In 701 B.C. the Assyrian empire was in its ascendancy. It had already vanquished the kingdom of Israel to the north including the capital at Samaria. It then prepared an assault on Judah and its capital at Jerusalem.
But in one of those significant events that changes the course of world history, Assyria was repelled. Jerusalem was saved until 586 B.C. when the Babylonians sacked the city, forcing its leadership class into exile.
Henry Aubin, in a major feat of scholarship, determines that Jerusalem was aided by a Kushite army from Africa which had marched northeast from the Nile valley. While the Bible attributes the Assyrian retreat to an angel and secular commentators cite pestilence, Aubin, in a meticulously documented work, demonstrates that an alliance with the African nation of Kush bolstered Jerusalem’s defences.
Kush, also known as Nubia, was located in what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan. A monarchy that existed for more than 1000 years, from 900 B.C. to A.D. 350, Kushites held sway over Egypt from 712 B.C. to about 660 B.C. Of Egypt’s 31 dynasties, this, the 25th Dynasty, is the only one that all scholars agree, was black.
The commander of the Kushite expeditionary force was Taharqa (or as the Bible calls him Tirhakah). This Kushite prince, who had his own interests in halting Assyrian expansion, likely caught the aggressors by surprise as they prepared their siege of Jerusalem.
Aubin offers a thrilling military history and a stirring political analysis of the ancient world. He also sees the event as influential over the centuries.
The Kushite rescue of the Hebrew kingdom of Judah enabled the fragile, war-ravaged state to endure, to nurse itself back to economic and demographic health, and allowed the Hebrew religion, Yahwism, to evolve within the next several centuries into Judaism. Thus emerged the monotheistic trunk supporting Christianity and Islam.
Jeffrey Rosenthal is a professor of statistics at the University of Toronto. He has been awarded the CRM-SSC Prize, the SSC Gold Medal, Fellowship of the Royal Society of Canada and of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, and the COPSS Presidents’ Award. He has also received teaching awards at both Harvard and U of T. Rosenthal’s first book was a national bestseller in Canada and was published in fourteen countries and in ten languages. Visit him at Probability.ca and on Twitter @ProbabilityProf.
“Knock on Wood is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand why things happen.”
Darrell Bricker, CEO, Ipsos Public Affairs, co-author of The Big Shift
“Get this book for yourself but also for family and friends both those who believe only science has all the answers and those who swear there are mysterious forces that often determine our fate.”
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Knock on Wood
Luck, Chance, and the Meaning of Everything
For readers of Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Daniel Levitin with a twist of Bill Bryson—a lighthearted, entertaining and fateful exploration of luck in everyday life.
For centuries, people around the world have prayed for good luck and warded against bad. Every language features a good luck greeting. Sailors have long looked for an albatross on the horizon as a symbol of good fortune. Jade, clovers, rabbits’ feet, wishbones: these items have lined the pockets of those seeking good fortune. For some, it’s bad luck to walk under a ladder, to enter and leave a home through different doors or to say “Macbeth” in a theatre.
But is there such a thing as luck, or does luck often just explain common sense? Don’t walk under a ladder because, well, that’s just dangerous. You won the lottery not because of any supernatural force but because a random number generator selected the same numbers that you picked out at the corner store. You run into a neighbour from your street on the other side of the world: Random chance or pure fate? (Or does it depend on how much you like your neighbour?)
Jeffrey S. Rosenthal, author of the bestseller Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities, was born on a Friday the thirteenth, a fact that he discovered long after he had become one of the world’s pre-eminent statisticians. Had he been living ignorantly and innocently under an unlucky cloud for all those years? Or is thirteen just another number? As a scientist and a man of reason, Rosenthal has long considered the value of luck, good and bad, seeking to measure chance and hope in formulas scratched out on chalkboards.
In Knock on Wood, Rosenthal, with great humour and irreverence, divines the world of luck, fate and chance, putting his considerable scientific acumen to the test in deducing whether luck is real or the mere stuff of superstition.