Favorites 11

-11-

Blessing Or Cursing!

 

When God called Abraham long ago he said to him in Genesis 12:2-3:

I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

Not only will God keep his covenant with Abraham and Israel, but he will also bless the nations through Israel. This is a fact that has been little understood by the nations, or even by Gentile Christians for that matter. We sometimes realize how the Jewish Bible and the Jewish Messiah are blessings to us and to the nations. However, we are not often aware how the Jews themselves have been a blessing to the nations by their very presence. 1

HOW THE JEWS BLESSED ANCIENT NATIONS

We do not have to look far in history to see that some ancient nations were blessed by the Jewish people. We may never fully know the impact of Jewish or Hebrew influence in antiquity because records of this nature are virtually nonexistent. However, we do have biblical records that substantiate some of this influence.

First of all, we see that Jacob the Patriarch blessed Pharaoh (Gen. 47:7). Then there was the story of Joseph. This son of Jacob was sold into slavery by his own brothers, and later arose to dizzying heights of power in Egypt. Soon he became second-in-command in one of the consistently strongest monarchies of the ancient world. He wore Pharaoh’s own signet ring and was put in charge of the whole land of Egypt (Gen. 41:41-45).

Joseph rose to this position because of the providence and plan of God. God had enabled him to accurately interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, telling of an awful seven-year famine that was to come upon the land. Joseph was thus appointed as Pharaoh’s right-hand-man to insure that bountiful provisions were stored up in the seven plentiful years, which Joseph had also foreseen.

We can confidently say that because of Joseph, Egypt was spared from seven years of terrible famine that might have brought an end to the nation. In Genesis 41:57, we see how the surrounding nations were also blessed and spared, for they came to Egypt to buy grain.

We can certainly say that at least one Jew brought great blessing to the land of Assyria in biblical times. His name was Jonah. This prophet was commissioned by God to go the mighty capital city of Nineveh. His task was to warn the people of the disaster about to overtake them because of their sins. Jonah ultimately went, even though Assyria was a bitter enemy of Israel. We read in Jonah 3:5, that “The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.” Because of their repentance, God spared the capital city of Assyria.


Jonah preaching to the Ninevites by Gustav Dore
(Wikimedia Commons)

It is also interesting to note that Jews rose to the highest positions of authority in ancient Babylonia and Persia. The result was that these nations were blessed.

One sterling example of this influence is seen in the life of Daniel the prophet. As a young man, Daniel was carried away from his home in 605 BC by the Babylonians. He gained influence so rapidly in Babylon that when Ezekiel was brought to the city a few years later, Daniel was already a legend (Ezek. 14:14 & 20). Daniel interpreted dreams for kings (Dan. 2:31-45; 4:9-27); he, along with his three Hebrew companions, sat as advisors to the king of Babylon. In Daniel 1:20, we read that their wisdom was “ten times better” than all his other advisors.

Daniel publicly rebuked kings for their idolatry (Dan. 5:22-24); he was so miraculously delivered by God that a whole nation stood in awe of him and the king made a proclamation that all the vast empire should acknowledge the God of Daniel (6:26-27). He foretold historic events down to the end of time with uncanny and amazing accuracy. He even predicted that the Messiah of Israel would come before the Second Temple was destroyed in AD 70 (9:24-27).

Daniel did something that probably not too many people accomplished in the ancient world. He survived the fall of one nation and immediately rose to great power in the political framework of the succeeding nation. This was by the will of God, but we learn from Josephus, the Jewish historian, that it may have been facilitated by the fact that Cyrus the Persian had read portions of Isaiah. 2  In that prophetic work Cyrus is mentioned by name and even referred to as “the Lord’s anointed” (cf. Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1).

It would certainly impress any ruler to learn that a prophet had called him by name several hundred years before he was born. Probably this information caused Cyrus to have warm feelings toward the Jewish people in general, and perhaps toward Daniel in particular. In all likelihood, Daniel may even have had something to do with Cyrus reading Isaiah.

When we consider his remarkable life, we are forced to conclude that Daniel was an incredible person and that he was a blessing to both ancient Babylonia and Persia.

The Media-Persian Empire became one of the mightiest empires in the ancient world. We read in the Bible that ancient Persia stretched over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia (Esth. 1:1). It is almost incredible how much influence the Jews continued to have in this vast empire.

Ezra the Scribe, a Jew, was able to have great favor in the court of Artaxerxes I (Longimanus: 465-424 BC). By royal decree Ezra was given permission to lead a contingent of the Lord’s people back home to Israel. Ezra was able to take along a considerable amount of treasure offered by the king himself and his advisers. He went with a good deal of political power to appoint magistrates and judges over the land of Israel (Ezra 7:12-26). Not only did Ezra teach and help establish the people of God, but he also helped bring order in the far-flung kingdom. At that particular time, Egypt represented a threat to Persia, and the Jews may have helped to bring stability in the area. 3

Another interesting Jewish person connected with the Persian court was actually the cupbearer to king Artaxerxes. He was an able administrator by the name of Nehemiah (Neh. 1:11). Probably of all the men of influence in Persia, the cupbearer might have been the greatest. Nehemiah would have been “…one with the closest access to the king, and one who could well determine who got to see the king.” 4 He used this great opportunity to guide the king, so that the monarch might work together with God, and allow the city and wall of Jerusalem to be rebuilt.

Much Jewish influence for good in ancient Persia had probably come about a few years earlier by the Cinderella-type marriage of a young Jewish girl named Hadassah. In God’s unbelievable plan, little Hadassah, or Esther, was elevated to great heights to become the Queen of Persia during the reign of Ahasuerus (Xerxes I, 486-465 BC).


