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Subject: ‘Sinners’

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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.

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 60

Posted in Architecture, Best pictures, Education, Educational card, Famous Composers, Fashion, Historical articles, History, Law, Leisure, Music, Oddities, Royalty, Sinners, Theatre on Wednesday, 25 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 Wagner at the villa Wesendonck in Zurich.

Wagner, picture, image, illustration

Wagner at the villa Wesendonck in Zurich

The second picture shows Queen Elizabeth I.

Queen Elizabeth I, picture, image, illustration

Queen Elizabeth I

The third picture shows a morality tale: alcoholism suppresses all moral strength and leads to suicide.

suicide, picture, image, illustration

Alcoholism suppresses all moral strength and leads to suicide

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

The best pictures from educational trade cards, 26

Posted in Animals, Best pictures, Bravery, Educational card, Famous crimes, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Legend, Religion, Sinners, Wildlife on Monday, 23 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 polar bears.

polar bears, picture, image, illustration

Hunting polar bears

The second picture shows Knights Templars being burned at the stake in France.

Knights Templars, picture, image, illustration

Knights Templars being burned at the stake in France

The third picture shows Mazeppa.

Mazeppa, picture, image, illustration

Mazeppa

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

Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens around 1750

Posted in Actors, Dance, Famous Composers, Famous landmarks, Fashion, Historical articles, History, Leisure, London, Music, Sinners, Theatre on Sunday, 22 November 2015

This delightfully drawn and colourful picture shows the beauty and attraction of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. This was the name given to Spring Gardens, a pleasure resort which had opened sometime before the Restoration. During the eighteenth century its popularity increased, and soon the most fashionable and disreputable figures in society flocked there for the musical and semi-theatrical entertainments, which included the music of Handel and other great Baroque composers played by the elevated orchestra, clearly visible in the picture.

Vauxhall, picture, image, illustration

Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens around 1750 by Peter Jackson

Many more pictures of musical concerts can be found at 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.

The Pequod, Captain Ahab’s battered whaling ship

Posted in America, Animals, English Literature, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Sea, Ships, Sinners, Superstition, Travel, Weapons on Friday, 20 November 2015

Captain Ahab’s ship, the Pequod, is pictured in this breezy but slightly surreal illustration for Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby-Dick. We may just discern the silhouetted figure of tormented Captain Ahab himself on the deck of this battered old whaling ship watching the gulls wheel across the sky.

The Pequod, picture, image, illustration

The Pequod

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

The best pictures from ‘The Illustrated Times’, 73

Posted in Architecture, Best pictures, Children, Education, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Leisure, London, Sinners, The Illustrated Times on Tuesday, 17 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 the new Workhouse for Islington in Upper Holloway.

workhouse, picture, image, illustration

New Workhouse for Islington in Upper Holloway by F Watkins

The second picture shows the Baby Show at the Surrey Zoological Gardens.

babies, picture, image, illustration

The Baby Show at the Surrey Zoological Gardens by W M'Connell

The third picture shows the School Drill at Eton.

Eton, picture, image, illustration

Eton School Drill

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

The best pictures from ‘The Illustrated Times’, 12

Posted in Animals, Best pictures, Education, Historical articles, History, Religion, Ships, Sinners, The Illustrated Times, Weapons 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 a Cardinal Confessor granting Absolution.

Rome, picture, image, illustration

A Cardinal Confessor granting Absolution during Passion Week at Rome by William Wider

The second picture shows the Arab Horse-Merchant.

horses, picture, image, illustration

The Arab Horse-Merchant by G F Atkinson

The third picture shows naval instruction in gunnery.

navy, picture, image, illustration

Naval Instruction on Board HMS the "Britannia," Portsmouth, Lessons in Gunnery by Matthew S Morgan

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

The best pictures from ‘The Graphic’, 97

Posted in Best pictures, Children, Fashion, Historical articles, History, Law, London, Music, Oddities, Sinners, The Graphic on Saturday, 14 November 2015

We have selected three of the best pictures from ‘The Graphic’, a nineteenth-century illustrated newspaper and rich source of remarkable engravings.
The first picture shows a foundling being rescued.

foundling, picture, image, illustration

London Sketches – The Foundling by Frank Holl

The second picture shows a competition for hairdressers.

hair, picture, image, illustration

Artists in Hair, Competition at the Grande Soiree de Coiffures by Sydney P Hall

The third picture shows the military bandsmen’s tent.

music, picture, image, illustration

The Army Manoeuvres, a Peep into one of the Bandsmen's Tents by Paul Renouard

High-resolution scans of all the illustrations from ‘The Graphic’ (London 1870-1902) can be found in the Look and Learn picture library.