30 BC to 10 BC, Psalm 46: Earthquake

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earthquake shutterstock_384317785This generation is that of the years between 30 BC and 10 BC.

This generation is marked by the continuation of the reign of Herod. Apart from his efforts to prevent his in-laws led by Alexandra his mother-in-law will take back the crown, Herod is an exemplary king in the defense of his kingdom.
Wanting to preserve his alliance with Anthony, he thwarts Cleopatra’s pitfalls by not giving in to his advances or the temptation to eliminate him.
When Antony and Augustus disputed the possession of Rome, Herod, following Antoine’s advice rather than helping his ally, led the war against the Arabs who had not respected an agreement.
In fact, Antoine had acted on the advice of Cleopatra who saw a good eye that Arabs and Jews are exhausting each other in such fights (Cleopatra had ambitions on the region). Herod is victorious, but he can not benefit. The armies of Cleopatra, which would not have intervened in the event of victory of the Arabs, fall on the Jews by surprise. They thus cause heavy losses, which ultimately benefits the Arabs, who thus unexpectedly took advantage. Herod arrives too late to avoid the carnage but manages to keep control of the area.
It is in this context where Herod is weakened by Cleopatra’s maneuvers that a violent earthquake occurs in Judea:
  • In [1] the seventh year of Herod’s reign, which was when the battle of Actium ( 31 BC, but it is more likely that this event took place in 27 BC when an earthquake was also felt in Egypt ) gave itself between Augustus and Antony, and arrived in Judea the greatest earthquake ever seen; most of the cattle were killed, and nearly ten thousand men were overwhelmed under the ruins of their houses. But the men of war received no harm because they were camped in the open. It is not credible how much this loss, which was felt even greater by the hatred that other nations bore to ours, warmed the hearts of the Arabs. They imagined that all our cities were destroyed and that there was no one left to resist them. Thus, instead of having some sympathy for the misery of the Jews, they killed the ambassadors whom they sent to ask them peace, and walked against them with no less ardor than promptitude and joy.
Herod, facing this new threat knows how to motivate his troops:
  • But [2] when they (the Arabs) are as fearsome as we want to persuade ourselves, it should not strengthen rather than weaken our courage, since the true value is not to overcome cowards and timid, but to defeat the bravest and the most valiant? If it is found among us that our domestic afflictions and this last earthquake were astonishing, they must consider that this is what deceived the Arabs, because they believed the evil greater than he and nothing would be more shameful than to conceive of the fear of what gives them boldness. For is it not evident that the one they witness does not proceed from trust in their strength, but only from what they consider as slaughtered and overwhelmed by so many evils? Thus when they see us boldly go to them, their audacity will vanish, their fear will increase our courage, and we will have to fight only half-vanquished people. Our ills are not, no doubt, so great that some are persuaded of it, since this earthquake was not caused by the wrath of God against us, but by one of those accidents which natural causes produce. And when he has arrived by the will of God, may we doubt that his anger will be satisfied by this punishment, since otherwise He would not have put an end to it, nor made to see as He did by manifest signs that He approves as just the war we have undertaken? For this earthquake having been general throughout the rest of the kingdom, only you who were in arms were preserved, and so if all the people were as you came to the war, no one would have hurt. After having carefully considered all these things, especially since God has not failed in all times to be your protector, walk with firm confidence in the justice of your cause against this impious and perfidious nation which has violated the treaties of the more inviolable, who has always fled before you and who has shown boldness only to assassinate ambassadors.
This situation and Herod’s harangue are well illustrated by the beginning of the generation psalm:

(extract of the psalm 46 associated to this generation, verses 1 to 4 )

  • For the conductor, a song of the sons of Korah, on alamoth.
  • God is for us a shelter and a strength, a help in troubles; He is very accessible.
  • Therefore we will not fear when the earth changes and when mountains totter into the heart of seas.
  • His waters shall stir and be muddied; mountains shall quake from His pride forever.
The harangue of Herod was his effect and his army set out:
  • Herod’s harangue [3] so animated his troops that they asked nothing more than to come to a battle. He ordered customary sacrifices, and, without losing time, passed the Jordan to his army to march against the Arabs, and encamped near them.
This symbolic passage of the river, which has always played a beneficial role for the Jewish people, is recalled in the continuation of the Psalm:

(extract of the psalm 46 associated to this generation, verse 5 )

  • But as for the river-its rivulets shall cause the city of God, the holy place of the dwellings of the Most High, to rejoice.
The courage of the Jewish troops made the battle turn to their advantage.
The Arabs were largely defeated and many soldiers threw themselves into the battle only to find death (the Arab troops encircled in their camp were without food or water) without any hope of inflicting losses on the Jewish troops. This victory allowed Herod to conclude a solid peace with the Arabs, sealed by mutual respect.
This salutary reaction of the Jewish people based solely on trust in the Lord and on the eve of the events that will precipitate the Jewish people in the longest of his exiles comes as a guarantee for the Jewish people of the final reconciliation between him and his God at the end of time.
When the Jewish people have finished suffering the misfortunes of the night to begin to hope again when dawn appears, when the Jewish people will become sovereign again on their land and the Temple of Jerusalem will be rebuilt. Then the peoples who until then had ceaselessly crushed the Jewish people in order to ignore their status will only be able to recognize it through the renewed covenant of God.
This is evoked by the end of the psalm:

(extract of the psalm 46 associated to this generation, verses 6 to 12 )

 

  • God is in its midst that it should not totter; God shall help it as morning approaches.
  • Nations have stirred, kingdoms have tottered; He let out His voice, the earth shall melt.
    • reference to the earthquake of this generation
  • The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress forever.
  • Go and see the works of the Lord, that He has wrought devastation in the earth.
    • in the image of the consequences of the earthquake of this generation
  • He puts a stop to wars until the end of the earth; He will break the bow and cut the spear [to pieces]; wagons He will burn with fire.
    • in the image of the defeat of the Arabs in this generation
  • Desist, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted upon the earth.
  • The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress forever.
    • as stated by Herod in his harangue to this generation

 

 

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[1] Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book Fifteenth / Chapter 7.

[2] Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book Fifteenth / Chapter 8.

[3] Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book Fifteenth / Chapter 8.