Did You Know?
What did the apostle Paul have in mind when he spoke of “a triumphal procession”?
▪ Paul wrote: “God . . . leads us in a triumphal procession in company with the Christ and makes the odor of the knowledge of him perceptible through us in every place! For to God we are a sweet odor of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the latter ones an odor issuing from death to death, to the former ones an odor issuing from life to life.”—2 Corinthians 2:14-16.
The apostle was referring to the Roman practice of holding a celebratory procession to honor a general for his victory over enemies of the State. At such events, both the spoils and the prisoners of war were put on display and bulls were led to the sacrifice while the victorious general and his army received public acclaim. At the end of the procession, the bulls were sacrificed and many of the prisoners were likely executed.
The metaphor of the “sweet odor of Christ” signifying life for some and death for others is “probably drawn from the Roman practice of burning incense along the way of the procession,” says The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. “The fragrance that signified triumph to the victors reminded the captives of the execution that likely awaited them.” *
What were the “high places” frequently mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures?
▪ When the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, Jehovah told them to eliminate all the places of worship of the Canaanites who lived there. “You must . . . destroy all their stone figures, and all their images of molten metal you should destroy, and all their sacred high places you should annihilate,” God commanded. (Numbers 33:52) Those centers of false worship may have been either open-air hilltop sites or constructed platforms in other locations, such as under trees or in cities. (1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 17:29; Ezekiel 6:3) They could be equipped with altars, sacred pillars or poles, images, incense stands, and other paraphernalia for worship.
Prior to the construction of the temple in Jerusalem, the Israelites worshipped Jehovah at approved sites that the Scriptures call high places. God’s prophet Samuel offered sacrifices at “the high place” in an unnamed city in the land of Zuph. (1 Samuel 9:11-14) Once the temple was built, however, a number of kings who were faithful to Jehovah attempted to rid the land of its “high places.”—2 Kings 21:3; 23:5-8, 15-20; 2 Chronicles 17:1, 6.
^ par. 5 For an explanation of the spiritual meaning behind Paul’s illustration, see The Watchtower, November 15, 1990, page 27.
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A section of a relief depicting a Roman triumphal procession, second century C.E.
Photograph taken by courtesy of the British Museum
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The remains of sacred pillars, Gezer