THE PROPHECY PLOT (Part Two) (Naeem Osman Memon) (For nearly 2000 years evangelical Christianity has furthered the cause of the Church on the basis of several Old Testament prophecies alleged to have been fulfilled with the advent of Jesus the Christ. A thorough examination of these prophecies, with reference to the books of the Hebrew scriptures, not only shocks a reader but also shatters the very premise upon which evangelical Christianity has been based. The candid results of one such critical study of the canonised prophecies is being presented in our present series, The Prophecy Plot.) Promised Ruler from Bethlehem “And thou Bethlehem in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda, for out of thee shall come a Governor that shall rule my people Israel.” (Matth. 2:5). Micah the Morasthite, a contemporary of Isaiah was an Israelite prophet who prophesied during the reigns of three successive Judaean kings, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. He began his prophetic activity in the later part ofthe 8th century BCE and he is generally believed to be the author of the prophetic book of the Hebrew scriptures, the Book of Micah. Background to Micah’s Activity When the seed of Jacob first came to settle in the land of Canaan, the indigenous population of the country showed some signs of extreme moral and spiritual laxity . Their pagan religions were based upon gross immorality, sexual perversity and idolatry and their land was heavily burdened with an obnoxious collection of “sacred” pagan sanctuaries for heathen gods and goddesses, particularly the heathen god of rain and fecundity, Baal, and also the goddess of female fertility, Asherah. 14 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS At the onset of the Israelite settlement in Canaan, the children of Israel found the Canaanite customs and traditions extremely repugnant as the pagan worship conducted at these heathen sanctuaries involved some lewd fertility rites including ceremonial marriages with male and female representatives of the pagan gods and goddesses. However, when the seed of Jacob finally established itself as a nation in the land of Canaan they began to adopt the Canaanite character and what was initially found strange and offensive, became more acceptable to their new standards of moral and spiritual conduct. They assimilated several pagan customs and traditions in their own culture and also adopted the heathen gods and goddesses, Baal and Asherah. 1 By the time Micah began to prophesy in 758 BCE, sexual immorality and idolatry had become an integral part of the corrupted Hebrew way of life.2 Micah’s Prophecy Micah the Morasthite, being a man of pious disposition, was extremely saddened by the indulgences of the ‘chosen seed’ of Israel. His prophetic vision lamented the desolation of the house of Israel in Samaria on account of its abominable sin and transgression. He prophesied that the Lord of Hosts, Yahweh will lay bare the foundations of Samaria and it will become a pile of ruins because His wrath would smash all the graven images of the rebellious people and their precious idols will become a desolate heap of rubble. 3 The faithful witness of the Lord also mourned the fate of Israel in Judaea, the southern kingdom still in possession of the posterity of David the Bethlehemite. When Micah began his prophetic activity during the reign of king Jotham of Judaea, the land of Judaea already abounded with sanctuaries of Canaanite gods and goddesses. But happily, this abominable offence had not yet profaned the sacredness of the holy city of Jerusalem. However, Micah envisaged that the sin of Samaria would reach the gates of Jerusalem and the pagan gods would eventually violate the sacred precincts of the holy temple, on account of which, he mourned, the seed of Jacob in Judaea too, would stand on the threshold of destruction. 4 The Hope of Israel In the midst of all this lamentation and mourning, Micah the Morasthite recorded an oracle in relation to the birth of a saviour of Judaea, a promised ruler ‘in Israel’ who would come forth from the city of David. The faithful witness of the Lord J ahweh prophesied to the effect: 1. Judges 3:7. 2. 2 Chronicles 27:2 & 2 Kings 15:28. 3. Micah 1:5-8. 4. Micah 1:9. THE PROPHECY PLOT “Thou Bethlehem Ephrath, though thou be little among the thousand of Judaea, yet out of thee shall come forth to me, that is to be ruler in Israel.,,5 15 Micah also foretold that the Lord God of Israel would continue to abandon the seed of Jacob until after ‘the woman which travaileth had brought forth the saviour’ but after the birth of the promised child, the Lord Yahweh will wrought wonders in the land of Israel through the promised ruler. His prophecy suggested: (i) That after the birth of the subject of his oracle the remnant of his brethren shall be returned unto the children of Israel. (ii) The promised ruler will then shepherd his people in the strength of the Lord and the majesty of His name. (iii) He will bring peace to his people and when the Assyrians breach through the defences of his land and tread within its borders, Judaea will be delivered from the menace of its enemy and the land of Nimrod will be laid to waste. (iv) The hand of the Promised Ruler shall be upon all his adversaries and all his enemies will be cut off. (v) In his day, witchcraft shall no more prosper in the land of Judaea and it will be rid of all its soothsayers. (vi) The graven images and pagan idols will be cut off from amongst his people and they shall no more worship the work of their hands. (vii) The offensive and grotesque groves of Asherah shall be ‘plucked out of the midst of them’ and all the heathen sanctuaries will be destroyed.6 The Ruler from Bethlehem Some 700 years after Micah the Morasthite first recorded this oracle, the author of the first synoptic gospel of the Christian scriptures quoted the 8th century BCE Israelite prophet and maintained that the prophecy referred to the advent of Jesus the Christ, alleged to have been born in the city of Bethlehem Ephrath in Judaea in the year 4 BCE.’ The legend of the son of Mary’s nativity in the humble surroundings of a manger in Bethlehem of Judaea is an essential ingredient of the Christian creed. Yet, except for the ‘suspect’ evidence of the Christian evangelists, there appears to be no other conclusive proof in history which indicates that Jesus was positively born in the city of Bethlehem in Judaea. 5. Micah 5:2. 6. Micah 5:3-15. ,. Matthew 2:5. 16 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS The gospel of Luke maintains that the parents of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, were both residents of the city of Nazareth in Galilee. It was here that the angel Gabriel first appeared unto the virgin and informed her of the conception and birth of her son, Jesus.8 Mary and her espoused husband are then alleged to have travelled south to Bethlehem of Judaea to register for a certain census ordered by the Roman Emperor. ‘And so it was, that while they were there, Mary’s days were accomplished and she brought forth her first born son. ,9 Luke’s convenient placing of Mary in the city of Bethlehem Ephrath of Judaea at the time of her son’s birth may sound very convincing except for some very pertinent questions raised as a result of his assertions and also the discrepancies between his evidence and the facts of history as recorded by other reputable historians of his era. The land of Palestine, at the time of Jesus’s birth in the closing years of the first century BCE, was being ruled by a confederate king who enjoyed certain unique privileges conferred upon his predecessors by the Emperors and Senate of Rome. JU Herod the Great, the then Emperor of the Hebrew nation, had been granted independent jurisdiction in the internal administration of his kingdom 11 and historical evidences indicate that his imperial masters usually “restrained from meddling” in the affairs of his kingdom. 12 Hence, the possibility of the Roman Caesar demanding a census in the territory of an independent prince was not only unlikely but highly improbable. The author of Luke’s gospel also suggests that the alleged census was being demanded by the Roman Emperor for the purposes of taxation but authentic historical record~ maintain that the Hebrew nation was exempt from any direct taxation by the Roman government and its confederate kings were not obliged to pay any tribute to their imperial masters. Under an earlier decree by Julius Caesar, subsequently confirmed by the Roman Senate, whatever levy was paid by the Jewish nation, was to be retained by the ethnarch. 13 It is also an established fact of history that Herod the Great, being a confederate king, did not come under the patronage of the procurator of Syria. He was directly responsible to Caesar and received all ‘directives on foreign policy’ from the Imperial Senate at Rome. 14 An internal census being conducted in the vassal kingdom of an independent prince by a Roman governor would not have only undermined the authority of a friend and ally of Rome but would have been seen as a breach of trust on the part of the Roman 8. Luke 1 :26-31. 9. Luke 2:1-9. 10. Josephus: Antiquities: Bk XIV/Ch VIII/SC 5. Josephus: Antiquities: Bk XIV/Ch X/Se 2122. 11. Martin Noth: The History of Israel. 12. Josephus: Antiquities: Bk XVIII/Ch IX/Se 4. 13. Josephus: Antiquities: Bk XIV/Ch X/Se 116. 