The False Prophet and the True

Aug. 16 2021

In Jeremiah 28—set after the Babylonians have already reduced Judah to vassal status, but not yet conquered the kingdom or destroyed Jerusalem—the titular prophet finds himself facing a rival prophet named Hananiah. While Jeremiah urges capitulation and acceptance of divine punishment, his competitor offers hope, claiming that God is poised to “break the yoke of the king of Babylon.” Hananiah proves to be a false prophet, but a popular one. James A. Diamond analyzes the episode, and the way medieval and modern commentators used it to discuss a crucial question: how to tell a false prophet from the real thing.

Hananiah’s inappropriate exploitation of a shattered yoke as a symbol of liberation is glaring in light of Israel’s own perpetuation of slavery over its citizens. Indeed, Jeremiah complains that Israel had ignored the obligation of sabbatical manumission of slaves since the inception of the monarchy, and that God says that Judah will be conquered by its enemies because of this.

In the face of Israel’s own failure to shatter the yokes of its own slaves, Hananiah’s resort to this imagery can be seen as disingenuousness. How could the Lord use this imagery now, Jeremiah may have asked, when the Lord has also expressed that Judah has been acting like an oppressor and deserves its fate? Hananiah’s doubling down simply coopts a stale and dated message conveyed previously to other prophets to confront a current crisis.

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Read more at theTorah.com

More about: Hebrew Bible, Jeremiah, Prophecy

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy