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Tweeting the Meeting: Week of May 24, 2021

Weekend Meeting:

Public Talk:

The public speaker’s theme is “Rescue from World Distress.” Though he doesn’t stay on the topic, the first thing he mentions is Covid and the chaos it was wrought. Just prior to the meeting I was reading the same:

Just a quick day-dreaming (during the public talk! (no refection on the speaker, who is good)) about the racial makeup of our congregation. Of 25 Zoom boxes, 11 are black friends, 13 white, 1 Hispanic. Will I do the 2nd page or pay attention?

Now the speaker notes in how in many languages literature can be found on (1032!) and asks: “how many of them can you speak?” for the purpose of getting a feel for “the size of the project.”

“If we have stains in our robes, now’s is the time to wipe them out,” he says, a reference to Revelation 7:9 & 14

It’s the backup #Watchtower conductor today, who never fails to mention the goal of making comments 30 seconds or less.

The trouble with too many long-winded comments, is that it discourages others who would also like to take part. Allow it enough, and pretty soon they don’t bother trying.

Another Watchtower study stuffed with verses on enduring hatred. There’s plenty of them, as anyone who reads a Bible knows. You don’t think the bros in Russia/elsewhere know all these scriptures?

The Watchtower reader today is that bro who was heir to an oil tycoon. When I would work with him in service, if passing a gas station, I might say: “Look, Sam! Texas tea!”

“Then people will hand you over to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be hated by all the nations on account of my name.” Matthew 24:9

I’ve always enjoyed pointing out that when Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth, he is quoting from the OT: Just a little while longer, and the wicked will be no more; You will look ... & they will not be there. But the meek will possess the earth.Ps 37:10-11

2 steps. 1) They are puzzled. 2)They figure out what to do about it. “They are puzzled that you do not continue running with them in the same decadent course of debauchery, so they speak abusively of you.” 1 peter 4:4

I like the more literal rendering of 1 Peter 4:4 “Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you” better. ...1/2

It permits me the witticism of them saying: “Water’s fine here in the low sink! Who are you to judge?”....2/2

In answer Peter and the other apostles said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

For this is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome, (1 Jn 5:3)

This is a beaut. How Jesus’ own family thought he was nuts: “But when his relatives heard about it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying: ‘He has gone out of his mind.’” Mark 3:21

The conductor just said, “oh, look at the hands. You’re making life difficult for me.” Better than the opposite.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38

The sister who is a retired teacher just commented, and AI closed captioning understood her diction perfectly. She’d like that....(Heaven help it if it messed up on her)

Ha. Another elder sis read a verse, but stopped short: “No one has greater love than this,” she said, “that one should surrender his life...” After a pause, the conductor added: “ behalf of his friends.”

“Jesus told his followers to love their enemies. (Matt. 5:44, 45) Is that easy to do? By no means! But it is possible with the help of God’s holy spirit. The fruitage of God’s spirit includes love as well as patience, kindness, mildness, and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22, 23)

Para 15 reminds me of Delia, whose fiercely opposed husband left her, though they had three kids. Yet years later when he got cancer, she took him in and cared for him till his death. (Nobody could cook like Delia)

“Return evil for evil to no one. ... If possible, as far as it depends on you, be peaceable with all men. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ says Jehovah.” Romans 12:17-19

Anyone reading the verse for the first time will think it is divine vengeance —“if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing this you will heap fiery coals on his head,” but it is actually a reference to how a ...1/2

hard attitude can be softened. (Romans 12:20)...2/2

“There are so many verses saying Christians will be hated that if we weren’t you would have to wonder why,” someone said.

If, due to my sloppy conducting, we ran up against time limits, I would always blame the bros for “writing too many paragraphs.”

Weekday Meeting:

Six cities of refuge—not a concept well-known today—established for anyone who unintentionally takes a life. Leave the city of refuge before death of the high priest, and he’s toast should the wronged relative encounter him.

Don’t you love the application? The modern-day city of refuge that benefits those condemned through sin. Splendid talk. Few bros I respect more than the one who gave it.

It is with the cities of refuge that God says how many, & even on this side of the Jordan and that, but otherwise gives no specifics, leaving it up to the Israelites themselves. ...1/2

Sort of how he leads people today—direction, but not thumbs-on control of every little thing. (Numbers 35) Unified, but not uniform....2/2

I suppose that point is even true with regard to Numbers 36:6. “the daughters of Zelophehad ... may marry whomever they wish. However, they should marry someone from a family of the tribe of their father [so that] No inheritance of the Israelites should circulate from tribe to tribe

Grumble grumble—the bro milked that first question of Gems to such an extent that he had room for only two comments afterwards. Why did he do that? It is not as though there was such a stampede to answer that 1rst question.

That sister whose brother got married over the weekend is back and is a householder. “It’s time he settled down,” she says. (He’s 41) “He found a good woman,” a Russian woman, “who will keep him in line.”

The chairman this evening is a retired cop, friendly enough with the chief of police to have attended his housewarming. I would not be surprised if that former chief’s star is rising, in light of recent developments with the local mayoral scandal.

Wise parental discipline so that the children grow up like fruitful and productive trees. Trust me on this—my children always saw it this way. They’d cut off the circulation, so tightly did they hug my legs.


It is true that when they leave off the Christian course, they don’t always go rabble-rousing. (Nor do they all become COs upon return) Or even recall youth with nothing but fondness. But it happens often enough that it still makes a valid video.


“The people throng to those places, making offerings and singing hymns to such deities as Marduk.” Why can I only think of that cartoon Great Dane, Marmaduke?

“Many psalms celebrate Zion’s triumphs over Jehovah’s enemies. Perhaps the Babylonians love to mock those psalms in particular..” (ps 137:1) I’d never thought of this....1/2

“Um....excuse me. Back up and sing that line again, would you? Once again? What’s that line? Whoa, that’s a good one! Didn’t turn out that way, did it?” Oh, yeah—they must have had a field day with it....2/2

“Other psalms, though, speak about the Babylonians themselves. One, for example, says: ‘They have turned Jerusalem into a heap of ruins. . . . Those around us ridicule and jeer us.’”​—Ps. 79:1, 3, 4.4....1/3

Hmm. If they wanted me to sing a song about Babylonian victory, I might “sing” this one from Isaiah 39:7: “And some of your own sons to whom you will become father will be taken ...2/3

and will become court officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.’” and after that happens, I’m coming back for you to kick butt....3/3

“Years later, the apostle Paul was inspired to issue a similar warning: ‘I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to ....1/2

draw away the disciples after themselves.’”​—Acts 20:29, 30. Many times I have reasoned that since he went away long ago, would this not have started long ago, and doesn’t it account for the many divisions of faith today?...2/2

A tech-savvy bro gave a brief concluding tutorial on how to use the new Zoom close captioning feature if desired.

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Tweeting the Meeting: Week of May 17, 2021

Weekend Meeting:

Whose values do you cherish? Is the title of the public talk, the speaker from North Carolina—only possible via Zoom.

He says the talk will focus not on things like ‘will we pay for what we buy at WalMart?’ Of course we will, its what Christians do. He will look at questions like ‘should money be the sole priority in our lives?’ like in 1 Timothy 6:9 #determinedtoberich

Jesus didn’t choose Matthew to carry the money box, said the speaker, whom you would think would be qualified. He chose Judas, well-thought of at the time, apparently, but...

Outside the picture window, the starlings are squabbling over the high-priced bird seed meant for the goldfinches.

Beautiful day today. While preparing the lesson outdoors, a blue jay flew under the gazebo, saw me, I could almost hear it say, ‘Yikes!’ turned around mid-air, and flew away.

“But really, you can put the Bible’s doctrine in the first ten pages of the Bible,” the speaker says, “so what’s the rest of it about?” and he goes on to stress the importance of building a relationship with God.

Always liked this verse the speaker just cited: Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world....everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, ...1/2

but originates with the world [which is] passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever. 1 John 2:15...2/2


From the song: “Your laws are clear and perfect,

your judgments ever true.

Your principles guide us in all that we do.”

I think the most common misspelling (not made here) is to spell the word ‘judgement’, not dropping the e.


Watchtower Study

That comment from my father-in-law, “humans have let me down, but Jehovah never has,” fits here in paragraph 1 better than in the context I put it before.

Scriptural examples of this coming up in the study today re David (who made his own problems) &Paul

“So if any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching, and it will be given him.” Jas 1:5. I mean, how could it possibly hurt?

“Hmm. He has a chain on this arm—and I don’t. Bummer if I did. How would I carry on...” you can almost hear the sis imagining the scene she looks upon.

Probably the closer you live to a river or sea the more you would resonate with Isa 46:18: “If only you would pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”

The reader is murmuring to his wife, not realizing he is Zoom live.

Paragraphs on Absalom. Did I really say on someone else page: ‘your comments are all good and valid, but there is no one here that will listen to you. If only you were on MY page....’

“With the account in mind, tell Jehovah how you are feeling about the way you have been mistreated. (Ps. 6:6-9) Be specific.”....‘That rotten kid of mine is trying to usurp my throne!’

Betraying trust in order to gain authority is the oldest trick in the book. Isn’t that what the angel who became Satan did with God?

Matt 18:15-17 is a great passage, worthy of emphasis, but is it shoe-horned in here, since the first thing David did was to skedaddle? Or do I miss something?

“You know this, that all the men in the province of Asia have turned away from me, including Phy·gelʹus and Her·mogʹe·nes.” 1 Tim 1:15.  ALL of them is a lot. Serious running out on Paul in his time of need, not being repeated today, at least not on that scale. ....1/2

Seems that all thing written aforetime ARE for our benefit and are being taken that way.....2/2

The tendency to become ‘ashamed’ of the good news, but some who held firm: “This is why I am also suffering these things, but I am not ashamed....May the Lord grant mercy to the household of On·e·siphʹo·rus, for he often refreshed me, ...1/2

and he did not become ashamed of my prison chains.....(1 Tim 1:12, 16)....2/2

Notice how the Christian organization fortifies ones for persecution. Granted, it is not that hard to do, since there are so many scriptures that all but guarantee it for ones who would follow Christ. All that must be done is cite and apply them.

Our #Zoom link froze during the song and I had to keep repeating the last two words until it came back, like a record skipping. #jehovahswitnesses

In after-meeting interview the speaker mentioned those who say they can’t wait for “things to get back to normal.” Will they? Or will “normal’ be only in the new system? A resolved pandemic will just lead to a new version of abnormal.


Weekday Meeting: (Numbers 33-34)

Drive all the inhabitants out of the land.

Modern day society also has its idols,

Video games, some of the games are harmful, military uses to desensitize, what do we watch on TV?,

Commenting on Numbers 33:55, the speaker mentioned how “we are trying to drive away the pollutants of our hearts” and if we don’t do that, “they will indeed harass you on the land in which you will be dwelling.” #midweekmeeting

“We may have land assigned to us on the other side of Armageddon and not be able to pick and choose where we want,” one sis said. Tell me about it. There will probably be dorms at first.

The student speaker slowed right down with the cities Ataroth, Aroer,  Atrothshophan, Jazer, Jogbehah, Bethnimrah, and Bethharan, but he nailed them all. Just a little bobble with the first, not serious. (Numbers 32:34)...1/2

His reward was to have a go at still more names: Heshʹbon, E·le·aʹleh, Kir·i·a·thaʹim, Neʹbo, and Baʹal-meʹon—he got all those right, too. Good reading, and it wasn’t easy for him....2/2

“When parents have a genetic defect, what happens?”

“Usually the kid gets it.”

“So when Adam sinned, it was like a genetic defect passed along to his children.”

“Ohhhhhhh—I get it.” (from the video)


Someone said how we used to use that “lame analogy” of the dented cake pan. I love that analogy. Bake a cake in a dented cake pan and it turn out dented each time. Someone else raised his hand to defend it, too.

They’ll have to pry that dented cake pan out of my cold dead fingers.

(Someone afterwards mentioned how Jade would have had her “light-bulb moment” a split second sooner with the dented cake pan analogy.


Another reference to the modern idols to contend with, counterparts of “all their stone figures, and all their images of molten metal ...and all their sacred high places.” (Numbers 33:52)

I recall Bart Ehrman telling how babies sacrificed to idols was certainly an example of fanatical worshipper give his god his best. It is something that Jehovah never would even have thought of. (Jeremiah 7:31)

Again the Regional Convention is virtual this year, on more venues—Apple, Fire, Roku. Invitation digital also. It’s been a while since I actually went to anyone’s door.

One couple is in their back yard, and whenever they comment, you can hear birds chirping.

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Jehovah’s Witnesses to Join the ARC Redress Plan

Authorities are urging the Jehovah's Witnesses to contact them to get the ball rolling on the religious group's decision to join the national redress scheme for child sexual abuse survivors.

“The organisation says it will sign up because of new rules introduced by the federal government, which mean it would lose its charity status - and subsequent tax exemptions - for continuing to hold out.

"’Now that the law requires charities to join the scheme, Jehovah's Witnesses will comply,’ it said in a statement to AAP on Wednesday.

"’Jehovah's Witnesses believe that it is their responsibility before God to respect and co-operate with the authorities.’

“A spokeswoman for Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has welcomed the statement but implored the organisation to contact authorities.

"(We) encourage them to make urgent contact with the Department of Social Services so they can make good on this commitment," she told AAP.

"It can take up to six months for institutions to complete the process of joining and the department would hope to work co-operatively and with haste to facilitate the Jehovah's Witnesses joining as quickly as possible.”


This is not hypocritical, Vic, nor is it hard. Nor does it show, “it’s all about money with these guys.” 

The Aussie authorities devise a plan that fits all other parties for the institutional abuse of their youth clubs, youth schools, youth camps. They invite organizations to join. The WT declines because they do not have such settings. Whatever outlier cases may occur with them they will handle on a case-by-case basis.

The Aussie authorities then say they MUST come aboard, on pain of losing the tax status that is afforded every other charity. At that point, it becomes an operational cost. They still don’t think it is justified, but it becomes a cost of operating in Australia.

There are times in life when it is all about money. One of those times is when someone is trying to take it from you and you alone. 

There is no "principle" at stake here. They attempted to escape a "fee" they felt unjust and were thwarted. At which point they drop back and say governments have the power and authority to impose or not impose fees. It's what they do, and adjusting to it is no more than obeying the superior authorities. 

Appealing the verdict of a court is not the same as disregarding the superior authorities. It is a right afforded any citizen or collection of citizens. Will this be appealed? No idea. 