14. Martin Noth: The History of Israel. THE PROPHECY PLOT 17 Empire. Such an action could have caused resentment in the land of Palestine and also apprehension within the other vassal states of the Roman Empire. Secondly, if any such census as claimed by Luke was demanded by the Roman Emperor, then one would expect it to be conducted in a Roman fashion, which according to evidences of history required registration at the place of domicile and not ancestral origin. The Roman presence in the Hebrew territory was already resented by the indigeous population of the land. A census which required a mass displacement of nearly 4 million Jews of Palestine15 would not have only caused untold hardship and turmoil to the Jewish people but would have also flared feeling of acute resentment against the imperial masters. The Roman dynasty however, had not transversed the known world out of sheer stupidity. They had conquered and subjected many an ancient civilization as a result of their ingenuity and hence it would be inconceivable to imagine that they could be so vain as to give futile cause for rebellion to an already rebellious nation. There is ample evidence in history to suggest that the Romans were extremely conscious of the emotional susceptibilities of the people they dominated. They were, in fact, exceptionally benevolent towards the Hebrew people in particular. According to Josephus’s evidence, the Jewish nation managed to acquire some unique rights and privileges. 16 At one stage, when the Hebrew people complained of harassment by another vassal state, the Roman Senate issued a decree to the effect that ‘since the Romans, following the conduct of their ancestors, were ambitious to settle their confederates and friends in happiness and firm peace, they designed that no injury should be done to the Jews who were the confederates ofthe Romans.’17 Common sense also demands that Luke’s testimony in relation to the conduct of this census be considered in light of rational explanations and expectations. If as Luke alleges, the census was being demanded for the purposes of taxation, 18 then one would think that a registration at the place of domicile would be more appropriate. A tax is a financial contribution imposed by a government to raise revenue, levied on the income or property of a person.19 One would imagine that in this event, it would be more appropriate to conduct a registration in the city of domicile rather than of ancestral origin as the former could see the verification process of an individual’s declaration of income and assets. 15. Weech, W. N.: History of the World. Luke alleges that Caesar ordered a census througout the Roman Empire. (Luke 2:2, 3) This would have meant a mass movement within the entire Roman world. 16. Josephus: Antiquities: Bk XIV/Ch X/Sc 3/22. 17. Josephus: Antiquities: Bk XIV/Ch X/Sc 22. 18. Luke 2:3. 19. Collins English Dictionary. 18 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Actual Census Held Ten Years Later The author of the gospel of Luke appears to have overlooked these considerations in his ‘pious zeal’ to place the mother of Jesus in the city of Bethlehem Ephrath at the time of her first born’s birth. But this however, is not the full extent of Luke’s miscalculations. His ingenuity in placing the virgin Mary in the city of Bethlehem of Judaea at the time of her son’s birth in 4 BCE does not stand the strains of historical scrutiny. Luke alleges that the census demanded by Caesar was conducted under the supervision of the Roman Governor of Syria, Sulpicius Quirinius alias Cyrenius20 but historical records maintain that at the time of Jesus’s birth, when Herod the Great was the king of the Hebrew nation, the Roman province of Syria was under the jurisdiction of the Roman procurator Quintilius Varus.21 Varus succeeded Saturinius as the governor of Syria in 6 BCE22 and he continued to serve as the supreme agent of the Caesar in Syria throughout the reign of Herod the Great. Quintilius Varus was still in Syria when Herod the Great’s son Archealus went to Rome to assert his right to the kingdom of his father and plead his case in Caesar’s court. He came to Jerusalem from Syria to quell a rebellion against Archealus when Herod’s son was still in Rome. Not much later, when the Judaean nationalists besieged the Roman garrison in Jerusalem, Varus marched unto Jerusalem with two Roman legions stationed in Syria?3 According to Josephus, the Roman province of Syria was still under the governorship of Varus when the Jewish nation accused Archealus in the court of Caesar and Herod the Great’s kingdom was divided amongst his three sons Archealus, Phillip and Antipas.24 This, according to other historical records, happened two years after Jesus’s birth when Joseph and Mary are said to have been returning from their self imposed exile in Egypt?5 Sulpicius Quirinius, alias Cyrenius did not take over as the Governor of Syria till after Herod’s kingdom was divided amongst his three sons in the year 2 BCE when Jesus was already 2 years of age. At the time when Jesus was born in 4 BCE, Cyrenius was the pro consul of Africa and hence could not have conducted a census in the Hebrew kingdom of Herod the Great. It is hence not surprising that Luke’s alleged census of 4 BCE is not mentioned by any of the reputable historians of his age, including Nicholaus of Damascus, a first century historian who not only sat in Herod the Great’s court26 but also wrote more than a hundred books of history and also Flavious Josephus, who is acknowledged to be a diligent historian and a man of impeccable integrity. 