Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Timothy Felch: The Lost Tribe of Dan

Timothy Felch prepared this interesting research paper for a class on the book of Revelation. He writes, "Basically, I have been troubled over why in the 12 tribes mentioned in the book, Dan is no where to be found." Read more to see what Timothy concludes.

Did the Tribe of Dan Get 'Left Behind'?
Timothy E. Felch

"And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: (5) from the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, (6) from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, (7) from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, (8) from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed." (Revelation 7:4-8, NASB) [1]

This passage makes such obvious sense, it’s hardly worth mentioning. 144,000, a perfect number from all twelve tribes of Israel, which would make perfect sense to represent the complete number of God’s elect. But wait a minute… whatever happened to Dan? Did Dan lose his inheritance? Was he Left Behind? It seems that he has been replaced with Manasseh son of Joseph. But why? And why mention Joseph and Manasseh, instead of Ephraim and Manasseh? Maybe this passage isn’t so straightforward after all.

A survey of the options…
One glaring question should jump off the page immediately, once we realize that Dan is omitted: “What did Dan do to deserve this?”[2]

This question, in a nutshell, is the point of this paper. It is my belief that any analysis of this chapter must take into account that there is an entire tribe of Israel missing, and that this presents a real problem.

We have several options here: First, we have what I call the spiritual-Reformed view, the most common view amongst scholars, whether Reformed or not.[3] Lenski, along with Hoeksma and Ladd, use this problem fact (along with the absence of Ephraim) to claim that this proves that the text is meant to be spiritual.[4] These tribes are not mentioned so we will not be tempted to take this passage literally, but rather only symbolically. In fact, Hoeksma even goes as far as saying John’s “haphazard usage” of the 12 tribes must necessarily make this section figurative![5] Two points are used to support this argument: first of all, at the time this book was written, the northern kingdom had long been out of existence. There had been much intermarrying and (supposed) carelessness over their genealogy. The Jews of the south no longer considered the north legitimate, as they were half-breeds. All of this, considered, it would be difficult to make a case for any pure members of any northern tribe. Thus, this text therefore could not be literal in any sense, because there was nothing literal to observe. Secondly, in regards to Dan, this group tends to appeal to the absence of Dan in 1st Chronicles. After the exile, there is no mention of Dan, and it is thought that those who are left are numbered with their brother Naphtali, as they share the same mother. [6] Thus, the text is following an earlier precedent of omitting the tribe of Dan when the text refers to every tribe.[7]

From the literalist we find a rebuttal to these views. They would argue that the 12 tribes did indeed still exist, and thus, a literal interpretation was indeed possible. First of all, they would argue that although men might not know who were from what tribe, God does, which makes the point moot.[8] God chose who would be part of the 144,000. Fair enough. Perhaps the members of northern tribes who had migrated downwards were the ones in fact mentioned here, and that Dan never migrated, and thus was left out.[9] Also, they would say, James obviously believes there were 12 tribes (see James 1:1); thus there is already precedent.[10] Such a view is not limited to dispensationalists; both Charles Hodge, a postmillennialist and William Hendriksen, an amillennialist, held to these views. [11]

I believe that the more literalist crowd has the better argument for the most part,[12] as least as far as the tribe of Dan is concerned, as they realize that leaving out an entire tribe is a serious affair. In the entire Old Testament, we see the twelve tribes listed twenty times, with eighteen different orders.[13] Sometimes Levi and Joseph are used, other times, Levi is not mentioned, and Ephraim and Manasseh are. But never in any case is a tribe unaccounted for (when the phase every tribe is used), as it is here in Revelation 7. The spiritual/Reformed approach wants to make the twelve tribes here represent the complete people of God; however never before have we seen the “twelve tribes minus one tribe” equal the twelve tribes, and it isn’t as if the Apostle John didn’t realize this. Much of our interpretation of the book of Revelation depends on the interpretation of the earlier books of scripture; logic should then dictate that we should do the same here. Thus, we should look for reasons from the Old Testament [14] for why Dan should not be listed before we go on to more “haphazard” approaches.[15] There is a great deal of symbolism here (particularly in regards to the numbers), and we take the symbolism seriously, but not over-symbolize that which was never meant to be symbolized. Thus, this overly symbolic approach must be discarded.[16]

Now that we have established a basis for scrounging the Old Testament for references to Dan to see why he (his tribe) might be disqualified, we move on to the most oft mentioned reason: the issue of idolatry.[17] Dan was explicitly linked to idol worship more than any other tribe. As I mentioned earlier, there is no mention of Dan after the exile, which I believe is specifically linked to this. In Judges 18, we see that Dan abandons his inheritance of land, and go into rampant idolatry. These two concepts are not unrelated; for a member of the Old Covenant, land was sacred and very much tied to the covenant; thus, to give up on the promised inheritance was to give up on God.[18] Secondly, Dan was one of the places where King Jeroboam set up a golden calf to worship (1 Kings 12:28-30). Certainly, any member any tribe of Israel should have known better based on past experience, so this is all the more offensive. Thirdly, we see a specific statement against Dan in Amos 8:14: "As for those who swear by the guilt of Samaria, Who say, 'As your god lives, O Dan,' And, 'As the way of Beersheba lives,' They will fall and not rise again." Such a statement does not give much hope for the Danites.[19] Also of interest is the fact that the first person executed for blasphemy was of the tribe of Dan (Lev. 24:11) and that Dan’s mother was Bilhah, the woman who had had the adulterous relationship with Reuben.

In my mind, this is a fairly convincing argument. It makes even more sense in light of the context of the entire book, which time after time sounds warnings against apostatizing.[20]

Likewise, if we believe this argument to be true and that it is the reason Dan is not mentioned in Revelation 7, it then follows naturally to why Joseph, and not Ephraim, is mentioned here as well. Ephraim is just as guilty as Dan in some of these accounts. When Jeroboam set up the golden calves, Dan received one, and Bethel, a town of Ephraim, received the other. Hosea 4:17a says “Ephraim is joined to idols.” Psalm 78:67 says “He also rejected the tent of Joseph, And did not choose the tribe of Ephraim.” Given the parallel structure of this psalm, it is clear that the author is using Joseph and Ephraim interchangeably.[21]

We also see this link in Ezekiel 37. This gives us a couple of options for the lack of Ephraim in the book of Revelation: first, John (being the author) may have used this interchangeability just as it had been used in the past. This view is not uncommon. The difficulty with such a view is that we have no previous precedence for referring to “Ephraim and Manasseh” as “Joseph and Manasseh”. Manasseh was usually subsumed by the name of Joseph when Joseph was mentioned. Thus, I would like to propose a different option. We know that Ephraim and Manasseh were not the only sons of Joseph, but rather that the other sons “shall be called by the names of their brothers in their inheritance (Genesis 48:6).” Also, the name of Joseph was one of great reverence amongst the people of Israel. Thus, I propose that the name of Ephraim was so tainted with idolatry, (as was Dan) that those remaining faithful were to be called by the name of Joseph from then on.[22] Joseph was faithful; Ephraim was not. This view works regardless of whether this includes the actual descendants of Ephraim and those descendents named by Ephraim who were not of his direct descent but still of Joseph, or may just include the latter. This too, fits right along with the anti-apostasy theme of the entire book.

