490 AD to 510 AD, Psalm 72: End of the Roman Empire.

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clovis 2 annote shutterstock_86189701(1)This generation is that of the 490s and 500s.

During this generation, it is Anastase (491-518) who rules Byzantium. His reign is marked by religious quarrels internal to Christianity.
For the Persian empire, it is Qobad who reigns almost throughout the generation. In fact, this reign takes place in two phases: 488-496 then 498-531.
Before becoming interested in the (former) Christian empire of the West, we must first look at the title of this psalm: « Solomon ».
If David did not identify himself as author of all the previous psalms, this psalm is the first claimed by Solomon.
Excluding the « unsigned » psalms, the first psalm not claimed by David is Psalm 42, which was written by the sons of Korah. Now the psalm forty-two officially begins the second book of psalms while the psalm of this generation, the psalm seventy-two, closed the same book.
The first book of Psalms (until Psalm 41) was about the biblical epic ending with John Hyrcanus, the last biblical figure.
The generation of psalm forty-two is that of Aristobulus, son of Hyrcanus, descendant of Aaron who had himself crowned king, thus combining both functions, priestly and royal. Aristobulus nicknamed, Philellès, that is to say amateur of the Greeks, triggers the gradual decline of the Jewish kingdom and slowly leads to its destruction.
The weakening of the high priest favors religious reactionary movements such as that of the Pharisees, who give birth to Judaism as we know it today, giving prominence to the oral law, relayed by the Talmud. Talmud of Jerusalem and especially Talmud of Babylon which is definitively closed in this last generation of the second book of the psalm.
Throughout the six centuries connected with the thirty-one generations of the second book of psalms, the religion of exile for the Jewish people is thus constructed.
At the same time, the end of the royal Jerusalem as built by Solomon is inescapable. It is true that Nebuchadnezzar had begun this destruction, but the ruins left by it made it possible to reconstruct the city of Solomon, that will not be possible after the passage of the Romans.
Aristobulus set off the countdown, Jerusalem falls a few generations later, until the sons of Korah grind their psalms from the beginning of this book.
It is the Romans who bring down the city built by Solomon, it is they who will subdue the revolts of the survivors in subsequent generations until the ruin of the kingdom of Solomon is complete.
The book related to this ruin can not be closed if those who were the architects of the ruin of Jerusalem do not know the same fate, that is what happens to this generation.
Those who destroyed his work are destroyed in their turn.
Thus this generation sees the official and definitive end of the Roman Empire.
It is indeed in 493 that Odoacre officially puts an end to the empire, a decision which is only a simple statement on the ruins of a disintegrated empire.
This second book of psalms begins with the beginning of the disintegration of Solomon’s ex-kingdom and the beginning of the organization of a religion of exile.
This second book of psalms concludes with the final disintegration of the empire that destroyed that kingdom and the conclusion of the Babylonian Talmud that allows the Jewish people to survive intellectually in exile.
In this context, it is logical that it is Solomon who concludes this book initiated by the sons of Korah.
In fact, the end of the Roman Empire also marks the beginning of the era of nations, to the emperor succeeds kings:
  • Theodorich_OstrogotIt is among the Goths and the Vandals then that it seems to have been born in the 5th century, to develop in the 6th-7th centuries, the idea of nation. The exceptional role of the Gothic people in the transformation of the Roman world comes into play. When the two main branches of this people succeeded in forming on the one hand the Ostrogothic kingdom of Italy – Theodoric entered Italy in 489 and became king in 493 -, on the other hand the Visigothic kingdom of Toledo, is built a Gothic ideology which finds its completion in seventh century Spain. Who does not see the extreme importance of the formation of this idea of nation? It commands the constitution of the national states. Until the fourth century, all these first peoples lived in tribal structures, obeying warlords. There have been, here and there, several attempts to regroup in leagues or confederations. Works of chiefs particularly prestigious, they were all ephemeral. With the Goths we detect a proper evolution with the formation of a community feeling. Then with the birth of a royal ideology that took its source in the imperial ideology of the end of the fourth century, to lead to the creation in Spain of a patria Gothorum in which perhaps intervenes, on the one hand, the Hispanic provincial feeling . Because in fact, what emerges in Spain is a Hispano-Roman-Gothic entity.
In this emergence of nations, the Franks play a significant role.

King Childeric I [1], reigns supreme over the region of Tournai, capital of Gaul. A Germanic wreck established in imperial territory and linked to Rome for a federated contract, Childeric was one of those who helped the Roman troops to fight against the invaders of northern and central Gaulle. He died at Tournai in 481. His son Clovis succeeded him. He had seen, before dying, the last Roman emperor of the West.

