I’m researching the mysterious four angels mentioned in The Book of Revelations. These four angels are claimed to be bound in the Euphrates River. My research brought me to a blog posted by Pastor Bill Randles, September 25, 2017. After reading part one of his post and the comments left on it; I realized two years later, there is no more information available than mere speculations. For a creative mind like mine – this leaves a door open for some interesting esoteric and apocalyptic fiction.


One interesting comment on the post referred to the pastor’s information regarding the city Jerusalem. The comment made me remember how naive most Americans are when it comes to religious history. Without diving into the details, the commenters were surprised that Hebrew did not mean Jewish; Jerusalem was not an original Hebrew word, and the times we live in today are not more dangerous than before.


First – I am in no way anti-Semitic. I have deep, personal respect and many soft spots for Semitic people. However, I am disturbed at how the term anti-Semitic, in western thought, defaults to anti-Jewish. Somewhere in human thought the term Semitic was high jacked and became synonymous with Jewish people. The western mind set, especially in the working-class religious sects seem to be very naïve in the fact that Arabs and Persians are Semitic. It is laughable when I hear someone call the Palestinians anti-Semitic. Then there is the assumption of what a Jew is or is not. My hypothesis is that the actual genetic makeup to the ethnicity we term “Jewish” – those who descended from Judah, one of the seventy children of Israel (Jacob) are very small in genetic number. There genetic claims and alleged rights were assumed by non-Semitic people who took in the religious practices we inappropriately named Judaism.


I say inappropriately because the faith had no name when Abraham, David or Jesus practiced it. The name Judaism became commonly used after the destruction of the second temple in 70 CE. At that moment it was important to name the faith as to differentiate it from the Temple-based religion and the one used today based in synagogues, rabbis and the home. It was also needed to differentiate from the Pauline religion of Christianity which survived at the Council of Jerusalem.


Back to Jerusalem. It was noted by the pastor’s blog that Jerusalem was the name of the city before the Hebrews arrived. The commenters to the blog were shocked to know as much. What was not mentioned and would have thunderstruck the naïve reader is that the part of the word “salem” refers to an Ugaritic god. The god of the dawn thought to symbolize the beginning of things. In whole, the word Jerusalem means The foundation of Shalem. Ironically it could mean the foundation of the beginning. This could explain why David, who forged an Israeli empire, made Jerusalem his capital after killing its inhabitants.
When it comes to massive killings, my naïve westerners like to flatter themselves with the idea that we live in worst times than the past and such is evidence that the world will come to an end. To think evil is more prevalent than a thousand years ago is naïve. How different is a Tomahawk missile proportionately from a flamed rock catapulted into a Medieval walled city? How different is the Israeli genocide of Muslims proportionally different from the Jebusite genocide? Is there a difference from Germany’s concentration camps over the Chinese re-education camps or the American detention prisons and internment camps? The concepts and evils are the same. What about centuries of the Atlantic Slave trades? Is there much different from sex trafficking and slave labor? Is the massive migration of people from one geographic area different from those crossing the Mexican / U.S. boarder? When I consider these things, I fail to see any human moral progression from the past.


Westerners, in self flattery, develop an arrogance and dogma that taints sensible conjectures of biblical prophecies.  The pastor’s blog is no different. He abandoned his original premise which supported the belief that the four angels bound in the Euphrates would unleash their fury on the world. He tilts to the a predictable western perspective that the four angels are somehow related to the ominous Muslims. The point of view disappointed me because it reflects a western cognitive dissonance wrapped in American exceptionalism. We do not blame ourselves for the violence found in the four nations that border the Euphrates River. Instead we conveniently forget that each nation has a right to self-govern and define the terms of its humanity. Whereas Americans define its terms in crowding millions of people in small living areas and paying the “less fortunate” with free food rent and medical expenses, other nations define their terms differently. Although our arrogance and common acceptance of American exceptionalism compels us to interfere and force the Muslim world to accept our flawed pedagogy on civilization, we may have more to do with unleashing the four angels than the Muslim countries. After all – The Book of Revelations speaks of a whore sitting on many waters. When I consider our political system’s practice of lobbying, I am tempted to consider that I live in a society birthed by that whore.

*Pastor Bill Randles link: https://billrandles.wordpress.com/2017/09/25/four-angels-at-the-euphrates-a-different-look-euphrates-pt-1/

I was involved in a conversation with two people who read my book, Men Djinn & Angels, and the question arose regarding my personal belief in the Abraham child sacrifice.  In my book, I seemed to lean to the idea that Ishmael was the child of sacrifice and not Isaac.  It may be difficult for many of us in the western hemisphere to accept, but the majority of the world leans the same way.  I don’t claim to know the answers, but there seems to be more weight on the Ishmael point of view than the latter.  Here are some reasons that I shared with them.

One of the first things I consider is that the accounts described in the Biblical text are not all in chronological order.  Let’s just say for the sake of continuity, Genesis chapter 21 describes a moment when Isaac was born and later weened.  There was a big party for the successful weening and then Sarah, the mother, becomes concerned that Abraham’s first born, Ishmael, the rightful heir to Abraham’s wealth would be given what he deserved.  In fact, as it is described in the Biblical text, Sarah was so selfish that she wanted it all for her son.  She was not at all so inclined to suggest a 90% to 10% split between the two.  She wanted everything for her son, so she demanded that Abraham discard his child.  In Chapter 22, we have the sacrifice where the script claims that Abraham, through divine command, was told to offer his only son, Isaac, as a burnt offering.  The continuity is obviously flawed.  There was no point ever where Isaac was the only son.  Considering this, I become suspicious of text tampering.

 

Another suspicion I have comes from the nature and concept of sacrifice. For one to make a sacrifice in Biblical times, one had to part with the thing that he loved or needed the most.  An example is when sacrifices were made, the owner needed to sacrifice his best goat or lamb – the one with no flaws. In this sense, the eldest son, in those times, was held in very high regard and would have been a more acceptable sacrifice that kept in line with tradition.  Not to say that it would not be heart wrenching for a parent to sacrifice any of his children, but in the character of sacrifice, it would have been more of a show of faith for Abraham to sacrifice his first born before a second was born. If we assumed the order of events as listed in Geneses is correct, I believe that Abraham would have seen the sacrifice of Isaac a punishment rather than a service – a punishment for sending his young son and the mother into the wild with little food and water.   Especially for the selfishness and inhumane reasons for the dismissal.  It does not seem divine that a person, Sarah in this case, would be rewarded with a son who deserved the blessings of Abraham’s faith and wealth when she exemplified the vices that the religion should discourage.  When I think about it, I ask myself, what virtues are we to learn from Sarah’s actions?  Additionally, when it comes to virtue, the Biblical account paints a picture of Abraham in a less than virtuous light when he is not honest with his son.  When “Isaac” ask his father regarding the lamb for the sacrifice, Abraham did not say that the sacrifice is you, my son.  Instead, he says that the lamb would be provided.  Some would say that he spoke out of faith and thus deserved the title Father of faith, whereas others may see this as a second character flaw, the first being to leave his firstborn child, fatherless.

 

When it comes to research, we are taught to question the authority of the sources that we use to make our conclusions.  In this, it is difficult to say that there is a credible source of Abraham’s existence, or his other sons.  That being said, when I look at the sources, I know that the sources claiming Isaac was the sacrificial son comes from the Jewish ideology.  It was allegedly written by Moses at a time when he needed to unify the different sects of Israeli faithful.  Keep in mind that Jacob (Israel) had over 70 children, only 12 of those and their families left the desert life to live in Egypt where they were subsequently taken into bondage.  The other 50 plus families remained outside of Egypt making two separate groups with various ideologies and cultures.  Being that Moses is the one credited with writing the Book of Genesis, he had only one commonality between the free Israelis and those who came from Egypt.  That was the common belief in Abraham.  It is likely, that Moses or whoever wrote the Book of Genesis altered some details to create unity between the two sections. Again, being that our most common source of information comes from just one of the lines from those many families, it seems opportune to have Isaac, not Ishmael be the sacrificial son.  For me, the source of information lacks credibility.  Whereas in the Arab world, even before Islam, the influence of Ishmael and Abraham’s relationship is paramount.

In the Arab world, there is the Kaaba, a cube like structure that was and is believed to have been originally structured by Abraham and Ishmael.  It has always played a vital roll in Arab tradition.  Before Islam, it was a place believed to hold such spiritual importance that the Arab tribes felt it important to have their idols housed there. It was believed by them that if they left their idols in the Kaaba, their gods would send blessings on them.  As a result, the Quraysh tribe who maintained the Kaaba charged the other tribes rent fees.  After Muslims were victorious over the polytheist tribes, the Kaaba was cleansed and placed as a cornerstone in the religious practices.  In this, I see that while the Arabs had veered away from Abraham’s theology, they retained the value of his relationship with Ishmael, even until this day where Abraham’s sacrifice is commemorated with a holiday celebration where the first-born sons are celebrated.  Additionally, as Abraham is depicted in the Islamic traditions, the sacrifice has more purity than the Biblical depiction.  In the Islamic tradition, Abraham is depicted as an honest man who is open and transparent with his son who is trusting and equally faithful.  The reward of a lamb in his place seems more inline with the values the lesson should teach.  In this, Ishmael and Abraham are rewarded for their good and faithful deeds, not for the selfishness, and hidden agendas depicted in the Biblical tradition.