Dan as a Type of Antichrist [23]
The idea of apostasy as the reason for the omission of Dan and Ephraim is in my mind, the most convincing, with one exception: in the case of Ephraim, we at least have the reasonable possibility that Ephraim and his descendents are numbered under Joseph. After all, who else would they be? Such is not the case for Dan, however; therefore it would behoove us to see what else the Old Testament has to offer information-wise about Dan. Many believe that just as Judah was (is) the tribe of the Christ, Dan was (is) the tribe of the Antichrist. The Old Testament is rich in typology of what the Messiah would embody, fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. Some would also argue that the scriptures are also full of typology towards an Antichrist, the full embodiment of evil.[24] Such a view is not new, but rather goes back millennia, prior even to Christ’s birth. Such a view takes the omission of Dan a step further. This view argues that Dan “was descended of Israel but not of Israel” (Rom. 9:6) and John 6:70 “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve (twelve apostles, but also twelve tribes), and yet one of you is a devil? (NASB, parentheses mine).”

Let’s begin with Genesis 49:16-18, in the prophecy of Jacob to his sons: “Dan shall judge his people, As one of the tribes of Israel. 17 Dan shall be a serpent in the way, A horned snake in the path, That bites the horse's heels, So that his rider falls backward. For Your salvation I wait, O LORD”[25] This passage is obscure to say the least, there are three major things to notice in this passage. First of all, there is the judgment language. Dan means to judge his people. This means all of Israel, as it would make very little sense to Dan will be the judge of just himself. The only other blessing/prophecy with this type of language is that of Judah. Luginbill suggests an alternate translation here, saying that the k here would be better translated “as if”, so the text would read “as if one of the tribes of Israel.”[26] That is a real possibility in the original, which would put Dan (as the rule, not the exception) from the very beginning into the category of Romans 9:6 and John 6:70. Dan is an imposter judge, a counterfeit, to overthrow the true judge from Judah.[27]

Secondly, notice the very significant usage of the serpent biting the horses’ heels. The imagery of a snake biting heels is VERY strong, is used only in one other place, Gen. 3:15, where Satan is irrevocably linked to the image of the serpent. This continues all the way to the end of Revelation. Consider the following: we know from Midr. Rab. Num 2.7 28 that Jewish tradition believes that the emblem on Dan's banner was a serpent.[29] (When I was on my honeymoon this summer and passed a synagogue, and saw the symbols on the building, I knew exactly which one was for Dan: the serpent!) Then in Testament of Dan we read “For I have read in the book of Enoch the righteous, that your prince is Satan.”[30] Where else do we see Satan as Prince? Revelation 2, where we read in the letter to the church in Pergamum which was in fact the location of Satan’s throne. A quick study will tell us that Pergamum is where people practiced serpent worship![31] Such things must not be treated as coincidences; the severity of the connotations of these images must be given its full value. Perhaps this serpent biting a horse’s heel is a reference to Satan going after Christ, who, evidently, will come on a white horse.[32]

Thirdly, we must notice the exclamation: “For Your salvation I wait, O LORD.” This is a response to the prophecy given to Dan, and is the only part of this entire prophecy to the twelve sons of Israel that uses the proper divine name. What exactly did Jacob see here to respond as such? We can only speculate. Prophecy can hard to understand, and he may have seen one or combination of the following: first of all, this might be a reference to a war between Judah and Dan, and he is crying out for divine mercy. Or, as some Jewish Scholars have said, this is a prophecy of Samson, the great Danite Judge.[33] This is a complicated thought, because though his father was a Danite, his mother, (through whom bloodline was traced according to Jewish tradition) is a Judahite.[34] If that were so, maybe Jacob saw multiple things, such as Samson, Christ, and the Antichrist, all in one vision. That would make Dan both a type of Christ and a type of antichrist. Such an interpretation is possible, and plausible, but needless to say, a difficult passage to interpret.

Now we move on to some of the early church views on the Antichrist. Clearly, it was believed that this was to be an actual person. Consider the following from the Didache 16:4 “for as lawlessness increaseth they shall hate one another and persecute and betray, and then shall appear the deceiver of the world as a Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders and the earth shall be given over into his hands and he shall commit iniquities which have never been since the world began.” Many of the patristics sought to unite the fourth kingdom of Daniel with the Antichrist.[35] Commodian believed in multiple antichrists, first a Neronian one, then a final Jewish one sent to deceive the Jews.[36] Irenaeus was the first to recognize the Antichrist as explicitly Jewish.[37] In Against Heresies 5.30.2 he even specifically mentions that the Antichrist will come from Dan, citing the verses I have mentioned already. Hippopolytus then uses this a springboard, for his writings, using Isaiah 10 and 14, along with Exekiel 28 to fill out his description of this person, all the while tying this to the final beast in the book of Daniel. He believed that this Antichrist would accomplish great things on behalf of the Jews, giving them great success in terms of worldly standards, not unlike the views in the common apocalyptic fiction so popular today.[38] Thus, he saw the inseperability between the expected Messiah of the Jews and the awaited Antichrist of the Christians. Hill observes: “Might it be that when the author of 1 John say ‘you have heard that Antichrist is coming (1 John 2:18) he is echoing a Christian evaluation of the undiminished expectation of a Messiah still to come?” He then quotes the patristic interpretation of John 5:43 (I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him) which sees this as a prophecy of the Antichrist.[39]

Given the evidence, I believe we can make a reasonable case for the tribe of Dan being the seat of the coming Antichrist, and a tribe descended from, but not of, Israel. At the very least it is worth considering, as many of the alternative viewpoints fail to provide adequate answers. And, it is not limited to any millennial view as such; both dispensationalist and non-dispensationalist, pre-mil and post-mill, can hold to it, so long the view allows for a literal Antichrist. Personally, I believe it best fits with the progressive parallelism view of Revelation advocated by Hendriksen.[40] In his work More than Conquerors, Hendriksen advocates that in Revelation we see seven visions of the same event, each event being more powerful and intense than the prior one. Each symbol finds multiple fulfillments: throughout history we have seen the trumpets warn, and the bowls poured out on “the beast of the sea” and “the beast of the earth” who were risen up in the spirit of the Antichrist, time and time again. But, the time is coming when there will be a final uprising greater than ever before, where the judgment will be greater than ever before, and then the end shall come. I believe that we could take this a step further, namely that we can find fulfillment for these “beasts” not only in nations (which is certainly true) but also in individuals. Judas and Nero were very wicked in their own right, and were antichrists, but also serve as types for the true wicked one, the antichrist, left to come.

A Case Study of Antichrist: Judas Iscariot
Before we finish, it will be helpful for us to see what exactly a “type” of Antichrist looks like. We have seen that the tribe of Dan itself is a type of antichrist, but I have also suggested that the antichrists are not limited to people groups or nations, be can be individuals as well. If anyone in scripture was a type of the antichrist, a “lesser” antichrist, it was Judas Iscariot. In fact, many in the scripture are called “of the devil” or “sons of the devil” but the title “devil” (diaboloj) is reserved for only Satan and Judas. Thus, it would make sense that if the Antichrist were to come from Dan, it might make sense that Judas Iscariot did as well. We know, from Christ’s own words, that “not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled (John 17:12b).” What scripture was Jesus talking about? Perhaps, given the correspondence of the twelve apostles to the twelve tribes, Christ meant in saying this that a disciple of Danite descent would fall away just as the tribe of Dan had done earlier.

We know very little of Judas, but we can learn plenty from his name sake, Iscariot. Iscariot comes from two Hebrew words: tAYrIq.-vyai (taken from the Salkison-Ginsburg Hebrew NT in Bibleworks) which literally means “man of Karioth.” Where is Karioth? Well, there is a city by the name of Kariath located right at the intersection of Dan, Benjamin, and Judah. There is also a city located close by: “Then from the family of the Danites, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, six hundred men armed with weapons of war set out. They went up and camped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. Therefore they called that place Mahaneh-dan to this day; behold, it is west of Kiriath-jearim” (Judges 18:11-12). Given what we know about the Danite land allotment from Joshua 19:40-46, we can assume with reasonable certainty that this city was within the boundaries of Dan, but also very close to the city of Kiriath-jearim in the Judah territory. Then, in Nehemiah 7, we see former exiles of Kiriath-jearim referring to themselves as “men of Kiriath-jearim”. What does this tell us about Judas? Well, his name is plural, and means that he is a man from the CITIES at Kiriath. Which is the other city located there? Mahaneh-dan. Thus, it is likely that his name is in fact referring to both those cities; if he were just from Kiriath-jearim, his name most likely would follow the scriptural precedent. Plus, I don’t think the writers of the gospels would be so militant about always using Iscariot unless something of the name was intrinsically important, something done for no other apostle. If this is true, then it is pretty strong evidence of the seed of Dan (or the serpent) being set against the seed of Judah (or the seed of the woman from Genesis 3).[41] Such a comparison might seem like a stretch for us, but for a native speaker of the language, it would be immediately obvious where Judas had originated.

Certainly, we have seen many options and opinions for why the tribe of Dan is absent from this passage, and we may hold to many of them simultaneously. I have argued that the prophecies of Dan may give us insight to how we view the book of Revelation, the Antichrist, and Old Testament typology in general. John certainly knew what an antichrist was; after all, it was he who penned the scriptures we rely upon to tell us. And he wrote about the “other coming in his own name (John 5:43) the person who embodies evil like no other before him who would arise to take on God himself. I have argued, it is very likely this man’s origins will be of the tribe of Dan.

That being said, however, now isn’t the time to run to the newspaper to do some end-times research. As I wrote this paper, I was reminded of 1 Timothy 1:3-4: “As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith (NASB).” As much fun as it was to study these ideas, it must not become speculation that inhibits us from furthering the administration of the Gospel.

The tribe of Dan has some very obscure, mysterious prophecies attached to it; some of them may only be truly understood by God himself. Thus, we are not to get caught up in these mysterious sayings but rather we are to proclaim the obvious truths that all the scripture proclaims: The Jesus Christ is Lord of all, and he is coming quickly to judge the quick and the dead.

The lesson of Dan is the lesson of Hebrews 6; that we might fall not away. Dan fell away, and had sought after idols, worse than any other tribe; thus truly, he was left behind. Our task is not to weary ourselves with trivialities but rather heed the warning and obey. Amen


1. [1] Revelation 7:2-8 As there is for the most part, no debate in scholarly circles over translation or text critical variants on this passage, I saw no need to do a word-for-word translation of this passage. There is, of course, one exception to that. Some scholars have argued the uniqueness of the combination of both Joseph and Manasseh gives us a clue, and suggest that the text originally read Joseph and Dan (Dan) but was miscopied to read Joseph and Man (Man), which was later extended to Manasseh. The problem is that we have early manuscripts that say otherwise, and that we never have any precedence for abbreviation of tribal names. Thus, this is very unlikely to be accurate. (See Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John [TNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969] 115). I will, however make one exegetical comment on the Greek: over and over again through this passage, the Greek word “ek” is translated “from”. ek has the connotation of “a calling out”; thus, those sealed represent a part, and not the whole, of the tribe being called. See David E. Aune, Revelation 6-16 (WBC vol. 52b; Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998) p. 440. Also see Alan F. Johnson, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Revelation (ed. Frank E. Gaebelein; Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996) p.82.

2. Another great question is “What exactly does it mean to be sealed?” A good understanding of just what this seal represents might give us insight into the rest of the passage. Simon Kistemaker suggests that there are three meanings implicit to a seal in the ANE tradition: 1) it prevents tampering, 2) it ensures ownership and 3) it certifies authenticity (Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Book of Revelation [New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2001] p. 251). This is exactly what is going on here. God in heaven is putting His mark upon a select group. In fact, we might even know what this looks like: in a Ezekiel 9:4, we see almost the identical situation; given they are both apocalyptic in genre, it might very well be the same situation (I believe it is), where the angels go out and seal people with a “mark”, a “taw, t” . This t, in the Phoenician script, looks like a cross, and was later adapted by the Jewish Christians as a symbol of their faith. This may or may not play a role in which view (preterist, futurists, etc.) we hold to, but it is certainly worth considering. See Matthew Black, “The Chi-Rho-Sign-Christogram and or Staurogram,” Apostolic History and the Gospel, ed. W. Gasque and R. P. Martin (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), pp. 319-327.
This seal, then, puts upon believers some degree of protection. But, what exactly does that protection entail? First of all, no one seems to think it is an absolute protection. Martyrdom is one of the highest callings one can have; clearly then, God would not deny these 144,000 such a blessing. Kiddle even suggests that all of these people are martyrs, and not only that, but the make up the number remaining yet to be martyred (Rev 6:11). But that is VERY unlikely, for two reasons. First of all, by now in history, 140,000 people have been martyred for Christ, and then some. More than that probably lost their lives for the sake of the gospel last century. What hope would we have of the blessing of martyrdom, if that were true? Second of all, in Revelation 14, we see that the 144,000 are mentioned again, and we see that they are men. Does that mean the all the women (and even many little girls who were martyred for their faith) miss the blessing because of their sex? I doubt it. See Martin Kiddle, The Revelation of St. John (MNTC; London, Hodder and Stoughton Limited, 1940] p. 133 and Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary (ed. Kenneth Barker; Chicago; Moody Press, 1992) p. 470.
But, beyond that, there are a couple of options (Given this is a paper primarily about the Tribe of Dan, and not about the 144,000 or seals specifically, I will limit myself to two). Herman Hoeksma believes this is a strictly spiritual protection. Obviously, this is of his product of his Reformed Theology. He ties this protection directly to our salvation, that when we become regenerate, we are granted spiritual immunity. We might be destroyed physically, but spiritually, we will be blessed, and persevere (Herman Hoeksema, Behold He Cometh: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation [Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1986] pp. 251-255).
I find such a view lacking. First of all, there is a certain amount of restraining going on here, before the judgments come. The angels are commanded to wait until all who are to be sealed are in fact, sealed. What would be the point if this were not physical, at least to some degree? Thus, I would like to suggest a different option. Thomas believes that the context must be considered to really understand what this is for (Thomas, Revelation, 472). From the text, we can gather that this happened just before the seventh seal was broken. Thus, the most natural understanding of this sealing would be to protect the 144,000 from the consequences of that seal. Why God waits until six seals are broken, I do not know. Certainly, that is a if not the weakness in this view. But it seems likely that the point here is to protect the saints from God’s wrath. God will not always protect us from our enemies, but he will protect His own from Himself.

