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Prophets Paint Doomsday Scenario

Benson C Sail
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER

… as Day of the Lord looms large

Although Solomon was a great and highly esteemed King, he was resented in one respect: he was a task master bordering on the slave driver. His subjects bemourned the “heavy yoke” he placed on them in his infrastructural enterprises and the tax burdens required to support them.

Then there  was the ever-simmering political grievance on the part of the House of Joseph – the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Collectively, they were the most numerous Israelites and together had the largest territory. In point of fact, the House of Joseph fancied themselves as Israel’s royalty in that Jacob’s anointed heir was Joseph, not Judah, whose role was simply to hold the royal fort till Joseph was old enough to assume the reigns. Thus the House of Joseph resented the fact that the King of Israel was of the tribe of Judah when he should have come from their ranks. So whilst the House of Joseph recognised  Solomon as King, they did so with a clutch of reservations.

In the course of time inevitably, a secessionist movement  arose in Shechem in the province of Mannasseh. It was  led by one Jeroboam,  a dissident  officer in Solomon’s army and a fugitive from the King’s justice.  Solomon had put Jeroboam, an Ephraimite,  in charge of the conscript labour battalions of the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim, which was a very senior position in the military hierarchy, but Jeroboam was not content: he felt his people were basically enslaved by Solomon’s rather arduous and onerous labour policies. That’s how Jeroboam came to lead an insurrection against Solomon.

The putsch, however,  was crushed and Jeroboam fled into exile in Egypt. There, he was gladly welcomed by Pharaoh Shosheng I (Shishak in the Bible). It was Shosheng who had deposed David from the Egyptian throne and so to him, anybody who was against the House of David and therefore an enemy of his enemy  was a potential  ally. Indeed, Shosheng had vested political interests in Canaan and so viewed the burgeoning power  of Solomon’s dual kingdom as a threat to his own designs to bring the country into his political orbit. 

Meanwhile, Solomon’s grip on power had increasingly become tenuous. Several border cities, one of which was the prominent Damascus, had secured their independence from him. His wisdom and power were not sufficient to deter tendencies to  rebellion: his kingdom had begun to disintegrate long before he gave up the ghost.

Upon his death, Solomon was succeeded by his son Rehoboam. Solomon’s death encouraged Jeroboam to return to Canaan. He based himself in Shechem in the north. The House of Joseph was prepared to rally to Rehoboam for as long as he undertook that he would not over-exert them in  their toils and that he would relax the tax burden. A haughty Rehoboam, however,  made it point black that he would in fact double the strain on them, which would make his father a saint in comparison.

He had crossed the Rubicon. All the ten tribes of the north withdrew their allegiance to Rehoboam and crowned Jeroboam as the new King of Israel. This comprised all territories save for Judah, Benjamin, and Simeon. The latter three became part of  a country known as the Kingdom of Judah. This was circa 923 BC. The United Kingdom had lasted for roughly 110 years having come into being circa 1030 BC.   For the next 200 years, the two kingdoms co-existed uneasily. Indeed, throughout the 17 years  Rehoboam reigned in Judah, the two kingdoms clashed militarily from time to time.    

ADAD AND SHAMASH IN POPULARITY  CONTEST

The tensions and feuds that plagued the Nation of Israel were a reflection of the dissonance between their own gods – the Enlilites. Since the time of the judges, the Enlilites, who posed as one godhead fronted mostly by Ishkur-Adad, were no longer in one accord. Although they were united in their anti-Marduk stance and were determined that he not be the person to receive Anu, “Our Father Who Art In Heaven”, when he pitched on planet Earth, they were not in agreement as to which Enlilite to supplant Marduk with.

