Francis Bacon’s Science-Fictional Jewish Matchmaker

While many individuals contributed to the birth of modern science, it was the English philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon (1561–1626) above all who formed our ideas of scientific and technological progress. Louise Liebeskind suggests a compelling new interpretation of Bacon’s novel New Atlantis, which imagines shipwrecked European sailors discovering an Edenic realm with advanced technology and moral purity. It’s worth focusing on the role Jews and the Hebrew Bible play in this book:

The narrator describes the customs and institutions of this society, which in Bacon is called “Bensalem,” Hebrew for “son of peace.” . . . But at the end of the story, Bacon turns to focus solely on the most original feature of the island, an institution called Solomon’s House, or the College of the Six Days Works. This secretive society of natural philosophers seeks nothing less than “the effecting of all things possible,” as C.S. Lewis duly notes.

The house of Solomon, in the Bible, is the Jerusalem Temple. The Christian society of Bensalem also includes a single Jew, who, according to Liebeskind, is the key to understanding the entire text:

This man is the only character in New Atlantis to whom Bacon gives a name, Joabin. According to Jerry Weinberger, “only a blockhead” could miss its significance. Bacon adds the suffix “-in,” analogous to “cherubin,” to the name of Joab, the fearsome Hebrew general and loyal servant of King David, who helped arrange Uriah’s death so that David might marry Bathsheba. Weinberger doubts whether “the vicious Joab” can ever be turned into an angel, even in Bensalem, but that is exactly what both his name and his conversation with the narrator suggest.

Joabin, “a wise man, and learned, and of great policy, and excellently seen in the laws and customs of that nation,” tells the narrator that “there is not under the heavens so chaste a nation as this of Bensalem, nor so free from all pollution and foulness. It is the virgin of the world.” Marriage is kept, without question or exception, as the only lawful remedy for “natural concupiscence.”

Joabin contrasts this chastity of both mind and body in the starkest possible terms with the decadence of Europe, where men have very nearly “put marriage out of office” by allowing them so many remedies more “agreeable to their corrupt will.” . . . But Joabin takes mercy on the narrator and performs a kind of miracle. Angelic matchmaker that he is, he is about to broker a fruitful marriage between Bensalem and Europe, despite Europe’s lust and sin.

Read more at New Atlantis

More about: Hebrew Bible, Jews in literature, Political philosophy, Science

How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy