As I was studying Ezekiel recently, I ran across an interesting couple of verses. They deal with the vengeful and spiteful heart of the Philistines against Israel. I was particularly struck by the use of the words “old hatred”, or “Ayvat Olam” in Hebrew. Here are the verses:
“‘Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Because the Philistines dealt vengefully and took vengeance with a spiteful heart, to destroy because of the old hatred,’ therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘I will stretch out My hand against the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethites and destroy the remnant of the seacoast.” Ezekiel 25:15, 16
Old hatred results in so many dire consequences—the kind hatred that goes so far back, it’s hard to remember a time when it didn’t exist. In the case of the Philistines, the enmity went all the way back to the book of Exodus. By the time we get to the book of Judges, it was in full flower.
Notice that the “seacoast” is mentioned in the above verses. This is, of course, the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and the territory it speaks of is Gaza, where the Philistines lived. It doesn’t take an archeological expert to point out that this is the same area as the northeastern end of today’s Gaza Strip. Gaza was conquered by the Israelites in about 1000 BCE. It was a part of the land promised to Abraham, but it became a part of the Assyrian empire in about 730 BCE. There were still Philistines who lived there at that time.
There is no way of knowing if the ancient Philistines still comprise some of the Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip today. No one knows where the descendants of the ancient Philistines reside—or even if there are any of them left. We do know that many of the modern Palestinians are from the Arab peoples that populated various areas of the region. Although the word “Palestine” was named after the Philistines, it was actually used by the Romans in the second century—particularly Emperor Hadrian—to refer to the whole land of Israel, and was meant as a statement of disparagement about the conquered people of Israel. It seems even in those days, the world purposely refused to acknowledge Israel’s historical heritage and claim to her own land.
However, even if ancient Philistines don’t live in the Gaza strip, the leadership of those who do carry the same hatred for the Jewish people that the nations who surrounded them thousands of years ago did. It’s an old hatred, and it still exists today in the same regions where it existed when the Philistines ruled. It’s interesting that the terror group presently in power calls themselves Hamas. According to their charter, the name is an Arabic acrostic that translates as “Islamic Resistance Movement” in English. However, in Hebrew the word “Hamas” simply means violence—the kind of violence that stems from hatred. The word appears in Genesis 6:11.
“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.”
Before the flood, the thoughts of men’s hearts were wicked continually, and all their acts were based on hatred. This is an apt description of the irrational blind hatred in our day that desires to destroy all Jews and wipe Israel off the map. This is the old hatred, the hatred that Ezekiel tells us will bring judgment back on the heads of those who possess it. It’s the cursing hatred we hear daily from the United Nations. They often seem united about just one thing—their hatred of Israel. And it’s the cursing hatred described in Genesis 12:3.
“I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Many of those reading this blog are familiar with the concepts I have shared here, even if they aren’t familiar with the specific Ezekiel passage about the “old hatred.” But how many of us apply these truths in our own lives?
Yesterday, I went to the movie theater to see “Case For Christ,” the narrative film base on the life of apologist Lee Strobel. Without revealing any spoilers, I will just say that Strobel had to deal with some “old hatreds” during his journey from atheism to Biblical faith. How many of us have addressed such things in our lives? Are you still carrying “old hatred” against family members—fathers and mothers (even if they’re gone,) brothers and sisters, children? What about old wounds from friends whom you feel betrayed by, as Yeshua also did? Remember what he declared. “Father forgive them.”
If you happen to be reading this blog, I suspect that God may be dealing with you about that old Philistine hatred in your life—the kind of hatred can result in odd and irrational behavior, the kind we see exhibited by Hamas. Perhaps you thought you had nothing in common with that group. Think twice, and consider Yeshua’s words.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the fires of Gehenna.” Matthew 5:21, 22