Posted by: austend | Thursday, April 23, 2009

J.N. Darby & The Jews

John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) was a pastor among the Plymouth Brethren.  He was the first to majorly develop the eschatological system of Dispensationalism (more {here}), whose primary emphasis (one of two) is a distinction between Israel and the church.  In a recent Bibliotheca Sacra article, writer Paul Wilkinson shares some interesting things about him:

The immediately following account is of Darby visiting a deathly-ill boy and sharing the Gospel with him:

“…’After upwards of an hour’s toilsome walking…over steep hills…[and]…heavy marshes,’ Darby arrived at a peasant’s cottage and found the young lad with his mother, lying on a bed of straw ‘in a state of extreme suffering and exhaustion.’  The boy stared at Darby ‘like a frightened animal.’  Darby was immediately ‘struck with dismay and almost despair,’ not knowing how to reach this lost soul who was close to death, illiterate, and ‘altogether ignorant of the way of salvation.’  Darby records how he ‘raised up’ his heart in prayer, asking the Lord to direct him ‘in this most difficult and trying position’ and to open to him ‘by His Spirit of wisdom a way to set forth the glad tidings of salvation so as to be understood by this poor benighted wanderer.’  As Darby enquired about his condition, the boy told him how he had fallen ill after searching the mountains in inclement weather for one of his father’s sheep, which had gone astray.  Having found the distressed animal, the boy, whose lungs had been pierced by ‘the cold mountain blast,’ lifted it on his shoulders and carried it home, much to the delight of his father.  As the boy declared, ‘I did my best to save the sheep.’  The Lord had provided ‘this happy opening’ for Darby, who proceeded to use the story to tell him the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7). ‘The Lord mercifully opened not only his understanding, but his heart also, to receive the things spoken.  He himself was the lost sheep, Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd,  who was sent by the Father to seek for him….My poor sick lad seemed to drink it all in.  He received it all; he understood it all.  I never saw a clearer proof of the power of the divine Spirit to apply the Word of God….He accepted Christ as his Savior [and] earnestly prayed to be carried home like the lost sheep in the heavenly Shepherd’s arms.  He died humbly, peacefully, almost exulting, with the name of Jesus, my Savior and my Shepherd, the last upon his lips.'”

Wilkinson with Philip Hallie in Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed and David Brog in Standing with Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State points out  that Darby’s influence among some villagers in the French village Le Chambon led these villagers to harbor some 5,000 Jews during the Holocaust.  They loved the Jews, and they were willing to risk their own lives to help them.  One account in this village includes a German Jewish lady visiting a farm of some Darby followers.  When the Jewess asked to buy some eggs, the farmer’s wife asked her if she was Jewish.  She affirmed that, only to have the farmer’s wife summon the whole family down to where the two women were standing.  The Jewess, who had become very nervous,  was completely taken aback when the farmer’s wife gladly showed her family this representative of the Chosen People.  They loved the Jews, and this love came through John Darby’s influence.  The main organizer of this effort to save the Jews in Le Chambon was Andre Trocme, who was posthumously honored as a Righteous Among the Nations in 1972 by Yad VaShem (Israel’s Holocaust memorial museum).

Quotes by Darby:

Darby loved the church all his life, but “there was, however, another flock that Darby took into his heart,  a flock despised, neglected, and rejected not only by the world, but by many in the church.”  This was, of course, the Jews.

“Israel is always the people of God [and] cannot cease to be the people of God.”

“The Jews are the habitual object of the thoughts of God; for, although He cannot recognize them for the moment, as being under His chastening hand, they are nevertheless still His people…”

Material taken from Wilkinson, Paul R. “John Nelson Darby and His Views on Israel.” Bibliotheca Sacra 166, no. 661 (January-March 2009): 84-99.

Paul has written a book with Thomas Ice on John Darby’s influence in supporting the Jews and Zionism: Wilkinson, Paul and Thomas Ice. For Zion’s Sake: Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby. Wipf and Stock, 2007. {here}



  1. Thank you and God bless you. I have been a Christian since I was eleven (I’m 55) and I’ve never been able to understand when I read the Bible. I began to ask ‘please, God, show me what you are saying’ and within a couple of years I had discovered that there are such things as dispensations and with this knowledge I could now understand. I owned an old Scofield bible when I was in my 20’s but I guess I just didn’t have the true yearning I now have to know Him. Watchman Nee is the man who led me to the dispensational teachings though at first I had been somewhat familiar with them through Scofield (my younger, busy with the kids days). I now have Chafer’s complete set of Systematic Theology and have given his shorter version to others. See you in the Kingdom my brother!

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