27. THE JUDGEMENT OF THE EMPIRES .The event of the century

The event of the century

1. The empires that dominate the world seem eternal. Frequently, its power becomes absolute. Depending on the facts, the reasons supporting them are diverse: the greek culture, the roman peace, the nation itself, the Christian civilization, the liberation of the working class, the defence of the Western world, national security, the pagan culture. What then can be done? Is it possible to collaborate with the absolute power? A violent resistant is pertinent? Is a pacific resistant better? The judgement of the empires, is something forgotten?, does it take place already now?, is it the event of the century?, what is happening?
2. Through the Bible large empires go by: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome. We find in them diverse situations. Joseph becomes Egypt’s prime minister (Gn 41, 41); Moses, saved from the waters by the pharaon´s daughter (Ex 2, 10), liberates his people from the Egyptian oppression (3, 7 – 10). The king of the Chaldeans (625 – 621 b. C.) leaps to the conquest of a vast part of the world and prophet Habacuc asks himself: Shall the Lord keep silent before this crazy adventure? (Ha 1, 2). Daniel, one of the Jews exiled in Babylon, collaborates with the king (Dn 1, 19), but he dreams with the judgement of the empires (7, 1 -18) and he also suffers the snatches of the power (14, 33 – 39). Jesus admires the faith of the centurion (Mt 8, 10) and, nevertheless, he is crucified by the roman power (Mc 15, 15 – 27).
3. Assyria comes from Assur, the god of the empire. Any people must subdue to it. The enemies are exterminated. King Senaquerib (704 – 681 a. C.) boasts about it: “Under the mandate of god Assur, the Great Lord, I fell like a hurricane over the enemy… I defeated them and I oblige them to pull back. I crossed the enemy units with arrows and spears… I cut their throats like to sheep… My horses pranced, harnessed, submerged into the blood that ran like in a river; the wheels of my battle cart were splashed with blood and waste. I filled the plain with the corpses of the warriors, as if they were grass”. Well then, in the fore front, before than the news, the feet of the messenger appear (Na 2, 1). He comes running, flying over the mountains. The messenger announces the peace, but also the event of the century: the fall of Nínive, the capital of the Assyrian empire (612 b. C.). It seemed impossible. But it is written down: “Woe to the bloody city!” (Na 3, 1). Assyrian king Manasés (698 – 643), a vassal rendered to the empire will, “he spilled so much innocent blood that he flooded Jerusalem from one end to the other” (2 R 21, 16). According to the Jewish tradition, prophet Isaiah was one of his victims

4. Babylon contributes to carry out the judgement against Nínive: “I am going to do in your own days, something that you would not believe if you were told it. I am going to call the Chaldeans, that terrifying and violent people who raid to the ends of the earth” (Ha 1, 5 – 6). The judgement is against Judah too, which has made what God condemns. Babylon will be place of exile: “When the seventy years allowed to Babylon have been completed I will come to you and fulfil my promise of restoring you back to this place”. (Jr 29, 10). As Nínive made before, Babylon raises before God like an absolute power, with pride and insolence (50, 29 – 32). She become the city of evil: “Capital of Babylon, criminal” (Ps 137). Finally, she will be taken by the Persian Cyrus (539 b. C.)

5. In the fourth century before Christ the dominium of the world displaces slowly from Eastern to Western. In two famous battles the Greeks stop the advance of the Persian empire: in Marathon (491 b. C.) and Salamina (480 b. C.). And in Ipso, North of Syria, Alexander of Macedonia imposes his dominium (333 b. C.). His first objective is Egypt. With 32.000 infantry soldiers and 5.000 cavalry, he goes towards the south, followed by sea by a fleet of 160 ships. By the way, in the Syrian coast, he first captures Tyro and, then Gaza. The movement of troops stationed in the coast cannot go without notice for the Jews. According to the historian Flavius Josephus, after Gaza capture, Alexander goes to Jerusalem. The people and the High Priest receive him with all kind of honours. Accepting the desires of the people, the Macedonian makes an offering in the temple. Then he goes towards Egypt. Alexander “After fighting many battles, conquering strongholds and putting to death the kings of those nations, he reached the ends of the earth and plundered several nations. And when the world became quiet and subject to his power, he became proud and arrogant. He gathered a strong army, ruled over provinces and nations, and rulers paid him taxes. But he fell sick, and he learnt that he was going to die” (1 Mc 1, 2 – 5). Four generals succeeded him dividing his empire between them: “At his death all cling on the diadem, and their children after them, for long years” (1, 9)

6. From their descendants there came a “godless offshoot”, Antiochus Epiphanies (1, 10), who reigned from 175 to 164 b. C. “When Antiochus felt confident of his power, he decided to seize Egypt and rule over the two nations. He entered Egypt with a strong army, with chariots of war, elephants, horses and a great fleet”, “the victors seized the fortified cities of Egypt and plundered the land” (1, 16 – 19). Afterwards “he went up to Jerusalem with a strong army”, he sacked the temple and “he took everything with him and left for his country, after shedding much blood and making arrogant statements”.(1, 20 – 24). He count on the complicity of some Jews attracted by the new culture: “they abandoned the Holy Covenant, sinning as they pleased and they sold themselves to make the evil” (1, 15)

7. Antiochus wants to unify the peoples with the imposition of a strange cult: “Antiochus issued a decree to his whole kingdom. All the peoples of his empire had to renounce their particular customs and become one peo ple. All the pagan nations obeyed and respected the king’s decree, and even in Israel many accepted the imposed cult. They offered sacrifices to idols and no longer respected the Sabbath.” (1 Mc 1, 41 – 43). The decree “ordered to follow customs strange to the country” (1, 44), “The sanctuary and its ministers were no longer to be regarded sacred” (1, 46), “that who disobey the decree shall die” (1, 50), the king ordered to rise a pagan altar on the altar of the temple, “abominable idol of the invaders” (1, 54). Coexistence becomes impossible. Aperture to the alien does not mean disdain towards the own. In the fight between greek paganism and Jewish
faith there are three years of crisis, indicated by the uprising of Judas the Maccabee (167 – 164 b. C.)
8. At the beginning, the “Hasidim”, pious people who organize in fraternity, join in the Maccabee fight, but the movement is soon divide. The Maccabee look for the political and religious liberation though the weapons. The “Hasidim” assume a peaceful resistance. They refuse the violent fight and place their hope in God´s hands. The resistance against the absolute power is the manifestation of a hard fight that last centuries. In that combat, evil’s strength and God´s strength are confronted. Antiochus is the most virulent incarnation of the demoniac power. The hope in the liberation is identified with God´s victory and the establishment of his kingdom. Those who are left, the “small rest”, will be called holy all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem” (Is 4, 3), “there stand the courts of justice” (Ps 122)
9. The book of Daniel is spread in the year 164 before Christ, little before of Antiochus´ death, It is a message of hope in the middle of the difficulties of the present time. Narrations transmitted between the Jews of the Diaspora are made present. Daniel, one of the Jews exiled in Babylon (Dn 5, 13), provided with prophetic spirit (4, 5), has the gift of explaining dreams and visions, revealing in this manner the sense of history (1, 6. 17; 2, 25). That is precisely what is needed now. What is happening is something that overflows, an enigma too large to be interpreted with human means. A revelation from God is needed. The case is not easy. It is necessary to understand from the heart (Dn 10, 12). Daniel contemplates in night visions a horizon of centuries. The empires go by. God stays: “Your throne stands from long ago, O Lord, from all eternity you are.” (Ps 93). The believers suffer the snatches of the power, but God makes justice to them, they participate (now already) in the judgement of the empires. God talks in many ways, also in dreams. His word descends to the depths of the unconscious world and overcomes the individual and collective censoring.

10. Daniel has a dream, that he, right away, writes down: “The four winds of heaven stirred up the great sea, and four great beasts, each one different from the other, came out of the sea. The first was like a lion with eagle’s wings. As I looked at it, its wings were torn off. It was lifted up from the ground, stood up on its feet like a man, and was given a human heart. The second was a beast like a bear; it was raised up on one side and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told: Go and devour much flesh. I went on looking and saw another beast like a leopard with four wings on its back; it had four heads and dominion was given to it. I continued seeing my visions of the night and saw a terrible fourth beast. It was fear full and extraordinarily strong; it had great iron teeth; it ate, tore into pieces, and crushed underfoot whatever remained. It was different from the previous beasts and had ten horns. I was looking at the horns, when another small horn sprang among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots to make way for the new. It had eyes like human eyes and a mouth that uttered insolent words.” “While I was watching, some thrones were set in place and One of Great Age took his seat.” “Thousands upon thousands served him and a countless multitude stood before him. Those in the tribunal took their seats and opened the book.”, “I continued watching the nocturnal vision: One like a son of man came on the clouds of heaven. He faced the One of Great Age and was brought into his presence. Dominion, honour and kingship were given him, and all the peoples and nations of every language served him. His dominion is eternal and shall never pass away; his kingdom will never be destroyed.” (Dn 7, 1 – 14)

11. Daniel approached one of those who were standing there and he gave him the interpretation: “These four beasts are four kings who will rise from the earth. But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom to possess it eternally, forever and ever.” (7, 17 – 18), “The fourth animal shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, different from all the kingdoms. It will devour the earth, crush it and destroy it. The ten horns are ten kings who shall rise from this kingdom. Another one will rise up after them and destroy three kings. This king shall insult the Most High and persecute the holy ones of the Most High. He shall try to change the feasts and the laws. The holy ones shall be handed over to his power for a time, two times, and half a time. But judgment will come and dominion will be taken from him; he shall be destroyed and utterly wiped out. The kingship, dominion and leadership of all the kingdoms of the world shall be given to the people of the holy ones of God Most High: his kingdom will be without end. All the kingdoms shall serve him and be subject to him.” (7, 23 – 27). Daniel grew pale and he kept these things in his heart. (7, 28).

12. Human realities (empires) appear like beasts. Divine realities appear with human figure. History is judged before the throne of the Ancien (God) and before the throne of the son of man (the saints, Jesus of Nazareth). In the times of Jesus, the political beast is the roman empire. Rome is the “celebrated whore” with which kings and inhabitants of the earth fornicate, “the great Babylon” that gets drunk with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus, “the beast” that walks towards its destruction, the city that settles over seven hills (Rev 17, 1-9). An important detail: the religious beast puts itself at the service of the political beast (13, 11 – 12).

13. In the region of Gerasa, no sooner did Jesus left the boat than “he was met by a man with evil spirits who had come from the tombs.” (Mk 5, 2), “nobody could dominate him” (5, 4). The problem overflows, alienates, marginalize, destroys. The man meets Jesus, goes to him, addresses him with the messianic title, but all of a sudden shows resistance: “What do you want with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? For God’s sake I beg you, do not torment me.” (5, 7). It is what he had said to him: “Come out of the man, evil spirit.” (5, 8), Jesus confronts the problem, he makes him to get out, he asks him his name: “My name is legion, since we are many” (5, 9). The problem looks like it is of political origin: the word “legion” recalls the roman military force, the number “about two thousands” fits more in a legion than in a herd; the demons (like the Romans) want to stay in the region (dominated), they want to go into the pigs, the pigs throw themselves into the sea. The legion is a herd of pigs that goes to die into the sea, like the Egyptians (Ex 14, 15 – 31). The man has inside the madness of the country. A “large herd of pigs” that grazed at the base of the mountain could serve like symbol and signal. When coming out, the demons cause some damage.

14. The swineherds flee and narrates what had happened. People comes. They see the man “seated, dressed and in his right mind” (Mk 5, 15). They filled themselves with fear. “They then began to pray Jesus to go away of his limits” (5, 17). The problem raises blisters. When going into the boat, the man healed asks Jesus to stay with him. That who wanted to go into the legion, now wants to go into the boat. Jesus does not accept it. He says to him: “Go home, with your family and tell them what the Lord has made to you” (5, 20). He announces it through the whole region (see L.M. Romero, Jesus´ word liberating efficacy, evd, Estella, 2009, 242 – 253). In the photograph above, a coin of the imperial Rome with the pig can be seen, a symbol of the Legion X Fretensis, one of the legions stationed in that zone, famous due to its naval victory in the strait of Sicily (Fretum Siculum), from which its name comes.

15. In the first Jewish war (66 – 70 a. D.), the rebels attacked that zone: “All the people savagely participated in the slaughter of Cesarea, they distributed themselves in gangs and they devastated the Syrian little villages and the neighbour cities of Philadelphia, Esbus, Gerasa, Pella and Escitópolis. Later on they fell over Gadara, Hippus an the regions of Gaulanitide, and they destroyed or burnt the localities” (F. Josefo, The war of the Jews II, 458 – 459). Although Gerasa was attacked by the rebels, its inhabitants acted with piety: “They did not meddle with the Jews who coexisted in the city, but they escorted to the frontier to those who wanted to abandon the territory” (ib., 480). General Vespasianus “brought from Antioch the whole twelfth legion, two thousands infantry soldiers selected from the other legions (the III Gallica, the VI Ferrata, the X Fretensis and the XII Fulminata, six infantry cohorts and four cavalry sections” (ib, 500). The Legion X Fretensis participated in the occupation of Galilee, in the capture of Gerasa and of Jerusalem. Titus conquest the city and he destroys the temple. After the second Jewish war (132 – 135 a. D.)a roman colony was built over the ruins of Jerusalem: “Aelia Capitolina was a pagan city inhabited by gentiles. In the southern gate, looking towards Bethlehem, a pig image was engraved”  (Atlas of the Bible, P&J, Barcelona, 1991,180)

16. Jesus, the prophet of Galilee (Mt 21, 11), does not want to be confused with others who have come before (Jn 10, 8). The zealots announce the kingdom of God, but they expect to impose it in force. These does not find in Jesus support words, but of critics: they deliver their companions to be cut their throats by the Romans (Lk 13, 3), they see the wolf coming and they flee, they are salaried employees, they do not come in through the door, they steal, kill and destroy (Jn 10, 1 – 21). Although some of his disciples could had been a zealot, like Simon (Lk 6, 16) or Judas Iscariot (Mk 14, 10), Jesus is not one of them. He is not armed. He is “the good shepherd” (Jn 10, 14). His weapons are others, the signals of the kingdom of God.

17. In a special way, Jesus is the son of man. Crucified by bestial powers, he comes “on the clouds of heaven” to judge history. In an impressive challenge, Jesus told Caiaphas: “From now on you will see the con of man sit to the right of power and to come on the clouds of heaven” (Mt 24, 64; Ps 110, 1). The son of man comes with his “angels”, with his “saints”. The saints, joined in communities, judge the world (1 Co 6, 2), they sit to judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt 14, 28), to judge the nations (Mt 25, 32)

18. The judgement of the empires is present. August 20th 2010. President Obama, accomplishing his electoral promise, withdraws from Iraq the last combat troops (in the photo), United States ends so a war that she could not win. It leaves a ruined country and with little hope of stability. More than 100.000 Iraqi civilians and 4.419 soldiers of the occupying forces have died. The attempts do not stop. The United States have spend about 800.000 million dollars. With that money hunger could have been eradicated for 16 years from the world. This is a bestial world, a more human world is needed. February 23rd 2011. After the fall of the dictatorships of Tunisia and Egypt, popular protest gains strength in Yemen. In Algeria the police massive deployment aborts two protests. In Bahrain  the brutal force against the peaceful protestors provokes dead and wounded people. In Morocco disorders leave five dead. In Libya Gadafi fiercely refrains the protest with hundred of dead. The question arises: what is happening?, do the empire vassal dictatorships fall?, is this the Arab version of the Berlin’s wall fall?, is it a cry for democracy?, is it fear to hunger?

* Dialogue: over the judgement of the empires
- it is present now already, it is the event of the century
- Daniel’s dream is present, beasts that submit the earth with power
-  in Jesus´ times, the political beast is the roman empire
- the problem of Gerasa seems of political type
- the son of man comes to judge history
- the saints, joined in brotherhoods (communities), judge the world
- This world is bestial, a more human world is needed: what is happening?

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