Daryavesh and the Deterrents

The other evening at dinner I was telling Arenda something about what I’d learned of in that day’s Aramaic class. Kings of the ancient near east had a soft spot for perverse punishments, I’d imagine because they were useful deterrents. In Daniel 2 Nebuchadnezzar informs his wise men that unless they can tell him what had happened in his dream, one of their two punishments is that they “will be made limbs.” You should always make your point with the fewest words possible. The other punishment? Their “houses will be turned into dunghills.”

For some kings, that still wasn’t quite enough. In Ezra 6 King Darius (Daryavesh in Aramaic) decrees that if anyone interferes with the Jews as they build their temple, in addition to the standard home-into-dunghill treatment, “a beam shall be pulled out of his house, and he shall be impaled on it.” Which makes the point rather abruptly.

Kids listen to stuff, so I wasn’t overly taken aback when my three-year-old son says to me tonight, “Look, Dad, I made a dunghill.”
I looked up and saw a pile of cushions on the couch.
“What’s a dunghill?” I asked, wanting to know what he thought.
“Oh, you know, it’s just a thing that you jump on.”
When Arenda told him otherwise, he insisted she was wrong.
He refused to believe it.

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