Chief Rabbi Suggests Gentiles Should be Banned From Israel! Here's Our Response

Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi was recently caught making an outrageous claim: that Gentiles should be banished from the Holy Land, unless they agreed to follow the seven Noachide laws[1]. A recording of Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef has come to light, declaring that without this proviso, “According to Jewish law, it’s forbidden for a non-Jew to live in the Land of Israel”.[2] He went on to add that since gentiles are supposed to serve Jewish people, according to the Bible, that some would be permitted to stay as servants! He later complained that his comments were taken out of context, and that according to Scripture, these things would only apply later, in the Messianic Age. But where did he get these outlandish ideas from? Is anything like that really in the Bible?

The context of Rabbi Yizhak Yosef’s words

First of all, it must be noted that the rabbi’s comments were largely aimed at Islamic terrorists rather than against Christians. Rabbi Yizhak Yosef, like most of the Israeli population, has had enough of the terror attacks we’ve been experiencing so many of in recent months. He was expressing a desire to ship all those who were a danger to the Jewish people off Israel’s shores. He made some rather unhelpful statements encouraging people to kill any terrorist with a knife,[2] but this sort of approach is in conflict with the ethics of the Israel Defence Forces, which aims to use minimum force to protect innocent civilians from attack. Clearly, this aim is not always met, but actively encouraging more violence is hardly helpful. The fact that the environment of terror was the context of his wild assertions is cold comfort to the 20,000 Messianic Jews in Israel, none of whom are considered Jewish in the eyes of the rabbinic authorities. Is this controversial rabbi really suggesting that Israeli Messianic Jews would have to leave their own country? How on earth does he claim Biblical basis for such ridiculous and racist ideas?

Does the Bible really say Gentiles will serve the Jewish people?

The Bible says nothing about the land of Israel being for Jewish people only (quite the opposite), and the “Noachide laws” are a purely rabbinic invention that do not feature in the Biblical story of Noah at all. But what about Jewish people having gentile servants?

Isaiah 14:1-2 says,
“The outsider will join himself with them and will cling to the house of Jacob. The peoples will take them and escort them to their place. The house of Israel will possess them in the land of Adonai as servants and handmaids.”

Isaiah 49:22-23
Thus says Adonai Elohim: “Look, I will lift My hand to the nations, and raise My banner to the peoples! They will bring your sons on their chest, and carry your daughters on their shoulders. Kings will be your guardians, their princesses your nurses. They will bow down to you with their face to the ground, and lick the dust of your feet.”

Also, Isaiah 61:5 says,
“Strangers will stand and shepherd your flocks, children of foreigners will be your plowmen and vinedressers.”

Does it really mean that God intends to make Gentiles servants for the Jewish people?
By thinking that Gentiles are just inferior peoples who should be in a servile position to the exalted people of Israel, Rabbi Yizhak Yosef has missed the beautiful plan of God completely. He has let his love of Judaism to eclipse his love for God himself, because God’s heart has always been for the whole world – every nation, tribe and tongue.
All the way through scripture, many, many gentiles have been warmly added into the people of Israel. Egyptian Hagar joined Abraham’s household, Joseph’s wife was also Egyptian, Moses’ wife Zippora was a black African, and many Egyptians joined the people of Israel as they made their Exodus out of slavery. The Bible called them a “mixed multitude”. A good number of the laws given at Sinai make provision specifically for taking care of the stranger among them, and all those who had joined themselves to the people of Israel. Joshua’s comrade, Caleb, was from a Gentile background, then we have Rahab and Ruth, who became ancestors of King David and the Messiah. Many in the Persian empire converted to Judaism at the time of Esther (Esther 8:17), and Yeshua mentions the Pharisees traveling far and wide to make proselytes (converts) among the nations, of which there were many in his time. Just as at all other times.
Throughout the Bible, the House of Israel has always supposed to be willing to welcome and include outsiders, but just not to join outsiders in their practices that left the boundaries that the God of Israel had given.

