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Abraham the God-Man

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER

   
Terah commissions his son to India as Pope of the Region

Whilst the Bible does not categorically state that Harran was born earlier than Abraham, it does drop more than sufficient hints that that was the case. We will not, however, unpack in one fell swoop the full circumstantial details as to why Harran was senior to Abraham. We will be positing our argument portion by portion as the narrative progresses. As related last week, Haran was Terah’s firstborn; Abraham was the second-born; and Nahor II was third. The three were sired in the same year, 2123 BC, by the same father through different mothers. 

 
The name Haran can be broken down into two components, Har, meaning “mountain”, and An, meaning “sky” or “the cosmos”. Haran could therefore be interpreted to mean “a giant”, or rather “colossus,” that is, “a great man”, or “a towering figure”. The reason he was so named is obvious enough:  as Terah’s firstborn, he was meant to be Enlil’s Righteous Shepherd in accordance with Enlil’s geopolitical designs. In other words, he was to be the Priest-King of Earthlings, or Melchizedek.

That Haran had been earmarked as a future colossus can partly be gleaned from the establishment of the city of Harran, which was named after him. Normally, places are named after people who once were great, e.g. Washington in the US, which was named after General George Washington, the country’s founding president. In the case of Terah’s son Haran, the city of Harran was named after him while he was still a youngster. If you recall, the city of Harran was built by Nannar-Sin at the instruction of Enlil before Haran was born.

Initially, it was simply known as     “Ur away from Ur”, that is, the Second Ur. But following Haran’s birth, Ur away from Ur now became known as Harran.  That the city was dedicated to Haran before he had done anything great bears out the fact that as Enlil’s prospective Priest-King, Haran was destined to be greater than Abraham in the fullness of time, a laurel befitting of a firstborn. As for Nahor II, his name does not need much explication. He was named after his grandfather Nahor I, the father of Terah.

Yet of Terah’s children (he had several others in addition to those mentioned in Genesis), it is Abraham who is the most famous. But as we shall soon demonstrate, he was not meant to be a man of such renown: his fame came at the expense of his elder brother Haran. How that state of affairs came to be again we enjoin you to be patient and wait for the appropriate time.  

Although he is best known as Abraham, that was not his original name: Abraham was a name he was given later in life when he was about 100 years old. His given name when he was born in 2123 BC was Abram. But again, that is not unimpeachably correct. Abram is simply the Hebrew version of his actual Sumerian name. His Sumerian name, the name he was given when he was born, was Ibru-um.

The name can be interpreted in at least three ways. First, he may have been named after one of his forefathers, Eber, which can also be written as Ibri or Ibru. Second, he possibly was dedicated to the great city of Nippur, where he was born. Nippur as we explained last time around was the Akkadian name for Enlil’s cult city, which was known as Nibruki (“Earth’s Crossroads”) or simply Ni-Ibru (“The Crossing Place”) in Sumerian. Thirdly, he probably was named after his race, who were known as Ibri, or Hebrews in English.   

Even in our day, we do encounter people who are named after their own tribe, their country, or even a famed city.  For example, we all know who Paris Hilton and Paris Jackson are. I have a brother-in-law here in Botswana known as Bakwena. There are a lot of people whose surname is French,  England, Ndebele, etc. So we should not be surprised as to how Abraham’s original name came about.

EXIT NINURTA STRATEGY, ENTER SIN TACTIC

Meanwhile, a number of developments in Sumer had caused Enlil considerable concern. With the withdrawal of Ninurta from the rulership of Sumer-Akkad, Inanna-Ishtar had become bothersome again. In her recent rally using Utu-Hegal, she had been tamed but there was no guarantee that she would never cause trouble again. But Enlil’s greatest headache at this juncture was Marduk’s rock-star popularity. No matter what counter-strategies the Enlilites came up with, Marduk’s sway over the Earthly masses just kept soaring.  It was a harrowing state of affairs that gave Enlil endless nightmares.  

As a last-ditch demolition act, Enlil decided to employ the “Sin Tactic”. The Ninurta Strategy, whereby Ninurta was called upon to oversee Sumer,  had worked splendidly but it had not inflicted the merest dent in Marduk’s popularity. The Sin Tactic was certain to reverse much of Marduk’s gains in the popularity stakes, so Enlil reckoned.  “Then Enlil, with Anu consulting, kingship in the hands of Nannar deposited,” say the Sumerian records. “To Urim, in whose oil the divine Heavenly Bright Object (Shuhadaku) remained implanted, kingship for the third time was granted.”

Nannar-Sin, Enlil’s second-born son, did bear attributes that prima facie stood to endear him to the Earthling masses. Unlike Marduk, who was born on the throne planet of Orion, Sin was born on Earth, the first Anunnaki to have done so. It was for this reason he liked to refer to himself as “The Firstborn of All Creation”, creation in this context meaning Earthlings (he was born before Enki fashioned Adam). Sin was also in large part a peaceful god. He had never taken part in all the wars  that had taken place to date between the Enlilites and the Enkites.

In Sumer, Sin was in fact the most popular god: he and his wife Ningal were one of the most adored Enlilites. Surely, Enlil reasoned, Sin would make a more effective foil against Marduk if he was to be entrusted overall rulership of Sumer-Akkad as Earthlings would read that as the beginning probably of an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity given that Sin was also an excellent economic manager.   

This was not the first time Sin had been considered for this perch. He had ruled Sumer before but only as a ceremonial sovereign. This time around, he was going to be the executive god of Sumer-Akkad. It would be interesting to see how he fared in the hearts of Earthlings vis-a-vis Marduk in this dispensation.

SIN’S SIN: THE MONEY ECONOMY

The Era of Sin, which commenced in 2113 BC, has been described as “one of the most glorious in Sumerian annals”. During the next 100 years, Sin ruled illustriously and distinctively. At his accession to the throne of Sumer-Akkad, he had set out to turn his cult city, Ur (Urim in full, meaning “Urban domesticated place”), into Sumer-Akkad’s commercial and manufacturing hub, which he indeed did. Situated along the Euphrates River and between Eridu to the south and Uruk in the north, Ur now became Sumer-Akkad’s capital city for the third time, the reason it was referred to at this juncture as Ur III.

Sin and Ningal were not simply arm-chair sovereigns: they were hands-on. Because of their assiduity, they fully revitalised Ur, whose greatness had long waned.  Besides making Ur a trade behemoth and the factory of Sumer, they turned it  into the granary of Sumer and the garment centre of the ancient Near-East, not to mention other material and cultural advancements. “Foreign trade by land and water made the merchants of Ur remembered for millennia thereafter,” writes Zechariah Sitchin.

In order to further fortify the city against susceptibility to attack, Sin built a ring of a navigable canal around the city wall which served two major harbours. “It was a city whose white houses – many of them multistoried – shone as a pearl from a distance; whose streets were straight and wide, with many a shrine at their intersections: a city of an industrious people with a smooth-functioning  administration; a city of pious people, never failing to pray to their benevolent deities.”

The city was a riot of “multilevel private dwellings, workshops, schools, merchants’ warehouses, and stalls – all in wide  streets where, at many intersections, prayer shrines open to all travellers were built.” Sin’s skyscraping ziggurat, his temple residence, would have ranked as one of the world’s seven wonders of the  day. “Ur’s epitome and hallmark was the grand ziggurat built there for Nannar-Sin – a monumental edifice that, though lying in ruins for almost four thousand years, still dominates the landscape and awes the viewer by its immensity, stability, and intricacy,” says Zechariah Sitchin.

Because of its sophistication and grandeur, Ur became the very archetype of a city and a synonym of prosperity and wellbeing. The term “Ur” in time came to mean “The City” as uttered with a sigh of admiration and incredulity. It is from Ur, the urban jewel of the ancient lands, that we get the English word “urban” as indeed urban areas are meant to be more infrastructurally superior to rural areas.  Sumer soared to dizzying economic heights under the lordship of Nannar-Sin. Let’s listen to Sitchin once  again: 

“Under the active guidance of Nannar and his spouse Ningal, Sumer attained new heights in art and sciences, literature and urban organisation, agriculture and industry and commerce. Sumer became the granary of the Lands of the Bible, its wool and garment industries were in a class by themselves, its merchants were the famed Merchants of Ur.”

A question is always asked: how did money creep into commerce? Well, the dude who introduced the money economy on planet Earth was Nannar-Sin. Money wasn’t necessary: we didn’t need it: barter was sufficient for the purpose. But Sin, today known as Allah in Islam,  introduced money to employ it as a tool for the enslavement of mankind. A peaceful  god, Sin wanted to control mankind not through arms but through trade and that almost inescapable albatross known as debt.

As the prototypical Reptilian Mayer Amschel Rothschild candidly and truthfully put it, “Give me control of a nation's money and I care not who makes the laws”. America and much of the world are indebted to the Rothschilds because they control the reserve banks of the world’s most economically advanced countries. This servitude has filtered down to you, me and the other fellow: the Rothschilds folks have us both by the scruff of our necks and by our balls because they control, directly and indirectly, all the currencies of the world and all this thanks to the sin of Sin.  This Earth, My Brother…  

UR-NAMMU IS INTERIM KING OF SUMER

In the same year Nannar-Sin was appointed god of Sumer-Akkad by Enlil,  he  ordered Terah to move from Nippur to Ur. Terah was to perform the functions of a high priest in  Sin’s temple. At the same time, he was to double as the high priest of Nippur too, the first time ever the two city-states’ priesthood was conjoined.   Even more important, he was to see to it that  the people of Ur followed zodiacal time (the total time a constellation showed in the night sky) as opposed to celestial time (the total time [2160 years]  a constellation was mathematically allotted). Terah took all his kids with him to Ur. Abraham and his two half-brothers were 10 years old at the time.  

Since Sin’s time would be taken up with  overseeing the affairs of all of Sumer-Akkad, and Terah would dedicate himself to ecclesiastical and astronomical/astrological affairs, he requested Enlil that an Earthling King be installed under his aegis.  Enlil duly obliged. But this time around, the king was to be chosen by Enlil and recommended to King Anu in Nibiru for either approval or veto. This was to avoid sentimental appointments of kings by a god or goddess. A salutary lesson had been learnt from Inanna, who chose kings primarily on the basis that they were capable of satisfying her insatiable sexual appetite and not necessarily because they had monarchical potential.  