Queen Esther by Edwin Long (1878). Painting in the
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

(Wikimedia Commons)

She used God’s wisdom to guide the nation away from the disastrous course of xenophobia and civil turmoil. How interesting it is that in the next generation, her stepson issued the famous decrees that sent both Ezra and Nehemiah on their missions to restore Israel.

There are probably other stories of Jewish influence for good in the ancient world. Many of these stories will not likely be told until the great books are opened in the next world. However, let us turn our attention to more recent centuries. In modern times the influences of Jews and their blessings to the nations can be readily documented as they are often preserved in historical records.

SOME NATIONS BLESSED IN MODERN TIMES

The Ottoman Empire

In modern times, we can clearly see a pattern, that those nations who have blessed Israel have been blessed. For instance, in 1492, when the Jews were expelled from Christian Spain, many of them were accepted in what we call Turkey today. It was then called the Ottoman Empire. Later, in 1497 and 1498, they were joined by Jews fleeing Portugal.

It is interesting indeed that as the Jews arrived in the Ottoman Empire, it began to experience the apex of its political power and expansion. This trend continued on through the reign of Suleiman I (The Magnificent: 1520-1566). Suleiman is known for building the present wall around the Old City of Jerusalem. It is noteworthy that the Ottoman Empire began with such momentum that it lasted until our era, coming to its demise at the end of World War I.

According to the famed Jewish historian, Cecil Roth, the Jewish exiles from Spain found a warm welcome in the Ottoman Empire. Roth quotes a remark supposedly made by Sultan Bajazet: “What! call ye this Ferdinand ‘wise’ — he who depopulates his own dominions in order to enrich mine?” 5 The Sultan then went on to greatly encourage Jewish immigration.

Roth continues to describe how the Jewish influence grew in the fast-rising Ottoman Empire. He mentions that because the Turks were essentially a military and agricultural people, they were not interested in the sedentary life style. Thus, the trade of the vast empire was left in the hands of Jews, Armenians and Greeks.

The Jews were exceptionally well equipped in this area. The Jewish immigrants brought with them their skill in languages, their knowledge and their fortunes. Soon Jews controlled much of the international trade in the eastern portion of the Mediterranean basin.

The Jewish artisans quickly made a name for themselves as they introduced trade secrets brought from Spain. Soon gunpowder was introduced to the army and navy of the Ottoman Empire. There were also other armaments manufactured by Jews.6

The Jews first settled in Constantinople, and rapidly that Jewish community grew to be the largest Jewish settlement in that part of the world. Soon it was rivaled and passed by Salonica, which because of Jewish enterprise, went on to become the greatest mercantile center of the Mediterranean.

The Jews were thoroughly experienced in European languages and were quite familiar with conditions on the continent. Thus the Jews began to play a very important and even crucial role in international politics. One person to gain international prominence was Joseph Nasi. He was not only influential in the Ottoman Empire, but he was solicited by the powers of Europe as well. He was powerful enough in international politics that he was able to avenge the Jewish expulsion from Spain by encouraging the Netherlands to revolt. 7

As Roth states,

The Jewish people must always remember the Turkish Empire with gratitude because, at one of the darkest hours of its history, when no alternative place of refuge was open and there seemed no chance of succor, Turkey flung open its doors widely and generously for the reception of the fugitives, and kept them open. 8

The obvious lesson of the Ottoman Empire is that when the Jewish people are received, blessing to the nation ensues. We see this pattern clearly repeated in other modern nations.

The Netherlands

In 1497, Portugal followed the lead of Spain, and also expelled its Jewish population. These Portuguese Jews along with some of the dispersed Jews from Spain made their way to the Netherlands. These Jews were known as Marranos (a derogatory term for converts to Christianity). Again, as in the case of the Ottoman Empire, there were many merchants, industrialists, and scholars in this group, and the Netherlands was enriched by
their coming.

The Jews of the Netherlands, like their relatives in the Ottoman Empire, were very knowledgeable in languages, administration, and also in international relationships. They began to play an expanding role in the economy of the rising nation. 9

It seems very curious that the tiny Netherlands began about this time to explode into a worldwide commercial empire, even rivaling England. It became a great colonizing influence in the new world, far out of proportion to its size. Its centers of influence reached from New Amsterdam, Brazil and Guyana in the Americas to Africa, India and the Dutch East Indies.

Martin Gilbert in his Jewish Historical Atlas, remarks:

The most active period of Jewish commercial enterprise coincided with the widest expansion of the Dutch empire 1600-1700…Within two hundred years of their expulsion from Spain, the Jews who settled in Amsterdam had built up a trading empire on a scale previously unimaginable. Their successes made an important contribution to the golden age of Dutch commercial enterprise. 10

Amsterdam continued to become an established center of world trade. The city’s Jews held an important place as shareholders in the famous East India Company. The Jews also gained prominence in industries such as printing, sugar refining, tobacco, silk and diamonds. In time, the diamond industry became an exclusively Jewish one in the Netherlands. 11

Generations later, during the time of the Holocaust, many people in Holland stood by the Jews and sheltered them from the Nazis. A stroll down the Avenue of Righteous Gentiles at the Holocaust Museum in Israel reveals this. There are more memorials to citizens of Holland than any other nation.

Today it seems that Jews, as well as Christians from Holland, make up an unusually large and influential representation in the land of Israel.

The US

An outstanding example of Jewish influence for good has been seen in the United States. No doubt, because of its strong Puritan influence in the colonial period, the Jews were looked upon with admiration. The Puritans felt that “…the interests of the Gentiles themselves are bound up with God’s designs toward Israel.” 12  The Puritans studied Hebrew and longed for the restoration of Zion.

