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Horemheb’s Grudge Rule

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER

   

Ephraim’s successor devotes to expunging Moses and fellow Amarna Kings from human memory

When Pharaoh Tutankhamen (King Tut, the son of Moses/Akhenaten) died circa 1352 BC, at age 21,  he had  no qualifying heirs at all,  having gone to the grave without issue. He had, however, long anointed a successor. The terms of the succession were that in the event that Tut died childless, the army general Horemheb would assume the reins.

Horemheb had no connection geneticwise to the royal family but he was an outstanding diplomat and a proficient general.  A career dog of war, he first served as Secretary of State under King Tut before he was given the powerful portfolio of army commander-in-chief and adviser to the pharaoh.  Aware that Horemheb was the main man behind his father’s ouster, King Tut  thought, and wisely at that,  that Horemheb had to be won over utterly and completely. Thus from practically the word go, King Tut designated Horemheb  as the Hereditary Prince of Upper and Lower Egypt and Deputy of the King in the Entire Land. The message was unequivocal: the young King intended Horemheb to succeed him all other things being equal. 

But it so happened that at the time of King Tut’s death, Horemheb  was away in Asia on a military campaign and his highly  influential uncle Ephraim (Aye to the Egyptians), who loathed the notion of a non-Josephite succeeding to the throne, persuaded King Tut’s half-sister widow, Ankhesenamen, also a child of Moses, to take the throne.  But fearful of the perils of pharaonic office under a political climate in which the army now reigned supreme, Amkhesenamen decided that she would rather a new husband of hers became pharaoh rather than she herself, which was perfectly in line with constitutional provisions. 

The ranks of Horemheb’s lieutenants, who had remained behind,  insisted that  Horemheb had to be the next pharaoh come rain or shine, whether in his own right or as Ankhesenamen’s new husband. The proposal was repugnant both to Ephraim and Ankhesenamen and to Amkhesenamen for one, it was anathema. First and foremost, it was Horemheb, along with  two other members of the army top brass, Pa-Ramses and Seti, who had forced the abdication of her father Moses and were possibly the behind-the-scenes mastermind of the slaying of her husband. Even more pertinent was the fact that Horemheb had no pedigree: as a commoner, he didn’t have a drop of royal  blood coursing in his  veins.  

So Amkhesenamen decided to look elsewhere for a suitor. This  was in foreign territory, in Hatti, the Hittite Kingdom across the Mediterranean Sea. But to Amkhesenamen, the Hittite empire was not strictly foreign territory.  At the time, the Hittite Kingdom was the most formidable challenge to Egypt’s geopolitical clout. It had taken advantage of Moses’ tumultuous reign and pried Syria from the clutches of Egypt. Presently, the Hittite Kingdom encompassed  modern-day Turkey and  Lebanon.

At the time, the largest concentration of the Hykso-Hebrews  was found in Harran in Turkey. Harran not only was founded by Terah, Abraham’s father,  but the Hittite King’s senior wife  was a Hykso-Hebrew and a descendant of Abraham.  In a way,  therefore, Amkhesenamen  was related to Hittite royalty.

JOSEPH’S SON EPHRAIM IS NEW PHARAOH

Amkhesenamen accordingly wrote a letter to King Suppiluliumas of the Hittite Kingdom beseeching him to find her a husband from amongst the Hittite royalty. The letter said, “My husband is dead and I do not have a son. It is said that you have many sons. If you sent one, he could be my husband.” Amkhesenamen underscored in the letter that she wanted a Hittite prince because at home, the powerful Egyptian establishment wanted her to marry “a servant”, that was the abysmally low esteem in which she held Horemheb.

Receiving the letter, Suppiluliumas at first was wary: he thought it was simply a ruse meant to get him to walk into a snare of some sort. So he sent his chamberlain to Egypt with a view to ascertaining the veracity of the message in the letter. The chamberlain was satisfied with his findings and when he returned to Hatti, he carried a second letter from  Amkhesenamen,  which was at once a plea and a remonstration. “Why do you say,   ‘do not deceive me’?” she wondered aloud in the letter. “If I had a son,  would I write to a foreign country in such a humiliating way for me and my country? Give me one of your sons and he will be my husband and the king of Egypt.”

Content with the report of his chamberlain, and excited at the prospect of his own son being Egypt’s sovereign, the Hittite King obliged King Tut’s widow and chose one of his princes, Zannanza, as her new spouse. Horemheb and company were wroth and moved quickly to nip the whole affair right in the bud. Zannanza was waylaid  whilst journeying to Egypt and was killed. Amkhesenamen was gutted. On his part, the Hittite King was so incandescent with rage that he invaded Canaan, which was under Egyptian hegemony, and appended much of the territory to Hatti. 

Be that as it may, Amkhesenamen was adamant that she could marry Horemheb only over her dead body. Acknowledging that  the iron-willed lady simply would not budge, Ephraim then suggested that  she and he  marry to ensure  the throne remained firmly in the hands of the Josephite clan.  Although  Ephraim was significantly older than her, Amkhesenamen meekly gave ground. Thus it was that Ephraim took the Egyptian throne as Pharaoh  Aye in 1352 BC, with Amkhesenamen supplanting her great-aunt Tey (Aye’s first wife) as the Chief Wife.

When Horemheb returned from Asia (he scarcely knew what had transpired as in those days of no mass media and telecommunications,  news travelled glacially slowly), he found Ephraim already ensconced as Pharaoh. In order to at once placate him and co-opt him into the royal dynasty, Horemheb was offered a princess of his choice for espousal. He chose Benretmut, the younger sister of Nefertiti (Moses’ senior wife).  Benretmut was a true-blue Egyptian royal. She had the blood of Amenhotep III (her father) and Tuthmosis IV (her grandfather). Horemheb already had a first wife, Amenia, but she too was supplanted in prestige by the well-connected Benretmut.

HOREMHEB SEIZES POWER

Yet Ephraim as the new pharaoh did not go far enough in endearing himself to the obviously disaffected and disgruntled Horemheb. Whereas under King Tut Horemheb was army commander, under Ephraim he was no more than 2IC.  The rank of army general was given to Nakht Min, who was a relative of Ephraim on his father’s side, which made him a Hykso-Hebrew. To add insult to injury, Ephraim not only adopted General Min as his son but went on to declare him his successor, as some Roman emperors would later do post- first century AD.

It goes without saying that Horemheb was indignant at this virtual snub when King Tut had held him in very high esteem. In any case, Horemheb had always begrudged the Josephite clan. To him, Moses, Aaron, Tut, and Ephraim were all foreigners in that they all were offspring of Joseph, who did not have a single drop of Egyptian blood in him. Of the last six pharaohs, the only true Egyptians, so Horemheb reckoned, were Thutmosis IV and Amenhotep III: the rest were infiltrators whose aim was to   steal the Egyptian throne from the sons of the soil and firmly ensconce it in the hands of the Hykso-Hebrew usurpers.  Horemheb’s dim view of the Josephite scions was the reason he settled for  Benretmut, who was not related to Joseph in any way, shape, or form.

Horemheb’s aversion to the Amarna regime (the pharaohs Moses, Aaron, Tut, and Ephraim) was shared by the dissident establishment in the corridors of Egyptian power. They too resented the Amarna stranglehold on the Egyptian throne. They thus rooted for a true Egyptian to reclaim the throne. They were particularly incensed that Horemheb, an indigenous Egyptian, not only had been elbowed out by Ephraim but he had been sidestepped in the line of succession in favour of another Hykso-Hebrew in Nakht Min, thus perpetuating Hykso-Hebrew control of Egypt.

For the first three years of Ephraim’s rule, Horemheb served him loyally and dutifully but all he was doing was biding his time. Then in year four, he struck. Ephraim was overthrown and both he and his anointed heir Nakht Min were killed. The dude at the helm now was Horemheb. The year was 1348 BC. Horemheb’s power grab ended the Armana era, which lasted a total of 33 years. The number 33 is of special Masonic significance. That Horemheb shot himself to power in the 33rd year of Amarna rule was no coincidence.   
    
THE PHARAOH OF THE OPPRESSION

The name Horemheb means “Triumph of Horus,” one of the most popular of Egyptian gods. In a war both of vengeance (in relation to Set’s killing of Osiris, father to Horus)  and the control of Egypt,  Horus  trounced Set and ejected him from Egypt. No doubt, Horemheb saw himself as Horus and the now terminated Amarna kings as a Setean cabal. Indeed,  his coronation text formally credited “my god Horus”  for establishing him on the throne. Indigenous Egyptians now ruled Egypt. The country had been redeemed from the iron grip of the Hykso-Hebrews.

Upon taking the throne, Horemheb appointed Pa-Ramses, a supine henchman of his, as army commander as well as his first vizier, thus making him the most powerful man in Egypt after Horemheb himself. Pa-Ramses’ son, Seti,  was appointed deputy army commander and second vizier. Both Pa-Ramses and Seti would in future take turns as pharaohs of Egypt. That all the first four pharaohs after King Tut – Ephraim, Horemheb, Ramses I, and Seti – were from the ranks of the army attests to just what a sway the army had on the politics of Egypt. 

HOREMHEB IS THE PHARAOH DESCRIBED IN EXODUS 1:8 AS “A NEW KING OVER EGYPT WHICH KNEW NOT JOSEPH”.  But the proper rendering of this statement should have been of a king who was “not related” to Joseph. Joseph died during the rule of his son Ephraim and therefore Horemheb must have been  well-acquainted with him.  What set Horemheb apart from his four predecessors was that he was not descended from  Joseph.

In fact, he was an implacable enemy of the Hykso-Hebrews. Under his rule, it were the Hykso-Hebrews he targeted first and foremost and saw to  it that he made a misery of their lives. As such, he has become known to scholars who place him in that timeframe as the Pharaoh of the Oppression. The Hykso-Hebrews abounded in the Goshen region in the eastern delta and were concentrated at Avaris and Zaru.

Since Pa-Ramses came from the eastern delta, he was also entrusted with the post of Mayor of Zaru and Overseer of the Fortress of  Zaru.  Pa-Ramses seemed to have devoted himself to making the Hykso-Hebrews lives “bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field”. In the olden days before the time of Thutmosis IV, Zaru used to be a fortress prison. Under Thutmosis IV, it was rehabilitated as one of Egypt’s principal garrison cities.

Horemheb decided to restore it to the prison it used to be and had Pa-Ramses   conscript the Hebrew-Hyksos and set them to the harsh work of rebuilding it along the lines of a prison-city.  Pa-Ramses personally supervised the project, seeing to it  that  Hebrew-Hyksos were subjected to the harshest labour imaginable just out of sheer callousness and not because of desperate necessity.

Once the reconstruction was complete, Pa-Ramses gathered all the hardcore criminals both from among the Hykso-Hebrews and the Egyptians and massed them into the prison-city, with the Egyptian criminals under express instructions to ensure they made hell of  the lot of Hykso-Hebrew prisoners. Because Zaru was reconstructed under the mayoralship of Pa-Ramses, the Bible causes it Pi-Ramses. But it was the plush residence of Pa-Ramses, again built on Hykso-Hebrew slave labour, that Egyptians dubbed Pi-Ramses.

HOREMHEB SETS OUT TO ERASE MEMORY OF AMARNA STREAK

When Horemheb came to power, his aim was to tippex into oblivion the memory of the Amarna Kings, who he regarded as foreign encroachers and appropriators of Egypt’s monarchical institution. As such, he went to unseemly lengths to ensure they were rendered obscure   to posterity and even in the annals of the world altogether. 


The names of the four Amarna Kings were removed from the official Kings’ List of the 18th Dynasty and all other Egyptian records for that matter, so that the next king after Amenhotep III was listed as Horemheb himself.  Horemheb was so phenomenally successful in this purge that for the next 3000 years, the world was unaware totally  that once upon a time, Egypt was ruled by pharaohs  Akhenaten, Smenkhkare, Tutankhamen, and Aye.

All the standing monuments of the Amarna Kings, including their milestone installations, were systematically dismantled. For example, Ephraim’s titulary, which was carved on the back of a  towering  17-ft statue,  was deleted and Horemheb’s own was carved in its place.  In an extreme act of sacrillege, Ephraim’s tomb was ransacked: his sarcophagus was smashed to pieces and his name was chiseled out of the tomb. Although Horemheb spared, by and large, King Tut’s tomb, obviously on account of the fact that it was under his rule that he rose to prominence, he still replaced many of Tut’s cartouches  with his own.  

In the wide-ranging judicial reforms that he instituted, Horemheb laid down strict reprisals even for crimes that were not felonies as such but  were simply misdemeanours. One such barbarism was the decree that all those who misappropriated  monies meant to boost the national fiscus, such as tax receipts, were to have their noses hacked off before being  taken  to the fortress prison at Zaru,  there  to die a slow and agonising death. 

The Theban priesthood were not entirely left to their own devices either. They were allowed unfettered religious freedom alright,  but their ranks were heavily diluted with deployees from the army whose allegiance first and foremost was to the pharaoh and only secondarily to matters of faith.  That way, Horemheb intended to ensure that the priesthood did not undermine his authority or secretly connive   with pro-Armana dissidents to oust him.

HOREMHEB HAUNTED BY MOSES

Of the four Armana Kings, two were dead. Of the two who were alive, that is, Moses and Aaron, it was Moses who represented the greater threat to Horemheb: it didn’t matter that he was no longer based on Egyptian soil but was practically in another country. It transpired that the Cult of the Aten that Moses had pioneered and fiercely championed as pharaoh did not die with his departure: in point of fact, it had been gaining ground in the intervening years.

A great number of Egyptians had adopted Atenism and were no longer a peripheral religious constituency. Horemheb feared that if these continued to rally in force and make a great deal of  politico-religious commotion, they would transform into a serious pro-Moses movement that could pose a serious threat to his  rule. Horemheb thus decided to put his foot down and drown away the potential clamour for the return of Moses.

In what one scholar has termed the ruthless Amunism of Horemheb (his fanatical devotion to Amen-Ra-Marduk),   Horemheb declared Moses his Enemy No. 1. He prohibited the worship of Aten and designated the very mention of the name Akhenaten punishable by death. In public pronouncements,  Moses was referred to as the Fallen One of Akhetaten (the original name of Amarna); the Scoundrel of Akhetaten; or the Rebel of Akhetaten. Egyptians who secretly continued to venerate Aten were dubbed “Polluted Persons”. The monuments that Moses had erected and which were still standing up to the time of Ephraim were pulled down and the rabble thereof used as part of  the building  material for Horemheb’s pylons.

With the mention of Akhenaten’s name outlawed, his underground followers had decided to come up with a coded name. This was Mos, or Mosis. In the Egyptian language of the day, Mos had two meanings. One was “son” and the other was “the rightful son and heir”, the “Royal Mosis”.  To his followers, Akhenaten was not only the firstborn son of Amenhotep III, the 8th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty,  but he remained the rightful King of Egypt given the circumstances under which he left office.

IT WAS THE MONIKER MOSIS WHICH IN THE HEBREW VERSION OF BIBLE APPEARS AS MOSHE  AND AS MOSES IN ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS.  Says the renowned Egyptologist Ahmed Osman: “The biblical editor, who may not have had any knowledge of the original name of the greatest Jewish leader, attempted to put forward a Hebrew explanation of the Egyptian word Moses in order to sever any possible link between Moses and Egypt.”

Horemheb has been characterised by scholars as akin to the Spanish dictator Franco. But his reign was not entirely without its bright spots. He was “a prolific builder who erected numerous temples and buildings throughout Egypt”. Under him, “power and confidence were once again restored after the internal chaos of the Armana period”.  For that he deserves a bit of credit and not wholesale pillorying.

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Honesty – a fundamental human characteristic

12th October 2021

“When honesty is lost, then wait for the Hour (the Day of Judgment)”.  These are the words of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh).  They paint a picture of the time leading up to the Day of Judgement, when righteous people will be sorrowful due to the lack of honesty around them. 

Influence of materialism

Honesty, like morality, is an in built and essential characteristic of every human but the influence of materialism and the greed and desire for status, position, fame, wealth, etc. have wreaked havoc in human society, to an extent never seen before. In the 21st century, we live in a world where honesty is less valued than ever before and in fact even shunned at times.  We expect people to be honest in their dealings with us yet we ourselves promote deceit and dishonesty through our action and speech on a daily basis.  Many of us even watch and applaud television shows and movies that promote and encourage lying, infidelity and deceitfulness.

Desire for worldly gain

In the corporate world, ‘deceitful’ statements and figures are announced and pronounced to lure investors, glamorous yet deceitful adverts to attract customers, etc. have all become the norm and honesty goes out of the window. Even in the media industry, honesty seems to be waning very rapidly. Let alone the due regard of one’s conscience but without a second thought or due consideration of the rights of the others, stories are churned out with so-called “sensational” add-ons, etc. simply for the sake of being the “first” to break the news or for the sake of having the “best” story or maybe even for the sake of just having increased an readership or viewership.

Thoughtless individual behaviour

Without thinking, we indirectly teach our children that dishonesty is acceptable.  When we expect our children to tell the caller on the telephone we are not home, this is a lesson in deceit.  When we answer the cellphone and say that we are busy in a meeting yet we very much relaxed and free, or we say we are out of town yet we are at home, etc. we are being blatantly dishonest. When we refuse to settle our debts and dues making all sorts of pretences, we are actually lying.  We admonish and reprimand our children for lying, yet the reality is we have been their teachers.  Whether we tell lies, or whether we allow our children to live in a world surrounded by deceit, the lesson is learned and the honesty begins to disappear from the hearts of people – in particular the next generation.

Integrity and reliability

We must understand that honesty incorporates the concepts of truthfulness and reliability and it resides in all human thought, words, actions and relationships.  It is more than just accuracy; it is more than just truthfulness, it denotes integrity or moral soundness.  Belief in God Almighty commands truthfulness and forbids lying.  In the Holy Quran, God Almighty commands that humans be honest: “O you who believe!  Be conscious of God Almighty, and be with those who are true (in word and deeds).” (Ch  9 : v 119). A renowned Holy Quran scholar explained the meaning of this verse.  He said, “Being truthful and adhering to truthfulness, means you will be among the people of the truth (by speaking and behaving in a truthful manner) and be saved from calamity and that is what will really make a way out for you from your problems (in the long run)”.

Honesty and truthfulness go hand in hand

A true Believer, one who is truly submitted to God, has many characteristics by which he/she can be identified.  The most obvious of these noble characteristics are honesty of character and truthfulness of speech.  Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) was a perfect example of honesty.  The records of history clear show that even before he was bestowed Prophet hood by The Almighty, he had earned the titles of “As Saadiq” (the truthful) and “Al Ameen” (the trustworthy one), within the community. They had full trust in his honesty and integrity to such a degree that they would accept anything he said. Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), once gathered all the people of Makkah at the base of Mount Safa and asked them, “O people of Makkah!  If I say to you that an army is advancing on you from behind the mountains, will you believe me?”  All said in one voice, “Yes, because we have never heard you telling a lie.”  All the people, without exception, swore to his truthfulness and honesty because he had lived an unblemished and extremely upright life among them up to that point in time – for forty years.

Honesty in a comprehensive manner

This honesty, an essential ingredient of the human character, includes being truthful towards God by worshipping Him sincerely; being truthful to oneself, by adhering to God’s laws; and being truthful with others by speaking the truth and being honest in all dealings, such as buying, selling, social interaction, marriage,etc.  There should be no deceiving, cheating, falsifying or withholding of information, thus a person should be the same on the inside as he/she is on the outside.

Prophetic teachings

Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) informed us of the great benefits of living in an honest and truthful way and warned us of the dangers inherent in dishonesty and falsehood.  He said: “Truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise.  In addition, a person keeps on telling the truth until they are recorded by God Almighty as a very truthful person.  And falsehood leads to wickedness (and evil-doing), and wickedness leads to the (Hell) Fire. In addition, and a person keeps on telling lies until they are recorded by God Almighty as a very great liar”.

For those who wish to be among the truthful, Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) has left us with these words of guidance, “Let he who believes in God and the Last Day either speak good or (otherwise) remain silent”.

A successful, vibrant society is based upon honesty and justice, and is intolerant of dishonesty in all its various forms.  The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) exhorted the faithful to be scrupulously honest in all their social dealings, business transactions, etc. at all times.

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A Sham of a Trial

12th October 2021

Verdict a foregone conclusion as Pilate is bought

Although the interrogation of  Jesus in a joint hearing by Annas and Caiaphas was not a trial, General Atiku, it was more or less conducted along the lines of a trial.

Jesus had a defending witness. This was one of  his disciples, Bartholomew, whose real name was John Marcus. Apparently, Jesus was allowed only one such witness. Besides his principal accuser, the turncoat Judas Iscariot, there were a number of witnesses who testified against him. The gospels  refer to them as false witnesses but this is probably an exaggeration: they simply misunderstood some of his statements largely because he tended to use allegorical language, which could be properly interpreted only by Gnostics. On occasion, he chose to be deliberately ambiguous, as when he said, “Do to Caesar what is due to Caesar and to God what is due to God.”

The crux of the matter  was whether there was anything in his conduct that could associate him with the Zealots. For example, he was accused of harbouring and voicing designs to destroy the Jerusalem Temple within “three days”. The Zealots did band about such threats, General. In truth, what they sought to destroy it was the Temple establishment – the priesthood and the Herodian Sadducees. The perception was that these somewhat benefitted from Roman patronage. Thus, if Jesus did instigate doing way with the Temple establishment by foul and crook, this could obviously not sit well with Annas and Caiaphas, both of whom belonged to this clique. But Jesus’ words had been taken out of context. In Gnostic language, the Temple (the correct translation should be “palace”  as the Jewish word for temple and palace is the same)   was the human body because it housed the real being – the spirit-soul. So what Jesus was saying to those who wished him ill, General, was that even if they physically killed him, his soul would continue to live (a person can be clinically dead but at the etheric level, he is irreversibly dead only after three days). Clearly, General, he was grossly misunderstood.

Jesus vehemently denied being a Zealot. He made it clear to the panel that every time he taught or preached, he was heard to promote peaceful co-existence with Rome. How then could he be a Zealot, who preached enmity with the Romans? Put differently, General, Jesus was saying he had played no part whatsoever in the November 32 AD riots against Pilate. The fact that Simon Zelotes was his father-in-law was pure happenstance.

In their heart of hearts, both Caiaphas and Annas were aware Jesus was not inclined to violence and therefore could not be a  Zealot. So the matter they seized upon was his claim to be Priest, Prophet, and King. This was what revolted them the most, the sin for which they sought to teach him a lesson.  The gospels say they set men (the Jerusalem Temple police who had escorted Caiaphas) on him who blindfolded him, slapped him around, spat on him, and dared him to “prophesy” as to “who has hit you” – a sneering allusion to his claim to be Priest and Prophet as only the High Priest could prophesy. This physical mockery did probably take place but there is an underlying symbolic language, General.  When a person was spat upon (by a “holy man”, such as the  High Priest),  it meant he had been demoted from priest to a mere layman. A “blind man” was another characterisation for an Essene who was of Grade 8 level, a novice. A novice was not yet initiated and therefore he was blind because he had not yet “seen the light”, that is, not yet been illuminated.

What it all boils down to, General,  is that by decree of the three priests Annas Sr, Caiaphas, and Jonathan Annas, Jesus had been downgraded from Grade 2, the third position in the Essene hierarchy (the first two being Grades 0 and 1), which was the position of the Davidic King (now held by his young brother James), to Grade 8, the position of a novice, a virtual nobody. Thus, when he appeared before Pontius Pilate, that was the status he would declare when his occupation was asked of him. This lowly social status would significantly bear upon Pilate’s psychology and therefore his contemplation of Jesus.

PETER DOES A JUDAS

Now, when a hearing or trial was in progress, General,  the Essene rule was that there had to be two doorkeepers. These were two people who were close to the person who was the subject of the proceedings, typically a relative and an associate/friend.

In the case of Jesus, the doorkeepers he selected were Simon Peter and his mother Mary. Besides being Jesus’ disciple, Simon Peter was Jesus’ personal bodyguard and chief ecclesiastical minister. As the Davidic King, Jesus was entitled to a bodyguard and chief spokesman, both roles of which were ably performed by Peter. That made Peter arguably the closest to Jesus in an occupational sense. As for Mary, she substituted for Jesus’ wife Mary Magdalene, who was now three months pregnant and therefore was on mandatory separation from her husband according to Essene dynastic procreational rules. The two doorkeepers ceremonially opened the doors for the panelists or judges to enter the hearing room. As the male doorkeeper,  Simon Peter stood by the door in the inner corridor whilst Mary stood by the same door in the outer corridor.

Peter, however, had been assigned another role – that of the rooster of the night. The rooster that crowed three times as per the gospels was not a bird, General: it was Simon Peter. “Rooster”, or “Cock”,   was the term for a religious person assigned to call out the time. Remember,  they had no clocks those days and at nighttime, the sundial, which was used during the day to read time, could not be used. So during a momentous occasion such as this one (the week of Passover), a person was detailed to announce the time every three hours at Qumran. Since Jesus’ hearing took place shortly before midnight, Peter was expected to announce the times at 00:00; 3 am; and 6 am. 3 am was specifically called cock-crow (see MARK 13:34). It was just before 3 am that Peter “denied”  Jesus. He did not deny him at three intervals, General: he denied him only once but before three inquisitors.

Now, Simon Peter was also a Zealot, a point we have long underscored. It explains why in the gospels he comes across as combustible, argumentative, and highly assertive. He was known as Simon Bar-jonah, which has been wrong translated as “son of John”. Bar-jonah actually derived from “baryona”, which was Aramaic (the most widely spoken language of the day in Palestine) for “outlaw”. We know, courtesy of  Flavius Josephus, that Zealots were referred to as outlaws by the Romans. So as Jesus was being interrogated, one of the witnesses against him made mention of the fact that he must have been a Zealot since his own bodyguard was a Zealot. Peter was therefore instantly called upon to confirm or deny that he was a Zealot. As could be expected, Peter stoutly denied he was. He also proceeded to say that he was not as close to Jesus as many people thought.

Once he had exculpated himself, Peter resumed his vigil as doorkeeper. The hearing lasted for hours and there were intervals in between, during which Peter also took time off to warm himself before a fire. During one such break, Mary, Joseph (Jesus’ second brother)  and James (the son of Zebedee) also confronted him and demanded to know why he  without shame or scruple just stopped short of disowning Jesus. Peter was unflinching, saying they were all mistaken: he was not as close to Jesus as they thought. It was at this point that he stood up to announce the time 3 am for the hearings to resume. Shortly thereafter, it dawned on him that he had stabbed Jesus in the back and later apologised teary-eyed to Mary. The man Jesus called “Rocky” was far from being a rock: he was a chicken, a flip-flopper.  Maybe it was no coincidence, General, that on this fateful night he was assigned the role of a male chicken!

That said, Peter had very valid reasons to deny Jesus anyway. Jesus had elevated Judas Iscariot to his second-in-command in an independent Israel at the Last Supper and Peter was irate that that role should have been entrusted to him and not to Judas. Maybe Jesus deserved Peter’s betrayal given that Peter had served him loyally through and through both as a bodyguard and confidante.

JUDAS TREACHERY BACKFIRES

Pontius Pilate, General, arrived at Qumran towards 6 in the morning to conduct a kangaroo court trial for the people wanted for the November 32 AD uprising in which some Roman soldiers were killed. Why, if we may ask, General,  did the Roman governor have to travel all the way from Jerusalem, where he was based during the Passover week, to Qumran and not insist that the trial be held in Jerusalem itself?

