young men;” (Lam 1:15). The word for ‘assembly’ here is ‘moed’ in Hebrew, meaning an appointed time.
Perhaps this explains how the 9th of Av became an appointed day of a curse which has followed the Jewish people down through history.
The time of Rejoicing is Coming
While much evil has happened on this day, the Scriptures foretell in Zec. 8:19 that the 9th of Av – known here as the fast of the 5th month – will one day be turned into a day of great rejoicing. How can this cursed day become a time of great joy?
The Jewish sages suggest that something truly amazing must be destined to happen on this day, perhaps even the coming of the Messiah Himself. The Messiah’s return will indeed mark a period of ‘restoration of all things’ (acts 3:21) including Him bringing in the final regathering of the scattered Jewish people, and the Messiah Himself reigning upon the restored throne of David in Israel (Luk 1:32). All the promises of God to the Jewish people will in that day be fulfilled, including her finally inheriting the complete land promised to Abraham.
But the greatest among all restorations that is coming, will happen as the nation of Israel will look on ‘Him whom they have pierced’ (Zec 12:10), will mourn in repentance and in that day ‘all of Israel will be saved’ (Rom 11:26). Then He will comfort those who mourn in Zion (Is. 61:3) and turn their sorrow into joy. What a day it will be!
Making it Personal
Whether or not the Messiah actually returns on the 9th of Av, we know that one day God Himself will turn the great loss, sorrow and suffering of the Jewish people to joy. And where the nation of Israel has fallen into sin and departed from God’s ways, we know that God has not abandoned His people, and that He will one day lead them to repentance and restore them fully to Himself.
The message of the 9th of Av also brings hope to you and I as gentile believers. Some of us have endured great loss, yet the message of the 9 of Av is we believe in a God of restoration and hope. Others of us may have fallen into sin and are living life under a cloud of condemnation and shame. Yet the God who has not given up on Israel despite her many mistakes, has not given up on you and I either. And as we turn to him and repent, He is truly faithful to restore us to Himself and to give us a new beginning. And in this way, our own personal ‘9 of Av’ moments can be turned around for into a day of great rejoicing.
Enoch Lavender was born in Australia, raised in Norway, spent time living in China and is now based in Melbourne, Australia. He has been studying Hebrew and the Jewish roots of our faith for the past decade, and has a keen interest in the Middle East from a Bible prophecy perspective.