3. Aune, Revelation 6-16, 440.

4. R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1943) p. 252-3, George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1972) p. 115 and Hoeksma, Revelation, 255.

5. Hoeksma, Revelation, 255.

6. John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966) p.142.

7. Friedrich Dusterdieck, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Revelation of John (trans. Henry E. Jacobs; Winona Lake: Alpha Publications, 1980) p. 249.

8. Walvoord, Revelation, 142. See also John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Revelation 1-11 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999) p. 220.

9. MacArthur, Revelation, 220:

10. James 1:1: James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. See Walvoord, Revelation, 142.

11. Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Philadelphia: James Claxton, 1864) p. 158, and W. Hendricksen And So All Israel Shall Be Saved (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1945) p. 33 held these views.

12. Some literalists don’t take much notice of the lack of Dan in this chapter, which I believe is a disservice. Tim LaHaye, for example, gives a pretty thorough representation of what dispensationalists believes, the importance of taking the text literally, and then doesn’t even mention the Tribe of Dan. See Tim LaHaye, Revelation: Illustrated and Made Plain (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Corporation, 1973) 110-114.

13. Morris, Revelation, 115.

14. J.A. Seiss has a fascinating idea of why Dan and Ephraim are not listed, based on the symbolism behind the names used here, and the specific order here. We often forget that there is always meaning behind the name of an Old Testament character. Given he was the only one with this view, I have included it only as a reference, but it is nonetheless very interesting, and certainly worth considering. Judah means praise of God; Reuben, viewing the Son; Gad, a company; Asher, blessed; Nephtali - striving with; Manasseh, forgetfulness; Simeon, hearing and obeying; Levi, joining or leaving; Issachar, reward; Zebulun, a home or dwelling place; Joseph, an addition; Benjamin, a son of the right hand, a son of the old age. Putting these things together in this order: Confessors or praisers of God, looking upon the Son, a band of blessed ones, wrestling with forgetfulness, hearing and obeying the word, cleaving unto the reward of a shelter and a home, an addition, sons of the day, of God’s right hand, begotten in old age.
Why are Dan or Ephraim not mentioned? Well, Dan means “judging” or “judged”. In that this day, Seiss argues, the judgment will have come; thus, there is no need for judging. Along those same lines, Ephraim means “growth” or “increase”. In that day, the number of the elect left to enter the kingdom will be zero. There will be none left to come in; thus, Ephraim is not mentioned. See J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: A Series of Special Lectures on the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Great Britain: Mackays Limited Chatham, 1865) p. 163.

15. Interestingly enough, those who take this overly-spiritual approach do notice that it is Judah that is primary on these lists, and recognize that this is very significant (See Lenski, Interpretation, 252-3, Ladd, Revelation, 115 and Hoeksma, Revelation, 255). In the 20 tribal listings in the Old Testament, Judah is only listed first twice, and after the exile, Levi took the lead (See Maccabean literature, Jubilees 28 and 34) due to the pre-eminence of the priesthood. (See R.H. Charles, Revelation of St. John [ICC, vol. 1 of 2; New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1920], 207-209). In fact, the Testament of Judah explicitly commands to love Levi, and ranks Levi above himself (See T. Jud 25). Smith argues, therefore that this is a specific promotion of Judah, thus making this list explicitly Christian, against Bauckham who believes this is not necessarily so (See C. R. Smith, “The Tribes Of Revelation 7 And The Literary Competence Of John The Seer,” JETS 38:2 [June 1995] p. 218. and R. Bauckham, “The List of the Tribes in Revelation 7 Again,” JSNT 42 [1991] 99-115) . Perhaps the author of Hebrews wrote his treatment of the New Covenant Priesthood as a response to the preeminence of the Levitic Priesthood.

16. There are many views, each with there own pluses and minus. G. K. Beale gives us five options (G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text [NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999] 416-423). First, a literal sealing of a select group Jews (see above for my treatment). Second, there is the view that at the second coming, the entire nation will be saved, i.e. Romans 11. Third, there is the idea that this is for 1st century Christian Jews. This fits the preterist interpretation. Fourth, the primary meaning here is figurative and spiritual (see above for my treatment). And fifth, that these 144,000 represent a particular group set aside to go to war alongside the lamb. This is a fascinating thought, and it helps us to make sense of Revelation 14 where it says they were celibate men. This goes along with the Jewish tradition that some would fight along with the Messiah, and that these man met certain standards for Jewish combat, sexual and otherwise, to do so. See R.J. Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy: Studies in the Book of Revelation (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1993) pp. 217-229 for a fascinating treatment of this.
I will again reserve myself to the two arguments that I brought up in the text, beginning with the literal interpretation. Those who hold to this view have the text, seemingly, on their side. This is the standard dispensational view, that these represent literal tribes of Israel. But, we have some real problems if the literal approach is taken. First, we have to realize that the 144,000 are in fact men. This number only appears one other place in the bible, namely Revelation 14, where we learn these are celibate men. In my mind, that is only slightly problematic.
The greater problem is that of Revelation 9:4: “They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.” Making this literal inserts a distinction between Jewish Christians and non-Jewish ones in the amount of suffering that they will receive. This is absurd, argues Hoeksma (Hoeksma, Revelation, 255). He points out that the distinctions in this chapter are based on those who serve Jesus Christ, and those who do not. Also, how do we reconcile a perfect number of Jews amongst Gentile Christians? It seems that those who accuse us of being too symbolic and damaging the text do something just as bad. See Morris, Revelation, 115.
The other more common approach is taking a figurative/symbolic look at this passage, particularly at the numbers involved. The number 12 in biblical literature has a completeness to it, and yet it also has a degree of diversity associated with it. The 12 tribes have always represented all of God’s people. Thus, the number 12x12, or 144, has a perfect diversity within unity amongst all God’s people. Along with that, we have the number 1000, which has the significance of uncountable, along with being a perfect cube, just like the heavenly Jerusalem (Kistemaker, Revelation, 255). This view, too, is not without its problems. First of all, if this is true, we have a unique usage for the twelve tribes. It would not be as much of a stretch to allow for the 12 tribes to represent God’s people, but individual references to tribes has never meant anything other than the actual twelve tribes (Seiss, Apocalypse, p. 161). Peter Richardson claims that there was no mention of the church being called “Israel” until A.D. 160 (Peter Richardson, Israel in the Apostolic Church [Cambridge: Cambridge U., 1969], pp. 74-84, 206). Johnson argues that in order for this to happen, the meaning of the word “Jew” for the hearer had to change significantly in the first century for this to make sense (i.e. between the time Paul wrote the book of Romans, and the writing of this book), but we have little historical evidence for such a thing. See Johnson, Revelation, 82.

