• Laila Rasheed

    The American Council for Judaism
    Stephen L. (Steve) Naman
    Post Office Box 862188
    Marietta, GA 30062
    (904) 280-3131
    [email protected]

    Tribalism vs. Universality:
    The Triumph of Jonah and Ruth

    Solveig Eggerz
    Issues
    Winter 1997

    During the sixth century B.C.E. Babylon and Egypt competed with one another for control of Judah. The inhabitants of Jerusalem resisted the powerful Babylonian army for two years. When Jerusalem fell in 587 B.C.E. the Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s Temple and sent the people of Jerusalem to Babylon, which marked the beginning of the Exile. During the Exile, the faith in Yahweh developed into Judaism. Without a state of their own, Jews retained their identity by focusing on their writings, their laws, their records of the past. For this reason scribes became important. The exiles also listened to prophets such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel. It was in Babylon that the priest Ezekiel had his vision of a resurrected Israel.

    In 539 B.C.E. after the Jews had been in exile for a little over 50 years, the Persian king Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon which included the annexation of Jerusalem. He issued the Edict of Cyrus which permitted the Jewish exiles to return to their homeland and rebuild Solomon’s Temple. But most Jews were comfortable in the Diaspora and chose not to participate in the reconstruction of a Jewish state.

    According to the Bible, 42,360 exiles returned to Jerusalem in the year 520 B.C.E. under the leadership of Zerubbabel, a member of the Davidic line who became Persian Governor of Judah. A religious exclusivity, which manifested itself in an intolerance of foreigners, characterized these years after the return from Babylon. This early group of returning exiles discriminated against Samaritans as well as against other Jews regarded as heretical. Partly because of this expressed hostility, the new colony faltered. But in 458 B.C.E. Ezra the scribe and priest brought more exiles. And in 445 B.C.E. Nehemiah, a powerful Persian official, arrived and took over the governorship of Judah. He had the authority to build Judah into an independent political unit within the Persian Empire.
    Returning Exiles

    The returning exiles were serious about the purification of Judaism as described in Nehemiah 8:

    “And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the Law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly . . . And he read from it facing the square before the Water gate from early morning until midday . . .”

    What he read was the essence of the xenophobic strain in Judaism. In exile it had been the task of Ezra, as befitted a scribe, to study and copy the writings of the Jews. Creativity and inspiration are the characteristics of prophets, not scribes. When the exiles looked to a scribe to shape the new Jewish nation, they looked to one whose interest is in a dogged preservation of the letter of the law. It was this kind of inflexibility coupled with nationalism that motivated Ezra to demand the dissolution of all marriages between returning Jews and those who already dwelled in Israel. Chapter nine of Nehemiah describes the need for Jews to separate from “foreigners” and chapter thirteen ends with the condemnation of all foreign marriages.

    Ezra’s laws were a return to an isolationist tribalism of an earlier period of Judaism. The reason for the ban on intermarriage was not strictly religious, for the Samaritans had accepted the religion of Judaism. Rather the cause was rooted in a racial, ethnic, nationalistic chauvinism. So natural was intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews in Jerusalem at this time that a grandson of the high priest had married the daughter of the governor of Samaria during a period when Nehemiah was in Babylon. Upon his return, Nehemiah insisted that this marriage be dissolved. The bridegroom refused, and was expelled from Jerusalem which led to the final split between the Samaritans and the Jews.

    Countervailing Force

    The countervailing force to the rigidity of Ezra and Nehemiah manifests itself in the teachings of two little books in the Bible — the books of Jonah and Ruth. The conflict between the nationalistic viewpoint on the one hand, and the universalistic on the other, has been described by Dr. Julian Morgenstern, former president of Hebrew Union College, as that between universalism and particularism. He states:

    “separate Jews from others. ‘Universalism’ on the other hand, concentrates upon those aspects which unite Jews with others. The ideas are not mutually exclusive of each other. The particularists say that Judaism must be separate and distinct in order to preserve the identity of the Jews. When this has been achieved then they can concern themselves with other people. The universalists also feel that Jews must remain Jews, but they emphasize seeking ways and means of working with all men.”

