Anti-Semitism has existed in every generation and everywhere the Jews have lived. Why has there been such universal hatred of the Jews? Will it ever end?
World Jewish population today is about 13.4 million, with approximately 5.7 million living in the State of Israel (Jewishdatabank.org). The Jewish people represent less than one fourth of one percent of the world’s population. Yet for millennia this relatively small ethnic group has been hated and attacked unlike any other people on earth.
Their “crime” was simply being born Jewish.
Out of the Holocaust
The plight of Jewish suffering through the ages may be best expressed by an entry in The Diary of Anne Frank. On April 11, l944, she wrote: “Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up until now? It is God that has made us as we are, but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again. …
“Who knows, it might even be our religion from which the world and all peoples learn good, and for that reason and that reason only do we have to suffer now. We can never become just Netherlanders or just English or any nation for that matter, we will always remain Jews” (the Revised Critical Edition, p. 622).
Anne Frank died of typhus at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945 at the age of 15, but these comments from her diary express some of the eternal truths of God’s ultimate future for the Jews. Before we look at that future, let’s consider their history of suffering.
History of anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitism in the Bible can be traced back to at least the fifth century B.C. in Persia. The book of Esther in the Old Testament is about one man wanting to exterminate the entire Jewish population of the Persian Empire at the time of King Xerxes the Great (485-465 B.C.).
Anti-Semitism raised its ugly head again in the third century B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt, where the Jews and their religion were scathingly attacked by Manetho.
This same kind of hateful writing is found in many Greek and Roman writers over the next three centuries. Lysimachus, Poseidonius, Apollonius Molon, Apion and Tacitus are some of those authors.
Anti-Semitism was also clearly seen between 170-167 B.C., when Antiochus IV Epiphanes invaded Judea. During this bleak time in history, thousands of Jews were slaughtered because they would not reject their religion and accept Hellenism (Greek culture), which was being forced on them. Antiochus’ assault on the Jewish religion and temple is known as an “abomination of desolation” in the Bible. For further study on this subject, see “Abomination of Desolation: What Is It?”
The last 2,000 years
In his article “Why Do People Hate the Jews?” Rabbi Kalman Packouz writes, “Between the years 250 CE and 1948 CE—a period of 1,700 years—Jews have experienced more than eighty expulsions from various countries in Europe—an average of nearly one expulsion every twenty-one years” (simpletoremember.com).
Many in the world today are familiar with the Holocaust of World War II when 6 million Jews were killed in the concentration camps by the Nazis. But most people are totally unaware of the expulsions and killings of Jewish populations that went on over the centuries before the Second World War.
The extreme instances of expulsion and slaughter in Europe go back to the pogroms—organized persecutions—before the First Crusade in 1096. Up to one third of the Jewish population was massacred in northern France and Germany. After capturing Jerusalem, the Catholic Crusaders indiscriminately rounded up and burned alive the Jews in 1099.
In England all Jews were expelled in 1290 and they were not allowed back until Oliver Cromwell petitioned Parliament in 1656 to allow them to emigrate back from Europe to England.
In 1391 Jews in Spain were forced to convert to Catholicism or be killed. Thousands were massacred and burned alive at the stake. In 1492 all Jews were expelled from Spain, but not before thousands more were burned alive at the stake during the Spanish Inquisition.
The Black Death epidemic devastated Europe, and many blamed the Jews for the plague. In Strasbourg, Austria, 900 Jews were burned alive at the stake in 1348, and the plague had not yet affected the city.
Expulsions and massacres continued in Europe and Russia in every century leading into the 20th century. While many are sobered to read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, which documents the horrible persecution and killing of Christians for their anti-Catholic beliefs, what the Jews have suffered has been far greater and has gone on much longer.
According to writer Dallas M. Roark in his article “Why Do Muslims Hate the Jews?” the deep hatred of the Jews by Muslims began during the life of Muhammad. While acknowledging that the hatred may have begun with Abraham’s two sons Ishmael and Isaac, Roark believes that the intense anti-Semitism really took hold during the time of Muhammad.
