This question was asked of me by a Tahitian man. Indeed, it has been asked across the world for centuries by multitudes of Jews and Gentiles alike, and presupposes
a recognition that the hatred of Jews is unusual among the legion of international and interracial hatreds in the world.
Answers to the question have been posited by psychologists, sociologists and historians from a secular frame of reference, but no secular answer has proven thoroughly satisfactory. This study seeks to answer the question from a biblical perspective in an effort to get to the roots of the matter.
B. What Is Anti-Semitism?
If a person feels or acts negatively toward a Jew, even to the point of violence, it does not mean that he is anti-Semitic. His feelings or actions may have their basis in any of the perceived offenses common to the human race.
What, then, is anti-Semitism? It is a visceral animosity towards Jews simply because they are Jews. Yet, it is more than that. It is unique among racial hatreds.
2. A Peculiar Racial Hatred
From noted historian Paul Johnson:
But if anti-Semitism is a variety of racism, it is a most peculiar variety, with many unique characteristics. In my view as a historian, it is
so peculiar that it deserves to be placed in a quite different category. I would call it an intellectual disease, a disease of the mind, extremely infectious and massively
destructive. It is a disease to which both human individuals and entire human societies are prone. . . .
3. Characterized by Unusual Irrationality
From Yaakov Katz, a current member of Israel's Knesset (Parliament):
No one, not even today, has a rational explanation for the continued existence of anti-Semitism. We only know that it is there, kicking and screaming. It began with our becoming a nation, in Egypt, and continued all through the years of exile during which period most of our nation was systematically murdered. That is how we find ourselves, after 1900 years and after the Holocaust, approximately the same population size as we were when the long exile began.(2)
What strikes the historian surveying anti-Semitism worldwide over more than two millennia is its fundamental irrationality. It seems to make no
sense. . . . In the whole of history, it is hard to point to a single occasion when a wave of anti-Semitism was provoked by a real Jewish threat (as opposed to an imaginary one).
In Japan, anti-Semitism was and remains common even though there has never been a Jewish community there of any size.
Asked to explain why they hate Jews, anti-Semites contradict themselves. Jews are always showing off; they are hermetic and secretive. They will not assimilate; they assimilate only too well. They are too religious; they are too materialistic, and a threat to religion. They are uncultured; they have too much culture. They avoid manual work; they work too hard. They are miserly; they are ostentatious spenders. They are inveterate capitalists; they are born Communists. And so on. In all its myriad manifestations, the language of anti-Semitism through the ages is a dictionary of non-sequiturs(3) and antonyms, a thesaurus of illogic and inconsistency. . . .
In the meantime, by allowing their diseased obsession to dominate all their aspirations, the Arabs have wasted trillions in oil royalties on weapons of war and propaganda. . . . Despite all their advantages, they are now being overtaken decisively by the Indians and the Chinese, who have few natural resources but are inspired by reason, not hatred.(4)
Paul Johnson again:
Irrational thinking is common enough in each of us; when anti-Semitism is added in, irrational thinking becomes not only instinctual but systemic. An experienced anti-Semite constantly looks for “evidence” to confirm his idée fixe, and invariably finds it - just as a Marxist, looking for “proof,” constantly uncovers events that confirm his diagnosis of how the world works."(5)
Some of the crazy things that Jews have been accused of, and for which rivers of Jewish blood have been shed, have been blood libels of many sorts, including the
draining of the blood of Gentile children for use in the baking of Passover matzohs (unleavened bread); the desecration of the host (communion wafer), usually by piercing or stabbing it to
recrucify Jesus; the poisoning of the wells in Europe to bring about the bubonic plague; and of being the "Christ-killers." (This last accusation will be addressed in Part 2). They have been
accused of plotting to rule the world. They were victims of the Spanish Inquisition for refusal to accept Catholicism, and of Luther's venomous instigation to riots and bloodshed for refusing to
receive salvation; and, of course, "the Jews" - all of them, mind you, and no one else - were responsible for Germany's post World War I poverty. So what was the sensible solution? The "final
solution": kill them all. Indeed, Scripture prophesies that venom will build against the Jew until all nations gather against them in a
final attempt to finish the job that Hitler started (Zechariah 14:2; Matthew 24:22; Revelation 12:1-17).
Certainly, in this fallen world, Jews could expect their "fair share" of prejudice and violence. Yet, when one considers such incredible accusations and the sheer volume of violence done to them, one must conclude that anti-Semitism is truly an unusual specie of hatred.
C. Alive and Well
As Mr. Katz and Mr. Johnson note, anti-Semitism is alive and well in the world today. Its chief contemporary form is based on Israel's alleged atrocities against her Palestinian victims, which has led to the legitimacy of the State of Israel's very existence being challenged in the halls of power. This, too, is characterized by irrationality. The world knows that Israel is a tiny nation in the midst of a sea of nations and other political-military powers that relentlessly seek her annihilation - the same forces that brought down the Twin Towers, blew up trains in Spain, a hotel in Mumbai and other such atrocities - the same forces that are ruled by tyrants, keep women in subjection, and refuse citizenship and freedom of worship to any Jew. On the other hand, Israel has hostile Arabs in its Knesset (Parliament); and the sounds of muezzin calling the faithful to worship may be heard from the minarets of hundreds of mosques throughout Israel, even by Jews as they pray at the Western Wall! This subspecie of anti-Semitism has earned the title, "the new anti-Semitism."
Dr. Phyllis Chesler:
As I first wrote in 2001-2002, the new anti-Semitism also consists of a rather frightening, genocidal anti-Zionism. The global demonization of
Israel has gathered such speed and force that it could, potentially - it is certainly meant to - delegitimize and destroy the Jewish state. . . .
The [Western] campuses have become increasingly and aggressively anti-Israel and pro-Islam. Today, anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism. “Brownshirt” behavior rules the day. Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents are met with menace, if they are invited to speak at all, and pro-Israel truth tellers are not even invited to speak.
Israel is not an apartheid nation. Muslim countries persecute non-Muslim minorities, Israel doesn't persecute non-Jews. The Arab Middle East is “judenrein,”(6) Arab Christians are under siege there. Say this on most campuses, as I have, and you will be jeered, booed, possibly physically menaced, certainly demonized afterwards as a “racist” and “Islamophobe.” You will lose your publishing contacts and your former feminist political world. You will not be invited to speak by Women’s Studies programs.
My work on Islamic gender apartheid has been attacked in these quarters. . . .
The politically correct line is that Israel, tiny Israel, is the “Nazi, Apartheid state.” Only Orwell would understand this misuse of language, this reversal of logic, which is meant to confuse and brainwash people. Such brainwashing has worked. Sixty years of Soviet and Arab League activism and Saudi monies have accomplished the unbelievable. Israel is not only the “bad guy,” it is the “very worst bad guy” in the entire universe.(7)
The purpose of this lengthy introduction is twofold: that the reader may grasp the breadth and depth of anti-Semitic activity with a focus on the last two thousand years, and to lay a foundation for the claim that the true roots of anti-Semitism are not natural, but spiritual.
Jewish history began when God called Abram to separate himself from his native people to become the father of the Jewish nation (Genesis 12:1-3). In His concluding statement, God declared, And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse (verse 3). With this statement, God intimated what He, in His foreknowledge, already knew: that there will be those who curse Abraham and the Jewish nation because of their chosenness to bring His Word and Messiah into the world. Ultimately, then, anti-Semitism has its roots in spiritual matters.
Catholic scholar Edward H. Flannery said it well:
It was Judaism that brought the concept of a God-given universal moral law into the world...the Jew carries the burden of God in history and for
this he has never been forgiven.(8)
In this section, we will examine anti-Semitism from the perspectives of God, Satan and human persecutors, and the interplay between them. Let it be known that I write as a Jew, and know how sensitive some of the forthcoming material will be for some readers. My grandmother, who lived in the home I was raised in for the first twenty years of my life, lost thirteen siblings in the Holocaust, and my wife's mother was in hiding three years from the Nazis. I therefore appeal for forbearance and a withholding of judgment until the entire section is considered thoughtfully.
The purpose of this section is to determine whether or not the anti-Semitism of the last two thousand years might conceivably be a judgment of God upon Israel; and if so, what the cause might be.
1. Foundational Premises About God
Three foundational premises must be laid:
a. God cannot and does not sin.
His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He (Deuteronomy 32:4. Also Job 8:3; 2 Timothy 2:13; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18; James 1:13). It was on this basis that Abraham appealed to God, Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly? (Genesis 18:25).
b. God hates anti-Semitism.
He told Abram, And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse (Genesis 12:3).
c. God is in control of the nations and of Israel.
Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. (Jeremiah 18:6. Also Job 12:23, Psalm 2:1-6, 108:8-9; Proverbs 21:1 and Daniel 2:21.)
2. God Judges Israel
By "judgment" here is meant the execution of penalty for sin. Biblically, God has brought judgments upon Israel. In Jeremiah 30:15, He chides both houses of Israel, Why do you cry out over your injury? Your pain is incurable. Because your iniquity is great and your sins are numerous, I have done these things to you.
