It was his symbol of Pharaonic authority way back in Egypt
Moses’ divorce from Miriam, his half-sister wife, took place at Hazeroth. From there, the Israelites moved to Rithmah just slightly further north within the broader Kadesh-Barnea region, also known as the Wilderness of Zin or the Wilderness of Paran, but towards the border with Edom.
Here, Adad, the Anunnaki Jehovah of the exodus, ordered Moses to spy out the land he had pledged to the Israelites – Canaan. This gesture was crucial if they had to know the strength of the enemy and acquaint with the fertility and vegetation of the land they would eventually come to possess.Moses assembled a crack 12-man espionage team, one from each tribe. The team was led by Joshua from the tribe of Ephraim and Caleb from the tribe of Judah.
They were instructed to survey the Promised Land from the Negev Desert in the south to the “hill country” in the north (where the Jebusites, Hittites, and Amorites were concentrated). The spies were expected to bring back with them specimens of crops that flourished in that land just to assure the doubting Thomases among the Israelites that the place of their bequest was indeed worthwhile, that it was worth dying for in the inevitable and in fact looming land-grab war.
The mission took 40 days to complete, which was reasonable for a rather spare piece of territory that was 240 km long and 96 km wide. The spy scouts were impressed with the fecundity and greenery of the Promised Land, which those days was not as arid as it is today. Particularly noteworthy was the valley of Eshcol, whose lush hillsides were awash with figs, grapes, and pomegranates. The fruits were so humongous in our time that would only be possible if they were GMOs, that is, genetically modified foods.
A single cluster of grapes, for instance, had to be carried not by one person but two. When the scouts returned, they, on that basis alone, gave a very good report to Moses which was in affirmation of the fact that the Promised Land was the utopia it was touted as. “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.” Sadly, that was the only good news they had in store for their compatriots. The rest was far from encouraging. Exactly what was that and what followed thereafter?
ADAD PRONOUNCES 40 YEARS OF PENAL WANDERINGS ON HIS PEOPLE
The scouts reported that most of the Canaanite cities were fortified. They were surrounded by walls as much as 20 feet thick and 25 feet high, with guards stationed on watchtowers. One city in particular struck fear in the hearts of the scouts. This was Hebron, as the Israelites would later call it, but at the time it was known as Kiriath Arba. Hebron was inhabited by a race of giants known as the Anakim, from whom the infamous Goliath arose.
The Anakim, we have long learnt, were also known as the Nephilim, the offspring resulting from intermarriages between Earthling women and the Igigi, the space-based Anunnaki. “We saw giants there, the descendants of the Anakim,” the scouts recounted. “All the people we saw were huge. Next to them, we were like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought too. We can’t go up against them: They are way stronger than us.”
There was yet another black mark against the Promised Land, the scouts reported. It “devoured those living in it”, meaning it was prone to earthquakes, an observation which indeed had merit â€¨as Israel sits along the Syrian-African fault line, which runs along the border with Jordan. It is part of the Great Rift Valley that extends from northern Syria to Mozambique. The broader region has consistently experienced large-scale earthquakes every 80 to 100 years for centuries and a number of less deadlier ones in-between. About 30 years before the exodus, in 1365 BC, a serious earthquake had hit the Holy Land.
When news of the scouts’ report seeped through, a loud lamentation went up from the community of Israel in a manner akin to a mass funeral. They accused Moses and Aaron for setting them up so they ended up in the lion’s den and told the duo to their face that they would no longer recognise them as their leaders but would instead elect a new leader who would take them back to Egypt. When Joshua and Caleb took the floor and tried to reassure the people that contrary to the testimony of the other ten scouts the Israelite army was capable of defeating the Anakim in that they had an all-powerful god in Adad, the people thought the two were raving mad and even braced to have them stoned.
Having gotten wind of these goings-on, a livid Adad summoned Moses and there and then read the riot act. He said he was going to disinherit the Israelites, that is, disown them, since they were incapable of trusting him despite the many “wondrous” feats he had performed on their behalf. Prostrating himself before Adad, Moses implored against this extreme measure, arguing all too vehemently that Adad would lose face in the eyes of the Egyptians if he so did as he would come across to them as a capricious and feckless god who left his people in the lurch after having brought them this far.
To his credit, Adad relented upon hearing Moses’ entreaties. However, he made two comeuppance pronouncements nonetheless. First, all the ten scouts who filed the negative report about the reconnaissance mission would be struck dead – for telling the truth (what a god!): only Joshua and Caleb, who spoke with an optimistic tone, would be spared. Second, he was going to banish the Israelites to endless, back-and-forth wanderings in the wilderness for 40 years, one year for each day of the duration of the espionage mission.
During the course of these 40 years, he would in one way or the other kill off those who were 20 years and older, save for the clans and offspring of Joshua and Caleb. Only the relations and progeny of Joshua and Caleb would set foot in the Promised Land. On hearing this, the protesting elements changed tack. They now decided to detach from the Israelite contingent and invade Canaan on their own independent of Moses: that way, they would, if successful, avoid Adad’s diabolical scheme to systematically and methodically erase them from the face of the earth. Sadly, they were too few and as yet inexperienced.
BESIDES, THEY DID NOT HAVE THE ADDED BATTLEFIELD ADVANTAGE OF THE ALL-POWERFUL ARK OF THE COVENANT. They were soundly defeated and repulsed by the Amalekites and the Canaanites. Moses was gracious enough to welcome them back as they showed genuine penitence. Meanwhile, Adad made good on his promise to punish the ten spies whose negative report caused disquiet and panic among the Israelite population. He visited an unspecified “plague” on them in which they all perished. Exactly how Adad focused these plagues on his intended victims is a mystery.
ADAD CONTINUES TO BARE HIS FANGS
Thus far, a pattern was emerging in relation to the dynamics between Adad, Moses, and the Nation of Israel. The Israelites simply never learnt lessons despite the fact that Adad ruled them with an iron fist. They were an implacably stubborn lot. The more Adad struck terror in their midst with his summary executions, the more hardened they became in their resolve to defy him. It seemed they had become accustomed to witnessing terror wrought by their own god and therefore grown insensitive to it.
On his part, Adad was determined to exact retribution on them, sworn that he would never brook any nonsense. The slightest intimation of displeasure with him would be met by a disproportionately but consistently heavy-handed response, invariably capital punishment. If Adad’s killing spree was somewhat kept in check, it was thanks to the relative restraint forced upon him by Moses. Every time Adad pronounced doom on some ranks of the Israelites, Moses threw himself at his feet and begged him to either exercise mercy or show leniency.
Otherwise, had Moses been Adad’s yes-man through and through, his people would have long been decimated thanks to his god’s penchant for the perpetration of gloating evil. Moses, however, could only temper Adad’s excesses, not reverse them full circle. Adad continued to unleash his cruelty and ferocity on his hapless people. To him, if his chosen people did not learn lessons, that was all the more reason to hit them harder with each transgression.
Four more killing episodes followed after Rithman while Moses was still their leader. The first concerned a man who was found gathering wood on the Sabbath. Adad had decreed that no work of any kind must be done on the Sabbath. He ordered that the man be stoned to death, in line with EXODUS 35:2. The second had to do with what became known as Korah’s rebellion. Korah (a priest), two fellow ring leaders, and 250 others confronted Moses in a bid to impeach him for what they thought was his rather inept leadership.
Korah was particularly disillusioned that the Promised Land wasn’t going to be had soon enough but it was now a thing of a very uncertain future considering what Adad had pronounced. When Adad heard of what was happening, he had the three ring leaders “swallowed up by the ground on which they stood”. Again, this was no miracle. What simply happened was that they were frog-marched to a mudcrack site (which have a very hard crust but are very soft underneath, like thin ice on a pond, and abound in some parts of the Arabian desert especially around oases), where they were made to drown in the quicksand.
(It is clear the story was not exactly as related in the Book of Numbers. For example, NUMBERS 16:32 says the three died along with members of their families, but some of the psalms, which became fashionable during the reign of King David about three hundred years later, are attributed to the “sons of Korah”, suggesting they did not die along with their father). Their 250 followers Adad terminated by strafing them with a fierce blaze from his flying saucer.
The following day, when the people swarmed in on Moses and set about accusing him of his being a supine accomplice of his god in the deaths of Korah and his loyalists, Adad sent a plague that killed 14,700 people. The third took place at a place known as Shittim, where the Israelites were camped, in the country of the Moabites. It so happened that some Israelite soldiers were plucking around with Moabite women. The Moabite women not only lured the soldiers into a sex cult but enticed them into worshipping a Moabite god, that is, an Enkite god. Once again, Adad had made it clear that “idolatory” would be punishable by death. He ordered Moses to round up all the culprits and execute them in broad daylight. Altogether, 24,000 soldiers were killed. MIRACLE OR MIRAGE?
Finally, there was the incident of the “snake bites”. The Israelites were en route to the Moabite country having set off from Mount Hor. The journey was an arduous one in that it was rather long-winded: they had to skirt the boundaries of Edom as the King of Edom had refused them permission to pass through his country. In the process, some among the Israelite army were so overcome with fatigue they began to plot against Moses for bringing upon them such untold hardships.
The soldiers not only were famished, being sustained on the usual Tamarind manna, but they had parched throats owing to a dire shortage of water, as a result of which they grew nostalgic of Egypt as they always were prone to do. According to the Pentateuch writers, Adad reacted by unleashing on them a swarm of highly venomous snakes in an incident that came to involve the famous Bronze Serpent and in which many soldiers are said to have succumbed to the snake bites.
The story of the Bronze Serpent is one of the unseemliest of the Bible. It goes as follows according to NUMBER 21:4-9. “They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’ The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.
So the people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.’ And Moses interceded for the people. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a serpent of copper, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.’ And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.”
The story has two major anomalies. First, Adad had forbidden the Nation of Israel from making graven images. So how could he have instructed Moses to make a simulacrum of a snake when ordinarily such a gesture would have carried a death penalty meted out by he himself? Second, THE SNAKE WAS THE SYMBOL OF ENKITE GODS, more so Enki, Marduk, and Ningishzidda. These not only were sworn Enlilite rivals but they were the butt of Enlilite jokes. Every time Enlil sneered at Marduk, for instance, he referred to him as “the Great Serpent”. So how could Adad have gotten Moses to exalt a clan of rival gods? It all simply defies logic. Given the aforesaid contrarieties, how do we explain the incident?
BRONZE SERPENT WAS MOSES’ PHARAONIC STAFF
First, although the Pentateuch writers cast the swarm of snakes as a miraculous plague Adad visited on the Israelites, that was far from the case. The place in which the Israelites were trekking through after a successful military campaign against the Canaanite king Arad was the Arovar Valley, just below the twin-peaked Mount Hor. THEN AS NOW, THE BROADER SETTING OF THIS AREA WAS INFESTED WITH SNAKES AND SCORPIONS.
In the 7th century, a log of the Assyrian army under King Esaharddon when campaigning in this area described it as “a remote district, a desert plain of salty land, a region of droughts, with snakes and scorpions which cover the soil like ants.” Indeed, DEUTERONOMY 8:14-15 underscores the naturalness of this snake phenomenon in the area in these words: “The LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint.”
This was Moses talking in his valedictory speech to the Nation of Israel. SO THE EVENT WAS PERFECTLY NATURAL: THE ISRAELITES JUST HAPPENED TO FIND THEMSELVES IN AN EXPANSE OF WILDERNESS RIDDLED WITH HIGHLY POISONOUS SNAKES AND SCORPIONS. If people were mass-beaten by snakes (as they slept mainly as the Arovar snakes can simply pop out of the sand and strike), then the necessity of their healing did certainly arise. Exactly how were they healed?
The Pentateuch writers would have us believe that once again, Adad performed a miracle, by having Moses raise up a bronze snake to which every victim of a snake bite simply had to look and instantly be restored to full health. That is a stretching of the truth: it is an embellishment of the facts of the matter. You will be aware by now that among the exodus caravan were Egyptians. And among these Egyptians were trained healers, known in Egypt as the Theraputae.
As Egyptians, the Theraputae worshipped or venerated Enki, who alongside his genius son Ningishzidda was reputed as the god of healing. IT WERE THE THERAPUTAE WHO SPRANG INTO ACTION AND ADMINISTERED THE ELIXIRS THAT NEUTRALISED THE SNAKE POISON. For the Theraputae to perform such a duty, they insisted that their god, Enki, had to be at least momentarily exalted in the circumstances that prevailed, whereupon Moses had no option but to cave in.
Now, the medium of exaltation was not a bronze pole that had to be set up on the spur of the moment. MOSES IMPROVISED WITH HIS OWN PHARAONIC STAFF THAT HE HAD COME WITH FROM EGYPT. A pharaonic staff was the symbol of a Pharaoh’s authority and was topped with a snake sculpted in bronze. Thus as the ranks of the Theraputae were busy doing their medical rounds, Moses held up his pharaonic staff for every patient to symbolically gaze upon.
Sadly, the story over time was infused with godly and miraculous overtones so that even during the time of Hezekiah King of Judah 600 years later, the Israelites were paying religious homage to Moses pharaonic staff in commemoration of the Arovah “miracle healing”! But there is still more to the bronze snake symbolism. That we unpack next week.
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.
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?
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:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com