1-3. (a) What might many Christians think of regarding ancient Tyre? (b) Describe some of the dealings between King Hiram and Israel. (c) What might we want to consider regarding Tyre?
WHAT comes to mind when you hear ancient Tyre mentioned? Many Christians would think of how prophecy was fulfilled when Alexander the Great scraped up debris from the ruins of mainland Tyre and built a causeway out to the newer island-city of Tyre and destroyed it. (Ezekiel 26:4, 12; Zechariah 9:3, 4) Yet, would mention of Tyre make you think about how to treat your spiritual brothers or others and how not to treat them?
2 Why was Tyre destroyed? “On account of three revolts of Tyre, . . . on account of their handing over a complete body of exiles to Edom, and because they did not remember the covenant of brothers. And I will send a fire onto the wall of Tyre.” (Amos 1:9, 10) In earlier times, King Hiram of Tyre showed goodwill toward David and supplied materials for Solomon’s temple. Solomon made a covenant with Hiram and gave him cities in Galilee. Hiram called Solomon “my brother.” (1 Kings 5:1-18; 9:10-13, 26-28; 2 Samuel 5:11) When Tyre “did not remember the covenant of brothers” and sold some of God’s people into slavery, Jehovah took note of Tyre’s dealings.
3 What lesson can we draw from the fact that God judged the Canaanites of Tyre for dealing harshly with his people? A key lesson involves how we deal with our spiritual brothers. In previous chapters of this book, we noted from the 12 prophets some advice about dealing with others, such as being just in our business practices and chaste in our conduct. These 12 books, though, contain more indications of how God desires us to deal with others.
DO NOT REJOICE OVER ANOTHER’S DIFFICULTY
4. In what sense were the Edomites “brothers” to Israel, but how did they treat their “brothers”?
4 You can find a lesson in God’s condemnation of Edom, a land near Israel: “You ought not to watch the sight in the day of your brother, in the day of his misfortune; and you ought not to rejoice at the sons of Judah in the day of their perishing.” (Obadiah 12) The Tyrians may have been “brothers” as to commercial activities, but the Edomites were in a real sense “brothers” to Israel, for they had descended from Esau, Jacob’s twin. Even Jehovah called the Edomites Israel’s “brothers.” (Deuteronomy 2:1-4) Hence, it was truly hateful of the Edomites to rejoice when the Jews met calamity at the hands of the Babylonians.—Ezekiel 25:12-14.
5. In what situations might we show a spirit like that of the Edomites?
5 Clearly, God did not approve of how the Edomites dealt with their Jewish brothers. We might ask, though, ‘How would God evaluate the way I deal with my brothers?’ One area of concern is how we view and treat a brother when things have not gone smoothly. For example, imagine that a Christian offended you or had a problem with one of your relatives. If you have “a cause for complaint,” will you harbor resentment, not putting the matter behind you or not attempting to settle it? (Colossians 3:13; Joshua 22:9-30; Matthew 5:23, 24) Doing so could affect your actions toward the brother; you might act coolly, avoiding his company or speaking negatively about him. Extending the example, imagine that this brother later erred, perhaps even needing counsel or correction from the congregation elders. (Galatians 6:1) Would you reflect the Edomites’ spirit and rejoice over the brother’s difficulty? How would God want you to act?
6 Jehovah had Zechariah mention His desire that we “scheme out nothing bad against one another in [our] hearts.” (Zechariah 7:9, 10; 8:17) This advice is pertinent when we feel that a brother has hurt us or wronged someone in our family. In such cases, it is easy to ‘scheme out bad in our hearts’ and then to reflect that in our deeds. On the other hand, God wants us to imitate his positive example. Recall that Micah wrote that Jehovah is “pardoning error and passing over transgression.”* (Micah 7:18) How can we apply that in practical ways?