    The Book of Jonah supposedly refers to the Israelite prophet Jonah who prophesied during Israel’s expansion under King Jeroboam II (785-745 B.C.E.). God commands Jonah to prophesy to the people of “that great city” of Ninevah, so that its wayward people may repent of their evil ways. If they will do this, God will forgive them. During the time of the prophet Jonah, the Assyrian empire was in a period of decay. Ninevah was but a small provincial town, and the capital of Assyria was Calah. Yet the memory of the hated Assyrian empire, whose leaders were known for their cruelty to those whom they conquered, lived on. That memory was certainly vivid enough to make preaching forgiveness to a despised enemy a hateful enterprise to an Israelite prophet.

    Moral Message

    Although the story of Jonah alludes to an ancient city, and to a prophet of an earlier time, it is not an historical account but rather a parable that contains a moral message. But it is also a story of a fish in a long tradition of such stories. Elsewhere in the Bible we encounter Leviathan, the monster of the deep. In mythology fish frequently swallow humans. An ancient Egyptian account tells of a shipwrecked traveler who is swallowed by a serpent and thus carried to land. The fish that swallows Jonah is often referred to as a whale, perhaps because a whale is a mammal with warm blood and lungs, rather than a true fish with cold blood and gills. The imagination, already straining to envision the prophet discovering God within the fish’s belly, would presumably snap at the vision of a frigid hiding place. But the only type of whale with a throat large enough to swallow a man is the sperm whale, and these do not exist in the Mediterranean.

    Thus the story of Jonah is a fantasy, which has inspired many writers.

    Herman Melville in his classic story, Moby Dick, describes Jonah as “the God-fugitive,” guilty of “wilful disobedience of the command of God.” Jonah is a man wrapped up in the notion that he can escape the presence of God. Melville’s preacher describes him thus:

    “See ye not then, shipmates, that Jonah sought to flee world-wide from God? Miserable man! Oh! most contemptible and worthy of all scorn; with slouched hat and guilty eye, skulking from his God; prowling among the shipping like a vile burglar hastening to cross the sea. So disordered, self condemning is his look, that had there been policemen in those days, Jonah, on the mere suspicion of something wrong, had been arrested ere he touched a deck.”

    Narrow Nationalism

    Written sometime between 500 and 250 B.C.E. the book of Jonah is generally seen as a polemic against the narrow Jewish nationalism embodied in the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah. It posits tolerance of non-Jews in contrast to Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s stress on a pure blood race of Jews under an exclusively Jewish God.

    Jonah is one in a long line of Biblical figures who argue with God. When Abraham learned that God planned to punish Sodom, he protested that there must be at least 50 good people in the evil city. Abraham bargained with God to spare the city on behalf of even so few as ten righteous people. The suffering Job accused God of injustice, and proclaimed his own innocence. Moses tried to evade his mission of leading the Israelites out of Egypt, begging God, “Send I pray some other person.”

    And when God calls Jonah, “Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and cry against it,” Jonah flees to Joppa and boards a ship bound for Tarshish, thinking he can thus escape the presence of the Lord.

    Tribal God

    Here Jonah is depicted as erroneously viewing God as a tribal God of so limited power that his hand would not stretch as far as Tarshish at the western end of the Mediterranean. He thinks that God’s jurisdiction extends only over Palestine. But the first two chapters of the Book of Jonah proclaim that God is everywhere. As Jonah hurries from God’s presence:

    “The Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.” The sailors were frightened, “and each cried to his god.”

    Jonah, perhaps to ensure that he would escape God’s voice, had hidden himself in the inner recesses of the ship and fallen asleep. To determine who was the cause of the storm, the sailors cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.

    When they had cast Jonah into the sea, “the sea ceased from its raging.” The Lord then arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah, and he stayed in the belly of the fish for three days. It is this part of the story that fascinates mythologists as well as some psychologists. Joseph Campbell, the late mythologist, refers to the event as a “practically universal” mythic theme, featuring a hero “going into a fish’s belly and ultimately coming out again, transformed.”

    The descent into darkness represents the conscious personality being overwhelmed by the unconscious. Campbell notes that,

    “Metaphorically, water is the unconscious, and the creature in the water is the life or energy of the unconscious, which has overwhelmed the conscious personality and must be disempowered, overcome and controlled.”

    It is indeed inside the belly of the fish that Jonah submits himself to the will of God.