I would not be so sure that genuine victims will get a better deal with this program. It may be that handling complaints on a case-by-case basis, as was being done, will be more to their advantage. Governments with their agencies, not to mention lawyers, tend to seriously erode funds meant for victims. Plus, it has already been revealed that those churches that did sign on, to much fanfare, are subsequently dragging their feet and are being as uncooperative as possible. These things tend to be facades, with everyone taking bows while raiding the till, and the victims don’t fare nearly as well as you might think.

It may turn out to be more like the vaccine court in the U.S. Though you can sue a manufacturer for every other defective product, you cannot sue for a vaccine injury. Pharma managed to legislate themselves immunity. There is a vaccine court for redress, funded in part by surcharges on each vaccine given. Ask any injured party and they will tell you that their cases are almost invariably denied, and it is only by fighting it out with lawyers that they may, after a few years, get a few thousand dollars, seldom very much. This is true even in cases of permanent paralysis.


Jehovah's Witnesses believe that it is their responsibility before God to respect and co-operate with the authorities."

I actually think the statement is a little clunky—for it doesn’t account for the reversal— and that it might have written it better, along the lines already stated. Still, it is such a white-hot issue, and some are trying to milk it for various reasons, that maybe it is just as well not to risk looking “defensive”—state what has been stated, and move on. 

It is a good deal to have resolved. I am sure they are happy to do that. I am sure victims are happy, too. That is the nature of any reconciliation. People are happy when it is done.

I liked how Holly Folk did not shirk from taking on lawyers. Essentially, if you have money, someone will devise a means to take some of it. It will not be a completely fictional means, for that will seldom produce results. It will be something that is real, but overstated, exaggerated, and legitimate cases will be mixed with more dubious ones. It is in lawyers’ interests to portray people as victims, whatever happened to them was not their fault. Accordingly the “cult” mantra is hugely popular with them. At times, one wonders if they to some degree have invented the idea, for they surely benefit from it.

It is not just CSA. That is but a tiny part of the iceberg. In my community, there are about twenty legal firms that advertise on media, and some of them do it virtually non-stop. I can remember a time when manufacturers were the prime sponsors of TV shows. Now they are sidled aside by lawyers. What does that tell you as to the nature of society?  It amounts to a global society-wide transfer of funds, with barristers netting a third.

I was a defendent in such a case. I don’t think many people have not had some such experience, unless they have taken care never to do anything in life. This one involved a house I rented out. Insurance kicks in and you have little to do with it, but if you don’t know that in advance, it is very disconcerting. Even knowing it in advance, it is not comfortable. The suit was for $6 million and the settlement was for $200K. “How can the insurance companies afford this?” I asked my agent. “They can’t,” was the reply. “They just keep raising their rates.”

”My lawyer got me 5 million dollars, 18 times what the insurance company offered.” Such ads are staples on TV. In satire, I append the following to them: “All my neighbors rejoiced with me. Then they opened their premium bills.”

My teenage daughter’s car was hit—not her fault—and within days the other insurance company was hounding me to “settle.” Settle what? I was not accustomed to this new normal. They offered thousands of dollars if only I would settle. Finally I told them, “I don’t think this is going to cost you a dime. Pay a few chiropractic bills and that will be the end of it. But I am not signing anything away, for I don’t know what the finale will be.” They paid a few bills. I never did settle. There was never any reason to. I was probably a chump. I probably should have hit them up for as many thousands as I could. I just didn’t know that mindset, and concepts like “honesty” got in the way. The latest prompting from TV lawyers is that you call them immediately after your doctor to find out what “your accident is worth.” I am of the generation where you didn’t call them at all. You had insurance, the other party had insurance, you relied upon them for fair compensation, and were seldom dissatisfied with the result.

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Notes from Ancient Egypt: Weighing in on Joseph and the Exodus Account: Part 1

Sitting in on Bob Brier’s Egyptology lecture series for Great Courses, you learn that nations don’t war on their neighbors. They don’t conquer them. They “beat up on them.” If he said it once, he said it a hundred times. List the accomplishments of any pharaoh: he built the temples, he built the tombs, he beat up on the Syrians (or whoever).

“Beating up” is especially emphasized in Egypt, for with them, there was no place like home. Egyptians warred with their neighbors constantly—“peace was not a virtue in Egypt,” Bob says—but they never established garrisons in those conquered lands. Why—were you to die thousands of miles from home, how could you be properly mummified? And if you weren’t that, what would happen to your chances at the afterlife?

So they didn’t stay. They “beat up” their neighbors, left demands for yearly tribute, but after a while, people forget. You have to go and “beat them up again,” to remind them they had better pay—carting off “everything that wasn’t nailed down” while you were at it.

What is it with this guy? Is he from the Bronx? In fact, he is. And even though he’s a professor steeped in Egyptian honors at Long Island University, he still lives in the Bronx. (as of 1999, when he recorded these lectures). Of the supports used to raise a body so mummy wrappings could be wound beneath him—“it’s like jacking up a car,” he adds helpfully, possibly while gazing through his window at a muffler being attached to a jacked-up car). 


(Photo by Sam LaRussa)

What would he do when he comes to Bible accounts? I wondered. He will blow them away, of course, but will he do it with respect or ridicule? He seems like a nice guy. But sometimes people with brains lose it when it comes to spiritual things.

To my surprise, he does not blow them away. He treats them with great respect and allows that they are probably true in essence. To be sure, the “external evidence” that is archeology is scant. Archaeology corroborates the Bible in many things, says Bob, but it says next to nothing about the Israelites in Egypt. However, what he calls the “internal evidence” is strong, and as an Egyptologist, he has learned how the two must be combined.

After the Old Kingdom period, during which the pyramids were built, there arose the “Hyksos,” kings who ruled from the north, the delta region. The word means “rulers of foreign lands.” Could Joseph’s family have been the Hyksos? Not much is known of the Hyksos, Brier says, they “didn’t integrate well,” Some have said they were the family of Joseph. Josephus says so. Therefore, I say so, too. I mean, someone has to correspond to Joseph and his brothers. The north is a  damp and marshy region, where archeological finds are meagre, inferior, and badly damaged. It is the dry climate to the south that preserves papyri for thousands of years.

At this point Bob Brier assigns his listeners homework. They are to read Genesis 37-50. Then he narrates the story—just who was Joseph and what was his involvement with Egypt, highlighting what these “guys” are doing and what those “guys” are doing.

There is no external evidence for Joseph, but what is the internal evidence? Does the story “hang together?” It does, he thinks. He recounts the Bible story, which ends in a tearful tale of forgiveness—Joseph sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, his quick rise in Potipher’s house, his reversal and hard times, his meteoric rise to fame upon deciphering the dream that had perplexed Pharaoh, and how those same brothers approach and bow before him decades later—he, the one now in charge of alleviating famine.

In a dream that nobody can figure out for Pharaoh until someone remembers that Joseph in prison had a knack for that sort of thing, he is brought to interpret the dream. Seven lean cows are preceded by seven fat cows. The lean ones eat up the fat ones! They are years of famine following years of plenty. During the years of plenty, preparation can be made for the years of famine. “Based upon Joseph’s interpretation of dreams, the economy of Egypt is planned for the next 14 years.”

Joseph shows what a “sharp businessman” he is during the famine period, is how Bob Brier puts it (perhaps as he is buying a used car from a sharp businessman on the corner lot). People get destitute enough that they eventually sell him their land in return for food. He makes Pharaoh very wealthy, and Pharaoh rewards him.

