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Antisemitism: Why are Jews Persecuted?

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July 20th, 2015

All racism is evil, but there is something different and more insidious about antisemitism. Hatred of the Jewish people has a long and abhorrent history with demonic roots.

Edward H. Flannery writes, “Antisemitism is the longest and deepest hatred of human history.” Why has there been such widespread Jew hatred throughout history? And why have the Jewish people been singled out?

The reason is theological. To put it simply, antisemitism is the most critical arena of spiritual warfare there is.

Why are Jews Persecuted?

The Bible is clear: God loves both Israel and the Jewish people (Deut. 7:6-9; Jer. 31:3; Rom. 11:2, 29). Therefore, antisemitism has one cause—Satan. Israel plays a crucial role in God’s redemptive plan for the world. Therefore, Satan seeks to thwart God’s plan by concentrating his efforts on destroying the Jewish people.

Consider the Book of Esther. Mordecai and Esther cry out to heaven, fasting and praying until they see the deliverance of Israel and their enemies vanquished. The same power hidden in the book of Esther is behind the “mystery” that Paul speaks of in Romans 11:25. He reveals that Israel’s divine destiny is not destruction, but salvation that will result in God’s praise.

During the Jewish holiday of Purim, we celebrate God’s protection of Esther and God’s chosen people. But before the Jewish people celebrated, the threat to their lives was very real. Haman plotted to eradicate the Jewish people from the Persian Empire. He convinced the king to pass an edict to “destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children” (Est. 3:13).

Haman is a picture of how Satan has prompted individuals throughout history to attempt to eradicate the Jewish people. Pharaoh, Antiochus IV, Herod the Great and Adolf Hitler all attempted to thwart God’s plan of redemption by killing the Jewish people.

Antisemitism and finding Messiah

Like Haman, these men also failed in their plots, because the nation of Israel is as permanent as the foundation of God’s creation (Jer. 31:35-37). But Satan’s plot became even more sinister when he began using Christianity as the vehicle to persecute the Jewish people.

While Satan has failed to destroy the Jewish people, he has not failed to drive a wedge between Israel and the Gospel as a result of the cruelty of those who have gone by the name of “Christian.”

It seems that we are always faced by the same challenge raised by an urgent Mordecai to a young, innocent Esther. “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). Sometimes the questions are more important than answers.

Much of the Jewish world is reticent to consider the claims of Jesus as the Messiah. Those of us who have discovered life through Jesus have encountered resistance from our friends and family because they frequently view us as traitors, brainwashed by the enemy.

Continuous Antisemitism throughout History

Every generation of Jewish people has faced a new threat. In the 11th century, as the European Crusaders marched to the Holy Land, they tried to wipe out the Jewish communities in their midst. They left a trail of horror and misery.

Afterwards, Jews were blamed for spreading bubonic plague. Suspicions that arose in part because the traditional hand-washing before meals protected them from the disease.

In those centuries, a monstrous lie called the “blood libel” accused Jews of requiring Christian blood for their feasts. Because of the libel, any rumor of a child missing or an unusual death brought vicious attacks on local Jewish homes and synagogues.

By the 19th century, many Jews had migrated from Western Europe into “the Pale,” countries on the eastern edge of the Russian empire. Then the czars decided to reduce the Jewish population with brutal oppression that drove many to emigrate abroad. All this predates the Holocaust.

Our enemies continually claim that the Jewish people must be destroyed for some intolerable fault. But there is always something inexplicably persistent about this hate. Jewish people were scorned for not fighting in previous generations. Today, Israel is charged with having too powerful an army.

Is the Church Today Anti-Jewish?

This intermingling of the Church’s antisemitic teachings is an almost impossible obstacle for a potential believer of Jewish background. Jewish people are very aware of the Church’s sordid past and it has caused them to shudder in terror at the sight of the cross.

We must be informed of and sensitive to this tragic history, lest we be caught unprepared and in any way facilitate its repetition. Although a measure of rending our hearts is in order as we acknowledge the evils of the past, we must move towards hope by embracing God’s heart for His people.

But this dark cloud can be pierced! I know this is true because the Lord reached me through faithful and loving Gentile Christians. They showed me the difference between what I was raised to believe and what is true of believers who know the truth and have been transformed by the Gospel. As Paul wrote,

“I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.” (Romans 11:11)

We have the opportunity today to show our Jewish friends and neighbors that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah for all – and that His true followers love the Jewish people.

What can we do about Antisemitism?

What a great opportunity we have as followers of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus! By joining our Jewish friends and family in withstanding any encroachment of antisemitism in our society, we demonstrate through our actions that we love the Jewish people.

Our efforts to stand with the Jewish people against antisemitism, whenever and wherever it rises, gives concrete expression to our belief. Which says that it was God’s choice to create a people for His glory and purposes. This can only lead to a deeper and more profound witness to the Jewish people.

As believers in Jesus, we must denounce antisemitism not only as racism, but also as sin and a great evil. Let’s not be silent—for the sake of the Jewish people and our Jewish Messiah.s

Mitch Glaser
MITCH GLASER (Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary, M.Div., Talbot Theological Seminary) serves as president of Chosen People Ministries with his wife, Zhava, who is their director of publications. Together they work to share Jesus with Jewish people, not only in New York City, but around the world. They are co-author of The Fall Feasts of Israel. The Glasers reside in Brooklyn, New York with their two daughters.
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