17. Thomas calls this the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 29:18-21: … so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood. 19 "It shall be when he hears the words of this curse, that he will boast, saying, 'I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart in order to destroy the watered land with the dry.' 20 "The LORD shall never be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and His jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. 21 "Then the LORD will single him out for adversity from all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant which are written in this book of the law. See Thomas, Revelation, 472.

18. Robert D. Luginbill, “The Coming Tribulation: a History of the Apocalypse; Part 3: The Tribulation Begins; Subpart B: Antichrist and his Kingdom,” n.p. (cited 10 July 2005). Online: http://www.ichthys.com/Tribulation_Part_3B.htm

19. Luginbill provides some interesting insights to the tribe of Dan based on the gemstones placed one the breastplate of the high priest, making an interesting (though not thoroughly convincing) argument about the worldliness connotations of the chrysolite stone of Dan compared to the blood-red sardius stone of the Tribe of Judah. See Luginbill, “Tribulation”, np.

20. C. R. Smith, “The Tribes Of Revelation 7 And The Literary Competence Of John The Seer,” JETS 38:2 (June 1995) p. 218. See also his previous related article: C. R. Smith, “The Portrayal of the Church as the New Israel in the Names and Order of the Tribes in Revelation 7.5-8, ” JSNT 39 (1990) 111-118.

21. Kistemaker, Revelation, 255.

22. Walvoord, Revelation, 142.

23. It is interesting to note that the one who coined the term antichrist never mentions the fourth beast from Daniel, which he could have easily done. I don’t find that convincing enough for it to change my arguments, however. C. E. Hill, “Antichrist from the Tribe of Dan,” JTS n.s. 46 (1995): 103.

24. For an excellent (though I admit, sometimes outrageous) treatment of Antichrist typology, see http://www.woak.org/yabbse/index.php?board=21;action=display;threadid=318

25. The other part of this prophecy that is of interest is 49:9: Judah is a lion's whelp. This is exactly what Moses calls Dan in Deut. 33:22. These are the only two times this is mentioned. This furthers my argument that Dan is a counterfeit Judah.

26. Luginbill, “Tribulation”, np.

27. This is not to say that I don’t believe there was never any salvation for any individuals from Dan, just as a general rule, they were covenant breakers, with a select few. It may, however be, that God decide to not allow for a Danite remnant because the disobedience was so, so great.

28. Numbers 2:2 “he sons of Israel shall camp, each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers' households.”

29. Beale, Revelation, 418.

30. T. Dan, 5

31. See Fausett’s Bible Dictionary in Bibleworks, under Pergamos.

32. This idea is also mentioned in Jeremiah 8:16.

33. See Midr. Gen. 47:28-50:26, Charles B. Chavel, trans., Ramban (Nachmanides) Commentary on the Torah: Genesis (New York: Shilo Publishing House, Inc., 1971), pp. 594–95, Abraham Ben Isaiah and Benjamone Ben Sharfman, trans., The Pentateuch and Rashi’s Commentary: Genesis (Brooklyn: S. S. & R. Publishing Company, Inc., 1949), p. 494

34. She is the woman mentioned in 1 Chr. 4:3, Hazzelelponi. See Joseph Jacobs, Ira Maurice Price, Wilhelm Bacher, Jacob Zallel Lauterbach, “Samson,” n.p. [cited 29 July, 2005]. Online: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=122&letter=S

35. Hill, “Antichrist”, 102.

36. Hill, “Antichrist”, 100.

37. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5:25.

38. Hill, “Antichrist”, 105.

39. Hill, “Antichrist”, 115.

40. W. Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors (London: The Tyndale Press, 1940), pp. 35-36.

41. This argument/exegesis is a summary of the previously cited work done by Dr. Robert D. Luginbill (Luginbill, “Tribulation”, np).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Another Poem by John C. Nichols

Prophet's Payday
John C. Nichols

Gazing across the empty field,
mocking words always seem
to fill his inspired brain.
Those broken bones hung out to dry
can never give a reason..
they always bring him tears.

Mind traveling faster than warp speed,
that unfailing youth feels his passion;
in the spreading silence does he kneel.
Cornered and caged,
the wretched man cries.

Longing for peace unseen,
the prophet’s eyes brightly burn.
Will they not listen?
Will they not walk
the tortuous path
that leads Paradise?

Will they not look?
not glimpse eternity?
Will they simply
tag along with all the rest?
Or will they wake up
and smell the promise of flowers?

Will they notice life
is a derailed affair,
lost within corrosive speech,
without a tongue to speak,
without purpose, without heart?
A world lost without the One
whom the prophet hails?

Raymond Foss' First Book of Poetry

Raymond Foss, whose poems have appeared here, has a book of 100 poems available from XLibris. The title is Poetry Where You Live, which is also the name of his blog: www.raymondafoss.blogspot.com.

Raymond has written over 3,900 poems, over 1,400 in the last year alone. Of these, over 3,800 are accessible at his blog. That site also has over 800 of his photographs. Over 3,000 of his posted poems are about his faith. Raymond and his pastor wife Ruth met at church. They are members of the United Methodist Church.

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Poetry for Supper?

Poetry for Supper
R.S. Thomas

'Listen, now, verse should be as natural
As the small tuber that feeds on muck
And grows slowly from obtuse soil
To the white flower
of immortal beauty.'

'Natural, hell! What was it Chaucer
Said once about the long toil
That goes like blood to the poem's making?
Leave it to nature and the verse sprawls,
Limp as bindweed, if it break at all
Life's iron crust.
Man, you must sweat
And rhyme your guts taut, if you'd build
Your verse a ladder.'
'You speak as though
No sunlight ever surprised the mind
Groping on its cloudy path.'

'Sunlight's a thing that needs a window
Before it enter a dark room.
Windows don't happen.'
So two old poets,
Hunched at their beer in the low haze
Of an inn parlour, while the talk ran
Noisily by them, glib with prose.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Of Wasps and Darwin

The following essay was written by William Henry Hudson (1841-1922), a British author, naturalist, and ornithologist. He wrote the novel Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest (1904). His writing is beautiful and rich in detail, the sort of detail that a trained naturalist would note.

In this essay he describes wasps in England whose habits recall to his mind “a host of wasps” which he had observed as a boy growing up in Argentina. He also writes about how Darwin’s theory of evolution had an unsettling impact on his thinking.

Hudson was suspicious of the empiricism of Darwin and his supporters. In The Purple Land he wrote: “Ah, yes, we are all vainly seeking after happiness in the wrong way. It was with us once and ours, but we despised it, for it was only the old common happiness which Nature gives to all her children, and we went away from it in search of another grander kind of happiness which some dreamer — Bacon or another — assured us we should find. We had only to conquer Nature, find out her secrets, make her our obedient slave, then the Earth would be Eden, and every man Adam and every woman Eve. We are still marching bravely on, conquering Nature, but how weary and sad we are getting! The old joy in life and gaiety of heart have vanished, though we do sometimes pause for a few moments in our long forced march to watch the labours of some pale mechanician, seeking after perpetual motion, and indulge in a little, dry, cackling laugh at his expense.”

Towards the end of his life, Hudson moved to Sussex, England. His grave is in Broadwater Church in Worthing.

Wasps (1905)
W.H. Hudson

One rough day in early autumn I paused in my walk in a Surrey orchard to watch a curious scene in insect life - a pretty little insect comedy I might have called it had it not brought back to remembrance old days when my mind was clouded with doubts, and the ways of certain insects, especially of wasps, were much in my thoughts. For we live through and forget many a tempest that shakes us; but long afterwards a very little thing - the scent of a flower, the cry of a wild bird, even the sight of an insect - may serve to bring it vividly back and to revive a feeling that seemed dead and gone.

In the orchard there was an old pear-tree which produced very large late pears, and among the fruit the September wind had shaken down that morning there was one over-ripe in which the wasps had eaten a deep cup-shaped cavity. Inside the cavity six or seven wasps were revelling in the sweet juice, lying flat and motionless, crowded together. Outside the cavity, on the pear, thirty or forty blue-bottle flies had congregated, and were hungry for the juice, but apparently afraid to begin feeding on it; they were standing round in a compact crowd, the hindmost pressing on and crowding over the others: but still, despite the pressure, the foremost row of flies refused to advance beyond the rim of the eaten-out part. From time to time one of the more ventursesome spirit would put out his proboscis and begin sucking at the edge; the slight tentative movement would instantly be detected by a wasp, and he would turn quickly round to face the presumptuous fly, lifting his wings in a threatening manner, and the fly would take his proboscis off the rim of the cup. Occasionally hunger would overcome their fear; a general movement of the flies would take place, and several would begin sucking at the same time; then the wasp, seeming to think that more than a mere menacing look or gesture was required in such a case, would start up with an angry buzz, and away the whole crowd of flies would go to whirl round and round in a little blue cloud with a loud, excited hum, only to settle again in a few moments on the big yellow pear and again crowding round the pit as before.

Never once during the time I spent observing them did the guardian wasp relax his vigilance. When he put his head down to suck with the others his eyes still appeared able to reflect every movement in the surrounding crowd of flies into his little spiteful brain. They could crawl round and crawl round as much as they liked on the very rim, but let one begin to suck and he was up in arms in a moment.

The question that occurred to me was: How much of all this behaviour could be set down to instinct and how much to intelligence and temper? The wasp certainly has a waspish disposition, a quick resentment, and is most spiteful and tyrannical towards other inoffensive insects. He is a slayer and devourer of them, too, as well as a feeder with them on nectar and sweet juices; but when he kills, and when the solitary wasp paralyses spiders, caterpillers, and various insects and stores them in cells to provide a horrid food for the grubs which will eventually hatch from the still undeposited eggs, the wasp then acts automatically, or by insticnt, and is driven, as it were, by an extraneous force. In a case like the one of the wasp's behaviour on the pear, and in innumerable other cases which one may read of or see for himself, there appears to be a good deal of the element of the mind. Doubtless it exists in all insects, but differs in degree; and some Orders appear to be more intelligent than others. Thus, any person accustomed to watch insects closely and note their little acts would probably say that there is less mind in the beetles and more in the Hymenoptera than in other insects; also that in the last-named Order the wasps rank highest.

The scene in the orchard also served to remind me of a host of wasps, greatly varying in size, colour, and habits, although in their tyrannical temper very much alike, which I had been accustomed to observe in boyhood and youth in a distant region. They attracted me more, perhaps, than any other insects on the account of their singular and brilliant coloration and their formidable character. They were beautiful but painful creatures; the pain they caused me was first bodily, when I interfered in their concerns or handled them carelessly, and was soon over; later it was mental and more enduring.

To the very young colour is undoubtedly the most attractive quality in nature, and these insects were enamelled in colours that made them the rivals of butterflies and shining metallic beetles. There were wasps with black and yellow rings and with black and scarlet rings; wasps of a unifrom golden brown; others like our demoiselle dragon-fly that looked as if fresh from a bath of splendid metallic blue; others with steel-blue bodies and bright red wings; others with crimson bodies, yellow head and legs, and bright blue wings; others black with gold, with pink head and legs; and so on through scores and hundreds of species 'as Nature list to play with her little ones,' until one marvelled at so great a variety, so many singular and beautiful contrasts, produced by half-a-dozen brilliant colours.

It was when I began to find out the ways of wasps with other insects on which they nourish their young that my pleasure in them became mixed with pain. For they did not, like spiders, ants, dragon-flies, tiger-beetles, and other rapacious kinds, kill their prey at once, but paralysed it by stinging its nerve centres to make it incapable of resistance, and stored it in a closed cell, so that the grub to be hatched by and by should have fresh meat to feed on - not fresh-killed but live meat.

Thus the old vexed question - How reconcile these facts with the idea of a beneficent Being who designed it all - did not come to me from reading, nor from teachers, since I had none, but was thrust upon me by nature itself. In spite, however, of its having come in that sharp way, I, like many another, succeeded in putting the painful question from me and keeping to the old traditions. The noise of the battle of Evolution, which had been going on for years, hardly reached me; it was but a faintly heard murmur, as of storms immeasurably far away 'on alien shores.' This could not last.

One day an elder brother, on return from travel in distant lands, put a copy of the famous Origin of Species in my hands and advised me to read it. When I had done so, he asked me what I thought of it. 'It's false!' I exclaimed in a passion, and he laughed, little knowing how important a matter this was to me, and told me I could have the book if I liked. I took it without thanks and read it again and thought a good deal about it, and was nevertheless able to resist it teachings for years, solely because I could not endure to part with a philosophy of life, if I may so describe it, which could not logically be held, if Darwin was right, and without which life would not be worth having. So I thought at the time; it is a most common delusion of the human mind, for we see that the good which is so much to us is taken forcibly away, and that we get over our loss and go on very much as before.

It is curious to see now that Darwin himself gave the first comfort to those who, convinced against their will, were anxious to discover some way of escape which would not involve the total abandonment of their cherished beliefs. At all events, he suggested the idea, which religious minds were quick to seize upon, that the new explanation of the origin of the innumerable forms of life which people on earth from one or a few primordial organisms afforded us a nobler conception of the creative mind than the traditional one. It does not bear examination, probably it originated in the author's kindly and compassionate feelings rather than in his reasoning faculties; but it gave temporary relief and served its purpose. Indeed, to some, to very many perhaps, it still serves as a refuge - this poor, hastily made straw shelter, which lets in rain and wind, but seems better to them than no shelter at all.

But of the intentionally consoling passages in the book, the most impressive to me was that in which he refers to instincts and adaptation such as those of the wasp, which writers on natural history subjects are accustomed to describe, in a way that seems quite just and natural, as diabolical. That, for example, of the young cuckoo ejecting its foster-brothers from the nest; of slave-making ants, and of the larvae of the Ichneumonidae feeding on the live tissues of the caterpillers in whose bodies they have been hatched. He said that it was not perhaps a logical conclusion, but it seemed to him more satisfactory to regard such things 'not as specifically endowed or created instincts, but as small consequences of one general law' - the law of variation and the survival of the fittest.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Another R.S. Thomas Poem

A Blackbird Singing
R.S. Thomas

It seems wrong that out of this bird,
Black, bold, a suggestion of dark
Places about it, there yet should come
Such rich music, as though the notes'
Ore were changed to a rare metal
At one touch of that bright bill.

You have heard it often, alone at your desk
In a green April, your mind drawn
Away from its work by sweet disturbance
Of the mild evening outside your room.

A slow singer, but loading each phrase
With history's overtones, love, joy
And grief learned by his dark tribe
In other orchards and passed on
Instinctively as they are now,
But fresh always with new tears.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Poem by R.S. Thomas

The following poem was penned by the late Welsh poet and Anglican priest, R.S. Thomas (1913-2000).

One Life

Growing up
is to leave the fireside
with its tales,
the burying of the head
between God’s knees.
It is to perceive
that knowledge of him comes
from the genes’ breaking
of an involved code,
from the mind’s parallel
at-homeness with missile and scalpel.

Literature is on the way
out. The still, small voice
is that of Orpheus looking
over his shoulder at a dream
fading. At the mouth
of the cave is the machine’s
whirlwind, hurrying the new
arts in, advancing the threshold
of our permitted exposure to
its becquerels and decibels.

From Collected Later Poems 1988-2000.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Arabic 'Prince of Poets' Contest

ABU DHABI, June 18 – The famous classical Arabic poetry programme 'Prince of Poets' started Thursday its 2009 session, which has taken a new theme that highlights both Jahili Fort and the Centenary of the passing away of Sheikh Zayed the Great.

A large audience of poetry lovers and members of the Jury listened to the first seven of the 35 participating poets – Jihan Barakat (Egypt), Jamal Al-Mula (Oman), Walid Al-Sarraf (Iraq), Nasser Louhishi (Algeria), Turki Hussein Saleh Abdel-Ghani (Jordan), Mohammed Abdullah Al-Daba’a (Yemen) and Ould Mtali Lemrabet bin Ahmed (Mauritania) – who were competing during the first episode broadcast live on Abu Dhabi TV from Raha Beach Theatre to book three cards for the second stage of the competition. The adopted theme was reflected substantially on the theatre décor.

The episode was full of close critical stances scrutinizing the contestants' poems, which came down to the decision of the Jury - Dr. Abdul Malik Murtadd, Dr. Ali bin Tamim, Dr. Salah Fadhel, Mr Nayif Rashdan, and Dr. Ahmed Kheris – to qualify Turki Hussein (Jordan) to the next stage of the competition.

Ould Mtali Lemrabet (Mauritania) received the highest proportion of the audience vote with 42% of the votes as the final results of the additional two qualifiers, who will be chosen by the public, will be announced next Thursday.

The contestants’ poets focused on love and emotions, a cornerstone in Arabic poetry. Poets' performances were impressive, presenting emotional texts of a human and spiritual depth. Some of the contestants came near to Sufism while others recalled national poetic experiences in a modern template and high poetic and artistic savvy.

The episode showed the need of critique in guiding the poets’ experiences and the course of the poetry creativity according to what members of the jury gave in terms of critical opinions that expressed a sound, in-depth critical analysis of the contestants’ poems.

Nayif saw in Turki Hussein’s poem “The Level of Sentiment” a beautiful poetic language, stressing that the contestant’s language draw a nicer picture of the reality, while Dr. Ahmed Kheris said Hussein’s string self-confidence and distinct language in some verses made the poem a unique poetic text. Dr. Salah Fadhel pointed out that the poet has the right to fervently express the glare of nostalgia with his fluent language, strong formulation and ardent enthusiasm, adding that the anguish of sentiments in this poem does not remove the artificiality of the phrase.

Members of the jury agreed that Jamal Al-Mula’s poem, which was dedicated to the late poet Khaled Al-Saadi (who was killed recently in Iraq), is a sensational piece of poetry, while they praised Jihan Barakat poem “In the Mirrors of Departure” although it imitates the worlds of the famous Arab poetesses Nazek Al-Malaika and Fadoua Touqan.

The jury thought poet Mohammed Al-Daba’a was unsuccessful in the selection of the poem’s title “A Song for an Eternal Rise”; Nasser Louhishi’s poem “A Ember in the Mirrors” was full of poetic pictures and a distinct poetic music; while Ould Mtali Lemrabet bin Ahmed used a classy language, a mark of old and traditional poems.

Members of the Jury also praised Walid Al-Sarraf’s poem “Baghdad’s Last Picture” in addition to the maturity of his experience and poetic language that captures poetry with a beautifully eloquent language.

‘Prince of Poets’ is supported and produced by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH). The first place winner gets the title of "Prince of Poets" and a cash prize of one million UAE dirhams, in addition to the Princely Garments which is a historical legacy of the Arabs, and the Princely Ring which is a symbol of the Prince of Poets title.

Winners of the following four places receive substantial money prizes as the festival management issues collections of their audio-written poetry.

From here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

By Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Why should a single object—one small stone,
a rose, a picture or a Chinese vase
summon strong passions? Why should one
child singing high and clear lift you to the stars,
while a leaden sky hurls you down to hell?
How literal.
And yet, what other words
have you? With what language can you tell
of your silent discourse with another world?
And what is incarnation now? If not
one object, then everything. And what
is Resurrection now? Out of the dying
spring all things green against the grey sky—the breeze,
And in the distance the low-lying hills
Crowned with a ring of ancient surging trees.

From here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

E.E. Cummings: May my heart always be open to little birds

E.E. Cummings

may my heart always be open to little birds
who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it's sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there's never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Peter Marshall on the American Dream

Peter Marshall served as Senate Chaplain in the late 1940s. He was called the "Conscience of the Senate". More than ever, his voice needs to be heard in the chambers and halls of Congress. The following is an excerpt from one of his congressional sermons. It reminds us that our nation has strayed from the principles that made us great and free. We have defined the American Dream in material terms and forgotten that the dream has to do with spiritual greatness.


Today there is real danger that the American Dream will become the Forgotten Dream.

For freedom is not the right to do as one pleases
but the opportunity to please to do what is right.
The Founding Fathers sought freedom...
not from law but freedom in law;
not freedom from government - but freedom in government;
not freedom from speech - but freedom in speech;
not freedom from the press - but freedom in the press;
not freedom from religion - but freedom in religion.
We need to ponder these things today.

We, in America, are today enjoying the greatest freedom the world has ever known -
a freedom that staggers all who will consider it -
for we are free in these days to ignore the very things that others died to provide.

We are free, if we please, to neglect the right of franchise...
free to give up the right to worship God in our own way...
free to set aside, as of no consequence, the church's open door ...
free to let the open Bible gather dust.

We are free to neglect the liberties we have inherited. Surely there can be no greater freedom than that!

Significantly, religious liberty stands first in the Bill of Rights. It is the most essential, the foundation of all the other freedoms. Take that away, and eventully all freedom crumbles.

But the Constitution and the Bill of Rights would seem to infer that we will worship God in some way.

Now this generation has distorted religious freedom to mean freedom from religion. We find our Supreme Court now declaring it unconstitutional to teach our children that this nation was founded under God to His glory and for the advancement of the Christian faith... unconstitutional to include in the curriculum of our children's education any knowledge of God.

But our children are souls - made in the image of God. These souls are immortal and will live forever, and the human brain is but a tool and an instrument which the human soul shall use.

In the name of God...
in the name of truth...
teaching about religion must be demanded and provided for the children today, if this democracy and this civilization are to survive.

The idea may be abroad in some quarters that democracy is the thing that must be preserved... and that God is to be brought in as its servant. We must not get the cart before the horse.

The blessing of peace is not a product of politics - but a fruit of righteousness. God's order is always righteousness and peace - not peace and righteousness.

Desperately we need a return to government by principles rather than by politics. But where are the principles evident in the events of this present hour?

Peace is not made by compromise.
It does not grow out of expediency.
Peace is not a flower growing in the world's formal garden.
It is rather a product of the blacksmith's forge -
hammered out on the anvils of sacrifice and suffering ...
heated in the fires of devotion to righteousness...
tempered in the oil of mercy and goodness...
Peace is a costly thing.

We cannot fool God about our individual or national goodness. Let us not be deluded into thinking we can fool ourselves.

And so I come to my text - 2 Chronicles 7:14. It is God's word for America today -

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land."

Friday, June 12, 2009

Attired with Stars

On Time
by John Milton

Fly envious Time, till thou run out thy race,
Call on the lazy leaden-stepping hours,
Whose speed is but the heavy Plummets pace;
And glut thy self with what thy womb devours,
Which is no more then what is false and vain,
And meerly mortal dross;
So little is our loss,
So little is thy gain.
For when as each thing bad thou hast entomb'd,
And last of all, thy greedy self consum'd,
Then long Eternity shall greet our bliss
With an individual kiss;
And Joy shall overtake us as a flood,
When every thing that is sincerely good
And perfectly divine,
With Truth, and Peace, and Love shall ever shine
About the supreme Throne
Of him, t'whose happy-making sight alone,
When once our heav'nly-guided soul shall clime,
Then all this Earthy grosnes quit,
Attir'd with Stars, we shall for ever sit,
Triumphing over Death, and Chance, and thee O Time.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stones in the Stream

Ed's Pacht's second response to the Poetry Challenge is similar in content to this first poem (here), but flavored differently.

Stones in the Stream
by Ed Pacht

The smooth speckled stones, straggling or stranded
in the rapid-running washing of the stream,
the liquid jiggler with its song like a chorus of wind chimes,
the gentle persuasion of musical renderings
that bring to life the presence of the place,
the towering presence of the harmony
of God and all the beauty He has made,
and stir in simple hearts a longing
for what they do not know they need.

And to this presence sometimes comes a seeker,
who has been laboring longer than he can endure,
whose thirsty spirit, drier now than death,
contains no promise but a forecast of disaster,
a seeming slide toward those forbidden portals,
a destruction just as sure as broken eggs,
an aching like a painful festering splinter, caring for none, and slowly falling away, with his fists a-beating on those portals,
seeking what he cannot know.

The smooth speckled stones washed in the stream,
the gentle persuasion of musical renderings,
the promise of peace he has not known,
the harmony of the Presence of that place,
the touch of nail-scarred loving hands.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Lonely Chorus of Wind Chimes

That's the title of John C. Nichols' poem, sumbitted in response to the Poetry Challenge to use words from a random list (see here).

“A Lonely Chorus of Wind Chimes”
John C. Nichols

I find that I
Am caring for none,
Feeling no remorse as I swiftly stab
The lifeless living with glass so fragile
Like a broken egg, like a painful splinter
Stuck in my heart.
I find that I
Am longing for all, yearning for that
Which is me denied.
Yet ev’ry word I spew is naught but
A lonely Chorus of Wind Chimes,
Tinkling in the straggling breeze.
I find that I
Am falling away burned out and broken.
My heart’s deep desires
Imprisoned and slain
By that towering presence, that presence of this place
Which sucks my passions dryer than Death,
Colder than space.

It is Kurtz to me—
An Abomination, a Heart of Darkness.
A truth so black a lie must suffice.
I wish it were not so.
I wish these renderings would return to my mind,
So that I may paint in harmony once again.
And with this gentle persuasion
I bid thee:

Set me free that I may write again.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Poetry Challenge Results

Three poems have come from the recent challenge to use words from a random list (see here). For the next week, I will post some of the results. Other poems may come in later, as the deadline for this challenge is June 30.

Ed wrote: "Alice Linsley put out another of her challenges. To use words from the following list in a poem of from 12 to 30 lines. I intended to use just some of them, but as this moody piece began to grow, I found more and more of the words being worked into it. The poem finished, but untitled, I discovered I had used all but two of the suggestions, thus the rather cryptic title, implying that there is an untold backstory behind the poem. Maybe there is..."

-caring for none
-a painful splinter
-Presence of the place
-broken egg(s)
-towering presence
-gentle persuasion
-chorus of wind chimes
-falling away
-forbidden portals
-straggling or stranded
-smooth speckled stones
-laboring longer
-dryer than death

Here is the first response to the Poetry Challenge.

Lay of the Angry Jiggler of the Smooth Speckled Stones
by Ed Pacht

Caring for none, dryer than death,
his empty spirit falling away,
he trudges onward in a weary road,
with a smoldering bitterness deep within
that pierces like a painful splinter,
laboring longer, clenching fists,
longing for he knows not what,
and never coming to find it..

Before him looms a towering presence,
a pair of dark forbidden portals,
opening to a land of ugliness and deep despair,
reeking with the smell of rotting broken eggs,
with a doom forecast for those who fall into its lure,
drawn by their own deep hidden hatreds,
straggling or stranded in their horrid grip,
and falling through those gates into that smoking pit..

But in his ears there is a hint of harmony,
a quiet song of softly gentle sweet persuasion,
whose renderings, like a tinkling wind-chime chorus,
draw his tortured soul to look another way,
to turn aside from those dark portals,
to turn himself toward pleasant gates,
to enter into the Presence of the place,
to know, to find, to love, in joy.