The contending Enlilites were essentially three in number. They were Nannar-Sin, Jehovah-Enlil’s second-born son; Ishkur-Adad, the third born; and Utu-Shamash, Sin’s heir apparent. Each one of these wanted to be the Earth Lord at the expense of Marduk, the lawful Chief Executive of the planet in the still-in-force astrological Age of Aries. Jehovah-Enlil himself had retreated from the centre stage since the accession of Marduk and had practically left his clan to their own devices, just as Enki had in the case of his clan.    

The dilemma now was not solely about who would be in charge of the space-related sites between the Enkites and the Enlilites at the time Anu arrived: it was also about who among the individual Enlilites would be Earth Lord and therefore be the one to receive Anu.  Since Nannar-Sin was naturally a humble, mild, and scrupulous god, the real adversaries in the  Enlilite fold were Adad and Shamash. Adad fancied himself as the main Yahweh, having  instituted and personally overseen the exodus, and it was he who controlled the prophets.
 

Whilst Adad was the main god of the Jews, Shamash, the “Sun God”, was the chief god of the Canaanites (that is, the non-Jewish nations of Canaan), the Phoenicians, and the Syrians. He was best known as Baal, which simply meant “The Lord”. He was typically worshipped alongside and in concert with his twin sister, the irrepressible Inanna-Ishtar who in Canaan was best known as Asherah.

Shamash was a real thorn in the side of Adad. He was a great propagandist and so the Jews were always torn between Adad and he.  An incident is related in the Book of Ezekiel whereby Adad showed outrage at one particular envincement of Shamash’s popularity. “Then he (Adad) brought me into the inner court of the Lord's house. and behold, at the entrance to the Temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs to the Temple of the lord and their faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves eastward toward the sun” (EZEKIEL 8:16). In other words, the men were paying homage to Shamash, whose celestial counterpart was the sun, and this was within the precincts of the very Temple that was built under the auspices of Adad! 

At one time, the Temple was practically overrun by worshippers of Shamash and Inanna, with an Inanna-oriented prostitution ring ensconced in there. King Josiah of Judah had to crackdown on this brazen “idolatory” by killing the “pagan” priests who had desecrated the Temple and purging it of all the “unholy” articles (EZEKIEL 2 KINGS 23).

At another time, Adad had to engage in a showdown with Shamash on Mount Carmel just to demonstrate who was the more powerful between the two gods.  He had the prophet Elijah engage in a contest with the prophets of Shamash and Inanna, who Ahab, the seventh King of Israel, and his infamous queen Jezebel dutifully served.  The two sides, that of Elijah and the Shamash priests,  each placed a sacrificial bull on an altar.

Then each side invoked its god to consume the sacrifices. Elijah’s sacrifice was immediately consumed by Adad’s fire whereas nothing happened to the other party’s sacrifice. According to the terms of the contest, members of the party whose sacrifice was not consumed were to be put to death. Consequently, Elijah had all of 400 prophets of Shamash slain (read I KINGS 18:20-39 for more details). 

PROPHECY INSTITUTED AS NIBIRU LURKS

Circa 800 BC, the return of Nibiru was reckoned to about 200 years imminent. At this juncture, Adad decided to raise prophets both to alert mankind about the planet and to herald the associated geopolitical events  that were certain to arise in the intervening period. It was the imminence of Nibiru in the main which necessitated the commissioning of prophets and not the desirability of painting future scenarios in general.

Adad was to talk to the prophets through visions (holographic projections or motion-picture  imagery), dreams (future scenarios beamed into the mind both whilst asleep and in waking), and oracles (direct pronouncements by Adad himself, which pepper the entire length of the Old Testament in the form of the phrase, “Thus says the Lord”). The Old Testament spotlights 15 formal prophets in all. The first, Amos, began prophesying circa 760 BC, during the reigns of Jeroboam II in Israel in the north and Uzziah in Judah in the south.

