I, OZYMANDIAS

King James Version (for those who prefer a modern re-writing of the bible, A New Revised Standard Version follows)

 

  1. And the Great Spirit didst speak unto me, “Come talk with me, Ozymandias.”
  2. I didst reply, “No, thee come to me to talk. I, Ozymandias, am the greater of us two. Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair.” And I didst not move.
  3. Then didst I fall asleep, and I didst dream a nightmare. First the oceans didst roll onto mine land, and I and mine people didst flee to the east, where was higher ground. Many didst die along the way.
  4. I didst watch as the water didst destroy mine land and people, and after the waters rolled away was left salt everywhere, until all the plants hadst died, and the soil didst turn into sand.
  5. A mighty wind didst blow up, shifting the sand everywhere, until it didst cover mine empire to a depth of many rods. The highest buildings, castles, and palaces disappeared as if they were never there.
  6. And the Great Spirit didst speak in this nightmare, and didst curse me, “Thou, Ozymandias, to whom I was willing to give the whole world, have turned thine back on me, so shalt I turn mine back on thee, and thine tribe.
  7. “Thou shalt long wander the world, Ozymandias, the undying Wandering Jew, until thee dost lead thine people to where in front of thee is only a long thin bridge between salt water oceans.
  8. “Thou shalt cross this bridge and enter a land of frozen water. The land wilt be so cold few wilt want to live there.
  9. “Thine people shalt struggle to survive. They shalt be hunted by giant bears, and wolves so many at one time thou will not be able to fight them all.
  10. “Thou, Ozymandias, shalt watch thine people be eaten. And frozen to death. And thou wilt finally come to know how little greatness thou hast in thee.
  11. “Then and only then wilt thee and thine people cross a great mountain range, and travel south, until the land is green again, and thou shalt come to know how great I am, for I shall finally forgive thine people.
  12. “Thine people wilt know plenty, but not thee, Ozymandias, for when thou seeth how great the land I give to thine people is, that is when I shalt strike thee dead, so that thou gettest no pleasure from this new land.
  13. “Never again will thine people live in numbers so large that they call their world an empire. And if they dost, I shalt visit a new curse upon them!
  14. “They shall divide and divide again, until there are many tribes who fight with each other. Never again wilt they know true peace.
  15. “And they shalt call themselves the Dene, The People Who Wandered.
  16. And, Ozymandias, I shall turn their skin red in shame, not for what they didst do, but for what thou art doing right now. Everyone shalt know thine shame, for no one is greater than me.”
  17. And then didst I awake, to find sea water lapping at my feet, and I was sore afraid.

******************************************************************

“This, my children of Buffalo Shoulders, is the true and ancient history of the Dene, as it was handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation beyond count. How long we wandered the world is too many moons to remember. But we must remember the man who challenged the Great Spirit, and lost. White men do not know who we truly are. A few legends, perhaps, tell bits of our tale, but only we know the whole of it, here in Buffalo Shoulders, where lies the true grave of Ozymandias.

“Any questions?”

