Has Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream Come True?

Has Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream Come True?

U.S. federal government

Fifty years ago Wednesday, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington. A well-known sentence from the message encapsulated his vision: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

America’s civil rights movement and racial balancing act have taken many twists and turns in the five decades since those words were spoken. What would Dr. King think of the current racial climate if he were alive today? Are modern leaders—who claim to be continuing King’s work—really fighting to achieve the colorblind society of judgement based on character that he envisioned?

For the answer, take a look at one of the most high-profile news stories in recent memory: the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.

The case was about whether or not the evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman had acted in self-defense. But activists, newspapers, columnists, bloggers, tweeters and politicians—including the U.S. president—were largely uninterested in the evidence. Most focused instead on another trial that’s still underway today. In this ongoing trial, the culprit is white racism, the offense is harming black people, and the verdict is always the same: guilty.

That’s the unyielding narrative pushed by modern activists. Anything that contradicts it is ignored or labeled as racist.

In Florida v. Zimmerman, there was no shortage of evidence shining light on what Dr. King would have called “the content of Trayvon Martin’s character”: A text message record showed that the 17-year-old picked fights often and wanted a rematch with a certain opponent because he “hadn’t bled enough” the first time Trayvon overpowered him; a Facebook post showed Trayvon’s half-brother acknowledging his fighting expertise and asking Trayvon to teach him how to brawl; another Facebook post showed that Trayvon used an illegal codeine-based drug known to cause paranoia and panic attacks; school records showed that he had been suspended for possession of illegal drugs; a search of his backpack produced a burglary tool and some stolen property.

Zimmerman’s attorneys wanted this evidence presented to jurors because it could help determine questions relevant to the case about Martin’s character—primarily if it was possible that he was the aggressor in the fatal confrontation. But Prosecutor John Guy said jurors shouldn’t be presented with it because, “It would mislead the jury and be prejudicial.” The judge agreed and the jurors were not allowed to know about Trayvon’s history of violence and lawbreaking.

Since media outlets, political leaders and activists were focused mostly on the unyielding narrative, they did little to bring these findings into the public eye. Many actually seemed to do all they could to push aside details about the nature of Trayvon’s character in order to direct the focus entirely on the color of his skin. Evidence of this push is available in a litany of statements from all kinds of activists and extremists upset by Zimmerman’s acquittal. But for a representative sample statement, we can go straight to the leader of the free world: “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” President Obama said a few days after the ruling. He continued:

There are very few African-American men in this country who have not had the experience of being followed when they are shopping at a department store. That includes me …. The African-American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws, everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.

Between the lines of this surcharged statement, the president made it clear that he believed Trayvon was targeted only because of his race. The unyielding narrative trumped the facts, laws and ruling of the case. Race was what mattered. Columnist Roger Simon said the president’s statements were “the work of a reactionary, someone who consciously/unconsciously wants to push our nation back to the 1950s” (July 13).

During anniversary celebrations last Wednesday, the president urged Americans to “keep on marching” to fulfill Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. It was a curious admonition, given his fixation on skin color and disregard for character, both of which contradict King’s message.

Trayvon’s texts and the other pieces of evidence don’t prove what happened the night of the tragic killing, and they certainly don’t prove that anyone’s death was justified, but the way they were ignored as all emphasis was given to skin color is the diametric opposite of King’s dream.

Shortly after Zimmerman’s acquittal, an image depicting Martin Luther King Jr. wearing Trayvon’s now-iconic hoodie went viral. The political art was an attempt to connect Trayvon’s death to the struggles of America’s civil rights movement, and was also a statement saying both men were killed because of their race. But, to connect Dr. King to the recent incident makes a mockery of what he stood for. King’s ideology demanded, above all, that a person be judged based on personal character instead of race. He would have viewed those who tried to suppress, downplay and ignore details about Trayvon’s character because of his race as racists.

Dr. King’s dream has not been realized by America’s political leaders and activists, but what about in the country’s policy of affirmative action? The policy was created to prevent employers, colleges and the like from discriminating against people based on race. It originally served a noble purpose, but what message does it send to today’s black people? We think you can’t achieve at the same level as white people, and we don’t expect you to. That’s OK though. You shouldn’t try to perform up to that level. You probably can’t. But we will hire/accept/promote you anyway, regardless of your performance or character.

It’s a destructive and racist message. Granting favor based on race instead of qualifications and character is racism. And previous racist sins can’t be atoned for by more racism. Race-conscious politicians, media outlets and programs betray King’s dream of a colorblind society. Instead of healing, they heighten racial sensitivity and increase tensions among people of all races.

Where are these rising tensions leading?

Fifty years ago, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, “Racial tensions, passions and hatreds are being deliberately stirred by organized planning. It will explode into mass violence that will stagger the imagination!” (Plain Truth, October 1963).

Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has proclaimed that same warning for years. Five years ago he said the U.S.’s simmering racial frictions will erupt into widespread violence. “This is not a small problem. We must understand where the race issue is leading us. The end result is going to be worse than anything you imagine,” he wrote on July 21, 2008.

To understand God’s views on the subject and how true peace for all races will ultimately replace the tensions and violence, order a free copy of Mr. Flurry’s booklet Ezekiel: The End-Time Prophet. The chapter called “Terrorism and Race Riots” is especially relevant to this topic.

The Wall Built in 52 Days

The Wall Built in 52 Days

Courtesy Dr. Eilat Mazar

From the October 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

For years, adjacent to the wall of King David’s palace stood a large stone tower archaeologists believed to have been built during the Hasmonean dynasty (142-37 b.c.). In the summer of 2007, a section of that tower, built on a steep slope just outside the palace, began to give way, indicating it was on the verge of collapse. What started as a simple task of repairing a collapsing tower turned into a six-week dig—and a fascinating new discovery.

On Nov. 8, 2007, at an archaeological conference at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv, Eilat Mazar explained, “Under the tower, we found the bones of two large dogs—and under those bones, a rich assemblage of pottery and finds from the Persian period [sixth to fourth centuries b.c.]. No later finds from that period were found under the tower.” The pottery is what clearly dates the time period for the tower’s construction. Had the tower been built during the second or first century b.c., Dr. Mazar explained, sixth-century pottery underneath the wall would leave a chronological gap of several hundred years. Therefore it was clear, based on the pottery dating, that the tower was built three to four centuries earlier than previously thought.

What was happening at that time in Jerusalem’s history?

In the fifth century b.c., the city lay in ruins. Its walls were broken down; its gates were ashes.

Hearing about the great affliction of the inhabitants there, Nehemiah, a Jew who served in the court of the Persian King Artaxerxes, appealed to God for intervention. The king noticed his distress, and Nehemiah explained that he had a heavy heart because the city, “the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire” (Nehemiah 2:3). He asked the king for leave so that he might coordinate several construction projects in Jerusalem. Nehemiah made this request in the 20th year of Artaxerxes, about 445 b.c. (verse 1).

The king granted his request and provided enough materials for Nehemiah to rebuild the temple gates, a house for himself, and the wall around the city. It was this last project that Nehemiah is most famed for completing. As the Bible describes it, he was so driven to erect that barrier to protect the Jews from their enemies that he motivated a crew to work nonstop. They completed the wall in a mere 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15).

At the 2007 archaeological conference, Dr. Mazar announced to 500 attendees that she had discovered this famed wall of Nehemiah. The tower, which formed part of it, had been constructed during the Persian Empire’s heyday, which is precisely when the Bible says Nehemiah rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem.

Today, many of the landmarks described in Nehemiah’s book can now be clearly identified, thanks in large part to the work of Eilat Mazar. She has been working hard and fast, just as Nehemiah did 2,500 years ago.

Wealth of History

Wealth of History

Ouria Tadmor/copyright: Eilat Mazar

An ancient Jewish treasure surfaces near the Temple Mount. Why was it left there?
From the October 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

Archaeological digs on the Ophel have occurred on and off since the middle of the 19th century. But only in recent years have royal structures been uncovered in Jerusalem that closely correlate to the biblical descriptions of King Solomon’s massive building projects in the books of Kings and Chronicles.

This past summer, in the most recent phase of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Ophel excavations, Eilat Mazar and her team set out to uncover more remains from the Solomonic period—and they did. But no one expected the most stunning discovery of all to come in the first week of the dig, after excavators had barely broken through the surface of a new area.

There, just a few centimeters beneath modern debris, they began to expose a hoard of rare gold coins, silver and gold jewelry. And among these treasures was a real archaeological gem: a large gold medallion ornamented with a menorah, the iconic Jewish symbol of a seven-branched candlestick.

“This happens only once in a lifetime,” said Dr. Mazar.

This fantastic collection was discovered just about 50 yards south of the Temple Mount, inside a Byzantine structure that dates back to the sixth century. It had most likely been carefully packed and hidden by a prominent group of Jews during the Persian conquest of Jerusalem at the beginning of the seventh century a.d.

Just like the massive stones King Solomon used to build his royal complex (article, page 10), this newly discovered treasure, after being buried for 14 centuries, revives a riveting and powerful testimony from a long-forgotten chapter in the 3,000-year-old history of Jewish Jerusalem.

A Fantastic Find

This is the latest of a series of extraordinary finds Dr. Mazar has unearthed in recent years. Working on behalf of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, she has been uncovering Jerusalem’s history for decades. In 2009, she renewed work in the Ophel, at the foot of the Temple Mount, which she had once excavated with her grandfather, Prof. Benjamin Mazar, in the 1970s. A second phase of excavation in 2012 yielded her most recent remarkable find: a piece of pottery bearing the oldest alphabetical inscription yet to be found in Jerusalem (article, page 13).

This past April 22, Dr. Mazar and her staff went back into the field to continue the second phase of the renewed Ophel excavations. Just five days in, workers Caridad French and Ahinoam Meyers were excavating in a Byzantine-era structure when they uncovered a large gold earring. The find was particularly startling because of its proximity to modern debris. As they continued, the second earring appeared, and then a number of gold coins began emerging, strewn across the area.

Further excavation carried out by the team, including Dr. Mazar herself, revealed the menorah medallion buried in a depression in the floor and a cache of jewelry items tucked underneath it. Remnants of fabric found on the items indicate that they were at one time packaged in two separate cloth purses.

The first bundle, containing the menorah medallion and other jewelry, was found undisturbed where it had been carefully hidden in the chalky floor. The second had a more dramatic fate. Its items were found scattered across the floor; apparently there had not been enough time to bury them.

Dr. Mazar and her team believe the menorah medallion, which hangs from a gold chain, and the other jewelry items found with it were probably used to adorn a Torah scroll—a practice that Jews have been known to do for millennia. If so, the medallion and accompanying items would be the earliest known Torah scroll ornaments ever discovered. This appears to be corroborated by the appearance of the Torah symbol on the medallion itself. A similar medallion displaying a Torah scroll alongside a menorah can be found on display in the Jewish Museum in London, though its origins are unknown.

The second bundle held 36 gold coins, two gold earrings, a broken gold-plated silver pendant and a pure silver ingot—probably all items that a Jewish resident of the city had intended to use as payment.

Numismatics expert Lior Sandberg, who examined the coins, concludes that the last possible date for their minting is a.d. 602. Therefore, the gold coins and their accompanying items must have been abandoned sometime after this date. Dr. Mazar postulates that the treasure was abandoned around the time of the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in a.d. 614.

Why Was It Left Behind?