The prophets referred to the return of Nibiru as the “Day of the Lord”. Nibiru was the Celestial Lord in that it was the principal planet of the solar system being the home of the “gods”, as the Anunnaki were received as by mankind. Furthermore, it was Nibiru which in the course of the so-called Celestial Battle of 4 billion years ago fashioned Earth and the Asteroid Belt from the planet Tiamat (also known as Maldek) that lay between Jupiter and Mars. Earth and the Asteroid Belt became remnants of Tiamat after Nibiru and its moons splintered Tiamat.

The prophets also referred to the advent of Nibiru as the “Day of Judgement”. The reason it was so-called had to do with the fact that when it approached Earth and drew closer than usual, it engendered catastrophic floods (as it did during the Deluge of Noah’s day), earthquakes, tsunamis, forest fires, etc. On the other hand, when it showed up but kept a wide berth from planet Earth, hardly any disasters struck the planet if at all.

PSALM 19 extols the planet Nibiru in these words:  “The heavens (the celestial bodies in the ecliptic, our region of the solar system) bespeak the glory of The Lord (Nibiru); the Hammered Bracelet (Asteroid Belt) proclaims his handiwork … He (Nibiru) comes forth as a groom from the canopy (deep in outer space); like an athlete he rejoices to run the course (traverse its elongated orbit). From the end of the heavens (at aphelion, the furthest point from the sun) he emanates, and his circuit (orbit) is to their end (at perihelion, the nearest point to the sun).”

PROPHETS PREDICT DIRE DAY OF THE LORD

The prophets were never absolutely certain of what might befall Earth when Nibiru re-appeared. Since it was always better to err on the side of caution, they chose to propagate doom so that mankind took whatever precautions he could. As such, Amos did not have great news for mankind.  This is what he said according to AMOS 5:18: “Woe unto you that desire the Day of the Lord! To what end is it for you? For the Day of the Lord is darkness and no light.”

Amos described the Day of the Lord as a day when “the Sun shall set at noon and the Earth shall darken in the midst of daytime”, which turned out to be strikingly prescient as we shall see. Amos must have sent the hearts of his listeners palpitating when he told them the horror of the Flood of Noah’s day, when “the day darkened as night, and the waters of the seas poured upon the Earth;” would be replayed when Nibiru hove in sight. 

PSALM 77:6, 17–19 is a flashback to what transpired during the Deluge, which was precipitated by an incoming Nibiru, and therefore what was feared to recur when Nibiru materialised. This is what its author says:  “I shall recall the Lord’s (Nibiru’s) deeds, remember thine (Nibiru’s) wonders in antiquity (in Noah’s day) … The waters (sea expanse) saw thee, O Lord, and shuddered (surged forth to inundate the planet). Thine splitting sparks went forth, lightnings lit up the world. The sound of thine thunder was rolling, the Earth was agitated and it quaked.”

Around 700 BC, the prophet Isaiah was also in full flow concerning the wrath to come at the hands of the dreaded Nibiru. He warned: “Behold, the Day of the Lord cometh with pitiless fury and wrath, to lay the Earth desolate and destroy the sinners upon it”, just as he did during the Deluge when “he came as a destroying tempest of mighty waves”. In ISAIAH 13: 10,13, the prophet sketched out a most sombre picture of what would transpire with the advent of Nibiru: “The stars of heaven and its constellations shall not give their light; the Sun shall be darkened at its rising and the Moon shall not shine its light … The heavens (neighbouring celestial bodies) shall be agitated and the Earth in its place will be shaken; when the Lord of Hosts shall be crossing on the day of his wrath.”

Isaiah referred to Nibiru as the “Lord of Hosts”, hosts in this context meaning  the solar system’s celestial bodies, and characterises its circuit as a “crossing”. This echoes,  uncannily,  its description in the iconic Sumerian text, the Enuma Elish as “the Planet of the Crossing”.  Not to be outdone, the prophet Zephaniah thundered thus concerning Nibiru in ZEPHANIAH 1: 14-15: “The great Day of the Lord is approaching—it is near! The sound of the Lord’s Day hasteth greatly. A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of calamity and desolation, a day of darkness and deep gloom, a day of clouds and thick mist.”