    “But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to thee; what I have vowed I will pay.”
    And the Lord commands the fish to vomit Jonah out on the dry land. After this Jonah fulfills God’s command to go to Ninevah and deliver God’s request for repentance as well as his promise of forgiveness to those who repent. Jonah prophesies so successfully that the entire populations of Ninevah puts on sackcloth and begins to fast as an act of repentance.

    Mercy and Repentance

    Here Jonah assumes the role of prophet not only as a deliverer of oracles but as a persuader, as a proclaimer both of God’s mercy, and the power of repentance. It was the beginning of the sense that deeds make atonement for a man.

    The figure in the story, Jonah, accepts the concept of atonement, but not the extension of God’s mercy to other peoples.

    When the people of Ninevah repent, God forgives them, and spares the city.

    “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.”

    The prophet complains to God for having spared Ninevah. The book ends with God’s chastisement of Jonah:

    “And should not I pity Ninevah, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

    Thus, the Book of Jonah demonstrates that God is merciful. But it also shows that God is universal both in the sense of being everywhere, as well as in the sense that all humans, not just the Jews, are his concern. This last point runs counter to the beliefs of the reluctant prophet, Jonah, for his view was closer to the primitive conception of God presented in I Samuel 15 where Samuel demands that Saul totally destroy the Amalekites, men, women and children, as revenge for earlier acts by the Amalekites against the Israelites. For Jonah, like Samuel, views God as a tribal deity who favors Israel over its enemies.

    Universal God

    Throughout this fantastical story, Jonah remains a man not quite right with God. And that is the whole point. He is the narrow-minded nationalist of the post-exilic period while God emerges as a truly universal God, one who cares for Jew and Gentile alike.

    Written at a similar time as the Book of Jonah, the Book of Ruth presents the same message of tolerance and universality. Ruth was a Moabite who had married a Hebrew, the son of Naomi. When her husband died, Ruth said to her mother-in-law Naomi:

    “Entreat me not to leave thee and to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people will be my people, and thy God, my God; where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried;; the Lord do so to me and the more also, if aught but death part thee and me.” (Ruth 1:16)

    Ruth returned with Naomi to Judah and married the Hebrew Boaz and gave birth to a son, Obed. This child was viewed as Naomi’s grandson and she became his nurse:

    “And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name saying, ‘a son has been born to Naomi.’

    “They named him Obed; he was the father of Jesse, the father of David.” (Ruth 4:17)

    Thus, Ruth, a Moabite woman, was the great grandmother of David, the greatest king of the Hebrews.

    Intermarriage Not Forbidden

    In his book, Not By Power: The Story of the Growth of Judaism, Rabbi Allan Tarshish writes:

    “This is a bombshell; for it informs us that David . . . the man from whom the Messiah is supposed to come, was a descendant of a Moabitish woman. The great-grandmother of David was not born a Jewess. Thus the story shows that even in those early days intermarriage on a racial or national basis was not forbidden. It makes the important point that Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s ban on intermarriage with Samaritans or those of other lands who had become Jews, was a policy opposed to basic Jewish practice.”

    This, Tarshish points out, is another aspect of an important message:

    “As God was a universal God, so Judaism was a universal religion, not merely a tribal or national religion. Any person of any nationality group who wished to become a Jew could do so, and marriage should not be based upon national or racial criteria, but upon the criterion of religion. The Book of Ruth won out over the policies of Ezra and Nehemiah, for it was placed in the canon of the Holy Scriptures.”

    Rabbi David Goldberg, in his book The Leaven of Judaism, declares that,

    “Ruth constitutes a repudiation of the racist views expounded by Ezra, denouncing them by implication as anti-Torah, hence anti-Jewish . . . In contemporary terms, Ezra could be properly characterized as a Jewish isolationist, a chauvinistic nationalist, perhaps even a racist. Fortunately, the narrow aspect of Ezra’s Judaism did not register with the learned of his own generation. Ezra’s racist nationalism was repudiated.”

