A short course on Jewish history

Religion | The highlights and lowlights of God’s chosen people as they searched through the centuries for a Messiah
by Marvin Olasky
Posted 8/05/17, 11:39 am

Editor’s note: The following is adapted from a series of articles originally published in a special issue of WORLD Magazine on March 2, 2002.

I’m often asked to summarize highlights and lowlights of Jewish history.

Here’s a short course, which begins with God not giving His chosen people some out-of-the-way venue. Instead, He placed them on a strip of West Asian ground that forms the land bridge any Egyptians, Babylonians, or Macedonians out to conquer the ancient world had to march through.

Either God made a mistake equivalent to dropping a person into a shopping mall and commanding him to be a hermit—or He was forcing the Israelites, like it or not, to become a transforming influence on other cultures. Which was it? Forcing people to do what they otherwise would avoid is one of God’s clear patterns of behavior, and the book of Jonah shows this process.

A ditty about Christian anti-Semitism goes, “How odd of God / To choose the Jew, / But not so odd / As those who choose / the Jewish God / And hate the Jew.” A parallel ditty about Israel’s location could go, “How odd of God / to say ‘Be apart’ / Yet place His people / at their start /