God and Israel
27 February 2010
The Qur'an makes abundant references to people and events in the Jewish Scriptures (which the Jews call the Tanakh or the Mikra, and Christians call the Old Covenant or Old Testament). Throughout the Qur'an, there is much criticism of the Jews for having been disobedient to God, such as passages in Surah 2:51-61, 2:87-121, and 17:4-8. (A similar broad overview of Israel's disobedience can be found in Psalm 106, as well as other passages in the Old Testament).
There is one particularly forceful passage regarding the Jews (the People of the Book) in Surah 5:59-66 which I will quote in full here, highlighting the virulent language in purple:
Say: "O People of the Book! do ye disapprove of us for no other reason than that we believe in Allah, and the revelation that hath come to us and that which came before (us), and (perhaps) that most of you are rebellious and disobedient?" (59) Say: "Shall I point out to you something much worse than this, (as judged) by the treatment it received from Allah? Those who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath, those of whom some He transformed into apes and swine, those who worshipped Evil;? these are (many times) worse in rank and far more astray from the even Path! (60) When they come to thee, they say: "We believe": but in fact they enter with a disbelief, and they go out with the same: but Allah knoweth fully all that they hide. (61) Many of them dost thou see, racing each other in sin and transgression and their eating of things forbidden. Evil indeed are the things that they do. (62) Why do not the Rabbis and the doctors of laws forbid them from their (habit of) uttering sinful words and eating things forbidden? Evil indeed are their works. (63) The Jews say: "Allah's hand is tied up." Be their hands tied up and be they accursed for the (blasphemy) they utter. Nay both His hands are widely outstretched: He giveth and spendeth (of His bounty) as He pleaseth. But the revelation that cometh to thee from Allah increaseth in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. Amongst them We have placed enmity and hatred till the Day of Judgment. Every time they kindle the fire of war, Allah doth extinguish it; but they (ever) strive to do mischief on earth. And Allah loveth not those who do mischief. (64) If only the people of the Book had believed and been righteous, We should indeed have blotted out their iniquities and admitted them to Gardens of Bliss. (65) If only they had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There is from among them a party on the right course; but many of them follow a course that is evil. (66)
The Qur'an seems to delight in highlighting God's displeasure at the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews — which is well documented in the Bible — yet it is totally silent regarding the flip side of the coin: God's everlasting love and commitment to the Jews, which is also well documented in the Bible.
I guess the best place to start is with Abraham, the father of both the Jews and the Arabs. Before you go on, take a detour now and read my previous article Enmity and Reconciliation for an in-depth look at the promises that God made to Abraham, which also carried the seeds of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
The Bible makes it very clear, over and over again, that the Jews are His special possession, and no amount of failure or disobedience on the part of the Jews can ever change that:
Long ago Yahweh said to Israel: "I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself. Is not Israel still My son, My darling child?" says Yahweh. "I often have to punish him, but I still love him. That's why I long for him and surely will have mercy on him. In the past I deliberately uprooted and tore down this nation. I overthrew it, destroyed it, and brought disaster upon it. But in the future I will just as deliberately plant it and build it up. I, Yahweh, have spoken! I am as likely to reject My people Israel as I am to abolish the laws of nature!" This is what Yahweh says: "Just as the heavens cannot be measured and the foundations of the earth cannot be explored, so I will not consider casting them away for the evil they have done. I, Yahweh, have spoken!" (Jeremiah 31:3,20,28,36,37 — actually read the entire chapter!)
Zion said, "Yahweh has forsaken me, Yahweh has forgotten me." But Yahweh replies, "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are ever before Me." (Isaiah 49:14-16)
This is what Yahweh of Heaven's Armies says: "Anyone who injures you injures the very pupil of My eye." (Zechariah 2:8)
"For your Maker is your Husband — Yahweh of Heaven's Armies is His name — the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth. Yahweh will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit — a wife who married young, only to be rejected," says your God. "For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you," says Yahweh your Redeemer. "Just as I swore in the time of Noah that I would never again let a flood cover the earth, so now I swear that I will never again be angry and punish you. For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then My unfailing love for you will remain. My covenant of shalom will never be broken," says Yahweh, Who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:5-8)
"When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called My son out of Egypt. I Myself taught Israel how to walk, leading him along by the hand. I led Israel along with My cords of human kindness and love. I lifted the yoke from his neck, and I Myself stooped to feed him. Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Sodom or demolish you like Gomorrah? My heart is torn within Me, and My compassion overflows. No, I will not unleash My fierce anger. I will not completely destroy Israel, for I am God and not a mere mortal. I am the Holy One living among you, and I will not come to destroy." says Yahweh. (Hosea 11:1,3,4,8,9)
This is what Yahweh of Heaven's Armies says: "My love for Jerusalem and Mount Zion is passionate and strong. But I am very angry with the other nations that are now enjoying peace and security. I was only a little angry with My people, but the nations inflicted harm on them far beyond My intentions. Therefore, this is what Yahweh says: I have returned to show mercy to Jerusalem. My Temple will be rebuilt, and measurements will be taken for the reconstruction of Jerusalem. The towns of Israel will again overflow with prosperity, and Yahweh will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem as His own." (Zechariah 1:14-17)
Has God rejected His own people, the nation of Israel? Of course not! No, God has not rejected His own people, whom He chose from the very beginning. Did God's people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! Some of the branches from Abraham's tree — some of the people of Israel — have been broken off. And you non-Jews, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God's special olive tree. But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root. "Well," you may say, "those branches were broken off to make room for me." Yes, but remember — those branches were broken off because they didn't believe in Yeshua, and you are there because you do believe. So don't think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen. For if God did not spare the original branches, He won't spare you either. And when the people of Israel turn from their unbelief, they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree. Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you non-Jews. Yet they are still the people He loves because He chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For God's gifts and His call can never be withdrawn. (Romans 11:1,2,17-21,23,28,29 — actually read the entire chapter!)
