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Subject: ‘Bible’

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Sack-cloth and ashes

Posted in Bible, Interesting Words, Language, Religion, Sinners on Friday, 1 July 2016

This edited article about the language of the Bible originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 392 published on 19 July 1969.

Mordecai, picture, image, illustration

Mordecai wearing sack-cloth with ashes cries out bitterly among his threatened people, the Jews

We aren’t happy when we have made a mistake, and if we dislike admitting it to ourselves, we dislike admitting it to others even more.

Sometimes, however, we may be able to make things easier by a phrase which may bring a faint smile to the face of the person we have to confess to. “I really am sorry,” we may say. “It was a stupid thing to do. Here I am in sack-cloth and ashes.”

This is an odd thing to say, and it would be an even odder sight if it were literally true! What we mean, of course, is that we are pretending to have dressed ourselves in the clothing which represented a penitent person in Biblical times.

There are several references to this custom in the Bible. Sometimes sackcloth was used to mark a great misfortune, as when a decree was issued by a certain Persian King ordering a great persecution of the Jews. One of their leaders, Mordecai, “rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and bitter cry.” (Esther, Chapter 4 verse 1).

But the custom was usually a way of expressing deep sorrow for something that had displeased God. When Jonah preached to the people in the wicked city of Nineveh, we are told that the people there “put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them,” and that even the King removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes (Jonah, Chapter 3, verses 5 and 6).

A famous instance of a King wearing sackcloth as a mark of his own repentance is that of the wicked King Ahab. With the help of his evil wife, Jezebel, Ahab had arranged for an innocent man named Naboth to be stoned to death on a false charge. This had been contrived so that the King could seize a little vineyard which Naboth had owned, next door to the palace grounds. Ahab badly wanted this vineyard for himself, to turn into a herb garden.

The prophet Elijah learned of the cruel plot by which Naboth had been got out of the way, and, confronting the King boldly, warned him that a terrible fate would overtake not only Ahab and Jezebel but their whole household, in punishment for their crime. Frightened by the prophet’s words, Ahab “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth,” and went about dejectedly (1 Kings 21, verse 27).

In their writings, the prophets often advised their hearers to “gird themselves with sackcloth” as a mark of sorrow for their sins. And Jesus himself used the words. Rebuking the people of certain villages, he said, “If the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”

In view of the widespread use of this phrase, it is not surprising that it has passed into our everyday speech as an expression of regret and a desire to make amends.

Saint Agatha

Posted in Bible, Religion, Saints on Sunday, 31 January 2016

Agatha, picture, image, illustration

Saint Agatha of Sicily

Saint Agatha is the Patron Saint of Catania, and is one of the most revered Saints in Italy and especially Sicily, where she lived and where she died a martyr in 251. A predatory Roman prefect of base origins and baser intentions had designs on her which she spurned, for which rejection she was tortured and humiliated, ultimately being placed in a brothel run by a madam called Aphrodisia. This immoral woman advised Agatha to save herself by worshipping the Roman idols and submitting to the will of Quintianus, but she refused with simple rhetorical grandeur and profound moral sureness, proclaiming her faith in the love and power of Jesus Christ. She was subjected to appalling torture and humiliation, but clung to her faith throughout with luminous and exemplary courage. Saint Peter appeared at her martyrdom and cured her mutilated body, which now rests at the Badia di Sant Agata, Catania.

Many more pictures relating to Saints can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 97

Posted in America, Ancient History, Animals, Best pictures, Bible, Bravery, Customs, Educational card, Famous battles, Flags, Geography, Geology, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Minerals, Myth, Religion, Saints, Sea, Ships, Travel, War, Weapons on Thursday, 26 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from our large collection of 19th and early 20th century educational trade cards.
The first picture shows Jason making a sacrifice to the Gods to aid the Argo in its voyage.

Argo, picture, image, illustration

Sacrifice to the Gods to aid the Argo in its voyage

The second picture shows gold prospectors in Alaska.

Gold prospectors, picture, image, illustration

Gold prospectors, Alaska

The third picture shows St James the Great, patron saint of Spain.

St James the Great, picture, image, illustration

St James the Great, patron saint of Spain

High-resolution scans of all educational cards can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 96

Posted in Ancient History, Architecture, Best pictures, Bible, British Towns, Famous battles, Famous landmarks, Farming, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Insects, Legend, Myth, Religion, Trade, War on Thursday, 26 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from our large collection of 19th and early 20th century educational trade cards.
The first picture shows the destruction and burning of Troy.