27 20. Luke 2:3. 21. Josephus: Antiquities: Bk XVII/Ch V/Se 2. 22. Martin Noth: The History of Israel. 23. Josephus: Antiquities: Bk XVII/Ch X/Se 1 & 9/10. 24. Josephus: Antiquities: Bk XVII/Ch XI/Se 4. 25. lllustrated National Family Bible: Chronological Index. 26. Josephus: Antiquities: Bk XVII/Ch V/Se 4. 27. Joseph ScaJiger: De Emendatione Temporum. THE PROPHECY PLOT 19 Apparently, the Roman Governor of Syria, Cyrenius did conduct a census in Judaea but only after Archealus’s kingdom had been deprived of its independence and it had been constituted a part of the greater Roman province of Syria in the year 6 CE.28 Jesus, the son of Mary was nearly 10 years of age when this census was undertaken by the Romans and as this census was demanded in Archealus’s former kingdom only, Jesus’s parents would not have been required to travel south to Bethlehem, they being subjects of Archealus’s brother Herod Antipas’s kingdom of Galilee. Descendant of David the Bethlehemite Micah’s specific mention of Bethlehem Ephrath in his oracle suggests that the subject of his prophecy would be born in the Judaean city of Bethlehem. But as this small highland town some five miles south of Jerusalem is affectionately identified with the great Israelite king, David son of Jesse, it has often been alleged that Micah’s prophecy not only foretold the birth of the Promised Ruler in the Judaean city of Bethlehem but also indicated that he would be born in the lineage of David the Bethlehemite.29 It is hence not surprising that Christian evangelists not only claim that Jesus was allegedly born in Bethlehem of Judaea but also maintain that he was a direct descendant of the great Israelite king.30 Jesus’s ancestry as a descendant of David is yet another essential dogma crucial to the whole premise upon which the Christian faith has been built and developed. Ironically, despite every effort by the ecclesiastical agencies, the question of his ancestry as a descendant of the Israelite king has never been satisfactorily established and the contradictory evidences of the canonical scriptures leave much to be desired. Jesus, according to the evidence of most Christian evangelists, was born without the agency of a father. 31 Joseph, the espoused husband of Mary was positively not his natural father. 32 Since the Jews did not account descent on the mother’s side,33 and Jesus did not have a physical father, being born fatherless, his descent from the lineage of David the Bethlehemite could not be established under any criteria. However, if certain concessions were made in this particular case and Jesus’s descent through his foster father Joseph was investigated, the suspect evidence of the two evangelists, Matthew and Luke, would still fail to establish the authenticity of their claim that he was a direct descendant of the Bethlehemite. 28. Josephus: Antiquities: Bk XVIII/Ch XIII/Se 5 & Bk XVIII/Bk IISc l. 29. John 7:42. 30. Matthew 2:1 & 1:l. 31. Matthew 1:18. 32. Luke 3:23. 33. Fredric Farrar: The Life of Christ. 20 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Luke’s genealogy of Jesus claims that his foster father was a son of Heli while Matthew maintains that Joseph was the son of a certain Jacob son of Matthan.34 Hence, while the parentage of Jacob or Heli’s son Joseph remains a mystery, the feasibility of tracing the son of Mary’s ancestry through his foster father not only remains remote but practically impossible as Joseph’s mystery father could have been a descendant of any of the other tribes of Israel. This however is only a small part of the discrepancies between the evidences of Matthew and Luke. The author of the Gospel of Matthew alleges that Joseph, son of J acob, was the 26th descendant of David through his elder son Solomon while the author of Luke maintains that he was the 41st descendant of the Israelite king, through his other son Nathan.35 To reconcile this apparent contradiction in the evidences of the two early evangelists, Christian apologists have often argued that while Matthew traced the genealogy of Jesus through his foster father Joseph, Luke is believed to have traced his genealogy through his mother Mary. What these apologists . fail to explain however, is as to how Luke could have been so careless with his evidence in stating that Heli was the father of Joseph36 and not of Mary. The difficulty in explaining this significant error is further aggravated by the fact that Luke appears to have been very concerned with minute detail. He for instance, ensures that Jesus’s sonship of Joseph is not misunderstood and makes it crystal clear that ‘he was supposed to be the son of Joseph.,J7 There are also some other discrepencies which need to be considered and taken into account when examining the two genealogies of Jesus. While Matthew and Luke trace the descent of Jesus through two separate sons of David the Bethlehemite, Solomon and Nathan, their separate accounts somehow fuse together into a common ancestral Shealtiel. Matthew alleges that Shealtiel was the son of Jeconiah, a descendant of David through his son Solomon whereas Luke claims that he was the son of Neri, a descendant of David through his younger son Nathan.38 Matthew and Luke then proceed to trace Jesus’s descent through the common grandson of Jeconiah and Neri, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, who according to Biblical chroniclers was the son of Shealtiel’s younger brother Pedaiah. 39 The confusion continues still further when Matthew claims that Jesus’s foster father was born in the lineage of Zerubbabel’s son Abuid and Luke alleges that Joseph was a descendant of Zerubbabel’s son Rhesa.40 What the two Christian evangelists fail to 34. Luke 3:23 & Matthew 1:16. 35. Matthew 1:6, 7 & Luke 3:31. 36. Matthew 1:6/16 & Luke 3:23, 31. 37. Luke 3:23. 38. Matthew 1:12 & Luke 3:27. 39. 1 Chronicles 3:19. 40. Matthew 1:13 & Luke 3:27. THE PROPHECY PLOT 21 appreciate however is that according to the Book of Chronicles, none of Zerubbabel’s eight children were named Abuid or Rhesa: “Zerubbabel was the father of two sons Meshullam and Hananiah and one daughter Shelomith. He had five other sons Hashubah, Ohel, Benechiah, Hasadiah and Jushab Hased. ,,41 The Gospel Truth Jesus, it appears from scriptural evidences, was neither born in the Judaean city of Bethlehem nor was he a descendant of king David of Bethlehem. According to the 4th synoptic gospel of the Christian scriptures, Jesus is said to have stirred quite a commotion with his learned discourse while he was visiting Jerusalem to attend the feast of the tabernacles. 42 The cause of this discord, it appears from John’s evidence, was the question of Jesus’s status as the anticipated Messiah of the Hebrew people.43 While some believed that he was the Christ, others had their reservations on account of their preconceived notion: “Hath not the scriptures said that Christ cometh of the seed of David and out of the town of Bethlehem where David was.,,44 Had Jesus “come of the seed of David and out of the town of Bethlehem where David was”, the Jewish nation would not have had any cause to dispute amongst themselves. Their refusal to recognise the son of Mary as the Messiah of the Hebrew people did not stem from any personal prejudice against Jesus but as a result of a positive knowledge that he did not fit within the constraints of the scriptural prophecy which foretold the advent of the Messiah from amongst the descendants of David and from out of the city of Bethlehem in Judaea. John’s scenario ofthe events at Jerusalem suggests that the son of Mary was not a stranger to these people who argued amongst themselves. This is evident from the fact that they not only wondered “how knoweth this man letters having never learnt,,45 but they also knew “this man whence he is” ,46 implying that they knew from what place or of what origin he was. a Hence, they refused 41. 1 Chronicles 3: 19, 20. 42. John 7:10-53. 43. John 7:26 & 41. 44. John 7:42. 45. John 7: 15. 46. John 7:27. a. ‘whence’: lit: ‘from what place, cause or origin’ COLLINS ENGLISH DICTIONARY 22 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS to acknowledge him as the Messiah because he was a Galilean47 and because he did not come out of the seed of David the Bethlehemite.48 This view is further substantiated by Nicodemus’s silence before the Pharisees when challenged to the effect: “Search and look, for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. ,,49 Nicodemus was a disciple of Jesus and one would have thought that he could have easily corrected the Pharisees by informing them that Jesus was not a Galilean but a Bethlehemite and this could have been verified from the “census records” alleged to have been prepared by the Roman Governor at the time of Jesus’s birth in the year 4 BCE. A similar question is raised by the alleged conversation between Phillip and his friend Nathaneal, who according to the gospel of John responded to Phillip’s invitation to meet the anticipated Messiah with a contemptuous remark, “Can any good come out of Nazareth. ,,50 A Levite from Bethlehem of Zebulon A conscientious study of Christology, based upon the evidences of the synoptic gospels leads one to the conclusion that the overenthusiasm of the early evangelists and their well meant zeal to honour and establish Jesus as the long awaited Messiah of the Hebrew people has not only resulted in an invention of some fanciful legends but has also suppressed and hidden some very essential and true facts of the life and ministry of historical Jesus. Happily however, the mystery surrounding the ancestry of Mary and hence her son Jesus is satisfactorily solved when some obscureb references found in the canonical gospels are examined in the light of Hebrew laws and customs. According to the author of Luke, Elizabeth, the mother of John was not only a wife of a Levite but was herself a descendant of the priestly family of Aaron.51 Traditionally, the Hebrew people were required to marry their daughters within their own family52 and although the law was basically designed to preserve the Divine appointments of inheritances, it appears that this practice of restricted marriages was religiously adhered to even by the Levites,53 It is hence not incorrect to infer that Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharia, was a Levite through her paternal as well as maternal families and since she 47. John 7:41. 48. John 7:42. 49. John 7:52. 50. John 1: 16. b. ‘hidden or concealed’. 51. Luke 1:5. 52. Numbers 36:1-12. 53. 1 Chronicles 23:22. THE PROPHECY PLOT 23 was the cousin of Jesus’s mother,54 Marytoo was a Levite as was her husband Joseph, being married to a Levite woman in accordance with the laws of Moses. Jesus’s Levitical affiliations are also indicated by the reported manner of his dress. The author of John’s gospel reports that Jesus wore a ‘seamless dress woven from top throughout’ 55 and this unique design of Jesus’s dress fits within the description of the Levitical dress designed for the Hebrew priests. 56 Mary and Joseph’s ancestors however, although Levites by descent, were not ofthe priestly order. c Joseph, the foster father of Jesus was a carpenter57 by trade and since the Hebrew people brought their children up in the trade of their ancestors, Joseph may have belonged to the Merari division of Levitesd and since Mary was married to him under the restrictive covenant of marriages, she too was of the stock of Levi’s youngest son. This may also account for her son Jesus’s initial training in the traditional trade of his ancestors. 58 The settlement of Mary and Joseph’s ancestors in the remote region of Galilee could be explained by the conduct of the Hebrew settlement after the division of Canaan. Historical records maintain that at the time of this eventful division, Canaan was distributed amongst the twelve non Levite tribes of Israel. The descendants of Jacob’s third son Levi, being entrusted with the service of the tabernacle, were not numbered amongst the inheritors of the land and hence did not receive a specific territory. But, as the other twelve tribes were required to give the Levites “one tenth of their own inheritances” the posterity of Levi, as a result of this Divine legacy, received a total of 48 cities and surrounding pasture lands, scattered all over the Hebrew domain. 59 The Aaronite Levites, being guardians of the Divine law and teachers of the Hebrew people were hence evenly distributed amongst the twelve tribes and with this distribution went the secondary tribes of Levi, required to assist the Aaronites in the maintenance of the sacred sanctuaries and its pasture lands. The descendants of Merari, historical records maintain, inherited four 54. Luke 1:36. 55. John 19:23. 56. Exodus 28:31. 32. c. Elizabeth’s husband Zacharias was not an Aaronite by descent. Since only 4 of the original 24 divisions of the Aaronite priests returned from exile in Babylon, the Jews pooled their resources and created another 20 priestly divisions from the non Aaronite Levites. Zacharias belonged to the division which carried Abijah’s name and was not necessarily a descendant of the priestly order. REFER AID TO BIBLE UNDERSTANDING PAGE 1341. WATCH TOWER PUBLICATION. 57. Matthew 13:55. d. The descendants of Levi’s youngest son Merari. They were entrusted with such duties in the service of the tabernacle as required carpentry skills. Numbers 3.36, 37. 58. Mark 6:3. 59. Numbers 18:20 & 35: 1-7. 24 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS cities from the Zebulunites.6(J Mary and Joseph’s ancestors may have hence settled in the northern territory of Zebulun at the time of this distribution. e There is, however, no evidence to suggest that they settled in what is alleged to be a ‘rather insignificant small village of Nazareth situated in the low mountains north of the valley of Jazreel’ as such a village does not appear to exist in the historical records of Palestine. f They may have been the residents of Bethlehem of Zebulun, a suburban village attached to one of the four cities inherited by the Merari Levites. Jesus’s descent from the humble stock of Merari Levites may also account for the extreme poverty suffered by his parents.61 With the consolidation of the Hebrew people in the land of Canaan, the holy tabernacle was finally replaced by permanent temples and hence the traditional skill of many a Levite family, including those of the Merarites, were made redundant during the reign of the Israelite king David.62 This unfortunate termination of the obligatory Merarite services and the supply and demand situation, was bound to force the skills of many a Merarite into obscurity and Jesus’s ancestors may have been among the unfortunate victims of