“Adoni-Bezek said, ‘Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.’ They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.” — Judges 1
This is how the book of Judges describes the end of an enemy of Israel, defeated in battle, publicly humiliated and allowed to come to his inglorious end.
His predicament is still played out by those who live by the sword around the world, even those who have been so successful for so long, who have lorded it over so many people and lived in power and luxury.
In reference to this last week’s apprehension, public torture and assassination of Moammar Gadhafi, the Associated Press noted his demise had a familiar ring to it.
“Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Romania’s Nicolae Ceausescu, Liberia’s Samuel Doe, Benito Mussolini and, now, Moammar Gadhafi. No matter how much a mythologized despot or mastermind builds up a cult of personality in life, when an undignified death arrives, the incontrovertible reality is hard to avoid: We are, in the end, merely lumps of flesh.
“What’s different today is that sometimes the world gets to see it.
“Exhibit A: the surreal odyssey of Gadhafi’s violent ending over the past few days. The ruthless strongman, who for four decades erected giant billboards and intricate mosaics to his own glory, exited the stage in a series of chaotic, deeply disturbing bursts of amateur video.
“First we saw his battered corpse, enmeshed in the chaos of revolution’s final throes in his hometown.
“Then video emerged of him alive, bloodied, mumbling, struggling to survive as revolutionaries splayed him upon a hood as a trophy.
“Finally, there he was laid out, shirtless, on a brown floral twin mattress in a shopping-mall freezer; his fellow Libyans lined up and gawked. A blusterer and preener for so many years, Gadhafi had been laid low, rendered small.
“‘When we captured him, he was like a child,’ said Hassan Doua, a commander in Libya whose fighters found Gadhafi in Sirte. ‘He hardly looked us in the eye. It was very hard for us to believe this man was the reason for all the killing.’
“Now, a new, unpredictable element has emerged. The potent combination of cellphone video and the social media network that transmits it around the world. As with the ghostly phone-cam images of Saddam Hussein’s disorderly execution in late 2006, the emerging medium turned a despot’s death and its aftermath into a globally distributed snuff film.
“In death, these commanding figures are, at last, human — no longer cocooned by the carefully calibrated facades that their power allowed them to create.”
The humiliation, torture and final “execution” in this casual setting is now freely exhibited for the world to revel in.
So many would agree: “We are, in the end, merely lumps of flesh.”
My, how we have advanced since the days of Adoni-Bezek.
— Chuck Smith