Zionism: Defeating the Slave Mentality
The Prophets of old inspired the Jewish people: speaking of pursuing justice, admonishing kings for their sins, and exhorting their listeners to drop their evil ways and pursue Godliness and righteousness. It is with some interest, then, that we read the book of Nachum (Nahum), which deals primarily with the non-Jewish Assyrians and their capital, Nineveh. The Assyrians had been brutalizing and subjugating Israel for a long time, culminating in the reign of Sargon II, when the Northern Tribes of Israel were expelled from the land. But the Prophet Nachum’s focus in the book is not the Jews, but the Babylonian conquest of the Assyrians.
He starts off (1:2): “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God, the LORD avengeth and is full of wrath; the LORD taketh vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserveth wrath for His enemies.” (All translations in this article, and in general, are from the following website (http://www.mechon-mamre.org.) He then writes (1:12): “Thus saith the LORD: Though they be in full strength… even so shall they be cut down… and though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.” The last part means, apparently, that God will destroy the Assyrians so thoroughly (vicariously, through the Babylonians) that there will no need to afflict them anymore, as they will be eliminated. The Babylonian decimation of the Assyrians will be brutal (3:3):”The horseman charging, and the flashing sword, and the glittering spear; and a multitude of slain, and a heap of carcasses; and there is no end of the corpses, and they stumble upon their corpses.” What will the reaction to this be, one wonders? Chapter 3 Verse 9 answers: “There is no assuaging of thy hurt, thy wound is grievous; all that hear the report of thee clap the hands over thee; for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually”. People will be clapping their hands at the demise of the hated Assyrians. What about the Jews? Will the Jews clap? Chapter 2 Verse 1-3: “Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, which announceth peace! Keep thy feasts, O Judah, perform thy vows; for the wicked one shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off…For the LORD restoreth the pride of Jacob, as the pride of Israel; for the emptiers have emptied them out, and marred their vine-branches.” It will be a glorious moment indeed for the Jews. The dreaded enemy will be brought low.
Reading the three chapters in Nachum, one cannot but feel compelled to agree with Michael D. Coogan (A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament) that the book is a “a celebration of the fall of Assyria.” He writes further about the book, again with little argument from me, that it is also a positive encouragement and a “message of comfort for Israel”.
So it is. It requires little imagination as to why Nachum was overjoyed with the annihilation of the Assyrians by the enemy, the Babylonians. It is indeed glorious for him to watch God’s wrath pour down at Israel’s enemy via the armies of the Babylonians. I believe that when the prophet speaks of Babylonian chariots (or, perhaps more accurately, Median chariots–the Medians were aligned with the Babylonians) racing through cities meting out death, it is not in a dispassionate manner as a disinterested bystander. Rather, Nachum is, mentally and emotionally, on the battlefield, egging on the righteous fury of the Babylonians, and savoring their destructive success. His enemy’s enemy is his friend, and he could scarcely be happier with the destructive accomplishments of his newfound friend.
But, to get to the crux of the matter, this friendship was short-lived. The book of Nachum is the seventh book of the collection of the twelve Minor Prophets. The eighth, the book immediately following it, is Habakkuk. In Habakkuk, we read how the former friends, the Babylonians, attack Israel. Ultimately they would destroy the country, along with its monarchy and the Temple. Is it unusual for people that the Jews were championing, praying for them to defeat their enemies, to then become their enemy? No. When the Muslims invaded Spain, Jews threw open the city gates, happy that their oppressors (the Christians) were being vanquished. Later the Muslims became the oppressors. The lesson some people learn from all this is that the destiny of the Jews to be oppressed and beaten down at all times.
That may be true, but that is an insufficient lesson for the rivers of blood and the seas of tears that make up Jewish history. Since before the prophet Nachum, and down to the present day, the Jews have been afflicted with a terrible disease. They have been in chains. Not physical chains, although that too has happened. No. Physical chains, once removed, leave welts that heal over time, and eventually even the scars fade. Mental chains cannot simply be unlocked. They are entrenched and refuse to budge. For the better part of three millennia the Jews have shackled with such chains. The chains of slavery and oppression have forever bound the Jews, at times with an unbearably tight manacle, at times with a light touch, but always insidious and evil. The Jews, unfortunately, have been imbued with a slave mentality that is destructive beyond description. How eager is the slave for scraps?! How delighted is the slave, how liberated and free does he feel, when the chains that bind him are loosened ever so slightly?! Paradoxically, how ecstatic is he when his cruel master receives a drubbing, not realizing that the man giving his cruel master the drubbing is positioning himself to be the new cruel master?!
No! We must not be content with scraps. We must not delude ourselves into thinking that the problem is that we have the wrong master, that all would be made right if we get ourselves enslaved by a benevolent master. We must break the chains from around wrists, and smash them into little pieces, vowing never to return to servitude. We are free people. We would rather die on our feet and live on our knees. The Jews, by the grace of God, will fight off their oppressors, and defend their homeland of Zion, with their own mighty armies, armies of fearsome power and unimaginable destructive ability. We vow that never again will we require foreign enemies too come to our rescue. Never again will countenance a situation (as described above regarding the book of Nachum) where an enemy will unleash its fury on Israel, and Israel’s only recourse will be to then depend on some foreign power to avenge Israel by striking at that enemy, an event that will grant Israel some slight morsels of vengeful pride and satisfaction. Never again will the Jews be slaves.