Troy, picture, image, illustration

The destruction and burning of Troy

The second picture shows manufacturing Cheshire cheese in England.

cheese, picture, image, illustration

Manufacturing Cheshire cheese in England

The third picture shows a monk in his cell.

monk, picture, image, illustration

A monastic cell

High-resolution scans of all educational cards can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 53

Posted in Best pictures, Bible, Bravery, Educational card, English Literature, Famous crimes, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Literature, Politics, Religion, Revolution, Travel, War on Tuesday, 24 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from our large collection of 19th and early 20th century educational trade cards.
The first picture shows Lord Byron in Greece.

Lord Byron, picture, image, illustration

Lord Byron, English poet

The second picture shows Jesus preparing to be nailed to the Cross.

Jesus, picture, image, illustration

Exhausted, Jesus prepares to be nailed to the Cross

The third picture shows the Tennis Court Oath, French Revolution, 20 June 1789.

Revolution, picture, image, illustration

The Tennis Court Oath, French Revolution, 20 June 1789

High-resolution scans of all educational cards can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 52

Posted in Animals, Best pictures, Bible, Birds, Educational card, Famous landmarks, Farming, Historical articles, History, Industry, Plants, Royalty, Sport, Trade, Weapons, Wildlife on Tuesday, 24 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from our large collection of 19th and early 20th century educational trade cards.
The first picture shows men hunting birds of paradise in Malaysia.

Hunting, picture, image, illustration

Hunting birds of paradise, Malaysia

The second picture shows the arrival of the Queen of Sheba.

Sheba, picture, image, illustration

The arrival of the Queen of Sheba

The third picture shows women picking violets near Parma, Italy.

Parma, picture, image, illustration

Picking violets near Parma, Italy

High-resolution scans of all educational cards can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.

The Statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

Posted in Ancient History, Bible, Historical articles, History, Religion, Royalty, Sinners on Saturday, 21 November 2015

This is an unusual image of the great metal statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream. The viewpoint is from beneath the figure which makes it appear all the more awesome, but despite the statue’s huge sword and burnished shield what we suddenly notice is that a rock has been hurled at the broken ankles of this Idol with its famous feet of clay.

idol, picture, image, illustration

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream by Clive Uptton

Many more pictures of the Bible can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Michelangelo toiling on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

Posted in Architecture, Art, Artist, Bible, Famous artists, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Religion on Friday, 20 November 2015

This technically superb picture is a complete revelation for anyone wondering quite how Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The necessary wooden scaffolding is apparent, as is the pulley system for raising the platform, and of special interest and appeal to the layman is the marvellous paint-spattered figure of Michelangelo, his face itself a picture of concentrated genius.

Michelangelo, picture, image, illustration

Michelangelo toiling on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel by Severino Baraldi

Many more pictures of painters can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Life in the Monasteries

Posted in Architecture, Bible, British Countryside, Education, Famous landmarks, Farming, Historical articles, History, Institutions, Music, Religion on Thursday, 19 November 2015

This marvellous aerial view of a monastery is a deceptively charming picture which carefully shows the layout of the entire monastic complex. It shows such typical and essential features as the Chapter House, cloisters, cellar, infirmary, Misericorde or rest room, along with the kitchen, refectory and dormitory. Outside lies the well and the orchard. We can also see the Abbot’s House on the right, near the fish pond. The mill, of course, sits on the river by the bridge, while the almonry serves as an official building next to the entrance.

monastery, picture, image, illustration

Life in the Monasteries

Many more pictures of abbeys and monasteries can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures from ‘The Illustrated Times’, 20

Posted in Artist, Best pictures, Bible, Boats, Historical articles, History, London, Music, Rivers, Ships, Sinners, The Illustrated Times, Theatre, Trade, Transport on Sunday, 15 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from ‘The Illustrated Times’, a nineteenth-century illustrated newspaper and rich source of remarkable engravings.
The first picture shows Verdi’s Il Ballo in Maschera at the Royal Italian Opera.

opera, picture, image, illustration

Scene from "Il Ballo in Maschera," at the Royal Italian Opera

The second picture shows ‘The Destruction of Sodom’ by Turner.

Sodom, picture, image, illustration

The Destruction of Sodom by J M W Turner

The third picture shows ships carrying Christmas fruits at Fresh Wharf, London Bridge.

ships, picture, image, illustration

Landing Christmas Fruits at Fresh Wharf, London Bridge

High-resolution scans of all the illustrations from ‘The Illustrated Times’ (London 1855-1866) can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.