Whichever Psalm It Was Showing, Irish Find Came At Odd Time And With Message
It was amazing or seemed to be right from the start: as we all heard last week, an ancient Book of Psalms, or excerpts from it, were found in an Irish bog. The book, dated to medieval times -- perhaps as old as 1,200 years -- was in soggy earth and yet somehow had survived in what a scientist called "a miracle find."
That was one thing. There were those who argued that a bog is great at preserving materials, but that it was unearthed and spotted before it could be destroyed by the bucket of a bulldozer -- which was working on a commercial site -- and that the elements did not eat away at it, caused Pat Wallace, director of the National Museum of Ireland, to describe it "really way out" and "incalculably more amazing" than an ordinary archeological discovery.
Had the item been left out for just one night -- there in the field, he pointed out -- it could have dried up and blown away.
For others, what took it to another level of "coincidence" was that the legible excerpt, or what at first was thought to be the legible passage, was the 83rd psalm -- wherein is a passage about Israel surrounded by its enemies.
In that chapter are these startling words:
"Look! Your enemies are in revolt, and those who hate you are rebelling. They are making secret plans against your people; they are plotting against those you protect. 'Come,' they say, 'let us destroy their nation, so that Israel will be forgotten forever.'"
Breathtaking words, in that they came in the middle of the most severe test Israel has faced since the 1970s or even 1967 (considering the stiff Hezbollah resistance and what it may portend for the future).
In the biblical passage we see what is described as an "alliance" against Israel consisting of people from such places as Edom, Moab, Ammon, Gebal, Amalek, Philistia, and Tyre.
Incredibly, there was a war incident precisely at Tyre last week ("the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon is at its most unremitting in the hills around the spectacularly located southern Lebanese port of Tyre," reported BBC) and back in history Ammon was Jordan, as was Moab, while Edom headed toward if not right into Saudi Arabia, where so many anti-Israeli forces have been financed (including Bin Laden).
Philistia could be identified, along with Amalek and Gebal, as Palestinian, Jordanian, Lebanese, or nomadic Arab territory.
This was what seemed to make the passage spectacular. And it appeared to justify what Israel was doing -- mentioning, as it does, the hope that such enemies would be "defeated and terrified forever."
But was it really Psalm 83?
By week's end, experts were saying that in the original Latin, Psalm 83 was actually Psalm 84 -- which contains nothing of direct relevance to the current crisis, but is rather a high praise of God underscoring how happy those are who have "trust" in Him -- in effect, an invocation of His Mercy!
In some ways, that was even more spectacular. But it did not justify the conflict (which would have put it at odds, for one, with the Vatican, which has condemned the Israeli action).
Nonetheless, the fact that Psalm 83 was cited as the excerpt in initial reports sent a jolt around the world. If nothing else, it seemed to be saying that it is time to read the Bible!
It has been noted that the discovery of the Isaiah manuscript of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, and its identification in 1948, was also a major confluence, precisely in the years when the United Nations voted to partition Palestine and David Ben Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel (Isaiah perhaps being the primary prophet foretelling the restoration of the Jews to their land).
Israelites themselves aren't sure about a coming apocalypse. A recent poll showed that only 44 percent believe in a Messiah, and of those who do, less than half believe His coming is near. About 74 percent believe in God (significantly lower than the more than 90 percent of Americans).
But if we're going to get into numbers, let's get back to that Irish bog -- and the odds that such a book would be discovered during such an intense Bible-like moment.
One can do a quick calculation: if the Bible is a thousand years old, odds of it being found during any particular year are one in a thousand and during such a week many times higher still.
Is Israel really apocalyptic?
We can be sure that, whatever its role, this nation is at a geographic power spot that in some way will figure into future events -- if perhaps not quite to the extent promoted by evangelicals, some major happening. It is a mysterious land of Armageddon, if nothing else.
And whether or not the Irish find was showing an excerpt of Psalm 83 (as it is numbered in the Catholic and King James bibles), it remains curious that this passage would receive the initial attention and ends with the words:
"O my God, make them like the whirling dust, like chaff before the wind," it implores God against Israel's enemies. "Like fire that burns the forest and like a flame that sets the mountains on fire, so pursue them with Your tempest and terrify them with Your storm. Fill their faces with dishonor, that they may seek Your name, O Lord. Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever, and let them be humiliated and perish, that they may know that You alone, Whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth."
"Spilled and burning oil, along with forest fires, toxic waste flows and growing garbage heaps have gone from nuisances to threats to people and wildlife, they say, marring a country traditionally known for its clean air and scenic greenery," said The New York Times the very week of the discovery, reporting about the strike on a plant in Lebanon. "Four of the plant's six oil storage containers have burned completely, spilling at least 10,000 tons of thick fuel oil into the sea initially, and possibly up to 15,000 more in the weeks since. A fifth tank burst into flames on Thursday, residents said, adding to a smoke cloud that has spewed soot and debris miles away."
The fire was so hot that it melted rail cars into "blobs" and turned into glass the sand below.
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