The king Enlil chose for Ur and by extension the whole of Sumer was Ur-Nammu, a titular name meaning “The Joy of Ur”. Like all kings who came before him, Ur-Nammu  had a qualifying pedigree. His father was a demigod and his mother was a full goddess, Ninsun, the daughter of Enki with his step-sister Ninmah. That made Ur-Nammu two-thirds divine.

It was significant that Ur-Nammu was the blood brother of a departed legend, Gilgamesh, who had wrought great feats of accomplishment as King of Uruk seven centuries prior. Clearly, Enlil’s choice of Ur-Nammu was driven by his underlying desire to make a Gilgamesh out of him. As important,  Ur-Nammu was a  fitting counterpoint to Nabu, Marduk’s heir: Nabu’s mother was a demigod whereas his father was a full god.    

It should be noted that Ur-Nammu was no more than a stop-gap ruler. He simply was holding fort for Haran, Terah’s firstborn, who was only ten years old at the time. Once Haran had attained 30 years of age, he was to take over, in his case as Priest-King and not simply King. Pleased with Ur-Nammu’s credentials, King Anu gave the green light for his accession. He has gone into the Sumerian annals as the first ruler of Ur’s Third Dynasty.

ABRAHAM IN INDIA

Meanwhile, Terah was grooming his young sons for specialised responsibilities. Haran, the heir, was being moulded into a future Priest-King. As such, he was to keep to Ur and study up-close both his father’s and Ur-Nammu’s modus operandi. Abraham on the other hand was being moulded into a spiritual leader of the Diaspora. So when he turned 12, he was sent to the Indus Valley region, the vast Indian empire where Terah himself had been the spiritual leader before tracing his way back to Sumer circa 2140 BC.   

Being the son of the pioneer spiritual leader, Abraham was welcomed with a lot of fanfare. He would in due course make an impact that was to rival that of his father. In India, Terah belonged to a priestly caste who were known as Brahmins, the religious noblemen. But it was Abraham who came to personify this caste, that was also known as the Kaul Devas (Holy Kalani, Kaul being the short form of Kalani, the name by which Hebrews were known in India) or simply Chaldees. He became known as the Brahma, meaning “God-Man”, (something akin to Jesus), like his father Terah was revered as when he was the Priest-King of Dwaraka before 2041 BC.    

Initially though, Abraham did not worship Enlil, the Bible’s principal Jehovah. As a teenager, he worshipped Enki. Enki’s religion, which was known as the cult of the snake, was the most popular form of spirituality throughout the Indian empire. The cult of the snake was popularised by Intrasterestrial beings who were known as the Nagas. These beings were half-human, half-snake and were revered as gods. In due course though, term Nagas came to apply to full humans who reverenced the cult of the snake.

ASPECTS OF THE NAME ABRAHAM

The fact that Abraham experimented with several religious sects (like King Solomon) explains why his name came to mean several things depending on how the syllables were pronounced.    First, he was the Pope, the “Holy Father” of his religious movement. This is Abhiram in Hindi (Ab = "Father;" Hir   = "Head; Top; Exalted;” and Am = "People"). Abhiram can also be interpreted as “Father of the Exalted People”. Indeed, the Brahmin caste were the superior race of the  day in India. They were white-skinned and very knowledgeable in many things, more so in religious philosophy.

The name Abraham according to Genesis was given to the man who was initially known as Abram when God told him he was going to be the “Father of a multitude”, the nation of Israel.  That, however, is an evolutional meaning of the name Abraham, not the original meaning. In Hebrew, “Ab” means “Father” and “Ram”is the term for “a highly placed leader or governor”. Abram therefore means “Pope”. The Pope is at once a political leader of the Vatican, an independent country, and the spiritual leader of Catholics. Abraham was the   political leader of a place in India known as Maturea, the Kingdom of the Oude         (which rhymes with Yehuda, or Jews in English), as well as the spiritual leader of the Brahmin religion.   

The name Abraham can  be interpreted to mean “Father of Divine Mercy”given that in Kashmiri (the language spoken in Kashmir, which at the time of Abraham’s sojourn in India was dominated by Hebrews) “Raham”, which derives from “Ram”, means “Divine Mercy”. This is most fitting if Abraham was a spiritual leader as then he would have had the right to forgive sins just as the Pope does in our day.   The equivalent of Raham in Hebrew is Rakham, which also means Divine Mercy.

The term Ab can also mean snake. “Abram” then would be interpreted as “Exalted Snake”. Since Abraham at some stage in his spiritual evolution  worshipped Enki or Enkite gods (“other gods” in Genesis), he could have been called Abram to denote the fact that he was a high-standing Enkite. During this phase of his religious life, he was a renegade who had defected from the Aryan faith that reverenced Enlilites.

Thus the Aryans would have called him “A-brahm”meaning, “No Longer a  Brahmin”as the prefix “a” sometimes denoted  “opposed to” or “against”. Finally, Abraham or Abram may just have been a corruption in other tongues of his original Sumerian name Ibru-um. Thus we should not be so dogmatic about what the name Abraham meant  as it throws up several shades of meaning.  
 
