In The Beginning

chapter one

THE CARAVAN


The Caravan

In the Holy Land during the Wars of the Crusades, crusaders defended a seaport being besieged by Muslims. The siege had lasted almost a year. The fighting had been violent, many had died.

Suddenly, trumpets sounded. Instantly the fighting stopped. A camel train appeared, one camel plodding along in front of the next - a long line stretching back into the distance. The Arab armies parted; the gates to the city opened, the drawbridges dropped. One after another, camel after camel - an endless chain of camels plodded into the city. Two thousand of them.
It was a smaller camel train, all that was left of 20,000 animals that had arrived at a terminal city inland and had been divided into smaller trains and sent on to their final destinations. On the back of each animal rested a cargo so precious that it could have made a man rich for life - if he could but seize it. But few tried. Those who tried and failed were punished with a painful death.

Once in the city the camel drivers directed their charges through twisting, narrow streets down to the harbor. There their cargoes were off-loaded by sweating stevedores who re-loaded them on waiting Christian ships. Then, flying flags bearing the Christian cross, the ships set sail through the blockading Saracen fleet, which parted to let them pass. As soon as the last ship had departed, the Saracen ships re-established their blockade, the camels departed, the gates closed, the drawbridge raised, and arrows began to fly and large rocks again were catapulted against enemies as the fighting re-commenced.

How was it possible for both Christians and Saracens, enemies to the death, to suddenly stop their warfare and cooperate to protect and help the caravan owner taking his goods from the point of manufacture to the point of sale?

This is the same situation we have in the world today. It is a situation that takes careful planning and numerous private agreements. It can best be understood by telling the story of the wolf and the sheep.

First Problem - Unfriendly Gods

In order for a wolf to eat sheep he must first gain entry into the sheepfold. If he can't get into the sheepfold, he can't eat sheep.
His first major problem is to pass by the watchman to get into the sheepfold. If the watchman objects, this can be difficult, as shown in the following example of Josephus.

Josephus was the general in charge of putting Galilee in a state of defense against Roman invasion. The province desperately needed cooking oil. The Greek merchants nearby had abundant cooking oil for sale, but Josephus would not buy from strangers. Instead, he wrote the following letter to the authorities in Jerusalem:

"Now I (Josephus) was entrusted with the public affairs there (in Galilee) by the people of Jerusalem ... since they had not oil ... (Jerusalem should) provide a sufficient quantity of such oil for them lest they should be forced to make use of oil that came from the Greeks, and thereby transgress their own laws." Life of Flavius Josephus, v13.

Josephus explained the reason for his stand so that it would be understood by the readers of his history:

"Nor do we delight in merchandise, nor in such a mixture with other men as arises from it ... having a fruitful country for our habitation, we take pains in cultivating that only. Our principal care ... is ... to educate our children well; ... to observe the laws that have been given us ... Since ... there was no occasion offered us ... for intermixing among the Greeks, as they had had for mixing among the Egyptians, by their intercourse of exporting and importing their several goods; as they also mixed with the Phoenicians, who lived by the seaside, by means of their love of lucre in trade and merchandise." Flavius Josephus Against Apion 1:12

Josephus spoke of transgressing the Law. He was speaking of the Law of his God dealing with strangers. This Law nullified the statutes of Rome whose reason for existence was the trade profits to be gained with different nations and peoples. The Law of Israel caused foreign goods to lie unbought. This impacted business, cost taxes, and undermined the reason for the existence of the Roman Empire. These are some of the Laws:

"If thou has stricken thy hand with a stranger (Heb: zwr - racial alien), thou art snared with the words of thy mouth." Pr. 6:1-2
"They shall not dwell in thy land; and thou shall drive them out before thee." Ex 23:31.
"They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me." Ex 23:33.

Laws such as these hindered trade. The God that demanded obedience to them was the prime enemy.

Second Problem - Protection

The second great problem that the wolf must overcome is the problem of rams angered by the violation of the Law. An aroused ram is a fearful animal. He can kill a wolf. If a wolf enters a sheepfold and the alarm is given by the watchman, the rams will surround the wolf and kill it in minutes. If the wolf enters the sheepfold with the permission of the watchman, he may still have to deal with upset rams who sense the wolf's presence. The wolf first needs permission and then he needs protection.
The problem of protection is solved when the wolf finds a ram whose greed transcends his loyalty to his God. The wolf uses his wealth to make that ram a powerful war lord - a king. As king he can then be an efficient bodyguard for the wolf.

A successful wolf must deal with both problems. He must first bribe the watchman, and then he must hire a king to be his bodyguard. Only then can the wolf safely enter the sheepfold and eat sheep.

When both of these problems were solved, the rich camel caravan was able to pass through the Saracen army into the besieged Christian city and load its goods onto Christian ships. This is why the Saracen fleet parted to let the Christian ships sail through unmolested. The merchant had persuaded the Saracen religious leader to let him pass. The mullahs told the Saracen Emir that Allah approved of the trade. The Saracen Emir told his army to let the caravans through - and they did.

Next, the merchant persuaded Christian priests to let the camels pass. The priests persuaded the Christian king that God found no fault in taking a bribe to let the camel train pass. The king instructed his army to allow the camels to pass - and they did.

Who is this mysterious merchant? Who is it that corrupts priests and kings - mullahs and emirs? Who is it that can put together gigantic camel trains of 20,000 camels, trains worth more than nations themselves, who in the middle of wars can command warring armies to be at peace with each other while their goods go to market to be sold for immense profits?

How were the merchants able to manipulate both kings and priests so effortlessly? Does someone know something that they are not telling?

You bet they do!