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“Flee Into Egypt”

Benson C Saili

And this was not the Egypt you are familiar with

When Jesus was born, in March 7 BC, the High Priest at the Jerusalem temple was Simon Boethus, who had been appointed to office by his son-in-law and Rome’s puppet king Herod the Great in 23 BC. Boethus, a moralist at least outwardly with the strict view of the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, from the word go denounced baby Jesus as a baseborn kid – that is, one who resulted from an act of fornication – and therefore unworthy of succession to the Davidic title, which at the time was held by his father Joseph. Joseph was resentful of this slight and naturally looked at Boethus with disdain.

In 5 BC, King Herod decreed that all the Jews should take an oath of loyalty both to himself and the overriding sovereign, Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus.  About six thousand Pharisees, who had considerable sway over mainstream Jewry, took very strong exception. Joseph, who otherwise led a quiet life devoted to personal discipline and charity in the spirit of a true Davidic prince, joined in the countrywide protest. In doing so, he inevitably incurred the displeasure of both Simon Boethus and King Herod. Needless to say, he was a marked man.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian-based Essenes, known as the Theraputae, had proliferated at Qumran. The Theraputae were a Diaspora Jewish sect who flourished in the Egyptian city of Alexandria in the main.  Although they were Hellenists – Jews who combined Jewish religious tradition with elements of Greek culture – and therefore comparatively liberal in their observance of the tenets of Judaism, they were fiercely anti-establishment. It was the Theraputae who instituted a determined mobilisation of the Zealots, the clandestine military wing of the Essenes, with a view to an armed revolution leading to national independence.

The Theraputae were headed by a man called Theudas, their leader since 9 BC. Theudas, also called Thaddeus/Judas in the gospels (MATTTHEW 10:3, MARK 3:18, and JOHN 14:22) would in future number among the 12-man apostolic band of Jesus.

In AD 32, when he led a failed uprising against Pontius Pilate, Theudas dubbed himself “Jesus”, which simply means “God’s Liberator”, as he sought  to free the Jews from the Roman yoke. In the pages of Josephus, he is referred to as Zadok.  His other name, a titular distinction, was Barabbas, the notorious “murderer” and “insurrectionist”(MARK 15:7) who by public demand was reprieved by Pilate in the histrionics of the  Jesus’ trial in April AD 33.  At the turn of the first century, Judas of Galilee, Theudas Barabbas, and Judas Iscariot were the leading lights of the Zealots.

Joseph now radicalised and therefore no longer a pacifist, allied with Barabbas. The two were dubbed the Star (Joseph, “star” being an emblem of the Davidic lineage) and the Sceptre (Barabbas). Both cognomens were drawn from NUMBERS 24:17, which in part reads, “A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth.”  One does not need to be a genius to guess who the virtual Moabites and  Shethites were in the eyes of Joseph and Barabbas in 5 BC.

The maniacally vengeful King Herod now had two reasons to put a bounty on Joseph’s life. First, he had become a dissident, intent at a toppling of the powers that be.  Second, he was one of those who in 5 BC had a kid who was about two years old, a category whose slaughter Herod now ordered in light of what the Magi had informed him in relation to the birth of the Jewish messiah (it had now occurred to him that the Magi had deceived him as the prospective messiah had actually been born two years earlier in 7 BC; hence his institution of the massacre of the innocents who were two years old and below).  

Fearing for his life and that of his little heir, Joseph once again sought direction from his priestly superior in the Essene hierarchy, Simeon, the so-called  “Angel Gabriel”. Simeon straightaway enjoined him, “Flee into Egypt”. The Christian clergy has interpreted this literally, as Egypt in Africa. As usual, they are way off the mark. They had better consult the Dead Sea Scrolls to unravel for them what Simeon meant as per the cryptic pesher code.  

It turns out the “Egypt” to which Joseph  was told to flee was actually Qumran and the broader Judean wilderness.  Since the Theraputae, who hailed from Egypt, now abounded in the settlements of the Judean wilderness, Qumran, the Essene HQ, had won itself another nickname,  “Egypt”. So Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt simply meant that Mary moved from the Queen’s House, where Jesus was born and where Mary had been based  since  she was six months pregnant, to Mird, about 12 km  to 15 km away from Qumran. Mird was punctuated by a series of caves that were used by Nazirites both for their retreats and solitary meditations and therefore provided a secure haven.

