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The Source

The book, “The Source”, by James A. Michener, has dual meanings. It


traces the genealogy of the family of UR as the family passed through the ages.
The book also illustrates the evolution of religion, and religion affected the
people of Makor.

At first the closest thing that the people of Makor did have to a religion
was that a man was “… buried in a specific position, his head on a pillow of
rock, accompanied by a few pots of food, a spear and some ornament he had
loved…” in preparation for a life after death. UR knows that there is one greater
power controlling everything when he drops a pebble into the well and his
image is distorted. He fears that the ripples can “…alter the essential he and
smear it into a distorted form….” UR believes that he can fight this power as
shown when a storm nearly destroyed his fields, during which he stood up with
his spear and yelled at the storm to subside. UR’s wife also contributes to this
theory of religion developed by her husband. When she learns to domesticate
wild wheat, she realizes that her husband’s duty would slowly shift from
hunting to protecting the wheat. This makes her wonder “…about the unseen
forces that influence men…” After UR gives up in yelling at the storm, his wife
goes and pleads to the storm to stop. When it does, she sees it as the storm god
being merciful. She then begins to throw grain into the water on the ground as a
sacrifice for the storm god sparing the grain. She explains it to UR that the storm
god referred to as “He” has spared them. This idea of a human-like god that may
be communicated with on a personal level is the first major aspect of religion to
appear in Makor.

In the next time period, the town had three major gods, one father god,
and many minor gods. The most important of the lesser gods to the people of
Makor, was Astarte, the goddess of fertility. All the gods were known as Baals.
The farmer Urbaal, a descendant of UR, was one of the richest and best farmers
in Makor. The priests of the town, in an attempt to get the people to work harder,
had sacred prostitutes for the best farmer in the town to… enjoy. Urbaal worked
long and hard and winning controlled his mind. When he did win, he
thoroughly enjoyed his “prize”, and after seven days with the prostitutes, he was
forced to leave. The next year, he loses the competition and in his grief, he kills
his friend/competitor Amalek. He is then sentenced to death. At this same time,
his wife, Timna, finds the whoring over the sacred prostitute stupid and
sickening, and when she is forced to sacrifice her first born son to a fire god of
the town, Melak, she if full of grief. She wonders why their gods must be so
cruel. In her anger over the loss of her son, and because of her husband’s
obsession, she smashes three of her husband’s statues of Astarte and buries
them. Though, proof that she does believe in the power of Astarte comes when
she refrains from smashing one that Urbaal had bought when she became
pregnant for the second time. She still buries it, though in one piece.

Then came the Hebrews. The Hebrew people first came to Makor under
the leadership of Zadok, the patriarch of his clan from the desert. He came under
command of his god El-Shaddai. El-Shaddai can speak to his people and is not
confined to any space. He is everywhere and anywhere all at the same time. He
is a forgiving god, for when Zadok refused his god three times El-Shaddai came
and Zadok said after being called 3 times by El-Shaddai “I was afraid. Have you
come to punish me?” and El-Shaddai responded, “I should, for you have
disobeyed me.” Yet he does not.

After that, comes the time when the Hebrews and Canaanites live in
peace. In this time, a builder known as Jabaal or The Hoopoe works diligently to
gain the attention of the Hebrew king David. He builds extraordinary
fortifications and a massive, at the time unimaginable, tunnel. He is a worshiper
of both Baal and Yahweh. He clings to Baal because he works with the earth a lot
and Baal is more close to a god of the earth then Yahweh. He does though believe
in Yahweh. His wife on the other hand, believes solely and diligently in Yahweh
and has the life goal to get to Jerusalem where there is no Baal, only Yahweh.
Jabaal succeeds in bringing Kind David to Makor, but when he gets there, he is
not over excited by the fortifications and leaves bringing a singer from Makor
with him. Jabaal’s wife, in her obsession with reaching Jerusalem leaves Jabaal to
go to Jerusalem with the singer.

Next comes a time where, though the Canaanites and Hebrews live in
peace, the Hebrew kingdom has fallen apart and the Egyptians and Babylonians
are warring across The Galilee. At this time Makor is a dump and an old widow
Gomer is told by Yahweh to bring her son Rimmon to Jerusalem. Though Gomer
is a firm believer in only Yahweh, Rimmon is not. He works in the Olive grove
and therefore believes in both Baal and Yahweh. When they go to Jerusalem, first
Gomer forces Rimmon to stop believing in Baal, then Rimmon falls in love with a
girl and marries her. Gomer is unhappy with this because the girl is a Canaanite
and believes in Baal. Then the Egyptians come and take Rimmon to fight for
them against Babylon. Babylon smashes Egypt and goes to Makor where the
people are taken as slaves. Before marched away Gomer forces Rimmon to take a
Hebrew girl as his wife and to annul his and the Canaanite’s marriage. Then she
is killed when Yahweh speaks through her warning the Babylonians of their
mistakes and how they will be smote and destroyed.