This warm feeling of the Puritans toward the Jews affected many areas within the rising nation. Even today, this influence can still be seen in the seals and insignias of the great early American universities, Columbia, Dartmouth and Yale. At the top of Columbia’s seal is the Tetragrammaton (four letter name of God) in Hebrew. Dartmouth displays the Hebrew “El Shaddai” the name of God. Yale’s seal is virtually covered with the biblical Hebrew words “Urim Ve-thummim” (Light and Truth). 13

Early American colonists began to name their children after biblical characters. Also their cities, such as Bethlehem and Salem, began to take on biblical names. Their preachers spoke often of Zion and their political leaders began to make pronouncements concerning the Jews.

America’s initial warmness to the Jews soon paid rich dividends. This began to happen even by the time of the American Revolution. At that dark hour Washington’s troops were languishing in the cold and snow. To make matters worse, the new congress did not yet have power to raise taxes, so the war effort tottered on the brink of disaster.

At this low ebb in American history, it was a Jew who stepped forward to rescue the nation. His name was Haym Salomon. A few years ago in 1975, the US Post Office issued a commemorative stamp in honor of this great but almost forgotten man. The stamp printed on front and back read:

Financial Hero – Businessman and broker Haym Salomon was responsible for raising most of the money needed to finance the American Revolution and later to save the new nation from collapse.

Salomon not only made loans to the new government, but he made them to several of its statesmen as well, like James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. Salomon loaned the government at least $600,000. Other estimates range as high as $800,000. The loans were never repaid to the Salomon heirs. Should they be repaid today with interest, these loans on the higher figure would come to over two and a half
trillion dollars. 14

Haym Salomon, the Jewish immigrant to the colonies, was so devoted to his new adopted land that he invested all his fortunes in it. He died leaving his small family without financial means.

As the doors of America were flung wide open to Jewish immigration in coming years, the nation was greatly blessed by the Jewish presence. Ironically, many other nations who had themselves persecuted the Jews, were also blessed from the overflow of Jewish blessings to America.

In merchandising, names like Levi Strauss, Sears Roebuck, Gimbels and Macys eventually sprang up on the American scene. There was Edwin Land with his development of the instant Polaroid picture. There was Emile Berliner with his development of the Grammaphone, that made the modern recording industry possible.15

In entertainment the Jew, David Sarnoff, was a pioneer in radio network broadcasting and founded the National Broadcasting Company. He went on to pioneer in television broadcasting and was later awarded the title “The Father of American Television” by the Television Broadcasters’ Association. 16 William S. Paley built the mighty Columbia Broadcasting System. “Between 1941 and 1945, CBS devoted over six thousand hours to war reports and dramatizations. For this Paley was awarded the Legion of Merit and the French Croix de Guerre.” 17

In the field of movie entertainment there were names like Samuel Goldwyn, co-founder of MGM Studios, and Adolph Zukor, founder of Paramount Picture Corporation. Other Jewish names in the early movie industry are Louis B. Mayer, Lewis Selznick, William Fox and Marcus Loew.

America and the world began to be soothed by the sweet music produced by its Jews. There was Irving Berlin who wrote what has been called the nation’s second national anthem, “God Bless America.”


Irving Berlin watching auditions
at the St. James Theatre
(Wikimedia Commons)

It may be a little embarrassing for some Christians to realize that the top-selling song of all times, “White Christmas” was written by Berlin, the Jewish composer. An additional embarrassment is that Berlin also wrote our most popular Easter, song entitled “Easter Parade.18

The song of the old south, “Swanee” was written by the Jew, George Gershwin, and popularized by another Jew, Al Jolson. 19 There were Rogers and Hammerstein with their “Oklahoma,” “Sound of Music,” South Pacific,” and “Carousel.” America could also boast of greats like Benny Goodman, the “King of Swing.” She could boast of great violinists like Jerome Kern and Fritz Kreisler. Americans and the world could enjoy the orchestral directing of Bruno Walter, Arthur Fiedler and Leonard Bernstein.

Because of Jewish skill and learning, America was able to launch the world into the Nuclear Age. The brilliant physicist, Albert Einstein, helped convince the US President to launch the Manhattan Project, which ultimately brought about the development of the atomic bomb. It was the Jew, J. Robert Oppenheimer, who successfully directed this project. Another Jew, Edward Teller contributed greatly to the project, and later went on to develop the Hydrogen bomb. Later, the Jew, Hyman Rickover developed the Nautilus, the world’s first atomic powered submarine.

Many of these Jewish discoverers and inventors agonized greatly over the potential for destruction in nuclear weapons. However, they consoled themselves that such weapons of mass destruction would possibly limit future wars. The discoveries in the nuclear field have spurred the peaceful usage of atomic energy and thus have blessed many nations.

On the political and judicial scene in the US, many Jewish people have been outstanding. These names include New York Mayor LaGuardia, advisor to presidents, Bernard Baruch, Senators Abe Ribicoff, Jacob Javits, Rudy Boschwitz, Howard Metzenbaum and Barry Goldwater. They also include Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger and Chairman of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve System, Arthur Burns. There were the famous Supreme Court justices Benjamin Cardozo, Louis D. Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter.20

America has truly been blessed by the presence of Jewish people in the nation!

JEWISH BLESSINGS TO THE WHOLE WORLD

The Jews, at present, account for less than one percent of the earth’s population. Yet, they have had a profound effect upon modern civilization in all areas. The Jews have been responsible for the rise of the three great monotheistic religions in our world. Their thinkers like Einstein and Freud have had a great influence upon the modern era.

It seems that in every age the Jews have had to acquire skills that were transportable. They never knew when they would be forced to leave a city or a country and flee to parts unknown. Thus the Jews have leaned heavily upon academic skills, including science, mathematics and medicine.

This tendency among the Jews has brought great blessing to the nations. Although the Jews are such a tiny fraction of the earth’s population, from 1901 to 1990 they won an astonishing 22 percent of the Nobel Prize awards in science. 21  Their endeavors in the area of medicine are even more astonishing. (see inset)

It is ironic that while the Jews have been generally treated as parasites by their host nations, they have nevertheless managed to bring blessings to their begrudging hosts as well as to the whole world.