Since Joseph and Barabbas abhorred Simon Boethus like the plague, they secretly began to campaign for  a more agreeable contender to the high priesthood. The iconic Jewish historian Flavius Josephus records that this was a certain Matthias. Before long, Matthias was in office thanks to a chain of events that was fortuitously set in motion by the people around Herod himself.   

In 5 BC, Mariamne II, Herod’s third wife, was, along with Herod’s first-born son Antipater, implicated in a plot that sought to  eliminate Herod. She was in all probability set up by the Essenes with a view to seriously compromise her loathed father Simon Boethus.

When Herod got wind of the scheming, his response was swift and drastic, though surprisingly restrained for a man who was so ravenously bloodthirsty. Mariamne II was sent packing and Simon Boethus was summarily dismissed as High Priest. In addition, the only child Mariamne II had by King Herod, Herod II, was permanently removed from the line of succession. 

With Boethus having been given the boot, Matthias was promptly installed as High Priest. The wish of the Star and the Sceptre had breathtakingly come to pass,  practically in the twinkling of an eye. It goes without saying that Matthias right away saluted Jesus as the Davidic heir. Sadly, Matthias was not destined to last.

Early in 4 BC, Herod, now 77 years old, was taken ill and was clearly teetering on the brink. As he lay on his deathbed,  two of his surviving sons Antipater and  Archelaus headed out on a charm offensive across Palestine. It was Archelaus, however, who stole the show as it was common knowledge that  Antipater had been disinherited when the plot to poison  his father was unearthed: Herod’s will now expressly named  Archelaus as his heir.

As crown  prince in the waning days of his father, Archelaus did overreach himself though. What happened was that when Herod had a Golden Eagle mounted over the Temple Gate as a symbol of Roman rule, a singularly provocative and  sacrilegious gesture in the eyes of the Jewish grassroots, the latter not only staged a rowdy protest but hacked it down with every tool in  the book.

Herod responded by rounding up the ring leaders, two popular rabbi-preachers and about 40 teenagers, and had them burnt at a stake. Rather than strike terror in the Jews, this blood-curdling  act only served to harden their stance and a showdown loomed. Archelaus, who had inherited the cold streak of his father, decided he had to preempt an escalation of this dare to his preliminary flaunt of regnal authority and so set his entire army upon the temple. Josephus puts the number of lives lost in the siege at  over 3000.

Meanwhile, when the two rabbis and 40 youth were murdered at the orders of an ailing Herod,  the restive Jews had demanded, amongst other things, the removal of Matthias as High Priest as they regarded him as either complicit in or indifferent towards this carnage. In a gesture meant to placate them for the massacre of the 3000, Archelaus buckled and Matthias was straight off replaced by Joazar, the son  of Simon Boethus.

The Boethus position  as we  already know was that Jesus was illegitimate and so could not be a Davidic heir. It was back to square one: the infant prince, now about three years old, was a nonentity again. Although his father Joseph still retained his pedigree as the Davidic prince, he was a disgruntled man nonetheless: for as long as his son was not recognised, his own princely status was of little avail.  

When King Herod took gravely ill in the first quarter of 4 BC, he was so numbed by disease he was unable to stand upright. Knowing his number was up, he decided to spend his last days at his palace in Jericho on the shores of the Dead Sea to be soothed by the evening breeze. Flavius Josephus records that Herod, a heavy drinker,  was wracked by ailments which included intestinal pains and tumours, asthma, genital gangrene and “worms”. The schizophrenic, Idi Amin-like despot expired on March 12.

Herod had had 9 wives, some of whom he murdered, and numerous mistresses. He also had dozens of children, again some of whom he ordered killed on the merest suspicion that they were a threat to his regnal perch. Even as he lay on his deathbed, he was issuing instructions to the effect that this or that child be put to the sword.