David’s action. Jesus and the Promised Ruler of Micah’s Oracle The question of Jesus’s birth and descent however, is not the only evidence of this regrettable misappropriation of Micah’s prophecy by the author of Matthew’s gospel. Jesus, the son of Mary, did not accomplish any of the feats expected to be accomplished by the subject of Micah ‘s prophecy. On the contrary, his advent produced a complete contrast to the expectations ofthe oracle. The subject of Micah’s prophecy for instance, was expected to unite the seed of Jacob63 but Jesus was constantly involved in a controversy which caused a further breach within the ranks of the already divided Hebrew people.64 The Promised Ruler of Micah’s prophecy was also expected to “shepherd his people in the strength of the Lord and the majesty of His name. ,,65 Jesus spent most of his three years ministry in a state of constant fear66 and could not muster a strength of more than twelve disciples of which one Judas deserted him and the other, Peter denied him three times. His disciples and 60. Joshua 21 :34. e. The territory of Zebulun later bccame a part of Galiliec. f. Chapter Five: He shall be callcd a Nazarenc. 61. Luke 2:24 & Leviticus 12:18. 62. 1 Chronicles 23:26. 63. Micah 5:3. 64. The controversies which Jesus provoked during his short ministry of three years may be too numerous to cite. The following few from the Gospel of Matthcw arc hut a token. MATTHEW 9: 11. -34. 12:2. -: 14. -:34,15:2,21 :45. The division amongst thc seed of Jacoh is also cvident from JOHN 7:12, 52 & 8:-37/-59. 65. Micah 5:4. 66. Matthew 12:16, 16:20, John 7:7-10. THE PROPHECY PLOT 25 those favourably disposed towards him did not have the courage to “speak of him openly for the fear of the Jews. ,67 Micah the Morasthite also prophesied that the hand of the Promised Ruler would be lifted up upon all his adversaries and his enemies shall be cut Off.68 Ironically, Jesus not only failed to gain any superiority over his adversaries, but his enemies eventually prevailed against him.69 They arrested him, molested him, dragged him to court and accused him as a common criminal. The Roman Governor scourged him, his soldiers plaited a crown of thorns and put it upon his head. They also smote him with their hands and humiliated him in public. He was mocked and then driven to Golgotha and then finally subjected to the accursed cross.70 Micah’s oracle also indicated that the saviour of Israel will eventually rid the Hebrew people of all its graven images and grotesque idols.71 It is ironic that while the deniers of Jesus continue to obey the Divine commandment “Thou shalt not make unto thee, any graven images or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth,’m the followers of Jesus Christ have institutionalised the worship of graven images and pay reverence to the works of their own hands. While the subject of Micah’s prophecy was expected to destroy idolatry amongst the Israelites,73 the gentile followers of the Israelite prophet not only adorn their altars with the graven images of Jesus and his mother Mary but also tolerate pagan idols in some countries of the world.74 A specific mention of the Assyrian kingdom in Micah’s oracle indicates that this prophecy was expected to be fulfilled long before the birth of Jesus. According to the Biblical Chronicles, the Assyrian dynasty ceased to exist as a powerful nation some 608 years before the birth of Jesus when the Chaldeans and the Medes desolated Ninevah in 612 BCE. The Actual Subject of Micah’s Oracle: Biblical records maintain that immediately after the death of Jehoiada, the 9th century high priest who cleansed the land of Judaea of all its abominable idols,76 Jehoash, the king of Judaea began to encourage idolatry in his kingdom once again. The Judaean people stopped worshipping in the temples 67. John 7:13, 42, -50,18: 25-27. 68. Micah 5:9. 68. Micah 5:9. 69. John 18:12. 70. John 18:12, 18:22, 18:29, 18:30 & John Chapter 19. 71. Micah 5:13. 72. Exodus 20:4. 73. Micah 5:13. 74. Awake 22.9.83. 75. Micah 5:5. 76. 2 Kings 11:18. 26 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS of their ancestors and began to worship the idols and images of the Canaanite goddess Asherah.77 After the death of Jehoash, his son Amaziah succeeded his father as the king of Judaea. He undertook an expedition against the Edomites and on his return, he is believed to have brought back the pagan idols of the Edomites and installed them in the Judaean country.78 The Judaeans continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense at these places of pagan worship during the reign of Uzziah son of Amaziah.79 This deplorable state of affairs continued during the reign of Jotham son of Uzziah.80 For nearly 87 years after the reintroduction of idolatry in the land of Judaea, none of the successive Israelite kings ever aspired to abolish the abonimable practice but, on the contrary, they appeared to encourage the sin and also became a party to it themselves. Micah the Morasthite, the faithful witness ofthe Lord began to prophesy during the reign of Jotham. 