The ring that Pharaoh gives to Joseph—that also is how they would do it in Egypt, a ring to the “right hand man.” A signet ring. A sign of authority. When the Bible says, everybody cried out Abrek after Joseph—that’s “real Egyptian.” Somebody knew what he was talking about. He deciphers the phrase as roughly meeting ‘Let God be with you.’ (Genesis 41: 42-43)

For a long time, Bob had a problem with Egyptian priests admitting defeat in interpreting Pharaoh’s dream. They never admitted defeat in anything. But later finds cleared it up for him. There is a papyrus in the British Museum which is a book for interpreting dreams.

All dreams meant something, the Egyptians believed. They were all prophetic. The trick was in interpreting them. When you had a dream, you went to the priest to see what it meant. Everything was written down in a book. The priests didn’t “just wing it.” They looked it up in a book. “If it’s not in the book, you’re stuck,” Bob says. So Joseph‘s account has the ring of truth to it, he says. When they said to Pharaoh, We don’t know, about his dream, it just meant that nothing about fat cows or lean cows was in the book—it didn’t go there. So it wasn’t the fault of the priests, who never would have admitted a fault—it wasn’t in the book. (Genesis 41)

There’s a Egyptian inscription on Sahel Island of seven years when the Nile did not rise, resulting in famine. Another inscription shows skeletal figures of people who were not slaves. Potipher is an Egyption name. Goshen is where the brothers of Joseph settled—a real Egyptian place in the delta region. Two cities are cited with names they had at the time, and not names they would be given later. Joseph (and Jacob) are embalmed by the Egyptians and mourned for the proper period. The Joseph story is written by someone who knew Egypt, Brier states. Testifying that Hebrews did indeed come to settle in Egypt is the excavation of a classic Israelite four-room house, with its unique floor plan. A full-sized model of one can be seen at Semitic Museum at Harvard University.

“Internally, we get a feeling for the Joseph story that it fits. It’s not archaeological evidence, but the story fits.” Embalming for 40 days, mourning for 70. For a long time that was not understood, but it turns out that is how Egyptian‘s did it. (Genesis 50:3)

The Hyksos did not control all of Egypt. Instead, they coexisted with the Sixteenth and the Seventeenth Dynasty, which were based in Thebes, 500 miles to the south. Warfare between they and the pharaohs of the late Seventeenth Dynasty eventually ran the Hyksos out of Egypt. (and Bob approves of this, because the Hyksos are not “his guys”—they are not real Egyptian) Later leaders of them would be portrayed as oppressive and warlike.

A papyrus of the time, sent by the last Hyksos king to the Prince of Thebes, reads: “The hippopotami in your pool are keeping me awake at night. They have to be silenced.” What exactly does that mean? Dunno, but it’s not friendly. Inflammatory for sure, Bob says. The Prince sends an army in retaliation. How does it turn out? No idea. The papyrus breaks off. The first and the last portions of an ancient papyrus roll is often no good. The inside end is wrapped so tightly that it breaks. the outside end is on the outside where it gets knocked around a lot, torn and scuffed up over time.

See Part II, Evidence of the Exodus

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Tweeting the Meeting: Week of May 10, 2021

Weekend Meeting:

“Where can you get help in times of distress?” Is the theme of the public talk.

That shut-in sister of ill health who hasn’t been around for awhile is onZoomline today. Neat.

Also, the one who has been DFed almost since the beginning of time and has not been heard of for many moons continues to attend online, having said, “It’s time to come home.”

Had to get up to chase the squirrel away from the birdfeeder, just outside the picture window. They like to eat, too, and are hard to stop. Sometimes just a sudden movement will chase them away. This time it took a rap on the window. #HellBeBack

(after I tweeted this, a manufacturer of squirrel-proof birdfeeders tweeted me.)

The speaker refers to one stumbled who stays stumbled, in contrast to the normal human urge to get up. Sure enough, when I stumbled on the sidewalk crack, first thing I did was say “So much for being cool” and hoped no one had noticed.

It recalls my father-in-law, who memorably said: “Jehovah has never let me down. People have let me down, but Jehovah never has.”

Watchtower Study:

Uh oh. The Watchtower reader just messed up the pronunciation of Vanuatu. Hopefully, no Vanuatuans are listening in today.

“The love and warmth shown to the student can help him to identify Jehovah’s people.”​—John 13:35.4, says someone quoted, which plainly cannot happen unless they see those people.

“If you are asked along on a Bible study, you are there to support, not to take over,” someone says, though the paragraph said nothing about “taking over.”

When asked to give prayer at a study, short and simple is probably better than long and vague and containing “everything we know about the truth,” one commenter says.

The brother who gets interrupted all the time just commented on how its good not to interrupt people

Rats. I got distracted and did not catch how the reader did with ‘Omamuyovbi.’ If he had a tough time with Vanuatu....

The younger bro said how he’d pointed out some details on the picture, his part of contributing. So how’d he do? said the Wt conductor to his actual physical bro, who conducted the study. Pretty good, the joker said, though I had to tell him to stay away from the pictures.

“As iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens his friend,” modern Bibles are inclined to say, but I sort of the more literal, even if not so plain, “By iron, iron itself is sharpened. So one man sharpens the face of another.” #SharpenUpThatFace

I am reminded of a new Witness, who contrasted JW meetings with just about any religious service he had ever attended, with the observation, “you can prepare for them.”

Weekday Meetings:

You had to dig around to see how Elkanah was okay with Hannah’s vow. There it is in 1 Samuel 1:23, as he says: “Do what you think is best. Stay at home until you wean him. May Jehovah carry out what you have said.”

One sister mentioned how Isa 55:10 is especially right for the season: For just as the pouring rain descends....and does not return to that place, unless it actually saturates the earth and makes it produce and sprout....1/2

so my word that goes forth from my mouth will prove to be. It will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it....2/2

Six examples of endurance from creation: camel, bristle-cone pine, monarch butterfly, arctic tern, lapwing plover, acacia tree.

One bro took the camel, that can drink 25 gallons at a time to last it for weeks, and said, ‘do we fortify ourselves in favorable season?’

Could you put in a plug for a go-bag here? I did. Terns, Monarch butterflies. Maybe we’ll be moving someday. Best be ready. It wasn’t the answer anyone was looking for, but nobody said I was wrong.


Earlier comment about humans paying vows to God. Now someone takes the Ezekiel 34:22-24 verse to show how God carries out his vows regarding us.

What about Isa 11:6? “The wolf will reside for a while with the lamb...” Would not the ‘for a while’ be now, as formerly violent persons are rehabilitated? There won’t be ‘wolves’ in the new system.

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The Exodus: Did it Really Happen? The Musings of an Egyptologist (Part 2)

“There’s no straightforward archaeological evidence” for the Exodus account, says Egyptologist Bob Brier in his Great Courses lecture series, and from that one might conclude that he will trash it. But he doesn’t. There is internal evidence for it and the internal evidence holds up, he says.

Brier’s not concerned that the external evidence is not there. The Egyptians kept only records of their victories, never their defeats, and the Exodus would for sure have been a defeat for them. “If you read all the battle accounts of all the pharaohs, they won every one. Some of them they just kept winning closer to home, as they retreated.”

He also is not concerned because, even if there had been such records, they would never have survived in damp delta area where all the Hebrew action takes place. Chimes in Thomas Mudloff, another researcher: “Indeed, archaeologically we have virtually nothing of this nature from the Delta. The fact is that the entire area is simply too wet for material of this sort [papyrus] to survive. Anyone familiar with the problems of excavation in the Delta will immediately understand. The ancient ground level is now some twenty feet or more below the modern surface and the water table is so high in the area that most current excavations must employ the constant use of pumps to keep the diggings dry.”

Mudloff also builds upon Brier’s first point—that the Egyptians kept no record of defeats, only victories. In the attempt to account for that, the reason that immediately springs to mind is that of pride. Victors write history down to this day, and whenever they think they can get away with it, they are equally inclined to hide whatever embarrasses them. But there is another factor: that of the Egyptian religious belief that “once anything is written down or spoken it may have the ability to be perpetuated and perhaps repeated, something that is part of the nature of Egyptian religious beliefs. We see examples in the Egyptian’s desire to have their names spoken after death in order to maintain their existence in the afterlife, and so the idea that writing an event down will also make it possible for the event to continue, perhaps recurring at some future point. Surely so catastrophic an event as so many slaves being let go at once would not be something the Egyptians would wish to commemorate.”

Besides, Brier doesn’t think the birth of the Jewish nation would be all that important to anyone else. “Do you think the Hittite king cares about what’s happening in upper Egypt?… Nobody cared.” He compares it to the early stirrings of the American Revolution. Would anyone in the Middle East have cared about it enough to take note of the details? He thinks not.

I’m not so sure about this comparison. According to Rahab, the Exodus was the talk of the town in Jericho: She “went on to say to [the Israelite spies]: ‘I do know that Jehovah will certainly give you the land, and that the fright of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have become disheartened because of you. For we have heard how Jehovah dried up the waters of the Red Sea from before you when you came out of Egypt . . . . When we got to hear it, then our hearts began to melt. . . ’” (Joshua 2:9-11)

But Rahab is one of the little people, telling the fears of the little people that are not necessarily in the official report. Being a little person, she is only a hairbreadth away from being a fictional one, and until her Facebook page is found, most scholars will suppose she is.

So get used to it—there’s little external evidence for the Exodus. (though there is some, as will be seen) That said, Brier looks at the “internal evidence” “Does the story hold together internally?” He examines the details and declares that it does.

One detail he likes (with every such detail, he says: “So that’s pretty good,” as in building a case) is the straw in the bricks. “[Moses and Aaron] go to [Pharaoh] and say, ‘let my people go’—not only that, but it’s what we would call chutzpah, they say we want three days off! To celebrate a festival to our God. And Pharaoh really thinks this is outrageous. ...He says you’re not getting the three days off to celebrate your holiday, and not only that, we are not giving you any straw for your bricks,” the non-Bronx version found at Exodus 5:10.

Bricks in Egypt were made with straw to give it strength. But they were not made that way in Canaan. The factoid points to an authentic account of someone who knew Egypt, not a made-up-later tale from a Canaanite outsider. Brier likes the fact that they worked with bricks, and not the stones that a later writer might suppose from the pyramids and tombs. He likes where they did it, “building cities as storage places for Pharaoh, namely, Pithom and Raamses.” (Exodus 1:11) There were such places and they were storage cities in the days of Ramses II. Brier thinks that Ramses II (Ramses the Great) would have been the pharaoh of the Exodus, assuming that there was one.

He likes how the Hebrews got into their bondage: “In time there arose over Egypt a new king who did not know Joseph. And he proceeded to say to his people: “Look! The people of the sons of Israel are more numerous and mightier than we are. Come on! Let us deal shrewdly with them, for fear they may multiply, and it must turn out that, in case war should befall us, then they certainly will also be added to those who hate us and will fight against us and go up out of the country.” (Exodus 1:8-10)

It fits in well with a previous lecture of his on how Egypt pushed back at Libya, taking captives: “It seems that the Egyptians always minded when foreigners become too numerous. It was okay to have a few, but when they became a large body to be reckoned with they didn’t like that. As for example, remember the Exodus?”

He also likes a detail of Exodus 1:16, in which Pharaoh lays plans to kill off the newborn Hebrew boys. He there instructs the midwives: “When you help the Hebrew women to give birth and you see them on the stool for childbirth, you must put the child to death if it is a son; but if it is a daughter, she must live.”

The Hebrew word for “stool for childbirth” literally means “two stones,” as in ‘a stone under each buttock.’ Egyptians did give birth that way—it can be seen in their hieroglyphs—and it makes more sense than the modern way of lying prone, for it allows for gravity to assist. One source even tells of an old Egyptian put-down of a capricious man as: “He left me like a woman on the bricks.” What kind of a lowlife would do such a thing?

There are even a few who think “watch the two stones” has nothing to do with the birthing stool and everything to do with the testicles of the newborn! If you see them coming down the birth canal, kill the one who has them.

The two midwives mentioned in the Bible, Shifra and Puah, fear God, and so they disobey Pharaoh. In time, Pharaoh wants to know why: “The king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them: ‘Why have you kept the male children alive?’ The midwives said to Pharʹaoh: ‘The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women. They are lively and have already given birth before the midwife can come in to them.’”

Arthur Waskow says that the midwives are very clever here—they placate Pharaoh with a pun that appeals to his prejudices. ‘They’re not civilized like us—they drop them fast, like animals,’ is what he hears. It makes perfect sense to him. And Yahweh rewards the midwives for it, Brier says. He doesn’t use the anglicized ‘Jehovah’ form of God’s name, but neither does he say “The LORD.”

What of the frequent expression that Pharaoh’s “heart was hardened?” “Very Egyptian, very Egyptian,” Bob says. The Egyptians believed that a person thought with his heart. After all, it is the heart that beats faster when someone is excited.

Brier likes the name “Moses,” and says that it’s a purely Egyptian name. It means “birth.” It is incorporated into the names of several pharaohs: Ahmose, (“the moon god is born”) Thutmose. (“Thoth is born”) In Greek, the name with its appended suffix becomes Amosis and Thutmosis. Ramesses is similar in pattern: (Re is the one who bore him)

If this Egyptian etymology is correct, it makes an even greater point for authenticity, because the Bible writer doesn’t appear to know that, and he attributes a Hebrew setting to the name, a play on the verb mashah (to draw out [of water]). We read that the weaned infant was brought to Pharaoh’s daughter, “so that he became a son to her; and she proceeded to call his name Moses and to say: ‘It is because I have drawn him out of the water.’” (2:10) The application doesn’t quite fit, say some, for the word construction implies that Moses does the drawing, whereas the text says otherwise, and the only way to solve the difficulty is to ignore it. Moreover, why would Pharaoh’s daughter name the child with Hebrew etymology and not her own? Without intending to, the Bible writer gives added reason to regard the account as genuine.

There is a document, known as the Leiden Papyrus, from the time of Ramses the Great. It contains an instruction to “distribute grain rations to the soldier and to the Apiru who transport stones to the great Pylon of Ramses. Some connect “Apiru” (it means “stateless people”) with the origin of the “Hebrew” that it sounds like. It fits well with Exodus 1:11, “they appointed chiefs of forced labor over [the people of Israel] to oppress them with hard labor, and they built storage cities for Pharaoh, namely, Pithom and Raamses.”

Ramses the Great ruled for 67 years, had about 100 children, of which 52 were sons, and outlived many of them, including his firstborn, Amunhirkepshef. It is his 13th son, Merneptal, who succeeds him as pharoah. Of his early military campaigns, (“he’s going to list the countries that he’s beaten up,” Bob says) Merneptal has recorded in his fifth year that “Canaan has been plundered into every sort of woe; Ashkelon has been overcome; Gezar has been captured; Yano’am was made nonexistent; Israel is laid waste, its seed is not.” This is the first (and only) mention of “Israel” in ancient Egyptian records.

It is telling how the word “Israel” is written. At the end of every other mention is a hieroglyph of three hills. It means “country.” At the end of “Israel” is the drawing of a man and a woman. It denotes Israel is not yet an established place, not yet a country. It is still a people wandering in the Sinai wilderness? If so, and counting backwards, might Amunhirkepshef be the firstborn of Pharoah who’s death at last twisted his arm to let the Israelites leave Egypt?

Bob doesn’t buy into the Bible number of Israelites leaving Egypt, 600,000–all men—not including families. It’s like the fish tale that gets bigger each time you tell it, he says. He thinks the number is much smaller, maybe by a factor of 1000. Nor does he buy into the Red Sea. It is a mistranslation of “Reed Sea,” (Hebrew: Yam Suph) he says. I am reminded of a tale somewhere in Jehovah’s Witness literature in which a schoolteacher tries “educate” a child away from his faith in the Exodus account by asserting that it was not the Red Sea, it was the “Reed Sea,” and the latter was a marshy area of water probably just “two inches” deep—whereupon the child begins to snicker. When the annoyed teacher demands the reason why, it turns out the child is amused at his teacher thinking the Egyptians could drown in just two inches of water. Maybe he was combining the image with God “taking wheels off their chariots so that they were driving them with difficulty.” (Exodus 14:25) Come on!—how can anyone not smile at that image?

“Suph” means “reed” in Hebrew, and from that fact comes the “Reed Sea” derivation, a place that no longer exists, but some think might be bodies of water replaced by the Suez canal. However, there is also a Hebrew word,“Soph,” which means “destroy,” “end,” or even “storm-wind.” What a fine pun it would be, some have suggested, to let one stand for the other, “suph” for “soph,” since the Egyptian army did indeed come to an violent end in that sea. Besides, King Solomon later builds a fleet of ships “upon the shore of the Red Sea (also Yam Suph) in the land of Edom.” (1 Kings 9;26) He wouldn’t do that if the sea was only two inches deep.

To make a pun not so fine, you can only water down the Exodus account so much before you create problems with Brier’s earlier lecture of Ramses II’s life. His early years were warlike. No battle in history is so well-documented as Ramses fighting the Hittites at Kadesh in his fifth year. It is carved everywhere—Egypt’s version of Washington crossing the Delaware, Bob states. Afterwards, Ramses relocates from Memphis to more strategically located Pi-Ramses to the north, because he means to return and pummel the Hittites, perhaps yearly.

Yet, he later experiences a “midlife crisis,” as Brier puts it more than once. He signs a peace treaty with the Hittites, very much to their benefit since they were also battling the Assyrians, but for Egypt, making peace was unheard of and seemingly unnecessary. The treaty may be the first one recorded in history. A temple wall inscription says Hittite and Egyptian soldiers “ate and drank face to face, not fighting.” Bob declares it nothing short of “amazing—Hittites were one of Egypt’s nine traditional enemies.”

Thereafter, Brier states, Ramses II becomes “a more sedentary pharaoh,” who turns to supervising tomb building, his last forty years so different from “the glorious beginning” of his reign. Ramses “didn’t seem to have any fight left in him,” says Bob. “Why did Ramses have a midlife crisis?” Bob Brier ends a lecture with this cliffhanger: “The Exodus, as we shall see in the next lecture, may have had something to do with it.”

Well, it wouldn’t have had something to do with it if the Exodus was some penny ante affair involving just a few hundred fleeing people, and chariots that bog down in the two-inch mud trying to catch them. No, a “midlife crisis” only ensues if it was a spectacular event involving thousands of Israelites and the mass destruction of Pharaoh’s troops.

Does Bob not realize the non-sequitur he sets up? Or does he realize it very well, but also realizes that he puts his status as learned Egyptologist at risk by siding too openly with the Bible account, and so he avoids speculating on the available facts (as he doesn’t elsewhere)? Dunno. Still, I appreciate that the Egyptian record allows very well for the Exodus account to be reality, even if it doesn’t nail down the point. Given what archeologists have uncovered thus far, you could hardly expect it to.

(Thomas F. Mudloff is the author of Hieroglyphs for Travelers)


Photo by CCXpistiavos

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Tweeting the Meeting: Week of May 3, 2021

Weekend Meeting:

The speaker today is one who served where the work is banned. If you asked him about conditions there, he would reply only with Bible verses, such as Matthew 24:14, or Hebrews 10:24

Some talk prior to the meeting as to whether Russian brothers had managed to work around certain restrictions. “If they had, I’m sure they wouldn’t talk about it,” someone said.

Now he has a tree picture on display and says how “in his law he reads in an undertone day and night. And he will certainly become like a tree planted by streams of water, hat gives its own fruit in its season.” (Ps 1:2-3)

This will be one of those meetings where the chairman can comment on how the public talk fits right in with the Watchtower Study. Not all meetings are like that. When they are, is it planned or coincidence?

The speaker says how a prior assignment was NYC Chinatown. It was common for babies to be sent to the mainland for a few years while parents worked to be financially established—maybe a restaurant, he said. But what happened years later upon reuniting? ...1/2

He speaks of articles written of emotionally scarred children, feeling abandoned by parents, and that he and wife had seen it....2/2

The Watchtower conductor said nothing of the talk fitting hand-in-glove with the study. It is not his m.o. Some conductors never fail to make the plug.

The study material for today.

Someone just used the expression, “as the expression goes.”

The sister who gave us a lot of food just commented. We said we didn’t need it, but she insisted. It’s okay—we know ones we can pass it on to.

A brother with small kids has a big bobbing balloon in his Zoom box. For a time, I had one of those big smiley yellows ones secured at proper height in my car. “It’s my girlfriend,” I would tell my wife. “She’s low maintenance.”

At that picture of David going after the bear to rescue the sheep, one brother related how he went after a cat to rescue a bunny rabbit. “Your servant saw a bunny rabbit being devoured by a mean cat, and I rescued it from it’s mouth. ...1/2

Now, give me a crack at that big lout Goliath!” “Next!’ Saul shouts, as they haul the upstart away....2/2

That 1 Samuel 17:28 verse: as though David just wanted to rubberneck at the auto wreck. And who did he leave those sheep with?

“What can young brothers learn from David’s [1 Samuel 27] example?” (Para 9) Well—best not take it TOO literally. “Off the kings friends and make him think if is his being enemies carted off to the dumpster.”

Here is a verse that will come in handy sometimes, from 2 Chronicles 14: “O Jehovah, it does not matter to you whether those you help are many or have no power. Help us, O Jehovah our God, for we are relying on you.”

“In fact, from then on, Asa was constantly at war. (2 Chron. 16:7, 9; 1 Ki. 15:32) What is the lesson?” (Para 13) Maybe that deflect once, and you will not recover, until you come to terms with that initial deflection.

Jehu the son of Hanani the visionary went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat: “Is it the wicked you should be helping, and is it those who hate Jehovah you should love? (2 chronicles 19:2)

“Very nice” said the conductor to a comment that was so garbled with internet fuzz that I couldn’t understand it.

It’s not widely known, but the one who just commented is son of a man drafted into an NFL team. Yet the old man would not permit his young children to watch football—presumably b/c of the violence he knew of.

Midweek meeting

A comment on how God spoke face to face with Moses, but other means with Joshua. It is an “organizational adjustment,” the commenter says.

The creative brother begins his talk boasting on the goat he is bringing for sacrifice, a real “blue medal” one, that will surely “impress the priest.” “And what are you bringing?” he asks. “Aw—how cute. A turtle dove.”

“Honor Jehovah with your valuable things and with the firstfruits of all your produce,” Prov 3:9. Is the verse under consideration. Counsel on not comparing self with others, but only with selves.

“They’ve changed the words of the song,” [Let Your Light Shine] my wife gives me a heads-up, as though to say, “You’d better not mess it up.”

The new child from India is having a tough first day, but Sophia [after a setback] welcomes her on the basis of recalled counsel on impartiality.

Several who actually are young answered before they had to settle for those “young at heart.” The first child to answer the Sophia video recently lost her baby teeth.


Lots of counsel on making friends. What to look for. What not to look for. How to cultivate. Where to look. Watch out for what’s toxic. Broaden horizons.

The reader’s dog has decided to bark up a storm. I am trying to read his face to see how disconcerted he is. Only a wry smile at the end.

To Zedekiah it is said: But your day has come, O fatally wounded, wicked chieftain of Israel, the time of your final punishment. This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah says: ‘Remove the turban, and take off the crown. This will not remain the same. ...1/2

Raise up the low one, and bring low the high one. A ruin, a ruin, a ruin I will make it. And it will not belong to anyone until the one who has the legal right comes, and I will give it to him.’...2/2. (Ezekiel 21:25-27)

The one who has the “legal right” is Christ Jesus. The verse is tied in with Daniel 7:12-13. “someone like a son of man...gained access to the Ancient of him there were given rulership, honor, and a kingdom, that the peoples, nations&language groups should all serve him

Circuit assembly was last week, hence no tweeting of the meetings then. Turns out 12 were baptized, 5 brothers, 7 sisters, ranging in age from 15 to 89. (older than Shultz, probably!)

The American sister who translated the meeting for the Chinese said the experience was “rough.”

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Mathematics and Everything: From Hannah Fry to Stephen Fry. Part 3

For continuity, start with Part 1.

Now—what about Hannah Fry’s TV presentation—“Magic Numbers?” Are they really magic? Or are they like when my gushing business typing teacher from high school days said, “Today we are going to learn how to use the magic margins!” and I said to myself, “This guy really thinks they are magic.”

Remember, Harley—you don’t want to be a donkey here. Remember how you were with Meg, working on her dissertation involving the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle, and the only one who could grade it was her U of R professor because he was the only one who knew what she was talking about? Don’t make the same faux pas with Fry that you made with her—saying something to show that you’re not exactly ignorant about her subject, and in so doing conveying that you are. Don’t be like Ed Norton, trying to impress the financier, casually letting it slip that he is in the “sewer game” himself.

Okay, now. Turn on the TV. What do you notice about math? Yikes! The first thing I notice has nothing to do with math. It is about Fry. She is one attactive woman!

Harley, you gauche slob! That’s even worse! Go back to saying something stupid about math! Nobody cares about physical appearance! It is only the mind we care about! If you didn’t have such a perfect face for radio, you wouldn’t come all unglued when you see one for television!

It made a mixed initial impression on me, and not all of it good. “We cannot be certain of this and we cannot agree on that,” she more or less said, and I added, “but can we all agree that my flowing and flaming red hair is beautiful?” I mean, don’t go telling me that her producer doesn’t know the power of outward appearance. He showcases her as though a model on Vogue Magazine.

And in fact, once I adjusted to it, all was well. It was my bad. Most things are. I had expected some drab and dry old hen chalking formulas on the board. It’s not her. My bad. You use whatever you have to best present your topic. Lord knows I do. Go for it. When they strap Hannah Fry into a zip line harness to show she speeds up just like Galileo said she would, instead of her dull professor of yesteryear dropping a marble and bowling ball simultaneously—well, why not? He wanted to ride a zip line, too, but it wasn’t allowed back then. Now it is.

It may be that the scientists and mathematicians have never been dull, and only now is the stereotype breaking that says they are. It may all be a carryover from my school days, when they would roll into the classroom a towering TV for some “educational television” and the only thing you knew for sure was that it would be BORING.

It’s not that way now. The two Great Courses archeologists I follow present almost as Indiana Jones. One of them was even inspired by Indiana Jones, for he relates how his mom dropped him off as a boy at the multiplex, the movie subtitle said. “Somewhere in South America,” and he said to himself: “There’s a South America?” Who says they have to be dull? It’s a good gig—why not behave as though it is? Paul Halpern may have the largest cache of physicist photos on the planet—all the time he is posting them, showing the good ‘ol (usually) boys of brilliance having a ball. And just yesterday he posted a cartoon with the quantum computer diagnosis: “broken in every way possible, simultaneously.” I added: “And the relativity computer looks broken when they pass it one way, but okay when they pass it the other way.”

So Hannah Fry begins to narrate her program. “Look hard enough to at anything, mathematics is lying beneath,” she says at the show’s outset. Is math all in our heads, invented? she poses the question. Or is it an eternal physical reality, something existing out there, waiting to be discovered?

Then she dives into the same chronology that they all dive into, but it is such a rich chronology that every presentation is different. Farmelo wrote in his book how he was struck in high school that the formula for gravity took the exact same form as the formula for magnetism, different only in that you can reverse the latter. Why should that be? I was struck by it, too. He also said he didn’t recall any of his teachers ever commenting on that peculiarity. Neither do I.

“How could something we invented in our brain have the power to reveal the workings of the universe?” she says, and then inserts clips of a few mathematicians who say confirming things, like how it’s “shocking that mathematics makes predictions about the world around us.”

“It seemed inconceivable that math could be anything other than something we discover,” Fry says, but then she ventures that in the 19th century, people began to wonder if everyone was really as it seemed. “The problem for humans is overriding our instincts, trusting in our intuition,” another guest math-whiz says. Aristotle, clever though he was, got a lot of things wrong. It’s intuitive that heavy lands before light [is it?], so Aristotle stated that it did. Galileo figured it didn’t, wrote the formula to govern falling things, and said the feather falls slower only due to friction with the air. Whereupon, Hannah splices in Apollo moon footage in which they attempted just that experiment—take out the air— and sure enough, they do both land at the same time! She could have done it in some drab school experiment where they pump the air out of some container, but she did it on the moon! Don’t tell me she doesn’t know how to use the modern medium.

Breaking free of Euclid makes it more complicated—now Fry will try to serve up some sympathy with the ‘inventors of math’ view. (But it won’t work with me—I’m on to her—and it’s not clear where she stands herself.) Cantor pours fuel on the fire with his infinites, some of which are greater than others! You would think that an infinity is an infinity is an infinity, but it turns out that some “are more equal than others.” And don’t get me going about that “proof” (Hannah didn’t cite this one—I just threw it in myself) that the sum of all natural numbers is -1/12.

Then there is Descartes, who invented imaginary numbers. They correspond to nothing real in themselves, but they have been used to build bridges from one real place to another, places that otherwise seem to be “you can’t get there from here,” places. The only thing I know for sure about imaginary numbers (always based upon the square root of -1) is that Hobbes, Calvin’s stuffed tiger, helping the boy with his homework, declared that an especially hard arithmetic problem would require their use—the kid’s hair stood on end and his eyes bugged out at the thought.

Okay, so maybe we don’t have to run the “inventors” completely off the planet, but to suggest that anything can be accounted for by what some smart-alek math whiz will concoct is just too much.

Why can’t it just be acknowledged what Job acknowledged? “Look! These are the fringes of his ways, And what a whisper of a matter has been heard of him!” Why should humans assume that they will figure it all out, then come all unglued when they can’t, and somehow work that into a scenario that God doesn’t exist, whereas it should do just the opposite? It reminds me of a old buddy who would overturn the gameboard whenever he saw he was not going to win.

As to Fry being attractive—sorry—maybe I should not have said anything about that. It’s not the thing to focus on. On the other hand, there was a smiling young women, always posing with her motorbike, chalking up hundreds of likes from social media users in Japan. But some sharp-eyed users smelled something amiss. Mirror reflections didn’t look so pretty. Sometimes her arms were hairy! They pushed an investigation and, sure enough, it was a 50-year old guy playing with photoshop! The fellow wasn’t overly repentant. “Who’s going to click on tweets of a 50-year-old guy?” he said.

Exactly. I’ll bet Hannah is a 60-something, pot-bellied, balding slob like me!


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Live Tweets from Ancient Egypt: Part 14

Great Courses, Bob Brier, tweets composed and sent while dog-walking. AI screwups corrected in brackets

For continuity, start with Part 1:

Lecture 27: What mummies tell us

“A mummy is a mummy is a mummy” to most people, Bob Brier says, but all cars are not alike—neither are mummies. They made them over thousands of years. They differ.

Early mummies of the First Kingdom aren’t very good. Bodies are encased as with statues, but not preserved. X-rays reveal they have fallen apart, bones lying at the bottom.

Hetepheres, wife of “my man Sneferu” is an exception—with internal organs that had been removed.

Great story of high-quality artifacts suddenly appearing on the antiquities market in the 1870s, so authorities figured tomb robbers had made a massive find (steal) and, sure enough, found the culprits and (eventually) tortured the location out of them.

A huge trove of mummies, the grave robbers had found. Mummies spanning many dynasties. Shipped off to the Cairo museum, where researchers learned much about mummymaking—what innovations had been made at what time periods.

One other cache of mummies found later, the tomb of Amenhotep II. That’s where Bob Brier discovered that the king had bad teeth, maybe he needed a coregent because he was incapacitated.

All Egyptians had bad teeth, on account of the sand from the grindstones that found its way into its bread.

Lecture 28: Making a modern mummy:

Cool! Bob makes his own mummy. Only he doesn’t identify the person. This reminds me of when my wife took anatomy for nursing. These bodies are donated for research, she was told. They might be someone you know. They were to be treated respectfully.

He says he did it not to make a mummy but to learn how it was done. Lots of unanswered questions after reviewing the papyri. Only way to answer them was to do one, he said.

For example, the brain coming out the nose? Bob thought you could just pull it out with a hooked instrument, but no—it is too viscous. Can’t be done that way. Instead, they—(are you sure you want to know this?)—are swished around up there further, making it more liquid, then inverted the body so as to pour it out through the nostrils.

They made bronze tools. I guess I should have known this, but didn’t. Bronze, a hard metal, results form the mix of two soft ones—tin and copper. But the knife made was not very good.

The “sharp Ethiopian stone” (obsidian) worked well for a knife. Bob says modern surgeons have gone that way—using obsidian.

They used natron (basically salt and baking soda) to preserve. (It takes 600 pounds of the stuff) Bought the frankincense and myrrh from local sites.

Now they have a control sample—they know what they did. They know what works and what doesn’t. It will help with the analysis of ancient mummies.

Herodotus’s 35 day period they figured out (too late) is the time the body has to sit after being dried with natron. It is not completely dry by then, you can still cross the hands in royal style, but Bob & crew had waited too long. They had to wrap with arms at sides.

There’s not a lot of mummies in this neck of the woods. I don’t have any original photos. The best I can do is this one of Tauchannock Man in the Finger Lakes region of New York.


Go to Part 15

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Shishak Beats Up Rehoboam—From Egypt’s Point of View. And Why did Indiana Jones Search for the Ark in Tanis?

For 200 years Egypt was ruled by Libyans. That’s not a long period of time but its nearly as long as the history of the United States.

Head north on the Nile and turn left, Bob* gives the directions, and you will hit Libya. But you will have to traverse 200 miles of desert to get there, so we should not imagine an invading Libyan army riding that far to conquer. No, Prof Brier is sure that the Libyans that ruled were already in Egypt, in fact full Egyptians in all but ethnicity. They had been assimilated previously.

They were probably descendants of captives taken during the reign of Ramses III, Egypts last great pharaoh, Bob calls him. “One of the things he was proudest of is that he pushed back the Egyptians. The Egyptians were getting a little too populous. It seems that the Egyptians always minded when foreigners become too numerous. It was okay to have a few, but when they became a large body to be reckoned with they didn’t like that. As for example, remember the Exodus?”

Exodus 1:9-10 reads: “In time there arose over Egypt a new king who did not know Joseph.  And he proceeded to say to his people: “Look! The people of the sons of Israel are more numerous and mightier than we are.  Come on! Let us deal shrewdly with them, for fear they may multiply, and it must turn out that, in case war should befall us, then they certainly will also be added to those who hate us and will fight against us and go up out of the country.”

The captured Libyans assimilated and, in time, some turned to the military. Sheshonq I was the first of them to assume the throne after a dwindling series of impotent kings bearing the Ramses name. He married the right woman—a sure way to rise in Egypt—the daughter of Ramses XI.

Fighting is what he knew. After consolidating and appointing his sons in key positions, he look northward. Was not Judah ripe for picking? Solomon had just died, and his son Rehoboam didn’t know what he was doing. Sheshonq is the same as Shishak of 1 Kings 14:25-26. He came to conquer but Rehoboam “bought him off.”

“And it came about in the fifth year of King Rehoboam that Shishak the king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem.  And he got to take the treasures of the house of Jehovah and the treasures of the house of the king; and everything he took. And he went on to take all the gold shields that Solomon had made.”

Note what he does not take, Bob says. He does not take the ark of the covenant, “the box, that held the Ten Commandments. That’s not mentioned.” A helpful footnote from movie lore: “That’s why Indiana Jones goes looking for the ark of the covenant at Tanis, in the delta, in Egypt, thinking maybe Shishak brought it back.”


While he’s at it, Bob Brier eludidates ark: “It’s called a ark, by the way, because ark means box. That why you get Noah’s ark. It’s really a big box that floated on the water, basically.”

You know, it’s not a big point, and certainly Bob does not extrapolate on it here, but in a way it is. Artwork of Jehovah’s Witnesses invariably portray Noah’s ark as a floating box. Church artwork almost never does. To them, it is a storybook boat with bow and stern. When my wife and I stayed in the Cincinnati Best Western because we’d been hurricaned out from our original destination, that morning in the breakfast bar nearly everyone else, family groups all, were headed to the Ark Encounter across the state border in Kentucky. A huge ark replica—with bow and stern. (and dinosaurs!)

These are not people who think the ark is fairy tale, for the most part. These are people who think the Bible flood account is true. If they are willing to remold such an obvious facet of the ark, who knows what else they are willing to remold?

*Notes from The History of Ancient Egypt: Bob Brier, part 19

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