As the year 600 BC neared, prophecies concerning Nibiru became even more impassioned. In 605 BC,   Habakkuk commenced his prophetic career in Jerusalem and asked Adad as to when the Day of the Lord would come as it now was essentially overdue. Adad said to him: “Write down the prophecy, explain it clearly on the tablets, so that it may be quickly read: for the vision there is a set time; in the end it shall come, without fail!  Though it may tarry, wait for it; for it will surely come—for its appointed time it will not be delayed”, HABAKKUK 2:2–3.

The prophet then proceeded to  rhapsodise about “the God who in the nearing years is coming”. He described Nibiru as a radiant planet – exactly as it is characterised in the Sumerian chronicles – “whose shining splendour will beam as light”. Habbakkuk proceeded thus as per HABAKKUK 3:3-6: “The Lord from the south shall come … Covered are the heavens with his halo, His splendour fills the Earth. His rays shine forth from where his power is concealed. The word goes before Him, sparks emanate from below. He pauses to measure the Earth; He is seen, and the nations tremble.”

The prophet Joel was even more frantic. “The Day of the Lord is at hand!” he warned. The prophet Obadiah was equally vehement. “The Day of the Lord is near!”,  he announced feverishly. Finally, in 570 BC, the die was cast. Adad summoned the prophet Ezekiel and said this to him as per EZEKIEL 30:2-3: “Son of Man, prophesy and say: ‘Thus sayeth the Lord God: Howl and bewail for the Day! For the Day is near—the Day of the Lord is near!’”

BABYLON AND ASSYRIA PREPARE FOR ANU

Whilst in Palestine the prophets underlined the nether or dark aspects of Nibiru’s approach, in Assyria and Babylon the chief astronomers also underscored the positive aftermath. They called this the “End of Days”, the coming to an end of the Age of Aries not very long after Nibiru had retreated. In other words, they seemed to suggest, whatever calamities Nibiru would have wrought in its wake would not spell the end of the world; shortly thereafter, an idyllic age would dawn, something akin to Heaven-on Earth.  The Jewish prophets did hint on this too but they did not emphasize it.

This is what Assyrian records say on a positive note: “When Nibiru will culminate … The lands will dwell securely, hostile kings will be at peace; the gods will receive prayers and hear supplications. When the Planet of the Throne of Heaven (Nibiru) will grow brighter, there will be floods and rains. When Nibiru attains its perigee (closest point to the sun), the gods will give peace. Troubles will be cleared up, complications will be unravelled.”

The Assyrian King Ashurbanipal,  who ruled from 668-630 BC and is regarded as the most erudite of Assyrian kings,  was particularly fanatical about the imminence of  Nibiru. In his book The End of Days, Zechariah Sitchin writes that, “Ashurbanipal was engaged in collecting, collating, translating, and studying all the earlier texts that could (a) provide guidance to the astronomer-priests for detecting, at the first possible moment, the returning Nibiru and (b) inform the King about the procedures for what to do next.”

Since King  Anu was being expected, Ashurbanipal instructed that the ancient Sumerian texts that documented activities and protocols that punctuated the occasion of Anu’s  last visit to Earth circa 4000 BC, be translated into Akkaddian, the mainstream language of the day in Babylonia and Assyria, and be disseminated to his subjects. He also instructed the astronomers to meticulously watch the sky for Nibiru’s appearance. Sitchin: “Among the purely astronomical texts translated and, undoubtedly, carefully studied, were guidelines for observing Nibiru’s arrival and for recognizing it on its appearance.”

One such Babylonia texts stated: “Planet of the god Marduk (as Babylonians referred to Nibiru): upon its appearance SHUL.PA.E (Saturn, which it reaches at this stage). Rising thirty degrees, SAG.ME.NIG (Jupiter, which it at this juncture passes).  When it stands in the middle of the sky (that is, a crossroads,  between Jupiter and Mars, the scene of the Celestial Battle) it becomes  NIBIRU (that is, the Planet of the Crossing).”