NEXT WEEK: A BEREAVEMENT IN THE TERAH FAMILY

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Internet Connectivity in Botswana: Time to Narrow Digital Divide

19th October 2020
Elon Musk

On Friday October 9, 2020, President Masisi officiated at a function that most appositely spoke to his passion and desire to kick-start the crystallisation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR in short, in Botswana. In his keynote speech, the President hailed the partnership between Gaborone City Council and BoFiNet to launch free Internet access of one-hour duration daily in selected “Wi-Fi Hotspots” across the city for all and sundry.

The pilot project has actually been years in the making, having been initiated in April 2014, when the BOCRA-supported Universal Access and Service Fund (UASF) was established. UASF levies 1 percent on the gross annual turnover of flourishing ICT outfits and is now using this to subsidise the Internet access price in the Hotspots of Gaborone, which are to be found at shopping malls, bus stations, hospitals, and airports in the main. The facility, which is provided courtesy of the BoFiNet Wi-Fi infrastructure, will in the fullness of time be rolled out in Kasane, Maun, Francistown, Palapye, Serowe, and Mahalapye too. As of the end of 2019, UASF collections totalled P43.2 million according to BOCRA’s latest Annual Report.

A point President Masisi underscored at the launch was the imperative that “all citizens have access to the Internet so that the ideal of leaving no one behind as envisioned by the sustainable development goals is realised”. It also exhilarated me that the President underlined that “innovation and creativity will be the bedrock of economic diversification in our country”, a priority I besought government to pursue with impassioned as opposed to rhetorical resolve in one of my earlier articles under this very column.

Certainly, Pillars 1 and 2 of the only minimally accomplished Vision 2016 goals envisaged, amongst other things, an informed and innovative Botswana. With the Wi-Fi Hotspot dispensation now upon us, are we on course to deliver on this sooner rather than later?

FREE INTERNET COULD FULFIL MEGA DREAMS FOR THE CITIZENRY

Granted, one hour of free Internet per day is not that bad as a starting point, but it is a drop in the ocean when juxtaposed with the larger global picture, whereby some countries, which include the industrialised West, the Scandinavian countries, and the Baltic states of Lithuania and Estonia, offer qualitative public Internet service free of charge all-day long. In Finland for one, broadband (high-speed Internet access) has been a legal right since 2010. In other words, if a citizen for one reason or the other does not have the opportunity to surf the web, he or she can sue the state for redress.

For the impecunious individual who wishes to do meaningful and comprehensive research, however, one hour can be very limiting. To just give one example, it takes me up to two full days to gather material for a single one instalment of the contents of this column, of which Internet-sourced data is key. This is because not every bit of worthwhile information is available at just one click of the mouse. In some cases, the requisite information is simply not available at all and by the time that dawns on you, a full day will have gone by.

There is also the question of whether the Hotspots are amply equipped with desktops, let along being sizeable enough, to cater to the stampede of the city residents who will want to be one of the earliest birds to catch the worm given that access is certain to be on a first-come-first-served basis. An Internet Hall under the auspices of government would serve the purpose best, with the unused Orapa House as a possible venue proposition.

As for nationwide and limitless free Internet access, we still have a long way to go being a Third World country but the earlier we get there, the greater the rewards we reap in the long-term. Google, Facebook, Twitter, to mention only a few, are today multi-billion operations thanks to the added benediction of the Internet epoch. Years back, Elon Musk and five others started PayPal – a means of sending money, making an online payment, and receiving money – using the Internet medium. In 2002, E-Bay acquired PayPal for an eye-popping $1.5 billon, with Musk personally garnering $165 million. As I write, Musk is the 6th richest person on Earth, with a net worth of $82.3 billion.

It is the ready platform of the Internet that helped catapult him to the dizzying pecuniary heights he has since scaled.  We will probably never be able to mint a dot.com-facilitated dollar billionaire in Botswana, but even mere Pula millionaires or part-millionaires can do as half a loaf is better than nothing. If Internet was freely available to every citizen, such chances would be greatly enhanced.

WE LIVE OUR LIVES ONLINE

In the past, Internet connectivity may have been a luxury but the advent of COVID-19 has made it an essential component of the new normal – a lifeline. Students have had to receive lessons online amid stop-go lockdowns of huge swathes of a country. Executives have had no option but to network or collectively liaise using teleconferencing or by way of Skype. Telemedicine, or caring for and consulting with patients remotely, has become the order of the day, especially in the developed world. We have seen live-streamed religious services and of course some people have been working from home.

Even before COVID-19 struck, we were routinely conversationally engaging with family and friends on social media platforms such as Facebook and Whatsapp. Some of our monthly transactions, like telephone bill settlements and DStv subscriptions, were effected online. Needless to say, we have literally been living our lives online. Electronic transacting in any case, whether by mobile phones or via the web, substantially curtail queuing time at banks and precious other pay points anywhere, gets people to spend more time in the workplace than out of it, and therefore boosts productivity as personal errands to do a thing or two are notorious for eating into invaluable man-hours.

There’s also government’s espoused vision of having Botswana transformed into a knowledge-based economy. Without universal access to the Internet, this aspiration will remain a pipe-dream. Knowledge certainly is power, whether this be political, economic, or scientific. Botswana will never come to be anywhere near the economic might of Singapore or the technological feats of South Korea if it relegates knowledge attainment to the back burner of its core aspirations. An Old Testament prophet was spot-on when speaking on behalf of his god Yahweh lamented that “my children perish for lack of knowledge”, HOSEA 4:6.

