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July 28, 2014
“Where are we going, Grandfather?” the little boy said happily as he and Ishmi-Lim set out again.
“We’re going to the palace, child.”
“Will I see the king?” Napir-Assu asked eagerly.
“Perhaps. Perhaps,” his grandfather answered. “But for now you just rest. I’ll tell you when we get there.” Resting his head against his grandfather’s chest, Napir-Assu quickly drifted off to sleep. Ishmi-Lim held him tightly as he walked. If only time could stop, and Ishmi-Lim could hold his grandson like this for eternity.
All too soon they arrived at the palace: Ishmi-Lim and Napir-Assu, the unseen Zaki, and a host of invisible demons who crowded and pushed at each other, each eager to feed on the emotions that would soon fill the palace and, when news of the sacrifice spread, fill the city as well.
The baru was waiting for Ishmi and the child. He held a drinking bowl filled with liquid in his left hand. “This is for the child and for you,” the chief diviner said. “It will put the child into a deep sleep, and it will dull your senses so you can bear what is about to happen.”
“Give it all to the child,” Ishmi-Lim said.
“But …”the baru began to protest. Then seeing the look on his friend’s face, the chief diviner looked away. “Here,” he said, handing the drinking bowl to Ishmi-Lim. Ishmi-Lim shook his grandson gently. When the little boy’s eyes opened, Ishmi held the bowl up to his lips. “Drink it,” he urged gently. Trustingly, Napir-Assu drank from the offered bowl.
“Ummm,” he murmured. “It’s good.”
“Drink it all.”
Moments later Napir-Assu was unconscious. The two men, followed by Zaki and the crowd of demons, went up the palace steps. They turned and went down an isolated corridor that opened on a small garden. By now light shed by the rising sun was flooding over the eastern horizon, and Zaki saw how beautiful the garden was. A canal filled with quiet water flowed beneath one wall. Palm trees and smaller fruit trees, citrus and date and pomegranate, provided shade from the hot sun for a variety of lush crops that grew beneath them. Zaki recognized peas and beans, lentils and cucumbers all set out in rows. Between the rows seasonings sprouted; mint, cumin, coriander, and mustard. In two of the corners there were melon vines to which dozens of the succulent fruits clung. Zaki drank in the sight and smell of the rich earth and growing things.
Then with a sense of horror Zaki noticed something else the garden contained. Just in front of him, partially obscured by the baru and Ishmi-Lim, there was a small portable altar on which a fire blazed. In front of the altar there was a bench on which lay a white and a red length of cloth. And on the white cloth Zaki saw the curved blade of a bronze knife.
“You’ve come,” said a voice behind Zaki. Zaki turned and saw the king. The two men, Ishmi-Lim still holding Napir-Assu tightly in his arms, fell to their knees.
“I don’t like this,” the king announced. “I don’t like this at all. But get on with it, Ishmi-Lim.”
Ishmi blanched, and Zaki realized that the father of the tablet house had expected that a priest would perform the actual sacrifice. It is my fate. Zaki heard the old man’s thoughts. There is nothing I can do.
Bowing his head to the king, Ishmi reluctantly placed his grandson on the bench. Gently, he folded two corners of the white cloth so that they covered the boys face. He folded its two other corners and covered the boys feet. Now only the child’s torso could be seen.
Ishmi-Lim picked up the knife. Uttering the ritual words that accompanied every sacrifice, Ishmi-Lim made a careful incision down the center of the child’s chest. Then he turned the knife over so that the reverse curve of the blade was uppermost. Motioning to the baru to grip each of the boy’s shoulders and hold them tightly, Ishmi-Lim drove the point of the knife into boy’s chest just below the collar bones. Napir-Assu gasped. Then, as the boy’s body relaxed, his grandfather ripped his chest open. Grasping each side of the child’s rib cage, Ishmi-Lim pulled them apart, exposing the heart. Picking up the knife again Ishmi-Lim cut out the heart and placed it, still beating, on the altar fire.
At that moment, Ishmi’s resolve broke. He screamed, all of his pent up emotions pouring out in that one, terrible cry. And all around Ishmi and the body of his grandson demons danced.
King Naqui-Adad quickly left the garden, followed by the baru. Ishmi-Lim was left alone with the body. Shaking, Ishmi-Lim wrapped the boy in the red cloth. He found the readied grave where it should have been, facing west, and he lay Napir-Assu in the ground with his face to the west, as tradition decreed. Then Ishmi-Lim returned to the altar. The fire had burned out, and his grandson’s heart lay there like a hardened clump of ash. Kneeling before the altar Ishmi-Lim rejected responsibility for his act, repeating a formula whose origin was lost in pre-history.
“The totality-of-the-gods has done this deed; I did not do it!”
But even as Ishmi-Lim recited the words, he knew it was a lie. He was responsible, and no one, man nor god, could lift the burden of that deed from him.
Ishmi was exhausted. He’d hardly slept for two days, and the stress of those days had been unbearable. Falling over on his side there in the garden, Ishmi-Lim slept. As he slept, he saw a vision. Lamashtu came to him, smiling, drenched in the blood of his grandson. She revealed the nature of the danger to the king and told Ishmi what the king must do to avoid it. Then she left him, but just before her features dissolved in swirling mists she laughed. “And you,” she said. “You shall have your reward.” Suddenly Ishmi-Lim was awake. He felt completely rested and relaxed. His ordeal was in the past,and his reward lay in the future.
Ishmi hurried in to the palace in search of Naqui-Adad. He told the king that a delegation from a rival city would arrive the next day. The third highest official in the delegation had been charged with assassinating the king. Lamashtu’s advice had been to poison the official before he was brought into the king’s presence. The king should then send the delegation home, with condolences and with rich gifts and a letter promising that the next delegation the king sent would be as welcome as the first, and that hopefully there would be no occasion for a second delegation to return in mourning.
The king listened and nodded agreement. It would be just as Lamashtu advised. “And Ishmi-Lim,” the Naqui-Adad added. “You have displayed your loyalty and your wisdom. Draft the letter and bring it to me tomorrow. Then you shall have the reward you deserve.”
That afternoon Ishmi-Lim labored over the letter that the king would send with the body of the murdered assassin. The wording must be just right. The ruler of the other city must understand that his plot had been uncovered, but subtly, with no overt accusation. Finally, Ishmi was satisfied. He sat back, relieved, and his thoughts returned to his grandson.
Napir-Assu was gone. Ishmi-Lim would have to see that food and drink were provided so the boy’s ghost would not be angry with his grandfather. He’d have to tell his wife and daughter. Perhaps report that the child had run up to one of the zoo animals and been killed? Whatever excuse he invented, it was much too late for regrets. Ishmi-Lim felt mildly surprised. Before he’d decided to sacrifice the boy, his conscience had tormented him. Yet now his conscience was quiet, as insensitive as the scar tissue that formed over an old wound.
It was then that Ishmi realized the one thing that had made the choice so hard was his fear that if he sacrificed the boy, the memory would torment him afterward. Well, that was one fear he apparently could now set aside. The boy was gone, and he, Ishmi, was recovering nicely. Perhaps it was safe now to think of that which had always been in the back of his mind – his reward. Ishmi smiled as he remembered his dream. He had been dressed in purple robes. Naqui-Adad had lifted him up. And there, awaiting him, were baskets filled with silver and gold.
The next morning when Ishmi-Lim reached the palace, he found it filled with important officials. Pleased that they would all witness the honors the king bestowed on him, Ishmi hurried toward the throne room. He was in such a hurry that Ishmi never noticed that everyone seemed to be looking at him strangely and that those nearest drew away as though fearful Ishmi’s robes might touch them.
He found the king waiting for him. Ishmi hurried forward, fell on his knees, and held out the letter he’d written. The ruler took the letter and set it aside. Behind Ishmi the room began to fill with the priests and administrators and military men who ran the city.
“Rise, Ishmi-Lim, father of the tablet house, supervisor of the royal scribes, collector of the king’s laws. “Be it known to all present that Ishmi-Lim has saved the life of the king and preserved the kingdom. For this he deserves a reward. Yet this deliverance was purchased by the life of Ishmi-Lim’s grandson, who he himself killed, and then offered up the child’s heart as a sacrifice to Lamashtu…”
At this a shudder swept the room and horrified eyes were fixed on Ishmi-Lim.
“…for this too he deserves a reward.”
Now Naqui-Adad’s voice grew louder, and everyone there could sense his anger. “For offering up an innocent child as a sacrifice the reward is…death! And for saving the king’s life, the reward is a quick death.” Turning to his guards, the king ordered, “Soldiers, remove this wicked man from my court. Take him outside, strip him of his robes, and kill him. Then throw his body in the river. Let it rot there, never to be buried, that his ghost may wander forever and ever.”
Shocked and unbelieving, Ishmi-Lim was dragged out of the room by two of the soldiers. Too surprised to even object, the father of the tablet house disappeared from view. All that Zaki heard as Ishmi-Lim was dragged away was the mocking sound of demons laughing.
Later the law that Ishmi-Lim had idly penned was discovered in the house of tablets and added to the code of laws published in the city. 287. A citizen who sacrifices a child or grandchild to a god or a demon for whatever reason shall be bound hand and foot and thrown into the river. No one shall touch his body, nor shall he be buried, nor shall offerings be made to his ghost. His ghost shall wander in desert lands forever, mourning the child he delivered up.
Ishmi-Lim, the baru, Napir-Asu, the Naqui-Adad and the great city in which they lived—all had turned to dust over a thousand years before Zaki was born. But when the angel reappeared and took Zaki’s hand, they were all very real to the little man.
“Why did it have to happen that way, angel?” Zaki asked, with real tears moistening the cavities where his eyes had once rested. “I prayed so hard for the boy. Why didn’t Elohim act?”
Interpreter shook his head. “I cannot presume to explain why Elohim does anything, Zaki. I am but a creature. He is the Creator.”
“But it wasn’t right that the boy should die.”
“That’s true,” the angel agreed. “It wasn’t right. But, Zaki, everyone knew that it wasn’t right. There may have been no law against child sacrifice at that time, but Ishmi-Lim knew it was wicked to sacrifice his grandson. He knew it better than anyone.”
“Then why did he do it?”
“Zaki, you were there. You heard his thoughts. You tell me. Why did Ishmi-Lim do what he knew was wrong?”
“He thought that he did it out of gratitude and loyalty to the king. He thought he did it to save the city. He thought he did it because if he didn’t, terrible things might happen. He tried to convinced himself that what he knew was wrong was the right thing to do in the circumstances.”
“And…” the angel prompted.
“He thought he did it because he was afraid he’d lose his position. And because he wanted the reward he imagined he’d win.”
The angel nodded agreement. “What was his real motive, Zaki?”
Zaki thought for a moment. “I don’t know, angel. I don’t think Ishmi-Lim knew either.”
“Very good, Zaki,” the angel said approvingly. “You’ve discovered something very important about human beings. Humans know right from wrong. But they don’t understand why, when they know something is wrong or wicked or even evil, they find themselves doing it anyway. All humans have reasons for the wrongs they choose to do. But the true reason is that, deep within, every human is twisted. Every human heart is bent, Zaki. And because each heart is bent, everyone finds himself drawn to choices he knows are wrong. That’s why the Creator’s gift of human government is so significant.”
Zaki shook his head. “I don’t understand, angel.”
“Human governments make and enforce laws. Those laws ffirm moral truths the human heart struggles to ignore. Individuals will always find excuses to do what they want to do, even when conscience tells them what they want to do is wrong. Laws condemn the desire, and governments punish the act, brushing every excuse aside. Thus government restrains the wicked, limiting the evil humans do to each other.”
Zaki shook his head doubtfully. So the angel continued.
“Every society has laws. The laws differ in detail, but any government’s laws regulate the same kinds of behavior. All laws assume that some kinds of behaviors are right, and others are wrong. Laws also invite humans to look into their hearts. Humans who compare the desires of their hearts to standards of right and wrong expressed in laws may realize that they are bent. Only if humans acknowledge that they are bent and twisted morally will they look to Elohim for deliverance.”
Zaki still shook his head. Interpreter’s arguments were beyond his understanding.
“Angel, am I bent as well?”
The angel nodded. “Oh yes, Zaki. All humans are bent. Even the best of them. As you’ll see when we go on our next visit.
“You’ve met a truly wicked man in Ishmi-Lim. It’s time you met a truly good one.”
July 28, 2014
Each Gospel contains at least one comment made by Jesus concerning demons. In this series we look at these comments to see what we can discover.
Jesus shares his authority
“He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness” (Mathew 10:1).
“Calling the twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.” (Mark 6:7))
“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” *Luke 9:1).
1. All three synoptic [chronologically organized] Gospels report that at a point in his ministry Jesus “called the Twelve” together and “gave them authority over evil spirits.” Jesus had demonstrated that he himself had such authority. Now we see that he also can delegate that authority to his followers
2. At this point the authority to drive out evil spirits was limited to the Twelve. It might be argued that authority over evil spirits [demons] was limited to the original apostles But later Jesus gave similar authority to 72 “others” (Luke 10:1), and Acts portrays Philip exercising similar authority in Samaria (Acts 8:7).
3. Two of the Gospels also include authority “to heal every disease and sickness” or “cure diseases.” It is perhaps suggestive that the Gospels also relate various diseases and sicknesses to demon possession. In all such cases the exorcism of the demon lead to physical healing as well. Even so, we should not limit the authority Christ gave the disciples and others of his followers to physical ills caused by demons. Christ himself healed many of illnesses where Scripture provides no link to demonic activity.
4. All three passages describe this ability to drive out demons as “authority.” Only Luke adds “power” to “authority.” This helps us see an important point. “Power” is different in nature from “authority.” The Greek word translated “authority” while at times translated “power” in our English versions does not point directly to God’s intrinsic strength or might. Instead the root meaning of “authority” is “freedom of action.” Because Jesus has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:27), Jesus has ultimate freedom of action. Nothing in heaven or on earth is capable of limiting what Jesus is free to do. When this freedom of action is exercised by one who is omnipotent, the result is complete control of all that Jesus may choose to do.
5. While Jesus’ authority is complete, what he gave to his followers was a limited authority. Jesus followers were granted authority “over evil spirits.” This grant is further limited by the phrase “to drive them out.” No follower of Jesus has freedom to control other actions of evil spirits, or to manipulate them to carry out his or her wishes.
6. Those who practice exorcism today rely on this grant of limited authority by Jesus. Most realize that this authority is not limited to ‘professional ministers” but is granted to any believer in Jesus; that is, the relationship of the believer with Jesus through faith in him includes the “freedom of action” to drive out evil spirits” [demons.].
For a thorough development of this position, see Charles Kraft’s book, “I Give You Authority.”
July 16, 2014
The demon-goddess Lamashtu’s demand that he sacrifice his grandson had shaken Ishmi-Lim to the core. Shaking off the thought of reward the demon had planted in his mind, Ishmi pondered the consequences to the city should the king die.
Urgently pushing himself from the chair, he began searching through the clay tablets in one of the wicker baskets on his shelves. Here it is, the father of the tablet house thought. Taking the inscribed clay tablet back to his bench, Ishmi-Lim began to read. Millennium later, the tablet would be discovered and titled, The Lamentation over the Destruction of Ur. Zaki followed as Ishmi-Lim read the words.
Dead men, not potsherds,
Covered the approaches,
The walls were gaping,
the high gates, the roads,
were piled with dead.
In the side streets, where feasting crowds would gather,
Scattered they lay.
In all the streets and roadways the bodies lay.
In open fields that used to fill with dancers,
they lay in heaps.
The country’s blood now filled its holes,
like metal in a mold;
Bodies dissolved—like fat left in the sun.
Ishmi-Lim was a scholar. The tablets his collection contained were packed with information on almost every subject. There were lists of known plants and animals. There were lists of the symptoms of illnesses, and lists of omens that told physicians whether patients would live or die. There were astronomy tablets that accurately predicted eclipses hundreds of years in the future. There were tablets on mathematics that told how to calculate the amount of grain in a storage house, and tablets containing recipes cooks used to prepare food for the king’s table. And among all these tablets, there were accounts of the past that recorded what had happened when a king died unexpectedly and neighboring city-states seized the opportunity to attack. As Ishmi-Lim looked through the historical record, Zaki traced his thoughts and sensed something of the enormity of the decision the ummia faced.
When Sargon the Great died, his empire was torn by revolts. Thousands died in the wars that followed. Would our vassals rebel if Naqui-Adad died? When Naram-Sin sacked Nippur and desecrated the temple of Enlil, his city of Akkad became deserted. If I refuse to do what Lamashtu demands, will the gods destroy this city?
The tablets recorded case after case of city-states that were destroyed after the death of a king. But the tablets also recorded case after case of successful successors who expanded the power of the cities they inherited.
Which will happen if our ruler dies? Ishmi-Lim wondered. How can I know?
Ishmi-Lim was fully aware that the present king had honored him greatly. Ishmi-Lim had been promoted to become father of the royal tablet house, of the royal scribes, and collector of the royal laws. He was deeply in debt to the king. How could he ignore this danger to his king? Lurking just behind this thought was one Ishmi-Lim tried to keep hidden, even from himself.
The ummia stood motionless for a long time, holding unread tablets in his hands, struggling to think. His first reaction had been to reject Lamashtu’s demand. To give up his grandson was unthinkable! How he loved the little boy! How he delighted in the child’s quick mind and constant good humor. Even if he didn’t feel such affection for Napir-Assu, it would be wrong to sacrifice one’s own flesh and blood, even at the demand of a god. And, technically, Lamashtu was only a demon goddess, not one of the city’s chief gods at all.
Suddenly Ishmi-Lim put down the tablets he’d been holding. He couldn’t remain there in the tablet house. He had to get away.
This time Zaki managed to follow Ishmi-Lim when he left. Zaki slipped out the door behind him. Glancing back, Zaki saw that the demon was following Ishmi too. Zaki shook his head in wonder. He could see the demon and Ishmi-Lim. The demon could see Ishmi-Lim but couldn’t see Zaki. And Ishmi-Lim was completely unaware of either of the two beings who were following him.
I’ve got to take Napir-Assu to the animal park, Ishmi-Lim was thinking. I promised. And so Zaki and the demon trailed Ishmi as he collected Napir-Assu from his mother, and the two walked hand in hand up the hill to the palace compound. There the two spent the afternoon gazing at the animals from all over the known world that had been collected for the royal zoo.
I won’t even think about Lamashtu, Ishmi-Lim had said to himself. And for several hours he almost succeeded in putting the demon goddess’ demand out of his mind. Instead he focused on Napir-Assu, listening to the little boy’s chatter, filled with wonder and delight that his daughter should have produced such an exceptional child.
That night Ishmi-Lim couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t turn Napir-Assu over to the horrible demon who claimed that he belonged to her. He couldn’t. But even as he rejected the idea of sacrificing his grandson, he was aware that he hadn’t actually made up his mind. If a final decision had been made, why would he keep examining and reexamining possible consequences of refusing the demon’s demand?
All that night Ishmi imagined disaster after disaster befalling the king and the city. That night too the demon crouched beside Ishmi-Lim’s tossing body, and Zaki could sense its concentration as the demon focused on amplifying Ishmi-Lim’s fears.
Finally, exhausted, the man fell asleep. And he dreamed. Zaki could see the dream even as Ishmi-Lim experienced it. In the dream Ishmi-Lim was kneeling before the king. Ishmi was dressed in purple and gold ceremonial robes. The king extended his hand and lifted Ishmi-Lim up. Beside the king were baskets filled with gold and silver, and the king indicated they were all for him. In the dream Ishmi was filled with gratitude. He prostrated himself before the ruler and grasped both of his feet in his hands. What joy, Ishmi dreamed, to serve such a ruler! A ruler who prized and who honored his servant Ishmi-Lim above all men.
When Ishmi awoke he forgot the dream. But the awareness that wealth and honor was his for the taking lingered in his subconscious.
In the morning Ishmi-Lim returned to the tablet house. At breakfast he’d made his decision. He would not, he could not, give up Napir-Assu. Comfortable with his choice, the ummia was eager to get on with his most pressing task, completing the codification of the city’s laws. Then at mid-morning a messenger from the chief diviner arrived.
Gripped by dread, Ishmi-Lim took the message, a clay tablet that had been placed in a clay envelop and sealed with the baru’s seal. Sliding the tablet out of the envelop, Ishmi-Lim read the message. ” Lamashtu appeared again last night. She demands you give her Napir-Assu. She says you must hurry. Danger comes to the king in three days. ”
Ishmi-Lim felt a cold chill grip his heart and spread through his body. His arms and legs became numb, and the father of the tablet house realized that he had been deceiving himself. He hadn’t decided to save Napir-Assu at all. What he had decided was to present his grandson to Lamashtu as a sacrifice.
Calmly Ishmi-Lim told his chief assistant that he had business with the king. Then he left the tablet house and walked purposefully to the palace. There he found the buru, and together the two men asked for an audience with the ruler.
The king was shaken by the buru’s report of the omen that predicted his death and by his description of the visitation by Lamashtu. But he was also cautious, unwilling to authorize Ishmi-Lim to sacrifice his grandson. Human sacrifice was uncommon in the cities of the Mesopotamian plains, although a few instances of the sacrifice of adults were recorded. But there was no record of child sacrifice that any scholar had access to.
“Call all my diviners,” the king commanded. “Have each one consult his omens for answers to these questions: Is the king’s life in danger? If Napir-Assu is not sacrificed, will the king die? If Napir-Assu is sacrificed, will the king’s life be saved?”
To ensure honest answers, the king ordered that each diviner ask these questions repeatedly and ordered that each diviner be isolated until after he made his report. “Return tomorrow,” the king told the chief diviner and Ishmi-Lim. “We shall then hear what the gods have to say.”
Zaki was startled to realize that the demon who’d accompanied them to the palace was gone. But he had the distinct impression that the demon had gone to recruit others of his kind to manipulate the omens.
July 16, 2014
Each Gospel contains at least one comment made by Jesus concerning demons. In this series we look at these comments to see what we can discover.
Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, “By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebub. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.
“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils” (Luke 11:14-23; cf Matthew 12:22-32)
1. As we saw in our series on Jesus vs Demons, demons can be the cause of a physical disability, and driving out the demon can effect a cure. This does not imply that all illness or disabilities are due to demonization.
2. While the onlookers recognized the demonic origin of this individual’s disability they did not conclude that God was the source of Jesus’ power over demons. His enemies argued that Jesus was empowered by Satan, the ruler of demons. Others, asking for a “sign from heaven (ie., from God)” wanted more evidence.
Given the context, which is late in a public ministry during which Jesus has been known for healings and other miracles, neither of these reaction is warranted. Much earlier a member of the Sanhedrin, the supreme religious court of the Jews, had admitted to Christ, “we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no man can do the works you do except God be with him” (John 3). The accusation was dishonest, and the request for an additional sign from God hypocritical.
3. In Jesus’ response he depicts Satan as a being who rules a kingdom. In the first century kings were absolute monarchs, standing at the top of a hierarchy. Jesus’ illustration indicates that the spirit kingdom of Satan is organized rigidly. It allows for no independent action by individuals or groups within it. Only by presenting a united front can Satan’s kingdom hope to “stand.’ All must fall in line with Satan’s intents and purposes.
4. It follows that Satan’s purposes were being fulfilled in the activity of the demon who caused the man’s inability to speak. And that Jesus’ healing of the individual was a blow to whatever purpose of Satan the demon was seeking to accomplish.
This raises a question. There are many reports of healings performed by psychics or spiritists. This is especially common in the third world, where many seek out witchdoctors or sorcerers for healing. The question is, what purpose might Satan have in performing healings? Isn’t relieving humans of pain and suffering out of character for demons? We can answer that question best by considering Satan’s “interests and purposes.” While benefiting any individual is far from Satan’s intent, and it might seem that healing is a benefit, the fact is that occult healings provide access to humans for demons. There’s a price to pay for any healing performed by occult means.
While God transforms evil to accomplish his good purposes, Satan and his demons transform apparent good to accomplish evil purposes.
5. Jesus characterized the demon causing the man’s muteness as a “strong man” who was guarding “his own” house. Many have used this analogy to generate a title for Satan, “Strong Man.” In this passage, however, the strong man is a demon who has such a grip on an individual that the man can be called the demon’s “own house.” The only hope for truly being freed is if someone stronger attacks and expels the “strong man.”
This reminds us that dealing with demonization is a power issue. No matter how powerful a demon may be, Jesus is far more powerful. He and he alone is able to expel demons, and we cast out demons in his authority, relying on his power.
6. Jesus cast out the demon by “the finger of God.” The OT frequently uses the image of a hand or arm as a symbol of power. Jesus’ power is so great that just a finger is needed to deal with demons, however strong they may be.
In this incident Jesus revealed several important facts. First, Satan rules over a kingdom, and maintains control over the demons who are his subjects. The demons are committed to carrying out Satan’s purposes. We can’t imagine that there are “good” demons and “bad” demons who sometimes find themselves in conflict. All spirit beings in Satan’s kingdom are essentially evil, hostile to human beings, and committed to achieving Satan’s purposes.
The view of modern neopagans, that the majority of spirit beings in the unseen world are beneficial and benevolent, has no basis in Scripture. And any “good” such spirits may perform are self-serving [actually, Satan-serving] and intended, in Jesus’ words, to “take possession” of the person “helped.”:
The incident and Jesus’ remarks also make it clear that no matter how strong demons may be, Jesus has more than enough power to overcome them. We are to respect the power of evil. But we are not to have such a fear of evil spirits that we fail to stand against them.
July 11, 2014
An Exorcist Tells His Story
Ignatious Press, 1999
I’ve included far fewer book reviews on Demondope than I intended. The reason is, so many books in the field simply aren’t worth reviewing. Garbriel Amorth’s book is worth a review, in part because the author is the “chief exorcist of Rome,” and a vocal proponent of the new Roman Catholic policy of having a team of exorcists available in every diocese world-wide.
Amorth’s view of the sacramental aspect of exorcism and his reliance on ritual won’t fit with the experience and the views of many Protestants. But there is much common ground in the book, especially in Amorth’s frustration at the unwillingness of bishops and priests to take demons seriously. As he dryly comments, “Often priests do not believe in exorcisms . . . but if the bishop offers them the office of exorcist, the feel as though ten thousand demons were upon them and refuse” (p.67).
Rather than provide a critical analysis of the book, I prefer to simply share some of Amorth’s observations drawn from the some 30,000 [ritual] exorcisms he says he has performed.
“There are no good spirits other than angels. There are no evil spirits other than demons.” (p.30).
“I have to laugh when some modern ‘experts’ in theology state, as though it were a great novelty, that certain types of mental illnesses can be confused with diabolical possession. Some psychiatrists …make the same statements, thinking that they have invented the wheel! If they were more knowledgeable, they would know that the first experts to caution about making this diagnostic mistake have been the ecclesiastic authorities themselves. Since 1583, when it appeared among the decrees of the synod of Reims, the Church gave warning about the danger of mistaking mental illness for diabolical possession. But in those days, the science of psychiatry had not been born yet, and theologians believed in the Gospel.” (p 47).
“Where religion regresses, superstition progresses. We can see it in the proliferation, especially among the young, of spiritism, witchcraft, and the occult. . . . When I was invited to speak at a few high schools, I was able to personally verify how great us the influence of these tools of Satan on the young. It is unbelievable how widespread are witchcraft and spiritism, in all their forms, in middle and high schools. This evil is everywhere, even in small towns. I must point out that too many churchmen are totally disinterested in these problems, and so they leave the faithful defenseless.” (p,54)
“Every form of magic is practiced with recourse to Satan.” (p.60)
“In general, a demon does everything he can not to be discovered. He does not like to talk, and does everything he can to discourage both the exorcist and the possessed. Experience has taught me that this behavior follows four steps: prior to discovery, during exorcisms, at the beginning of liberation, and after liberation.” [Here Amorth lists various signs.]
“1. Prior to discovery. Demonic possession causes physical and mental disturbances. Therefore the possessed is usually under a doctor’s care, and nobody suspects the true nature of the problem.
.”2. During exorcisms. At first the demon tries to remain silent, or at least hide the seriousness of his possession. . . . [In a lengthy passage Fr. Amorth discusses various ways the demon may express himself..]
“3. At the beginning of liberation. [Again, a lengthy discussion.]
“4. After liberation. “It is important not to decrease prayer . . . .” (pp 91-99)
“One of the most effective tools against evil influences is one of the Gospel’s hardest precepts: forgive your enemies.” (p. 113)
“I have been told by many that many of my writings are argumentative toward certain theologians, bishops, and exorcists. It is not a matter of being argumentative, but of bringing the truth to light. This crisis is not only theological, it is pastoral above all. Today the devil is tormenting people, and when they look for an exorcist.[they can find none]..”
I doubt if many of you will want to purchase this book. There are others that are better guides. But Fr. Amorth remains a voice urging the Catholic church as well as all Christians to take demonism seriously today.
July 11, 2014
Zaki was in a great city. To the right were two large mounds, one topped by a temple, and on the other a palace. Below them tightly packed houses made of sun-dried brick radiated outward until contained by a high wall. Just before Zaki there was a wide roadway. Zaki peered both ways and realized he’d lost sight of Ishmi-Lim and his grandson. But before Zaki could set out to look for them, his nose sensed a familiar odor. It was the same rank, fetid odor that had assaulted his nostrils in Heart of Darkness.
Zaki looked around fearfully and saw a demon. The ugly creature was sitting on the roof of the tablet house, its legs swung over the side, encompassed in swirling wisps of darkness.
Zaki pressed himself tightly against the door he’d just passed through and gazed upward in terror. But the demon seemed unaware of Zaki’s presence. Quietly, moving slowly so as not to attract the demon’s attention, Zaki slipped back inside the tablet house. The angel had promised no demon could see him, but Zaki would take no chances with such evil creatures.
Zaki slipped back inside found a stretch of bare wall in Ishmi-Lim’s office. He sat, back against the wall. He’d wait here until the father of the tablet house returned the next day.
Shortly after sunrise Ishmi-Lim opened the door. Startled, Zaki came fully awake. The little man hadn’t slept, but he had dozed. Now, fully alert, Zaki stood and leaned against the wall to watch.
During the next two hours a half-dozen teachers and researchers entered Ishmi-Lim’s office. Zaki was impressed with the ummia’s decisive answers and the clear instructions he gave his subordinates. Near midmorning, one of the school’s big brothers knocked at Ishmi-Lim’s door and announced an important visitor. In awed tones the teacher whispered, “It’s the king’s baru. He says he must see you at once. He seems upset.”
Ishmi-Lim rose and went to the door. For a moment the ummia and his visitor were out of sight, but Zaki could hear their conversation. “I’m sorry to interrupt you, Ishmi-Lim,” Zaki heard the visitor say. The man’s voice quavered, and he took deep breaths between phrases.
“Not at all, not at all,” Ishmi responded. “The king’s chief diviner is welcome at any time. But I can see you’re upset. What is it, my friend?”
“I had a dream. A terrible dream.”
“And you’ve come to the tablet house to consult the Summa alu?”
“No, no!” the visitor said breathlessly. “I have my own copy of the Book of Omens. I’ve come because my dream sent me to you.”
“Well, come in. Come in, sit down, and catch your breath. Then tell me about it.”
Ishmi-Lim came through the door, followed by the visitor. When the chief diviner entered, Zaki drew back in horror. There, riding on the baru’s shoulders, clawed hands gripping each side of the man’s face, was the demon Zaki had seen the night before! The demon’s legs were wrapped around the chief diviner’s torso, and its face was split in a wicked grin. In contrast, the chief diviner’s face was pale, and his tunic was blotched with perspiration. Fearful, Zaki told himself that the demon couldn’t see him, but shrank back even more, repelled by the evil creature’s repulsive looks and its stench.
“Sit. Sit my friend,” Ishmi-Lim urged his visitor. The chief diviner shook his head and paced back and forth in the narrow room, frantically wiping at the sweat pouring from his face with the tail of his tunic.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” the chief diviner repeated again and again. “I’m so sorry, Ishmi-Lim.”
“Sit. Sit down for a minute,“ Ishmi-Lim urged. Listening to his thought, Zaki understood that Ishmi wondered if the king’s chief diviner was going mad. Ishmi grasped the royal official by one arm, his hand passing through the body of the demon that rode him.
“Sit. I insist.’
As the chief diviner slumped on a bench, all the energy seemed to drain out of him. After a moment, he looked up and forced himself to speak.
“Last night, before I went to bed, I read the king’s fortune as I do every night. I poured oil in into the bowl of water on my lap, and watched its movements. I couldn’t believe what I saw. The oil refused to spread out on the waters! Ishmi-Lim, this is the worst of all omens. It means the king will die, and that our city will die with him.
“I got another bowl of water and more oil. And the same thing happened again. I needn’t tell you that I couldn’t sleep. I paced the halls, worrying. I consulted the Surpu and the Maqlu for some spell to ward off the king’s fate. But there was none. Then I must have fallen asleep, or into a trance, because I saw a vision. The demon Lamashtu appeared to me. I saw her, Ishmi-Lim! I saw all her ugliness.”
At this Ishmi-Lim sat down suddenly. Lamashtu was one of the most evil of the demons, a wicked creature who attacked pregnant women and babies. Ishmi-Lim remembered the description of the demon recorded on his tablets, and he’d often seen the amulets bearing her picture that pregnant women wore in hopes the sight of her own ugliness would drive Lamashtu away. The words describing her came to Ishmi-Lim’s mind, and as Zaki followed his thoughts, he saw the demon riding the chief diviner mockingly change form to match the words:
She comes up from the swamp,
is fierce, terrible, forceful, destructive, powerful;
she is a goddess, is awe-inspiring.
Her feet are those of an eagle, her hands mean decay,
Her fingernails are long, her armpits rank and unshaven.
The daughter of Anu counts the pregnant women daily,
follows on the heels of those about to give birth.
She counts their months, marks their days on the wall.
Against those just giving birth she casts a spell:
“Bring me your sons, let me nurse them.”
She loves to drink bubbling human blood,
eats flesh not to be eaten, picks bones not to be picked.
Zaki watched the demon take on the appearance of Lamashtu, though underneath Zaki could still see a shadow of the demon’s true form. He’s enjoying this, Zaki realized. No, more than that. He’s feeding on the poor man’s terror!
“Then,” the chief diviner said, “Lamashtu spoke to me.” Zaki was aware that Ishmi-Lim was now beginning to feel the same horror and fear that radiated from his visitor. “I’m sorry, ummia. I’m so sorry,” the chief diviner repeated. Both fascinated and fearful, Ishmi-Lim urged his visitor, “Go on, man. Go on! What did Lamashtu say?”
“Lamashtu told me …” and the visitor hesitated again. “Lamashtu told me that she had been cheated when your grandson Napir-Assu was born. She had chosen him, but he was born prematurely, when she was away. Lamashtu says that she wants Napir-Assu now, and that only if you sacrifice him to her will she reveal how to save the king and the city.”
Ishmi-Lim’s heart seemed to stop beating. The blood drained from his face, and every limb went limp. His grandson? Lamashtu wanted Napir-Assu? Well, she couldn’t have him! Ishmi-Lim could never give up Napir-Assu, no matter what the cost.
For a moment Ishmi-Lim sat there in stunned silence. Then he spoke. “She can’t have him, Chief Diviner. Anything else. But not Napir-Assu.”
The chief diviner nodded sympathetically. “I know, Ishmi-Lim. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. But I had to deliver her message.”
“Of course. But now you’ve done that. Now go.”
The baru rose to leave. “She said that she’d tell you how to save the king and the city. If you gave her your grandson.”
Ishmi-Lim nodded. He understood.
“If you don’t,” the chief diviner said as he left, “we’re doomed.”
Then, just as the door was closing, the demon riding the baru jumped from his back and scurried to the corner of the room opposite to where Zaki crouched. The demon was staying.
Unaware of the two invisible observers, Ishmi-Lim slumped on his bench. Zaki didn’t know if the demon could read the human’s mind. But Zaki could. And what Zaki heard were whirling, disjointed fragments of thoughts.
I can’t give up Napir-Assu. I can’t.
But I must save the king’s life.
What would my wife and daughter think of me?
The king has no heirs. There’d be chaos.
Can I believe a demon? Would she really tell me how to save the king?
So many children die young. Would one more…?
As Ishmi-Lim struggled with his thoughts, the demon crept up to him and put his mouth to Ishmi’s ear. Zaki sensed the idea the demon was intent on planting and tracked it when it entered Ishmi-Lim’s mind. What would my reward be? When that thought came, Ishmi-Lim pushed it way. No!
Even as Ishmi rejected the thought, the demon grinned, then scuttled back to its corner. Zaki realized the demon knew that the thought of reward, as repulsive as it was, had been planted in the grandfather’s mind.
July 8, 2014
A reader of demondope writes: “I was talking with a friend at work who professes to be a Christian. He surprised me recently with a viewpoint on the Nephilim — that they were half-human, half-demon beings that lived on the earth in the BC. I looked up the Genesis passages in a variety of translations and could see it possibly in this way, but I lean toward the idea that they were some sons of men as wickedness was growing in the earth. Anyway, I thought I’d send you an email since this raises questions related to your blog.
“I wonder if it’d be possible for demons to have sexual relationships with humans, forced or not. I don’t remember ever seeing this anywhere else happening in the Bible, though certainly it does seem like demons can have a physical interaction with our world. Also, I wonder about what these beings would actually “be” if they were half-breeds. It seems less likely to me that God would allow strange new beings to be created.”
The reader isn’t the first to be puzzled by the passage. And he’s right. This is a valid question to take up on Demondope. So let’s take a look at Genesis 6:4:
What the Bible says
“The Nephilim [KJV "giants"] were on the earth in those days–and also afterward–when the Sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”
So what were these “heroes of old” called Nephilim?
One suggestion is that “Sons of God” here refers to humans from the “godly line” of Seth who had sex with women of an “ungodly” branch of humanity. There are a couple of obvious problems with this interpretation. First, there really wasn’t any “godly” line of human beings. All were sinners, inheriting a sin nature from Adam and Eve. This is made even more relevant by the next verse’s characterization of the whole human race: man’s wickedness had become so great that “every inclination of the thoughts of his [man's] heart was only evil continually.” Second, Why would such a union create Nephilim …men of such unusual strength that they are characterized as “the heroes of old, men of renown”?
The other possibility is that “Son’s of God” here refers to fallen angels [demons] who mated with human women and produced some sort of half-breed with unusual size and strength that set them apart from normal humans. The problem here is exactly the one stated by my correspondent: is it within the realm of possibility for demons to have sexual relationships with humans”? Besides, doesn’t Matthew 20:22 infer that angels (and demons are fallen angels) are sexless?
“Sons of God”
To determine which is more likely we first have to understand the phrase “sons of God.” In Hebrew idiom “sons of” refers to a class of beings. When the Bible speaks of “sons of the prophets” it means “those who are classified as prophets.” In normal Hebrew idiom “Sons of men” simply means “human beings”. When Jesus spoke of himself as “the Son of Man” he was not only identifying himself with a figure prophesied in the writings of Daniel, but was also identifying himself as a true human being. Understanding this idiom we can be positive that “daughters of men” in 6:4 is a reference to human women. But what does “sons of God” mean?
It’s true that in three passages at least the phrase “sons of God” refers to humans who have a covenant relationship with God (Deut. 14:1, 32:5, Psalm 73:15, Hos 1:10), even though the Hebrew is slightly different from that in Gen. 6:4. But it is also true that the phrase “sons of God” (bene ‘elohih) refers to angels (Job 1:6, 2:1,Psalm 39:1, 89:6). Here ‘elohih should not be understood as referring to the Creator, but rather to “supernatural beings.”
So the use of “sons of God” here does not give us a definitive answer to our question, although it is more likely that the phrase refers to fallen angels. If this is the case, we might translated Genesis 6:4,
“There were Nephilim on the earth in those days–and also afterward–produced when supernatural beings had children with human women. (Nephilim were the heroes of old, men of renown.)”
But is there any other biblical evidence?
Actually, there are several lines of biblical evidence that support this reading. There is evidence within the text itself, and supporting evidence in the Old and New Testaments.
Within the text. The offspring produced by the union are described as Nephilim, “the heroes of old.” While the exact meaning of “Nephilim” is unknown, it’s clear that they are a distinct class of persons notable for heroic deeds. The union of the supernatural beings with human women did not produce normal humans, but something obviously different. This fact alone, along with the fact that the mating takes place between the “sons of God” and human females [never with males] is significant.
Nephilim reappear in Scripture at the time of the conquest of Canaan. This is long after the Genesis Flood, when any human line that might have produced Nephilim has been wiped out. However, the supernatural beings Genesis may refer to were not affected by the Flood. If fallen angels now and then mated with human women their offspring would still be Nephilim. The chances are that Goliath, some 9 feet tall and immensely strong, may have been a Nephilim. But its the New Testament text that provides the strongest evidence for the idea that the Sons of God in Genesis 6:4 are fallen angels.
2 Peter 2:4-5 and Jude 6,7 describe the sin of a group of angels that, unlike other demons, are currently bound and awaiting judgment. These fallen angels are linked with the sexual perversion of Sodom and Gomorrah (ie, unnatural sex), and the texts closely connect their sin with the time of the Flood. Here are the two passages.
“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to Tartarus, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held fast for judgment, if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people . . . if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly . . . if this so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:4-5).
And, also on the theme of judgment . . .
“And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home–these has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the Great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 6,7)
Putting it together
Each of the two New Testament passages warns against false teachers and speaks of their coming judgment. Each passage also characterizes their lifestyle and teaching as marked by greed and sexual immorality. In this context the writers look back and select examples to demonstrate the certainty of the coming judgment. And in each passage Peter and Jude speak of certain fallen angels [not all fallen angels, for demons are present and active in our world today] who are currently “bound” and “held fast for judgment.” Jude describes these angels as those who “abandoned their home” and both writers refer to Sodom and Gomorrah, associating these fallen angels to “sexual immorality and perversion.” Peter associates these fallen angles with the time when “he brought the flood on its ungodly people.”
These passages fit too well with Genesis 6:4 to be coincidental. The picture they paint is of certain supernatural beings who left their own realm to engage in sexual immorality, and were subsequently imprisoned, isolated from their own kind and kept from repeating their sin while awaiting judgment for their unique perversion.
But . . . what about Matthew 22:30
That text simply says that the angels do not marry nor are given in marriage. This doesn’t necessarily mean that angels are without gender. And in fact, whenever angels do appear to human beings they’re described as “men.” There is no reference in Scripture to any good or evil angel appearing as a woman.
One more thing. It’s fascinating that Greek and Roman mythology–as well as the mythologies of other peoples–contain many stories of gods or goddesses who mate with humans and produce unusual offspring. Folk heroes like Hercules are cast as the offspring of supernatural beings. Given the universality of such stories, it’s more than likely that they are rooted in the perverted activities of demons in days of old. The fact that there are not more of such stories seems to me to be the result of decisive action by God and his angles to imprison the offending demons and keep them from further violation of the boundaries God has established between the visible and invisible universe.
July 8, 2014
When Zaki awoke the next morning, he felt the sun warming his face and was aware that he was hungry. Zaki stood up. He rested one hand on the wall of the ruin which had been his childhood home. He turned his head this way and that, as if he still had eyes and was peering into the distance. Zaki searched the black void he’d known for half a century, hoping to see a hint of the light that had dawned on him so recently.
Zaki remembered the crushing sense of despair that had gripped him as he fled Heart of Darkness. Strange. This morning Zaki’s despair was replaced by hope. Zaki stood there, one hand resting against the wall, and looked deep inside himself. Hope. Zaki hadn’t felt hope for over fifty years. But today he was looking forward rather than back. And he was looking forward expecting that something good was going to happen!
At the same time Zaki realized that he was hungry. Where was Rachel? Zaki wondered if he could find his way to her home. He knew where she lived, of course. The same place she’d always lived, the home that had been hers when they were children.
Suddenly Zaki realized that that the Rachel he’d known as a child was gone. Who was this Rachel? Was it her daughter? Her granddaughter? Zaki knew that somehow his Rachel had made sure that Zaki would be cared for even after her own body turned to dust, and the little man was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. Rachel had loved him with a love that outlasted the grave. Rachel had preserved his life, had made sure that he would survive until Elohim’s messenger came to restore him to life.
It was Rachel’s voice!
“Zaki, are you hungry?”
It was Rachel’s voice, one of the Rachels anyway. Zaki tried to smile for her, but the leathery skin that stretched tightly over his lips hardly moved.
“Yes, Rachel,” Zaki said. “I’m hungry. Thank you.”
“I’ll bring you food,” Rachel said, and Zaki heard her scurry quickly away.
Zaki sat down to wait. In a few moments Rachel returned with a bunch of grapes and a piece of round, flat bread smeared with soft goat cheese. Again Zaki ate hungrily as Rachel watched with amazement. In all the years she’d cared for the strange little man she’d had to coax him to eat. He’d never talked to her or spoken her name—how, Rachel wondered, had he even known her name?
As Zaki finished his meal he became aware he was being bathed in the light that he’d searched for earlier. Startled, Zaki looked up to see Interpreter standing beside him.
“Did you rest well?” the angel asked.
“Yes,” Zaki replied. “And I’ve eaten.”
“Are you ready to go?”
Zaki nodded and stretched out his hand. “Come along then,” the angel said, and took Zaki’s hand. As soon as their hands touched, Zaki found himself standing beside Interpreter inside a large, mud-brick room a thousand miles and just over a thousand years from Judea. Several young men sat on benches, bending over clay tablets, writing on them with what seemed to be reeds. Looking closely, Zaki saw that one end of each reed was cut on a sharp angle and that the young men wrote by pressing the reeds into the clay at different angles.
“Where are we, angel?” Zaki asked.
“We’re in a great city in an ancient land, Zaki. We’re in the school and workshop of Ishmi-Lim, the ummia, or “expert,” who is father of the tablet house. These young men are advanced students. They are making copies of laws that Ishmi-Lim has compiled from earlier law codes at the order of the king. Younger students are studying in other rooms of the tablet house, preparing to become scribes.
“Come, I’ll show you.”
Zaki looked around curiously as the angel led him through a series of connecting rooms. One held boys of seven or eight, each bent over a clay tablet struggling to copy words and symbols from a master text prepared by a “big brother,” a teaching assistant. From the ages of those in each group and the relative clarity of the copies they produced, it was clear that classes for several grades were held in the tablet house.
“The sons of important people—governors, military officers, sea captains, temple administrators, tax officials—are sent to the tablet house to learn to become scribes. They study morning till evening from boyhood until they are young men. Then they’re employed in government or by wealthy people to maintain records and write letters, to write hymns to the gods, or to copy important literature.”
To Zaki, life in the school looked terribly grim. When he was the age of the youngest students he’d run freely outdoors or worked beside the men. How awful to be shut up inside all day, making strange marks on moist clay!
Now the angel led Zaki into a larger room occupied only by an older man. Along three walls there were shelves filled with woven baskets and wooden boxes containing sun-baked clay tablets as hard as stone. One shelf held important tablets that were enclosed in clay envelopes that were sealed with wax.
The angel stopped in this room and told Zaki, “The man you see is Ishmi-Lim. He is the father of the tablet house, the headmaster of this school. He is also an important man in the government. For the next few days, Zaki, you will go everywhere with Ishmi-Lim. Watch him. Listen to him. And learn.”
“But angel, what am I supposed to learn?”
“You’ll see, Zaki. And afterward we’ll talk. In the meanwhile, Zaki, no one in this time or place, human or demon, will be able to see you. As you understood the speech of the demons in Heart of Darkness, so you will understand the speech of these people. And you will also be able to hear the thoughts of Ishmi-Lim.
“Farewell for now, Zaki. Watch. Listen. And learn.”
When the angel was gone, Zaki looked closely at Ishmi-Lim. The man wore a cloak of fine linen draped over one shoulder. His cloak was decorated with tiny beads, and a symbol of some sort was embroidered over the left breast. Long elaborate fringes of gold and purple decorated the hem of his knee-length garment, which was secured with a woven belt whose tasseled ends hung down between the ummia’s legs. It was the most spectacular garment Zaki had ever seen, far more expensive than the linen once worn byMaath’s father. Zaki thought that Ishmi-Lim looked dour and forbidding. His long narrow face seemed fixed in a frown, and Zaki decided he didn’t like this man at all.
Nevertheless, Zaki walked hesitantly over to Ishmi-Lim and peered over his shoulder. He had been told to watch and to listen. Watch and listen he would.
The ummia was scanning a clay tablet divided into eight columns, each one filled with a peculiar writing that Zaki had never seen. But as Zaki concentrated, he realized he could hear Ishmi-Lim’s thoughts as he read through the document.
“Good. Let this be engraved on a stele to be erected before the king’s palace, along with all the laws of earlier rulers I have been charged to collect.”
Ishmi-Lim set down the tablet, reached for another, and continued reading. Zaki, following his thoughts, realized that Ishmi-Lim was reading through cases that defined the law of the city.
42. If an ox is known to gore habitually, and the authorities have brought
this to the owner’s attention, if the ox is not dehorned and later it gores a citizen and kills him, the owner of the ox shall pay 2/3s of a mina. If the ox gores a slave and causes his death, he shall pay 15 shekels of silver.
43. If a man divorces his wife after she bears him children and takes another wife, he shall be driven from his home and from whatever he owns.
44. If a judge renders a decision, deposits it in a sealed envelop, and later changes his decision, they shall prove that the judge altered the decision, and he shall pay twelve-fold the claim that holds in the case. The judge shall be expelled from his seat in the assembly and he shall never again sit with the judges in a case.
45. If a citizen steals the property of a temple or the ruler, that citizen shall be put to death. The one who received the stolen goods shall also be put to death.
46. If a citizen accuses another citizen of murder but cannot prove his charge, he shall be put to death.
47. If a citizen sells the services of his wife or son or daughter to pay a debt and binds them over to service in the house of the purchaser, they shall serve for three years and in the fourth year their freedom shall be reestablished.
48. If a male slave or female slave has been bound over to service in payment of a debt, the buyer may sell the slave, with no possibility of his being reclaimed by the original owner.
49. If a citizen has given silver, gold, or any sort of thing to another citizen for safekeeping in the presence of witnesses, should the one who received the thing deny it, the witnesses shall prove it against him, and he shall pay double whatever he denied.
50. If the wife of a citizen has been caught lying with another man, the two shall be bound and thrown into the water. If the husband of the woman wishes to spare his wife, then the king in turn may spare the citizen.
51. If a soldier whom the king ordered to go on a campaign did not go, but hired a substitute, and sent him in his place, that soldier shall be put to death, and the one who was hired by him shall take over his estate.