    Xenophobic Ideas

    Rabbi Harold Schulweis, a respected Conservative rabbi in Encino, California, sharply criticizes Judaism’s xenophobic ideas, going back to Ezra, and including the 18th century classic “Tanya,” by the founder of Chabad Hasidism, Shneur Zalman, which contends that the souls of gentiles “emanate from unclean husks that contain no good whatever.” He cites a more recent source, the Orthodox rabbi and philosopher Michael Wyschograd who argued in his 1983 book The Body of Faith that Judaism is a “carnal election,” claiming that God chose to elect a biological people that remains elect even when it sins.

    Schulweis writes:

    “Too many of our people do no appreciate the universalism in Jewish life. Apparently, it has not registered that it was the Book of Ruth not the Book of Ezra that the rabbis selected to be read on the festival of revelation, Shavuoth. Ruth is celebrated as the spiritual heroine of that text — astoundingly for Ruth is a Moabite . . . . Jews, even those who pray, seem not to be aware that the 13th blessing of the Amidah, recited thrice daily, asks that God’s tender mercies be stirred toward the righteous proselytes. Do we mean what we pray? . . . Too many of our people are not even aware that the first convert to Judaism was none other than Abraham, who opened his tent and, with Sarah, converted pagans to Judaism. Who are we Jews but, as the Haggadah reminds us, children of idol-worshipers?”

    Message of Tolerance

    Those who continue to assert the narrow, tribal nature of Judaism are ignoring the outcome of the struggle between the opposing viewpoints during the fractious post-exilic period. Today, it is the lesson of Jonah, not that of Samuel, that is read as the prophetic portion on the Day of Atonement, a message of universalism. Similarly the rabbis did not select the Book of Ezra to be read on Shavuot, the Festival of Revelation, nor did they select the passage from Deuteronomy 23:3, “no Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the Lord,” but rather they chose the Book of Ruth, the book of the Moabite woman, symbol of tolerance, and great-grandmother of King David.

    Don’t knock Dawkins! We need people like him to question our beliefs!

    Cyrus created Talmudic Judaism by sending Ezra to rebuild the Temple & establish a Jewish form of Zoroastrianism!

    Constantine created Romanism by getting a few Judas Goat Christians to join Paganism & Christianity together.

    Muhammad created Mohammedanism by mixing Talmudic Judaism, Romanism & Paganism together.

    Mohammedanism is the Arabian form of Romanism.

    BUT, what I really want you to study is Matthew ch 19 & see what Jesus says to the Pharisees about Moses & Divorce!

    Thrown away your Jewish Bible!

    THE SCRIBE

    JOURNAL OF BABYLONIAN JEWRY
    PUBLISHED BY THE EXILARCH’S FOUNDATION
    ________________________________________
    ISSUE 78 – 2005/10 (Last updated October 2010)
    ________________________________________

    ‘The Scribe’ is the Journal of Babylonian Jewry. It has been published by the Exilarch’s Foundation since 1971. The Magazine covers many areas of interest including subjects related to Jews of Iraqi origin. Its readership of about 5,000 is based in Israel, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and many countries of the Diaspora.It was founded and continues to be edited by Mr. Naim Dangoor, the grandson of Hakham Ezra Reuben Dangoor who was the Chief Rabbi of Baghdad, Iraq about 70 years ago.

    EZRA
    &
    THE BLOODLINE

    Racism was invented
    By the Jewish Priest Ezra!

    Ezra & Hitler are in total agreement

    “it was against the will of the Eternal Creator. . .Nations that make mongrels of their people or allow their people to be turned into mongrels sin against the Will of Eternal Providence.”
    Mein Kampf, p. 186 . . . p.162

    The Book of Ezra is the Mein Kampf of the Bible

    In 587 B.C. Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians. The town and the Temple were razed to the ground and the Jewish people were exiled to the land of their captors. But fifty years later Cyrus, King of Persia, conquered the conquerors and established his own rule in Babylon. He was well-disposed toward the Jewish people living there and issued an edict allowing them to return to their own country. But not everyone wanted to go.

    Although the siege of Jerusalem had been brutal, once the people were settled in their land of exile, living conditions kept improving. Ultimately, they were given the opportunity to become contributing members of the Empire and encouraged to retain their own Jewish culture. By the time Cyrus came to power, the majority of Jewish people did not want to exchange a prosperous lifestyle for the uncertainty of returning to a country that had been lying in ruins for half a century. But they were quite generous in their financial and moral support of those who were willing to go back and resettle their homeland.