In 7 BC, he had his two hitherto favourite sons by his second wife Mariamne 1 slain. This he did at the instigation of Antipater, his eldest son by his first wife Doris. Antipater was declared crown prince but after being implicated in that plot to poison his father, he was disinherited and replaced with Antipas. Antipas was King Herod’s youngest son, borne by his Samaritan wife Malthace.

Whilst on his deathbed, Herod reconsidered. He named Archelaus, Antipas’ full elder brother, as his heir. Archelaus was promoted to Herod by  the then High Priest Joazar and Barabbas though Joseph, the father of Jesus, abhorred him on account of the cruelty he had exhibited in the murder of 3000 Jewish demonstrators. 

Only five days before his demise, Herod ordered the execution of Antipater just to make sure his anointed heir  had a unperturbed  reign.   Josephus reports that Herod also had hundreds of leading officials and their families thrown behind bars with orders that they be killed at his death so that every family in Jerusalem would have someone to mourn when he himself kicked the bucket! Fortunately, this diabolic wish wasn’t carried out by his heir.

In Herod’s deathbed will, he had decided to parcel out his kingdom amongst three of his sons.  The biggest portion, half of the kingdom, went to his 27-year-old anointed heir Archelaus. This was Judea, Idumea, and Samaria. A quarter, constituting Galilee and Perea, was given to Antipas, who was only 16 years old at the time. The other quarter vested in Phillip. These were  territories northeast of the Sea of Galilee,  namely Gaulanitis (the Golan Heights); Batanea (Southern Syria); Trachonitis; and Auranitas.

Since Palestine was a client kingdom subject to Rome, Augustus had to ratify Herod’s will. Indeed, Antipas had contested the will, insisting that Herod had drawn it when his faculties were not fully functional  and therefore it was null and void. As such, Antipas maintained he was entitled to all of Palestine in line with the earlier will of 5 BC, which was written up when the King was discernibly mentally competent.

Augustus, however, validated  the will as it presently stood though Archelaus was given the title of ethnarch ( ruler of a race) rather than King, whilst Antipas and Phillip were to be called tetrarchs (quarter-kings) to accord with their junior status. What this meant with regard to Archelaus was that he was put on a kind of probation: Augustus would confirm him as King with full stripes if he proved himself worthy. He was to disappoint horrendously.      

Archelaus had struck a deal with Barabbas and Joazar that he was going to secretly collaborate with the Zealots to undermine and eventually overthrow the Romans. Simeon, however, was wary. He thought Archelaus was way too cruel and therefore unpredictable to make for a trusted ally.

Thus when Archelaus was crowned  ruler of Judea in 4 BC, Simeon advised Joseph to conceal Mary and baby Jesus in Galilee, a province that was outside the jurisdiction of Archelaus (MATTHEW 2:22) just in case the latter got up to some mischief. Having gone into hiding in the Judean wilderness to avoid being preyed upon by King Herod, the Holy Family now had to go into hiding even further afield to steer clear of the possible intrigue of King Herod’s son.    


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DIS Parley Committee selection disingenuous 

25th November 2020

Intelligence and Security Service Act, which is a law that establishes the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DIS), provides for establishment of a Parliamentary Committee. Recently, the President announced nine names of Members of Parliament he had appointed to the Committee.

This announcement was preceded by a meeting the President held with the Speaker and the Leader of Opposition. Following the announcement of Committee MPs by the President, the opposition, through its leader, made it clear that it will not participate in the Committee unless certain conditions that would ensure effective oversight are met. The opposition acted on the non-participation threat through resignation of its three MPs from the Committee.

The Act at Section 38 provides for the establishment of the Committee to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Directorate. The law provides that the Parliamentary Committee shall have the same powers and privileges set out under the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act.

On composition, the Committee shall consist of nine members who shall not be members of Cabinet and its quorum shall be five members.  The MPs in the Committee elect a chairperson from among their number at their first meeting.

The Members of the Committee are appointed by the President after consultation with the Speaker of the National Assembly and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. It is the provision of the law that the Committee, relative to its size, reflect the numerical strengths of the political parties represented in the National Assembly.

The Act provides that that a member of the Committee holds office for the duration of the Parliament in which he or she is appointed.  The Committee is mandated to make an annual report on the discharge of their functions to the President and may at any time report to him or her on any matter relating to the discharge of those functions.