The next time period Makor goes through is the time of Seleucid rule.
Under Seleucid rule, the Greek Seleucids attempted to slowly convert and/or
destroy the Jews. First, “… a law was announced requiring all citizens to present
themselves 4 times a year to pay a formal homage to Antiochus Ephianes as the
senior god…” This angered the Jews, but they dealt with it and managed to live a
normal existence. Antiochus Ephianes then forced a law upon the Jews saying,
“Jews shall no longer circumcise their male children.” The Jews resented this
because circumcision was their physical covenant with god and so they
disobeyed the law. Many Jews were killed and persecuted for breaking the law.
Then, the Jews of the Seleucid Empire rebelled and escaped. The Jews of Makor
led by Jehubabel, the town rabbi who performed the circumcisions.

Then in Makor’s history, the Romans ruled. They were ruled over by the
Roman regent of the Jews, King Herod. King Herod’s main advisor was names
Timmon. Timmon, although Roman, has a Jewish wife named Shelomith.
Shelomith deeply believes in her god Yahweh and strongly opposes killing of
Jews, which is exactly what Herod did. He killed thousands of Jews and in fear
of losing his thrown everyone else who he took as a threat. He had next to no
religion to speak of, though he purely and simply hated Jews. When he became
paranoid, enough he had Shelomith and Timmon in a jail and ordered that they
be killed the day he died. Daily Jews of Makor would go to their cell and pray
with Shelomith, and when the day came when Herod did die, his successor
ordered Timmon and Shelomith set free.

Next, the Jews are ruled over by the more Romans. The tyrant Caligula
attempts to force himself as a god upon the Jews. They resist. The Jews of Makor
hear of statues being brought to Judea by sea and led by the Yigal, a local farmer,
march to the city. The march is opposed by the rabbi, Rab Naaman, who believes
it is better not to fight the Romans and that the Jews were meant to be ruled. The
Jews ignore him and go anyways. When they get to the city, they stand in front
of the road out. To get through, the Romans would have had to slaughter all the
people, men women and children alike. The Roman general, out of his sense of
right and wrong, agrees to leave, and he takes the statues with him. Many years
later, the Roman Emperor Nero decides it is time to destroy the Jews. He sends
many thousands of men and sets his sights on Makor, then Jerusalem. Just before
his general, Vespasian, reaches Makor, the Jewish general, Josephus, arrives in
Makor and makes it ready for battle. The city and the army wage war for along
time and many Romans are slaughtered. When it appears inevitable that the city
will fall, Josephus, his favorite soldier, and Rab Naaman dig a hole and escape.
Rab Naaman was brought because old wise men like “…Naaman [were] needed
if Judaism [were] to survive.”

This part of Makor’s history is a kind of peaceful struggle between


Judaism and Christianity. The rabbi Asher ha-Grasi, or god’s man, is dedicated
to Judaism, meanwhile a local Jewish stonecutter, Yohanan, marries a woman
whose husband’s whereabouts are unknown and they have a child. According to
Jewish law, this child is to be an outcast. This angers Yohanan who eventually
finds refuge for him and his son in Christianity. They are accepted as Christians
but each is “… a Jewish Christian.” and they are not respected by other
Christians or found worthy of marriage. The Jewish population of the area was
heavily taxed by Byzantine tax collectors of the time and many of the younger
Jews were fed up with it. “… the Jews have asked for war, and war they must
have.” Then a byzantine army came, smashed all Jewish homes, and destroyed
the synagogue. Many Jews were killed. This time the surviving Jews were
permanently expelled from Makor.

Finally, Islam comes to Makor. Islam is brought by the Arabian captain


Abd Umar, who wishes to gain control of Makor peacefully without any citizens
killed. He sees Christianity as a dying religion because of its many factions. He
believes that in time the citizens will “…see their error and join Islam.” He
justifies his attack on the cities of Byzantium as spreading his religion.

Religion in the area known as Makor has slowly evolved from nothing the
three major religions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. These religions
attempted to live in relative peace, but all around fail in the long run. If I were to
continue to read this book, I would expect to hear about the bloody conflicts
between the Christians and the Islamics. This story in my opinion was ok. It was
rather confusing with the characters changing so often, and was just too long to
hold my interest. It was in my opinion an overall waste of time.
Work Sited
Michener, James. The Source. New York, Random House. 1965

-“… buried in a specific position, his head on a pillow of rock,


accompanied by a few pots of food, a spear and some ornament he had
loved…” (Michener, 91)

-“…alter the essential he and smear it into a distorted form….” (Michener,


80)

-“…about the unseen forces that influence men…” (Michener, 90)

-“I was afraid. Have you come to punish me?” (Michener, 167)

-“I should, for you have disobeyed me.” (Michener, 167)

- “… a law was announced requiring all citizens to present themselves 4


times a year to pay a formal homage to Antiochus Ephianes as the senior
god…” (Michener, 369)

-“Jews shall no longer circumcise their male children.” (Michener, 369)

-“…Naaman [were] needed if Judaism [were] to survive.” (Michener, 489)

-“… a Jewish Christian.” (Michener, 582)

-“… the Jews have asked for war, and war they must have.”(Michener,
585-586)

-“…see their error and join Islam.” (Michener, 602)