Another text says: “From the station of Jupiter, the planet passes toward the west. From the station of Jupiter,  the planet increases its brilliance. Planet Marduk will enter the Sun (i.e. reach Perigee) and  will become Nibiru. The great planet: at his appearance: dark red. The heaven he divides in half (it roughly bisects the solar system when it courses between Jupiter and Mars)." But did Anu actually turn up  or Nibiru wrought such havoc that he was prevented from doing so? Did Earthlings see the “radiant” comet planet which is seen only once  in 3600 years? Make a date with us next week.

NEXT WEEK:   ASSYRIA AND BABYLON CONTEND FOR JERUSALEM

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Parricide at Herod’s Court

25th January 2021
SAILI

A wife, uncle, and two in-laws fall at the hands of Judah’s despot

The pre-eminent Jewish chronicler, Flavius Josephus, said of Herod the Great that he was “blessed with every gift of looks, body, and mind” but he was a “slave to his passions”. This was in the context of a gloating bloodlust.

His sword knew no sacred cows: neither his own kids, wives, in-laws, next of kin, nor bosom friends were immune from it. He is on record as pestering Caesar Augustus with a barrage of letters seeking permission to execute his own flesh and blood, prompting the Roman emperor to at one time quip that, “It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son”, which was apt: as a “Jew”, Herod did not eat pork and therefore in the event that he kept any pigs, they would never have to be killed.

You are by now well-apprised of the death of Hyrcanus II by the same Herod, General Atiku, in 30 BC. Hyrcanus, a Hasmonean ruler of Judah twice over, was actually the grandfather of Mariamne I, Herod’s most beloved wife and his second of up to 10 wives. It was Mariamne’s own mother Salome, who dreading Herod’s pathological savagery, pitched Mariamne to Herod in the hope that that would insure her family from Herod’s murderous caprices.

Now, Mariamne, General, was as much a stunning beauty as her younger brother Aristobulus III was breathtakingly good-looking. Having tied the knot with Herod in 37 BC, Mariamne had prevailed over her husband to install Aristobulus as High Priest. The post had fallen vacant on the death of Antigonus in 37 BC and Herod had appointed one Ananel, who had no ties whatsoever to the Hasmoneans, the first such in more than a century, in his place. Unable to resist the spirited entreaties of his beloved wife, who had also lobbied Queen Cleopatra of Egypt and her beau Mark Anthony, Herod gave in and replaced Ananel with Aristobulus, who was only 16 years old, in 36 BC.

Because of his enormous charisma and overall affability, Aristobulus was a hit with the masses despite his tender age and Herod was envious of the young man’s rock star-like popularity. To make doubly sure the young man did not harbour a seditious ace up his sleeve, the morbidly paranoid Herod had his spooks watch on both Aristobulus and his mother round the clock. Sensing imminent danger, Aristobulus contacted Cleopatra, asking for a pre-emptive safe passage to Egypt and there enjoy absolute freedom. When Herod got wind of this, he decided to get rid of Aristobulus as he did not wish him to be a perennial thorn in his flesh from the utter safety of self-imposed exile.

The opportunity came at a banquet in Jericho which was organised by Aristobulus’ mother. There, Herod had one of his henchmen cause Aristobulus to drown during a dusk time horseplay in a swimming pool. Of course Herod would forever maintain the drowning was accidental when everybody knew it was in truth a tactical elimination. Poor Aristobulus was only 17 years old having been born in 56 BC. He was the last Hasmonean High Priest and was replaced by the previously deposed Ananel, who was to remain in that position till 29 BC.

