Demons, Horror, and the Book of Psalms

Psalm 91 has long had particular significance for both Jews and Christians. In the siddur, it appears in the Saturday morning and post-Sabbath prayers, and the pious say it every night just before going to sleep. Its sixth verse—as understood by such medieval Jewish commentators as Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac (Rashi) as well as many non-Jewish readers—contains a reference to two demonic forces from whose grip God will provide protection. Philip Jenkins explains how this passage inspired writers of modern horror fiction:

Fiction of all kinds often borrows biblical phrases for titles or motifs in stories, but the Psalm 91 instance is notable because authors deliberately cite it in archaic ways, often in the Latin Vulgate. By doing this, they are deliberately trying to put the reader back into an imagined Middle Ages. They use demonic-sounding phrases, such as the daemonium meridianum, the Noonday Demon, which the King James renders as “the destruction that wasteth at noonday.” Also popular was the cryptic phrase that in English appears as “the pestilence that walketh in darkness.” In Latin that becomes the almost comically non-specific negotium perambulans, which comes close to referring to a wandering thingamajig.

In 1934, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a much-anthologized essay, “Sleeping and Waking,” for Esquire. He addressed the wakeful hours in the middle of the night, “a sinister, ever widening interval” between the early and later spells of comfortable sleep. “This is the time of which it is written in the Psalms: Scuto circumdabit te veritas eius: non timebis a timore nocturno, a sagitta volante in die, a negotio perambulante in tenebris” (91:5–6). He recalled the Vulgate text from his Catholic upbringing, but here he is offering it (untranslated) to a magazine audience that would find it exotic and even exciting, and that is the point.

In the King James, the text reads: “His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness.”

Read more at Anxious Bench

More about: English literature, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hebrew Bible, Psalms

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security