"Do not rejoice when your enemy falls"

This wisdom is from Proverbs chapter 24:

17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, 18 lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.

Verse 18 is, or should be, a reminder of why we should not rejoice over a fallen enemy — because it was not through our own merits that we were able to bring about his defeat.

Scripture is strewn throughout with the consequences to Israel when she turns her back on God, who then sends some group of pagans to serve as a holy two-by-four upside the head of backsliding Israel. There are also examples of Israel’s forces moving in triumph and winning great victories with armies that should have been destroyed by enemies. Destroyed by forces, that, on paper (papyrus?) looked to be much tougher and larger. Looked to be. But, without God, were doomed to fall.

In the Bible, Israel’s enemies were simply doing God’s work by losing; demonstrating to the Israelites and, hopefully, to us, that in both victory and defeat, with God, you win. Without Him, you lose. Big time. Just ask all of the Hebrews who wrote home from Babylon.

The relevance for today? A moving column by Elie Wiesel on the unseemly celebration by Palestinians on the forced removal of Jews from Gaza. The Palestinians celebrate something that they, on their own merits, could not bring about. Like any schoolyard bully who is too cowardly to stand and fight, but won’t shy from taking credit.

Mr. Wiesel, more in sadness than anger, writes

In the tradition I claim, the Jew is ordered by King Solomon “not to rejoice when the enemy falls.” I don’t know whether the Koran suggests the same.

He, of course, is referring to a different translation of Proberbs 24:17, and the fact that the Book of Proverbs is (generally) attributed to King Solomon. What I would add is that any Christian must also include Proverbs in their tradition; we are all sons and daughters of Abraham, and inheritors of God’s revealed truths. Truths revealed first to the Jews, then to all the nations.

An open question remains: on which, if any side, is God to be found in the Gaza pullout? I do not have a pat answer, although I could simply recite the verses in Genesis 17:8 in which Gaza was included in the land promised to Abraham. And we know that this promise is carried through the heirs of the as-yet unborn Isaac, rather than Ishmael, due to God’s followup with Isaac’s descendant Moses in Exodus Exodus 3:8. In the fullness of God’s time, it may be that some latter-day Israel will take “all the land of Canaan” as its true inheritance. For now, we, Jews and Christians, must wait for God to fully reveal His plans.

Also for now, the Palestinians show themselves to be a graceless people — even should their cause be a righteous one. Which their churlish behavior casts grave doubts upon.

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One comment

  1. Rooted in Him · · Reply

    I once asked a friend of mine who is both a pastor and fluent in German what “schadenfreude” meant.

    He responded, “Sin.”

    Schadenfreude is a German word meaning “a malicious satisfaction in the misfortunes of others.” Or the joy one has when something bad happens to an enemy.

    We do not have a comparable word in English.

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