As Christians, all of us have read or heard the famous “Sermon on the Mount” and have most probably read Christ’s teaching on “Loving our enemies as well as our neighbor”. All of us know of “Loving ones Enemy” as a New Testament teaching. So much so, that many believe that the Old Testament taught one to “love ones neighbor” but “hate ones enemy”, while Christ taught that one should love the enemy just like the neighbor. But it is interesting to note that this was not a new teaching, as we see this idea that our Messiah taught clearly stated in the Old Testament.
Let’s look into the idea of “loving your enemy” and the origins of this teaching written in the Old Testament Scriptures.
Exo 23:4,5 If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.
Pro 25:21 If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
Pro 24:17 Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:
Pro 29:10 The bloodthirsty hate the upright: but the just seek his soul.
The above verses of Scripture, show how God commands through Moses that everyone should love & help ones enemy not even permitting an enemy to fall into loss. God’s Word is clear that we should not turn away from providing for our enemies in need, and not even be glad when he or she is in trouble. We should even seek to bring him/her to the free Salvation our Heavenly Father provides.
But what was Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) referring to when he said “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy”? Some read Mat 5:43 and conclude that Yeshua is talking about an “old teaching” written in the Old Testament. But nowhere in the Old Testament would we be able to find such a teaching of “hating your enemy”.
Context of the teachings at the Sermon on the Mount
The “you have heard” – “but I say to you” teachings of Messiah start off at Mat 5:21. One needs to read only a few verses before, to understand the context of His teaching.
Mat 5:17-20 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
So what is the context of His teaching, of “you have heard” – “but I say to you”? Notice the Scribes and the Pharisees mentioned just before His teaching. Notice how He says that whoever breaks the least of the Commandments or “teach” men to break them will be least in God’s Kingdom. Yeshua was talking about the Scribes & Pharisees of His day, who had taught a perverted version of God’s Word/Scripture (Old Testament). We have studied all about the teachings of the Pharisees in depth, in a previous post. But it is sufficient to say that Pharisees were going against God’s Word by their own “Traditions” also known as the “Oral Law”. Yeshua was teaching the crowds that had gathered around at His feet, that “they had heard” (from the teachers of their time – who were the Scribes and Pharisees) it being said “you shall love your neighbour, and hate your enemy”. But Yeshua was teaching them the proper Old Testament idea of “Loving even ones enemy”.
The “Sermon on the Mount”, just like all of Yeshua’s other teachings were rooted in God’s Word. He never spoke of Himself, but all that was the Word of God (Joh 7:16,17, 14:24). “Loving ones neighbor” was directly from the Scriptures (Lev 19:18) just as “Loving ones Enemy”. We should stop being biased against the Old Testament Scriptures and start reading it without preconceived notions, so that we can see it for what it is – God’s Word, which was confirmed by, and through, Yeshua – our Messiah.