Well, I guess that's enough quotations. The Bible is so full of words like this, which again and again declare God's unending love and purpose for Israel, that one would have to be purposefully blind to miss it!
In the Qur'an it says:
Both the Jews and the Christians say: "We are sons of God, and His beloved." Say: "Why then does He punish you for your sins? No, you are but men, of the men He hath created: He forgives whom He pleases, and He punishes whom He pleases. (Surah 5:18)
Once again, the Qur'an has it all backwards and wrong. The Bible clearly states that both Jews and Christians ARE His children — in a spiritual sense, of course, and not in the physical sense that the Qur'an, in it's confusion, seems so obsessed with.
In fact, the Bible teaches that it is God's discipline (which Israel has experienced again and again throughout history) that PROVES we are His children:
Have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as His children? He said, "My child, don't make light of Yahweh's discipline, and don't give up when He corrects you. For Yahweh disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child." As you endure this Divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as His own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn't discipline you as He does all of His children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really His children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn't we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God's discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in His holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening — it's painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. (Hebrews 12:5-11, quoting from Proverbs 3:11-12)
The Qur'an teaches that God punished Israel because He rejected them. But the opposite is true. He punished them because He loves them. If He had rejected them, He would not take the time and effort to punish them — He would just ignore them, as the verses just quoted explain. Which leads us to one more issue to consider ...
In my previous article, I mentioned how the Qur'an changes the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, saying instead that it was Ishmael whom Abraham was going to sacrifice (Surah 37:100-107). In the commentary for this section, the translator explains:
The version of this story in the Qur'an may be compared with the Jewish-Christian version in the Old Testament. The Jewish tradition, in order to glorify the younger branch of the family, descended from Isaac, ancestor of the Jews, as against the elder branch, descended from Ishmael, ancestor of the Arabs, refers this sacrifice to Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18). Now Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old (Genesis 21:5), while Ishmael was born to Abraham when Abraham was 86 years old (Genesis 16:16). Ishmael was therefore 14 years older than Isaac. During his first 14 years, Ishmael was the ONLY son of Abraham; at no time was Isaac the ONLY son of Abraham. Yet, in speaking of the sacrifice, the Old Testament says (Genesis 22:2): 'And He said, Take now thy son, thine ONLY son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering...' This slip shows at any rate which was the older version, and how it was overlaid, like the present Jewish records, in the interests of a tribal religion.
The translator of the Qur'an brings up an interesting point regarding who was the ONLY son of Abraham. I've already quoted these passages from the Bible in my last article, but since they are so pertinent to the subject at hand, I will quote them once more:
On the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that Ishmael, whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham, was mocking, and she said to Abraham, "Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac." The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, "Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make Ishmael, the son of the maidservant, into a nation also, because he is your offspring." Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. (Genesis 21:8-14)
Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east. (Genesis 25:5-6)
What is happening here is that Abraham is DISOWNING Ishmael! In the culture of that day, the firstborn was highly honored, and practically always received the main inheritance. But in this case, Abraham sends away his firstborn, Ishmael, no longer to live with Abraham as his son, no longer to be disciplined as a son, no longer to receive the inheritance. Abraham is no longer investing his time and energy into Ishmael, to train him and discipline him as a son. For all practical purposes, Ishmael was DISOWNED. And as God told Abraham, "it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned."
Therefore, since Ishmael was disowned and sent away, and it was Isaac who was to receive the inheritance and the covenant promises, and it was through Isaac that Abraham's offspring would be reckoned, then for all practical purposes Isaac WAS Abraham's ONLY son at the time of the sacrifice. Ishmael was totally out of the picture, and was no longer reckoned as one of Abraham's sons. Unfortunately for the Arab Muslims, who are so proud that they are descendants of Abraham, this is a reality that they would be loath to acknowledge.
When we look at the New Testament, we see that Isaac is a type, a foreshadowing, of Yeshua, a descendant of Abraham, and the one and only Son of His Heavenly Father. Abraham did not actually sacrifice Isaac — God stopped him before he could actually kill Isaac. This was an example, a foreshadowing, of the sacrifice that DID take place, a couple of thousand years later, on the very same hilltop, when God the Father DID sacrifice His one and only Son, whom He loved, in order to take away the sins of the world.
The next day John the Baptizer saw Yeshua coming toward him and said, "Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)
For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God's one and only Son. (John 3:16,18)
Yeshua, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. (1 Corinthians 5:7)
This is how Jews, Muslims, or anyone else can become a child of God: By putting their faith in Yeshua (Jesus, Isa) to save them, and by submitting their lives to Him. This is how to become a true descendant of Abraham, as we quoted in a previous article:
"Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith." The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God. So all who put their faith in the Messiah share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith. For you are all children of God through faith in Yeshua the Messiah. And now that you belong to the Messiah, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God's promise to Abraham belongs to you. (Galatians 3:6,7,9,26,29)
This is very good news for the Arabs! Even though Ishmael was disowned by Abraham, and excluded from the promises, Ishmael's descendants, the Arabs, can still become partakers of the promises to Abraham by faith in Isa (Yeshua, Jesus). Through Isa, they are restored to sonship, and become heirs of Abraham once again!