HEROD ACQUITTED OVER THE ARISTOBULUS DEATH

It need not be over-emphasised, General, that Mariamne and her mother Alexandra did not take Herod’s line over the all too untimely demise of Aristobulus lying down. If he had reckoned that with the death of Aristobulus he had gotten rid of potentially the most potent threat to his omnipotence, he was totally mistaken. Herod had actually simply fanned the flames of intrigue against him, for mother and daughter confronted him and accused him of murdering their boy in cold blood.

Nor did the two Iron Ladies end matters there: Alexandra wrote a lachrymal letter to Cleopatra to get her to bring her influence to bear on Mark Anthony so that Herod paid dearly and likewise for his nefarious act. Anthony, who at the time was the Roman colossus in charge of the whole of the Middle East, was persuaded and during a visit to Laodicea (in modern-day Turkey, though some accounts say it was Rhodes in Cyprus), he commanded Herod to report to him forthwith and exculpate himself over the affair.

Although Herod put a brave face on the matter, General, he was rather unsure of his eventual fate after the trial. He also suspected rightly or wrongly that Anthony had a thing for the voluptuously beautiful Mariamne and the last thing Herod wanted was for any other man to bed his beloved Mariamne even in death. So before he set off for Laodicea, Herod instructed his uncle Joseph, who was married to his sister Salome, to make sure that in the event that Anthony sentenced him to death, he should immediately put her to the sword. He also detailed a certain Sohemus, a most trusted aide, to stand sentry over the entire womenfolk at the palace.

Herod, however, had the nine lives of a cat, General. Using his immense rhetorical skills and the time-honoured palm greasing, he won himself an acquittal. Meanwhile, the Judean rumourville was abuzz with chatter that Herod had been summarily executed by Anthony, as a result of which people became spendthrifts of their tongues.

Both Joseph and Sohemus disclosed to Mariamne the instructions Herod had left them with in relation to her fate once he was no more. Mariamne was both livid and distraught that her husband regarded her as so easily expendable when outwardly he cherished her beyond words. To her mind, his arrangements with Joseph had nothing to do with love but sprang from sheer monstrosity. She probably thanked God that he was dead, but the fact of the matter was that he was not and when he at long last turned up, she did not want to have anything to do with him, including the conjugation which he so eagerly pined for after such an extended absence.

HEROD KILLS HIS WIFE AND HIS UNCLE

Now, if Herod had a kind of Svengali, General, it was his youngest sister Salome. Salome (65 BC-10 AD) was the most powerful woman at Herod’s court. A sly, scheming, and manipulating vixen, she arguably more than any other living being had the most sway in a negative sense on her brother, who took practically whatever she said as gospel truth.

Let us nevertheless, General, take stock of the fact that the bulk of what we learn about Salome comes from Flavius Josephus, who himself relied on the writings of Herod’s court historian Nicolaus of Damascus. For one reason or the other, Nicolaus did not see eye to eye with Salome and it is therefore possible that much of what Nicolaus relates of her is embellished to smear her before the court of history.
Upon his return, Herod was told of the rumours of his death and so was surprised to find Mariamne alive when Joseph and Sohemus should in the circumstances have had her killed if indeed they were loyal to him. In fact, Joseph had even put Mariamne and Alexandra into the safe custody of Roman legions stationed in Judea just in case Jewish malcontents who abhorred Herod turned their wrath on them.

But there was more. Salome reported to Herod that Mariamne, who she hated like the plague, had had sexual relations with both Joseph and Sohemus, this being Mariamne’s reward to them for dishing out to her the dirt on Herod, and that she had on several occasions before attempted to poison him. Now, no one would hump Herod’s most beloved wife and get away scotfree. It is therefore small wonder that Herod straightaway ordered the execution of Joseph and Sohemus. Joseph was 61 years old at the time of his death in 34 BC, having been born in 95 BC. In the case of Mariamne herself though, he had her subjected to a formal court trial not on charges of adultery but of attempted regicide.