    When the first group of exiles arrived back in Jerusalem, circa 537 B.C., they found things were even worse than expected. The countryside was desolate and rebuilding loomed as a monumental task. And other problems faced the returnees. They had come back ready to reclaim Jerusalem and institute their own agenda. But when they arrived they found that the ruins of the city were inhabited by the descendants of poor peasants who had hidden out in the hills during the Babylonian siege. They had escaped capture while the wealthy merchants, landowners and priests who had substantial lands and other holdings, had been rounded up and deported by their conquerors.

    During the years of Exile, the peasants left behind had made a life for themselves that centered around Jerusalem. They built homes for their families and for many years had eked out a living in the barren countryside. And during those years, the peasant survivors of the southern kingdom of Judah had made common cause with those left alive after the takeover of the northern kingdom of Israel. [1] The bitter rivalry that had once divided the Jewish tribes had been healed by the misfortunes they suffered and by the need for mutual aid if any of them were going to survive.

    But those who first returned from Babylonian Exile, under the leadership of the High Priest Jeshua, had nothing but contempt for those who had been left behind. They were considered ignorant; the dregs of society, because without the leadership of the exiled priests and scribes, they would not have properly fulfilled the religious rules and regulations that were supposed to govern daily life. Therefore, they were ritually unclean and were to be shunned. Of course, ritual impurity can be remedied over a period of time by observing every jot and title of the Law but this remedy was not applied to those who had been left behind. Their impurity stemmed from intermarriage with mixed-race Jews. They had mixed the pure blood line of Abraham through intermarriage with those of impure lineage and their offspring had been contaminated.

    So, although the resident survivors around Jerusalem thanked God for the return of the Exiles and wanted to help them rebuild the Temple site, they were not allowed to do so. They presented themselves to Jeshua and other leaders saying

    “We would like to build with you, for we seek your God as you do and we have sacrificed to him since the time of Esarhaddon” [2]

    Their offer was refused, they were unworthy; unclean. They reacted to this bigotry by harassing the returnees as they undertook the reconstruction of the Temple.

    But despite various problems, the altar was reestablished and dedicated to God by a massive slaughter of animals that provided a great feast for the people. In a total rejection of the oracles of the Latter Prophets, who condemned killing animals in the name of God, one hundred bulls, 200 sheep, 400 lambs and 12 goats were sacrificed and slaughtered on the altar site. [3]

    In the generations that followed, the descendants of those who returned from exile married, raised families and centered their religious life around the altar at Jerusalem. And for those who married other pure-blooded Jews there were no problems. However, some of them were marrying those whose bloodlines had been tainted by intermarriage. The religious leaders were very disturbed by this trend, but were unable to do anything about it until a priest named Ezra arrived in Jerusalem.

    Ezra was a scribe as well as a hereditary priest. As a scribe he was trained in the minutiae of religious law and was qualified to translate and interpret those laws. In Babylon he had been the equivalent of a minister for Jewish affairs at the Persian Court and he used that position to secure letters of authority from the king. He had himself sent to Jerusalem as a political and religious leader, empowered to collect money, appoint judges and punish with death, banishment, confiscation or imprisonment any Jew who did not obey the laws he expounded.

    Armed with that power, Ezra arrived in Jerusalem almost a hundred years after the first returnees had come back from Babylon and lost no time in instituting a policy of ethnic cleansing. He, and other like-minded leaders, were determined to get rid of those half-breeds who were the offspring of several generations of unions between pure-blood Jews and the impure resident survivors.

    In ancient Israel mixed marriages had been allowed, but eventually they came into disfavor. Foreign women were blamed when Jewish men failed to fulfill their religious obligations or fell into idolatrous worship. The reaction against such marriages was an attempt to avoid influences that might dilute or corrupt Judaism.

    However, those foreigners who were willing to renounce their pagan worship and follow all the requirements of Jewish law and worship could be accepted into Judaism.

    But Ezra introduced a new element into his ban on intermarriage. The issue was not whether or not a spouse was willing to worship the one God; beliefs did not matter. The issue was whether or not a person was a pure-blooded Jew. For the first time, one group of people viewed other groups as a contaminating influence – – a source of racial or ethnic impurity – – regardless of how they lived or what they believed.

