The Bible, Israel, and the War with Hamas
This article is not about who is right or wrong in the ongoing Israeli-Hamas-Palestinian conflict. It’s about a religious belief that is being used to justify the conflict based on Genesis 12:3. Does this passage apply to what prophecy aficionados claim for it? I don’t believe it does.
Every nation has a right to defend itself against another nation or organization that wants to wipe it off the face of the earth. The principle of self-defense applies to everybody equally.
The United States didn’t need a particular biblical text to justify a strike against Japan for its attack on Pearl Harbor. The same is true for Germany’s attack on Great Britain and other nations. If Israel is justified in its war with Hamas, the principles in that justification apply equally to all nations. If Israel is wrong in its attacks, then the same criteria for criticism should apply equally to all nations.
It can’t be said based on Genesis 12:3 that Israel can do whatever it wants because it has a particular promise from God. If this is the case, then even God was wrong when He judged Israel at times. Sometimes Israel is right and sometimes Israel is wrong. The same is true of all nations.
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Laurie Cardoza-Moore writes, “In Genesis 12:3, God states his blessing for those who bless His people and His land as well as the curse for those who go against His people. This curse has played out through time from the extinct Philistines to the destruction of Nazi Germany.”
Now, I’m not for cursing any nation, but the above passage is not about cursing or blessing a people or a nation in the 21st century. The “you” is singular. God is talking to and about Abram, later to be named Abraham:
“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing.’”
If this is about blessing the offspring of Abraham, then the descendants of Ishmael must also be included because they are also the offspring of Abraham (Gen. 17:20). In fact, the language is almost identical to what God says to Abraham:
“As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.”
It’s true that in the next verse God makes it clear with whom He would make His covenant: “But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year” (17:21).
We know from the New Testament that this covenant promise was fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In a short time, tens of thousands of Jews and non-Jews embraced Jesus as the “savior of the world” (John 4:42; Acts 2:5-11; Rom. 1:8; 16:25-27; Col. 1:6, 23; 1 Tim. 3:16). This included the descendants of Ishmael and people from every other nation.
Many of the Palestinians in the present conflict are Christians and don’t have anything to do with Hamas.
What should we say about the way that Christians are being slaughtered by ISIS? Does Genesis 12:3 apply since most Christians today are not physical descendants of Abraham? What about non-Christians? The Bible’s standard of righteous applies to all people equally.
There aren’t two standards of judgment, one for the Jew and one for the non-Jew (Deut. 24:17; 27:19; Ex. 23:9; Lev. 19:33). There isn’t to be any partiality in judgment. A Jew cannot say that he or she should be treated in a way that’s different from a non-Jew: “You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike” (Deut. 1:17a; 10:17; 16:19; 27:19).
According to Laurie Cardoza-Moore, the “Genesis Curse” “has played out through time from the extinct Philistines to the destruction of Nazi Germany.” What the Nazis did to the Jews was horrific and deserved a swift and total judgment. But while the Nazis were judged, the German nation was not like empires of the past. In fact, Germany is one of the most prosperous nations in the world today while the Philistines are extinct. The Philistines and Nazis were judged because they violated God’s law (murder on a grand scale), a law that applies to all nations no matter who is being murdered.
Two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. Japan didn’t do what the Nazis did. So how does Japan fit into the “Genesis Curse”?
What about China during the era of Mao Zedong “whose rule is estimated to have contributed to the deaths of 40–70 million people through starvation, forced labour and executions, ranking his tenure as the top incidence of democide in human history”? Why did this holocaust that was ten times greater than the Nazi holocaust take place when we know that China gave sanctuary to Jews?
“Dr. Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Republic of China, held admirations for the Jewish people and Zionism, and saw parallels between the persecution of Jews and the domination of China by the Western powers. He stated, ‘Though their country was destroyed, the Jewish nation has existed to this day… [Zionism] is one of the greatest movements of the present time. All lovers of democracy cannot help but support wholeheartedly and welcome with enthusiasm the movement to restore your wonderful and historic nation, which has contributed so much to the civilization of the world and which rightfully deserve an honorable place in the family of nations.’
“Shanghai was an important safe-haven for Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, since it was one of the few places in the world where one didn’t need a visa.”
“In general, in the period of 1845 to 1945 more than 40,000 Jews came to China for business development or for a safe haven.”
When my wife and I were in Shanghai in 2011 we visited the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. “From 1933 to 1941, Shanghai became a Noah’s Ark accepting around 30,000 Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust in Europe. . . . [L]ife in Shanghai was so memorable” that the Jews “considered the city as their second hometown and called themselves ‘Shanghai Jews.’”
Christians need to be careful how they argue their case. The ongoing conflict in the Middle East is multi-faceted. Israel has a right to defend her land and people like any other nation, and other enemies of Hamas have a right to exist as well.
This conflict is not going to be resolved by an appeal to Genesis 12:3.