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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Why is Israel So Hated?

Before getting to the question in the title of this piece, another question must be considered: Why is there a nation called Israel? This question begets other questions: How did Israel come into existence? And another: What purpose, if any (beyond the typical purposes of a nation), does the nation of Israel serve? Each of these questions is important when it comes to understanding the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and the centuries of hate and suffering endured by the children of Israel.

Most everyone with at least a spotty Sunday school background (fewer and fewer of us) knows something of the biblical account of “Father Abraham.” If nothing else, we can probably recall the ancient trilogy of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (who became “Israel”). Jacob—later named Israel—fathered twelve sons who would become the “twelve tribes of Israel” that would inherit the Promised Land. The Bible first mentions Abraham—initially named “Abram,” a decedent of Noah’s son Shem—in the chronology given in Genesis chapter 11. Genesis chapter 12 begins with the telling “Call of Abram.” It reads,
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Note that the nation born of Abraham will be “a blessing” to the whole world. Scripture is replete with this theme. Genesis alone has several references. In addition to the above, there’s Genesis 18:18, 22:18, 26:4, and 28:14. Without using the word “blessing,” Scripture makes it clear that Israel is the vehicle through which God—in multiple ways—will bless the earth.

Scripture also makes it clear that Israel was not chosen because it was the largest and most powerful nation (Deut. 7:7), or because of her righteousness (Deut. 9:5). In other words, Israel was not chosen for the glory of (or to glorify) Israel, but to glorify the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In other words, God chose the weak—Israel was in slavery when it became a nation—so that the world would know that the God of Israel was the one true God. (Egypt was the first to get a dramatic lesson.)

The idea that Israel was “set apart” as a “witness to the nations” is also a common thought throughout Judaism and Christianity—especially evangelical Christianity. Exodus 19:6 declares, “[Y]ou will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Isaiah 43:12 reads, “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘that I am God.’” One of the ways Israel was (and is) a blessing to the earth is the testimony of the Jews to the very existence of God. In the late nineteenth century England’s Queen Victoria reportedly asked her Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, “Mr. Prime Minister, what evidence can you give me of the existence of God?” After thinking for a moment, Disraeli replied, “The Jew, your majesty.”

Interestingly—but unsurprising to those undeceived—modern science verifies what the Bible reveals when it comes to the Jewish people. For example, a study widely reported on in 2000 revealed that the Jews and the Arabs shared a common and genetic heritage. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at the Y-chromosome—which is passed directly and unaltered from father to son—of male Jews and Arabs and found that they shared “a common set of genetic signatures.” Again, this should come as no surprise to anyone who knows Scripture. The two sons of Abraham were Ishmael—the son of Hagar and the patriarch of the Arabs—and Isaac, the son of Sarah and the patriarch of the Jews. Thus the “common genetic signature” is the result of both Jews and Arabs being descendants of Abraham.

Also, a 60 Minutes episode—of which I have the transcript—from the year 2000 reported on a genetics study that revealed a “priestly Y-chromosome” among the general Jewish population. In other words, all those who claimed to be Jewish priests (only males) shared a common male ancestor. As Lesley Stahl then reported, “The results proved that Jewish priests from all around the world are, in fact, descended from one single man, a common paternal ancestor somewhere back in time.” (GASP! I wonder who and when?!)

To tease her listening audience, Stahl asked, “How long ago did this great, great, great-grandfather live?” The scientist she was interviewing provided the answer: 3,000 years ago. In other words, right in line with the time-line presented by the Bible for when Moses’ brother Aaron—the patriarch of the Jewish priesthood—lived.

Another manner in which the Jews were a blessing to all of humanity, and another means through which they were a witness to all the earth, was through the written word of God. The Jews were God’s scribes, recording His words and deeds so that people might hear (or read) and believe. As the Apostle Paul, at the beginning of Romans chapter 3 notes, “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew…Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.” The oral, and eventually written Word of God is an amazing testimony of God’s existence, His presence, and His power.

And last, the redemption of all mankind came through the Jews. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was a descendant of Abraham, born out of the tribe of Judah. As Paul also reveals in Romans, “the Jews and the Gentiles alike are all under sin” and in need of salvation. Of course, the message of Paul was the message of Jesus: whether Jew or Gentile, salvation is through Christ alone. Writing to the church in Rome, Paul concludes, “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly…No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.” (Rom. 2:28-29a)

After the message and ministry of Jesus, when followers of Christ became known as “Christians,” and like the Jews, they also became the target of much persecution. Though we are all under a new covenant with our Creator, the nation of Israel still stands as a testimony to the Truth. Because of this, the enemies of God continue to attempt to wipe Israel and the Jews from the face of the earth.

Copyright 2016, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
www.trevorgrantthomas.com
Trevor is the author of the brand new book The Miracle and Magnificence of America
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

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