When is the time of Jacob’s trouble?


The phrase “The time of Jacob’s trouble” is only found in one place in scripture, Jeremiah 30. This must therefore be our starting point as the key features and context of this phrase will allow us to rightly pinpoint the time period under consideration. Jeremiah 30 is part of a prophecy that Jeremiah sees in a dreamy vision. It begins in chapter 30 but continues until chapter 31:26 where we read “Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me.”

Structure of Jeremiah’s dream

Jeremiah 30 and 31 can be split into a structure. There is a “header” with a lead in statement. We then have a prophecy future to Jeremiah’s time. Next, based on the prophecy of the future comes an exhortation to the Jews at the time of Jeremiah. Finally we have a “footer” section. Further details to this structure are as follows:

30:1-3 – The “header” statement which declares the overall context of the prophecy – e.g. that the whole of Judah and Israel are brought back to the land after a period of captivity.

30:4-9 – A description of “the time of Jacob’s trouble” and the people’s ultimate salvation
30:10-17 – Comfort and exhortation to bear affliction
30:18-24 – The effects of God’s salvation for the Jews in the land
31:1-9 – Prophecy of restoration for those Jews out of the land
31:10-14 – Declaration to the nations of the regathering of the people

31:15-17 – A message of hope for those in Ramah and Rahel
31:18-21 – Yahweh’s response to Ephraim
31:22-24 – Yahweh’s cry “how long”

31:25 – Closing comment – the prophecy should replenish the faithful
31:26 – Jeremiah awakens

Historical Context

It is also worth considering the direct historical context of the prophecy. Jeremiah was prophesying in Jerusalem at the time of the various Babylonian invasions (Jeremiah 1:1-3 & 52:12). The Northern kingdom of Israel had already gone into captivity – leaving the small kingdom of Judah in the south. The people had turned to their own line of reasoning and idolatry and had ceased to trust in Yahweh their God. Therefore the Jews remaining in the land around Jerusalem were also now going to be punished and the whole nation would be sent into captivity. This context helps us to appreciate why it would have been most significant to the faithful remnant within the nation, (who would also be suffering), to receive a prophecy by the lips of Jeremiah the prophet, about a time when Yahweh would “bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah” (30:3).

Criteria of the Prophecy

Some key features are brought to our attention when reading the prophecy through. These features form “criteria”, (using only the inspired text), which help us to then consider where this prophecy might ‘fit in’ to the wider prophetic word and also allows us to consider facts of history to determine whether it has been fulfilled or if it still relates to a time in the future.

  • 1. The subject of the prophecy is about Israel having returned to their land after a period of dispersion (30:3 and 30:18)
  • 2. It is a time of great distress in the land (30:4-7) where they are left isolated (30:12-14) as a punishment from God (30:11&14)
  • 3. That Israel will be saved by Yahweh after this period of punishment (30:7-8, 30:10-23)
  • 4. The conflict will be between Israel and a mysterious “him” who places a yoke upon Israel’s neck, places them in bonds, (30:8) “spoils” them and treats them as a “prey” (30:16) – all that he does to Israel will be done to him and his companions (30:16). He will be “stronger” than Israel (31:11)
  • 5. This saving causes them to serve Yahweh and David (the beloved) their king who will be raised up (30:9) and the city of Jerusalem with its palace to be rebuilt (30:18)
  • 6. A period of thanksgiving, peace, blessing and glory will ensue (30:19-20, 31:11-14). The governor of Israel will ‘draw near’ unto Yahweh (30:21). The people will be described as “my people” (30:22) having been redeemed and ransomed (31:11).
  • 7. Those Jews outside of the land will be regathered after a Divine decree is sent to them (31:1-5). This will be taken “with weeping and supplications” and God will lead the people (31:9). A decree of this ingathering will go out to the nations (31:10).
  • 8.  The time period when this all occurs is defined as “The Latter Days” (30:24) in which this prophecy will be understood (‘consider’ AV).

These eight features therefore are discerned by a simple reading of the full text. We must now consider how this prophecy might fit into any historical fulfilment, or if its accomplishment lies in the future.

Has this been fulfilled?

The Jewish nation has had some terrible times of trouble in its history. At the time of Jeremiah, the Babylonians were invading from the north and violently removing Jews from their homeland. After a partial regathering at the time of Christ this was also done by the Romans in the time period around AD70, when the Jews were again forcibly exiled. They lived, were scattered and persecuted in Gentile lands for the next 2000 years, accumulating in the horror of the Holocaust under Nazi Germany. Can it be said that any of these times of trouble fulfil the requirements of the prophecy here in Jeremiah 30 and 31 and answer to “the time of Jacob’s trouble”?

