From The Editor’s Notebook (Jan-Feb 1977)

MIF 9:1 (Jan-Feb 1977)

From The Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

The Annual Meeting

In this issue we would ordinarily include a summary report of the 1976 Annual Meeting of Food for the Flock, Inc. held in Toronto, Canada. However, it was necessary to postpone our meeting from November 6th to November 20th, making it too late to meet the deadline for the Jan.-Feb. issue of Ministry in Focus. Consequently, a brief report of the meeting will appear in the Mar. - Apr. issue.

A Word of Appreciation

With the Summer 1976 issue of Help & Food magazine Loizeaux Bros., Inc. ceased publication of their spiritually edifying periodical which has been published since 1883. For any Christian magazine to provide for almost a century a steady supply of helpful and enriching written ministry represents a notable achievement. The editor of Ministry in Focus can personally attest to the blessing Help & Food magazine has been to me over the years I have received it. And it was with genuine regret that I learned some months ago of the definite decision to terminate its publication.

At any rate, we are sincerely grateful to Loizeaux Bros. for their kind and gracious gesture of allowing the readers of Help & Food an option to fill out their subscriptions by receiving Ministry in Focus magazine. We heartily welcome each Help & Food subscriber, prayerfully hoping that you will find in Focus the kind of edifying spiritual food which will warrant your continuing with us as a permanent member of our reader family.

A New Column

Sometime after Help & Food magazine ceased publication the editor of Focus wrote to Mr. Edwin Fesche, who for many years has written a regular column in Help & Food entitled, “The Current Scene.” Upon my written invitation to him, Mr. Fesche has kindly consented to continue writing his interesting, incisive, insightful and instructive column for Focus magazine. With due respect to all other contributors to Help & Food, our brother’s column was almost invariably the first thing I read upon receiving each issue of the magazine. Beginning with this issue, “The Current Scene” will appear as a regular feature.

Mr. Fesche presently makes his home in Westminster, Maryland, having been commended to the Lord’s work in 1931. I first recall meeting our brother at Greenwood Hills, Penna., when in my late teens. Since then our paths have occasionally crossed, and this, more frequently in the last few years since we are both on the committee of Loizeaux Bros., Inc.

Telling Tablets

In an Associated Press release from Rome, Italy, there appeared in Toronto’s Globe and Mail on August 26, 1976, an account of thousands of clay tablets having been found in Syria last year which are providing dramatic new information about Biblical times.

A team of Italian archeologists from Rome University unearthed the tablets and fragments of tablets some thirteen feet below the surface of an arid expanse of Tel Mardikh, south of Aleppo. There were 15,000 tablets in all. Because of them, ancient Syria is beginning to be recognized as a rival of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia in the history of civilization.

Prof. Giovanni Pettinato, 41, a language expert who has been reading the tablets, says they shed light on the history of the Jewish people.

The tablets cover 150 years, from 2400 to 2250 B.C. They place Ebla, a city until now only briefly mentioned in ancient Middle Eastern inscriptions, firmly on the map as the center of a vast civilized kingdom. For decades this kingdom dominated an area extending from the Red Sea north to what now is Turkey and east to Mesopotamia.

The Ebla empire had been lost to history until the Italian team, led by Prof. Paolo Matthiae, 36, dug out the tablets, many of them records from Ebla’s royal palace.

David Noel Freedman, a University of Michigan Biblical archeologist who has worked with the Italians, described the importance of the tablets in these terms: “It is as if we had ignored that Rome existed and suddenly find out about it and the Roman empire.”

The tablets reveal an unknown language, what the Italians have called Eblaite, akin to the Biblical Hebrew that was spoken more than 1,000 years later. As such, they might contribute to an understanding of some of the controversial parts of the Bible.

Among the most precious tablets is one containing a vocabulary of Eblaite and Sumeric words, including an explanation in Eblaite of how the Sumeric words are pronounced. The Sumerians, a non-Semitic people who flourished in southern Mesopotamia about 3,000 B. C., are credited with having developed the cuneiform system of writing.

The influence of the cuneiform system is found in the writings of the great Semitic cultures that developed in the area, blending their cultures with the Sumerian culture.

Eighty per cent of the tablets are accounts of economic and commercial transactions. The others include international treaties, military reports, religious texts, descriptions of rites and sacrifices, and stories of creation and the great flood.

Prof. Pettinato said that scanning photographic copies of the tablets in his Rome office he read the names of Abraham, Ishmael, Israel, Esau and Saul hundreds of times. A dozen times he came across the name Daudum (David), he said. Finding the name of David in the tablets is significant because King David is the only one carrying the name in the Bible, he said. Until now, there had been no firm evidence that David had been used elsewhere in ancient times.

“The Ebla tablets establish the patriarchs and their names as historical realities,” Prof. Pettinato said. He stated that they seemed to show that many Hebrew ideas and words came from Ebla.

“We wondered why the Bible calls judges and rulers before the kings,” he said. “Now we know that in Ebla, the leaders of the conquered cities were called judges.”

Even the name Hebrew has something to do with Ebla. The tablets tell of a dynasty of six kings in Ebla. The one who spread his influence most widely is called King Ebruum or Ibrium.

“Here is the root of the word ‘Hebrew.’” Prof. Pettinato said.

The commercial accounts report that Ebla was exporting textiles, metals, marble and timber over a wide area. Among the importing points the tablets list the Biblical sites of Hazor, Megiddo, Gaza and also Urusalim (Jerusalem).

A La Siya, the ancient name of the island of Cyprus, is listed as an export point for copper.

The third millennium is the era of the pyramids. Most historians have maintained that Egypt and the kingdoms of Mesopotamia shared the conquests and the glory of that time, alternating in control of the vast area between them.

Now the Ebla tablets tell of a third power competing for domination of the many small states in Palestine and Eyria.