The paradox is that the digital divide both on the continent of Africa and in Botswana is as glaring as ever. Only four out of ten people in Africa have Internet access and according to the global business data platform Statista, which has insights and facts about 170 industries and more than 150 countries, Botswana has an Internet penetration of only 47.5 percent. It lags 20 other countries on the continent, who include Kenya (the continental leader at 87.5 percent); Mauritius (67 percent); Nigeria (61.2 percent); Swaziland (57.3 percent); Zimbabwe (56.5 percent); South Africa (55 percent); and Zambia (53.7 percent).

A study by the Mc Kinsey Global Institute postulates that if Internet use proliferates in Africa at the rate mobile phones did in the early 2000s, the continent stands to add as much as $300 billion to its economic growth by 2025. The World Bank also says achieving universal, affordable, and good quality Internet access in Africa by 2030 will require an investment of $100 billion. In Botswana, the National Broadband Strategy (NBS) aims to achieve universal broadband by 2023. It is aligned to BOCRA’s 2019-2024 Strategic Plan, whose main goal is to deliver the NBS aims at an affordable price tab. Is the time frame realistic?

THE PRICE OF AN ARM AND A LEG!

For universal Internet access to be tenable, first both the access and the medium of access have to be affordable to every literate person out there. Sadly in Botswana, smart phones, which allow for Internet access anywhere where there is a cellular network, do not come cheap. The asking price at the very least is upwards of a thousand Pula. That is a prohibitive price for the greater majority of our population who struggle to eke out a living just to keep body and soul together. The likes of BOCRA and BoFiNet should help out here by subsidising the price of these devices, at least for a period of time till economies of scale result in a natural reduction of the price.

As for the going price of Internet access in Botswana presently, a study of 228 countries earlier this year by cable.co.uk found that Botswana was among the 14 most expensive countries in this regard. I can attest to this myself as I have to fork out a minimum of about P400 a month to enable me the use of the Internet without any hiccup save for the sporadic network downage or the now endemic power outages. To many a people, P400 a month amounts to the proverbial cost of an arm and a leg as it constitutes a substantial proportion of average monthly income. In countries such as Egypt and Mauritius, one can have Internet use every day of the week at any time of the day for only 0.5 percent and 0.59 percent of average monthly income.

In a bid to ameliorate the prohibitive Internet access price in our country, the University of Botswana was forced to shell out a whopping P7.8 million to provide the student populace with free SIM cards to enable them download teaching material under the restrictive COVID-19 climate. Botho University also entered into an arrangement with Orange whereby their students could have online access to learning materials and teaching instruction at only P2 a day, P10 a week, or P30 a month, though data was capped at 200 megabytes a day. Both these initiatives by two of the country’s premier institutions of higher education must be lauded.

If the cost of mobile broadband data has to organically come down drastically, it is essential that we move from a consolidated market – the triopoly of Mascom (with 51 percent market dominance), Orange (34 percent), and Be-Mobile (15 percent) we have in Botswana – to a multi-operator market. In its latest annual report, BOCRA reports that in 2018, the three operators had combined revenues of P4.4 billion and combined profits of P826 million. One wonders why this rather brisk bottom line does not translate to a proportionate paring down of the consumer price or does it have to do with the fact that the operators’ greed knows no bounds?

BOTSWANA NEAR TAIL-END OF GLOBAL BROADBAND SPEED LEAGUE

If the truth may be told, Internet speed in Botswana is no longer as glacially slow as it was a year or two back. That does not mean it is lightning swift. In fact, it is among the slowest both on the globe and on the African continent.  At the download average of 1.92 megabytes per second (mbps), Botswana ranks 165th in the world and is 22nd in Africa according to statistics furnished by cable.co.uk. Our case is all the more stigmatic as we trail even comparatively poorer countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Sudan.

Taiwan has the fastest Internet in the world at 85.02 mbps, followed by Singapore at 70.86 mbps. Whereas it would take 22 hours for one to download a 5 gigabyte movie in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, the worst-ranked African country, and 6 hours for Botswana, it would take only 8 minutes in Taiwan.  In Africa, it is not South Africa (8.4 mbps, 75th in the world), the wealthiest country, which leads the pack. It is Madagascar at 22.57 mbps (33rd globally). This is one of the poorest countries on Earth, with four out of every four citizens living on less than $2 a day.

Botswana in fact is way below the minimum speed of 10 mbps required for consumers to fully participate in a digital society according to tech experts. I need not emphasise that time is money. It is time BOCRA and BoFiNet saw to it that we pulled up our socks in broadband speed to serve on trawling time. Regrettably, in Botswana things move very slowly and it will probably be another ten years or so before we come to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Madagascar. As for ever catching up with Taiwan, well, the less said the better.

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The Babylonian Captivity Ploy

19th October 2020

Nebuchadnezzar has the Jews exiled to his own domain to sabotage Jerusalem’s prospects of hosting King Anu, “Our Heavenly Father”

In 590 BC, General Atiku, King Zedekiah decided he would no longer be the puppet of Babylon. Just like Nebuchadnezzar, he wanted to be in full and unmitigated control of the Holy City in the event King Anu pitched. But he was under no illusion he could throw off the yoke of Babylon singlehandedly. So in the fourth year of his reign he – once again against the advice of the far-sighted prophet Jeremiah – joined a coalition that was being formed by Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon resist Nebuchadnezzar.

Upon getting wind of the rumours of this scheme, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Zedekiah to Babylon to administer to him a warn and caution statement but it seemed he took no heed. The following year, Nebuchadnezzar decided to pounce: he captured all the cities of Judah except three, one of which was Jerusalem and which he proceeded to besiege for the third time.

Finding himself in dire straits, General, Zedekiah made an alliance with Pharaoh Apries of Egypt and indeed the latter rushed to reinforce him. In the ensuing lull in hostilities, Nebuchadnezzar pulled a stunt by lifting the siege and Apries withdrew. No sooner had Apries done so than Nebuchadnezzar hemmed in on Jerusalem once again: Zedekiah was on his own. Jerusalem was under siege from January 587 to July 586 BC. The following, General, are the circumstances and aftermath of the siege according to one chronicler:

“Conditions in the city became increasingly desperate. Although the people had had time to prepare, their food supplies eventually began to run out. Cannibalism became a grim reality. Despite Jeremiah’s counsel to surrender, the King refused to do so and just as the last of the food in the city was exhausted the Babylonians broke through the wall.

“Zedekiah fled with remains of his army, but was overtaken and captured near Jericho. From there, he was brought before Nebuchadnezzar at his field headquarters at Riblah, his sons were executed in front of him, and he was blinded. From there, he was taken in chains to Babylon. The key members of his cabinet were executed before Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah shortly afterwards.

“A large part of the population of Jerusalem was put to the sword and everything of value plundered. The bronze articles from the Temple were cut up and removed and the building together with the palace and the important houses were set on fire.  “In order to ensure that the city would never rebel against him again, Nebuzaradan, the commander of the Imperial Guard, ordered that the walls be demolished. All who survived in the city were carried off into exile in Babylon, with the exception of the very poor of the land.

The starving population exchanged whatever riches they had left for food, its leadership and priesthood were gone and the Temple burnt. The Babylonians soldiers oppressed the survivors and forced them to work for their food.” The remnant of poor people that were spared, General, were meant to serve as farmers and wine dressers. These people had previously been landless peasants and presented the least risk to the Babylonians, but were required to work the land to prevent the fields falling into disuse.

WOULD KING ANU CONDONE NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S ACT?

Nebuchadnezzar was not the first King to deport a people from their own country, General. The pace was actually set by the Assyrian King Adad Nirari I (c. 1307-1275 BC), who thought the best way to prevent any future uprising was to remove the occupants of the land and replace them with Assyrians. But Nebuchadnezzar, General, had an ulterior motive for the deportations, which only the “Illuminati” of the day were privy to. He wanted to make Jerusalem desolate and decrepit so that when King Anu arrived, he would avoid it like the plague and instead focus on the glittering Babylon.

His aim was to kill off entirely the competition posed by Jerusalem. Says Zechariah Sitchin: “The expectation, it seems, was that the arriving god (Anu) of the Winged Disk (symbol for planet Nibiru) would come down at the Landing Place (Baalbek) in Lebanon, then consummate the Return by entering Babylon through the new marvelous Processional Way and imposing Ishtar Gate.”  But in the event that he indeed pitched, would the pro-Enlilite Anu take kindly to being deflected to a city (Babylon) other than Jerusalem when it had been specifically designated for his ultimate hosting on the planet by virtue of its geometrical centrality?

Having taken over Nippur’s prediluvial role to serve as Mission Control Center after the Deluge, Jerusalem was located at the center of concentric distances to the other space-related sites. Aptly calling it the “Navel of the Earth” (EZEKIEL 38:12), the prophet Ezekiel had announced that Jerusalem had been chosen for this role by God himself. “Thus has said the Lord Yahweh: ‘This is Jerusalem; in the midst of the nations I placed her, and all the lands are in a circle round about her,” EZEKIEL 5:5. “Determined to usurp that role for Babylon,” Sitchin further notes, “Nebuchadnezzar led his troops to the elusive prize and in 598 BC captured Jerusalem.”

CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE EXILE SITUATION

Altogether, General, the Babylonian captivity – the deportation of the Nation of Israel to Babylon – spanned 70 years counting from the first deportation of 598/597 BC.  Meanwhile, Judah was renamed Yehud Province by the Babylonians and a puppet Jewish governor was appointed to administer it. (The post of King was abolished, making Zedekiah [reign: 597-586 BC] the last substantive linear King of the Jews.) His name was Gedalia, whose father had been an advisor to King Josiah (reign: 640-609 BC).

Gedalia set up his capital not in Jerusalem but in Mizpah. That, plus the fact that he didn’t have a drop of Davidic blood in him, made him a marked man to Jewish nationalists and traditionalists from the word go. Not long after his appointment, Gedalia was assassinated by a family member of the deposed king Zedekiah. From that point on, General, no Jewish governor was installed until after the end of the Babylonian captivity.

Exactly what were the circumstances of the deportees, General? The image that immediately comes to mind is that of a concentration camp kind of setting reminiscent of the Jewish people’s fate at the hands of Nazi Germany. That, General, is a gross misconception. In Babylon, the Jews enjoyed every privilege, including citizenship if they so desired. They were not enslaved or in bondage of any kind. Their own individual abilities were even tapped into to help advance Babylon in one way or the other.

Reading PSALM 137:1–2, the surface impression one gets, General, is that the Jews in Babylon were beset by a most disagreeable set of circumstances. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, sat and wept, as we thought of Zion (Jerusalem). There on the poplars we hung up our lyres.” Well, that was pure nostalgia, which is a natural impulse when a people have been displaced, General. A notable historian presents to us the more accurate picture in the following words:

“The deportees, their labour and their abilities, were extremely valuable to the Babylonian state, and their relocation was carefully planned and organised. We must not imagine treks of destitute fugitives who were easy prey for famine and disease: the deportees were meant to travel as comfortably and safely as possible in order to reach their destination in good physical shape.

Whenever deportations are depicted in Babylonian imperial art, men, women and children are shown travelling in groups, often riding on vehicles or animals and never in bonds … Deportees were carefully chosen for their abilities and sent to regions which could make the most of their talents. Not everyone in the conquered populace was chosen for deportation and families were never separated. Those segments of the population that had actively resisted the Babylonians were killed or sold into slavery, but the general populaces became absorbed into the growing empire and were thought of as Babylonians.”

Another historian has this to say, General: “It is assumed that the Jews had to render labour to the Babylonians, but generally they enjoyed a great deal of freedom. Some of the exiles, like Daniel and his three friends, rose to positions of power within the Royal Court of Babylon and many others became wealthy. Later, during the Persian period Jews like Mordecai, Esther, and Nehemiah all found themselves in key positions in the government and were able to act on behalf of their people because they took Jeremiah’s advice.” Indeed, General, Nehemiah rose to become the cup-bearer of the King, that is, the King’s most trusted official.

The King-in-exile himself, Jeconiah, enjoyed particularly special privilleges both when he was in prison and after his release. Captive kings and high-ranking officials received monthly rations of grain and oil. Archaeological evidence recovered from the Royal palace in Babylon provides support for Jeconiah’s presence there and lists the daily rations set aside for him and the members of his family.

The Bible itself, General, does not shy away from underscoring Jeconiah’s privileged status in Babylon as highlighted in JEREMIAH 52:31-34 thus: “In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jeconiah King of Judah, in the year Awel-Marduk became King of Babylon, on the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month, he released Jeconiah King of Judah and freed him from prison. He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honour higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jeconiah put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the King’s table. Day by day the King of Babylon gave Jeconiah a regular allowance as long as he lived, till the day of his death.”

 

JEREMIAH PAINTS SORRY PICTURE OF MARDUK’S FATE

The destruction of Solomon’s Temple by King Nebuchadnezzar, General, was according to the Bible the ultimate blasphemy. Ishkur-Adad, the Jehovah under whose auspices the Temple was built, was not in the least bit amused. He straightaway had the prophet Jeremiah step forward and pronounce the comeuppance both on the King and his colossal empire.

Now, biblical prophecies, General, should not be taken at face value. Their fulfillment were documented after the events they purported to foretell had already taken place, not before they happened. Much of the Old Testament corpus was compiled in the 6th century BC, during and after the Babylonian captivity (the Book of Malachi, the last prophet, was written circa 400 BC, and the Book of Daniel was compiled just after 164 BC). So we have to bear that in mind, General, when we read of fulfilled prophecies so that we decide whether to contemplate the story warily or give it the benefit of the doubt.

Jeremiah announced that the destruction of the Temple was going to be avenged by Yahweh (JEREMIAH 50:28). In addition, Adad instructed him to make the following proclamation: “Declare among the nations and proclaim, set up a banner and proclaim, do not conceal it, say: Babylon is taken; withered is Bel; confounded is Merodach … For out of the north a nation has come up against her; it shall make her land a desolation, and no one shall live in it; both human beings and animals shall flee away.” – JEREMIAH 50: 1-3.

Jeremiah, General, made this statement circa 561-60 BC. It can be easily dated because it was in this timespan that Merodach, Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, was on the throne. Jeremiah served notice to the world that Babylon was to be supplanted by a new power from the north, who turned out to be Persia. Jeremiah also spelt out the imminent fate of the Babylonian god Marduk, who was also known as Bel, meaning “The Lord”: he was to “wither”, or cease to be a factor in the affairs of mankind. In the case of Merodach, all Jeremiah said of him was that he was to be “confounded”, that is, so overwhelmed by problems as to lose a sense of focus. One wonders, General, why Jeremiah, if he was the great prophet he was touted to be, didn’t foresee the assassination of Merodach and directly allude to it in his prophecy.

The prophet Daniel says in his waning days, Nebuchadnezzar had his mind taken away and ate grass like an ox. This, General, is a fanciful story which is found only in the Bible and nowhere in the Babylonian annals. “There is no independent support for the tradition in Daniel of Nebuchadnezzar’s seven years’ madness, and the story probably arose from a fanciful later interpretation of texts concerned with events under Nabunaid, who showed apparent eccentricity in deserting Babylon for a decade to live in Arabia,” says Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Meanwhile, did Marduk indeed get to wither, General?

