Monday, August 05, 2013

The Amazing Jews

The book club at our church is studying the history of the Jews.  To prepare for the talk last Saturday, I have been reading Paul Johnson’s "A History of the Jews" and other material.  I am not totally ignorant of the history of the Jews prior to this study.  Yet I could not help but be amazed by the dramatic twists in their fortune. 

The history can be considered to start with Abraham, probably around 1800 BC.   His grandson, Jacob, moved the whole gang down to Egypt because of a famine. By the time they escaped from Egypt around 1400 BC, it was estimated that there might be around 1 million of them.  After settling in Canaan, they prospered and there were 5 million in Solomon’s mini-empire around 1000 BC. 

Then a long decline set in, culminating in the exile to Assyria and then another exile to Babylon in 586 BC.  At that low point, probably no more than 300,000 of them were left. 

Then Cyrus allowed some of them to return to Canaan, and they recovered slowly.  At the time of Herod and Jesus at the junction of BC/AD, there again were around 4 million of them.

Then disaster struck again, when Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Jews were scattered, to Egypt, Arabia, Asia Minor, Spain, Eastern Europe, Russia, ...  Time and again, they were expelled, confined to ghettos, ...  The total population hovered around 1 million for 17 centuries. 

Starting around 1700 AD, the oppression of the Jews eased in many countries in Europe, and their numbers grew dramatically, just like the rest of Europe. By the eve of the Holocaust, it was estimated that there were 16 million Jews, all over the world, with about 2/3 of them in Europe, and 1/3 in North America.

The Holocaust killed off ~4 million of them.  It triggered a wave of sympathies which led to the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1947.  By 2010, it is estimated that 5.8 million of them live in Israel, 5.6 million in North America, 1.6 million in Europe, and less than 1 million in the other countries, for a total of 13.5 million.

Starting with the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, ..., Spanish, English, French, Austrians, Russians, Germans, Arabs, ..., for more than 3,000 years, they were persecuted, forced into hard labour, expelled from many countries, almost exterminated from Europe, ... For almost 2,000 years, they have no homeland of their own.  Yet they have survived, grabbed a homeland for themselves, and are apparently prospering once again.

Isn’t it amazing? 


Anonymous said...

They are called God's "chosen people". Their amazing history testifies to God's faithfulness to His promises.

StephenC said...


Hugo Sun said...

Wow, I found this book at Eslite two weeks ago, and it's already on my reading list. It's fascinating to know their history after my one-month stay their land.