Let’s return to translating the history composed in Arabic in the 10th century AD by Eutychius, or Sa`id ibn Bitriq, the Melkite Patriarch of Alexandria. Last time we finished off chapter 7. I seem to be working backwards through the intensely tedious rewriting of Old Testament narratives; because the further we go back, the less historical value Eutychius has. So now we reach chapter 6 It’s fun to try to recognise the bible characters in the unfamiliar Arabic names! But this section is pretty much straight out of the OT.
1. After him his son Ukhuziyā reigned in Samaria for two years. This took place in the nineteenth year of the reign of Yūshāfāt, king of Judah (1). His conduct was as evil as that of his father and he was devoted to the worship of idols under the guidance of his mother Izbil, who had killed Nābūthā. Ukhuziyā, king of Israel, fell seriously ill. He feared for his life and sent a messenger to the priests of the idols, to ask them whether he would be cured of his illness or not. On the way, the messenger came upon the prophet Iliyā. The prophet Iliyā said to the messenger: ‘Say to the king: “You will die.”‘ The messenger returned to the king and informed him [of what had happened]. Then the king told him: “Describe the man who met you”. He replied: “He was a thick-haired man and wore a tight leather belt around his waist” The king said: “It is the prophet Iliyā”. He then sent one of his commanders to him with fifty men. Iliyā was sitting on the top of Mount al-Karmil. The commander told him: “O prophet of God, come down because the king is calling you”. Iliyā replied: “If I am the prophet of God, may a fire come down from heaven to devour you and those who are with you”. A fire came down and devoured them. Then the king sent another commander with fifty men. He said: “O prophet of God, come down, because the king is calling you”. Iliyā replied: “If I am the prophet of God, may a fire come down from heaven to devour you and those who are with you.” And in fact it happened just like that. Then [the king] sent a third commander with fifty men who spoke to him like the first two spoke to him, and he and those who were with him suffered the same fate. Finally the king himself went to him and Iliyā came down to him and said: “You will not heal from your sickness, but you will die because you have worshiped idols and for your bad conduct in the presence of God, powerful and exalted”. In the days of Ukhuziyā, king of Israel, and Yūshāfāt, king of Judah, Iliyā was raised to heaven. Ukhuziyā, king of Israel, died of his illness and was buried with his father.
2. After him his brother Yūrām, son of Akhāb, reigned over the children of Israel, in Samaria, for twelve years. This took place in the twenty-second year of the reign of Yūshāfāt, king of Judah. The Ammonites and the Amalekites went out against Yūshāfāt, king of Judah with a great army, and Yūshāfāt was afraid of them. There was a great outcry at night among the soldiers of ‘Ammān and’ Amāliq, and they killed each other, while the survivors fled before Yūshāfāt. Yūshāfāt’s men set about ransacking their camps, tents and household goods for three days. Then Yūshāfāt returned to Ūrashalīm. Later the king of Moab moved against Yūrām, king of Israel. Yūrām sent to seek help from Yūshāfāt, king of Judah, against the king of Moab. He also sent for help from the king of the Rūm who was then in ash-Sharāh. The three kings joined forces and went out against the king of Moab, taking the desert road in order to take him from behind. They walked in the desert for seven days. They missed the drinking water and so risked dying of thirst. The prophet Elisha was there with them, telling them: “Tomorrow these valleys will be filled with streams and God will give you the victory over your enemy”. It happened as the prophet had said. God gave them victory over the enemy and made a great slaughter of the men of the king of Moab. Seeing that he was defeated, the king of Moab entered the fortified tower, took his firstborn and slaughtered him on the walls of Moab, offering him as a burnt offering. The Israelites were terrified before such a scene, they stopped fighting against him and withdrew. Yūshāfāt, king of Judah, died and was buried in the city of David.
- Edom, rather than Rome!↩