God’s deliverance of Israel

The Galgal plant

The galgal plant ... a prophetic picture

There is a plant that grows in arid areas of Israel that the Bible uses as a prophetic picture of what is to happen in the future. The plant is the “galgal” (Hebrew: gimel lamed gimel lamed). It is mentioned twice in the Old Testament – once in Psalm 83 and again in Isaiah 17. The NIV translates the Hebrew as “tumbleweed”. This is probably as good a word as could be used for an English translation, but it does not identify the exact plant and it fails to capture the essence of what God is going to do.

The galgal starts growing as an innocuous looking weed. However, unseen below ground, a huge root structure is forming. The galgal matures into a large, rounded shrub, covered with vicious thorns. It grows in clumps and is virtually impenetrable when fully grown. For the landowner it looks disastrous. And then a miracle takes place. Overnight the plant dies. The stem separates from the root at ground level and the lightest breeze blows the “tumbleweed” away.

This is the image that the Bible uses of those who oppose God’s purposes.

In Psalm 83 the context is the threat of the immediate enemies of Israel. Read the opening verses of the Psalm [Psalms 83:1-4]. Later comes the prophet’s call to make those enemies like the galgal. However, a few verses further on, we also see the redemptive purposes of God in the deliverance of Israel. It is “so that men will seek your name” [Psalms 83:13-18].

Psalms 83:1-4

O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still.
See how your enemies are astir, how your foes rear their heads.
With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish.
“Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.”

Psalms 83:13-18

Make them like tumbleweed, O my God, like chaff before the wind.
As fire consumes the forest or a flame sets the mountains ablaze, so pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm.
Cover their faces with shame so that men will seek your name, O LORD.
May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace.
Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD – that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.


The second reference to the galgal, in Isaiah 17, is also shown as referring to a time to come.

Deliverance for Israel will come about, not because of her righteousness, but because God has made a promise”

The chapter starts [Isaiah 17:1] with a prophecy of the destruction of Damascus – an event that has not yet occurred in history. We again see the redemptive purposes of God in these events [Isaiah 17:7]. The reference to the galgal occurs in verse 13. This final passage in the chapter [Isaiah 17:12-14] is not a reference to the immediate enemies of Israel and their fate, but to the “raging of many nations”.

Isaiah 17:1

An oracle concerning Damascus: “See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins.”

Isaiah 17:7

In that day men will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 17:12-14

Oh, the raging of many nations – they rage like the raging sea! Oh, the uproar of the peoples – they roar like the roaring of great waters!

Although the peoples roar like the roar of surging waters, when He rebukes them they flee far away, driven before the wind like chaff on the hills, like tumbleweed before a gale.

In the evening, sudden terror! Before the morning, they are gone! This is the portion of those who loot us, the lot of those who plunder us.


As conflict increases around Israel today, and more and more of her former international supporters speak out against her, it is worth remembering that God is watching over His Chosen People and the Promised Land [Psalms 121:4].

Psalms 121:4

… He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.


From a biblical standpoint, the conflict in the Middle East is not a matter of so-called “fairness”. God, let us not forget, saved you and me through faith in Jesus Christ – not because we merited mercy, but because of His grace. The solution to the problems of Israel, the Palestinians and Islam, will not be found through international diplomacy or political manoeuverings. It will come about through a miracle of God – like the miracle of individual salvation.

Deliverance for Israel will come about, not because of her righteousness, but because God has made a promise. Those who seek the weakening and destruction of Israel are opposed to His purposes. If Scripture is to be believed, then it is dangerous – destructively dangerous – for governments or individuals to fight against His will.

Related messages: