MIDDLE EAST - How the Elite Fell

Arno Froese

About 3,190 years ago, a merchant in Emar, a trading outpost in what is now northern Syria, sent a desperate letter to his boss, Urtenu, who lived in the rich metropolis of Ugarit, a city-state on the coast of Syria. “There is famine,” he wrote. “If you do not quickly arrive here, we ourselves will die of hunger.”

More than a thousand years before the Greeks invented democracy and the Romans undermined it with imperialism, these city-states of the Bronze Age laid the foundations for what is often called Western civilization. Homer recorded the myths of the Bronze Age in “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” and carved stone inscriptions of the pharaohs Hatshepsut and Thutmose III record the machinations of the Bronze Age elites. Although the rulers of the Bronze Age sometimes went to war, the true source of their power, like that of today’s biggest cities, was economic power secured through trade. The final decades of Ugarit and Mycenae tell us a lot about why cities fail—and who survives amid the ashes.

Historians and archaeologists don’t know all the reasons these cities collapsed. But there is evidence that both burned to the ground in the 1100s B.C.E., their sumptuous palaces toppled and abandoned. There are signs of earthquakes, too. For centuries after these events, there are almost no written records. It was as if literacy and culture evaporated along with the kingdoms themselves.

Mr. Cline and Ms. Quinn’s work puts the achievements of the Bronze Age in a new light. The kings of Mycenae and Ugarit worked hand-in-hand with the wealthiest merchants to get rich. They consolidated economic and political power, to stamp out competition from smaller city-states or independent merchants. Mr. Cline described a letter from an Ugarit merchant named Sinaranu, who reported that he didn’t have to pay any import tax when his boats returned from Crete loaded up with grain, beer and olive oil. Apparently, tax breaks for the rich are one of the oldest tricks ever invented by the ruling class.

The merchants of Tyre and Sidon thrived in this new world. They were local business owners with no formal affiliations or political ties. With the collapse of the old kingdoms, they had the freedom to sail unknown seas. Tyre’s traders ventured much further than the representatives of Ugarit ever had, and settled in the territory that became Spain, Morocco and Tunisia.

One of the reasons historians call this transition period a “collapse” is that writing all but disappeared. Ms. Quinn said that may have been another sign of the anti-state protests. The kings of Ugarit and Mycenae kept a tight leash on their client states by using written records to track their wealth and levy taxes. Farmers and merchants, she said, might have stopped writing things down to evade the kings’ control.

Will we face a violent uprising in the wake of economic collapse? Perhaps, but today’s 1 percent might not suffer the way Bronze Age kings did.

These days, local traders and small towns depend on international supply chains as much as the kings of Ugarit did. One thing remains certain. Our survival still depends on sustainable local networks, and not tax breaks granted by kings.

-www.nytimes.com, 11 May 2020

Arno's commentary

Historians try desperately to theorize the reasons for the rise and fall of former powerful kingdoms and cities. In this case, it was the misuse of power by the elites and an uprising of the oppressed people. 

Daniel the prophet records four night visions, beginning with chapter 7. He reveals the power of the Antichrist in chapter 8: “And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand” (verses 24-25). There will be an ultimate ruler. How will he come to power? “By peace shall destroy many.” The Tenakh reads, “He will make great plans, will destroy many, taking them unawares.” The NIV states: “When they feel secure, he will destroy many.”

The spirit of Antichrist was at work in the beginning of the Church, but he—in person—will appear in the end stages of the end times and bring about a peaceful world order as never before. That is in progress today.

Here we are reminded of the coronavirus, which is affecting the entire world. It is a foreshadowing of that which is to come. But, in the end Satan and his rich elite, “shall be broken without hand.”

What about Israel? “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1).

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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