A major earthquake hit the Turkey-Syria border region on Monday and was felt also in Israel. A phenomenon occurring in the region for millennia, earthquakes are widely discussed in the Bible and other Jewish sources.
EARTHQUAKES IN JEWISH TRADITION
Jewish tradition has much to say about earthquakes as a sign of God’s interaction with the earth. The Mishna in Tractate Brachot (54A) says that when a person witnesses an earthquake, he should make the blessing “Blessed be He whose strength and power fill the world.”
The Sefrei Devarim teaches that when God gave the Torah to Israel at Mount Sinai, He “thundered” the entire world on its inhabitants.” This global earthquake is based on a verse in Psalms:
The voice of Hashem is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, Hashem, over the mighty waters. Psalms 29:3
The Zohar Chadash (Ruth 59) claims that earthquakes transpire when God gazes down at that specific part of the earth.
END OF DAYS
Earthquakes are prophesied to accompany the end-of-days. Earthquakes and volcanoes are explicitly mentioned by the prophets as playing a role in the end of days, preparing the world by burning away impurities as a crucible is used in metallurgy to purify metal.
But Hashem God is the true God, He is the living God, and the everlasting King; at His wrath the earth trembleth, and the nations are not able to abide His indignation. Jeremiah 10:10
The Prophet Ezekiel specifically described earthquakes as preceding the War of Gog and Magog.
Mountains shall be overthrown, cliffs shall topple, and every wall shall crumble to the ground. Ezekiel 38:20
Some rabbis have attributed this pre-Magog shake-up to God entering into the fray, using the forces of nature as his weapons of choice.
EARTHQUAKES AND PROPHECY
As terrifying as earthquakes can be, there may be a silver lining to an increase in regional seismic activity. In a 2007 article in the J-Post, Dr. Shmuel Marco, Head of the School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Tel Aviv University, 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,” wrote 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.”
Dr. Marco went so far as to attribute Joshua’s victory at Jericho to divinely directed seismic interference.
“The destruction of the walls of the city and the damming of the river, as described in Joshua 6:1-16, is generally agreed by most archeologists to be the result of an earthquake, possibly on the Jericho Fault,” Dr.Marco wrote.
Dr. Marco’s theory is consistent with the story of Prophets Amos and Zechariah whose periods of prophecy were expressly oriented around a major earthquake.
The words of Amos, a sheep breeder from Tekoa, who prophesied concerning Yisrael in the reigns of Kings Uzziyahu of Yehuda and Yerovam son of Yoash of Yisrael, two years before the earthquake. Amos 1:1