Herod had hoped that the court would acquit her, whereupon he would make bygones be bygones so great was his love for the woman, but sadly for him, General, she was found guilty and sentenced to death. Even then, Herod tactfully dilly-dallied on signing the writ of execution and simply had his wife detained at a fortress for some time until Salome prevailed over him to execute her at long last. Writes Josephus: “Thus, with the death of the noble and lovely Mariamne ended the glorious history of the Hasmonean High Priest Mattathias and his descendants.”

For a long time to come though, General, Herod was haunted by the death of his wife to the point of even sometimes coming across as if he had lost his mind. “When Herod realised what this meant (the death sentence passed on Mariamne), he tried in vain to have the verdict changed, but Salome did not rest until the death penalty was carried out,” Josephus informs us. “Herod was heartbroken; nothing could comfort him for the loss of his lovely wife.

For seven years he refused to have her body buried, and held it, embalmed, in his palace. Afterwards, he became so melancholy and despondent, nothing interested him or could arouse any enthusiasm in him for living … He was so far conquered by his passion, that he would order his servants to call for Mariamne, as if she were still alive, and could still hear them … He tried hard to forget his trouble by going hunting and banqueting, but nothing helped. Herod built new cities and erected temples and palaces. He also named a tower in honour of Mariamne.”

HEROD SLAYS SISTER’S EX-HUBBY

Mariamne’s death was not the only one which Herod perpetrated through the instrumentality of Salome. There were actually several and included those of her own husband Costobarus. Salome was married four times, to her uncle Joseph (45 BC); Costobarus (34 BC); Sylleus (circa 27 BC); and Alexas (20 BC).

Like the Herod clan, Costobarus was of Idumean stock. It was Costobarus Herod had made governor of Idumea and Gaza and upon Joseph’s death had him tie the knot with Salome, with the couple eventually siring two children, Berenice and Antipater III. Costobarus, though, soon began to harbour monarchical ambitions of his own and wrote to Cleopatra beseeching her to persuade Mark Anthony to make Idumea independent of Herod and install him (Costobarus) as Rome’s client King of the territory.

Of course upon learning of this, Herod was not amused. It was Salome who pleaded with him not to put her husband to the sword. Next time, however, a dumped Costobarus was not so lucky. Seven years after their marriage, Salome and Costobarus parted ways and a possibly hurt Salome decided to exact vengeance. She informed her brother that he had been harbouring two fugitives from Herodian justice for a full 12 years at his own farm.

The two were simply known as the Sons of Baba. Baba ben Babuta, their father and clan patriarch, was related to the Hasmonean ruler Antigonus, who Herod had replaced and killed in 37 BC with the help of Roman legions. Baba and his sons had resisted Herod at the time, with his sons henceforth persisted in insurrectionist activity against Herod. Baba himself had been captured and blinded by Herod but spared anyway as he no longer posed any threat. Writes Josephus: “Now the Sons of Babas were of great dignity, and had power among the multitude, and were faithful to Antigonus, and were always raising calumnies against Herod, and encouraged the people to preserve the government to that royal family (the Hasmoneans) which held it by inheritance.”

Costobarus had provided the Sons of Baba an indefinite lair “supposing that their preservation might be of great advantage to him in the changes of government afterward”. Following the Salome tip, Herod had Costobarus and the Sons of Baba summarily executed “so that none was left alive of the family of Hyrcanus (the Hasmonean), and the kingdom was wholly in Herod’s power, there being no one of high rank to stand in the way of his unlawful acts” per Josephus.

NEXT WEEK: HEROD’S WRATH ON HIS OWN SONS

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WHAT’S UP WITH WHATSAPP?

25th January 2021

In early January, WhatsApp, part of Facebook Inc., began alerting its 2 billion users to an update of its privacy policy which, should they want to keep using the popular messaging app, they have to accept. Much of the policy, which is about commercialising WhatsApp, states ‘WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, the other Facebook Companies.

