Prophecies of Disaster – Sibylline Book 3.489-544

This section (489-544) begins with a long prophecy of disaster against a variety of city states and peoples including the Phoenicians, Crete, and even Gog and Magog (513), but the main enemy judged in this section is Greece (520, 534, 537).  In 544 there is reference to only a third of mankind surviving the judgment by fire of that day, not unlike several Revelation judgments in when a “third” is destroyed.  The reference may be to Ezekiel 5:12, however, who used his hair as a prophecy to demonstrate that only a third of the nation would survive.

Sibyl by Ghirlandaio, 1485

Sibyl by Ghirlandaio, 1485

The Greeks continue as the focus in 545-573. They will recognize God when the planned disaster falls upon them (555-557).  Unlike the Greeks, the Jews do recognize God and are greatly praised in 573-600. They fully honor God in the temple, they properly sacrifice in a holy manner, the do not commit idolatry, they are “mindful of wedlock” and do not commit grotesque acts of immorality (pedophiles are mentioned in line 596). The Phoenicians, Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks are specifically mentioned in contrast to the Jews in this section (598).

Because of the great sin which is in the world God will judge all mortals with disaster, wars, famines, etc. (601-619).  The Greeks, Macedonians and Egyptians will all be overthrown and their “handmade works” will be thrown on the fire. God will then transform the earth and cause great joy and prosperity for men (619-623).

The writer exhorts his readers to respond to God with great sacrifices in order to propitiate God (624-634). The writer describes “signs of the end,” primarily political chaos and military conquests (635-651). The next brief section appears to be a reference to a messiah-like person (652-656).  God will send a “king from the sun” who will stop war from happening on the earth by being obedient to the “noble teachings of God.” Collins mentions the common theme in Egyptian material that war will cease when Isis wills it.  In the Potters Oracle, a king from the Sun is sent by Isis (OTP 1:376 note x3). The Sibylline Oracles seem to be taking an Egyptian messiah-figure and converting it to the Jewish idea that the Messiah will stop war when he comes.

An assault on the temple is predicted in 658-668.  The Temple of the Great God will be attacked and destroyed and “abominable kings” will set their thrones around the city. A series of cosmological signs are given in 669-701.  These physical signs of the end of the age are not as spectacular as in other apocalypses (even Revelation in the New Testament), but they serve to show even this Oracle predicts a time of natural chaos before the kingdom arrives.

Amid this chaos, the elect will be rescued by the Great God (702-731). The hand of the Holy One will be fighting for them and all the people of the earth will notice how much the Mighty One loves his chosen people. Playing on Ezekiel 39, the Oracle describes the massive bloodshed of the final battle in terms of how long it will take to collect all of the weapons of war (“seven lengths of annually recurring times,” i.e. seven months). The Greeks are advised to “desist from proud thoughts” and seek the “great-hearted Immortal” (732-740).  If they serve the great God they will share in his things.

The time after the great day of God’s judgment is described in 741-761.  It will be a time of prosperity and riches, God himself will institute a “common law” which the whole earth will follow so that his will is done by all “wretched mortals.” A brief exhortation to “shun unlawful worship” interrupts the description of the kingdom (762-766).  This section includes a prohibition on unnatural sexual relations and the killing of infants. The description of the kingdom is resumed in 767-795.  Much here is drawn from passages in Isaiah and expanded imaginatively.  (Wolves and lambs eating together, lions eating husks at a manger, serpent and asps will sleep with babies, etc.) Signs of the end are listed in (796-808).  These include signs in the stars and eclipses, drops of blood and gore on rocks, infantry and cavalry in the clouds.

The book ends with a “confession” from the Sibyl herself (809-829).  This Jewish book attempts to put prophecies into the mouth of a pagan seer in order to show the universality of the Jewish hope for a messiah and a final judgment. She is the daughter of Circe and Gnostos (Circe is a witch in Odyssey 10.210, the identity of Gnostos is unknown.  OTP 3:380 note g4 suggests an emendation to agnostos, meaning an “unknown” father) but now she is a prophetess of the great God, who put all of the future in her mind.

3 thoughts on “Prophecies of Disaster – Sibylline Book 3.489-544

  1. End time literature is very popular, it was popular back then when this literature was written, it is also popular today in books and movies. Movies like 2012, World War Z, and many more apocalyptic movies have been created. We are so interested in how people think the world will end. All of this literature tends to have very similar stories, just different details. Because of the great sin, God is going to Judge the nation. In this story there are signs of the times delivered to the people, mainly political arrest and military wars. After this a savior is supposed to come down and deliver the people. This messiah in other terms could be the scientist who figured out how to solve global warming at the last minute, or the lowly mechanic who was the only one able to fix the gun to shoot the asteroid crashing down to earth. According to this literature there will be an assault on the temple and the prophesied end times events will happen. During the Chaos God will save his elect right before a massive batter. But God stays true to his elect and protects them and everyone sees that. After the large battle ends God will institute a Common law that everyone must follow. This law is passed so that the will of God is done. The story ends with Sibyl confessing to God herself. This shows God’s true victory over all in the end.

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