Historical circumstances give us clues as to why such a treasure would have been left in Jerusalem.

After the city fell under Persian control, Jews flocked to Jerusalem, intent on returning and rebuilding their homeland. However, history recounts that as the Persians’ power waned, so did their support for the Jewish population. To appease the rising power of Christendom, the Persians betrayed the Jews and expelled them from Jerusalem.

Sandberg wrote, “The cache was abandoned after 602 c.e., most probably after the Persian conquest of Jerusalem and after the Persians changed their attitude to the Jews and allowed their expulsion from the city. The fact that the gold was not properly hidden nor taken back attests to the tragic circumstances that led to its abandonment.”

In her new book, The Discovery of the Menorah Treasure at the Foot of the Temple Mount, Dr. Mazar theorizes that the collection of Torah scroll adornments and the purse containing coins and other means of payment accompanied a group of prominent Jews sent as representatives from their community to build a synagogue in Jerusalem.

“It is not inconceivable that it was earmarked as a contribution toward the rebuilding of the temple itself. This we cannot know,” she wrote. “What is certain is that their mission, whatever it was, was unsuccessful. The treasure was abandoned, and its owners could never return to collect it.”

‘The House of My Fathers’ Sepulchres’

From the October 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

When Nehemiah appealed to King Artaxerxes to be relieved of his duties so he could return to Jerusalem to rebuild its wall, he said, “Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?” (Nehemiah 2:3). The Hebrew word for “place” is often translated “house,” as in Isaiah 22:22, where it refers to the key of the “house” of David. Nehemiah was upset because the house of his father’s tombs lay in waste. Anciently, the kings of Judah (and Israel) were buried in their house (Isaiah 14:18).

Nehemiah is well known for repairing the protective wall around Jerusalem. But since he twice referred to the decayed state of the area around the sepulchres (Nehemiah 2:3, 5), it is likely that, after repairing the wall, he concentrated on rebuilding David’s palace and the place of his fathers’ sepulchres. In verse 8, Nehemiah secured a letter from the king authorizing him to retrieve timber in order “to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into.” Some commentaries speculate that the “house that I shall enter” refers to David’s palace—that Nehemiah reconstructed that house for himself. This great man was certainly concerned about “the place [or house] of my fathers’ sepulchres”—well aware of the tombs where, for centuries, noble Jewish kings were lain.

The City’s Earliest Inscriptions

The City’s Earliest Inscriptions

gali tibbon/afp/getty images, photo: ouria tadmor/copyright: eilat mazar

From the October 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

Another thrilling find of the 2010 season was a fragment of a 3,000-year-old clay tablet covered with cuneiform script. Discovered in the Ophel dig and currently on display at the Davidson Center in Jerusalem’s Old City, experts say the thumb-size splinter is the oldest written document ever found in Jerusalem.

Akkadian Tablet

In 2010, Dr. Mazar’s excavation team found a clay fragment containing 14th-century b.c. Akkadian cuneiform script. The fragment appears to have been part of a tablet, and contains the oldest text ever found in Jerusalem.

Archaeologists deciphered the words “you,” “you were,” “them,” “to do” and “later” on the fragment.

According to Hebrew University Prof. Wayne Horowitz, the high quality of the writing “indicates that the person responsible for creating the tablet was a first-class scribe.” Dr. Mazar believes the fragment likely came from a royal court.

“In those days, you would expect to find a first-class scribe only in a large, important place,” Horowitz said. He also explained the fragment was made from Jerusalem clay, attesting to Jerusalem’s importance as a central city of the area at that time.

The 14th century b.c. predates the ancient Israelites’ entrance into the Promised Land, but Bible history reveals Jerusalem was an important city prior to King David’s rule. Abraham paid tithes to King Melchizedek in the ancient city of Jerusalem (Genesis 14:17-20), and the city later became a Jebusite stronghold (1 Chronicles 11:4).