It does not seem that they do, for the simple reason that the prophecy before us clearly defines a time of trouble from which Israel is saved by Yahweh. This saving then brings about a spiritual revival. It is because of the saving of the people that they turn to God once again and are acceptable in His sight. This outcome cannot be said to have been accomplished in the past events of Israel’s history.

Could there be a gap in time between the trouble and salvation and the spiritual revival? By simply reading the text it is clear that the trouble from which Israel are saved and the spiritual revival are directly correlated – meaning that they have to occur together.

Consider what the prophecy says about the final outcome of the time of Jacob’s trouble:

“For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him: But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.” Ezekiel 30:8-9

The two aspects are inextricably linked. Because Yahweh had saved Israel, therefore they serve Him. It is not only Yahweh that is served though – the spiritual revival causes Israel to serve Yahweh and “David their king, whom I will raise up unto them”. This is an interesting thing to ponder – who is “David their King”? Is this not a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ? The one who the Lord God shall give “the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32). The one who will “restore again the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). “David” means “beloved” and this is a term applied to Jesus in Matt 3:17 where, after his baptism the Father says “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Therefore, due to these connections it is reasonable to conclude that the outcome of this prophecy is the Kingdom of God being restored again on earth under the rulership of the son of Almighty God, the Lord Jesus Christ.

If this interpretation is correct, then the prophecy implies a direct correlation with the salvation out of “the time of Jacob’s trouble” and the return of Christ himself, for how will Israel serve him if he has not yet returned?

Indeed, the “time of Jacob’s trouble” is a period of correction (30:11). When it is accomplished Israel will have been “corrected in measure” and punished but then, when this is accomplished God will finally take the people back having “redeemed” them (30:18 and 31:11). At this point they will be acceptable in His sight and once again they will be His people (30:22). As this spiritual revival has not taken place due to a dramatic saving of Israel after a period of trouble, one has to therefore conclude this prophecy has not yet been fulfilled.

Making the connection

With the gospel records we know we have four different, inspired accounts of the life of Christ. Many events are recorded in multiple gospels which give different details and also emphasise different aspects of the same teaching or act. It is often said that Prophecy is like this, as it is a hallmark of the Divine mind not to spell things out but to record things that require men to search out the truth of the matter by careful examination of what has been revealed. How would we know if two prophecies in Scripture were in fact connected, giving different details of the same events?

1. If the same characters appear in both prophecies
2. If the circumstances/event are the same
3. If there is similar language used (inter-textual links)
4. If the location is the same
5. If the outcome is the same
6. If the same time period is named and used of both passages

If multiple of the above are in place, then it would be right to at least consider if the prophecies are related to the same events. It would be, as it were, that the Divine author would have led us to this conclusion by leaving us clues in His text.

Connecting passages

The prophecy, as stated in its header, is all about how Yahweh will “bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah” (30:3). So are there other passages which speak of the same event as this?

The exact phrase turns up in the following passages:

“Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name;” Ezekiel 39:25

“For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,” Joel 3:1

“And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.” Amos 9:14

A further examination of the context of these prophecies is worth considering as further connections with Jeremiah 30 and 31 can be found.

Summary of connections

A summary of the connections, using the criteria above reasonably imply that these are not separate prophecies that should be considered in isolation. They should be considered as a prophetic whole and as a revelation of the events of “the latter days” and the time period just before Christ and his immortalised saints will reveal themselves on the world scene. Each prophecy gives different information therefore about the same events.


We will now review these other prophecies which proclaim to be about the same subject matter – that of Yahweh’s bringing again the captivity of the Jews.

Ezekiel 38 and 39

Ezekiel 38 and 39 are part of a set of thematic prophecies which all climax with the same event of the people “knowing that I am Yahweh”. Chapter 38 is a prophecy about how this will occur in the Gentile nations (38:23) whilst chapter 39 records not only how this will happen amongst the Gentiles (39:7), but also shows how this will be accomplished in the Jewish nation itself (39:22 & 28).

It is clear from Ezekiel 39 that this is a turning point in Israel’s history – events which are irreversible and momentous causing the nation of Israel to finally accept Yahweh’s truth which previously they had not been doing:

“So the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day and forward.Ezekiel 39:22

There are many connections between these passages and the prophecy of “the time of Jacob’s trouble” of Jeremiah 30 and 31. They both speak of the great conversion of Israel back to Yahweh in the “latter days” after a period of punishment is sent by God upon them.