The Minister responsible for intelligence and security is obliged to lay before the National Assembly a copy of each annual report made by the Committee together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from that copy in pursuance of the provision of the Act.

If it appears to the Minister, after consultation with the Parliamentary Committee, that the publication of any matter in a report would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the Directorate, the Minister may exclude that matter from the copy of the report as laid before the National Assembly.

So, what are the specific demands of the Opposition and why are they not participating in the Committee? What should happen as a way forward? The Opposition demanded that there be a forensic audit of the Directorate. The DIS has never been audited since it was set up in 2008, more than a decade ago.

The institution has been a law unto itself for a longtime, feared by all oversight bodies. The Auditor General, who had no security of tenure, could not audit the DIS. The Directorate’s personnel, especially at a high level, have been implicated in corruption.  Some of its operatives are in courts of law defending corruption charges preferred against them. Some of the corruption cases which appeared in the media have not made it to the courts.

The DIS has been accused of non-accountability and unethical practices as well as of being a burden on the fiscus.  So, the Opposition demanded, from the President, a forensic audit for the purpose of cleaning up the DIS.  They demand a start from a clean slate.

The second demand by the Opposition is that the law be reviewed to ensure greater accountability of the DIS to Parliament. What are some of the issues that the opposition think should be reviewed? The contention is that the executive cannot appoint a Committee of Parliament to scrutinize an executive institution.

Already, it is argued, Parliament is less independent and it is dominated by the executive. It is contended that the Committee should be established by the Standing Orders and be appointed by a Select Committee of Parliament. There is also an argument that the Committee should report to Parliament and not to the President and that the Minister should not have any role in the Committee.

Democratic and Parliamentary oversight of the intelligence is relatively a new phenomenon across the World. Even developed democracies are still grappling with some of these issues. However, there are acceptable standards or what might be called international best practices which have evolved over the past two or so decades.

In the UK for instance, MPs of the Intelligence and Security Committee are appointed by the Houses of Parliament, having been nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. This is a good balancing exercise of involvement of both the executive and the legislature. Consultation is taken for granted in Botswana context in the sense that it has been reduced to just informing the Leader of Opposition without much regard to his or her ideas; they are never taken seriously.

Furthermore, the current Committee in the UK has four Members of the ruling party and five MPs from the opposition. It is a fairly balanced Committee in terms of Parliamentary representation. However, as said above, the President of Botswana appointed six ruling party MPs and three from the opposition.

The imbalance is preposterous and more pronounced with clear intentions of getting the executive way through the ruling party representatives in the Committee. The intention to avoid scrutiny is clear from the numbers of the ruling party MPs in the Committee.

There is also an international standard of removing sensitive parts which may harm national security from the report before it is tabled in the legislature. The previous and current reluctance of the executive arms to open up on Defence and Security matters emanate from this very reason of preserving and protecting national security.

But national security should be balanced with public interest and other democratic principles. The decision to expunge certain information which may be prejudicial to national security should not be an arbitrary and exclusive decision of the executive but a collective decision of a well fairly balanced Committee in consultation with the Speaker and the minister responsible.

There is no doubt that the DIS has been a rogue institution. The reluctance by the President to commit to democratic-parliamentary oversight reforms presupposes a lack of commitment to democratization. The President has no interest in seeing a reformed DIS with effective oversight of the agency.

He is insincere. This is because the President loathes the idea losing an iota of power and sharing it with any other democratic institution. He sees the agency as his power lever to sustain his stay in the high office. He thought he could sanitize himself with an ineffective DIS Committee that would dance to his tune.

The non-participation of the opposition MPs renders the Committee dysfunctional; it cannot function as this would be unlawful. Participation of the opposition is a legal requirement. Even if it can meet, it would lack legitimacy; it cannot be taken seriously. The President should therefore act on the oversight demands and reform the DIS if he is to be taken seriously.

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The Maccabean Uprising

25th November 2020
Jewish freedom fighters

 Jews drive away occupying power under the command of guerrilla leader Judas Maccabees but only just

Although it was the Desolation Sacrilege act, General Atiku, that officially sparked the Maccabean revolt, it in truth simply stoked the fires of an already simmering revolution. How so General?