52. If a captain has appropriated the household goods of a soldier, has let the soldier out for hire, or has appropriated a grant which the king gave to the soldier, that captain shall be put to death.
53. If a citizen rents a field for cultivation, but it does not produce grain, they shall prove that he did no work on the field and he shall give grain to the owner of the field on the basis of those adjoining it.
54. If a citizen is too lazy to make the dike of his field strong and a break opens up in his dike and he lets the water ravage the farmland, the citizen in whose dike the break is opened shall make good the grain he let be destroyed.
55. If, after sheep have been shut up within the city gate, the shepherd drives the sheep into a field and pastures his sheep there, the shepherd shall be responsible for the field and at harvest time he shall measure out sixty kur of grain per eighteen iku to the owner of the field.
Ishmi-Lim set the second tablet aside and looked at the stack remaining. Zaki could sense the ummia’s reluctance to read further. Ishmi-Lim seemed pleased with the laws he’d collected and was collating for the king. But clearly he was not looking forward to proof-reading the entire code.
Ishmi-Lim leaned back and rubbed his eyes. Then he reached behind him and found a different sort of document. Rather than being written on a tablet, the writing was inscribed on a sort of clay cylinder. As Ishmi-Lim fingered the cylinder, a strong sense of pleasure flowed from the father of the tablet house to Zaki.
As Ishmi-Lim held the cylinder and carefully rotated it in his hands, Zaki also had an impression of the cylinder’s great age. Ishmi-Lim began reading, but his eyes hardly traced the symbols on the cylinder. Zaki realized he was quoting the poem engraved on the cylinder from memory.
All my family and kin I made go aboard the ship.
The beasts of the field, the wild creatures of the field,
All the craftsmen I made go aboard.
Shamash had set for me a stated time:
‘When he who orders unease at night,
Will shower down a rain of blight,
Board thou the ship and batten up the entrance!’
That stated time had arrived:
‘He who orders unease at night, showers down
a rain of blight.’
I watched the appearance of the weather,
The weather was awesome to behold.
I boarded the ship and battened up the entrance.
To batten down the whole ship, to Puzur-Amurri,
I handed over the structure together with its contents.
Suddenly a small boy burst into the room and rushed to Ishmi-Lim. A smile lit up the official’s face. He held the cylinder high with one hand and reached out the other to his grandson. The child hurled himself on his grandfather, who laughed and held him tight with one arm while he turned and carefully set the cylinder back on its shelf.
“Grandma says you can stop work now. I’ve been waiting so long for you to finish!”
Zaki saw Ishmi-Lim’s features transformed as he gazed at the boy he now hugged tight with both arms. The frown was gone, the stern eyes seemed to laugh, and a warmth that Zaki would never have thought possible suffused the old man’s features.
“If grandma says I can stop work now, Napir-Assu, then I guess I must stop work.”
“What have you been doing, Grandfather,” the little boy asked.
Ishmi-Lim swung the child around and placed him on one knee. “Oh, I’ve been preparing the laws king Naqui-Adad has established for our people.”
Napir-Assu made a face. “That doesn’t sound like fun, Grandfather.”
“You’re right, child. It’s not fun. But it’s important for our people. Everyone needs to know the laws so they will do what’s right.
“Really, though, when you came in I was reading your favorite story.”
The little boy’s eyes lit up. “I love stories, grandfather.”
“I know you do. It’s the story of Gilgamish and his wonderful boat.”
“Will you tell me the story, Grandfather? Tell it to me now?”
Ishmi-Lim laughed. “Well, I’ll tell you some of it. You remember that the gods were angry because of all the noise that humans made.” The little boy nodded his head enthusiastically. “So they plotted to destroy humankind with a great flood of waters. But the god Ea warned Gilgamish to build a boat. And so Gilgamish built a great boat, one hundred and seventy-five feet high, with decks one hundred and seventy-five feet wide. He separated the decks into compartments, and the great boat was finished in seven days. Then Gilgamish put on board all his gold and silver and his family and every kind of animal.”
“Grandfather,” Napir-Assu interrupted. “When can we go to the animal park? When can we see the lions and the elephants and apes and the giraffes and the gazelles the king had brought here?”
“Soon, boy,” Ishmi-Lim beamed, proud that his grandson already knew the names of so many exotic animals. “But let me finish the story.”
“I know the story, Grandfather,” Napir-Assu told him. “The flood came and all the people were turned to clay and washed away. But Gilgamish was safe. And after the flood he offered a sacrifice, and all the gods gathered around it like flies, and the gods were glad they hadn’t killed all the humans because they need us to make sacrifices and do their work for them. See? Now can we go see the animals?”
Ishmi-Lim laughed. “Yes, you know the story. But we can’t go see the animals today. I’ll speak to the king’s zookeeper and tell him I have a grandson who can’t wait to see his animals, and then we’ll go another day.
“Come along now, let’s go find Grandmother.”
As the two left the tablet house hand in hand, Zaki remained in Ishmi-Lim’s office, stunned. The people who worshiped idols instead of the true God had laws to live by, and they knew about thegreat flood! But what was this talk of Gilgamish instead of Noah. And where did these people get the idea that the gods decided to murder the human race because people were noisy?
Putting his questions aside for the moment, Zaki was forced to admit that his first impression of Ishmi-Lim might have been wrong. In fact, as he’d watched the two together, Zaki had been almost overwhelmed by the feeling that these two were really his own younger self and his own long-dead father.
Confused and uncertain, Zaki hurried out the door through which Ishmi-Lim and Napir-Assu had passed—and stopped, stunned.
July 3, 2014
Crouched against a wall in Heart of Darkness where Satan’s throne is, Zaki listened as assembled demons debated the implications of God’s words to Noah after he and his family had left the Ark.
“It isn’t fair,” a demon called Baz complained. “He’s changed the rules.”
Eyrloc laughed caustically. “What do you expect the Enemy to do, Baz? We’re in a war, you know.”
Baz replied grumpily, “Yes, but we’re the ones who are supposed to change rules, in our favor.”
Chashmagoz interrupted. “What makes you think the new rules favor him?”
Baz looked startled. “What?” he exclaimed.
“Think about it,” Chashmagoz urged. “Before the great flood every human did whatever he wanted. Now Elohim, may his name be lost in darkness, makes the humans responsible to limit what each other is allowed to do.”
“Exactly,“ Baz exclaimed triumphantly. “If humans make laws for each other, no individual will be as wicked as he or she wants to be. And we suffer!”
“Think, Baz. Think!” Chashmagoz urged. At this the dark figure on the throne stirred.
“Chashmagoz, explain it to him and to the others.”
Chashmagoz bowed to Satan. “After the great flood, the Creator appeared to Noah. The Creator promised he would never again destroy all living creatures. And he gave humankind the rainbow as a sign of his promise.”
“So?” Baz interrupted.
“So, first, the Creator clearly intended to reassure the humans. They’ll never have to fear that the next thunderstorm may mark the end of their world. What the Creator said was intended to be good for the humans.”
“And bad for us!” Baz interrupted.
“Be quiet, Baz,” Satan growled.
Baz cowered in his seat. The last thing any demon wanted was to be the object of Satan’s anger.
Chashmagoz continued. “The Creator also said ‘from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.’ Before the flood, the strong openly exploited the weak. But now “each man” is responsible for his fellows. Humans will come together and make laws that limit what the strong can do to the weak. So in making every human responsible for others, Elohim intends to restrain evil.”
Baz couldn’t remain quiet. “That’s what I said,” he exclaimed. “Elohim, may his name be cursed, has changed the rules, and that’s bad!”
Chashmagoz threw up his hands and sneered at Baz.
“It looks bad, idiot,” he snorted. “But Elohim didn’t eliminate evil. Elohim just made sure that people wouldn’t become so wicked he’d have to destroy them. And really, Baz, that’s good for us. Because we don’t want humans destroyed.”
Baz looked more puzzled than ever.
Satan shook his head in disgust. “Look at it this way,” the Leader told Baz and others who hadn’t followed Chashmagoz’ argument. “First, the fact that the Creator has made this new rule tells us that the lesson of the great flood has been lost on humans. They’ll be just as bent on evil as before, just as ignorant that the Creator judges sin. If left to themselves, they’d become as wicked as they could be—and Elohim might have to destroy them all. Since we feed on the suffering caused by human wickedness, we certainly don’t want humans destroyed. So if Elohim’s new approach will keep him from destroying them, that approach is to our benefit.”
Now even Baz was nodding agreement. “I see. I see.”
“And there’s more. This new rule of the Creator may restrain evil, but giving humans responsibility for each other will create new evils.”
Even Chashmagoz looked puzzled by this pronouncement. So Satan continued. “Suppose the people of a city make laws to restrain wickedness. That city must have a government. But any government will be made of humans who are just as bent toward wickedness as are ordinary citizens. Governments will restrain extreme wickedness, which is what Elohim wants. But every government will be infected by mankind’s bent toward evil. Judges will be greedy and accept bribes. The wealthy will still take advantage of the poor. In the end, even in a well-governed society, we’ll be able to encourage enough oppression to cause the kinds of suffering we delight to feed on. And, of course, no government can suppress humans’ normal, everyday wickedness or limit everyday suffering—the kind of pain that thoughtless husbands cause their wives, that nagging wives cause their husbands, and that rebellious children cause their parents. Nor can government free humans from the fears that are rooted in life’s uncertainties—and in the frightening realization that death’s great unknown waits just around the next corner.
“Elohim did change the rules. True, the change he made will limit the evil that individuals may do. But that change hasn’t eliminated evil or human suffering, and this we’ll feed on.”
“Hear, hear!” several demons shouted, and “Satan’s right!”
The great Dark Angel held up a restraining hand. “Yes, I am right. This new approach —this establishment of human government—has a very limited objective. Human governments may well succeed in restraining extreme wickedness, but they’ll never abolish wickedness or do away with suffering.”
Zaki, listening in horror to the debate, was devastated. It seemed Elohim was trying to help humans. Yet it appeared the Creator was doomed to fail!
But Satan wasn’t finished. “There’s another thing for us to consider. Cities everywhere will develop their own governments. These governments will make laws that restrain the wicked tendencies of citizens. But governments will be subject to the same temptations as individuals. Why, then, can’t we influence governments to do to other governments the same wicked things that individuals won’t be allowed to do? Let a city envy territory claimed by another city, and we’ll incite wars. And remember, the warring nation—whose laws prevent soldiers from doing violence to their fellow citizens—will gleefully encourage those same soldiers to murder and pillage and rape the enemy! As wars increase, the governments that our Enemy established to restrain extreme evil at home will unleash the most extreme evils abroad. And we’ll still be able to taste the extreme suffering that extreme wickedness causes!
“Don’t be discouraged, friends. Elohim may have invented human government to limit wickedness. But we’ll corrupt those governments. We’ll encourage just enough injustice and oppression to keep governments from falling. And we’ll nudge those who run the government into wars that will expose the depths of human depravity.”
As Satan spoke of the brutality of war, Zaki relived what he thought of as the last night of his life. He saw his friend Maath flung backward by the Babylonian’s javelin. He peered at the bodies of Lappidoth’s wife and daughter. He put his arms around the crumpled corpse of his father. And he heard the Babylonian raider laugh as Zaki turned to glimpse the flash of the knife that tore out his eyes.
“Oh Elohim,” Zaki cried. “Why? Why did you permit humans to govern one another? We weren’t ready. Why did you permit it? Why did you let me and my family die?”
Turning away from the misshapen crowd of demons intent on the words of their Leader, Zaki stumbled into the passageway that led to Earth’s surface. The last words he heard were Satan’s triumphant claims of victory. “We’re winning this war, my dark ones. Our Enemy has never been able to prevent us from exploiting these cattle he claims to love. Whatever our Enemy may do, we’ll find a way to turn his good to our evil.
“We can’t lose!” Satan shouted.
And the demons filling the council chambers of the Heart of Darkness erupted with a repeated chant, “We can’t lose!”
“We can’t lose!”
Desperately Zaki hurried through the narrow passageway, stumbling over the jumbled rocks,bruising himself against the tunnel wall. After the first appearance of the angel, Zaki had begun to feel alive again. Now Zaki felt as if death was clawing at the fringes of his tunic, eager to claim him once again.
Zaki ran on, and then, suddenly, he tumbled out of the entrance to the cave, rolling over and over on the ground. He lay there for a moment, stunned, and then he cried out. “Angel? Angel? Where are you?”
“I’m here, Zaki,” the now familiar voice answered, and Zaki was aware that he was lying in the center of a glowing circle of light. “I’m here,” the voice repeated, and Zaki felt strong hands lift him gently and set him on his feet.
The entrance of the cave that led down into Heart of Darkness was gone. Interpreter stood beside Zaki, and Zaki was warmed by the golden light that washed over him. “Do you understand what you heard, Zaki?” the angel asked.
“I understand enough,” Zaki said bitterly. “I understand enough to know that Satan and his demons are winning and that we humans are the real victims in this Invisible War of yours.”
The angel rested his hand gently on Zaki’s shoulder. “Zaki, you must remember something whenever you visit Heart of Darkness. Satan is a liar. He is the Father of Lies. Every time he speaks, he distorts the truth. His every word is designed to deceive and manipulate.”
“But he made sense, angel,” Zaki insisted.
Interpreter shook his head sadly. “The best lies contain a kernel of truth, Zaki. If not, they’d quickly be exposed as lies. Let me explain. “The Creator did speak the words to Noah that instituted human government. In this the Creator had an important objective. You see, government is the Creator’s servant, established for the people’s good. Government can’t eradicate wickedness, or change people’s hearts. But governments do protect citizens and punish wrongdoers. In this government is God’s gift.
“As Satan said, the laws governments make will never change humans’ bent toward evil. But the Creator never intended government to do that. So you must judge the gift of government by what God intended government to achieve, not by its failure to do something it couldn’t possibly accomplish.”
Zaki shook his head. “But what about war? Without governments we wouldn’t have wars, would we?”
“Zaki, until the bent toward wickedness that corrupts humankind is removed, every institution of man will be corrupt and corruptible. The flaw lies within the human heart. The idea that wickedness is inherent in institutions is one of Satan’s lies. No form of government, no eradication of poverty, no effort to provide education for all, will root wickedness from the human heart or bring humanity peace. But this is something that you’ll discover soon. For we have another place to visit before you return home.”
Zaki shook his head. “I’m tired, angel. I want to go home. I need rest.”
Interpreter looked closely at Zaki. The man did appear exhausted. Zaki’s leathery face was pale. His arms shook and his legs quivered. The angel looked up, as if seeking guidance. Then he nodded and took Zaki’s arm.
“You’re right, Zaki. You need rest. I’ll take you home.”
Once again Zaki found himself seated by his wall. His head jerked as if he were suddenly coming awake. Where had he been? How long had he been gone this time? Zaki had no idea. But Zaki was sure of one thing. He didn’t like serving as a witness. He didn’t like being sent into Heart of Darkness. He didn’t like hearing Satan’s version of the truth or Interpreter’s rebuttal. The whole thing was confusing.
Zaki understood that the demons he’d seen in the cavern were evil. He’d felt the evil; he’d smelled it. Zaki had also basked in the angel’s warming light and felt a comforting compassion in Interpreter. Yet somehow Satan’s version of the impact of government on humanity seemed closer to the truth than Interpreter’s. Zaki had blamed Elohim for his misery far too long to trust him now, no matter what the angel had to say
June 27, 2014
We’ve been looking at the beliefs of neo-pagans. Why? For one thing, it helps to know something of what people you’re likely to run into think. We can’t assume everyone these days has an understanding of Christianity. For another thing, neo-pagan beliefs in infiltrating our culture. Many church-going people have adopted aspects of neo-pagan beliefs without even being aware of their conflict with biblical Christianity.
In an earlier post I summed up the beliefs most likely to be held in common by those addicted to one of the 150 or so neo-pagan paths that exist in our country. Here’s the fourth of these.
“The notion of salvation, and the idea that humans are in need of redemption, is viewed as irrelevant. One’s goal is simply to attain spiritual balance with others and with nature, and this is something anyone can attain.”
One reason for this view is that most Wiccans and other neo-pagans are basically good people. They live normal lives, many are active environmentalists concerned about the planet, and those who do practice witchcraft are committed not to use it to harm others. And their goal to attain what they call “spiritual balance” and others might call “harmony” with others and with the world we live in is on its face a commendable goal. For folks who have good motives and live morally, without committing those things society would call crimes or evil actions, it’s hard to imagine that they have any need for redemption.
Of course, Scripture makes it clear that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We’re not to measure ourselves morally against others actions and character, but against the perfect holiness of God.
But even this isn’t the critical issue. In Romans Paul points out that even before God revealed moral laws, humans were spiritually dead. While technically people could not sin (break God’s law) until those laws were revealed, that did not change the fact that in the fall death imposed its grip on all humankind. Redemption is not simply forgiveness of sins. Redemption is the gift of eternal life given to those who are spiritually dead and have no personal relationship with God. Even the best of people need salvation.