God’s great plan for the nations

There is a distinction between Jew and Gentile that is carefully drawn by God, but the purpose of this distinction was in order to bless the whole world! God formed a people for himself through whom he could reveal himself to the nations. He gave his word to us all through them, he showed us his character in his dealings with them, and he became one of them, in order to save us all, just as he promised he would in Zechariah 2:10-11:

“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you”.

See that? Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord, when the Lord comes to dwell in our midst. It happened, just as he said. There are many other passages which describe God’s plan that all the nations will know, join, and praise God. Indeed, right after God’s call to the Jewish people in Isaiah 55, God reassures the Gentile people that they matter to him just as much:

“Do not let a son of a foreigner who has joined himself to Adonai say, ‘Adonai will surely exclude me from His people’… For My House will be called a House of Prayer for all nations.” Isaiah 56

ALL nations.
And here is the end result shown in Revelation 7:

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

So I think we can clearly see that the nations have always been welcome, their destiny was always to know and praise the God of Israel, and God’s kingdom is packed full of Gentiles! The scriptures never paint the land of Israel, the people of Israel, or the God of Israel as a no go zone for other peoples – quite the opposite.

So what’s with all the servitude?

What about all this serving business? I think the clue is in Romans 11, which describes God’s mindblowing plan to take the gospel out to the Gentiles, and that they would be the ones to bring it back to the people of Israel. We see this picture several times in scripture, such as Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones. Israel is reconstructed physically, but it is only when the wind from the four corners of the earth comes to breathe spirit back into the lifeless bodies that they become fully alive. This is a picture of the Spirit of God being breathed back into Israel from the nations.
Similarly, when we look at Isaiah 61:4-5, it says that strangers will feed Israel’s flocks and be their vinedressers. Do you know what flocks and vineyards represent in the Bible? God’s people of course! The Body of Messiah. This verse is saying that it will be Gentiles who will come and help build the Body of Messiah in Israel, which is exactly what has happened.
It’s true that without help from the nations, the Body of Messiah in Israel would not be where it is today. Gentiles certainly have served in God’s vineyard and among his flock here, and we will be eternally grateful for the love and investment that has been poured in from the four corners of the world. There is even a wonderful Arab pastor here in Israel who leads and cares for a Messianic Jewish congregation! This has been God’s wonderful plan from the outset – each has a part to play and a unique inheritance from God.
Romans 11 also assures us that when Israel is saved, it will be “life from the dead” for the whole world. Already, there are profound riches to be gained now that native Hebrew speakers can read the original language of the Scriptures, but now with the help of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. As more and more Israelis come to faith, it is opening up new treasures and truths in the Bible that were inaccessible to the world before. And there is so much more to come!

The glorious finalé

It is characteristic of God to turn apparent disasters into unimaginable blessing – the horrors of the cross ended up vanquishing sin and death! Joseph was trafficked into Egypt and jailed for years, but ended up rescuing entire nations! God brings beauty from ashes and turns mourning into dancing. And so it shall be that Israel, the “pariah state” that seems to cause so much trouble for everyone will eventually be saved and vindicated by God, and will become a blessing for the whole world, because that’s just the way God does things.
The prophet Zechariah gives us a small taste of things to come:

“It will happen that just as you were a curse among the nations, house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you and you will be a blessing.” (8:13)
Thus says the Lord of hosts: “In those days it will come to pass that ten men from every language of the nations will grasp the corner of the garment of a Jew saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” (8:23)

So you see, Rabbi Yizhak Yosef, there will be plenty of Gentiles in Israel even till the end of days.
God said so.
[1] The 7 Noachide laws are:
Do Not Deny God
Do Not Blaspheme God
Do Not Murder
Do Not Engage in Incestuous, Adulterous or Homosexual Relationships.
Do Not Steal
Do Not Eat of a Live Animal
Establish Courts/Legal System to Ensure Law Obedience
(Jewish Virtual Library)
[2] HaAretz March 28, 2016: Sephardi Chief Rabbi Says non-Jews Forbidden From Living in the Land of Israel

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