Seraphim: Snakes or Angels?

In the Bible, in Jewish liturgy, and in other texts, God is sometimes described as being surrounded by seraphim—often imagined as angels. But, as Benjamin Sommer points out, the word literally means “snake,” and that is probably how these beings were originally conceived:

The image of the seraph as a snake probably comes from Egyptian art. (The term seraf means both “fiery” and “snake”; the idea is probably that the snake’s venom is fiery, i.e., the victim of a snakebite feels a burning sensation.) There are 8th-century BCE stamp seals from ancient Judah that portray the seraph, and the image is similar to a snake common in Egyptian art of that era and earlier.

[Some of these] seals picture basically the same scene portrayed in the book of Isaiah (6:1-7). The text on [one] states that it belonged to a courtier of King Ahaz named Ashna. In light of the similarity between the seal and Isaiah 6, it is worth noting that Jerusalem in the 8th century BCE was a very small town, that both Isaiah and Ashna lived during the reign of King Ahaz, and that Isaiah enjoyed very close connections to the royal court in which Ashna served. Consequently, it is inconceivable that Isaiah and Ashna did not know each other.

Read more at Bible Odyssey

More about: Ancient Israel, Angels, Archaeology, Bible, History & Ideas, Isaiah


An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy