The Word

The amazing discovery of the tomb of the ancient Egyptian King Tutankhamun in the early 20th century AD has been called the greatest archeological find of modern times. Next to the great pyramids deservedly called one of the Wonders of the ancient world, the dramatic uncovering of Tut’s tomb is rivaled only by the film “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

The contents of that tomb completely hidden away in the Egyptian desert for some four thousand years are truly remarkable. In that carefully designed tomb were found priceless treasures, including ancient chariots, well-constructed boats for the journey to the next world, magnificently crafted art and jewelry and containers and chairs of gold and precious stones, excellent carvings of the various gods of Egypt guarding over the deceased young king, and the beautifully designed golden crypts within crypts, and coffins within coffins, each intricately decorated by the finest artisans with inlaid stones of lovely colors, containing the mummified remains of the dead king himself.

Yet that great discovery pales in light of another occurring just a few years later and not too many miles north in the Judean desert. There in 1947, on the very eve of the re-born nation of Israel, in the tomblike caves of Qumran, a community of a people who leave no great edifices to the dead left a clay jar containing only a scroll of Hebrew words. The scroll had lain there undisturbed for two thousand years, on it inscribed the words of the Prophet Isaiah who had written them nearly three thousand years ago. The words inscribed on that goatskin parchment contain some of the most exalted thoughts ever introduced into human consciousness. Among them are predictions of a universal divine peace where men will beat their swords into plowshares to never again learn war, and peace will flow between Assyria and Egypt and Israel. And therein lies the picture of a new world of justice where the knowledge of God prevails and covers the earth, and the wolf and the lamb dwell peacefully together. In the scroll, now housed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, is also penned the detailed picture of the coming Messiah, innocent and yet bruised and rejected by his own people, taking upon himself the sins of the unjust to bear them away in mercy, and triumph over death itself to rise and be a light unto all nations. And in that scroll is prophesied the divine utterance that Israel will once again be born as a nation in a day, an event which occurred the very year after the scroll’s discovery, words destined to become historic reality. A far cry is this discovery of the elevating hopes of life for all humanity, now translated into every tongue, above the trinket-filled rooms vainly dedicated to the dust of one dead man’s bones.

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Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published five illustrated books of poetry, painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, and most recently produced THE JERUSALEM ILLUSTRATED BIBLE, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.