3. By What Principles Does God Judge Israel?
All principles listed apply to Israel. 1-10 and probably 11 apply to Gentile nations, as well.
1) A curse without a cause does not alight (Proverbs 26:2). God never curses without a cause.
Jeremiah 30:15, just quoted, is an example.
2) God may judge a nation to inflict punishment for sin.
Amalek: Thus says the LORD of hosts, "I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt" (1 Samuel 15:2).
The northern kingdom of Israel: For on the day that I punish Israel's transgressions, I will also punish the altars of Bethel; The horns of the altar will be cut off and they will fall to the ground (Amos 3:14).
In some cases, as with Amalek, judgment upon a Gentile nation is a national capital punishment (1 Samuel 15:3,18). For Israel, it is always for the purpose of leading her to repentance.
3) God may judge nations that they may turn from ungodliness unto righteousness.
Nineveh is an example. (Jonah 1:1-2; 3:10)
4) God relents from judgment upon repentance.
Again, Nineveh. (Jonah 1:1-2; 3:10)
5) Accountability is proportional to knowledge: From everyone who has been given much, much will be required (Luke 12:48). To whom much is given in divine revelation, much is required in obedience to God's laws.
(Matthew 10:14-15; John 3:19; 19:11; Romans 2:9; James 4:17; 2 Peter 2:21)
6) Accountability is proportional to nearness in relationship.
(Obadiah 1:10,12. Also Exodus 21:15; Ezekiel 18:18; Micah 7:2; Malachi 2:10; Matthew 10:14-15; John 19:11; Romans 2:9; 1 Timothy 5:8.)
7) I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse (Genesis 12:3).
This principle is in reference to how individuals as well as nations relate to Israel. (Compounded with the principles of nearness and knowledge, woe be to Jewish anti-Semites!)
In Genesis 39:1-5, Potiphar, an Egyptian, initially treated Joseph well, and the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house on account of Joseph; thus the LORD'S blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field (verse 5). However, when Egypt enslaved Israel, God brought upon them devastating and grievous plagues and the destruction of their army (Exodus 6-14).
8) God may judge by giving what is insisted upon, even if it is contrary to His will.
The Israelites in the wilderness grumbled because of the manna that God had given them, desiring meat. He therefore declared that He would give them meat [quail (Numbers 11:31-32)] until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you because you have rejected the LORD (Numbers 11:4-6,18-20. Also 1 Samuel 8:5-22; Romans 1:28-32; Luke15:11-17).
Another case of the same occured while Israel was in the Land. God desired for Israel to remain a theocracy with only His divinely selected and instructed agents,
namely, the priests, the judges, and then Samuel the prophet, to represent Him before the people, and serve the people in their various capacities. He did not want any secular leader over the
people and by the people. Nevertheless, Israel wanted a king like the other nations; so their elders besought Samuel to replace their judges with a king (1 Samuel 8:1-7). 5. "Make us a king to judge us like all the nations." 6. But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." So Samuel prayed to the LORD. 7. And the LORD said to Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not
reign over them." (1 Samuel 8:5-7) Their insistence moved God to give them their wish, and God authorized Samuel to anoint Saul king. (Entire account:1 Samuel 8:1 -
9) God may judge Israel directly, without intermediaries.
He judged them in the wilderness with serpent bites and forty years of unnecessary wandering (Numbers 21:6; 32:13).
10) God may judge Israel through the intermediary use of Gentile nations though they may not even recognize that they are being used as rods of God's judgment. This is why God called Nebuchadnezzar, My servant (Jeremiah 25:9), though he burned Solomon's temple and led Judah captive.
11) When Israel worships the gods of her neighbors or makes ungodly covenants or alliances with them, He may use those very nations to judge her. (Judges 2:2,13-14; 3:7-9; Daniel 9:27 with Isaiah 28:14-22)
12) The presence of a remnant of believers in Israel who are faithful to God, even a very small remnant, moves God to prevent the nation's destruction. To put it
positively, it moves Him to preserve its existence against forces that would seek to destroy it. (Isaiah 65:8-9; Romans 9:27-29 with 1 Kings
4. God's Judgments upon Israel in the Tanach (Old Testament)
Four major periods of calamity will be considered: Israel in Egypt, Israel under the Judges, the Assyrians captivity, the Babylonian captivity.
a. Israel in Egypt
During Israel's sojourn in Egypt, she suffered the casting of her newborn sons into the Nile and centuries of slavery. (Exodus 1:22; 12:40-41; Acts 7:6). Was this a judgment of God?