We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate and market services’. WhatsApp is now reserving the right to share data it collects about you with the broader Facebook network, which includes Instagram, regardless of whether you have accounts or profiles there, claiming it needs it to help operate and improve its offerings. More broadly, almost all of the $21.5 billion in revenues which Facebook generated in the third quarter of 2020 came from advertising and there is currently none in WhatsApp.

The company now wants to be able to serve more targeted ads to people on Facebook and Instagram by also garnering their usage habits on WhatsApp and enabling businesses take payments via WhatsApp for items that were selected on other Facebook sites. For long-time users, the option to share data with Facebook was made available in 2016, but it was just that: optional and temporary. It was now to become mandatory for everybody from Feb. 8 but owing to a massive backlash, the company has delayed that to May 15 to try and persuade users to sign up to the new Ts and Cs.

WhatsApp on Monday attempted to address the uproar over privacy concerns with a post on its website, explaining that the update was designed to aid businesses on its platform, as it reiterated in Friday’s post.

“We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way. Instead, this update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”

These new terms have caused an outcry among technology experts, privacy advocates, billionaire entrepreneurs and government organisations and triggered a wave of defections to rival services. Elon Musk has urged his followers to switch to Signal and the governments of Turkey and India have threatened to block the app if it insists on proceeding.

‘WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy verges on user surveillance and threatens India’s security’, a petition filed in an Indian court said on Thursday, presenting another legal challenge for the Facebook Inc. -owned messenger. “It virtually gives a 360-degree profile into a person’s online activity,” lawyer Chaitanya Rohilla told the Delhi High Court. Many Indian users have began installing rival apps like Signal and Telegram, pushing WhatsApp to begin a costly advertising campaign to calm its 400 million customer-base, the largest of any country. The change has also met with a challenge in Turkey with the country’s Competition Board this week launching an investigation into the messaging service and its parent company.

Elsewhere too, in spite of Whatsapp protestations, millions of its users are already migrating to alternative platforms. Signal saw 7.5 million downloads last week,  a 4,200% spike since the previous week and large swaths of users also jumped to Telegram, as the platform gained 9 million new users last week, up 91% from the previous week. Both apps are now topping Google and Apple’s app stores,

Facebook could possibly learn a lesson from history here. Every past empire – Aztec, Mayan, Greco-Roman, Sumerian, Mongol, Chinese, Ottoman and more recently British, all saw their star rise, their glory swell, their boundaries grow and yet each eventually fell, often the instigators of their own downfall.

They expanded too far too fast and could not control what they had initially conquered. And now it looks like the same fate might await this large tech giant. Parent company Facebook has also come under fire recently for overt and covert censorship policies with questions raised as to partisanship and curtailment of freedom of speech. Thus one would have to question the wisdom of the timing of this new Whatsapp privacy policy, if nothing else.

To understand its influence and control one only has to check out the un-smart sector of the mobile phone industry which for some time has offered handsets a small step up from the basic starter sets with Facebook and Whatsapp as default screen app settings. These limited internet access options have allowed millions of users to connect with affordable data bundle packages.

And for Google smartphone subscribers, the search engine automatically connects its base to Whatsapp and Facebook – one big, happy family. Facebook is also seamlessly linked to Paypal offering contact-less charges for its boosted post advertising, a somewhat sinister partnership which accesses their Paypal log-in and authorisation details without the need to inform the payee – the transaction is simply deducted automatically from the registered credit card. This is Big Brother with a blue logo.

The bottom line here is that if you have any privacy issues at all – and you probably should – you might as well make the switch now before you are forced to sign away your rights in May. And the plus part is that both Signal and Telegram have the technological edge over Whatsapp anyway, the latter even being accessible on multiple platforms simultaneously, not just on your phone.
Empires take time to crumble and Facebook is not in imminent danger but information is a weapon that can be used in any war, even a virtual conflict, so don’t give this giant any more ammunition than it already has.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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