–The End–

The New Revised Standard Version

  1. And the Great Spirit said unto me, “Come talk with me, Ozymandias.”
  2. I replied, “No, you come talk to me. I, Ozymandias, am the greater of us two. Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair.” And I did not move.
  3. Then I fell asleep, and I dreamed a nightmare. First the oceans rolled onto my land, and I and my people fled to the east, where was higher ground. Many died on the way.
  4. I was forced to watch as the water destroyed my land and people, and after the waters rolled away salt was left everywhere, until all the plants were killed, and the soil turned to sand.
  5. A mighty wind blew up, shifting the sand everywhere, until it covered my empire to a depth of many rods. The highest buildings, castles, and palaces disappeared as if they were never there.
  6. And the Great Spirit spoke in this nightmare, and cursed me. “You, Ozymandias, to whom I was willing to give the whole world, have turned your back on me, so shall I turn my back on you, and your tribe.
  7. “You shall long wander the world, Ozymandias, the undying Wandering Jew, until you lead your people to where in front of you is only a long thin bridge between salt water oceans.
  8. “You shall cross this bridge and enter a land of frozen water. The land will be so cold few will want to live there.
  9. “Your people will struggle to survive. They will be hunted by giant bears, and wolves so many at a time you will not be able to fight them all.
  10. “You, Ozymandias, shall watch your people be eaten. And frozen to death. And you will finally come to know how little greatness you have in you.
  11. “Then and only then will you and your people cross a great mountain range, and travel south, until the land is green again, and you come to know how great I am, for I shall finally forgive your people.
  12. “Your people will know plenty, but not you, Ozymandias, for when you see how great the land I give to your people is, that is when I will strike you dead, so that you get no pleasure from this new land.
  13. “Never again will your people live in numbers so large that they call their world an empire. And if they do, I will visit a new curse upon them!
  14. “They shall divide and divide again, until there are many tribes who fight with each other. Never again will they know true peace.
  15. “And they shall call themselves the Dene, The People Who Wandered.
  16. And, Ozymandias, I shall turn their skin red in shame, not for what they did, but for what you are doing right now. Everyone will know your shame, for no one is greater than me.”
  17. And I awoke, to find sea water lapping at my feet, and I was sore afraid.

******************************************************************

“This, my children of Buffalo Shoulders, is the true history of the Dene, as it was handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation beyond count. How long we wandered the world is too many moons to remember. But we must remember the man who challenged the Great Spirit, and lost. White men do not know who we truly are. A few legends, perhaps, tell bits of our tale, but only we know the whole of it, here in Buffalo Shoulders, where lies the true grave of Ozymandias.

“Any questions?”

–The End–

*******************************************************************

*******************************************************************

Dear Readers,

The above short story (approx 600 words) is my entry into the April Blog Battle at https://blogbattlers.wordpress.com/2019/04/01/blogbattle-shift/ where anyone can try their hand at writing a literary piece containing or demonstrating understanding of the word shift. Please check out the above site for rules and other details. Thank you.

rawgod

Please note: the line printed in blue from Verse 1 is borrowed directly from the poem “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, as is the name of the lead character. This work is a piece of fiction, written this 2nd day of April, 2019, by rawgod.

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23 Comments

  1. Wow! Quite the legend/myth, and especially intriguing coming from you, an Atheist. But then, this isn’t really about deity, so much as it is about pride and hubris, and the use/misuse of power. Funny how the power shifted, but not the arrogance, as Great Spirit was every bit as guilty as the man…

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  2. Hi, in a short piece I find the use of old English to be interesting, however my nieces and nephews would probably glaze over. In the end it comes down to the context to attract the reader, but I found the use of old English not a problem.

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  3. I actually preferred the original version. This certainly reads like a lost Bible verse, but the tale is about a Native tribe. I find the Old English a little jarring when used with the “Great Spirit” title, and when juxtaposed with the “true history” of the Dene. Unless you were simply adding another layer of “shift” to your story… 😉

    Though I have to say I am impressed by your grasp of Old English; I could never have gotten that all right. Lol!

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    1. Well, the true story of the Dene is belief in the great spirit, whom others have called god. We need to give them the benefit of the doubt, esp since it is Ozymandias telling the original story.
      Maybe that is why the other 12 tribes of Israel kicked them out. Who knows?
      As for my grasp of Olde Anglish, thanks for reminding me. This is actually Middle English. Olde English none of us could understand. I took a course in it in university a long time ago, and it was much closer to German than English is, esp grammar wise. The oddest thing about Olde Anglish, there was at least in the 70s no recorded word for the colour blue.
      For now I am going to leave my story with two translations, since there are many versions of the bible that use modern English. A lot of people could find Middle English quite distressing.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I think I misunderstood your comment yesterday, Lisa. Let me try it this way. Ozymandias, in the original piem, ruled an empire based in India, one that probably stretched into the Middle East. I didn’t say it outright, but I changed it to its opposite, basing his empire in the Middle East, possibly extending it into India. His people were the lost tribe of Israel, the 13th tribe. So they started out as Israelites, god’s chosen, but ended up as First Nations people in North America. It has often been suggested that this is actually who the aboriginal people of North America are, the lost tribe of Israel. I just tried to put some meat on those bones. At the same time I tried to bring Shelley’s Ozymandias into the historical world of the Jewish Tanakh, christianity’s Old Testament. Maybe this was too ambitious of me, esp in a 600 word piece of fiction.
      Am I out of line here, or did you already get all of this? I don’t know what to think right now?