There were two reasons for this in the main. First and foremost, there was something in it for him. He had been backhanded with a tantalising bribe by Herod Agrippa to excuse Judas Iscariot. We know Pilate was hopelessly weak where it came to palm-greasing and extra-legal trials. Philo, the Jewish philosopher and historian who was a contemporary of  Pilate, records that Pilate was prone to corruption (a streak that ran through all Roman governors and of which the emperor himself was acutely aware) and “continuous executions without even a form of a trial”. Second, a trial of the leading Zealots in Jerusalem at Passover time would have provoked another uprising as Jerusalem at this time of the year swarmed with Galilean pilgrims most of whom were either Zealots or pro-Zealot. Qumran was therefore a safe venue as it was remote and was not crawling with too many people. The trial would thus pass practically unnoticed by the wider population.

Arriving at Qumran, Pilate was determined that he was going to sentence the culprits (save for Judas of course) to death. The November uprising had tarnished the record of his emperor: it was the only insurrection in Judea during the reign of  Tiberius Caesar. Pilate would use the sentence as a showcase to the emperor that he was a no-nonsense man who did not in the least brook dissident tendencies.

Now, Herod Antipas had learnt of Agrippa’s bribe to Pilate and he and Agrippa rarely saw eye to eye, being rival claimants to the Jewish monarchy.  Antipas was aware that the crucifixion Jesus would be subjected to would not be fatal but a partial one that would ensure his survival. However, Theudas Barabbas was too old to bear the strain of even partial crucifixion whereas Jesus and Simon Zelotes were much younger. Chances therefore were that Barabbas might perish right on the cross.  So in a private meeting with Pilate before the trial commenced, Antipas offered Pilate a bribe substantially higher than that which Agrippa had given him. Accordingly, the two agreed that Judas should be reinstated as a culprit. At the same time, Barabbas should be released. It was game, set, and match, General.

MAKE-BELIEVE REFERAL TO ANTIPAS

The trial was held in the north vestry, the same place where the hearings by Annas and Caiaphas took place. Annas, Caiaphas, the Herods, and the brothers of Jesus were in attendance.

The trial, General, was a farce. The proceedings were almost wholly orchestrated. On trial was Judas Iscariot too, who courtesy of  the Antipas bribe had been re-arrested, bringing the number of  respondents in the dock to four. Judas, as the overall commander of the Zealots, pleaded guilty. That is what the gospels mean when they say he “hung himself”. Now penitent of having falsely implicated Jesus, Judas also told the court that Jesus was innocent and had played no part whatsoever in the November 32 AD insurrection. Judas’ absolution of  Jesus is what is cryptically referred to in the gospels as “returning the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priest”, meaning he no longer was leader of the 30-man group that John the Baptist had established: its leadership had now reverted to the current Essene high priest Jonathan Annas. Judas was resultantly sentenced to death by crucifixion along with Simon Zelotes and Theudas Barabbas.

However, General, Agrippa was determined that Jesus be found guilty in order to get even with his brother-in-law Antipas. He and Caiaphas were in full flow, insisting that Jesus not only was a “Galilean”, which was another code name for Zealots, but he urged Jews to refrain from paying taxes and also fancied himself as “King of the Jews” when that title now belonged to Emperor Tiberius Caesar. This was treason and for that he deserved to die.

Although Pilate had no intentions of acquitting Jesus (it was he who was to be sacrificed for Barabbas as per his stratagem with Antipas), he at least wanted to superficially cast himself as a reasonable and impartial judge. Judas had exonerated Jesus and the priests had countered that. So Pilate announced to the gathering that since Jesus was of Galilean origin (he feigned ignorance of the fact that the term Galilean was used in the context of  his being a Zealot), Herod Antipas, under whose  jurisdiction Galilee fell, was to break the ice. Antipas was asked to try Jesus in another room and whatever verdict he rendered would be binding. This aspect was not part of the pre-plan with Antipas but Antipas did welcome it nonetheless as it openly underlined that in the eyes of  Rome, he took precedence over his rival Agrippa. As for Agrippa, all he could do was froth at the mouth. From that day on, General, Pilate became his mortal enemy: on the other hand, Antipas and Pilate became abiding friends.

NEXT WEEK: JESUS SACRIFICES FOR HIS BROTHER

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Distress Flare

12th October 2021

No one could have predicted what we have just gone through with COVID 19, lock downs, State of Emergency, banning of international travel etc. etc. In fact that’s not quite true as many had been predicating the possibility of a global pandemic for a while – I guess it was the case of not listening or not wanting to listen.

This week I was left thinking what life would be like if the internet crashed. This was prompted after being deprived of social media when the services of Facebook, Instagram & WhatsApp were disrupted for hours on Monday night. I am not much of a user of the 2 former platforms but I do use Whatsapp extensively and even had a call scheduled on the app which I was clearly unable to make. It is also the main way that I keep immediately updated of family whereabouts, comms etc.

