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The genocide of Jewish people, as well as others, during the Holocaust is one of the most terrible crimes ever committed against humanity. Hitler and his Nazi regime committed murder and abuse targeted at Jews that were unthinkable. When considering such a terrible scene in earth’s history, one may wonder: if God loves the nation of Israel, why did He allow Hitler to slaughter its people?
God’s love for His people
We must first clarify one key point when answering this question. While God loves all people, Jew or Gentile, it does not mean that no evil will befall them while they live in this world. God’s people have been the target for persecution since the fall of man (Genesis 3:15, 4:8).
Even though one may be God’s child, they may still suffer persecution and death. Persecution is to be expected by a follower of God (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus even spoke of this as a sign of the end times. “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.” (Matthew 24:9).
God promised Israel deliverance from their enemies
One may debate that Israel is a different situation, as God promised the nation of Israel protection from their enemies as part of their covenant to Him. “The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways” (Deuteronomy 28:7).
This covenant, however, was conditional on the nation’s obedience to Him. God’s promise of protection was stated in between these terms, “if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth…But… if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God… all these curses will come upon you…” (Deuteronomy 28:1,15).
As long as Israel was obedient to God, He was faithful to His promise. The Lord fulfilled His promise to Israel in delivering them from many of their enemies, such as Egypt, Midian and Philistia.
Israel in the Old Testament
Sadly, Israel as a nation failed to maintain their allegiance to God time and time again (Nehemiah 9: 26-28). Much of the Old Testament is filled with stories of Israel’s rebellion (The books of Judges,1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea). While there were always some faithful in Israel (1 Kings 19:18), the nation often became corrupted (Judges 10:6).
To prevent this corruption, the Lord warned the nation as to the type of king Israel should have. God even communicated specific guidelines that the king should and should not do in order to remain blessed (Deuteronomy 17:15-20). However, these words of wisdom were generally cast aside and ignored by most kings. Thus, the nation fell because of it (Nehemiah 13:26).
Instead of being faithful to God, Israel backslid and apostatized. They became engrossed in idol worship and did many evils against God and others (Jeremiah 32:35, 1 Kings 16:2). Therefore, God had to remove His protection in order for Israel to stop such practices.
God desired that Israel would repent, yet they went on in their own ways. “But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries” (Psalm 81:11, 13-14).
Israel’s first destruction
Although Israel was unfaithful and God removed His divine protection for a time, He did not forget His people. They were still His children and He simply allowed them to reap the consequences of their actions as a nation. Even during their destruction, God had a plan to restore Israel (Daniel 9:25, Jeremiah 29:11).
Eventually, God’s faithful people sought His mercy and began the road to rebuilding (Daniel 9:2-19, Ezra, Nehemiah). It took many years to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple. During this time, there was a revival within the nation of Israel while they were rebuilding their beloved city. Those who returned to Jerusalem desired to stay true to God and obey His law.
Israel in the New Testament
The Jewish nation during the time of Christ changed drastically from that described in the Old Testament. The Jewish leaders desired to move so far the other way from their fathers’ pagan backsliding that they became overly religious (legalist). Many of the religious leaders in Israel, especially the Pharisees, looked down on others in their hypocritical self-righteousness. They lost sight of love for God and others. Rather, they relished in their appearance of holiness (Matthew 6:5). The legalistic and spiritually proud Israel described in the New Testament was as bad as the rebellious and idolatrous Israel of the Old Testament.
The religious leaders knew of the time of the coming of the Messiah (Daniel 9:24-26, Ezra 7:7). However, they were not ready for it. They looked more for a conquering king than a humble teacher. Upon hearing the words of Jesus, they despised Him to the point of death (Mark 11:18, Matthew 26:59). This fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies that the Messiah would be rejected (Isaiah 53:3, Psalm 118:22).
It is noted that although many Jewish leaders in the time of Christ were self-righteous and cruel, this does not mean that God did not love them. God has always loved His people and He continues to love all people including those of Jewish descent. There is a special blessing for having been raised a Jew even mentioned after the crucifixion of Jesus (Romans 3:1-2). The New Testament does teach, however, that after the rejection of Christ by the nation of Israel, the gospel is the same for all people. “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him” (Romans 10:12).
God’s final plea to the nation of Israel
Jesus tried to convict the Jewish people and their religious leaders to a change of heart (Hosea 6:6 Matthew 9:13). However, the rabbis supported by the people of Israel at that time condemned Jesus Christ to die on the cross (Matthew 27:20, 25, 35). Upon Christ’s crucifixion, the veil rent between the holy and most holy place in God’s Temple. This was a visible sign that God no longer accepted the nation’s religious ceremonies (Matthew 27:51).
Even after Christ was crucified and resurrected, He still pleaded with Israel through His apostles. It wasn’t until three and a half years after Christ’s resurrection that the Jewish leaders sealed their fate in fully rejecting the message of the Messiah. This occurred at the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7: 51-60, Daniel 9:27).
Forty years later, the temple and Jerusalem were completely destroyed by the Romans just as Christ precisely predicted (Matthew 24:2). If the nation of Israel had accepted Christ and repented from their sins, He would have granted them deliverance from their enemies. After this time, the Jews were scattered abroad in different nations.
Israel and Hitler
For hundreds of years after the destruction of Jerusalem by pagan Rome, the history of the Jewish people has been a series of tragedies. The Jews have been a target of persecution for hundreds of years before the events in World War II.
It is unclear as to why they have been targeted. It may be that Jewish culture is unique. They hold different holidays, eat certain foods as well as wear different religious apparel. Jewish culture also values strong family and religious ties, causing them to be a tightly knit group. This may seem unusual to an outsider. People tend to fear what is different, even if it is harmless or good.
During the time leading up to the rise of Hitler, the nation of Germany was bankrupt from World War I. Hitler began sharing his strong antisemitic position and used the Jewish people as a scapegoat to the nations financial problems. Sadly, the German nation elected him into power, which resulted in the slaughter of many innocent Jewish people all over Europe.
Although Hitler murdered many of God’s people during the Holocaust, he never invaded Jerusalem or literal Israel.
God and human suffering
God may permit suffering in the lives of His people, however, He is with them through their most difficult times (Matthew 28:20, 2 Corinthians 4:6-11). Jesus was a Jew Himself as well as sinless, yet He was condemned to suffer and die a criminal’s death (Isaiah 53:9, John 19). He knows our pain and sympathizes with His people (Philippians 2:5-8, Hebrews 2:17).
God also promises that He is a fair judge who will avenge the innocent (Romans 12:19, Revelation 6:9-11). Those that suffer for their faith can trust God to the keeping of their souls (1 Peter 4:19). By faith, we can have peace knowing that God is in control. He will bring forth justice for the evils done in this life as well as blessing to His people (Malachi 4:1-2).
“…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5).
In His service,