26th Jan 2015

Semitism

By John Rankine

We are hearing more these days about anti-Semitism. It is one of those expressions which has grown up over a long period but which is not totally accurate.

Going back to the story of Noah and the Flood we find that Noah went into and later came out of the Ark with his wife and his three sons and their wives. The sons were Japheth, Ham (on whom Noah had earlier put a curse) and Shem.

After the flood the three split up. Japheth went North, Ham went South into the sun and his descendants’ skin gradually became brown or black. Shem stayed put around the Middle East and his descendants became known as Shemites or Semites. Thus the term strictly applies to all of the people in that area but has over the years gradually narrowed to mean Israelites.

Later in history we remember that God promised to Abraham that He would give him what is known as the land of Israel, originally called Canaan. God not only gave it to Abraham but to his ‘Seed’ or descendants for ever, and that those descendants would be greater in number than the grains of sand on the seashore or the stars in the sky.

Now, God’s promise of a son to Abraham was a long time a-coming. Andy reminded us of this recently in that Sarah, wife of Abraham, suggested that he try reproducing through Hagar, her maid.

That union was successful in that a son was born and was called Ishmael. Some thirteen years afterwards Isaac was born to Sarah and God told Abraham that Ishmael with Hagar must be banished. So it happened. God promised to look after Ishmael and he grew up to be strong. There is a description of an Ishmaelite in the Bible as being armed to the teeth and fierce, and that leads to the conclusion that they became Bedouin. These were nomadic people and even today they may be seen in their tents well outside towns and cities. It was a group of passing Ishmaelites to whom Joseph’s brothers sold him and who later sold him on to an army general in Egypt – Potiphar. There are mentions of Ishmaelites who married into Israeli families around the time of Saul and David.

Isaac in his turn married Rebecca and she bore twin sons. Genesis tells us that one put his arm out and had a red thread tied round it. He withdrew and his brother emerged first. The brother was Esau and the one with the red thread Jacob. We are all familiar with how Jacob, encouraged by Rebecca, cheated Esau out of this inheritance. The practice in those days was that the firstborn son received two thirds of his father’s estate.

Jacob ran away, stayed with his uncle Laban and eventually married Leah and Rachel, his cousins. Jacob seems to have carried on being a cheat and the story is spelt out in Genesis.

A long time later a meeting was arranged between Jacob and Esau. Jacob approached it with some trepidation but in the event Esau, whose people vastly outnumbered those of Jacob, gave his brother a hug and, after a long conversation, the two separated and there is no record of them ever meeting again.

Now, Hebrew scriptures record that God at this point re-named Jacob as Israel and he was told that he was the inheritor of the promise to Abraham. Abraham had wandered up and down the land of Canaan but had never had enough descendants to occupy the land. Jacob eventually followed Joseph down to Egypt where the people grew in number over a period of 400 years and then spent another 40 years working their way back to Canaan being then at least 1.5 million in number. Once there they set about occupying the land and incurring the enmity of the Canaanites and other tribes round about whom we might be justified in calling the descendants of Esau. If you talk to an Arab or a Muslim today he will tell you that he is descended from Abraham.

Thus the Arab considers that, as descended from Abraham, (presumably via Esau) he has a right to occupy Palestine and that Israelis do not have an exclusive right to do so. This view is reinforced by the fact that the Israelites were repeatedly punished by God for their waywardness by being banished from the land. They spent seventy years in captivity in Babylon and the Romans in AD70 ejected them and they remained dispersed for almost two thousand years. Over the centuries a few ‘Jews’ filtered back until eventually they achieved statehood in 1948. The Arab resents this and deep in his sub-conscious there lies buried that, because of the Israelites, his ancestors were attacked and killed by Western nations through the (Christian) Crusades in the Middle Ages. Thus the West is also his enemy.

The modern State of Israel refuses to acknowledge all of this and thus tries to repress or banish the Arab from the Promised Land. Other nations would be content for a compromise whereby the two peoples could live side by side. This will probably never happen and the Israelites will suffer all sorts of bad things, as told to us in the book of Revelation. There is a theory that the Temple will one day be rebuilt in Jerusalem. That would entail the destruction of the Al Aqsa Mosque, at which point the whole Muslim world would wage war on Israel. Meanwhile they wage a war of attrition against Israel and Arab sympathisers engage in anti-Semitism.