    Ezra began his purge with a lengthy speech-prayer that he gave in the Temple court-yard. For the benefit of God and the assembled people, he gave a synopsis of Israelite history and then told the Lord how angry He was going to be about what was taking place in the present. Because the chosen people had intermarried “with wicked people. . . You will be so angry that You will destroy us completely and let no one survive.”[4] Not surprisingly, the assembled men were terrified by the message that God would completely destroy them if they did not cast off their contaminated wives and children. And this time no one would escape; Abraham’s descendants would be wiped out.

    This public speech-prayer, threatening the extermination of an entire people, is universally praised by religious spokesmen who echo the sentiments of the Inter-national Bible Commentary:

    “Ezra’s prayer is one of the most moving of all the prayers which are recorded in Scripture.”[5]

    Having established the threat of annihilation, Ezra took the next step in implementing his purge. He issued a proclamation demanding that all the Jewish people come to a meeting in Jerusalem. By now they were scattered about the countryside and under ordinary circumstances many would not have bothered to come. But this was not an ordinary situation; Ezra used the extraordinary powers given to him by the Persian King to insure full attendance.

    “A proclamation was issued throughout Judah and Jerusalem for all the exiles to assemble in Jerusalem. Anyone who failed to appear within three days would forfeit all his property. . .and would himself be expelled from the assembly.”[6]

    Under the impetus of that threat, all the Jewish males assembled in the Temple square. There they were given details of the purge that was about to take place. They were to turn in any members of their family who were tainted by non-Jewish blood. They were informed that committees would be set up to investigate all reports of the existence of such undesirables. There was no way to avoid detection. There was no escape.

    “Ezra the priest selected men who were family heads, one from each family division and all of them designated by name. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to investigate the cases and by the first day of the first month they finished dealing with all the men who had married foreign women.”[7]

    It took three months for this systematic purge to identify all the undesirables.

    Not only did Ezra demand that the foreign wives of Jewish men be cast off, he demanded that all the children of such marriages be sent away. His edict was multi-generational. Children, grandchildren and great grandchildren were to be cast off, never again to see their families. [8] And wives, who had been with their husbands only a few years, as well as those who had spent a lifetime with their mates, must also be sent away. No one whose blood was contaminated with non-Jewish blood could stay.

    Of course, there was no place for most of them to go. In that day and time women, children, the frail and the elderly, had no way to sustain themselves. The homes from which they were banished were the only homes they had known. They were sent out into a hostile environment with no resources and few skills. For many of them, Ezra’s proclamation was a death sentence.

    The fate of women and children without male protection was well-known among the Hebrew people. The Prophets had repeatedly spoken of God’s concern for the oppression they suffered at the hands of their own people and the oft-repeated Psalm 146, clearly told of the Lord’s special concern for them;

    “(God) protects the strangers who live in our land and helps widows and orphans. . .he judges in favor of the oppressed.” [9]

    Ezra’s threats of retribution forced the acceptance of his purge in spite of such demands for the care of the powerless from both the psalmist and the prophets. Unless the assembled men did what he demanded, they themselves would become outcasts; they would lose their property and be banished from their homes. Faced with such drastic consequences, it is not surprising that the Bible reports only four of the assembled men protested Ezra’s demands. [10]

    In Ezra’s time there was no precedent for the kind of massive purge he wanted to institute and the men of Israel may not have been aware of the extent of the suffering he was about to unleash on so many people. But it is difficult to understand how Ezra’s policy of ethnic cleansing can continue to receive religious endorsement in a post-Holocaust world. Yet modern Christian scholars continue to endorse Ezra’s purge because the scribe who wrote the biblical account claimed that “God’s holy people had become contaminated” by marrying those whose bloodlines were not pure.”[11]

    Consequently, modern commentators have turned the victims, who were banished from their homes into the villains. Ezra is applauded for his courage in demanding that the national and religious purity of his people be maintained and those who lost everything in the purge are seen as transgressors who had taken part in what the Evangelical Commentary calls “the reprehensible sin of intermarriage.” [12]

    And a Catholic scholar notes that in Ezra’s “concern for racial purity” can be seen as a religious reason for the banishment of undesirable children and wives. Another scholarly note says

    “if (Ezra’s) reforming measures seem severe, it is because his zeal was great, and the need to protect his community, urgent.” [13]

    Because all the protagonists in the story of Ezra’s purge were male and because Bible scholars are usually male, some people of faith have hoped that with the inclusion of female exegetes a more comprehensive and compassionate understanding of the scriptures might emerge. Unfortunately, the publication of The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary has momentarily dashed those hopes. [14] Typical, is the comment regarding Ezra and his emphasis on the need for a pure lineage:

    “(Ezra’s) radical emphasis on pure lineage. . .was timely and vital for the continuation of pure religion.”

