The ancient kingdom of Assyria occupied the northern stretches of what is now Iraq, and for over two hundred years it had the reputation of being the world’s cruelest nation. In our first reading the prophet Nahum in 612 B.C. rejoiced over the destruction of Assyria’s capitol, Nineveh. A hundred and ten years before that, in 722 B.C., the Assyrians carried the ten northern tribes of Israel into slavery.
In our first reading the prophet Nahum, while exulting over the downfall of Nineveh, bitterly recalls what it was like.
“A bloody city, all lies, full of plunder, whose looting never stops! The crack of the whip, the rumbling sounds of wheels; horses a- gallop, chariots bounding, cavalry charging, the flames of the sword, the flash of the spear, the many slain, the heaping corpses, the endless bodies to stumble upon.”
It puts us in mind of the many cruelties of the ISIS people. Geographically there is some similarity. The tortured city of Mosul in upper Iraq is just across the Tigris from the ruins of Nineveh. Excavations there reveal miles and miles of carved walls celebrating Assyria’s world domination.
What should we say about such people sharing our world?
What Jesus said about those ancient horrors was, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world?” And, “The Son of Man will come with his angels in glory.”
I asked a friend what we should make of horror stories from the Old Testament, and her advice was that we just tear them out of the Bible.