Occasional Poems: The Rise and Fall of Nations
Published on: January 31, 2010
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  • “To such as walk in righteousness and truth,
    He gives long years of steady, sure increase”

    Interestingly, the Hebrew words (2 of them) which we translate as righteousness were tamim and tzadec, literally “whole” and “straight,” which were the criteria for an accurate balance beam used in ancient commerce: the beam must be straight, the weights must be whole. The ancient Hebrews, if the Patriarchal narratives are to be trusted, were a nomadic pastoral/trading people who lived in the interstices of a system of agricultural city states, amongst which they moved and traded. Being few in number, their covenant with God was, originally, that He would protect them if they were honest in their dealings with the more powerful peoples around them. God was just and the shield of Abraham: “Walk before me and be thou “straight” and I will bring about that which I have promised you.” In other words, honesty is the wiser policy, not force and fraud, if you expect to survive.

    It was in this sociological matrix that the Western concept of God must have been nurtured, sometime in the 2nd millennium BC, not in the middle part of the 1st millennium, when no such sociological environment existed. Don’t know why scholars persist in thinking otherwise, as if there were something magical about the time of Josiah.

  • By the Western concept of God I mean the concept of an ethical God.

  • Luke Lea uses some funny translations. Not ha-ha funny; curious funny.

    Tamim can be translated as righteousness, if someone wants, but the more common translation is perfect. This is sort of interesting because the singular form, tam, means simple — not simple as in stupid simple, but as in basic, essential. So in the ancient Hebrew-speaking mind, something simple, when multiplied, becomes something perfect. Tzedeq means righteous, not straight. The word for that is “yashar.” And the world for “whole” is shalaym”, related to the word shalom, which of course means peace. When you pay a bill in modern Israel, you use the same verb — you make the account whole when you pay up. Let’s be careful with our translations, OK?

  • santosh khatelsal

    There are either moral or economic standpoints to explain rise and fall of nations and civilizations. Having done some years of reading on this subject, one thing is clear. These moral or economic theories are all post facto, an attempt to fit in a theory after the deed is done. Mayan civilization perished due to climate change, roman they say due to its pursuit of pleasure, British empire due to its economic decline post the great war and the like. Fact remains from history that civilizations and nations rise and fall and reasons anon

  • Social evolutionary process, that is, natural selection between social entities, are the main reasons of rise and fall of nations and civilizations. The history of Russians is the bright example.

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