|By Any Means Necessary
By any means necessary by any means. In any way possible; to any extent: not by any means an easy ... by any means - in any way necessary; "I'll pass this course by hook or by crook"
By any means necessary is a translation of a phrase coined by the French intellectual Jean Paul Sartre in his play Dirty Hands. It entered the popular culture through a speech given by Malcolm X in the last year of his life. It is generally considered to leave open all available tactics for the desired ends, including violence; however, the “necessary” qualifier adds a caveat—if violence is not necessary, then presumably, it should not be used.
We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.
In the final scene of the 1992 movie Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela—recently released after 27 years of political imprisonment—appears as a schoolteacher in a Soweto classroom. Yet Mandela informed director Spike Lee that he could not utter the famous final phrase "by any means necessary" on camera fearing that the apartheid government would use it against him if he did. Lee obliged, and the final seconds of the film feature black-and-white footage of Malcolm X himself delivering the phrase.
One of the most horrible stories in the Book of Judges ( a Book not short on violence) concerns a Levite and the young girl who is his concubine - a sort of second-class wife. She becomes angry about something he has done - we are not told what it is, but she leaves him to return to her father. He wants her back, and after a certain cooling off period he follows her to her father's house. He and her father get on famously, but there is no mention of what she thinks. Her father agrees she must return to her husband, and they set off to return home. As night falls, they come to Gibeah. The people of this village seem strangely inhospitable, but eventually an old man warns them they must not spend the night in the town square and invites them into his house. There they eat and drink.But while they are eating, a sinister group of people gathers outside and starts beating on the door. They want the Levite, they shout, so they can have sex with him. The man whose house it is goes out to them and begs them to leave, but they laugh at him and persist. He tries to bargain, offering his own young daughter and the Levite's concubine. In the tussle that follows, the Levite pushes his concubine, whose name we never know, out into the group of men, who rape and abuse her all night. Eventually as morning breaks she escapes and gets back to the house, where she falls on the doorstep. The people inside, including her husband, do not open the door. But eventually he gets up and goes outside, where he sees her with her hands clutching at the doorstep. 'Get up' he says. 'We are going'. There is no answer. Is she dead, or unconscious? The text does not say. He puts her up over the donkey and then sets out to continue his journey. When he gets as far as his home, he gets a knife and cuts her into twelve separate pieces, limb by limb. Outraged by what has happened, he sends the twelve pieces, one to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. (Judges 19)
Nebuchadnezzar was the King of Babylon, and Babylon as far as the Israelites were concerned was a sink of iniquity. The word 'Babylon' became code for depravity, cruelty and paganism - everything bad in fact. Nebuchadnezzar ruled from 605-562BC. He was an energetic conqueror, expanding his empire so that it extended from Egypt in the west to Elam in the east. He rebuilt temples, threw up immense fortifications around his cities, and erected palatial public buildings. He is mentioned in the Bible because he met and terrified King Jehoiakim of Judah, who paid tribute to him and thereby acknowledged him as Judah's master. Of course, Jehoiakim had little choice in the matter -Nebuchadnezzar's resources were immense, and little Judah stood no chance against him. So you would think Jehoiakim would have settled down to paying tribute throughout his reign. Not so. He wanted to choose his overlord, and he chose to ally himself with Egypt instead - it was nearer, and less brutal than Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar responded quickly. He marched against Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem. The city fell. Jehoiakim survived, but was replaced by his uncle Zedekiah. Incredibly, Zedekiah rebelled in turn - perhaps the terms of surrender were unendurable. For a second time Nebuchadnezzar marched against Judah, laid siege to the city for a year and a half, then conquered it. This time he took chances. He destroyed the Temple and laid waste to the city and surrounding countryside, and exiled most of Judah's population, including all its leaders, to Babylon. Judah became a province of Babylon - and the exiles wept by the rivers of Babylon.
There are a number of different Pharaohs mentioned in the Old Testament, but probably the most famous one is the Egyptian ruler whom Moses confronted. This Pharaoh, possibly Ramesses II, was forced to let Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt, and in the Bible story Pharaoh died by drowning in the Sea of Reeds. The history behind this is much debated, but it is safe to say that the personality of Ramesses II fits the picture of an overconfident ruler who would refuse divine demands. Egypt was the traditional enemy of Israel. It was rich, powerful and much too close. It was also seen as a sink of iniquity. Potiphar's wife, who tries to seduce Joseph, is Egyptian, as is Hagar. For the stories of these two women, see BIBLE WOMEN, and go to the bottom of this page for websites on Moses and Pharaoh.The story of the Hebrew's enslavement in Egypt and eventual escape is one of the pivotal themes of the Bible. It has shaped Judaism ever since. In the Book of Genesis Joseph's brothers decide to murder him, but one of them suggests that they sell him to slave dealers instead - dealers who are headed for Egypt. The message is clear: bondage in Egypt is only one step up from death.
Jezebel was very grand indeed. She was a princess and an aristocrat, daughter of the King of Sidon, a rich and sophisticated port-city on the Mediterranean coast. It was a triumph for King Omri of Israel when he successfully negotiated to get her as a bride for his son Ahab. But she was trouble, no doubt of that. Her name means 'my prince is Baal', and she was a devoted worshipper of the Canaanite god of water and fertility. She brought her fervent beliefs with her when she came to Israel. She also brought a rich retinue of servants, including priest of Baal, and it seems as if she may had brought the Mount Carmel area as her dowry. Ahab's marriage to her was advantageous to him, politically as well as economically. It also smoothed the way for worshippers of the fertility gods, still popular among the largely Canaanite population. The area of Israel where she and her husband ruled was a food bowl for the surrounding area, and so the fertility gods were very important to the people, who were mostly farmers.
Her political power was enormous, partly due to her status but also to her strong personality and will. She clashed with the priests of Yahweh during the years of a terrible drought that afflicted Israel, and the result seems to have been a draw.
She had no patience with the outmoded traditions of the Israelites, and when one of them, Naboth, flouted her husband, she simply did what any monarch in the surrounding countries would have done - she had him killed. Her planning of this affair shows her legal knowledge, her manipulative skill and her determination. When Ahab was killed in battle and her son succeeded to the throne, she became 'Gebira', the Queen Mother, most powerful woman in the kingdom. But an army captain called Jehu led a coup against her son and murdered him. Jezebel went down fighting: she put on the ritual make-up and crown of a queen on her head and hurled insults at Jehu, even as she was being murdered. Later generations have equated Jezebel with whorish behavior, but it is hard to see why. She was fiercely faithful to her husband and family.
Adam and Eve were given a perfect world, but everything went wrong when the serpent entered the story. It spoke to Eve, suggesting that God had duped her. Something was being deliberately hidden from her, it said, and she had only to eat the fruit to know as much as God did. Eve was naive. She believed the serpent, and she ate. Then she took the fruit to her husband Adam, and he ate too. Everything changed. The world grew dark, and food was no longer abundant. Humans had to work if they wanted to eat - laboring in the fields until they dropped with exhaustion. Pain and disease appeared, where they had never been before. The original harmony between humanity and nature is disrupted. The Garden of Eden is lost. Now here's the question: why is evil shown as a serpent? Snakes of course can be poisonous, dangerous - but there are lots of other creatures who can harm us too. Why choose a snake?If you'd been an anci ent Israelite, you'd have known the answer. The snake was an important symbol in the ancient fertility religions. Phallic in shape, the snake represented Nature, and the way that Nature followed a cycle of death (autumn and winter), then life (spring and summer). To the Israelites, the image of a snake was shorthand for polytheism, which was anathema to their god Yahweh, and to monotheism.
Pilate was the Roman prefect of Judea, appointed by the emperor Tiberius in 26AD. He lived in an official residence at the port of Caesarea, but went to Jerusalem at festival time - that is why he was there at the Passover festival when Jesus was arrested, put on trial, and crucified. It was a difficult, combustible time, and Pilate was not a diplomat by any means. The Roman letter-writer Philo describes him as 'a man of inflexible disposition, harsh and obdurate'.
Pilate's behavior towards the Jewish population was if anything designed to engender unrest and resentment. Jewish law forbad images of any kind, but when Pilate entered Jerusalem for the first time, he ordered the soldiers to carry their military standards, which bore the emperor's image. There was such a determined protest against this tactless action that Pilate eventually had to back down and remove the images from Jerusalem. The gospels present him in a more favorable light, suggesting that he knew Jesus was innocent but was forced to condemn him. This may be true, but it is also a fact that the gospel writers were bending over backward, as they narrated the story, to show the Romans in a good light - at the time they were writing, it was politically expedient to do so.
Pilate's brutal dispersion of a crowd of Samaritan pilgrims at Mount Gerizim finally brought about his downfall. The Samaritan leaders protested to his supervisor, Vitellius, and Pilate had to return to Rome to answer for his conduct. The emperor Caligula banished Pilate to Vienne in Gaul, where he died in 41AD.
Judas was one of the inner circle of disciples that followed Jesus as he traveled around the country, teaching and preaching. He was in charge of the finances of the group: he kept account of the money they had, and worked out how to spend it to best advantage. Something worth noting is that the men and women who traveled with Jesus trusted Judas with the money. Then, in that fateful Passover week, Judas did the unthinkable. He colluded with the authorities so that they could arrest Jesus - and what's more, did it for money. But is it that simple? Did he do it just for the money? Surely that's unlikely. Someone trusted by everyone and exposed to Jesus' magnetism and ideals couldn't have done what Judas did just for money. So why did he do it? Was there some connection between the event immediately beforehand, when Jesus attacked the money-changers in the Temple? Was there some dreadful quarrel about the way that money ought to be used?And did Judas act with Jesus' consent? The gospels and Acts are frustratingly short on motive, and even worse on factual detail. They don't even agree on how Judas died - was it by hanging, as Matthew says? Or in a horrible accident that saw him crushed and disemboweled, as Acts describes? Judas' story raises more questions than it answers. (Matthew 10:4; 26:14ff; 27:3ff; John 12:4-6; 13:21-30; Acts 1:18-19)
HEROD THE GREAT
Herod the Great was full of contradictions. He was shrewd, clever, far-sighted, but also cruel, paranoid, and barbaric. He murdered his beautiful royal wife, the princess Mariamme, and the two handsome sons he had with her, strangling them with a silken cord. But he also kept 1st century Palestine out of trouble with the Romans, something very few people could have done, and built cities, palaces and fortress whose ruins still impress.Did he order the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem, at the time of Jesus' birth, as Matthew narrates? There is no other evidence for this event, but it would have been quite in character for Herod to do something like this. He saw plots against him everywhere, and given the number of people he put to death there were probably a fair few plots for him to fear. Certainly he was hated by a great many people.
His greatest achievement - apart from switching sides at the right moment from Mark Antony to Augustus - was the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. This mammoth task began in 19BC and took many decades to complete - Jesus, Mary and Joseph saw a work in progress when they visited the Temple, and it is even possible that Joseph may have worked on this or one of Herod's other mammoth building projects.As Herod lay dying in terrible agony, he ordered that as soon his soldiers were to execute several hundred popular officials, so that there would be a public lamentation throughout the city at the moment of his death. Fortunately, his sister countermanded the order - but the incident gives some idea of just how his crazed mind worked.
Goliath was the fearsome Philistine giant who confronted the Israelite army and mocked it. 'Come out and fight, if you dare', he challenged them. To a man they were reluctant to accept the dare - hardly surprising, since according to the Bible figures he was over 9 feet tall, and built like a tank. He also had some very fine armor and weapons - a bronze coat of mail, bronze greaves, bronze javelin, a spear with an iron spearhead, and a huge and terrifying sword. He must have looked invincible. Of course, he embodied everything the Israelites feared whenever they confronted the Philistines, who were technologically more advanced than they were, larger in numbers and better trained in fighting techniques. The Philistine army could, it seemed, make mincemeat of the Israelites any time they liked. How to beat them, that was the question. David's response was a brilliant piece of lateral thinking. Don't fight them on their own terms, but on yours. Use what you are good at - in David's case, he was an expert in the rather primitive weapon, the slingshot, and so he used that rather than face Goliath with a sword. He succeeded, and used Goliath's own sword to hack of the giant's head. This, of course, was a telling lesson to the Israelites, who were good at guerilla warfare rather than open battle. The message of the story? Make sure you are the one who chooses the weapons.
1 Samuel 17:4-51
Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee for over 40 years, during the life of Jesus of Nazareth. He is famous as the ruler who killed John the Baptist, and who slid out of trying and possibly saving Jesus when he was on trial in Jerusalem.
Herod Antipas was one of the few sons of Herod the Great who survived his father's paranoia, and he did this mainly because he was lazy or clever, or possibly both - Jesus, an excellent judge of character, called him 'that fox'.
When his father died, the Romans made Antipas ruler of Galilee and the neighboring state of Perea, where the Baptist lived and preached.
Antipas' first wife was the daughter of King Aretas IV of Nabatea. This marriage lasted for a number of years, but then Antipas fell passionately in love with a very unsuitable woman - the daughter of his dead half-brother Aristobulos who had once been married to his half-brother Herod Philip. Marriage to the widow of your brother was unlawful according to Jewish practice, and Herod and Herodias were roundly condemned when they married - notably by John the Baptist. In the volatile political situation of the time, John's criticism was seen as potentially rebellious, and Herod and his wife and step-daughter Salome engineered John's execution. They probably saw it as a relatively trivial matter.
A few years later, when Antipas was in Jerusalem for Passover, a trouble-maker called Jesus of Nazareth was sent to Antipas for assessment - since the man was from Galilee, he fell under Antipas' jurisdiction. When Jesus refused to answer his questions, Antipas mocked him and then returned him to Pilate. This was typical of his reluctance to make any decision that could be potentially dangerous to himself. Antipas and Herodias were miffed when the Romans made her brother Herod Agrippa a king - Herod was a ruler but not formally called 'king'. Antipas applied to the current Roman emperor, Caligula, to be named a king, but Caligula responded by stripping Antipas of everything he owned, exiling him to Gaul and giving all his possessions to Herod Agrippa instead. To her credit, Herodias volunteered to go with her husband Antipas into exile.
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