Like many I felt quite cut off even though I could have made a normal telephone call or gone on the internet and sent mail messages. People kept saying that the internet was down because to some people Facebook is the internet!  Twitter, realising this, saw it as the perfect time to enjoy its rare spotlight and tweeted “Hello literally everyone” from its main account. It garnered 2.4 million “likes” in just four hours and a stampede of users eager to sign up.

In other parts of the world where apps are essential to commerce, health care and basic functioning of government it was a serious matter. In India, doctors sounded the alarm about being unable to coordinate their schedules or share patient scans. And in Malaysia, some small-business owners were left without a way to manage day-to-day operations as all business communications are conducted through the app.

In many developing countries, services including WhatsApp, Facebook and Facebook Messenger have become deeply integrated into the delivery of primary health care, education and other government services,” Marcus Leaning, a digital media education professor at the University of Winchester in the U.K., said. “In the global North, we tend to (merely) use such services as supplementary to other channels of communication, so the global outage will have a disproportionate impact.”  These platforms are also often offered on restricted-access (or non-smart) phones, meaning that those on lower income were disproportionately  disaffected in 3rd World countries, our own included.

Meanwhile, as netizens (citizens of the internet) were feeling somewhat inconvenienced and annoyed, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a financial hit losing $6 billion in just a few hours as Facebook stocks plunged, principally through lost advertising revenue and loss of business confidence and he himself personally dropped to No. 5 on the list of the world’s richest, below Gates. Talk about a bad day at the office!

The impact on myself was considerably less but with my ability to WhatsApp stopped I did feel quite put out and wondered what it would be like if the whole internet crashed one day and what that would it do to the markets, the military, the hospitals, not to mention how would I be able access all the movies on Netflix?

It couldn’t really happen, could it, if you understand that all the internet is, is a bunch of interconnected computers and that they would all have to crash at once? Conventional wisdom tells us that as a planetary network of computers and machines the internet is too big, too decentralised and too redundant to all fail at once?  But wait! Didn’t they say something similar when the Titanic was built? Surely the lessons of that hubris are still valid today?

According to Laura Brandimarte, Assistant Professor, Management Information Systems, University of Arizona, ‘Everything being connected today may bring along significant convenience, but it also implies that everything can be hacked. What if the nation’s power grid were successfully attacked? No electricity also means no internet access. The internet also relies on physical infrastructure, such as subsea cables and other fiber cables: any infrastructure issues (cable cuts, damages), whether due to criminal activity or natural disasters that were to affect major subsea cables could potentially shut down the Internet.

In a different sense, authoritarian governments can also potentially shut down the internet if they somehow all colluded against it, either blocking internet access to citizens altogether (we have seen that in Egypt during the Arab Spring, for example, or in the Democratic Republic of the Congo  HYPERLINK “https://www.rappler.com/world/regions/africa/81477-dr-congo-block-internet-kinshasa” \t “_blank” during a period of unrest); or substantially limiting it (we see that in countries where internet censorship is widespread and information access is controlled by the central government, as it happens in China). There are ways around censorship, of course: Privacy Enhancing Technologies, or PETs, such as virtual private networks or VPNs, and anonymous browsers such as Tor, can help circumvent it, but censorship essentially prevents the vast majority of the population, who may not be familiar with these tools, to access the internet, de facto making it disappear.’

And there are natural disasters that also could create havoc.   Patrick Juola, a computer science professor at Duquesne University, offers up one such interplanetary electronic disaster. “A sufficiently powerful solar flare could produce an electromagnetic solar pulse [EMP] that would shut down most of the computers in the world. While some systems are protected against EMPs, any human-built protection is only so strong, and the sun can be a lot more powerful.”

 

An internet crash resulting from this type of solar flare sounds like science fiction or one of those once-every-10,000-years events, but it isn’t. The worst recorded X-class (highest level) solar flare, called the Carrington Event, was a coronal mass ejection that produced a geomagnetic storm that spread across the earth over two days, September 1-2, 1859. The storm produced auroras around the world. The ones in the northern hemisphere reached as far south as the Caribbean, and were so bright people in the north-eastern United States could read newspapers by their light at night. The major electric utilities affected were the telegraph systems that failed across Europe and North America. The telegraph pylons threw sparks and shocked operators still at their keys. 

The frequency of recorded CMEs is worrying. Less powerful geomagnetic storms were recorded in 1921 and 1960, and a 1989 storm disabled power over large sections of Quebec. Then, on July 23, 2012, a “Carrington-lass” solar superstorm narrowly missed the earth by nine days when it crossed the planet’s orbit.

The Titanic was built to be unsinkable – all engineers and scientists agreed to that. Yet obviously they had not thought of every conceivable scenario and so when the boat was in the wrong place at the wrong time, the rest, as they say, was history. The same must be true of the internet. The thing that can take it down – not so much governmental censorship but some of that super global warming we hear so much about – could yet prove its downfall.  Now that really is solar power!

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