God gave Abraham, Isaac and Jacob the Land that extended from the Wadi El Arish, a watercourse that empties into the southeast corner of the Mediterranean(9), eastward to the Euphrates (Genesis 12:1,7; 15:17-18). However, because of famine, Abraham left the Land for Egypt and got into trouble with Pharaoh (Genesis 12:10-20). In Genesis 26, also because of famine, Isaac considered going to Egypt; yet, God told him plainly, 2. Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land of which I shall tell you.3. Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you. God instructed him not to go to Egypt even to avoid starvation, but to trust Him in the Land. Likewise because of famine, Jacob sent Joseph's brothers to Egypt to buy grain (Genesis 41:57 - 42:3). Not only that, but the brothers had previously sold Joseph to Midianites headed for Egypt, where Joseph was sold into slavery (Genesis 37:28). The dye had been cast: Jacob and ten of his sons trusted in the provision of Egypt rather than the provision of the Lord in the Land. Therefore, God judged them by giving them what they wanted. He encouraged Jacob to take his family to Egypt, and oppression and bondage followed (Genesis 46:2-3).
b. Israel Under the Judges
7. The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot the LORD their God and served
the Baals and the Asheroth. 8. Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, so that He sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the sons of
Israel served Cushan-Rishathaim eight years. 9. When the sons of Israel cried to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son
of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother.
Israel worshiped the gods of the heathen nations and suffered divine judgment by the hand of those nations; but when they cried out to the true God, He delivered
More than six such cycles appear in Judges, but six times we find the phrase, the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD to mark the beginning of a new cycle (3:7; 3:12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1). The Book of Judges is a catalog of ghastly evils committed within Israel; but the one mentioned specifically in the book's overview is idolatry (2:11,13). When Israel engaged in this root evil, all other evils followed in its train, and judgment ensued.
c. The Assyrian Captivity
When the northern kingdom of Israel engaged in idolatry and the evil practices of her neighbors, the Lord judged them by the hand of Assyria, who destroyed their capital city, Samaria, in 722 B.C.E.(10), and dispersed most of Israel's population to various locations in the Assyrian empire (2 Kings 15:29; 17:3-12; 18:11-12; 1 Chronicles 5:26; Isaiah 10:5-6).
d. The Babylonian Captivity
The southern kingdom, Judah, also sank into idolatry (Jeremiah 3:6-10). Also, for four hundred and ninety years they ignored the Mosaic command to give its agricultural lands the required seventh-year Sabbath rests (Leviticus 25:1-8), which amounted to seventy neglected years. For these reasons, the Lord raised up the Babylonians to destroy Solomon's Temple in 587 B.C.E. and led Judah into captivity for seventy years (Leviticus 26:34-35,43; 2 Kings 25; II Chronicles 36:20-21; Jeremiah 25:11; 29:10).
4. Considering 70 and 135 C.E.
There were two dispersions of the nation out of the Land before the Common Era, the Egyptian and Assyrian-Babylonian, and both were judgments. The Common Era has seen only one: the two-stage dispersion of 70 and 135 C.E. at the hand of the Romans. Until the early decades of the twentieth century, that dispersion was virtually complete. Today, more than half the world's Jews are still in the Diaspora (Dispersion). Could this dispersion and its ensuing tragedies have been a judgment as were the first two?
The combined tragedies that have befallen Israel in the last two thousand years are at least equal in severity to the Egyptian and Assyrian-Babylonian captivities. Based on this comparison alone, the only reasonable conclusion is that the present dispersion is likewise a judgment of God; but let us consider insights from the Tanach, the New Testament, the Talmud and Josephus.
a. Insights from the Tanach
1) Consequences for Obedience and Disobedience
Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 promise blessings in the Land when Israel is obedient to God:
Deuteronomy 28: 1. Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to
do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. . . . 3. Blessed shall you be in the city, and
blessed shall you be in the country. . . . 13. The LORD will make you the head and not the tail . . . .
Inversely, when Israel is disobedient, such ghastly disasters are promised as can easily describe the lot of the nation since 70 C.E. They can be summed up
Leviticus 26: 14. But if you do not obey Me. . . . 17. I will set My face against you so that
you will be struck down before your enemies; and those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you.
2) Conclusion and Consideration
On the basis of the above passages, the general lot of Israel since 70 C.E. can reasonably be seen as judgment for disobedience. Indeed, God Himself declared that Israel had broken the Law, and that He would establish a new and different covenant:
31. "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah, 32. not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which
they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. 33. "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I
will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people."