The Jews through history have provided the philosophers, musicians, scientists, physicians, financiers and statesmen to bless their host nations. Someone once said that other ancient peoples left only monuments but the Jews have left ideas. They seem to have done this wherever they have gone. These ideas have greatly influenced history.

For instance, the great age of exploration in the fifteenth century, launched primarily by Spain and Portugal, was largely made possible by Jewish contributions. We must remember that ocean exploration was a frontier just as new in that day as space exploration is in our day.

Jews and the age of exploration

Because of their great emphasis upon learning, the Jewish people did much to bring the age of exploration into being. There were many Jewish mathematicians, astronomers, and cartographers who made possible the voyages into the unknown. Here are a few of these greats:

Moses de Leon (1250-1305)- Stated that the earth is round and that it rotates two hundred years before Columbus.

Isaac B. Solomon Sahula – In a book written about 1281 and not published until 1490, claimed that the globe beneath us is inhabited by people.

(Note: even the Palestinian Talmud written centuries earlier had also claimed that the earth is round)

Judah ben Moses and Moses Cohen between 1262 and 1272 prepared the famous alphonsine tables for King Alfonso of Castile. These were lists of planetary movements, and they continued to be used for centuries afterward. Moses and Cohen wrote many books and constructed numerous astronomical instruments.

Levi Ben Gerson also known as Gersonides(1288-1344) – Invented the Jacob’s staff, which enabled early sailors to plot their positions. His thinking developed later by others formed the basis of trigonometry.

Abraham Crescas and son Judah (fourteenth century) – Abraham served as Master of Maps and Compasses to the King of Aragon. As cartographer, he produced what was called the world’s best map in 1377. His son Judah also a famous cartographer helped chart the voyages of the Portuguese explorers.

Abraham Zacuto (1450-1525) – The noted astronomer who produced the navigational guides later used byColumbus, Vasco da Gama, and others. The vessels of da Gama were fitted with astrolabes designed by Zacuto.

Pedro Nunes (1492-1577) – The most distinguished of Portugal’s nautical astronomers and the founder of scientific navigation.

Note: Many think today that Columbus himself was Jewish. He had at least five Jews accompanying him on his first expedition. His Jewish interpreter, Louis de Torres, was one of the first two men to set foot on American soil. 22

The Jews through the ages have been outstanding in many fields of science, mathematics and medicine (see inset). In Modern times the German mathematician, Karl Jacobi (1804-1851) developed the theory of elliptic functions. Georg Cantor (1845-1918), also of German origin, founded the theory of sets, and also the theory of transfinite numbers. He revolutionized the whole area of mathematics and is known as one of the greatest mathematicians of all time.

Sir William Herschel (1738-1822) was one of the great astronomers of the modern era. He not only discovered the planet Uranus, but was the founder of modern stellar astronomy. Eugene Goldstein (1850-1930) is associated with the discovery of gamma rays. Austrian physicist Lise Meitner (1878-1968) shared in the discovery of nuclear fission, with her primary work being in the relationship between beta and gamma rays. Albert Michelson (1825-1919) established the speed of light. The paradoxical results of his experiments led to Einstein’s formulation of the general theory of relativity in 1916.

Leo Arons (1860-1919) invented the mercury vapor lamp. Gabriel Lipman (1845-1921) developed color photography. Charles Gerhardt (1816-1857) was the developer of the molecular theory and also was first to make an effective classification of organic compounds.

A

One of the many ironies of Jewish history occurred in Germany. That nation had produced an unusual amount of Jewish chemists. There was Adolf Frank (1834-1916) founder of Germany’s potash industry. Frank was also influential in developing the nitrogen fixation industry by forming calcium cyanide. There was Adolf von Bayer (1835-1917), who discovered the phthalein class of dyes and passed his patents to the giant I.G. Farben-industrie, which became infamous in the Holocaust. Lastly there was Fritz Haber (1868-1934), who developed the synthetic production of ammonia. This was a great benefit to Germany’s supply of nitrates for the war. For his efforts Haber was later exiled. Nevertheless, it was Jewish genius that formed a large basis of the German chemical industry, and it was particularly that industry which was used to destroy the Jews.23

Some Jewish contributions in the field of medicine

Jews have particularly stood out in the field of Medicine. In the Middle Ages it is estimated that over one-half of the rabbis and other Jewish intellectuals were physicians by occupation. From the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries in Europe, Jews of Marrano descent made up an astonishingly high percentage of the physicians.

Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) is considered the founder of the study of anatomy.

Garcia da Orta (1498-1568) pioneered the study of tropical diseases and is one of the fathers of botanical science. Unfortunately, in 1580 the Inquisition found out that he was a Jew and although he had been dead for twelve years, the church ordered his bones burned.

Ferdinand Cohn (1828-1898) is considered to be the father of bacteriology.

Simon Baruch (1840-1921) made the first diagnosis and successful operation of appendicitis.

Alexander Marmorek (1865-1923), produced a serum to protect against streptococcal infection.

Oscar Minkowski (1858-1931) was first to demonstrate the relationship between the pancreas and diabetes, thus leading to the discovery of insulin.

Casimir Funk (1884-1967), while doing research with the anti-beriberi substance in polished rice coined the word “Vitamin.”

Selman Abraham Wakman (1888-1973), discovered streptomycin.

Jonas Salk (1914- ), virtually brought an end to the dreaded disease of Polio by developing the Polio vaccine.

Albert Sabin (1906-1993) American medical microbiologist developed the oral Polio vaccine. 24

A


Dr. Jonas Salk, creator of the first polio vaccine
(Wikimedia Commons)

In the modern era, Jewish names have stood behind the development of many inventions. Unfortunately, Jews did not always get the credit for their work. Consider the airplane for instance. The Wright Brothers greatly relied upon the experiments of a German Jewish inventor named Otto Lilienthal. In his experiments, Lilienthal had made more than two thousand powerless glider flights. He died in 1896, while making another of these flights.