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  4. A very intriguing read, partly because I always loved the Ozymandias poem. And I did like the King James English, although I found the word DIDST used so often that it started to jar. The Wandering Jew reference initially brought me to a halt for more reasons than I want to go into here, but I understand your comment how you were playing on the mistaken notion of where the Native Americans came from. There’s no denying the creativity of this piece!

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    1. Thank you. There were a lot of “didst”s, but once I used one I could not change horses midstream. Didst was one of the most used worst in Middle English, but we are no longer used to it. Today we use “ed” or “t” endings to denote the past tense, with did, have, had, etc as occansional auxilliary verbs. The d and t past tense endings came mainly from did and didst.
      But I am glad you enjoyed the KJV because that is the one I grew up with, complete with thees, thous, dos and didsts.

      Like

    1. As far as I know, Colette, while it is a “battle,” it is not a contest. Last month, at least, I saw no winner declared. Just a list of all the battlers and their words…
      Thank you for your kind words. I took a poem and a myth or two, put them together, wrote them in a particular style, and told a story. Glad you liked it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I had forgotten the old “lost tribes” theory about aboriginal people in North America. As far as I know, no First Nations groups have claimed this title for themselves, though. I wonder how the Dene people would feel about being reduced to descendants of their Judeo-Christian oppressors?

    I hope this was supposed to be tongue in cheek, but I don’t see evidence of that in the body of the text. There’s certainly room for some kind of parallel between the hubris of Ozymandias, of God, and of the white man who presumes to rewrite aboriginal people’s histories in his own image. If this is what you’re going for, it might be more effective if the bit at the end were written instead as a white person explsining to a Dene person what his history is, rather than as a Dene person self-describing this way. The irony would be clearer that way. Without knowing you or your intentions, though, this piece could easily be read as racist.

    I take it, reading your comments that this isn’t your intent. I’m not accusing you of anything. I just wanted to point out that, as it stands, this piece could be interpreted that way. The difficulty in writing subversive themes is that it’s a very fine line between over explaining and coming across as dogmatic, and under explaining and being mistaken for the very thing you are protesting against.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All I was doing was playing with legends. The keyword ‘shift’ made me think of shifting sands, thus Ozymandias. The great flood took me to the Levant, where I added the 13th and lost tribe of Israel. That took me to the Wandering Jew, and the ties between the Dene and the Siberian landbridge. As I had actually started with the biblical style, for some reason, but realizing the era I was writing about I took it back to the original English language current at the time King James II (I believe) had the bible translated since I was writing in English, just to date it.
      Now, after all that, what do you see me being racist about, because I cannot see it. The early Hebrews were an olive people, so slightly coloured. The god in the story turned them red to display their shame (according to him). There are no whites in the story as such, nor are there any christians? If you stick to the Ozymandias poem Shelley left it to our imagination as to what race his people would have been, but most likely brown. I used poetic licence to turn them olive, and later red. So, please, show me the racism? Please remember, not that it matters, I am Metis.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I gathered a lot of the backstory and your intentions from reading the comments, and I think this twist on the mythology is really interesting and definitely worthy of exploration. I didn’t know you were Metis, actually! But that doesn’t “shift” my initial reaction, since I was trying to critique the story not the writer 🙂 The reader doesn’t know your intentions, or where the ideas are coming from, or your personal history, but it can be hard to see our own writing with fresh eyes. I’ll try to explain my thought process when I was reading. I will apologize in advance if its a bit of a ramble.

        Any time I recognize that a writer is imitating another piece of writing–with their voice, style, themes, or plot–I immediately wonder why they are making that choice. Usually writers do this for two reasons. They draw attention to the other text in order to invite comparison because they are supporting and expanding on the original idea; or they are drawing attention to it in order to contrast against it, disagree with it, or subvert it in some way. You’ve made two obvious references and one more subtle: stylistically this piece imitates and English translation of the Christian Bible, thematically you are recalling Shelley’s poem Ozymandias, and (the more subtle reference) the 17th c. scholars who originated the theory that aboriginal people in North America are descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel.

        So once I recognized those references, I was waiting to see which direction the story would take. Because you used “Great Spirit” rather than “Lord” or “God,” I was primed to anticipate a subversion. But it didn’t come in the way that I was expecting it to, which is likely what I found jarring.

        The “white man” is conspicuous in his absence, in many ways, though his spirit has been invoked strongly by the parallels to the English bible, an English poet, and British anthropological scholars. These are all “hard” references, by which I mean they references other books that one can look up and read. The references to Dene culture and spirituality are “soft” references, implied but not as concrete.

        That said, it would be impossible to draw a parallel between First Nations culture and Christianity without also invoking the immense damage Christian missionaries and the Canadian (and American) governments did to First Nations people in the name of the Christian God. So, again, I expected a subversion of the Christian myth.

        However, the ending read, for me, seemed to subvert Dene origin stories rather than the Christian myths. It reads as if the treatment of the Dene people by white people was somehow a deserved punishment for transgressions of a centuries dead leader. This idea is reinforced by the idea that the colour of aboriginal people’s skin is a curse and a symbol of their shame. Similar “reasoning” has been used by white people to oppress non-white people for centuries, that non-white people are lesser in the eyes of god. Even the term “red” to describe aboriginal people’s skin conjures up racist tones, as it was a racial identifier (used by white people) which quickly became pejorative (like referring to asians as “yellow”). The idea that red would be a colour of shame implies an origin with a lighter skinned people, as dark skinned people don’t blush red and wouldn’t have the same associations.

        So these are the aspects that I felt shifted the meaning of the piece into ambiguous territory. I don’t know if seeing my thought process is helpful at all, but that’s where my original comment was coming from.

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      2. I guess, in the end, it all comes down to that horrid word, “expectations!” I was not trying to subvert anything, bring attention to anything, or imply anything. I had NO expectations that anyone would read my little diddy in any way other than as intended by me. You, as you are your own person, look for deeper meanings which are not always intended to be there. This is your perogative as a reader. Unfortunately I, as the writer, disappointed you, but I cannot apologize for that. I wrote. You read. That is the correct process, as it should be.
        What answers you were looking to find were not there because I never asked the questions. But it would interest me to know what answers you were hoping to find?
        You see, I do not want to kill our communications. Yet in two stories out of two you have felt my writing to be inadequate in some way. I would like to explore that feeling, even though it may seem I am on the defensive.
        I am, because I want readers to enjoy what I write, and this does not seem to be working for you. But I don’t know how to go to these places I had no intention of taking you to. So now we have two of the biggest challenges to forming and maintaining good relationships: communication, and expectations. These two subjects have always fascinated me. I am hoping they fascinate you also.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Prepare yourself for an essay! Lol

        You do not, as a writer or as a person, disappoint me in any way. I don’t have any expectations for you to disappoint, other than that you are a writer who wants to keep writing and (I assume) wants to improve their skill. Don’t we all?

        I think perhaps you are receiving my critiques in a different spirit than I am leaving them. I love exploring literature. I studied it in university, along with fine art, and I have continued to study it as I develop my own writing. If I bring up an idea, or see a theme that you didn’t intend, or offer a different perspective, I am not doing it because there is something wrong with your writing (only the writer can decide that). I am doing it because that is the way I like others to critique my work. I like to know the associations, impressions, and feelings that my work evokes because I want to make sure that I’m evoking the right thing. If there is an angle to my story that I hadn’t considered, I like to have it pointed out, and then I can decide if that’s something I want to pursue or not. Much of story telling is problem solving and decision making, and the more information you have, the more educated your decisions can be. I don’t mind offending people, personally, but I don’t like to do it accidentally.

        I participate in the BlogBattle and other competitions and challenges because I have two goals, to write more and to improve on that writing. Giving and receiving creative writing critiques is a way that helps to develop writing craft. All writing can be critiqued, regardless of how skilled the writer is or how polished the draft is. There is always something to talk about, questions to be asked, and ideas to be clarified.

        But, as I think I said before, if you aren’t looking to further develop the ideas you come up with for BlogBattle, I won’t critique them. I don’t critique journal entries, diaries, free-writing exercises, etc. either, other than to say whether or not an idea interests me or a character is working or an emotion is evoked.

        On your last piece, I offered the idea that a shift in POV might heighten the emotional impact of the story–moving from a passive to an active character. This is something I often do in my own writing. Sometimes I write thousands of words before realizing that another character is the one who has the stronger story to tell. You didn’t want to do that, and that’s fair. Emotional impact isn’t the only goal of storytelling, and switching POVs is only one way of affecting that. It was only an idea for future development, if you planned on it.

        My reaction to this piece was stronger, because you are dealing with bigger themes. Religion and culture and, whether you like want to or not, the inescapable damage that has been caused by the clash of these things in the real world. Fiction is a reflection of real life. I have strong real life feelings about religion and colonization that were triggered by your piece, whether you intended to do so or not. As writers we can ignore the implications of the things we write, but they are there anyway. Every reader brings different facets of knowledge and experience to a piece of writing. But there are some things that evoke strong reactions in most people. Religion and politics are the big ones. If you aren’t prepared to offend people, those topics are pretty much off limits, haha. Whatever you do to appease one kind of reader will annoy another.

        You ask what answers I was hoping to find. I’m not sure that’s a question I can answer exactly… If you mean what would have made this piece more satisfying to me as a reader, I can try to answer that. Because I feel that there has been a great violence done to First Nations people in Canada, and that it is not their fault, I would have liked for there be some sense of redemption and hope for the future and some sense of retribution for those who were truly guilty of the crimes against aboriginal people. The ending right now is bleak. That in itself is not enough to turn me off, though. Life can be bleak. I think what I’m most uncomfortable with is how there are some shitty people out there who would feel very validated by this version. It absolves the abusive parties and punishes the victims, with no end in sight. I don’t like it. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it’s just not to my taste. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t make it wrong. It’s only “wrong” if a) that’s not your intention and b) other people feel that way and mine opinion isn’t an outlier. You need to know who your intended audience is, and cater your work to them as you will never appeal to everyone.

        I’ve read your comments on other stories, though, and I know that you do think about layers of meaning in other writers’ work, that you appreciate that in literature. We have that in common, at least!

        You didn’t like my own story last month, if I recall 😉 You gave me some things to think about for future drafts and, even if you aren’t my intended audience, your perspective was still valuable to me. I like to talk about writing and ideas, and I don’t take anything personally. I don’t intend for anyone to take my critiques personally, either, though that doesn’t always work. Sometimes that’s a problem with my delivery and sometimes that’s a matter of where the other person is in their relationship with their own writing. Sometimes its both. But I’ll keep trying until I find a dynamic that works. If that’s not possible, I will back off. Just say the words!

        Personally, I much prefer a critique that stings a little and challenges me to the pats on the back and general praise. The readers I use for my competition pieces are the ones who give me the most shit and make me want to hurl my computer out the window because they are the ones who push me to be better. They are the ones who have high expectations for my abilities and hold me to them, sometimes more stringently than I hold myself. Tough critiques are, in many ways, a very sincere compliment. Your bad luck that this piece lent itself so well to an intertexual reading, haha.

        So, I guess you could say that yes, I am interested in communication and expectations! Personally, of course, and especially as they apply to the art and craft of storytelling. I look forward to future discussions if you don’t ban me from your page, lol.