Israel broke the Mosaic Covenant on numerous occasions; but was there one event in particular that brought about the 70 C.E. and 135 C.E. judgment?
In Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses told the people, 15. The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. Not just any prophet, but one like Moses, towering above the rest. We know that God judged Israel severely in the wilderness when she rebelled against Moses (Numbers 21:5-6, 32:13, etc.). Surely, if Israel would rebel against this new prophet, severe judgment could be expected, as well. Who could this prophet be?
b. Insights from the New Testament
There are dozens of parallels between the lives of Moses and Jesus, but one parallel stands above the rest: They each spoke with God face to face. (Moses: Exodus 33:10-11; Numbers 12:6-8; Deuteronomy 34:10. Jesus: Matthew 11:27; John 1:18; John 5:19; 6:46; 8:38; 10:15,30; 14:10). Indeed, the scattering of the nation to the four corners of the earth (Isaiah 11:12) did not take place until Israel rejected Jesus though He proved Himself repeatedly in accordance with detailed prophecies and Pharisaic benchmarks.
Now consider His words after His rejection:
37. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I
wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39. For I
say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD (quoted from Psalm 118:26)!"
c. Insights from the Talmud and Josephus
A number of Jewish legends originate from this period, all in conjunction with the Temple, and all dated the same way: forty years before the Temple
was destroyed. The Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 and subtracting forty years gives the date of A.D. 30, the year of the crucifixion.
Of the many Jewish legends originating in A.D. 30 in conjunction with the Temple, four things should be mentioned.
First, Josephus mentions that there was a mysterious extinction of the chief light of the golden lampstand. This lampstand had seven lamps, with the chief lamp being the middle one. Suddenly the light of that lamp went out inexplicably forty years before the Temple was destroyed.
Secondly, another event recorded by both Josephus and the Talmud is that the very heavy Temple gates suddenly swung open of their own accord forty years before the Temple was destroyed, although they had been closed until then.
A third legend says that the lintel of the Temple broke and fell in the year A.D. 30, forty years before the Temple was destroyed.
The fourth and by far the most interesting legend is recorded in the Talmud and is called “The Legend of Azazel.” The Hebrew word
Azazel means “removal.” It is the official name for the scapegoat.
d. What Reasonable Conclusion Can We
Surely, if Jesus were the heretic of the magnitude He is purported to be in some Jewish circles, Israel should have been blessed for rejecting Him. Yet, just forty years after His rejection, His prophecy came true: Instead of being gathered to Him as He longed to do, Israel was scattered; and their house (Temple, בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ, Beit HaMikdash, "House of the Holy") was indeed left to [them] desolate. The Romans destroyed it in 70 C.E. when they crushed the First Jewish Revolt, slaughtered or enslaved many thousands, and scattered multitudes out of the Land. In 135 C.E. they completed the job when they crushed the Second Jewish Revolt. Surely Jesus must have been who He claimed to be: the Messiah of Israel (Isaiah 61:1-2 with Luke 4:16-21). Is not the rejection of the long-prophesied Messiah at least as great a sin as idolatry, for which God had previously judged Israel so severely on multiple occasions?
If Israel had received Jesus there would be no anti-Semitism today. He would have gather[ed His] children together, established His earthly Kingdom, the olam haba(12), and Israel today would be the head, and not the tail (Deuteronomy 28:1,13). Now, we must wait for His return to see that glorious day, which we will see when Israel receives Him as Messiah.
I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and
You will not see Me until you say, "Blessed is He
Then He will establish His Kingdom:
1. Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 2. For behold,
darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. 3. Nations will come to your light, and kings to
the brightness of your rising.
At that time I will bring you in, even at the time when I gather you together; Indeed, I will give you renown and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the LORD.
Thus says the LORD of hosts, In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."
Viewing anti-Semitism from God's perspective provides the most important part of the picture, but not the full picture. As we conclude this study in Part 2, we will attempt to fill in the picture as we examine the Satanic and human aspects of anti-Semitism. We will also examine the oft-repeated allegation that the New Testament promotes anti-Semitism, and address major contemporary accusations and justifications for anti-Semitic activities. For now, suffice it to say that although God uses Gentile nations as His rod of correction against Israel, both the Tanach and the New Testament make it plain that God seeks no volunteers! He warns against such "volunteering," and declares judgment upon them. God uses the wickedness of the human race as a tool for the accomplishment of holy purposes while yet holding all men accountable for their freely chosen offenses. This, too, we will examine.
Part 2: The Satanic and Human Aspects
Part 3: Refutation of Accusations Against the Jews and Israel