How the Bible Gave the World the Idea of Human Equality

July 23 2021

In the description of the revelation at Sinai in Deuteronomy 5:4, read this Sabbath in synagogues, Moses tells the Israelites, “Face to face God spoke with you at the mount, from amid the fire.” Joshua Berman observes a precedent for this phrase in ancient Egyptian iconography:

[A]ll over Egypt, you see images of the pharaoh staring at various gods, eye-level, face to face. The pharaoh is on equal footing with the god, because the pharaoh is beloved to the god, and divine powers are given over to him. . . . Why would the Torah appropriate a pagan Egyptian image to describe God’s encounter with Israel? In Egypt, the gods communicated face to face with the kings alone. In the Torah, God communicates that way with the entire people. The people are elevated to the status of kings.

It is in the five books of the Torah that we find the birthplace of egalitarian thought, where the common person is raised to the level of a king and kings are reduced to the level of the common person.

But the Torah’s transformation of the king into a commoner is no less striking. The Torah was determined that the king should be but a shadow of what a king was elsewhere. . . . [W]e are witness in the Torah to the transition from the law of rule to the rule of law. Elsewhere in the ancient world, the kings composed and promulgated law, but were above it, not subject to it (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). . . . All public institutions in the Torah—the judiciary, the priesthood, the monarchy, the institution of prophecy—are subordinated to the law.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Egypt, Biblical Politics, Equality, Hebrew Bible, Judaism, Mount Sinai

 

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism