A construction worker in Ireland has uncovered an ancient book of Psalms over a thousand years old. Even more fascinating is the fact that the book of psalms was open to a page describing Psalm 83, which says that enemies are conspiring to destroy Israel as a nation:
DUBLIN, Ireland - Irish archaeologists Tuesday heralded the discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a construction worker who spotted something while driving the shovel of his backhoe into a bog.
Here is Psalm 83 (New International Version) (from Crosswalk.com). I've added emphasis here and there:
1 O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still. 2 See how your enemies are astir, how your foes rear their heads. 3 With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish. 4 "Come," they say, "let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more." 5 With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you-- 6 the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, of Moab and the Hagrites, 7 Gebal, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre. 8 Even Assyria has joined them to lend strength to the descendants of Lot.
. . . .
13 Make them like tumbleweed, O my God, like chaff before the wind. 14 As fire consumes the forest or a flame sets the mountains ablaze, 15 so pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm. 16 Cover their faces with shame so that men will seek your name, O Lord. 17 May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace. 18 Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord-- that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.
- "Palestine" is a distortion of the Greek term "Philistia." So if this psalm says that "Philistia" (Palestine) is conspiring to destroy Israel, one need look no further than Hezbollah and Hamas for confirmation. (Source)
- Yet another named enemy of Israel, the "Ishmaelites," refers to Muslims -- decendants of Abraham through his maidservant, Hagar. Mohammad is considered to be a descendant of Ishmael. (Source) According to the book of Genesis, an angel said of Ishmael that he would be "a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers." (NIV, Genesis 16) According to the Bible, his descendents also lived in hostility toward all their brothers. (Genesis 25:18). Unfortunately, modern-day Islamic terrorists seem to be carrying on the family tradition. Needless to say, not all Muslims are violent. Sadly in this age of Islamic terrorism, too many do seem intent on living in hostility with all their "brothers."
- Another enemy of Israel named in this verse, "Tyre," is now part of southern Lebanon. A war for Israel's survival is being waged in Lebanon right now, with Lebanon threatening to fight alongside Hezbollah.
The discovery of this ancient book of Psalms at this time, with the book open to a commentary on Psalm 83, is certainly interesting. Of course, the book has yet to be authenticated, although news accounts do not suggest that there are any suspicions of a hoax. It occasionally happens with respect to ancient manuscripts and artifacts, and this find is still breaking news.
After having searched out the modern names of the countries referred to in the Psalm, I see that at least some Biblical scholars are way ahead of me. At this website, the author contends Psalm 83 is a prophecy that is yet to be realized -- perhaps soon. I know nothing about the author so I don't offer the link as Gospel truth (so to speak), but rather as a source of a few historical facts that may help explain the text.
What can we conclude from this? Perhaps history is unfolding according to a Biblical prophecy.
One thing we can agree upon is that Israel is again beset today by some of the same mortal enemies it faced long ago. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Update 7/31/06: If what we currently refer to as Psalm 84 was the exposed text rather than Psalm 83 (link), Psalm 84 is also supportive of Israel. Psalm 84 says in verses 7-9: "They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. Hear my prayer, O Lord God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob. Look upon our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one."
As between Muslims and Israelis, this verse favors Israel because it calls upon "the God of Jacob." The name "Jacob" refers to Israel because the name "Israel" was given to Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebekah and grandson of Abraham and Sarah, after Jacob wrestled with someone who seemed to be a human but later turned out to be God (Gen 32:22-32). Later, Israel’s twelve tribes were named for the sons of Jacob (Israel) and for two of his grandsons (see Gen 48; 49).
Even if this discovery in an Irish bog turns out to be nothing more than the discovery of an ancient book of Psalms, it will be thrilling simply from an archeological and historical perspective.
If the book of Psalms was opened to a portion that included either Psalms 83 or 84, it is also a potent reminder of the history of Israel's struggle to survive and its many enemies -- a history that seems to be playing itself out again today in many ways.
It goes without saying that the book of Psalms as a whole unequivocally supports Israel. Whether that dictates what should happen today in the Middle East is a different question. But for me it's an easy choice on moral grounds alone.
On the one hand we have terrorists, who use attacks DELIBERATELY INTENDED to TARGET noncombatant civilians as their primary strategy. On the other hand we have Israel, which strives at great cost to itself to avoid civilian casualties, even among its enemies. When casualties do occur as a result of Israeli attacks, they usually occur because the terrorists are basing their operations in civilian areas and hiding among and behind civilians.
The Israelis have no interest in killing any civilians, as evidenced most recently by the fact that Israel went out of its way to drop leaflets in advance warning Lebanese civilians to evacuate. Nor do Israelis routinely strap explosives to their bodies and detonate themselves in groups of men, women and children who are just minding their own business at a restaurant or on a bus. Terrorists who commit homicide bombings are living the opposite of the Golden Rule. They don't love their neighbors. They hate their neighbors so much that they deliberately deny them the right to take even one more breath.
I know good when I see it, and I know evil when I see it, and you do too. Deliberately targeting civilians as a routine, primary strategy to achieve political or military goals is what terrorists do, and it is unequivocally evil. Terrorism is the opposite of the loving one's neighbor as oneself.
Thankfully, Israel is fighting that evil today -- something that many nations of the world currently lack the courage, insight, or immediate motivation to do. Israel should be supported in its effort to rid a small portion of the world of the cancer of terrorism.
Returning to the Bible, we know this much: God is not neutral between good and evil.
Further update 8/5/06: The southern port city of Tyre referenced in Psalm 83 is in the news again today as Israeli naval commandos battle with Hezbollah there.