King Solomon married many foreign women and worshipped many gods of many lands. The stories of his wisdom were exaggerated. A famous story of his wisdom in deciding a case of two women - each claiming a child was hers, in which Solomon offered to cut the child in half , and give half to each prompting one of the women to offer the child to the other, which resulted in Solomon giving the child to her - was actually a vicious act by a cruel judge. In actuality, it was Solomon’s method of moving his caseload and calendar not a method of seeking justice, but a method used to this very day as a distortion of modern justice - especially in sentencing.
One of the true heroes of biblical literature was the northerner Jeroboam. It was Solomon who gave him a high position and who the prophet Elijah predicted would lead the Ten Tribes of Israel, since Solomon had not been faithful to the god of the Jews. Solomon then sought to kill Jeroboam, who fled to Egypt and only returned to Israel when Solomon died. The importance of Jeroboam to the literature of the Bible cannot be overlooked. When Jeroboam returned, Solomon’s son Rehoboam treated Jeroboam and his people almost exactly as the Egyptians treated the Jews in Egypt. Rehoboam told Jeroboam "my father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke" . The cruel Egyptian Pharaoh of the Book Of Exodus was used as a literary device to publicize the injustice the northern Jews suffered at the hands of Solomon and his son Rehoboam. The northern Jews were in revolt. Jereboam was now king of Israel and out of necessity made two calves of gold and told his people, "you have gone up to Jerusalem enough. Behold your gods. O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt". Aaron in Exodus also said: "These are your god O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt". Moses and the story of Exodus was taken almost wholly from the story of Jeroboam. Rehoboam lost everything when Shishak and the Egyptians invaded Jerusalem.
Reviewing the history of the kings of both Israel and Judah, the northern and southern kingdoms, the northern kings were more faithful to Yahweh. The surviving literature, however favored the southern kings of Judean Jerusalem. However, except for a few kings in the North, namely Omri, Ahab and Ahazariah, the only charge against them was that they worshipped Yahweh outside of Jerusalem. On the other hand, the kings of Judea were very unfaithful to Yahweh. While there is no evidence the kings of Israel sacrificed their children to the god Molech, the Judean kings Ahaz and Manasseh sacrificed their children to that abominable god. Indeed, deviant and impermissible religious practices were far more prevalent in the southern kingdom than they were in the north , including cult prostitution in their temples - which was not said to occur in the north. Still it was Israel and not Judah that was totally destroyed between 733-722 B.C by the Assyrians. The Book of Kings explains that because the Israelites sacrificed their children when the only evidence was that the Judeans did that abominable act, not the Israelites-- they were destroyed. So thoroughly were the Israelites dispersed that the land was made barren prompting the kings of Assynia to populate Israel with peoples from other lands, who brought their own gods but also adopted as their own the god of the Jews. It was King Ahaz of Judea who was most responsible for the destruction of the Israelites. After being soundly defeated by the Israelites who captured over a hundred thousand Judeans but then returned the captured Judeans to Judea. Ahaz repaid Israel for this kindness by calling upon Assyria who he bribed with gold and other presents to destroy Israel, which they did.
Hezekiah succeeded Ahaz, and he was the most faithful King to Yahweh of any that were before him. It was during his reign that the religion was introduced in a manner that somewhat resembled the religion as it exists today. Passover was celebrated for the first time since Solomon’s days . That was over hundreds of years before and one can only imagine what kind of Passover Solomon (who had so many religions competing in Israel) could have had. Hezekiah also cut down the Asherah and cast out the other gods "and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made." But if Moses’ serpent was still there and hundreds of years had passed, it can be readily seen that the kings before him did nothing to rid the land of idols and competing gods. The Assyrians then planned to attack Jerusalem and their spokesman, the Rabshekah spoke to the Israelites in their Canaanatic language asking them to surrender. The leadership of the Israelites wanted him to speak in Aramaic so that ordinary citizens of Israel would not understand what the Assyrian was saying, but Rabshekah was too alert, he insisted on speaking Canaanite so that the people of Israel would know what was in store for them. Somehow, in the interchange between the Assyrian and the Jew., their God looked to be the same. A miracle resulted in the Assyrians leaving.
But immediately after Hezekiah died, his son Manasseh reverted right back to the idols and foreign gods. He even sacrificed his sons and Manasseh’s son Amon did likewise, though Manasseh, according to the Book of Kings which contradicts Chronicles, returned to Yahweh. But it was Amon’ s son Josiah who, like Hezekiah , returned to Yahweh and again had the alters of Baal destroyed and all the other competing gods destroyed again. For hundreds of years Baal., the Asherah , and a host of foreign gods were the gods of Judah, not Yahweh. And Josiah also broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes which were in the house of the lord and Josiah stopped the burning of sons and daughters for the god Molech. Even in Josiah’s time , Jerusalem was a center for the most despicable religious practices, it was a place for cults of every kind , and perverse religions of every kind. Herodotus writing in the 4th century B.C, which is some 500-600 years since Solomon’s time , noted that Egyptian and Greeks were the only ones in that region of the world who did not tolerate sexuality in the houses of religion , noting that the Babylonians still did this. Herodotus was also referring to the Hebrews as he bunched all the peoples of the region as being Babylonians. Herodotus also noted that the Babylonians and the Arabs have a practice that is virtually the same as the Hebrew’s Mikvah. In 594 B.C, the ambassadors of Edom, Moab, Ammon and Tyre gathered in what was a confederation of Canaanite nations to revolt against Aramaen Babylon. Previously king Hezekiah failed in instigating an uprising against the Aramaen Assyrians. Jeremiah was the prophet during Josiah’s reign and several other kings who followed him. He advised against fighting the Babylonians. Jeremiah was very loyal to Babylon and although a respected Hebrew prophet, he urged Judah to surrender to Babylon, hoping to save Jerusalem from destruction. The Hebrew kings did not trust Jeremiah and imprisoned him. After the Babylonians took Jerusalem, Jeremiah was given high standing among them. Jeremiah visiting Egypt warned the Jews living there that Babylon would soon defeat the Egyptians. Jeremiah attacked the Jews again for worship of strange and foreign gods and sacrificing their children. Hezekiah and Josiah’s reforms could not change the Jew’s worship of Baal , The Queen of Heaven and Molech , which still persisted After Jerusalem was destroyed , the most important Jews were exiled to Babylon where they met a large Jewish community that had already been there. This large contingent of Jews assimilated and were very strongly influenced by the Babylonians they lived with. Cyrus, the King of Persia (who now controlled Babylon) was very nice to the Jews, allowing them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their capital and country.
The Book of Ezra describes the Jews’ return to Israel. It was described in some ways similar to the description given of the Jews when they left Egypt. Curiously once again they left with gifts given to them by the Babylonians, just as the Egyptians bestowed gifts upon them. They were described as leaving with dignity rather than being expelled as unwelcome outcasts. This fine-sounding departure may not have actually been the case since the return was filled with obstacles. The Jews who remained in Jerusalem opposed the building of the temple in Jerusalem sought by the returning Jews and Ezra, who was granted permission by the Persians to reintroduce Judaism to Israel. The journey back to Israel was harsh and not unlike the trek from Egypt. These similarities make it fair to entertain the belief that the version of the Exodus from Egypt was a story created to mimic the Jews return form Babylon. Ezra was highly concerned with the high rate of intermarriage of Jews with Ammonites, Egyptians, Amorites and especially Moabites. The Moabite problem was emphasized during Ezra’s time but not a continuous theme of the Bible. Jeremiah and Ezekial spoke well of them. So did Isaiah, who said " let Moab’s outcasts find asylum in you , be a shelter for them.". In deference to Ezra, the returning Jews agreed to give up their Babylonian wives and children:
The authenticity of the Book Of Ezra’s portrayal of the Jews as having voluntarily left behind their Babylonian wives must be doubted. It defies normal human behavior that such a large number of Jewish men would give up the wives and children they loved, as well as their adopted homeland, to return to what was now a decrepit foreign land filled with danger. It is inconceivable that the Babylonians would give the Jews gifts and treat them kindly if thousands of Babylonian women and children were arrogantly abandoned by them. Reason demands a more probable explanation, which is that the Jews were banished from Babylon and denied their wives and children on ethnic ground, because the were never accepted as Aramaens and had been treated as the Canaanites they really were despite their protestations to the contrary. The story in the book of Ezra was written in psychological defence. The gifts they received and the wives they abandoned were fictions created to hide a wounded pride. The trek from Babylon was a horrible experience and their arrival in Judea no better. The Jews who returned to Jerusalem had little connection with their brothers and sisters , from whom they had been separated for so many years. The returning exiles considered themselves true Aramaens and viewed the inhabitants of Judea as a lower class of debased and uneducated Canaanites.
During Nehemiah’s time, the priesthoods of Israel’s commanding positions were held by an Ammonite, a Moabite and an Arab. Nehemiah noted that the holiday of Succoth had not been observed for some 500 years before it was revived by Ezra. The last time it was observed was during the days of Joshua. Since the Israelites did not observe Passover and Succoth after so many hundreds of years, and had such vague ideas about Yom Kippur during these long periods and constantly worshipped Baal and the Queen of Heaven and a host of other Gods and sacrificed their children, it is more than a suggestion to speculate that the religion of the Jews that most resembles that which is practiced today, originated in Babylon. It was Babylon that gave the Jew his Sabbath and dietary laws and Hamurabi as well as a national inferiority complex that caused them to deny their Canaanite ancestry. Jeremiah, whose allegiance was to Babylon , tried to introduce the Sabbath without much success. Ezra and certainly Nehemiah force fed the Sabbath upon the Israelites. Nehemiah was also opposed to Jews speaking their old Canaanite language. Aramaic was now the holy language. The language of Canaan (the Hebrew language) had been supplanted by Aramaic. An insistence upon being known as Aramaens and not Canaanites dominated the Jewish psyche. During Roman times , when it was long now established that Jews were Aramaens, the Jew had to defend his identity to the charges that he was an Egyptian rather that an Aramaen. As being called an Egyptian supplanted being called a Canaanite. The Canaanite language was the language of the Hebrews until they made contact with the Aramaens during the Babylonian exile. Whether the Hebrews were originally Arameans or Canaanites or even Egyptians has been a constant question throughout their history. When the Assyrians besieged Jerusalem, the appeal to them to surrender was in Hebrew, the Canaanite language, which is the language they understood. After life in Babylon, Aramaic was their language as it was when the Romans conquered them. Josephus at that time appealed them to surrender in Aramaic, which was the only language they now understood.
Josephus, it is my contention is the star, last prophet and the final exclamation mark of ancient Jewish history. In his time Josephus and his writings were honored by the Roman emperors Titus and Vespasian and King Agrippa of Judea. Notwithstanding modern day scholars criticisms of his exaggerations (which could well have been the style of writing which a reader at that time could recognize). Josephus received the honor and credit he so justly deserved from these well placed people which included Roman citizenship, a pension and freedom from property taxation "a mark of the highest honor.."
But the story that hurt Josphus the most was the story of what happened in the town of Jatapata. Josephus first described what happened at Masada. The story of Masada has come down to us as a heroic example of Israelite pride and honor as so many lost their lives rather than surrender to the Romans. In actuality, the ‘heroes’ of Masada were a criminal band of renegades called the Sicarii, who made deadly raids killing hundreds and then returning to their stronghold in Masada. They were also terrorists and assassins of the worst sort who would lose themselves in crowds so that they could stab innocent bystanders for no purpose other than to cause panic and anarchy. It was their choice to commit suicide, husbands as well as wives and their children by killing each other in turn. Josephus wrote his story of what happened at Jatapata in which he and his soldiers, trapped by the Romans made a similar pact with Josephus pleading with his men to surrender rather than commit suicide. In the end, as luck would have it , Josephus and one other were left remaining and depite their oath to end their lives decided to surrender to the Romans and live. This was considered a horrible and unpatriotic act of treachery . Josephus tried to show the futility of martyrdom , but to no avail. Josephus knew of his divine importance when he explained his action to God " because thou didest choose my spirit to make known the things to come. I yield myself willingly to the Romans that I may live. But I solemnly declare that I go not as a traitor , but as thy servant." Josephus admitted that he planned it this way and never intended to give his life. One cannot say Josephus was dishonest. For who could admit to such an act without being totally honest? Josephus’ description of saving his own life after 38 or 39 men had their throats slit, undoubtedly was written with a mind towards Masada. What Josephus was saying was his way of discrediting what the Jews of Masada did. He was mocking the tragedy of Masada. He was writing to a readership that would be perfectly aware that what he said was not a statement of fact, but his method of explaining the beauty and importance of life. This course of thinking extended to his desire, like Jeremiah before him, to save Jerusalem from destruction which was not necessary. Josephus was a great man, a great historian and a great thinker. Josephus desperately tried to save Jerusalem. Yet he has not been given the credit he so justly deserved.
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