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Marduk Vs Adad

Benson C Sail
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER

Babylon rebounds after 325 years of Assyria overrule

With the return of planet Nibiru into visibility near-at-hand, the context of every war waged by a worthwhile power (under the banner of their respective gods) in the Middle East was Nibiru.   Every war was about who would control the space-related sites of Baalbek in Lebanon and Mission Control Centre in Jerusalem in the main as Anu, “Our Father Who Art In Heaven”, was expected to land at the Nazca spaceport in South America; be flown to Baalbek; and finally ferried to Jerusalem, which he would officially declare the Navel of the Earth, that is, the geopolitical hub of the planet, since Sumeria’s Nippur.

The main contenders for the space-related sites were Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria, with Assyria exhibiting the greatest resolve in line with the ultra-ambitious bent of their patron god Ishkur-Adad. In their conquer-and-tame campaign, the Assyrians first targeted Harran in today’s southern Turkey, which was at once a trade and religious centre and whose patron god was Nannar-Sin, Enlil-Jehovah’s second-born son.  Thereafter, they set their sights on La-Ba-An, today’s Lebanon.

The object of their acquisitive thrust here was Baalbek. The Assyrian King Shalmaneser III, who reigned from 859–824 BC, was later to erect a commemorative stela on Baalbek to broadcast to the world at large that it belonged to Assyria. He called it Bit Adini, meaning “Place where Eden is Located”. Mankind regarded Baalbek as a gateway to Paradise and when the King of Tyre was given the nod to visit there and “move within its fiery stones” (ride in a rocket), he upon his return set about boasting to his subjects and fellow kings   that he had become a “god” (Anunnaki), which earned him a scathing rebuke from the prophet Ezekiel.  

The Assyrians had also captured the Phoenician coastal cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos under Shalmaneser III’s predecessor Ashurnasirpal II, who ruled from 883-859 BC.  It seems in the quest to secure hegemony over the Middle East, Ishkur-Adad had the upper hand. His client nation, the Assyrians, now laid claim to Baalbek, Phoenicia, and Harran, and his other client nation, the Israelites, controlled Jerusalem. Sin and Utu-Shamash, who was the patron god of Lebanon, were trailing by far in the space-related site stakes.

ASSYRIA BLINDFOLDS BABYLON

With Baalbek in the bag, the Assyrians now had their eyes trained on the ultimate prize – Jerusalem. In the push to acquire Jerusalem, Assyria’s main rival was Babylon.  Assyria wanted Jerusalem wholly to itself and so Babylon had to be kept well at bay. This required tact. Exactly how? The trick the Assyrians came up with was to join forces with Babylon in the short-term. THEY WOULD PRETEND TO HAVE COMMON CAUSE WITH BABYLON AND WHEN TIME WAS RIPE OVERRUN BABYLON ALTOGETHER: that way, they would be the only power standing in the Middle East. 

Apparently, the first to make such an overture to Babylon was Shalmaneser III. In the ensuing pact, the kings of Babylon and Assyria not only were regarded as allies but as equal partners. What that meant was that if, for instance, Shalmaneser went off at a tangent in his imperialistic forays, the Babylonian king would leave him to his own devices and not interfere.   On the other hand, if the one was wracked with internal turmoil, the other would  rush over to help defuse the crisis by hook or crook.

That was the loophole the Assyrians used to basically colonise Babylon. In 851 BC, for instance, Shalmaneser descended on Babylon when the incumbent king faced ouster by his younger brother. The rebel brother was captured and put to the sword by Shalmaneser. In due course, Shalmaneser bullied his way into the Canaanite area unilaterally and captured all the Phoenician cities that lined the Mediterranean coast. He then proceeded to bully his way into the Kingdom of Israel. However, he did not annex Israel but turned it into a vassal state. In his annals, he boasts of receiving tribute from King Jehu of Israel.

The credit for the last and greatest phase of Assyrian expansion, however, belongs to Tiglath-Pileser III, who ruled from 745-727 BC. In 733 BC, Pileser invaded the Kingdom of Israel and captured the province of Galilee. The population of Galilee was rounded up and deported to Assyria. This was the tribe of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh.  Meanwhile, Israel’s King was deposed, killed, and replaced by a puppet King called Hoshea. The Kingdom of Judah, which was ruled by King Ahaz, a vassal of Assyria, was spared.

Even then, the Assyrians were simply biding their time, poised to strike at a most opportune time given the centrality of the Judean-based Jerusalem in the context of the returning Nibiru. Pileser also seized and subjected Syria to his rule. In 729 BC, Pileser, like Shalmaneser before him, was called upon to intervene in Babylon when its king was deposed by a Chaldean chieftain – a foreigner. 

Pileser marched into Babylon and unseated the usurper. But he did not annex Babylonian territories and turn them into provinces under the control of his governors, by then the established Assyrian practice. Instead, in keeping with earlier practice, he assumed the throne of Babylon directly and claimed the title of "King of Sumer and Akkad". Pileser’s acceptance by the Babylonians was mixed but the priests of Marduk duly recognised him as Babylon’s King. He thus became the first Assyrian king to “take the hand of Marduk” and partake of the god’s sacramental meal.

SARGON II SENDS THE TEN TRIBES OF ISRAEL INTO OBLIVION

Upon his demise in 727 BC, Tiglath-Pileser III was succeeded by his son Shalmaneser V as King of both Babylon and Assyria. Like all his predecessors, Shalmaneser’s principal focus was Palestine. Both Palestine and the surrounding countries had to be firmly under the control of Assyria by the time King Anu touched down on planet Earth. Although Jerusalem in Judah was the ultimate quest, it was vitally important to rule over the neighbouring states as well lest they become a menace in the foreseeable future as Nibiru neared. The overrule could be direct (taking over completely, with an Assyrian governor in place) or indirect (installing a client King with unquestioning allegiance to the Assyrian crown).

In Pileser’s time, Hoshea, the King of Israel, dutifully paid tribute to Assyria. But when Shalmaneser ascended to the throne, Hoshea reneged on his obligations by allying himself with Pharaoh Osorkon IV of Egypt. Like Assyria, Egypt had imperial designs over Palestine. Shalmaneser’s retributive response was immediate and drastic.

He directed his forces at Israel with a view to rendering it desolate. The forces, however, were met with fierce resistance. As such, it took three years for Israel to fall. But no sooner had Shalmaneser had Israel routed than he was deposed by his own younger brother, who took the throne as Sargon II. This was in 722 BC.

Although Shalmaneser V tried hard to hold his father’s empire together and expand on it, which he succeeded in to a degree, his military exploits were not carried out with the speed and efficiency that had marked his father’s reign and his taxation and labour policies were unpopular with the people,  who he subjected to grueling, unrewarded toil. Sargon II abolished the taxation and labour policies, and ended the sieges his brother’s administration had prolonged. With these charitable measures, Sargon II was endorsed by the Babylonian priesthood as in 705 BC, he too was granted the privilege of taking the hand of the god Marduk.

Like Shalmaneser, Sargon II was determined to deal with Israel once and for all.  Laying siege to the country, he emptied it of all its inhabitants and deported them to the provinces of Assyria. Altogether, this was about 30,000 Jewish exiles.  The emptied former Kingdom of Israel was resettled with people from Babylon and four regions of Assyria. They were to become known as Samaritans.

The deported Israelites became known as the “Lost Ten Tribes of Israel” (that is, all the Jewish tribes except the tribe of Judah and Benjamin) in that they diffused into other nations, over time venturing as far afield as Europe and the Caucasus, losing their Jewish identity and culture in the process.  Their whereabouts remain a mystery to date. The dissolution of the Kingdom of Israel by Sargon II meant that Hoshea was the last Jewish King of Israel. The Kingdom of Judah, on the other hand, continued to flourish and proved a loyal ally of Assyria till the death of Sargon II in 705 BC.

SENNACHERIB DESTROYS BABYLON

Sargon II was succeeded by his son Sennacherib. Sennacherib’s first major headache took the form of Babylonia and Judah. The Babylonian problem was Merodach, a Babylonian patriot who in 721 BC seized power not long after Sargon II had deposed Shalmaneser V. For the next 10 years, Babylonia was thus independent of Assyrian rule. Sargon II was in the meantime busy trying to neutralise the Elamites, a power in the ascendant who were by and large Merodach’s bulwark. 

In 710 BC, Sargon finally vanquished the Elamites, after which he marched on Babylon. Without the Elamite prop, Merodach was a sitting duck and so he fled for dear life. Babylonia once again had been caught back in the powerful orbit of Assyria.  However, following the death of Sargon, Merodach re-emerged. He coaxed King Hezekiah of Judah, the most important state between Assyria and Egypt, into fomenting unrest against Sennacherib, to which Hezekiah paid due heed. 

The Judean revolt had a contagion effect on Babylon and once again, Merodach seized the throne in 703 BC. But he was in power for only 9 months, whereupon Sennacherib drove him away from the country. Sennacherib was measured in his ravaging of Babylon: although he sacked it, he did not destroy it. Meanwhile, Hezekiah had cultivated new alliances, one of whom was Egypt. Buoyed by this association with a great power, he took a stand against Sennacherib and stopped paying tribute.

In 701 BC, Sennacherib’s troops descended on Judah. The Assyrian army laid waste to Judah’s 46 cities and had Hezekiah “trapped like a caged bird” in Jerusalem but still they were unable to capture the city. Hezekiah was therefore not dethroned; instead, he resumed his status as Assyria’s vassal king. Now, unlike his predecessors who tried their utmost to ingratiate themselves with the Babylonians, the Assyrian subjects, Sennacherib didn’t care an iota about what the Babylonians thought about him and was never in awe of its religious institutions.

For instance, when he became king in 705 BC, he disdained the prestigious ceremony whereby he was supposed to take the hand of Marduk both as a sign of respect for the god and as a confirmation of his legitimacy as overarching King of Babylonia. All he did was send word that he now called the shots in Babylonia without even bothering to visit its capital, the city of Babylon.  He never took part in key ceremonies where the King was supposed to preside, such as the New Year ritual.

After he had expelled Merodach from Babylon in 702 BC, he installed an Assyrian puppet king but later replaced him with his favourite son and chosen heir Ashur. He just didn’t want to take a direct part in the affairs of Babylon at all. In 698 BC, Ashur was abducted by the Elamites, who now declared Babylonia as their colony. This precipitated a four-year-war between Assyria on the one hand and Elam and Babylonia on the other. Assyria lost the war and Ashur was presumed dead.

Then in 689 BC, the Elamite king died, at which point Sennacherib decided to pounce on Babylon.  The city fell, and he sent the pretender to the throne back to Nineveh in chains. He had spent more time during his reign dealing with Babylon and the Elamites, and had expended more men and resources on dealing with the city, than on any other campaign. His patience had run out, and so he ordered the city to be razed to the ground. Sennacherib went on to commit acts of sacrilege. He plundered and destroyed all the temples and carried the statue of Marduk back to Nineveh, his Assyrian capital, as a war trophy. 
 
ESARHADDON REBUILDS BABYLON

In 681 BC, Sennacherib was assassinated by two of his sons who were loath to the fact that he had anointed his youngest son, Esarhaddon, as his heir at their expense. But in the ensuing six-week civil war, Esarhaddon emerged victorious and was crowned King. Cognizant of the fact that his father had lost much of his popularity both in Babylon and Assyria because of what he did to Babylon, Esarhaddon’s first priority and preoccupation was to rebuild Babylon and revitalise its religious institutions.

He straightaway set course for Babylon, took the hand of Marduk, and declared his allegiance to both Marduk and Ishkur-Adad, who was known as Ashur to the Assyrians. In fact, more often than not, he would swear by Marduk and his son Nabu rather than by Adad. In his endeavour to restore Babylon to its past glory, the first thing Esarhaddon did was to rebuild the Esagil, Marduk’s iconic temple. Meanwhile, he was not oblivious to the matter of the Return (of planet Nibiru).

Under the tutelage of the gods Adad and Utu-Shamash, so he documents in his annals, he set up an astronomical observatory in Ashur, Assyria’s cult centre, specifically geared to the Nibiru watch.  On an array of monuments, he had depicted all planets of the solar system, including Nibiru, to underscore Assyria’s Return expectations. A new monumental gate reminiscent of King Anu’s palatial gateway on Nibiru was erected at Esarhaddon’s sacred precincts.   

In 675, Egypt, which was vying with Assyria for supremacy over the Middle East, more so over Jerusalem, stirred the Phoenician city of Tyre to revolt against Assyria.  Esarhaddon responded by declaring war on Egypt forthwith. The campaign already had the blessings of Marduk and Adad but Esarhaddon wanted a full complement of blessings. So   on his way to Egypt, he detoured to Harran, the cult city of the god Nannar-Sin. He found the god with his chief messenger Nusku reclining on a couch in his temple. The god gave the campaign his nod too.

It took four years, however, for Esarhaddon to conquer a plucky Egypt. In fact, little more than a year later, the deposed Egyptian Pharaoh Taharqa staged a renewed putsch in 669 BC and Esarhaddon was on his way to crack down on the rebellion when he fell ill and passed away. He was succeeded by his son Ashurbanipal. Meanwhile, Esarhaddon had the all-important Kingdom of Judah firmly under his thumb. When its king, Manasseh, at one time tried to misbehave, Esarhaddon had him apprehended and kept prisoner for some time in Babylon.

NABUPOLASSAR RESTORES BABYLON TO GREATNESS
   
Ashurbanipal was the last powerful defender and expander of the  Assyrian empire. He reigned from 668-627 BC, with his younger brother Shamash-Shum-Ukin given charge of Babylon but subordinate to him. The Assyrian empire was at its strongest during the rule of Ashurbanipal but it grew too large for its own good, comprising of today’s Iraq, Syria, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Palestine.

Vast but finite resources were expended just to maintain it and there weren’t enough troops to garrison the empire. In the event, some parts of the empire decided to exploit this weakness by declaring independence. Egypt was one of the nations that did so in 652 BC, although it  continued to maintain friendly relations with Assyria. In that same year,  Shamash-Shum-Ukin also rose against his brother in a bid to make Babylon independent of Assyria. The resulting civil war went on for years, when Shamash-Shum-Ukin was cornered by the forces of his brother and committed suicide. There were further pockets of rebellion in the empire but Ashurbanipal was able to contain them for as long as he lived.

Then following his death in 627 BC, the empire began to unravel. Three kings ruled after him in close succession following coups and counter-coups. In 625 BC, a Babylonian general going by the name Nabupolassar, rebelled and prised Babylonia away from Assyria. A Babylonian tablet says thus of his coronation: “The princes of the land were assembled; they blessed Nabupolassar; opening their fists, they declared him sovereign; Marduk in the assembly of the gods gave the Standard of Power to Nabupolassar.”

In 616 BC, Nabupolassar allied with the Persians, who resented the Assyrian yoke like the plague, and together they attacked Assyria and Sinsharishkun, the Assyrian king, was killed.  Taking advantage of the power vacuum, his general took the throne under the name Ashur-uballit II.  Ashur-uballit II cultivated an alliance with the Egyptians and with their help he held on until 609 BC, when the Babylonians-Persian alliance defeated the former. 

Ashur-uballit II fled to Harran, where he now deferred to a relation of  Sinsharishkun who had sought citadel there after the latter was ousted.  Ashur-uballit II and remnants of the Assyrian army declared the relation King of Assyria in  exile but to no avail. Ashur-uballit II had hoped to secure the blessings of the god Sin in this regard but the god snubbed him.  That same year, a combined Babylonian and Persian forces led siege to and captured Harran.

It was all over: the Neo-Assyrian Empire, which had been existence  for 325 years and grew to become the largest empire ever hitherto, was no more.  Babylon was the new superpower of the globe thanks to the exploits of Nabupolassar and the Neo-Babylonian Empire had begun. Marduk had triumphed over Adad.

 NEXT WEEK:   THE END OF ANCIENT ISRAEL

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A “Virgin” Conceives

2nd March 2021
IT’S THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS, STUPID

Princess Mary falls pregnant only one month after her betrothal to Prince Joseph

To put the lineage of Mary the mother of Jesus in context, General Atiku, it is in order that we begin with her grandfather Yehoshua  (Jesus in Greek) III.

Mary was offspring of two royal lines, the Davidic line and the Hasmonean line. Yehoshua III was the Herod–appointed High Priest of Israel between 36 and 23 BC.  He had no sons, only three daughters namely Joanna, Elizabeth, and Anna, all of whom he organised dynastic suitors.

Elizabeth would be married off into the House of Aaron, the legitimate priestly line, and Joanna and Anna would be married off into the House of David, the legitimate kingly line. That’s how Elizabeth became the wife of Zechariah of the tribe of Levi and in due course the mother of John the Baptist.

Mainstream Israel up to the level of the Sanhedrin had recognised Anna as the eligible mother of the future King of Israel and not the sitting impostor Herod (it is not clear what happened to first-born Joanna but she probably passed away before she got married). Anna was accordingly married off to Alexander III, a Davidic and Hasmonean prince who was best known as Heli as indeed the genealogy of Luke clearly attests.

Heli and Anna too had no sons. They only had daughters, the firstborn of whom was Dorcas, whose was born in 26 BC and whose titular name was Mary.  Mary was orphaned early in her childhood when her father Heli was killed in 17 BC at the orders of the increasingly paranoid Herod and when her mother Anna died a year or so later.

Since she was a dynastic heiress, it was likely that Herod would come after her. The Essenes thus secreted her somewhere in remote Galilee. It was actually in Galilee that most members of the Davidic royal line were concentrated not only to keep as far away from Herod as possible but to also enjoy the protective custody of the Zealots, who were the secret military wing of the Essenes and a thorn in the side of both Herod and the Romans.  Joseph was also officially based in Galilee although both he and Mary were in truth based at Qumran in the Judean wilds.

JOSEPH CALLED TO “DUTY”

Dynastic marriages are often more politically strategic than spontaneous, General. For example, the union of Prince Charles and Princess Diana was motivated by the need to fuse the Windsor genes with those of the Stuarts as the Windsors, being predominantly Reptilians, were finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their human form.

The Stuarts, the clan of Diana, had by far more human genes than Reptilian and they too were an aristocratic family. That’s why once Charles had produced a  “heir and a spare”, he completely sidelined Diana, who he had never loved, and devoted himself to his real love – Camilla Parker-Bowles.

The marriage of Joseph to Mary, General, was equally strategic. Although both were from the tribe of Judah and of the royal Davidic line, they were from different branches.  Joseph was a descendant of Solomon, whereas Mary was a descendant of Nathan, Solomon’s elder brother. The line of Solomon, as we once underlined, had been tainted by the Jeconiah curse.

The line of Nathan was clean. Since the son of Joseph and Mary would be the future King of Israel, it was important that he not be compromised by the baggage, rightly or wrongly, of the Jeconiah curse. Hence the desirability of the union of Prince Joseph and Princess Mary.

Now, both Joseph and Mary’s clans were Essenes. As such, their marriage process, formalities, and protocols had to strictly adhere to Essene dynastic rules. The Essenes were in ranks. Amongst the higher echelons were the two great dynasties, the Davids and the Zadoks, who had been the high priests and kings of Israel respectively before the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC.

The Davids and Zadoks lived a strictly holy life, typically in a monastery at Qumran, the reclusive headquarters of the Essenes. They were sequestered there so that they did not fall prey to the machinations of the bloodthirsty King Herod though officially their address was Galilee.  In fact, the major reason the Essene movement had come into existence was to preserve and safeguard the Davidic and Zadokite lines, the religio-politico haunt of Herod and the Hasmoneans initially.

According to the Essene code, General, the Zadoks and the Davids were not to engage in sex for recreational purposes because it was regarded as defiling: it diluted holiness. The only times they were supposed to do so was when need arose to produce heirs. In 8 BC, it was now opportune for Joseph, the David, to produce a heir and so he was excused from a life of chastity.

At this point in time in fact, the Essenes were focused on two dynastic figures. These were Joseph and Zechariah. The two were expected to produce the Messiah of David and the Messiah of Aaron, that is, the future King of Israel and the future High Priest of Israel.

According to Essene rules, the David had to marry at age 36, so that by the time he was 40, he had already sired a heir. The new heir had to be born when the David was 37. If the child was a daughter, she could not inherit, and so the David had to set about the procreation of a second-born, who hopefully would be a boy (copulation to that end was allowed only when the daughter was 3 years old).

The Davidic heir had to be born not in any other month but in September, the holiest in the Jewish calendar. In order to conform to these parameters, a betrothal ceremony was held at the beginning of June. During the betrothal period – the three months from beginning of June to end of August – sexual relations were not permitted.

Then at the beginning of September, a First Marriage was held. This was the beginning of the marriage proper as now the couple were allowed to become intimate. However, the intimacy began only in December, with a view to delivering a heir in September the following year. At the end of March, the Second Marriage was held for it was hoped that by that time the spouse was three months pregnant if there hadn’t been a miscarriage. With the Second Marriage, the wedlock was permanent: divorce was never allowed whatsoever.

Meanwhile, General, if the spouse hadn’t conceived in December, sexual relations were suspended till December the following year. The husband would then leave her spouse and return either to the monastery at Qumran or embark on a tour of duty elsewhere in furtherance of the Essene cause.

A BINDING ENGAGEMENT

According to the Dead Sea Scrolls, General, the Essenes were not only a spiritual, revolutionary, and philosophical movement. They were also ardent believers in astrology. They meticulously studied the stars and the movements of planets to read what they portended about the future.

Thus the reason a Davidic heir had to be born in September was not only because this was the holiest month of the year: it was also in recognition of the fact that September was ruled by the constellation Virgo. In other words, September was astrologically the month of the virgin. That was what Mary was.

Mary was both a virgin physically and a virgin titularly. A bride of the future king was required to be a virgin. As an Essene, Mary belonged to the Order (not the tribe) of Dan.  This was the Order of Nuns, or virgins, both legal and physical virgins. Thus in the Order of Dan, a woman was not a virgin only before she slept with a man: she was a virgin until she was six months pregnant. In the case of a dynastic spouse like Mary, this was up to end of June.  From then henceforth, she was promoted within the Order to the first stage of a Mother.

Joseph’s betrothal to Mary took place at Qumran in June 8 BC. Now, in our day, betrothal simply means engagement to be married. In ancient Israel up to New Testament times, betrothal was part and parcel of the marriage contract. It was definite and binding upon both groom and bride, who were considered as man and wife in all legal and religious aspects, except that sexual relations were not permitted.

For example, in 2 SAMUEL 3:14, King David refers to his betrothed woman as “my wife”. Also in DEUTERONOMY 22:24, a betrothed woman is referred to as “his neighbour’s wife”.  In the betrothal formalities, dowry and bride price were included. If a bride and groom for one reason or the other wanted to opt out of the betrothal after the betrothal ceremony, they had to seek a formal divorce.

Since the betrothal took place in June, General, Joseph and Mary were not supposed to make love till December, that is, six months after the betrothal ceremony and three months after the First Marriage ceremony in September. Just one month after the betrothal ceremony (that is, at the beginning of July 8 BC), however, Mary became pregnant. Was it Joseph, General? Was it rape by a Roman soldier called Panthera as some contemporary records suggest? Or was it simply the supernatural act of the “Holy Spirit” as Christendom holds?

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS

Those who hold that the circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy were supernatural, General, can be excused. This is because the language employed therein smacks of ethereality – Holy Spirit, Angel Gabriel, Son of the Most High, etc. To those who have read and rigorously studied the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, such terminology is well within the temporal context.

That is to say, it does not carry spiritual connotations as such. True, the idea of an angel speaking to Joseph and Mary in their sleep may seem supernatural but the dreams are theological interpolations, inserted into the gospels in onward editing to fit a contrived agenda – what Karl Marx called the opium of the masses.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are so named because they were discovered in caves around the Qumran plateau of the West Bank (about 40 km east of Jerusalem), at the northwest corner of the Dead Sea, in March 1947. The discoverer was a Bedouin shepherd kid who was looking for a lost goat. The scrolls were found hidden in jars.

The 1947 find was the initial discovery: more discoveries were made after further excavations on the same site spanning 11 years in a series of 11 caves. Altogether, 972 texts were   turned up. They are written in four languages, namely Hebrew (the majority), Aramaic, Greek, and Nabatean, mostly on parchment. Other texts were inscribed on papyrus and bronze.

Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls are fragments. Fragments of all the Old Testament books have been found save for the book of Esther. The only complete book is Isaiah.  There are also apocryphal books (those arbitrarily excluded from the Old Testament canon by the Constantine-convened Nicene Council of AD 325) such as the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees, and sect-specific writings that embody rules and beliefs of the people who compiled them.

The latter include commentaries on the Old Testament, paraphrases that expand on the Law of Moses, rule books of the community, war conduct, thanksgiving psalms, hymnic compositions, benedictions, liturgical texts, and sapiential (wisdom) writing. These texts have been given appropriate titles such as the War Scroll; Manual of Discipline; the Community Rule; the Temple Scroll; the Copper Scroll; etc.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were written/preserved by the Essenes between 168 BC and 68 AD. We know this because Pliny, the first century Roman historian, wrote that, “On the west coast of Lake Asphaltitis (the Dead Sea) are settled the Essenes, at some distance from the noisome odours that are experienced on the shore itself.

They are a lonely people, the most extraordinary in the world, who live without women, without love, without money, with the palm trees for their only companions.”   The Essenes stashed away the scrolls sometime in 70 AD, when Roman General Flavius Titus overran Jerusalem and laid waste to the Temple following a catastrophic Jewish uprising – led by the Zealots, the military wing of the Essenes – that began in 66 BC.

This they did in heed of JEREMIAH 32:14, which says, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences … and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.” The Dead Sea Scrolls have given us invaluable insight into the beliefs, customs, rituals, politics, philosophies, and traditions of first century Palestine.

NEXT WEEK: THE PANTERA INVOLVEMENT

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A crash course in publicity

2nd March 2021

The rivalry between luxury German automotive marques Mercedes-Benz and BMW is legendary. Both brands offer high-end, high-priced desirable models, always at the forefront of cutting-edge driving technology and excellence. And in the annals of the advertising world, a campaign between the two rivals is equally legendary and it happened on our own doorstep.