    The commentator goes on to claim that had he not instituted this ethnic cleansing, the Jewish people would have become extinct.

    Jewish apologists, as well as their Christian counterparts, continue to insist that Ezra’s purge was an absolute necessity. Rabbi Bernard M. Caspar, Dean, University of Jerusalem, writes that

    “the great problem which faced Ezra upon his arrival in Jerusalem was the danger of assimilation for the newly established community. During the period of the Babylonian exile. . .a small nucleus of original Israelites from the North of the country were now mixed with other (impure) colonists not only in blood but also in cultural standards.” [15]

    This contemporary support for the divine right of a people to rid themselves of the culturally and ethnically undesirable is not limited to religious spokesmen. A best selling, 20th century author, supported Ezra’s concept, writing that

    “The loss of racial purity will wreck inner happiness for ever. It degrades men for all time to come. And the physical and moral consequences can never be wiped out.”

    He also said that the result of mixing a pure-blooded people with those who are mixed, always results in the degeneration of the pure-bred. And although he did not claim or affirm the biblical claim that intermarriage with undesirables would ultimately lead to the destruction of an entire people and their culture because

    “it was against the will of the Eternal Creator. . .Nations that make mongrels of their people or allow their people to be turned into mongrels sin against the Will of Eternal Providence.” [16]

    His book became just as popular as the Bible. By 1933 Mein Kampf was alternating with the Bible for the number one spot on Germany’s best seller list. In his book, Adolph Hitler did not introduce a new concept to the people of Germany; he built on the foundation of the Judeo-Christian acceptance of Ezra’s purge as a necessary and godly undertaking.

    Although horrified by the Holocaust, traditional Christians and Jews continue to endorse the purge that was instituted by Ezra. And as long as they attribute that ancient, man-made reign of terror to God, Western civilization is threatened by a foundational belief that ethnic cleansing can be a godly undertaking, necessary for the survival of a nation. Unless it is repudiated, this potentially destructive belief, usually concealed beneath the surface of everyday life, will continue to erupt in terrible ways that cannot be predicted.

    [1] Survivors of the Northern kingdom of Israel came to be called Samaritans. Their kingdom fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C.

    [2] Ezra: 4:2 JB

    [3] Ezra 6:16, 17 JB

    [4] Ezra 9:14 TEV

    [5] IBC p. 495

    [6] Ezra 10:7, 8 NIV

    [7] Ezra 10:16, 17 NIV

    [8] The policy instituted by Ezra was more severe and contradicted the Deuteronomic Law which said: “You shall not detest an Edomite… you shall not detest an Egyptian…The sons of the third generation who are born to them enter the assembly of the Lord.” Deuteronomy. 23:8

    [9] Psalm 146 is the first of a third Hallel: Ps 146 – 150 (JB note p. 927

    [10] Ezra 10:15 TEV

    [11] Ezra 9:2 TEV

    [12] Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, p. 295

    [13] Jerusalem Bible, Old Testament, p. 495

    [14] InterVarsity Press, 2002

    [15] An introduction to Jewish Bible Commentary, Rabbi Bernard M. Caspar, Dean, The Hebrew University Jerusalem. Publ: Thomas Yoseloff, NY © 1960 World Jewish Congress.

    [16] Mein Kampf, p. 186 . . . p.162

  • http://LynLeahz.com Lyn Leahz

    There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Imam Mahdi, the great religious and political leader who will break all the crosses and abolish everything but Islam is the one we know as the Antichrist. I believe they are one in the same. I learned a lot when I read The Islamic Antichrist by Joel Richardson..a very good book which compares the Quran with the scripture of the Bible pertaining to end time events. God bless you for bringing the truth to people, and helping them to see the way.