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Atomic (CON)Fusion

25th November 2020

For years I have trained people about paradigm shifts – those light-bulb-switch-on moments – where there is a seismic change from the usual way of thinking about something to a newer, better way. 

I like to refer to them as ‘aha’ moments because of the sudden understanding of something which was previously incomprehensible. However,  the topic of today’s article is the complete antithesis of ‘aha’.  Though I’d love to tell you I’d had a ‘eureka ‘, ‘problem solved’ moment, I am faced with the complete opposite – an ‘oh-no’ moment or Lost Leader Syndrome.

No matter how well prepared or capable a leader is. they often find themselves facing perplexing events, confounding information, or puzzling situations. Confused by developments of which they can’t make sense and by challenges that they don’t know how to solve they become confused, sometimes lost and completely clueless about what to do.

I am told by Jentz and Murphy (JM) in ‘What leaders do when they don’t know what to do’ that this is normal, and that rapid change is making confusion a defining feature of management in the 21st century.  Now doesn’t that sound like the story of 2020 summed up in a single sentence?

The basic premise of their writing is that “confusion is not a weakness to be ashamed of but a regular and inevitable condition of leadership. By learning to embrace their confusion, managers are able to set in motion a constructive process for addressing baffling issues.

In fact, confusion turns out to be a fruitful environment in which the best managers thrive by using the instability around them to open up better lines of communication, test their old assumptions and values against changing realities, and develop more creative approaches to problem solving.”

The problem with this ideology however is that it doesn’t help my overwhelming feelings of fear and panic which is exacerbated by a tape playing on a loop in my head saying  ‘you’re supposed to know what to do, do something’. My angst is compounded by annoying motivational phrases also unhelpfully playing in my head like.

  • Nothing happens until something moves
  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started


  • Act or be acted upon

All these platitudes are urging me to pull something out of the bag, but I know that this is a trap. This need to forge ahead is nothing but a coping mechanism and disguise. Instead of owning the fact that I haven’t got a foggy about what to do, part of me worries that I’ll lose authority if I acknowledge that I can’t provide direction – I’m supposed to know the answers, I’m the MD!  This feeling of not being in control is common for managers in ‘oh no’ situations and as a result they often start reflexively and unilaterally attempting to impose quick fixes to restore equilibrium because, lets be honest, sometimes we find it hard to resist hiding our confusion.

To admit that I am lost in an “Oh, No!” moment opens the door not only to the fear of losing authority but also to a plethora of other troubling emotions and thoughts:  *Shame and loss of face: “You’ll look like a fool!” * Panic and loss of control: “You’ve let this get out of hand!” * Incompetence and incapacitation: “You don’t know what you’re doing!”

As if by saying “I’m at a loss here” is tantamount to declaring “I am not fit to lead.” Of course the real problem for me and any other leader is if they don’t admit when they are disoriented, it sends a signal to others in the organisation stating it’s not cool to be lost and that, by its very nature encourages them to hide.  What’s the saying about ‘a real man never asks for direction. they end up driving around in circles’.

As managers we need to embrace the confusion, show vulnerability (remember that’s not a bad word) and accept that leadership is not about pretending to have all the answers but about having the courage to search with others to discover a solution.

JM point out that “being confused, however, does not mean being incapacitated.  Indeed, one of the most liberating truths of leadership is that confusion is not quicksand from which to escape but rather the potter’s clay of leadership – the very stuff with which managers can work.”

2020 has certainly been a year to remember and all indications are that the confusion which has characterised this year will still follow us into the New Year, thereby making confusion a defining characteristic of the new normal and how managers need to manage. Our competence as leaders will then surely be measured not only by ‘what I know’ but increasingly by ‘how I behave when I accept, I don’t know, lose my sense of direction and become confused.

.I guess the message for all organizational cultures going forward is that sticking with the belief that we need all-knowing, omni-competent executives will cost them dearly and send a message to managers that it is better to hide their confusion than to address it openly and constructively.

Take comfort in these wise words ‘Confusion is a word we have invented for an order not yet understood’!

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