NEXT WEEK: FROM EXILE TO EXIT

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Understanding Botswana’s trade dispute resolution framework: Industrial Action

19th October 2020

In Botswana, the Trade Disputes Act, 2016 (“the Act”) provides the framework within which trade disputes are resolved. This framework hinges on four legs, namely mediation, arbitration, industrial action and litigation. In this four-part series, we discuss this framework.

In last week’s article, we discussed the second leg of Botswana’s trade dispute resolution framework-arbitration. In this article, we discuss the third leg, namely industrial action.

Industrial action is generally defined as a situation where the employer and employees use their bargaining power to exert pressure on the other to achieve a particular result. It entails such things as strikes and lockouts.  In terms of section 2(1) of the Act, Industrial action means “a strike, lockout or action short of a strike, in furtherance of a trade dispute”.

In terms of section 2(1) of the Act, “a strike means the cessation of work by a body of employees in any trade or industry acting in combination or under a common understanding or a concerted refusal or a refusal under a common understanding by such body of employees to continue work.”

A lock-out is the employees’ equivalent of a strike. In terms of section 2(1) of the Act, a lock-out is defined as “ the closing of a place of employment by an employer in any trade or industry or the suspension of work by such an employer or the refusal by such an employer to continue to employ any number of his or her employees in that trade or industry.”

While on a strike, employees use their numbers to inflict economic pain on the employer by withdrawing their labour, in a lock-out, the employer uses its power by not providing employees with work, thereby inflicting economic harm on them in terms of the ‘no-work, no pay’ principle.
In terms of section 2(1) of the Act, an action short of a strike means “any method of working (other than the method of working commonly known as working to rule) undertaken by a body of employees in any trade or industry acting in combination or under a common understanding, which method of working slows down normal production or the execution of the normal function under their contracts of employment, of the employees undertaking such method of working.”

In terms of section 42(1) (a) of the Act, it is obligatory to refer a dispute of interest for mediation before resorting to a strike or lockout. Also, in terms of section 42(1) (b) of the Act, a party must give the other party a 48-hour notice before the commencement of a strike or lockout. In terms of section 43(1) of the Act, before a strike or lockout commences, the parties have to agree on the rules regulating the action, failing which the mediator must determine the rules in accordance with any guidelines published in terms of section 53 of the Act.

These rules include those concerning the conduct of the strike or lockout and any conduct in contemplation or furtherance of the strike or lockout including picketing and the use of replacement labour. In terms of section 43(2) of the Act, the latter is, however, subject to the provisions of subsection (4) of the Act.

Employers are not allowed to engage replacement labour if the parties have concluded an agreement on the provision of a minimum service. In terms of section 43(3) of the Act, such prohibition also applies if no minimum service agreement is concluded within 14 days of the commencement of the strike or lockout.

In terms of section 43(4) of the Act, a trade union is allowed to picket outside the employer’s premises during a strike or lockout if the parties have concluded an agreement on the provision of a minimum service or if no such agreement is concluded within 14 days of the commencement of the strike or lockout.

The Act prohibits strikes and lockouts that do not comply with the aforesaid provisions or an agreed procedure. The prohibition also applies if the strike or lockout is in breach of a peace clause in a collective labour agreement.

In terms of section 45(1) of the Act, strikes or lockouts are also regarded as unprotected if the subject matter of the strike or lockout is not a trade dispute, is regulated by a collective labour agreement, is a matter that is required by the Act to be referred for arbitration or to the Industrial Court for adjudication, or is a matter that the parties to the dispute of interest have agreed to refer for arbitration.

In terms of section 47 of the Act, employees in essential services are not allowed to take part in a strike. Similarly, employers in essential services are not allowed to take part in a lockout. It is, however, worth noting that, although an essential service employee who engages in a strike commits an offence and is, in terms of section 48(1) of the Act, liable to a fine not exceeding P 2 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or to both, there is no punishment for an essential service employer who locks out its employees.

In terms of section 48(2) of the Act, the punishment applicable to an essential service employee who engages in a strike, is also applicable for any person who causes, procures, counsels or influences any essential service employee to engage in a strike.

Where there is a trade dispute involving parties in an essential service, it should be reported to the Commissioner by an organisation acting on behalf of the employer, employers or employees. The provisions of section 6(3) apply in respect of a report of the trade dispute made in accordance with section 6 (1).

Where a trade dispute is reported in accordance with that section, it is deemed to have been reported to the Commissioner under section 6. Where there is failure to settle a trade dispute reported to the Commissioner in accordance with section 6 (2) within 30 days from the day on which the trade dispute was reported, the Commissioner may immediately refer the trade dispute to an arbitrator if the dispute is a dispute of interest, except in the case of a collective dispute of interest where the employees are represented by a trade union, or to the Industrial Court if the trade dispute is a dispute of right.

*Ndulamo Anthony Morima, LLM(NWU); LLB(UNISA); DSE(UB); CoP (BAC); CoP (IISA) is the proprietor of Morima Attorneys. He can be contacted at 71410352 or HYPERLINK “mailto:anmorima@gmail.com” anmorima@gmail.com

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