How Dark The Night
Anti-Semitism is an ugly word. Just men have always abhorred it. But, like a bad dream, it refuses to go away. Historians, social scientists, philosophers, theologians — all are hard pressed to explain this perpetual phenomenon which is as ancient as Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, and as contemporary as the modern state of Israel.
In the Old Testament the Amorites, Egyptians, Amalekites, Assyrians, Phoenicians, Philistines, Babylonians, Persians and Macedonians were among the many nations who rose up to plunder and harass the sons of Jacob. In turn, each of these nations experienced the chastening hand of God and, with few exceptions, the nations of antiquity who persecuted the Jew are no more. That they existed at all is often only known through the Bible, a few ancient manuscripts or the archaeologist’s spade.
Following the death of Christ, anti-Semitism not only continued but intensified.
Among her antagonists were Roman soldiers, Islamic fanatics, “Christian” Crusaders, Spanish Inquisitors, Russian Cossacks, Nazi S. S. troops and, most recently, Palestinian terrorists. No race, no religion, no nation, no ethnic group has experienced the continuous persecution that the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have known. Clearly, one of the great marvels of human history is the continued existence of the Jewish race. God, himself, gave the formula for destroying His beloved nation. He said, in effect, that if a man could destroy the sun, moon and stars then and only then could he destroy Israel. But as long as those heavenly bodies were in the sky, Israel would continue to exist as a nation (Jer. 31:31-40). Here is overwhelming evidence to an open mind of the existence of God and His faithfulness to His Word.
The universal dispersion of the Jewish people with its attendant persecution was prophesied by Moses almost fifteen hundred years before it came to pass:
And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other: and there thou shall serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest; but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind. And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have no assurance of thy life. (Dt. 28:64-66)
And Jesus, himself, in His message given on the Mount of Olives only a few short days before His crucifixion, said:
And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that its desolation is near . . . For there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. (Lk. 21:20, 23-24)
After the death of Christ the hostility between the Jews and imperial Rome continued to fester for some thirty years. Then the Roman governor, for some unknown reason, chose to loot the Temple and interfere in Jewish worship. More than two hundred years earlier, in 165 B.C., the Jews had successfully revolted against the Greeks who had desecrated their Temple, Now they would try to revolt against the Romans. For her part, Rome sent a powerful army under the command of General Titus. The Jews took refuge behind the strong walls of the city of Jerusalem, and the Romans countered by building a barrier outside the city walls so that supplies could not get in and people could not get out. Eventually, the starving defenders began to fight among themselves and finally, in 70 A.D., the city of Jerusalem fell. The Temple was destroyed, precisely as the Lord Jesus had predicted, and not one stone was left upon another (Mt. 24:2). Thousands of Jews were crucified, and others were sold as slaves or dragged off to be exhibited or torn to pieces in Roman arenas. Those who could, fled across the desert — some went east toward Babylon and others southward toward Egypt and North Africa. Still others chose to sail to the countries bordering file Mediterranean Sea. The worldwide dispersion of the Jews had now begun.
Some Jews, however, stayed behind, preferring to bow to imperial Rome than face the uncertainties and hardships of dispersion. Sixty-five years later, in 135 A.D., these remaining Jews would seek to throw off the yoke of foreign oppression one more time. On this occasion, the esteemed Rabbi Akiba identified a leader by the name of Bar Kochba (Son of the Star) as the long-promised Messiah and Deliverer of Israel. With rabbinic sanction, multitudes flocked to his side to fight against Rome. It was a disaster. Half a million men, women and children died.
Rabbi Akiba was captured and tortured to death, and now the Romans had had enough of the troublesome, freedom-loving Jews. The holy city of Jerusalem was leveled and plowed over. Jews were forbidden, by pain of death, to set foot in the new Roman city called Aelia Capitolina, which was built on the site. The name of the land was changed to Syria Philistina, from which would later come Palestine.
The Roman Empire, in the centuries which followed, began to decline and, in 476, fell by the weight of its own debauchery and corruption, and in the deserts of Arabia a new religion arose, with the flight of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina in 622 A.D. Familiar with both Judaism and Christianity, Mohammed took elements of both, added his own revelation and wrote the Koran, holy book of the Islamic faith. In the seventh century, his followers, with sword in hand, swept out of the Arabian desert and conquered lands from Persia to southern France. Israel was one of the many victims who fell within her domain. And in Jerusalem, on the site where Abraham had consented to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to his God and the Solomonic and Herodian Temples once stood, they erected the “Dome of the Rock” — today the third most holy site in the Moslem world. The Moslems held sway for the next five centuries. Under their rule the plight of the Jew was not good; but they fared better than they did under the Romans.
In the eleventh century, the “Christians” of Europe became aroused over the reality that the holy land was ruled by the Moslems. Under Richard the Lion-Hearted, the Crusades were launched in 1095. The intent was to deliver the holy land from the infidel. As Crusader armies, seeking adventure, liquidation of debts and assurance of Heaven, marched across Europe, they killed, raped and robbed the Jews as they passed through their villages. The first contingent of Crusaders arrived in Israel in 1099. They rounded up the Jews, put them in the synagogue, locked the door, barred the gates and burned the men, women and children to death. Thus began the “Christian” cleansing of the land in which Jesus had died to bring peace to a sin-sick world.