In his article, Roark begins by quoting several of Muhammad’s statements about the Jews—that they “incurred the Curse of Allah and His Wrath, those of whom He transformed into monkeys and swines” (Qur’anic 5:60) and “ye know of those of you who broke the Sabbath [Jews], how We said unto them: Be ye apes, despised and hated!” (Qur’anic 2:65-66). While the Bible reveals that God did indeed punish the Jews, along with all the other tribes of Israel, for disobedience, there is no account of God ever turning people into animals.
Why was Muhammad so angry with the Jews? Apparently, he wanted to be accepted as a prophet, but the Jews of his age rejected him as one of God’s true prophets. In response, he attacked several tribes of Jews living in Arabia, and in one attack an estimated 600 to 900 Jewish men who had surrendered to his forces were beheaded (http://www.answering-islam.org/authors/roark/hate_jews.html).
Today, after 1,300 years, the anti-Semitism in the Muslim world has only intensified. It ranges from a pro-Hamas group in Gaza saying, “Praise be to you, our Lord. You have made our killing of the Jews an act of worship, through which we come closer to you” (ibid.) to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying, “The existence of the Zionist regime is an insult to all humanity” (FoxNews.com, Aug. 17, 2012).
The prophet Ezekiel, speaking to Edomites and their descendants at the end of this age, said, “Because you have had an ancient [everlasting] hatred, and have shed the blood of the children of Israel by the power of the sword at the time of their calamity … since you have not hated blood, therefore blood shall pursue you” (Ezekiel 35:5-6). Tragically, this “everlasting” hatred of Jews continues as prophesied even in this “enlightened” age.
Did the Jews curse themselves?
It may seem strange to some, but many Christians over the centuries have believed that the Jews brought a curse on themselves for insisting that the Romans crucify Christ. They refer to a single scripture, Matthew 27:25, which says, “And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children.’” A number of commentaries say that the Jews have caused punishment to come on themselves and their children more than any other people in history.
For example, Barnes’ Notes on the Old and New Testaments comments on this passage, saying, “The Jews had no right to call down this vengeance on their children, but, in the righteous judgment of God, it has come upon them. … To this day, also, the curse has remained.”
Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible adds the following: “What a dreadful imprecation! and how literally fulfilled! … Their children or descendants have had the same curse entailed upon them, and continue to this day a proof of the innocence of Christ, the truth of his religion, and of the justice of God.”
Certainly, a case may be made for those in Jerusalem and their children being killed with the Roman destruction and burning of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 when thousands of Jews perished. But did those Jews who came before Pilate speak for all Jews in the world in their generation and for all Jews until the coming of Christ?
Are Christians overstating the Scripture by concluding that all Jews have been universally cursed for all times? Through the prophet Ezekiel, God said, “The son shall not bear the guilt of the father” (Ezekiel 18:20). Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). The apostle Peter said, “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:17).
The future of the Jews
Contrary to what many have assumed, the apostle Paul was quite positive about the future for Jews. Addressing their resistance to Christianity, he wrote that “blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel [including the Jews] will be saved, as it is written” (Romans 11:25-26). He went on to say, “Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (verses 28-29, emphasis added).
Paul said that “all Israel” will come to repentance when the King of the Jews, Jesus Christ, returns. At that time Jesus will establish the Kingdom of God, and all nations will live in peace with one another as they follow God’s laws and instructions. It will be a time when, as the prophet Zechariah said, “Ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” (Zechariah 8:23). For further explanation of this wonderful future, see the articles in the “Kingdom of God” section of this website.
Anti-Semitism will finally come to an end. People of all ethnic backgrounds will live together in harmony. Jesus Christ will usher in the “good” that Anne Frank believed would come one day.
Pray that day will come soon for the Jews and for this world!
For information on what you need to do to prepare for Christ’s return, see the articles in the section “Change.”