Many of you will be familiar with the coastal road out of Cape Town called Chapman’s Peak. It is a beautiful, sightseeing attraction, the road winding through spectacular coastal-mountain scenery, with cliffs sinking into the  Atlantic ocean on one side, and steep mountains towering over the road on the other. However, the road is also notoriously dangerous, with its 114 sharp, meandering bends . It’s reputation is well-deserved . Several years ago, when a major coastal cleanup campaign was launched, a helicopter pulled a total of 22 wrecked cars out of the water adjacent to Chapman’s Peak and it was one such accident which prefaced the notorious marketing battle. The story is thus:

In 1988 an Irish businessman lost control of his Mercedes Benz when driving along this road, plunging 100 metres down the cliff. Miraculously, he not only survived the accident, but crawled out of the wreckage with hardly a scratch on his body.

When Mercedes heard the details, the marketing department decided to base a new advertisement on the story to promote the safety features and stability of the brand. In the video ad they intentionally drove an identical model off the road in the exact same location, having it plunge off the edge of the cliff, the driver stepping out similarly unscathed, proving the phenomenal survivability and strength of Mercedes Benz.

When the marketing suits at BMW saw this ad, they took a bold and ingenious decision to mimic it but with a twist. Only a week later, whilst the first ad was still fresh in the public’s minds, they shot their ad showing a BMW driving along the exact same stretch of road in the rain. However, when it reached the point at which the Mercedes plunged off the cliff, the BMW negotiated it safely, and continued driving along the road.

The catchphrase of the ad was “BMW beats the bends” . Or was it? It was cunningly recorded so that it could equally have been ‘beats the Benz’, implying that their cars had superior cornering and stability to their rival, Even more sneakily, they launched their campaign on a Saturday, mindful of the rules on competitive advertising in South Africa, safe in the knowledge that no objectionable actions could be taken till the new working week.

Mercedes-Benz wasted no time on Monday in issuing an injunction, the ad was swiftly pulled but the damage was done and the dog had had its day. The ad campaign ranks high in the history of advertising and can still be found online to this day. Meanwhile the rivalry between the two automotive greats goes on.

I reference this piece of marketing history in the light of this week’s horror crash by golfing great, Tiger Woods. Driving from a luxury holiday resort in California to a nearby country club Tiger Woods lost control of his vehicle on a downhill stretch of the road, smashed through a road sign, crossed over the central reservation and rolled his car several hundred feet. He had to be cut out and pulled to safety through the windscreen and the vehicle was so badly damaged, the attending police officers said he was ‘lucky to survive’.

The vehicle Woods was driving was a rented Genesis GV80 SUV. If you are unfamiliar with the brand that is not surprising since it is a relatively new spin-off from the South Korean Hyundai marque. The Genesis utility vehicle, not available locally yet, retails for around $50,000 or half a million pula, placing it in the higher end of town and country SUVs in the USA.

The model has certainly been widely publicised in the media coverage of the high-profile sportsman’s accident and I suspect that if asked to comment, Hyundai/Genesis would disagree with the police assessment, putting Woods’ survival down to build quality and in-built safety features such as crumple zones, anti-roll bars and airbags, which were deployed in the crash and would most certainly have played their part cushioning the effects of the rolling and ultimate impact. There is , of course, no suggestion that the manufacturers will capitalise on Woods’ survival but certainly it will have done the brand no harm that he did indeed emerge with recoverable injuries.

Comparing the two accidents, the driver of the Mercedes driving along Chapman’s Peak was, of course, an ordinary member of the public whilst Tiger Woods is a household name. That said, in humanitarian terms each tale of survival carries equal weight but the fact remains that the former was just another local story of yet one more victim of a notoriously tricky stretch of road whilst the latter went round the world in an instant because of the fame and name of the driver.

There is also no evidence that that stretch of Californian urban highway carried any inherent risk. His appears to have been just a loss of control and a freak accident. However, in the event that Hyundai/Genesis should consider making capital from that accident, a note of caution needs to be sounded.

In the advertising world, the use of celebrities to promote a product is a fall-back stance to sell anything from washing-up liquid to whisky but statistics have shown that it can be a double-edged sword in that yes, the ads are memorable and the public love them when the celeb is popular and personable. But…..what is often remembered is the name of the famous promoter, not the name of the product. In other words, they sell themselves far better than they sell the item.

In golfing terminology Hyundai/Genesis are not ‘out of the Woods’ yet and maybe they should go with a completely different Driver!

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Pact with the Devil

2nd March 2021
THE LORD’S GREAT GRANDMOTHER

How Jesus’s grandfather sold his birthright to megalomaniac Herod

If you were to ask a Christian to name the main Jewish sects, General Atiku, he would no doubt begin with the Pharisees (because Jesus had innumerable slanging matches with  them according to the gospels), followed by the Sadducees.  Yet there was a third, equally momentous sect – the Essenes.

Although there’s not a single, one mention of the Essenes in the Bible, General, the New Testament is filled with Essene-type language as anybody who has read the Dead Sea Scrolls would readily recognise.

In point of fact, it was the Essenes who produced Jesus as well as the infamous Jewish band of freedom fighters known as the Zealots. Furthermore, almost all the New Testament writers were either Essenes or champions of the Essene cause as is apparent in their language and the drift of their overall philosophy.   The Essenes have a palpable presence in the Bible, albeit a cloaked one.

The Essenes, General, were the most popular, the most esteemed, and the most influential of the Jewish sects. The Jewish historian Philo (20 BC-50 AD) devotes 90 percent of his description of the Jewish sects to the Essenes. He wrote that the Essenes  “dwell in many cities of Judea and in many villages and in great societies of many numbers”.

Hyppolytus of Rome (170-236 AD) devoted nine-and-half chapters to the Essenes and only one to the Sadducees.     The Essenes are the authors of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in 1947 in Israel at a place called Qumran and which have given us even greater insight into the happenings in the first century than the Bible itself.

How did the Essene movement come about, General?  The Essenes, meaning “puritans of the faith”, were the Jewish sect that was the most loyal to the Davidic dynasty. They set themselves apart from the mainstream Jewish community circa 175 BC and established their headquarters at Qumran,  about 40 km from Jerusalem.

Since the Jewish nation revered the Davidic royal line, the only legitimate and rightful rulers of Judah in their view, they rallied to the Essenes en masse. And because the Essenes were disparaging of the Hasmonean rule (140 BC to 63 BC), the mainstream Jews also took a dismissive view of Hasmonean rule too.

The Essenes were so highly regarded because of their virtue and spirituality. The legendary Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD) writes thus of them: “They are more mutually affectionate than the others (Pharisees and Sadducees). Whereas these men shun the pleasures as vice, they consider self-control and not succumbing to the passions virtue  … Since [they are] despisers of wealth –  their communal stock is astonishing – one cannot find a person among them who has more in terms of possessions.

For by a law, those coming into the school (that is, the Essene fold) must yield up their funds to the order, with the result that in all [their ranks] neither the humiliation of poverty nor the superiority of wealth is detectable, but the assets of each one have been mixed in together, as if they were brothers, to create one fund for all.”

In time, the Essenes, General, became quite influential even with occupying powers. For instance, when the Greek General Pompey installed Hyrcanus II as ruler of  Palestine in 63 BC,  he sought the opinion  of the Essenes. The Essenes recommended that Hyrcanus go by the titles High Priest and Prince, not King, to which Pompey paid heed. In  142 BC, when Simon was installed by the Seleucids as ruler of Palestine, the Essenes had insisted on the same titular style. To the Essenes, everybody who occupied Israel’s seat of authority was simply holding fort for the real deal – the Davidic  King.

In 37 BC, when Herod became King of Palestine, the potential Davidic King was Jacob-Eliakim – the father of the Joseph of the gospels – who was an Essene himself. It was in order to win the blessings of the historically popular Jewish royal family that Herod sought to curry favour with the Essenes.

JACOB’S PACT WITH HEROD

About the time Herod came to power, General, there were three citizens of considerable stature in Palestine – Hillel, Menahem, and Jacob-Eliakim, the grandfather of Jesus. Hillel is by all accounts ancient Israel’s greatest teacher and scholar.

He was the foremost spiritual sage in the development of the Talmud and the Mishnah, the most authoritative religious references of the Jews which are second only to the Old Testament in esteem.   The renowned “Golden Rule”, which is invariably attributed to Jesus, was actually coined by Hillel. It is not certain whether Hillel was an Essene but his teachings did have a profound influence both on Essene philosophy and that of Jesus, who was an Essene too.

It was Menahem, however, who was an incontrovertible Essene. The Essenes were of two main branches, General. First, there were the puritans, the Palestinian Essenes. Then there were the liberals, the Diaspora Essenes, who sneered at the Palestinian Essenes’ dogmatism and rather strict views on morality. Menahem was the leader of the  Diaspora Essenes.

He was also privilleged to be advisor to King Herod. Herod did hold Menahem in very high regard. Josephus relates that when Herod was a school-going lad, Menahem had patted him on his back and said to him, “one day you will be King young man.” Since the prophecy came to pass, Herod had a certain, atypical respect both for Menahem and the order of Essenes.

Jacob-Eliakim’s significance was by virtue of his pedigree. He was of the royal line of David and was therefore the uncrowned King of the Jews. Now, as we have already indicated, Herod had his own grand designs about rulership of the world notwithstanding the fact that he was in reality a vassal of Rome.

When he made overtures to the trio, they didn’t mince words: they told him that in the new Israel, the Israel that would rule Earth once the Romans had been toppled from the pedestal of world power, it was a Davidic King who would reign. Herod took very strong  exception to such a prospect. Herod was neither a full-blooded Jew nor of Davidic stock but he was royalty in his own right.

His father, Antipater,  had been the governor of Idumea and in due course Judea in  the Hasmonean government and was in fact the real ruler of the entire Palestine, with John Hyrcanus being a  mere figurehead king.  When he (Herod) was only 25 years old, his father had appointed him governor of Galilee.   Herod thus had strutted the corridors of power from the day he was born and he wasn’t going to give that up easily either for his own sake or that of his descendants.

As such, General, Herod maintained to the trio that in the new, overarching Kingdom of Israel, he was going to be the emperor and would be based in Jerusalem. Just like the Greek empire of Alexander had been a triarchy (a kingdom divided into three governments), the global Kingdom of Israel (“Thy Kingdom Come” in the Lord’s Prayer) was going to be likewise.