When we think of the gas-filled airship, we usually think of Zeppelin. However, Count Zeppelin bought his patents from the widow of an Austrian Jew by the name of David Schwartz. Schwartz had devised the idea of a gas-filled airship earlier in 1890.

Another Jew, Heinrich Rudolph Hertz, by his discovery of electromagnetic radiation paved the way for the development of radio, television and radar. Guglielmo Marconi, a non-Jew, using the discoveries of Hertz, patented the wireless telegraph in 1896. Later he further developed the concepts into the invention of the radio.

When we think of the telephone, we automatically think of Alexander Graham Bell. However a Jewish inventor, Johann Philipp Reis was the first to publicly demonstrate the telephone as early as 1861. Bell, who did not demonstrate his device until 1876, gave some credit for his invention to Reis.

Again, when we think of the motorcar, we think of Ford. Yet as early as 1864 a German-born Jew by the name of Sigfried Marcus is said to have patented a motorcar powered by an internal combustion engine. The vehicle ran four to five miles per hour. 25

There is probably no other area in our modern world where Jews have had so much influence as in the entertainment industry. When we look at the industry we realize that it has been Jews who have made us listen, watch, laugh and cry. They have tugged our heartstrings and enthralled us in drama.

The list of entertainment greats past and present goes on and on, all the way from Joey Adams to Shelly Winters. Although we cannot applaud the excesses of Hollywood and the entertainment industry, we can say that it has been one of the most influential medias in our world. Not only does it have the potential for great evil, it also has the potential for great good.

A List of Jewish entertainment greats past and present
(includes radio, TV, movies and other entertainment media)

Joey Adams, Mel Allen, Woody Allen,Ed Asner,Lauren Bacall,Theda Bara, Rona Barrett, Gene Barry, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Joey Bishop, Fanny Brice, Mel Brooks, Dr. Joyce Brothers, Lenny Bruce, George Burns, Dyan Cannon, Eddie Cantor, Al Capp, Kitty Carlisle, Jeff Chandler, Joan Collins, Howard Cosell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tony Curtis, Howard Da Silva, Kirk Douglas, Bob Dylan, Werner Erhard, Douglas Fairbanks, Peter Falk, Bonnie Franklin, John Garfield, Jack Gilford, Paul Michael Glaser, Paulette Goddard, Samuel Goldwyn, Elliott Gould, Cary Grant, Lee Grant, Lorne Greene, Buddy Hackett, Goldie Hawn, Dustin Hoffman, Judy Holliday, Harry Houdini, John Houseman, Leslie Howard, Lou Jacobi, David (Meyer) Janssen, Al Jolson, Madeline Kahn, Danny Kaye, Alan King, Jack Klugman, Ted Koppel, Bert Lahr, Michael Landon, Linda Lavin, Pinky Lee, Battling Levinsky, Jerry Lewis, Hal Linden, Peter Lorre, Jay Lovestone, Tony Martin, Paul Muni, Arthur Murray, Paul Newman, Mike Nichols, Leonard Nimoy, Jan Peerce, Tony Randall, Joan Rivers, Harold Robbins, Edward G. Robinson, Billy Rose, Barney Ross, Mort Sahl, Soupy Sales, George Segal, Peter Sellers, William Shatner, Artie Shaw, Dick Shawn, Dinah Shore, Beverly Sills, Phil Silvers, Steven Speilberg, Irving Stone, Barbra Streisand, Jill St. John, Marx Brothers, Mike Todd, Sophie Tucker, Mike Wallace, Barbara Walters, Nathaniel West, Gene Wilder, Debra Winger, Henry Winkler, Shelly Winters 26

A

THEIR REAL BLESSINGS ARE SPIRITUAL

Although the Jews have brought great physical blessing to our world, their greatest accomplishments are, and will continue to be, in the spiritual realm. It cannot be denied that the Jews are the one people on the face of this earth who have had a direct audience with the Creator. They have faithfully delivered this revelation to us in the form of the Old Testament or Tanakh. In the fullness of time the Messiah was also delivered to the world through Israel and the Jewish people. As a result of his coming into the world we have also received the New Testament. All of the writers of the New Testament except Luke, were Jewish.


The Isaiah Scroll at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem
(Courtesy Israel Information Office)

Many people think that the contribution of the Jews in the realm of religion has drawn to a close. That idea is false on many counts. The Jews have an extremely rich heritage upon which to draw. Their tradition and learning continues even today, springing as a well from its ancient roots in Sinai. They can quickly add color and dimension to our understanding of the Bible.

But the real accomplishments and blessings of the Jewish people will come in the future. In the beautiful servant songs of Isaiah 41:8-10, God says of Israel:

But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am our God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah is speaking of a future day and time, and it is interesting that Israel is still called the “servant” of the Lord.

In Isaiah 43:4-7, we see the continuing special relationship between God and Israel in the future:

Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, “Give them up!” and to the south, “Do not hold them back.” Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.

In Isaiah 43:21 the Lord says: “the people [the Jews] I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” Be not deceived, God will still show forth his praise through Israel. It is written in his word and will not fail.

As we approach the last days, the Jews and Israel will take on a much greater significance. This is clear even when we look at our own book of Revelation. When we carefully examine Revelation, we see that it is a picture of the Day of the Lord, a day often spoken of by the prophets of Israel. We sense a strangely Jewish flavor to these last days.

We are first introduced to Jesus, who is pictured in the garments of the High Priest of Israel. Next, we see what is surely are Jewish menorahs placed right in the middle of the first chapter (Rev. 1:12). It is even more surprising that these menorahs are said to represent the seven churches.

Then, we are introduced to the 144,000 overcomers from the tribes of Israel (Rev. 7:1-8). We began to hear much more about Jerusalem and its restoration as a spiritual reality. In Revelation 21:2, 9-10, we learn that this heavenly Jerusalem is the true bride of Christ.

We hear of Jewish apostles whose names are now written on the twelve foundations of Jerusalem (Rev. 21:14). Interestingly, the gates of the city through which we all long to pass have written on them the names of the twelve tribes of Israel (Rev. 21:12). Imagine how the Christian persecutors of Israel will feel when they attempt to enter through
those gates!

There may even be some surprises for us when we begin to sing those heavenly choruses with the angels.27  In Revelation 15:3-4, the redeemed sing the “Song of Moses.” Whether this song is taken from Exodus 15 or from Deuteronomy 32, one thing is clear. The redeemed will be singing about Israel and God’s faithfulness to that nation. It may take some Christians a while to get in tune with that particular heavenly hymn.

We see that according to God’s great plan of restoration, the Jews will have a very prominent place in the end days. In Isaiah 61:6-7 it is said of them:

And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.

Yes, in the end days the Jews will be priests and ministers of God. We read in scripture that they will also be called “the Holy People” and “the Redeemed of the LORD” (Isa. 62:12). The Lord describes them as “jewels in a crown” (Zech. 9:16). We Gentiles have happily applied Malachi 3:17 to ourselves, however, this verse lets us see that God is primarily speaking of the Jewish people:

“They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.”

In the last days, the Jews will be as though they were never cast off by God (Zech. 10:6).

Perhaps one of the most interesting pictures of the Jews in future ages is given to us in Zechariah 8:23. It is a verse that should demolish our triumphalistic and replacement theologies. We read in this passage:

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”

Let us pause to get the picture here. In the last days people from all over the world will cling to the Jewish people and beg to go with them because of the presence of the Lord will be with them. One would think that it would be Gentile Christians to whom the world is clinging in the last days. But alas, in God’s plan it is the Jews.

This is only a sampling of the many verses in scripture that speak of the elevation of the Jews in the end times, and their blessing to the nations. But with even these few verses in mind we would have to conclude with Moses in Deuteronomy 33:29:

Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD?…

SOME NATIONS WHO WERE CURSED

The nations who have been blessed for favoring Israel are not numerous. We could count them on our fingers, possibly on the fingers of one hand. However there is a long list of nations, both ancient and modern, who have cursed Israel, and who have thus been cursed.

Pharaoh of ancient Egypt certainly got his share of cursing for meddling with God’s elect. The ten plagues that are recorded in Exodus would have worked havoc on the economy of any nation, ancient or modern. It appears that Pharaoh’s choicest legions were also lost in the depth of the sea. What an unmitigated disaster to befall this nation.

Then there were the Amalekites. They were possibly the first nation on earth to persecute Israel. God took a very dim view of this attack. He arose in “fierce wrath” (1 Sam. 28:18) and swore to blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven (Deut. 25:14).

Of course, King Saul failed to destroy Amalek as he was instructed. We might ask how the Amalekites are doing today? The answer is that God wiped their nation off the face of the earth and closed the book on their history. He cursed them out of existence as a nation, although various people of Amalekite origin undoubtedly are scattered throughout the Middle East, and probably continue to corrupt the area with their vicious anti-Israel hatred.

Edom is another ancient kingdom that came under an eternal curse for its hatred of Israel. Edom was the nation founded by Esau, the brother of Israel, and the kingdom was initially blessed by God. This nation was located in the southern area of present day Jordan. Because they kept alive an ancient hatred God cut them off. The prophets, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos and Obadiah, all elaborate on this theme.

The ancient nation of Edom has long since disappeared from the earth, never to rise again. However, as in the case of Amalek, individual Edomites surely live on.

We have seen how many of the mighty empires of the past have come against Israel. As we look at these mighty nations of the past, we might ask, where are they today? All have disappeared from the stage of history. Rome exists, but the Roman Empire is gone – it fell in AD 476. Egypt is still present, but the ancient nation was overcome and its culture obliterated by the Moslem invasion of the seventh century. They are gone, but
Israel remains.

Now let us move on to more recent centuries. Shortly after the turn of the first millennium, a great crusading excitement swept over much of Europe. Ostensibly, the Crusaders were intent on going to the Holy Land to drive away the Muslims. In truth, they were generally a reckless band of adventurers. Their lack of discipline and understanding cost the Jews dearly. The Crusaders became a great curse upon Israel. It should not surprise us that it was the Crusaders who returned home with a form of the bubonic plague, known as the Black Death. Before the plague ended, it killed a fourth of the population of Europe. 28

By 1492, Spain and Portugal were fast becoming two of the mightiest sea powers on earth. Their mariners were beginning to sail unexplored waters the world over. Soon this momentum would enable them to establish colonies in the ends of the earth, returning with shiploads of gold. We mentioned earlier in this chapter the almost unknown fact that the Jewish people had helped make this great exploration possible by their contributions to astronomy and mapmaking. Spain and Portugal would go on to amass tremendous wealth and build vast colonial empires spanning the globe.

However, in 1492, the Christian rulers of Spain decided to expel the Jews from that realm. The Jews of Spain had lived there for centuries, and had produced a “golden age” of Jewish civilization in that country. The Jews were nevertheless expelled. Soon in 1497, the Jews of Portugal were also expelled.

When the Jews left Spain and Portugal in a very real sense, the “lights went out” for these civilizations. In a short period of time the vast influence of these two nations climaxed and went into a rapid and permanent decline. Both countries sank into dismal degradation as they were plagued and haunted by the specter of the Inquisition. This lasted until the nineteenth century. Interestingly, in 1996, five-hundred years to the day after their expulsion, Portugal apologized and sought to make atonement for their act. 29 Spain had done a similar thing in 1993.

It should be noted that in 1588, the mighty Spanish Armada was destroyed by the British, who later took control of the seas. It is quite interesting that at almost the time of this great sea victory, there was beginning to arise a strong and favorable Zionist sentiment
in Britain. 30


Defeat of the Spanish Armada by Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg. Painted in 1796
(Wikimedia Commons)

There are many other modern nations who have opposed Israel and have reaped bitter cursing. Consider Germany for instance. Despite the recent unification of East and West Germany, the Berlin wall stood for 45 years as a testimony of judgment upon this nation. Her great cities were also bombed and turned into ashes by allied raids. Her
people suffered.

Consider Russia and the other countries of the former Soviet Union. Until 1989, the people of these countries languished under the cruel heel of Communism. These are vast lands of great natural resources. The people of these lands should have enjoyed a great abundance of food and of all other natural products. Yet, when the new immigrants from the former USSR came to Israel, they told many tales of standing in long lines in order to purchase the bare necessities of life, even to purchase rotten potatoes. The people suffered by oppression, wars and purges. Stalin killed millions of his own people. Today these nations grope in a political and financial quagmire that seemingly defies solution.

It is certainly possible that the whole land is under a divine curse brought about by centuries of anti-Semitism. One writer has remarked: “Anti-semitism is as perennial in Russia as the snow…and it lurks beneath the surface the rest of the time as stubbornly as permafrost.” 31 The Russians were murdering Jews long before Hitler was born. In fact, the first aliya to Israel began in 1882, as a result of Russian anti-Semitic pogroms. Today Russia and other former Soviet countries are penalized by the brain-drain of highly skilled Jewish scientists, engineers, teachers, physicians and others who have immigrated
to Israel.

Consider Poland. There has hardly been a nation in modern times more dedicated to the destruction of the Jews than Poland. Rausch says of the Polish people, “…we cannot deny that their anti-Semitism over the decades grew into a Jew-hatred that fashioned them into key collaborators with the Nazi regime.”32   Of the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust, it is almost inconceivable that half of them died in Poland. Even after the war ended, the Poles continued to murder Jews. The historian Johnson puts the number of murdered Jews after the war at 350. 33  Could Poland’s sorrows as a modern nation be traced back to its Jew hatred? It seems plausible.

The list of modern nations following the evil path of entrenched anti-Semitism certainly includes many Middle Eastern countries. Consider the horrors of Lebanon for instance. This once beautiful nation attacked Israel in 1948. Later she opened her doors to the PLO when they were expelled from Jordan. Lebanon opened her doors so that fire could devour her beautiful cedars (Zech. 11:1).

In Lebanon, the PLO built a vast infrastructure of terror from 1975 to 1982. They destroyed, murdered, and raped as they chose. They kidnapped Lebanese children and trained twelve year-olds to kill. In their rage they shelled hospitals, turned churches into weapons and garbage dumps. They turned beautiful Lebanon into a war zone.

Consider the lot of the Palestinians, who have despised Israel with an intensity unrivaled in modern times. During the Gulf War the Palestinians literally danced on their roofs as Saddam Hussein’s missiles fell on Tel Aviv. 34  Later as Gaza was being turned over to them in the ceremonies of the Oslo peace accord, they could not stifle their hatred for a moment, but stoned the Israeli soldiers who were participating in the ceremony. One expert, Ruth Wisse, comments on this incredible hatred saying, “The Palestinians are the first people whose nationalism consists primarily of opposition to the Jewish people.” 35

It appears that the Palestinians have certainly become heirs of the ancient hatred of Amalek and Edom. They have hardly noticed that their Druze brethren in the northern parts of Israel have received great blessing for their cooperation with Israel. Their beautiful and peaceful cities dot the areas of Carmel in the north and also the
Golan Heights.

As a result of their support of Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War, 350,000 Palestinians were expelled from Kuwait. Their own Moslem brothers would not take them in, although Israel accepted many of them. 36   They have gone from woe to woe, always blaming Israel for their plight.

But perhaps the most obvious example of inheriting a curse in modern times is Great Britain. Probably because of Puritan influence, there arose a strong support for Zion in Great Britain. This support had been expressed among her writers and poets. It was also expressed in the highest levels of government.

God honored Britain by allowing her to be the guardian of the newborn child, Israel. Britain was in an excellent position to do this since she had greatly assisted in the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, and was left to carve up Palestine virtually as she wished. At that time, Britain ruled a quarter of the earth’s surface.

Interestingly, Britain’s military efforts had been greatly helped during World War I by a Jewish chemist and statesman, Chaim Weizmann. In the dark days of the war, Britain had turned to him desperately in need of a synthetic acetone for her munitions industries. Weizmann discovered a process for producing this acetone in 1916. 37  Britain was able to continue her war efforts and gain vast land holdings in the Middle East. In 1917, Britain produced the noble Balfour Declaration, that looked favorably to a home for the Jews in Palestine. At the end of the war, Britain was one of the mightiest powers on earth with colonies stretching over the world.

In spite of her noble beginnings, Britain failed miserably. Although she was charged by the League of Nations in 1920 to aid the establishment of a state for newly emerging Israel, one of her first acts was to take 75% of the territory allotted to Israel and establish the Emirate of Transjordan (today’s Jordan). That area was immediately closed to all future Jewish settlement, and even today with the present peace process in force, no Jew is allowed to become a citizen of Jordan.

Britain then proceeded to hinder all Jewish settlement in the land of Israel, while at the same time encouraging Arab settlement there from the surrounding nations.38  Britain shut the door on Jewish immigration at precisely the time that millions of Jews were fleeing from the coming Holocaust.

The British then for their own selfish political purposes, did much to help create the myth of Palestinian nationalism. It is a long and complicated story filled with many intrigues. Finally, in 1948, the British were forced to turn the now sticky problem of the Jewish homeland back over to the United Nations. Britain was then forced to withdraw her once proud forces from Palestine in shame. Britain not only quit its mandate over Palestine. She also quit Iran in 1951, and Sudan in 1953. Britain then quit Egypt in 1954-56, Jordan in 1957, Iraq in 1958 and Aden in 1967. 39

The once mighty British Empire began to unravel. Earlier, at the very time she was abusing her sacred trust in Palestine, her capital city was bombed nightly by the Nazis. Britain survived, but lost most of her vast worldwide holdings. Great Britain like many other nations before her, learned the high price of seeking to curse those whom God has blessed.

So to this very hour, the blessing of Abraham is available to the nations. The curse is also available. Many nations today continue walking in the “valley of decision” concerning Israel (Joel 3:14). The New Testament teaches us that the nations of the world will someday line up before God as sheep and goats. The sheep nations will then be blessed eternally, while the goat nations will be eternally cursed.

We learn in Matthew 25:32-46, that the criteria for this great judgment will be none other than how nations have treated the brothers of the Lord. The brothers of the Lord
are Jewish.

 

STUDY QUESTIONS:

Name three Jews who blessed Gentile nations in biblical times.

List some blessings brought to the Ottoman Empire and the Netherlands by the expelled Jews of Spain and Portugal.

What great blessing did the American Colonies receive from one devoted Jew?

Name some Jews who helped usher in the Atomic Age.

Why do you think Jews would lean so heavily toward academic skills, including the sciences and medicine?

What other event was happening as Columbus was sailing from Spain to discover the new world? Why was this especially ironic?

Based upon what we have learned in this chapter, why do the Palestinians always seem to have such a difficult time?

NOTES

1. See, Jim Gerrish, “Blessing or Cursing,” Jerusalem Prayer Letter, Nov. 1990. I have drawn heavily from this previous published article.
2. William Whiston, trans., The Works of Josephus, Complete and Unabridged (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson Publishers, 1987) p. 286.
3. Edwin M. Yamauchi, Persia and the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1990) p. 254.
4. Yamauchi, Persia and the Bible, p. 259.
5. Quoted in, Cecil Roth, A History of the Jews (New York: Schocken Books, 1954) p. 252.
6. Roth, A History of the Jews, p. 252.
7. Roth, A History of the Jews, pp. 253-254.
8. Roth, A History of the Jews, p. 256.
9. Goeffrey Wigoder, ed., Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol 12, (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Jerusalem, Ltd., 1971-1972) p. 977.
10. Martin Gilbert, Jewish History Atlas, 4th Edition (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv & Haifa: Steimatzky Ltd., 1969,1976, 1985, 1992) p. 52.
11. Wigoder, ed., Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol 12, p. 977.
12. Iain H. Murray, The Puritan Hope (Edinburg, Scotland and Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1971) p. 66.
13. Richard Siegel and Carl Rheins, editors, The Jewish Almanac (New York: Bantam Books, Inc., 1980) pp. 482-483.
14. David Allen Lewis, Israel and the USA, Restoring the Lost Pages of American History (Springfield, MO: Menorah Press, 1993) pp. 168-19.
15. Leonard C. Yassen, The Jesus Connection (New York: The Crossroads Publishing Co., 1985) pp. 92-94.
16. M. Hirsh Goldberg, The Jewish Connection (New York: Bantam Books, Inc., 1976) p. 171.
17. Yassen, The Jesus Connection, pp. 101-102.
18. Goldberg, The Jewish Connection, pp. 23-24.
19. Goldberg, The Jewish Connection, p. 171.
20. Yassen, The Jesus Connection, pp. 97-105.
21. John Hulley, Comets, Jews & Christians (New York & Jerusalem: The Root and Branch Association, Ltd., 1996) p. 60.
22. Louis Finkelstein, ed., The Jews: Their History, Culture, and Religion, Vol III, (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1949) pp. 1057-1064.
23. Finkelstein, ed., The Jews: Their History, Culture, and Religion, Vol III, pp. 1083-1084.
24. Goldberg, The Jewish Connection, p. 187-196. For this information I have also used the valuable and interesting materials in Louis Finkelstein, The Jews: Their History, Culture, and Religion, Vol III, pp. 1067-1068 and 1085-1088.
25. Goldberg, The Jewish Connection, p. 85-104.
26. Siegel and Rheins, editors, The Jewish Almanac, pp. 14-16. A portion of this material was taken from Yassen, The Jesus Connection, pp. 109-127.
27. Dr. Goran Larsson, “The Jews Your Majesty” (San Diego, CA and Jerusalem, Israel: The Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and Research, 1989) p. 37.
28. The World Book Encyclopedia (Chicago, Frankfurt, London, Paris, Rome, Syndey, Tokyo, and Toronto, Vol 2, World Book-Childcraft International, Inc., 1978) p. 545.
29. See, The Jerusalem Post, 6 December, 1996.
30. Lawrence J. Epstein, Zion’s Call, Christian Contributions to the Origins and Development of Israel (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc., 1984) p.7.
31. See, The Jerusalem Post, 24 November, 1998.
32. David A. Rausch, A Legacy of Hatred: Why Christians Must Not Forget the Holocaust (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984) p. 109.
33. Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (New York: Harper & Roe, New York, NY, 1987) p. 513.
34. See, Dispatch From Jerusalem, 2nd. qtr. 1991, p. 7.
35. See, The Jerusalem Post, 28 January, 2000.
36. See, Dispatch From Jerusalem, 1st. qtr. 1992, p10.
37. Siegel and Rheins, editors, The Jewish Almanac, p. 179.
38. Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial, The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1984) p. 295.
39. Charles F. DeLoach, Seeds of Conflict (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1974) p. 68.