The Crusaders managed to gain a foothold and for about one hundred years they controlled Israel from strategic fortresses along the coastline and inland. Eventually they were driven out by the savage troops from the eastern realm of Saladin. The holy land continued to be drenched in blood until it was captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1516. Under Turkish tutorage, the forests were cut down to fuel the locomotives, the hills became barren, the topsoil was washed away by the rains — the land was raped. The beautiful plains of Israel became swamps and swarms of mosquitoes spread malaria.
But that was not the end — more wars were to come. In 1798 Napoleon entered Israel from Egypt, hoping to destroy the Ottoman Empire. He was defeated at the coastal fortress of Acre, north of modern day Haifa, and returned to France.
And, the ancient land which knew greatness and glory in the days of David and Solomon, the land where Christ was born and the stage upon which redemption was acted out, lay in decay. It had become no more than a collection of sickly villages, with Jerusalem hardly more than a small town, and the whole country ruled by a governor appointed — usually for a price — by the sultan in Turkey.
Not in all of the centuries during which the land was governed by Romans, Moslems, Crusaders, Saracens and Turks did the people who lived in the land set up their own government. True, they fought over the land, they used the land, they abused the land. But only the Jew formed a government, drew the land to her bosom, loved her and made her to “blossom like the rose” (Isa. 35:1).
But what of the other Jews during all this time, most of whom had been scattered over the face of the earth? Had they fared better than their handful of counterparts who had stayed in the land?
In 1096, as many as 12,000 Jews were killed in Germany within three months. In 1290, Jews were banished from England. In 1306, Jews were banished from France. In 1348, Jews were blamed for the European plague. In 1492, under Ferdinand and Isabella, who wanted to make Spain a purely Catholic nation, the Spanish Inquisition was launched. Jews were required to convert and be baptized or they would be killed, imprisoned or driven out of Spain. It is estimated that 110,000 Jews had to flee.
As they were uprooted and driven from land to land, there was no haven at the end of the road, no protection along the way, and the ever present danger of robbers and murderers. They were people without a land. It was rumored that the Jews killed infant Gentile children and used their blood in the observance of Passover. They were often required to wear a badge of identification. The women had to wear bells on the bottom of their dresses. Jews normally could not own ground, hold governmental office, attend the universities or work in most of the trades. Usury (the lending of money), merchandising, shoe repair and occasionally the managing of wealthy estates were among the few areas of gainful employment available to the Jew. In 1516, the first ghetto, where Jews were herded together and placed within a restricted area, was established in Venice. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the largest Jewish population in the world was in Russia, and in 1883, they instituted the infamous pogroms. Over 500 Jewish villages were affected by over 1200 pogroms. More than 60,000 were killed and many times that number were wounded. It was these very pogroms which motivated this writer’s grandparents to seek refuge in America. The government encouraged and then looked the other way as Russia attacked, harassed and robbed their Jewish neighbors. But, of course, this was nothing new. Through the centuries, when governments needed diversion to draw attention away from internal problems, the Jew was often a convenient scapegoat.
Between the years 1933 and 1945, the greatest attempt at genocide the world has ever known occurred. Under the depraved genius of Adolph Hitler, six million Jewish lives were snuffed out in the death camps, gas chambers and firing squads of the Third Reich. When many of the nations of the world had it within their power to save tens of thousands of fleeing European Jews, they took no action — refusing to increase immigration quotas and open their borders. Few even raised their voices in objection. For nineteen hundred years, “No Jews Wanted!” could have been written over most of the nations of the world.
What had they done? What was their crime? Why this never-ending persecution? To blame it, as so many have, on the Jewish national rejection of Christ is to acknowledge a total lack of understanding of the Word of God. Some have suggested that hatred of the sons of Jacob was the result of their strange religion. In a day of polytheism, they believed in the one true universal God. Their dietary laws, priesthood, temple worship, code of conduct and aloofness from other peoples all served to make them different and defenseless.
Others have argued that abrasive character, excessive wealth and disproportionate influence are the root cause of hatred of the Jew. These at best are inadequate excuses and certainly not defensible answers.
The only accurate explanation for anti-Semitism is to be found in the fact that God chose Israel, through her greatest Son, to be the instrument for universal blessing and the ultimate defeat of Satan. To retaliate; the secret purpose of Satan, therefore, has always been to destroy the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and thereby frustrate the divine plan for redemption of mankind. This is a foundational principle for understanding four thousand years of human history.
Satan has used his considerable power through the ages to attack God’s chosen people through nations, movements and individuals. But in spite of satanically-inspired Crusades, pogroms, inquisitions, dispersions, ghettos, burnings and butcherings, the Jews somehow kept their identity. Their belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, their divine national destiny and the promise of a land given in perpetuity was strong enough to enable them to grasp the tail of one of the cyclones of history and ride that cyclone through two world wars back to their ancient homeland.
*(Taken from chapter 9, Not Without Design, by the Editor)