There was going to be a ruler in the east, a ruler in the west, and a ruler in the centre, that is Jerusalem, under the oversight of Herod himself. Hillel would rule in Jerusalem; Menahem in the east; and Jacob-Eliakim in the west. If these three happened to have disappeared from the Earthly scene by the time the Kingdom of Israel came into being, their descendants would observe the same setup.

The pecking order would thus be like this: Herod as the emperor; Hillel as the senior king; Menahem as the second-ranked king; and Jacob-Eliakim as the junior king. Put differently, Herod had by the stroke of a pen reduced the Davidic dynasty from foremost to least important as it posed the most serious threat to his office. Meanwhile, the three kings-in-waiting would go by the names of the Old Testament patriarchs.

Hillel would henceforth be called the Abraham, or the Father (or Papa, which later morphed into Pope), since Abraham was the Father of the Jewish nation; Menahem would be called the Isaac (Abraham’s son); and Eliakim the Jacob (Isaac’s son). Half a loaf was better than nothing at all and so Jacob-Eliakim meekly accepted this arrangement.

When Jesus later said, “Many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the new Kingdom of Heaven (MATTHEW 8:11),” he did not mean an afterlife kingdom: he referred to the Earthly setup proposed by King Herod.

FALLOUT WITH ESSENES

Those days, General, the Davidic heir used the title “Jacob” rather than “David” as the latter title was very risky, particularly under the Hasmonean government. Given that Joseph was the most beloved son of the Old Testament Jacob, the next in line, that is, the firstborn son of the Jacob, used the title “Joseph”.

In September 44 BC, a son was born to Jacob-Eliakim. As the crown prince to the Jacob, he was given the titular name Joseph, the name by which he became best-known.  Like his father Jacob-Eliakim, Joseph was a missionary. But he also had a trade. He was a carpenter, a boat builder primarily, and a master of his craft. The word translated “carpenter” in the Bible is the ancient Greek word “ho hekton” which means a master artisan or craftsman.

In 31 BC, Qumran, the Essenes’ Judean wilderness bastion, was struck by an earthquake. The hermitic Essenes had no choice but to trek back to Jerusalem, from where they operated indefinitely at a place they called the Essene Gate. Then in 23 BC, Herod struck again. He had Jacob-Eliakim killed on trumped-up charges of sedition, his motive simply being a continuation of a systematic purge of  the Davidic “pretenders” to his throne.

The Essenes were wroth. They now set about promulgating to the Diaspora Essenes that Herod would have no part to play in the coming Kingdom. Instead, the overall King would be Joseph, the son of Jacob-Eliakim. This, General, was the beginning of a permanent rift between Herod and the Essene sect.

THE SAGA OF JOSEPH

The prospective global world, General, was subdivided into ten provinces to facilitate governance and tax collection. Palestine would have two provinces, Judea and Samaria, the latter of which would include Galilee. Asia Minor (largely present-day Turkey), where the bulk of Diaspora Jews were concentrated, would have five provinces.

The last three provinces would be Babylon, Rome, and Alexandria in Egypt. The future capital of the West was not Rome: it was Ephesus in Asia Minor. Having been allocated the West, it was in Ephesus and Alexandria that Jacob-Eliakim spent most of his time evangelizing to fellow Jews about the future Kingdom of Israel. This was the beginning of the New Covenant, whereby Jews who converted to the ideal of a new Kingdom of Israel were baptised by immersion in water.

To mainstream Palestinian Jews, General, Jacob-Eliakim was a sellout. Herod had demoted his pedigree but to somewhat placate him, he gave him the honorary title of Patriarch or Prince of Jerusalem. By subordinating the Davidic throne-in-waiting to Herod, Jacob-Eliakim had  gone against what the nation of Israel’s God, Enlil, the Bible’s main Jehovah, decreed – that every King of Judah had to be a descendant of  David. So when the unpredictable Herod had him killed in 23 BC for “sedition”, as part of a pogrom against the line of David, there was very little sympathy for him.

In 44 BC, Joseph had been born to Jacob-Eliakim. Joseph was a title: it was not his real name. At the death of his father, Joseph became the Jacob. However, he preferred the title “David”, the more apt one historically. Joseph would become the father of Jesus. When Joseph attained 30 years of age in 14 BC, his uncles and the Essene sages sent him to Rome and Alexandria to do his part in missionary work, which was simply about promulgating to the Diaspora Jews the future Kingdom of Israel in which a Son of David, that is a descendant of King David, would rule.   Egypt was also a special place because Joseph’s maternal relations were Egyptians.

Jacob-Eliakim, General, had two wives. The one was called Euchariah, a Jewish princess, of whom very little is known, and the other, the dynastic wife, was an Egyptian princess, a daughter of Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Julius Caesar. Jacob-Eliakim and this princess had three sons: they were Joseph, the father of Jesus, and the twins Cleopas (after whom James, Jesus’ immediate younger brother, whose given name was Cleopas, was named) and Ptolas. Joseph was thus the Davidian Prince of Israel as well as contender to Crown Prince of Egypt. Despite pretences to the contrary on the part of the Jews, Egypt and Israel have always had ties of monarchical kinship.

In 8 BC, General, Joseph was required by Essene custom to return home and fulfill his obligations for a dynastic marriage. A wife-to-be had already been chosen for him by his uncles  and other patriarchal Essenes. This was Dorcas, better known today by her title name Mary.

NEXT WEEK: HOW HEROD MINIMISED THE HOUSE OF DAVID

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