François-Louis_Dejuinne_(1786-1844)_-_Clovis_roi_des_Francs_(465-511)Clovis initiates a new turning point in the history of the West:

  • The Franks [2], were pagans, and their occupation was often brutal (vis-à-vis Christianity), sparing neither churches nor clerics. But the baptism of Clovis, king of the Salian Francs, by the bishop Rémi de Reims (at the Christmas of 496 or 506), followed by that of a large number of his warriors, completely changed the situation. It earned the king franc the favor of the Gallo-Roman Catholics of his kingdom, while having a great reverberation throughout Gaul and far beyond (the bishops of the Frankish kingdom and others from neighboring countries had been invited to the ceremony ). Bishop Avit of Vienna, though a faithful subject and advisor to the Burgundian kings, wrote him to congratulate him. This baptism was to have important consequences. Clovis had become the first Catholic king, the only Catholic ruler by the side of the emperor of Constantinople, legitimized by him. An imperial embassy brought him the clothes of an officially recognized king, and the Frankish kings fit perfectly into the hierarchical world of the Roman Empire, while being in fact independent. The Gallo-Roman aristocracy could henceforth be united by matrimonial alliances with the Frankish aristocracy, which assured the unity of the kingdom.
In fact, Solomon, the first true Jewish king (neither Saul nor David had been able to establish their kingship without being disputed), addresses the kings of these new kingdoms which will house part of his subjects in a new phase of the Exile of the Jewish people.
It is addressed in particular to Clovis, son of king but first Christian king and founder of the first Christian dynasty.
This is expressed in the beginning of the psalm of this generation:

(extract of the psalm 72 associated to this generation, verses 1  to 8  )

  • Concerning Solomon. O God, give Your judgments to a king and Your righteousness to a king’s son.
  • May he judge Your people justly, and Your poor people with justice. 
    • Solomon addresses the kings of the new nations of the West and especially Clovis.
  • May the mountains bear peace for the people, and the hills-through righteousness. 
    • The mountains generally represent nations. By associating the « hills » with them, Solomon generalizes his speech to all nations large or small.
  • May he judge the poor of the people; may he save the children of the needy and crush the oppressor. 
    • Solomon hopes that these new kings will have the same sense of justice and show themselves right in particular towards his subjects who are among the least favored subjects of these new kingdoms.
  • May they fear You in the presence of the sun and before the moon for generations upon generations. 
    • If the era associated with Solomon was for the Jewish people « during the day » and therefore under the sign of the sun, since this one entered the night of exile so under the sign of the moon. During this period when the Jewish people will be under the domination of the nations from generation to generation until dawn, Solomon hopes that through Christianity, the nations, by their love of God will be just to his people. 
  • May it descend as rain upon cut vegetation, as raindrops that drip upon the earth.
  • May the righteous flourish in his days, and much peace until there is no moon.
  • And may he reign from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the land. 
    • Solomon, in his wisdom, hopes that this expansion of Christianity will be at least for the world of nations, the possibility of getting closer to God.
On the Persian side, Mazdak, the new prophet, was at the origin of the Mazdean cult, which seduces Qobad himself.
This caused him to be dismissed for the benefit of one of his brothers, but he resumed his scepter later. During this time monotheism settles a little more in orient. At the level of the kingdom of Himyar, after a floating in the succession of As’ad (the one who converts to Judaism), it is finally Zor’a the youngest son who finally reigns.

yemen shutterstock_334108109

In fact, this generation represents the apogee of the Jewish kingdom (or considered as such) of Himyar. The next generation will see this kingdom confront the Christians of Najran which will cause the Byzantine replication across the Ethiopian kingdom. But Himyar, though having left few memories in the history of civilizations will, associated with other Jewish monotheistic islets, as well as Christians, a leading role in the blossoming of Islam:
  • European science [3] began to take an interest in the Muslim religion and its origins in the early nineteenth century. Soon it became clear that one of his main sources of inspiration from the Koran was Judaism, whose trace is easily identifiable in lexicon, concepts, ritual practices or exemplary stories. The question then arose as to how the first Islam was influenced by Judaism. The Islamic sources we have today, composed more than two centuries after the events – which leads some scholars to reject them – suggest three types of answers:
    • The first is the presence of important Jewish communities in the oases of northern Hijaz, mainly Khaybar, Tayma or Yathrib. However, it is in this last oasis (renamed later Medina) that Muhammad founded the first Muslim principality in 622. It was therefore natural to assume that Muhammad drew his knowledge of direct contact with the Jews of Yathrib, without excluding a secondary transmission by the proselytes of the same oasis, who were the customers of the Jewish tribes before forming the initial nucleus of the Muslim community.
    • The second answer is given by Muhammad’s profession in Mecca. It is known that he was for twenty years a wealthy trader, driving caravans of goods to Yemen, Syria or Eastern Arabia, a country where it was easy to meet followers of all kinds of beliefs.
    • The third source of influence could be the conversion of Yemen to Judaism, under kings named Abu Karib and Joseph (Yusuf), many generations before Muhammad.
  • It appears today (written in 2004) that this third explanation is needed. Judaism acquired a dominant position in the southwestern half of the peninsula nearly 250 years before the founding of the Muslim principality of Yathrib and kept it for 150 years (until the generation – generation 72 – that interests us).
The author concludes his article with the following elements:
  • It is probably  [4] Himyarite Judaism that has profoundly reshaped the mental and religious universe of Western Arabia during the 250 years preceding Islam. I recall the following facts: 
    • In the Himyarite inscriptions, there are about fifteen terms borrowed from Hebrew and Judeo-Aramaic; the most notable are the words « prayer » and « favor, contribution »; they appear in Yemen around 400 and know an extraordinary fortune in Islam, since they designate two of the five pillars of the new religion.
    • […]
    • In the early days of Islam, Yemeni scholars played a leading role in the transmission of Jewish traditions commonly known as isra’iliyyat: the best known are Ka’b al-Ahbar, ie « The Ka ‘ab of the wise’, a contemporary of the first generation of Muslims, and Wahb b. Munabbih, posterior of a generation; it is a sign that there has no doubt existed in Yemen a Jewish religious school, and that stories of biblical or parabiblic origin have been transmitted through this channel to nascent Islam.
In fact, Solomon, after having closed the period of six centuries of Roman domination in the beginning of the psalm, opens, in the following of this generation’s psalm, the next phase which will see the emergence of Islam and whose seeds already draw in this generation.
This is indicated by the following verses of the psalm:

(extract of the psalm 72 associated to this generation, verses 9  to 10  to 14 to 20 )

  • May the desert tribes bow before him  
    • Allusion to the next outbreak of Islam that will turn the inhabitants of the Arabian desert into devout worshipers of God.
  • and his enemies lick the dust.
  • May the kings of Tarshish and the isles return tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba approach with a gift.
    • Behind this enumeration lies all the actors of the blossoming of Islam. So if we equate the desert oases with islands, we find the Jewish communities who will participate in spite of them in the blossoming of Islam as well as Cheba and Seba evokes Ethiopia and Yemen. On one side is the Himyarite empire and the Abyssinian kingdom which will succeed it.
  • And all kings will prostrate themselves to him; may all nations serve him.
  • For he will save a needy one who cries out, and a poor one who has no helper.
  • He will have pity on the poor and needy, and he will save the souls of the needy.
  • From blows and from robbery he will redeem their soul, and their blood will be dear in his eyes. 
    • The appearance of Islam is a step forward for the world in the recognition of God and in the diffusion of the notions of generosity and sharing that will take over Islam and which are already essential values of Judaism.
  • And may he live, and He will give him of the gold of Sheba, and may He pray for him constantly; all the days may He bless him.
  • May there be an abundance of grain in the land, on the mountain peaks; may its fruit rustle like Lebanon, and they will blossom forth from the city like the grass of the earth.
  • May his name be forever; before the sun, his name will be magnified, and [people] will bless themselves with him; all nations will praise him.
  • Blessed is the Lord God, the God of Israel, Who performs wonders alone.
  • And blessed is His glorious name forever, and His glory will fill the entire earth. Amen and amen.
  • The prayers of David the son of Jesse are completed.  
    • Solomon (since he is the one who signs this psalm) in his wisdom concludes positively this psalm, because although the relations between Islam and the Jews are not tinged with pink, the appearance of this religion in addition to Christianity already installed complete the evolution of the peoples towards the recognition of the unique God and the assimilation of its values of justice.

 

 

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[1] According to Marcel Le Glay: « ROME – II, grandeur and fall of the Empire / Chapter: « The barbarians and the fall of Rome » » (French: « ROME – II, grandeur et chute de l’Empire/Chapitre : « Les barbares et la chute de Rome » » (p. 876-877) ).

[2] Pierre Maraval / Christianity of Constantine to the Arab conquest / Chapter: « Christian expansion in the West » (French: « Le Christianisme de Constantin à la conquête arabe »/Chapitre : « L’expansion chrétienne en Occident » (p.147) ).

[3] Christian Julien Robin / Academy of inscriptions and beautiful letter: « Himyar and Israel » (year: 2004, volume 2, p 831/832). Accessible on http: //www.persee.fr . (French: « Académie des inscriptions et belle lettre : « Himyar et Israël » » (année : 2004, volume 2, p 831/832). Accessible sur http://www.persee.fr )

[4]  Christian Julien Robin / Academy of inscriptions and beautiful letter: « Himyar and Israel » (year: 2004, volume 2, p 880). Accessible on http: //www.persee.fr . (French: « Académie des inscriptions et belle lettre : « Himyar et Israël » » (année : 2004, volume 2, p 880). Accessible sur http://www.persee.fr )