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      4. I do not ban anyone one from my pages. But at the same time, I am not looking to make writing a career. I think I hinted at or said that last time. What I do love is taking part in competitions. I love pitting myself against others in just about anything. But at close to 70 years of age there aren’t as many competitions of various kinds available for me, esp since I do not look for them anymore. Esp since I am so cantankorous.
        So, am I looking for creative criticism? Not really–I just want to entertain, mostly myself.
        The other thing I love is communicating with others. The internet has so much to offer in that direction these days.
        And, yes, First Nations people in Canada have been treated horribly by whites and christians, but so have aboriginal people all over the world. Certainly I am not saying people of reddish skin should be ashamed of who they are. Rather, they have every right to be proud of who WE are. In my little ditty, Great Spirit/god are interchangeable, a cultural statement made in the first words of the story. And by the end of the story they are given one of the most beautiful lands in all the world–by that very Great Spirit who led them away from all the religious craziness left behind in the Middle East. I do allude to some future craziness in the New World, but only as an “if” scenario.
        You are right, though, I never gave any thought to anyone reading this tale as you did. So maybe I deserve what you said. Each to their own.
        But I am getting tired for now. We must talk again…

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I read this telling as occurring in the past, so that the future horrors that are alluded to are the past/present horrors being experienced by First Nations people. If there are worse things in store, it’s even bleaker than I thought!

        I have only focused on Canadian colonization because you’ve named the Dene and referenced the Bering land bridge. It is confusing, though, since that theory references Asia to America migration long before there were any settled civilizations in the Middle East. But Biblical timelines have never made any logical sense to me. The reference to Buffalo Soldiers also threw me, since that was a term for Black Cavalry in America in the 1860s. So I was picking up some serious mixed messages. Sorry for the confusion.

        If you like competitions, check out http://www.12shortstories.com. They have monthly challenges under 2500 words with about a thousand people participating. Lots of people writing there have only started writing since they’ve retired, so you may find some kindred spirits there. Some of the most tenacious writers I know are 60+, though, haha.

        Anyway, I’ll bugger off and expend my critiquing energy elsewhere. It wasn’t meant as a punishment for you to suffer through! Maybe karma will lead me to someone who does deserve my wrath 😉 Take care!

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      6. I hope we can still continue to talk.
        Buffalo Shoulders, not Buffalo Soldiers. It was the name of the hamlet in “The Eyes of Dusk”, reused here in case I do get a series of fictional legends going. (See my note to Rachel.)
        The timeline is fluid, yet starting from before the biblical flood, and continuing tiĺ beyond the Bering landbridge. The empire of Ozymandias I moved to before that flood, and part of the reason for it. The Wandering Jew story was a long one, many centuries passed from the lost tribe leaving the Levant to arriving in present day Alaska.
        All First Nations/American Aboriginal/ Central American people/South American people are descendants of the Dene, according to the legend. Over time the names and languages changed, making them seem different people, but DNA testing actually substantiates the legend (supposedly).
        Thank you for the tip on the other contest.
        And since I do NOT believe in karma, no worries about anything. If it is your goal to help budding writers, go for it, I won’t take up your time. All comments are accepted, just not always agreed with, lol.
        J

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Ahh, I misread that. Twice! Sorry. Must be listening to too much Bob Marley, haha.

        Anything with “bible time” and anthropological time messes me up. I tend to be literal with historical references and find it hard to relax those expectations (speaking of expectations).

        I’ll still read your stuff. I don’t believe in karma either. I was just riffing off the idea of divine punishment. I don’t believe in that either, but I get a kick out of the idea of my critiquing being a punishment for misbehaviour (maybe in a past life?)

        Since BlogBattle is a small group I try to get through all of those entries, but there are a number that are outside my area of focus (poetry, memoir, micro flash, etc.) I hope that my critiques are helpful to the person receiving them, but the act of critiquing is helpful to me too. They do take a fair amount of time, though. Probably more than it looks like, lol. So if I know ahead of time that a person isn’t looking for that or likely to benefit from it, I’ll read another one from 12SS. I never get through enough of them anyway!

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  6. I’m starting to appreciate you, not believing in divine punishment or karma. Not too many of us around. Only in Canada, you say?
    The problem with biblical time is that it pays no attention to anything happening outside of the land of the bible, so there is nothing to correlate it with. God was all-knowing, yes, because he had such a tiny piece of land he was dealing with. India, Troy, Greece, are these places even mentioned? Persia is, but only as it affected the Hebrew tribes, same as Egypt. No, the world in god’s eyes was very tiny. The rest never even existed. (If you believe in biblical history, that is. Like most Abahamic religions, though, if it isn’t in the bible, it doesn’t exist!)

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