Israel always suffered damage by prophets from the Gentiles who came uttered their nice sayings. Of course Bileam (Balaam) is a famous one. And this week’s parasha talks about him. But through Jewish history prophets like Bileam have done their share in damaging Israel. I am talking about people who say they believe in the G-d of our Bible but they change the most important ideas and doctrines to their liking. Next thing we hear them say that Israel is immature and old in its understanding of the Bible. One of the first famous people in this field is Justin Martyr (100- 165), who looked at the Jewish practice of our Torah as “punishment which G-d had placed upon the Jews for their sin with the golden calf”.
There was the Emperor Constantine (272-337) who officially forbade to keep Shabbat. His sanctioning method was murder, which he applied to his own family as well as to all opponents of his new theological power. Pope Sylvester (314-335) declared the Shabbat a day of abomination regarding the Jews. Do not keep the day for it is a repulsive habit only Jews can observe, he said.
There also was Christian prophet Augustine of Hippo, in Latin: Augustinus, who lived from 354-430. First he stole our concepts and then he claimed that the Jews are idiots and bandits and they don’t deserve to be called the people of G-d. His work “De Civitate Dei” is the Christian vision of G-d’s Kingdom, not the Jewish one. Pope Innocentius I (that name!) (402-417) was against Shabbat as well in a very outspoken way.
Yes, church history has its prophets. It is sad to say that even in the Messianic Jewish movement there are prophets who claim that all the Jewish habits are old and to be afraid of. They sell books on Shabbat and fight against other Messianic Jewish believers who honor G-d’s Shabbat. Because that is what it is: G-d’s Shabbat. And G-d’s Torah. And G-d’s desire to apply circumcision. Nothing to be afraid of. Rather one should be afraid not to observe these honorable matters.
Prophets like Bileam hated and hate and will hate G-d’s Torah. G-d’s Torah reminds them of their free will they should have surrendered when it comes to obedience to their own desires or obedience to G-d’s. Great to discover that false prophets like Bileam get their stipend in due time. Whom they intend to harm will be harmed a bit and blessed a lot, blessed not by these prophets, but by the G-d of Israel who always blesses His own, in this world and in the world to come.
Lion Erwteman, Rosh Kehilla of Beth Yeshua