7. Why might we choose simply to forget an offense?
7 We may feel hurt over what was done to us or to our relative, but really, how serious is it? The Bible outlines steps for settling differences, even a sin against a brother. Still, it is often best just to overlook the error or the offense, to ‘pass over transgression.’ Ask yourself: ‘Might this be one of the 77 times that I should forgive him? Why not simply forget it?’ (Matthew 18:15-17, 21, 22) Even if the offense seems significant now, will it be so a thousand years from now? Draw a basic lesson from the comment at Ecclesiastes 5:20 about a worker’s enjoying food and drink: “Not often will he remember the days of his life, because the true God is preoccupying him with the rejoicing of his heart.” As that man happily focuses on his current pleasure, he tends to forget the problems of his daily life. Can we imitate that attitude? If we focus on the joys of our Christian brotherhood, we may be able to forget issues that are not lastingly important, ones that we will not recall in the new world. That is quite different from rejoicing over another’s difficulty or remembering offenses.
TELL OTHERS THE TRUTH
8. We face what challenge as to speaking the truth?
8 The 12 prophetic books also highlight how much God desires that we be truthful in our dealings. Of course, we exert ourselves in speaking “the truth of that good news” to others. (Colossians 1:5; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Timothy 2:4, 7) What may be more of a challenge, though, is adhering to truth in daily speech with our family and spiritual brothers, conversation that covers a wide variety of topics and situations. Why may that be so?
9. When might we be tempted to speak less than the truth, but what should we ask ourselves?
9 Who of us has not said or done something unkind and then later been confronted about it? We likely felt embarrassed or somewhat guilty. Such feelings can lead a person to deny an error or offer some “explanation” that twists the truth in order to excuse the wrong or make it appear correct. Or in an uncomfortable situation, we might be tempted to mention only selected details, editing them to color the facts. Hence, what we say might technically be true yet give a totally different impression. While this may not be flagrant lying, such as is common in the world today, is it really ‘speaking truth each one with his neighbor,’ or brother? (Ephesians 4:15, 25; 1 Timothy 4:1, 2) When a Christian phrases things in such a way that he inwardly knows is leading brothers to a wrong conclusion, to believe something that is really not true, not accurate, how do you think God feels?
10. How do the prophets describe a course common in ancient Israel and Judah?
10 The prophets realized that even men and women dedicated to Jehovah at times ignore what he wants from them. Hosea expressed God’s feelings about some in his day: “Despoiling to them, for they have transgressed against me! And I myself proceeded to redeem them, but they themselves have spoken lies even against me.” Beyond telling direct and undeniable lies against Jehovah, some gave in to “the pronouncing of curses and practicing of deception,” perhaps distorting facts so as to mislead others. (Hosea 4:1, 2; 7:1-3, 13; 10:4; 12:1) Hosea wrote those words in Samaria, the northern kingdom. Were things better in Judah? Micah tells us: “Her own rich men have become full of violence, and her own inhabitants have spoken falsehood, and their tongue is tricky in their mouth.” (Micah 6:12) It is good that we be aware of how those prophets condemned the “practicing of deception” and those whose “tongue is tricky in their mouth.” Thus even Christians, who would certainly not tell deliberate lies, can ask: ‘Might I at times practice deception or have a tricky tongue in my mouth? What does God desire of me in this respect?’
11. What do the prophets reveal about God’s will as to our speech?
11 On the positive side, God also used the prophets to make clear the good that he desires of us. Zechariah 8:16 says: “These are the things that you people should do: Speak truthfully with one another. With truth and the judgment of peace do your judging in your gates.” In Zechariah’s day the gates were public locations where older men handled judicial cases. (Ruth 4:1; Nehemiah 8:1) Nonetheless, Zechariah did not say that this was the only circumstance in which to speak honestly. We must be honest in formal situations, but we are also urged: “Speak truthfully with one another.” That includes in the privacy of our home when speaking with our marriage mate or close relatives. It also applies to our everyday conversations with spiritual brothers and sisters, whether we are speaking face-to-face, talking on the telephone, or communicating in another way. They have every reason to expect that what we are saying is the truth. Christian parents should stress to their children how vital it is to avoid falsehoods. Young ones can thus grow up aware that God expects them to avoid a tricky tongue and to be truly honest in what they say.—Zephaniah 3:13.
12. What valuable lessons can we learn from the prophetic books?
12 A youth or an adult who holds to the way of truthfulness agrees with Zechariah’s exhortation: “Love truth and peace.” (Zechariah 8:19) And note Malachi’s description of what Jehovah saw exemplified by His Son: “The very law of truth proved to be in his mouth, and there was no unrighteousness to be found on his lips. In peace and in uprightness he walked with me.” (Malachi 2:6) Would Jehovah want anything less of us? Remember, we have his entire Word available, including the 12 prophets with all the lessons we can draw from them.
AVOID VIOLENCE IN YOUR DEALINGS
13. Micah 6:12 sheds light on what other problem that existed?
13 Micah 6:12 tells us that one way in which God’s ancient people mistreated others was ‘they spoke falsehood, and their tongue was tricky in their mouth.’ However, that verse identified yet another serious defect. It mentioned that the ‘rich men had become full of violence.’ How was that, and what lesson can we draw from it?
14, 15. Nations surrounding God’s people had what record as to violence?
14 Consider the reputation of some nations located near God’s people. To the northeast was Assyria, with its capital, Nineveh, about which Nahum wrote: “Woe to the city of bloodshed. She is all full of deception and of robbery. Prey does not depart!” (Nahum 3:1) The Assyrians were known for aggressive warfare and cruelty to prisoners of war—some prisoners were burned or skinned alive, and others were blinded or had their nose, ears, or fingers cut off. The book Gods, Graves, and Scholars says: “Nineveh was impressed on the consciousness of mankind by little else than murder, plunder, suppression, and the violation of the weak; by war and all manner of physical violence.” We have an eyewitness to (and possible sharer in) that violence. After hearing Jonah’s message, the king of Nineveh said regarding his people: “Let them cover themselves with sackcloth, man and domestic animal; and let them call out to God with strength and come back, each one from his bad way and from the violence that was in their hands.”—Jonah 3:6-8.*
15 Gross violence was not confined to Assyria. Edom, to the southeast of Judah, also faced retribution. Why? “As regards Edom, a wilderness of desolate waste it will become, because of the violence to the sons of Judah, in whose land they shed innocent blood.” (Joel 3:19) Did the Edomites take that warning to heart and end their violent ways? Some two centuries later, Obadiah wrote: “Your mighty men must become terrified, O Teman [an Edomite city], . . . Because of the violence to your brother Jacob, . . . you will have to be cut off to time indefinite.” (Obadiah 9, 10) What, though, about God’s people?
16. Amos and Habakkuk give us insight into what problem existing in their day?
16 Amos revealed the situation in Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom: “‘See the many disorders in the midst of her and cases of defrauding inside her. And they have not known how to do what is straightforward,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘those who are storing up violence and despoiling.’” (Amos 3:9, 10) You might think that it would be different in Judah, where Jehovah’s temple was located. But Habakkuk, who lived in Judah, asked God: “How long shall I call to you for aid from violence, and you do not save? Why is it that you make me see what is hurtful, and you keep looking upon mere trouble? And why are despoiling and violence in front of me?”—Habakkuk 1:2, 3; 2:12.
17. Why might a tendency toward violence have developed among God’s people?
17 Could it be that violence became common among God’s people because they allowed themselves to be influenced by the attitude that Assyria, Edom, or other nations had toward violence? Solomon had warned of such a possibility: “Do not become envious of the man of violence, nor choose any of his ways.” (Proverbs 3:31; 24:1) Later, Jeremiah was specific: “This is what Jehovah has said: ‘Do not learn the way of the nations at all.’”—Jeremiah 10:2; Deuteronomy 18:9.
18, 19. (a) If Habakkuk were alive now, how might he feel about modern-day expressions of violence? (b) How do you feel about the violence of our time?
18 If Habakkuk were alive now, would he not be appalled by the violence of our time? Many are steeped in violence from their youth on. Cartoons that enthrall boys and girls feature violence—one character tries to smash, blow up, or otherwise destroy another. Before long, many youths graduate to video games in which they win by shooting, exploding, or demolishing opponents. “Those are only games,” some may protest. Still, violent games played on a home computer or in a video arcade immerse players in violence, shaping their attitudes and reactions. How true the inspired counsel: “A man of violence will seduce his fellow, and certainly causes him to go in a way that is not good”!—Proverbs 16:29.
19 Though Habakkuk was forced to keep looking upon mere trouble and the “violence in front of” him, it grieved him. You might now ask, ‘Would he be comfortable sitting with me and looking at the programs I regularly watch on television?’ Ask also, ‘Would he set aside time to be a spectator at so-called sports events that are violent by design, players even wearing protective armor like that of ancient gladiators?’ With certain games, the thrill for many springs from fights on the court or the field or those between crazed fans. In some cultures, many watch violent films and videos centered on warfare or the martial arts. This may be excused as history or a display of the nation’s cultural past, but does that make the violence more acceptable?—Proverbs 4:17.
20. About what sort of violence did Malachi express Jehovah’s view?
20 Malachi brings up a related aspect when pointing out Jehovah’s view of the treachery of some Jews toward their wives. “‘He has hated a divorcing,’ Jehovah the God of Israel has said; ‘and the one who with violence has covered over his garment.’” (Malachi 2:16) The Hebrew rendered “with violence has covered over his garment” has been variously understood. Some scholars take it to mean getting blood on one’s garment when violently attacking another. In any case, Malachi was plainly condemning spousal abuse. Yes, Malachi raised the issue of violence in a domestic context and showed that God disapproves of it.
21. In what situations must Christians avoid violence?
21 Violence, physical or verbal, in the privacy of a Christian’s home is no more excusable than violence in public; God observes both. (Ecclesiastes 5:8) While Malachi referred to violence against a wife, nothing in the Bible makes violence less reprehensible if a man directs it against children or elderly parents. Nor is it excusable if a wife displays it toward her husband, children, or parents. Granted, in a family of imperfect humans, tensions may arise, causing irritation and sometimes anger. Still, the Bible advises us: “Be wrathful, and yet do not sin; let the sun not set with you in a provoked state.”—Ephesians 4:26; 6:4; Psalm 4:4; Colossians 3:19.
22. How do we know that it is possible to avoid being violent, even if many around us are otherwise?
22 Some may make excuses for their violent ways, saying, ‘I am this way because I grew up in a violent family,’ or ‘People from my area or culture are just more excitable, more explosive.’ However, when Micah condemned ‘rich men who had become full of violence,’ he did not suggest that they could not help it because they had grown up amid violence. (Micah 6:12) Noah lived when the earth was “filled with violence,” and his sons grew up surrounded by it. Did they adopt violent ways? Hardly! “Noah found favor in the eyes of Jehovah,” and his sons followed him and were preserved through the Flood.—Genesis 6:8, 11-13; Psalm 11:5.
23, 24. (a) What helps us to avoid being known as violent people? (b) How does Jehovah feel about those who deal with others as he desires?
23 Earth wide, Jehovah’s Witnesses are known, not for being violent, but for being peaceable. They respect and comply with Caesar’s laws against violent deeds. (Romans 13:1-4) They have worked “to beat their swords into plowshares,” and they strive to pursue peace. (Isaiah 2:4) They endeavor to put on “the new personality,” a help toward avoiding violence. (Ephesians 4:22-26) And they observe the fine example of Christian elders, who cannot be ‘smiters’ either in word or in deed.—1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7.
24 Yes, we can—and must—deal with others as God desires. Hosea says: “Who is wise, that he may understand these things? Discreet, that he may know them? For the ways of Jehovah are upright, and the righteous are the ones who will walk in them.”—Hosea 14:9.
As to “passing over transgression,” one scholar says that the Hebrew metaphor is “taken from the conduct of a traveller who passes on without noticing an object to which he does not wish to give his attention. The idea [is not that God is unobservant of sin] but that he does not mark it in particular cases with a view to punishment; that he does not punish, but forgive[s].”
Some 22 miles (35 km) southeast of Nineveh was Calah (Nimrud), which Ashurnasirpal rebuilt. The British Museum displays wall panels from Calah, about which we read: “Ashurnasirpal spared no detail of the ferocity and brutality with which he conducted his campaigns. Prisoners were hanged from poles or impaled on stakes at the walls of besieged cities . . . ; young men and maidens were flayed alive.”—Archaeology of the Bible.