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Did the Jewish people deserve the suffering of the last 2000 years?

June 17, 2014

jesus-with-high-priest“We, the Jews, collectively rejected God and hung Him up on a cross to die, and thus we deserved the punishments that were heaped on our heads over the last 2000 years” – from an essay titled Why Us?, written by an anonymous Jewish convert to Christianity for Harvard Ichthus Christian journal.

Many Christians, among them those who were born Jewish, believe that Israel fully deserved the two thousand years of persecutions and atrocities it suffered first at the hands of the Romans legions and then of Rome’s descendants, the European Christians. These Christians believe that according to the New Testament Jews rejected and killed Jesus, “G-d in the flesh”, and because of that G-d has ordained, or at least allowed, as a form of justice, the persecutions and murders that befell that Jewish people. (Needless to say, Jews themselves have a wholly different understanding of the true reasons behind their exile, and some of these reasons are even positive and beneficial for the world). In other words, some people believe that it was G-d’s will to punish the Jewish people so severely. However, what does G-d Himself think? During the previous exile, in Babylonia, G-d has laid out His own feelings about this subject:

 Then the angel of the L-RD said, “L-RD Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?

So the L-RD spoke kind and comforting words to the angel who talked with me. Then the angel who was speaking to me said, “Proclaim this word: This is what the L-RD Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, and I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they went too far with the punishment.

Therefore this is what the L-RD says: ‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,’ declares the L-RD Almighty. “Proclaim further: This is what the L-RD Almighty says: ‘My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the L-RD will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.'” (Zechariah 1:12-17)

From the above we can glean that although Hashem was “only a little angry”at his beloved “spouse”, Israel, the enemies of Israel have vented their own anger and evil at the Jewish people, far exceeding what G-d Himself had intended.

While the nations saw Israel as rejected of G-d and collectively mocked her misfortunes which they inflicted on the Jewish people with their own hands, G-d was very angry. He has been so angry with the innocent blood that has been spilled, that He has been busy preparing the final judgement for the nations.

In Joel 3:1-3, G-d speaks of the final judgement on the nations for their crimes and wanton violence against the Jewish people through their painful history. It will be a second “Nuremberg trial”, this time for the whole world:

“In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will put them on trial for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel, because they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land. They cast lots for my people and traded boys for prostitutes; they sold girls for wine to drink.

G-d will not only restore Israel’s fortune, but their former persecutors will be punished for their mistreatment of Jews and will be compelled to honor and praise the Jewish people:

At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you. I will rescue the lame; I will gather the exiles. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they have suffered shame. At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,” says the L-RD. (Zephaniah 3:19-20)

Yes, G-d has been saving up the final judgement for the very end. However, in the meantime Christians should ask themselves a question – if Jews have committed the most horrible of crimes, that of “deicide” (murdered their own G-d), why would G-d Himself give them praise and honor in the lands of their  enemies, the very enemies who claimed to be Christians and reviled Jews in the name of Jesus? Something doesn’t add up. Don’t Jews deserve shame for their rejection of Jesus? One can perhaps understand grace and forgiveness for what Jews did to Jesus – that should have sufficed as they humbly convert and enter the Church with all the nations at the end of the age as Christianity fully expects. But honor and praise for Israel?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 17, 2014 4:22 pm

    I was completely onboard until that last paragraph. I’ll condemn those who condemn the Jews right along with you. However, I can’t imagine that the rejection of Yeshua was an all or nothing prospect. You can be both punished and reconciled. I know this because I have children of my own.

  2. June 17, 2014 4:48 pm

    ” You can be both punished and reconciled.”

    Christianity believes that Jews killed their G-d and thus deserved the abuse suffered at the hands of the Romans and…. of Christians themselves! My point is that the rejection of Jesus not only wasn’t the event that brought the evil on the Jewish people, but that the spurning of Jesus was Israel’s act of obedience and loyalty to G-d and what He has revealed to Israel in His Torah (“you shall not have any gods before me” ).

    “You can be both punished and reconciled.”

    Yes, you can be, and G-d has done this with Israel before. But we are not talking about this. Christianity doesn’t expect Israel to be praised when Jesus comes, but to repent and convert for their obstinacy while the “faithful” Church blissfully marries Jesus who is coming for her. But the opposite will happen – it’s the nations that will be disciplined, they will need to repent for what they did to Israel and convert from idolatry, while Israel will be finally comforted, will be honored and praised.

  3. June 17, 2014 5:09 pm

    Which brings me to the prophecy about Israel in Isaiah 53: “we (the nations) accounted him (Israel) as plagued, smitten by God and oppressed. But he was pained because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities”

    Jesus wasn’t plagued, that’s for sure. He only suffered a few hours on the cross (far less than it took for thousand of other Jews to suffer before dying), he wasn’t crushed or oppressed – Israel was. He wasn’t rejected and despised – he was followed by throngs of people who sought him out, praised and bowed to him (according to the NT) and only a few Rome installed leaders supposedly wanted him gone. It was the Jews who were rejected and despised for thousand of years, not mere days, while Jesus didn’t live a life of suffering , but was honored and worshiped by multitudes, accepted generous donations from his followers, dined with the rich. He was praised and honored by people both before death and certainly by billions after.

  4. David permalink
    June 17, 2014 6:03 pm

    Gene,

    Not trying to cause trouble here but I would like your thoughts/comment on the following regarding Isaiah 53.

    Rashi, in his commentary on the book of Isaiah/ chapter 53, states that the servant mentioned here is Israel as you stated above.

    However, in his commentary on the Talmud, specifically Sanhedrin 98b,he states that
    the gemara here speaks of the Messiah, which, given the topic being the name of the Messsiah, the gemara is saying that as well

    So both Rashi and gemara Sanhedrin suggest that one (of the 5) names of the Messiah, is pale/leprous and is referring to this servant in Isaiah 53.

    I understand that as far as we know, JC did not have leprosy…and that this in no way itself proves that JC is the Messiah.

    Rather my point is that it appears that one of the roles of the Messiah is to, in someway, suffer for the people of Israel/the world at least according to both this gemara and Rash’s comment on it.

  5. June 17, 2014 6:27 pm

    David, thanks for the comment. No trouble at all. Yes, I am aware of a minor opinion in Talmudic discussion that messiah was to be a ” leper” (which Jesus of course was not, as you noted) . Of course, it’s an “out there” non-literal interpretation of a biblical passage, a common feature of various opinions expressed in Talmud . In fact, in a dialog between Justin Martyr and Trypho the Jew in the second century Justin Martyr specifically acknowledges that Jews of his day considered Isaiah 53 to be about Israel and not Messiah.

    Scholars also noted a trend of some Jewish thinkers in centuries past to reclaim a suffering messiah imagery from Christianity. This imagery was not present among first century Jews, even among Jesus’ own disciples, who NT records didn’t expect a suffering and a dying messiah either, but rather a victorious messiah, which was the universal expectation before Christianity came along and rationalized their founder’s death.

    In any case, as already noted, the life and suffering of Jesus and the deaths (plural) he was to die doesn’t fit Isaiah 53, but that of the servant, Israel, as is the pattern throughout Isaiah.

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