Yeshua taught the crowds, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mat 5:43-44). An enemy is someone who actively seeks to harm you, and given a chance, may even kill you. In Hebrew an “enemy” (אֹיֵב, oyev) is closely connected to the idea of “hostility” (אֵיבָה, eyva) and (אָיַב, ayav) means to “be hostile” to behave in an adversarial fashion, with enmity. The equivalent of Greek verb ἀγαπάω (agapao) in Hebrew is אָהַב (ahav). The term means essentially the same in either language and is very broad. It describes relationships between friends or family members, between bride and groom, between slaves and masters and of course people with God. Torah indeed teaches not to hate relatives and to love neighbors (Lev 19:18).

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But Jesus takes it further when he talks about enemies. And that resounds another teaching in Torah, “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him.” (Ex 23:4–5). The verses do not exactly say that “one should love the one who hates him”, but the message of treating the enemy with goodness, rather than with hatred, not in adversarial way, is very obvious. Love can be a positive disposition towards someone, a righteous friendliness that does not require warm fuzzy feelings of affection.

For many years Israel brought sacrifices on behalf of the seventy nations of the world (b. Sukkah 55b) yet some of them were bent on Israel’s destruction. One Jewish tradition notes, “behold we offer You seventy oxen in their behalf, and they should have loved us. Instead, in the place of my love, they hate me (Psalms 109)” (Num. Rabbah 1) Though not every Jew embraced this, treating enemies well and even praying for them was not unknown in Yeshua’s days. The Second Temple had special prayers and sacrifices on behalf of rulers and even for the emperor of Rome. Yeshua’s last words as he was dying was a prayer for those who executed him.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. The word prayer in this context looks more like my word overcoming. I see that Jesus is building fences around the Torah in Mat 5:43-44. Is building a fence another way of illustrating “our” resurrection. I recently learned that Jesus walked on earth for 40 days after his resurrection. My words resurrection and ascension are blended together so I am not sure how to read properly.

  2. I have a question.
    Since the Apostle Paul is the Apostle of the GENTILES, should we Gentiles only focus on the Epistles of Paul..
    And is it correct to claim promises God made to the Jews in the Old Covenant..
    God spoke to the Jews in time past and from Genesis through to the four gospels.
    Paul received a unique message from God for the GENTILES..Should we now follow the teachings of Paul as our Apostle??

    Thank you

  3. Professor Shir,
    Thank you for your writings. I believe Christians need to know the Scriptures through the eyes of Jews that know Yeshua. I am thankful for you and the work that you do.

    May He Bless You Always,

    Kathryn

  4. Hi Kat. Resurrection means God raised Christ from death, to be alive again, and in that state He appeared to people on earth for 40 days. After that, He ascended into heaven, see Mark 16:19 and Luke 24:51. So, for the 40 days after He rose from the dead, Jesus was resurrected, but not yet ascended, i.e. the/his ascension had not yet happened. But now, He is both resurrected, and ascended. I hope that helps.

  5. Hi Kat. Jesus is both resurrected and ascended, now. But for 40 days He was resurrected, i.e. brought back to life, by God… but not yet ascended. During that time, he appeared to people, while He was still on earth. Then, as described in Mark 16:19 and Luke 24:51, the ascension took place whereby He ascended, in other words, was taken up, into heaven.
    I hope that helps

    • Thank you Dawn. Yes separating the words helps. Most in my circle believed that Jesus both rose and ascended but somehow the teaching made salvation seem like a heavenly experience instead of “on earth as it is in heaven.” I obviously never literally died, but the context makes me wonder if Christ dying for our sins has a deeper meaning and is a part of our resurrection on earth.

  6. Thanks, I like your translation about not to hate relatives, I remember a verse about not to hide from your own flesh & blood. Thanks also for your confirmation on loving our enemies; I’ve always thought of a verse about not to repay evil w evil.

  7. Shalom. Yeshua was not teaching a New Gospel he was teaching and explaining the Torah and the Heavenly Father, the God of Israel. Eveything he taught was in the Torah. He was calling the Jews back to their God and Heavenly Father. It is good to pray for those who hate you and want to kill you; hoping they will change their ways.

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