The punishment in Jeremiah is said to be inflicted by an unnamed militant character (30:8) however in Ezekiel 38 we are told the name of the leader of the invading force, “Gog” – as well as those nations, listed under their ancient names, who assist him in the work (38:1-7).

In Jeremiah 30:11 we read “…but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.”

In Ezekiel 39:26 we read of why this punishment is inflicted:

“After that they have borne their shame, and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against me, when they dwelt safely in their land, and none made them afraid.”

Therefore connecting these two prophecies the order of events would have to be that there is an initial gathering of the Jews back to their land. However this time will  not be a time in which the nation is acceptable in the eyes of God. It is a time when they trespass against God. This is what we are seeing now. A nation who, on the whole, are secular. Even those who have gravitated back to learn of the Torah and appreciate some of the restoration prophecies that their families have been part of, do not accept Christ as the Messiah and actively resist this idea. Yes some of the nation may be becoming more religious and their hearts might be being prepared for the coming spiritual revival but right now they still reject the holy scriptures of the so called ‘New Testament’ and twist and wrestle the prophetic word so as to scrub out a suffering Messiah. Superstition, manmade laws and tradition are injected into the living word so as to strangle the truth of the scriptures and far remove all thought from the one true God of Israel. A God who demands faith and repentance based on His gospel. As a whole, the nation is indeed in sin. Therefore the “time of Jacob’s trouble” is sent by God upon them because of their unbelief whilst they are in the land – an invasion from the north of a confederacy of nations under Gog. God then saves Israel out of this invasion causing them to be greatly humbled and accept God’s truth. They will at this time finally “know him” and become acceptable before Him for he will not “hide” His face from them after that point (Ezekiel 39:29).

One could also go much further and comment on how Ezekiel chapters 38-39 fit into many other “latter day” prophecies. Time and space does not permit a full exposition of how Ezekiel 38-39 fit into the wider prophetic word at this time, but following the criteria we have set out above it will be seen that other passages can also be added to one’s knowledge to inform us about the great events soon to take place on the earth. The three key passages which connect with Ezekiel 38 & 39 are:

  • Daniel 11:40-45 which talks about what will occur  at “the time of the end” (Dan 11:40) within the time period of “the latter days” (Dan 10:14) when an invading force, with the same affiliated nations as those mentioned in Ezekiel 38 invades Israel and then comes to its end.
  • Zechariah 12-14 which gives us details of events which occur at the time of the invasion of the nations and of how the Jews are converted by looking upon Christ who they “pierced” (Zech 12:10 and John 19:37) after being saved by him and the saints (Zech 14:5).
  • Revelation 16:12-16 and the time period of the sixth viol which identifies the shrinking of the Ottoman empire (the “drying up of the great river Euphrates” v12) as a milestone that will herald the gathering of the nations for Armageddon and the manifestation and return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Joel 3

Joel chapter 3 also focuses on a great time of crisis. We are told in verse 2:

“I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.” Joel 3:2

The prophet goes on to explain through verses 4-8 that “Tyre and Zion” (in modern Lebanon where Hezbollah reside) and the “coasts of Palestine” (Gaza strip where Hamas currently live) have got involved and had helped to sell Jews as slaves. As an interesting aside it is in accordance with Bible prophecy therefore that antagonistic peoples will sit on these territories and we can see the amazing hand of God in orchestrating modern history to allow this detail of His word to begin to come to pass. As a punishment for their cruelty to Israel in this time of crisis the prophecy informs us that these nations will have the same done to them. However we see here how this gives us a little more insight into the “time of Jacob’s trouble” and the type of affliction the Jews will suffer.

In verses 9-15 we read of all the nations of the Gentiles preparing for war and coming to the valley of Jehoshaphat (meaning “the valley of judgement”). At verse 14 we read of how these nations will be “threshed” which connects this event with Revelation 16:16 and “Armageddon” meaning a heap of sheaves in a valley for judgement.

In the latter part of the prophecy we read of the outcome of these events. Yahweh is in Zion. His voice goes forth from Jerusalem (v16). A time of blessing and fruitfulness ensures, clearly speaking of the Kingdom age (v18). Israel are acceptable in His sight (v21).

The story here then is the same as Jeremiah 30-31 and Ezekiel 38-39. An invasion. A time of affliction. The nation is saved out of it by the actions of Almighty God and become acceptable before Him. The Kingdom then begins. This is the time when ultimately God will “bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem”.

Amos 9

Amos 9 verses 11-15 are a prophecy of the final restoration of Israel in the Kingdom. It will be a time when the tabernacle of David will once again be raised up so that Jew and Gentile can worship acceptably before God (see Amos 9:11 and Acts 15:16). Verse 12 tells us that Edom and the heathen will be possessed by the Kingdom and be subject to it.

