Mor Afrem says: Sheol (=the hell) is full of the men of Sodom, and the Assyrians: and the giants who were in the flood…..
----------Mor Afrem the Syrian (306-373 AD)- Eusebius of Caesarea (265-340 AD)- Tertullian of Carthage (160-250?AD)----
If we try to study, with our limitations, the works of the great scholar of the Syriac Church, Mor Afrem the Syrian, then you will become dumbfounded of his knowledge and insights he was able to put on paper. Mor Afrem was indeed a great scholar who had the ability to describe the invisible matters concerning the faith in such a way that many scholars of these days show a great respect to his works. The quality of this great scholar is best described by the St. Jacob of Sarug and says about mor Afrem,, This (Efrem) who became a crown of glory for all the Aramaeans, and through him they became near the spiritual splendors. He who became a great orator among the Syriacs."
Mor Afrem was indeed a great orator, a matchless poet who was able to write poems with great charisma where everybody shows respect to it. He wrote considerably writings in variety in which he always concentrated the attention on the Greatness, the Majesty and the invincibleness of the Lord God. Whether he is talking about the fasting, the crucifixion and the resurrection, or about the people and the time of the Flood, about mountains, about countries or peoples, or about the defeat of the Satan, he is doing that in a way where nobody is match for it. For example he is singing about the power of the ancient Empires of Persia, Egypt, Assyria, Sumria etc.. whereby he considers these Empires as a kind of opposition to the Power of the Almighty Lord God. He wrote so many works, that it is impossible to collect or the put in order all of them. He was so famous, that many of his works were translated to many other languages. He was not only a doctor to the Syriac Church, but was respected by the other churches as well.
The men of Sodom, the Assyrians and the giants of the time of Noah...
Like told before, mor Afrem wrote hymns on many subjects, too many to mention all of them. In his Nisibin Hymns, he is singing about the destruction of the Assyrian Empire and says,, , Sheol is full of the men of Sodom, and the Assyrians: and the giants who were in the flood….. (Nisibine Hyms, LIII (8) CONCERNING SATAN AND DEATH)
Sheol is a Syriac (Aramaic) word for the hell! It is extremely interesting to note here that mor Afrem simultaneously is talking about the men of Sodom, the Assyrians and the Giants of the time of Noah. What do these three people from different times and occasions have common with each other that Mor Afrem mentions all of them? What is the reason behind this? Well, a few remarks can be made about this issue, namely:
Here below a few remarks will be made regarding each of this people where mor Afrem is talking about in his Hymn.
1. Sodom and Gomorrah
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is famous because of the sexual immorality, which was widespread in the city. The committed sins by the people of Sodom and Gomorrah is described as,, … Sodom, whose people were wicked and sinned against the Lord “ (Genesis 13:13)
The committed sins and the wickedness of the people of Sodom were so awful that even the Lord came down from the heaven to observe the things which were told about this city. In Genesis 18:16-33 we read about the conversation between Abraham and the Lord regarding the sins committed in Sodom and Gomorra. The Lord says to Abraham,, There are terrible accusations against Sodom and Gomorrah, and their sin is very great” (Genesis 18:20)
The two angels of the Lord goes to Sodom to examine the accusations and were guests of Lot, the nephew of Abraham (Genesis 19:1-26). However, the reception of these two angels by the people of Sodom is not really praiseworthy as can be read in Genesis 19:4-5,, Before the guests went to bed, the men of Sodom surrounded the house. All the men of the city, both young and old, were there. They called out to Lot and asked, “ Where are the men who came to stay with you tonight? Bring them out to us!” The men of Sodom wanted to have sex with them “
As a result of this, the judgment of the Lord over Sodom and Gomorrah were carried out as it can be read in Genesis 19:24-25, namely: “ Suddenly the Lord rained burning sulfur on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and destroyed them and the whole valley, along with all the people there and everything that grew on the land”
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is regularly mentioned in the Bible by numerous prophets in order to warn the mankind that one cannot insult the Majesty of the Creator of the Heaven and the earth without punishment. Here below, a few examples are given:
It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss deeper the reason behind the immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah. However, in general, the men become immoral and lawless when there is nothing to worry about in the life and there is a total freedom of life. When the economical situation is good, often it is observed that the men starts gradually to take an independent position towards the Lord God and goes his own way of life without showing considering for the Lord God. The reason behind the immorality and rebellion of Sodom and Gomorrah, with the result of the judgment by the Lord God, has to do with the incredible economical success, which was achieved by Sodom and Gomorrah. It was for a good reason that Lot, the nephew of Abraham, settled himself in Sodom and Gomorrah, since it was from the economical point of view a great welfare state as it can be read in Genesis 13:10, “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it [was] well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, [even] as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar “
…. as the garden of the Lord…..These words are not joking about the beauty of Sodom and Gomorrah, on the contrary, they express the great economical situation. Unfortunately, Sodom and Gomorrah became too proud of itself, self-assured and broke all the contact with the Lord God, by ignoring His laws. That is also the very reason of the complain of the Lord God when He says,, She (= Sodom) and her daughters were proud because they had plenty to eat and lived in peace and quiet, but they did not take care of the poor and the underprivileged. They were proud and stubborn and did the things that I hate, so I destroyed them, as you well know” (Ezekiel 16:48)
2. The Assyrians
Likewise the people of Sodom and Gomorrah the Assyrians were proud, arrogance, brutal, shameless and self-assured. In 2 Kings 19:10-13 they call the Lord God a “cheater” by saying,, “The god you are trusting in has told you that you will not fall into my hands, but don’t let that deceive you. You have heard what an Assyrian emperor does with to any country he decides to destroy. Do you think that you can escape? …"
This of course tells something about the self-pride and the arrogance of the Assyrians whereby they consider nobody a match for themselves. Perhaps is this the very reason that the prophet Nahum says, “From you, Nineveh, there came a man full of wicked (= satanic) schemes, who plotted against the Lord (Nahum 1:11)
The early church fathers were well informed about the kingdoms of the antiquity who had been ruling over Mesopotamia and other kingdoms as well, as for example Chaldeans, Hethities, Egypts, Elamities, Ludians, Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians etc.. In their writings, they many times refer to these kingdoms as examples to explain the things they want to. As to the Assur/Assyrians, the church fathers always identify this with the evil/Satan. For example, the East-Aramean (“ Nestorian”) bishop Bar Bahlul of the Syriac Church of the East explains in his dictionary the meaning of “ Assur/Assyrians” as “ The enemy”, that is to say Satan, the evil. The famous church historian Eusebius of Ceasarea and Tertilianus clearest expresses this terminology. This will be explained in detail later in this easy. Regarding the immoral behavior of the Assyrians we read,, Doomed is the lying, murderous city, full of wealth to be looted and plundered! Listen! The crack of the whip, the rattle of the wheels, the gallop of horses, the jolting of chariots! Horsemen charge, swords flash, spear gleam! Corpses are piled high, deed bodies without number- men stumble over them! Nineveh the whore is being punished. Attractive and full of deadly charms, she enchanted nations and enslaved them. The Lord almighty says, I will punish you, Nineveh! I will strip you naked and let the nations see you, see you in all your shame. I will treat you with contempt and cover you with filth. People will stare at you in horror. All who see you will shrink back. They will say, Nineveh lies in ruins! Who has any sympathy for her? " (Nahum 3:1-7)
Mor Afrem says regarding the immorality of the Assyrians,, “ And though, O my Lord, my crimes are many, are my offences so heavy, that Thou shouldst make over a chaste woman, mother of chaste daughters, to foul Assyria, mother of defiled daughters?" (Nisibene Hymns VI –7)
More commandments regarding Assur/Assyrians:
3. The giants of the time of Noah, the great flood…
The third group of people where Mor Afrem is talking about in his Nisibine hymns, are the (sinners) of the time of Noah who were wiped out by the great flood. Regarding the situation of the time of Noah we read in the Bible,, When the Lord saw how wicked everyone on earth was and how evil their thoughts were all the time, He was sorry that he had ever made them and put them on the earth. He was so filled with regret that He said, “ I will wipe out these people I have created, and also the animals and the birds, because I am sorry that I made any of them”. But the Lord was pleased with Noah” (Genesis 6:5-8)
Again, the immorality is caused by self-pride, self-assuredness and arrogance, which always leads to the stubborn independency of the men in relation to the Lord God. The human being wants lead a life without the intervention of the Lord God, this is called in our time:” Individualism”, to make the decision in your life without to be bounded to whomever, because – and that is the spirit of our time – everybody should have the right to take his own decisions without any restriction of morality whatsoever. Our modern way of life “ of Individualism” is in fact nothing new under the sun, the things happened in the past are just put in other shape. It is dramatic to read that the moral decay and lawlessness was at such a high extent in the time of Noah that the Lord says how wicked everyone on earth was and how evil their thoughts were all the time. In Genesis 6:11-13 we read more about the lawlessness,, “ … but everyone else was evil in God’s sight, and violence had spread everywhere. God looked at the world and saw that it was evil, for the people were all living evil lives. God said to Noah, “ I have decided to put an end to all mankind. I will destroy them completely, because the world is full of their violent deeds…. I am going to send a flood on the earth to destroy every living being (Genesis 6:17). Mor Afrem is talking about the Giants of the time of Noah. Regarding these Giants we read,, When mankind had spread all over the world, and girls were being born. Some of the Son Gods saw that these girls were beautiful, so they took the ones they liked (Genesis 6:2)… In those days, and even later, there were Giants on the earth who were descendants of human women and the Sons God. They were the great heroes and famous men of long ago. (Genesis 6:4)
This is the situation just before the great flood whereby the moral decay and lawlessness have reached a climax, for we read they took the ones they liked (Which is also the reality in our time). The rebellion against the Lord God has reached a high level whereby all the standards and values are ignored. The Giants in those days were born because the “Sons God” had sexual intercourse with the girls of those days. It is not for sure that these Giants are literal Giants in the sense of their size. At other hand, it can be said that by a normal intercourse between man and woman of a normal size logically speaking impossible a “Giant” baby can be born. Another point of discussion, which needs to be clarified, is the term “Sons God”. Are these “Sons God” beings of flesh and blood or does the Holy Book mean something else? According to Mor Afrem the “Sons God” are the children of the believers who were married with the daughters of unbelievers whereby children were born with a sort of demonic power, which can be described as spiritual Giants. This explanation is very old one and was maintained for a long time. However, there is another possibility, with more biblical fundament, regarding the meaning of the Sons God.
From the above quotations the idea is amplified that the “Sons God” or “ gods” are heavenly beings, more specific: Angels, the fallen angels to be precisely. If this assumption is true, still some problems remains un-clarified, that means: how can the fallen angels have intercourse with girls of the time of Noah, for we read clearly “they took the ones they liked” ? More research is needed, to explain this!
There is an apocryphal book called Henoch, a book which does not belong to the Canon of the Bible. In this not-canonical book of Henoch something is revealed regarding the behaviour of “Sons God” in relation to the girls of those days. In 1 Henoch 6.2 we read,, And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.' (1 Henoch 6.2)
The angels, the children of the heaven, or the Sons God have mixed them up with the beautiful and comely daughters of the men. In 1 Henoch 7:1-2 we read,, And all the others (= angels) together with them took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them, ….. And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells.. (1 Henoch 7.1- 2)
From these quotations, indeed we may have the impression that with the “ Sons God” the fallen angels are meant. If indeed this is the case that the fallen angels have had intercourse with the women of the time of Noah, than it is considerable that from this relationship children were born who, from the spiritual point of view, can be seen as “Giants” in the sense of their extreme high (demonic) intelligence by comparison with the children born from a normal relation between man and woman. In Henoch 15: 3-4 the fallen angels are accused of their behaviour with regard to the daughters of the men. We read,, Wherefore have ye left the high, holy, and eternal heaven, and lain with women, and defiled yourselves with the daughters of men and taken to yourselves wives, and done like the children of earth, and begotten giants (as your) sons? And though ye were holy, spiritual, living the eternal life, you have defiled yourselves with the blood of women, and have begotten (children) with the blood of flesh, and, as the children of men, have lusted after flesh and blood as those also do who die and perish. (1 Henoch 15:3-4)
The fallen angels were created as holy beings to serve in the heavenly world. However, these angels followed the Satan by his fall with the result that they gave themselves to the immoral slavery of the humans of flesh and blood.
In the previous story we have discussed the three groups of peoples in question where Mor Afrem says about them,, Sheol is full of the men of Sodom, and the Assyrians: and the giants who were in the flood….
Regarding the destruction of these three peoples, a few remarks can be made. Nobody is denying the complete annihilation of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah and the people of the time of Noah. The question is: How were they wiped out? It is well known that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire from the heaven, scientists say: It was a rain of meteorites. The Giants of the time of Noah were destroyed by the great flood. Nobody is denying these fact happened long time ago. The question can be asked: Why is Mor Afrem comparing the men of Sodom with the Assyrians and with the giants of the time of Noah? Why does Mor Afrem involve the former Assyrians of antiquity and not Egyptians or other people? Well, the simple answer is: Because they are disappeared too, by the direct intervention of the Lord God. How precisely? Well ..….
……by thunderbolts from Heaven……
Eusebius Pamphili (265-340 AC), the bishop of Caesarea from Israel, also called “ The father of the Church history” says about the destruction of the Assyrians “On the overthrow of the Assyrian Empire, which was destroyed by thunderbolts from Heaven……"Truly, then, the poisonous race may be said to be extinct. Death himself is extinct, and the truth of the resurrection sealed. Again, the Assyrian race is gone, (His book: "TO THE ASSEMBLY OF THE SAINTS.")
Interesting is here to put the attention on the theological/ spiritual side of the story. In this very quotation of Eusebius of Caesarea we read about the death, the sin, the evil, the Satan and the poison in the personage of the former Assyrians. As told before, the early Church fathers used the term Assur/Assyrians to denote the Satan, the evil and the sin. Silly enough, some illiterate people, who want to trace their origin back to the former Assyrians, seize the opportunity to misguide people by saying that the Syriac Church fathers frequently are talking about the Assyrians, without willing to understand the context of their writings. Moreover, this forms for them “the prove” to underline the Assyrian continuity. This is very silly and at the same time foolish.
By the resurrection of the Lord, the death, the poison race, the sin, the Assyrian race is for always destroyed. As the death is destroyed by the literal resurrection of the Lord, in the same way the former Assyrians are literal destroyed. Dear reader, please give attention to the fact that Eusebius says,, the Assyrian race is gone. Herewith the Victory of the Lord over the power of the Satan is expressed and at the same time, the disappearing of the former Assyrians by a heavenly intervention is underlined.
Another example is the fall of the Satan, which is explained in a personage of a human being. In Isaiah 14:11-17 we read about the fall of the Satan whereby the king of Babel as a personage is used. With a very good reason the comparisons is made between Satan and the king of Babel, since the latter one got everything from the Lord, until he became stubborn and rebelled against the Lord. It is an event, which in the past really has happened and is used to describe the fall of the Satan. The reverse story is also true: Like Satan is fallen because of his pride; in the same way, also the king of Babel is fallen because of his pride. To formulate this in other way: Like the power of the Satan, the evil, the sin, the death are destroyed by the resurrection of the Lord, in the same way also the former Assyrians were destroyed by the direct intervention from the heaven.
Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullian, a lawyer from Carthage (2e –3e BC)
Tertullian was a lawyer from the Carthage (Africa, Tunisia) and an exegetical writer. In his book, “ An answer to the Jews” in chapter 9 he says about the birth of Jesus Christ,, "Begin we, therefore, to prove that the BIRTH (161) of Christ was announced by prophets; as Isaiah (e.g.,) foretells, "Hear ye, house of David; no petty contest have ye with men, since God is proposing a struggle. Therefore God Himself will give you a sign; Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and ye shall call his name Emmanuel" (which is, interpreted, "God with us"): "butter and honey shall he eat;": "since, ere the child learn to call father or mother, he shall receive the power of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria, in opposition to the king of the Assyrians."
The terminology,, in opposition to the king of the Assyrians,, is five times mentioned in chapter 9. Jesus Christ is born to conquer the king of Assyrians. This is strange, isn’t it? Who is this king of Assyrians? If we read further in chapter 9, Tertullian explains us the meaning of the king of Assyrians. He says,, "On this wise, accordingly, (Scripture) entitled the magi also with the appellation of "Samaritans,"--"despoiled" (of that) which they had had in common with the Samaritans, as we have said--idolatry in opposition to the Lord. (It adds), "in opposition," moreover, "to the king of the Assyrians,"--in opposition to the devil, who to this hour thinks himself to be reigning, if he detrudes the saints from the religion of God.
Very, very interesting that Tertullian is presenting here the King of the Assyrians as the Satan himself. As magic was a synonymy for Samaritans, in the same way the king of the Assyrians was a synonymy for Satan. Such as quoted before, the prophet Nahum says about the former Assyrians, “From you, Nineveh, there came a man full of wicked (= satanic) schemes, who plotted against the Lord (Nahum1:11).
Dear reader, from the previous explanation, it is very clear how the Church fathers thought in their era regarding the former Assyrians. For this reason, is that not very strange that some people nowadays identify themselves with the former Assyrians? It is very sad, isn’t? By sticking their houses with the photos of the former Assyrian idols, they invite and offer demonic powers in their homes. If one has the enemy of Jesus Christ in his home, how can he believe in Jesus Christ himself?