The tiny fragment is 4/5 inch long and 2/5 inch thick. It was found while wet-sifting fill dirt from the Ophel, between the Old City’s southern wall and the City of David.

Later, in the 2012 season, a remarkable inscription was found on the rim of an ancient vessel. The vessel itself is dated to the 11th or 10th century b.c., the very time of David and Solomon. The exciting part of this inscription is that it is the oldest alphabetical writing ever to be discovered in Israel.

Ophel Inscription

This inscription was discovered in the final days of the 2012 excavation season and was revealed to the public in July 2013. It is incised along the rim of a large pithos, a neckless ceramic jar.

“The inscription was engraved near the edge of the jar before it was fired, and only a fragment of it has been found, along with fragments of six large jars of the same type,” according to Eilat Mazar’s press release. “The fragments were used to stabilize the earth fill under the second floor of the building they were discovered in, which dates to the Early Iron IIA period (10th century b.c.). An analysis of the jars’ clay composition indicates that they are all of a similar make, and probably originate in the central hill country near Jerusalem.”

Initially, the excavation team and epigraphic experts believed the language to be Canaanite, but further examination suggests the inscription is Hebrew, making it the oldest Hebrew inscription ever found in the city. “Dated to the 10th century b.c., the artifact predates by 250 years the earliest known Hebrew inscription from Jerusalem, which is from the period of King Hezekiah at the end of the eighth century b.c.” (ibid).

Dr. Gershon Galil of Haifa University believes one of the words on the inscription could be the Hebrew word for wine, possibly indicating the vessel was used to store that timeless beverage.

Enemies of a Prophet

Enemies of a Prophet

Courtesy Dr. Eilat Mazar

From the October 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

During the last days of the kingdom of Judah, the Prophet Jeremiah warned the residents of Jerusalem of their impending captivity at the hands of the Babylonian army. Instead of heeding that warning message, the princes of King Zedekiah’s administration attacked the messenger and cast him into a miry dungeon (Jeremiah 38:1-6).

Judah’s princes advised the king not to surrender to Babylon. Meanwhile, God used Jeremiah to inform the king and Jerusalem’s inhabitants that surrender was actually the only way to survive. The king deliberated: Should he heed the prophet’s counsel, surrender Jerusalem and possibly save his people? Or should he capitulate to his princes, kill the prophet and prepare the nation for war? The fate of the nation rested on his verdict.

It’s a gripping story, told in the book of Jeremiah. But is it true?

The best way to verify its authenticity would be to discover tangible proof corroborating the events and characters described. Jeremiah recorded one of his confrontations with the princes in chapter 38. In fact, in verse 1 the prophet even identified the names of his accusers, two of whom were “Jehucal, son of Shelemiah,” and “Gedaliah, son of Pashur.”

In 2005, Eilat Mazar was digging in the northern section of the City of David when one of her colleagues spotted a small piece of clay lying in the dust. It turned out to be a seal, the kind used to affix a cord tied around a papyrus scroll. The tiny artifact bore a three-line Paleo-Hebrew inscription: “Belonging to Yehucal, son of Shelemiyahu, son of Shovi.”

This was the seal of Jehucal.

Three years later, Dr. Mazar and her team set about enlarging the dig, a process that included wet-sifting debris they had excavated just a few yards from the location of the Jehucal bulla. After washing away 2,600 years of dirt and dust, Mazar found herself staring at another bulla. This one read, “Gedalyahu ben Pashur,” or, Belonging to Gedaliah, son of Pashur.

It was the seal of Gedaliah.

These bullae are extremely precious discoveries. As Mazar told the Trumpet not long after the Gedaliah bulla was found, “It’s not often that such discoveries happen in which real figures of the past shake off the dust of history and so vividly revive the stories of the Bible.”

These original two seal impressions are currently on display in Armstrong Auditorium, on the campus of Herbert W. Armstrong College in Edmond, Oklahoma (article, page 20).