In verse 13 we read of the fruitfulness of those times as the “plowman shall overtake the reaper”.

Then, in verse 14 we read:

“And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.” Amos 9:14-15

These are clearly references to the Kingdom and the ultimate restoration of God’s people back to Him.

Clearly the emphasis of this prophecy is the time of joyous acceptance that Israel will have before God in the Kingdom age – as spoken of in Jeremiah 31, after the time of Jacob’s trouble.

Time of trouble

If we now focus in on the verse which mentions the phrase in question, we can glean some further interesting insight from what God has revealed to us in His word:

“Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.” Jeremiah 30:7

Here the prophet is inspired to tell us that this great time period is so distinguished that no other period of trouble in the history of the nation is like it. What a terrible time this will therefore be! How Israel have suffered as a nation in the past! As we have seen from the previous prophecies examined: violence, war, banishment, slavery and much more will be inflicted upon the nation – by the authority of this passage it seems that this future affliction will be greater than anything the nation has gone through in history.

The word “trouble” is very interesting as it helps to tie the prophecy to Daniel’s prophecies of the “latter days” (Dan 10:14). After the revelation of what will happen at the “time of the end” in Daniel 11: 40-45 of a great invading force from the north, we read that it is at this same time (e.g. during this same time period of the “latter days” and the “time of the end”) that the great time of the resurrection will take place:

“And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” Daniel 12:1

The word “trouble” here is the same hebrew word the spirit uses in Jeremiah 30:7. That in itself does not establish a solid link, however when we consider that Jeremiah 30:7 has told us “none is like” the day of Jacob’s trouble and here in Daniel 12 we read that around the time of the resurrection there will be a “time of trouble such as never was” upon the nation, then we can see this is a revelation of the same terrible time period. God has here revealed to us a distinguishing feature – a time so terrible it will surpass all other persecution the Jews have faced.

Now clearly this again points us to a future fulfilment of the “time of Jacob’s trouble”. A time so great that it will be worse for Israel than any of the previous sufferings under the hands of the Romans, Babylonians, or Nazi Germany will have brought upon them. The time of pain and extreme distress is likened unto each man of Israel going into labour (see 30:6). The spirit through Daniel has revealed that during this time of suffering, the resurrection and judgment of the saints will take place – clearly this has not happened and is a future event. Therefore the time of Jacob’s trouble, the invasion of the “king of the north” and the affliction which his terrible force brings upon the nation is also not something yet fulfilled but is a future event which occurs before Israel are saved by Christ and those saints found acceptable at the judgement (Zechariah 14:5).

The establishment of the Kingdom

As Jeremiah 30 and Ezekiel 38-39 clearly teach, it is only after this salvation from the time of trouble that the Kingdom is established.

As Jeremiah has revealed this is the ‘cause and effect’ of the time of trouble. The trouble of the invading force is the cause which brings about the effect of Israel serving “Yahweh their God and David their king” whom God will raise up unto them (Jeremiah 30:9). This humbling and repentance from the nation causes them to once again be acceptable before God.This terminology again links in with another prophecy:

“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.” Hosea 3:4-5

Indeed the Jewish nation did, since the dispersion and scattering of the nation by the Romans, remain without any royalty or priestly functions within their nation. However the “many days” are soon to be up for we have seen them “return”. This part of the prophecy could be claimed to be accomplished. The final fulfilment of the prophecy will be when the Jewish nation turn to truly seek Yahweh their God and Christ, “the beloved” of the age to come as we have seen in our previous comments examining Ezekiel 30:8-9.

These wonderful events though all happen, as Hosea has said in “The Latter Days” – a time period punctuated with these key episodes. This is backed up by Jeremiah who has stated in verse 24 that it is in “the latter days” when the nation will understand the prophecy of Jeremiah 30 and 31 and appreciate the reason behind the time of Jacob’s trouble.

It is then, in the “latter days” that the Kingdom will once again be upon the earth. Isaiah, by inspiration, teaches us this:

“And it shall come to pass in the last (Heb = latter) days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.” Isaiah 2:2-5

We must now then look forward to the time of the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel. Although the time of Jacob’s trouble is going to be a horrific thing to witness, we who have studied these things from God’s word will know that these things need to occur in order for God’s purpose of re-establishing the Kingdom, and for natural Israel to be part of that Kingdom as subjects, to take place.

Therefore we pray for the time of trouble to be short upon Israel and look forward to the joyous time of thankfulness and acceptation that Israel will have before Almighty God in the great time of the age soon to come upon this earth.