81 Although this grave offence had not yet desecrated the sacred precincts of the holy temple, Micah’s prophetic vision foresaw the sin on the doorsteps of Jerusalem.82 His vision was eventually translated into reality within his own lifetime when Ahaz, the son of Jotharn defiled the sacredness ofthe temple in Jerusalem by setting up a heathen altar next to the holy altar of Jehovah.83 Ahaz, the detestable king of Judaea was finally succeeded by his son Hezekiah. When Hezekiah came to the throne in 726 BCE, he found his people thoroughly engrossed in idolatry and he immediately exerted himself to put a check to this abominable practice and destroy it from its very roots. One of Hezekiah’s first actions after assuming power in Judaea was to reopen the gates of the holy temple in Jerusalem. He arranged to have the temple cleaned and repaired and also arranged the Levites to conduct the essential services at the temple.84 Within two months of his succession, he invited the seed of J acob from as far as Manessah to Ephraim and from Dan to Beersheba, to come to Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover according to the Law.85 He “gathered the remnant of his brethren,,86 during the second month of his reign when for seven days, “a great number of people from all over the Hebrew lands gathered in Jerusalem and celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread. ,,87 77. 2 Chronicles 24:15. 78. 2 Kings 25: 14. 79. 2 Kings 15:4. 80. 2 Chronicles 27:2. 81. Micah 1:1. 82. Micah 1:9. 83. 2 Kings 16: 10-18. 84. 2 Chronicles 29:3-36. 85. 2 Chronicles 30:1-6. 86. Micah 5:3. 87. 2 Chronicles 30:13-21. THE PROPHECY PLOT 27 Immediately after the festival ended, all the Israelites who were present: “went out to the cities of Judaea and brake the images in pieces and cut down the groves and threw down the high places out of all Judaea and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all. ,,88 Biblical records maintain that this bold action was undertaken by the Israelites under the patronage of the Israelite king Hezekiah: “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did. He removed the high places and brake the images, and cut down the images of the goddess Asherah. ,,89 Hence, Hezekiah, a descendant of the Israelite king David, fulfilled Micah the Morasthite’s prophecy which indicated: “Thy graven images also will I cut otT, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee, and thou shalt no more worship the works of thine hand. And I will pluck up thy Asherim out of the midst of thee, so will I destroy thy cities.,,90 The Promised Ruler of Micah’s oracle, Hezekiah, also “shepherded his people in the strength of the Lord and in the majesty of His name. ,,91 When the Assyrian king Sennacherib treaded through the borders of his land and threatened the holy city of Jerusalem, Hezekiah refused to be intimidated and prepared his people to meet the challenge of the Assyrian might. He cut off the supply of water outside Jerusalem hence preventing the Assyrians from having any fresh water when they approached the holy city. He strengthened the city’s defences and massed a huge amount of arsenal. He also induced confidence in his mobilised army by advising them to: 88. 2 Chronicles 31:1. 89. 2 Kings 18:3. 90. Micah 5:13-15. 91. Micah 5:4. “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria nor for the multitude that is with him; for there be more with us than with him. 28 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord God to help us, and to fight our battles. ,,92 Hezekiah eventually brought peace to his people as prophesied by the Morasthite.93 His fervent prayers in the temple of Yahweh94 were finally heard. An angel of the Lord went to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. The Assyrian king Sennacherib was forced to retreat to Ninevah and he was eventually assassinated by his own sons.95 Hezekiah’s adversaries were hence cut off and Judaea was delivered of its enemies as prophesied by Micah the Morasthite.96 The Promised Ruler from Bethlehem, a descendant of the great Israelite king David accomplished the faithful witness’s prophecy to the letter. “He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him, was none like him, nor any that were before him. ,,97 r—- Blessings Through Persevere nee ——. Those who shall persevere unto the last, though distress descends upon them which shall shake them very badly, storm after storm of troubles blow on them one after another, until people begin to laugh at them with scorn and the world treats them with contempt, in the end they shall triumph and the doors of blessings shall be opened upon them. (Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad) 92. 2 Chronicles 32: 1-8. 93. Micah 5:5. 94. 2 Kings 19:14-19. 95. 2 Kings 19:35-37. 96. Micah 5:9 & 6. 97. 2 Kings 18:5.