Watchman Willie Martin Archive

                       THE LEGENDS OF THE JEWS

                                   By Louis Ginzberg

              Translated From The German Manuscript By

                                     Henrietta Szold

                                       Volume I

                          Bible Times and Characters

                         From The Creation To Jacob

                                  To My Brother Asher


                        Was sich nie und nirgends hat

                       begeben, das allein veraltet nie.

The term Rabbinic was applied to the Jewish Literature of  post‑Biblical times by those who conceived the Judaism of the later epoch to be something different from the Judaism of the Bible, something actually opposed to it. Such observers held that the Jewish nation ceased to exist with the moment when its political independence was destroyed.

For them the Judaism of the later epoch has been a Judaism of the Synagogue, the spokesmen of which have been the scholars, the Rabbis. And what this phase of Judaism brought forth has been considered by them to be the product of the schools rather than the product of practical, pulsating life.

Poetic phantasmagoria, frequently the vaporings of morbid visionaries, is the material out of which these scholars construct the theologic system of the Rabbis, and fairy tales, the spontaneous creations of the people, which take the form of sacred legend in Jewish literature, are denominated the Scriptural exegesis of the Rabbis, and condemned incontinently as nugae rabbinorum.

As the name of a man clings to him, so men cling to names. For the primitive savage the name is part of the essence of a person or thing, and even in the more advanced stages of culture, judgments are not always formed in agreement with facts as they are, but rather according to the names by which they are called. The current estimate of Rabbinic Literature is a case in point. With the label Rabbinic later ages inherited from former ages a certain distorted view of the literature so designated. To this day, and even among scholars that approach its investigation with unprejudiced minds, the opinion prevails that it is purely a learned product. And yet the truth is that the most prominent feature of Rabbinic Literature is its popular character.

The school and the home are not mutually opposed to each other in the conception of the Jews. They study in their homes, and they live in their schools. Likewise there is no distinct class of scholars among them, a class that withdraws itself from participation in the affairs of practical life. Even in the domain of the Halakah, the Rabbis were not so much occupied with theoretic principles of law as with the concrete phenomena of daily existence. These they sought to grasp and shape. And what is true of the Halakah is true with greater emphasis of the Haggadah, which is popular in the double sense of appealing to the people and being produced in the main by the people. To speak of the Haggadah of the Tannaim and Amoraim is as far from fact as to speak of the legends of Shakespeare and Scott. The ancient authors and their modern brethren of the guild alike elaborate legendary material which they found at hand.

It has been held by some that the Haggadah contains no popular legends, that it is wholly a factitious, academic product. A cursory glance at the pseudepigraphic literature of the Jews, which is older than the Haggadah literature by several centuries, shows how untenable this view is. That the one literature should have drawn from the other is precluded by historical facts.

At a very early time the Synagogue disavowed the pseudepigraphic literature, which was the favorite reading matter of the sectaries and the Christians. Nevertheless the inner relation between them is of the closest kind. The only essential difference is that the Midrashic form prevails in the Haggadah, and the parenetic or apocalyptic form in the pseudepigrapha. The common element must therefore depart from the Midrash on the one hand and from parenesis on the other.

Folklore, fairy tales, legends, and all forms of story telling akin to these are comprehended, in the terminology of the post‑Biblical literature of the Jews, under the inclusive description Haggadah, a name that can be explained by a circumlocution, but cannot be translated. Whatever it is applied to, is thereby characterized first as being derived from the Holy Scriptures, and then as being of the nature of a story. And, in point of fact, this dualism sums up the distinguishing features of Jewish Legend.

More than eighteen centuries ago the Jewish historian Josephus observed that "though we be deprived of our wealth, of our cities, or of the other advantages we have, our law continues immortal." The word he meant to use was not law, but Torah, only he could not find an equivalent for it in Greek. A singer of the Synagogue a thousand years after Josephus, who expressed his sentiments in Hebrew, uttered the same thought: "The Holy City and all her daughter cities are violated, they lie in ruins, despoiled of their ornaments, their splendor darkened from sight. Naught is left to us save one eternal treasure alone‑‑the Holy Torah." The sadder the life of the Jewish people, the more it felt the need of taking refuge in its past. The Scripture, or, to use the Jewish term, the Torah, was the only remnant of its former national independence, and the Torah was the magic means of making a sordid actuality recede before a glorious memory. To the Scripture was assigned the task of supplying nourishment to the mind as well as the soul, to the intellect as well as the imagination, and the result is the Halakah and the Haggadah.

The fancy of the people did not die out in the post‑ Biblical time, but the bent of its activity was determined by the past.

Men craved entertainment in later times as well as in the earlier, only instead of resorting for its subject‑matter to what happened under their eyes, they drew from the fountain‑head of the past. The events in the ancient history of Israel, which was not only studied, but lived over again daily, stimulated the desire to criticize it. The religious reflections upon nature laid down in the myths of the people, the fairy tales, which have the sole object of pleasing, and the legends, which are the people's verdict upon history‑‑all these were welded into one product. The fancy of the Jewish people was engaged by the past reflected in the Bible, and all its creations wear a Biblical hue for this reason. This explains the peculiar form of the Haggadah.

But what is spontaneously brought forth by the people is often preserved only in the form impressed upon it by the feeling and the thought of the poet, or by the speculations of the learned. Also Jewish legends have rarely been transmitted in their original shape. They have been perpetuated in the form of Midrash, that is, Scriptural exegesis. The teachers of the Haggadah, called Rabbanan d'Aggadta in the Talmud, were no folklorists, from whom a faithful reproduction of legendary material may be expected. Primarily they were homilists, who used legends for didactic purposes, and their main object was to establish a close connection between the Scripture and the creations of the popular fancy, to give the latter a firm basis and secure a long term of life for them.

One of the most important tasks of the modern investigation of the Haggadah is to make a clean separation between the original elements and the later learned additions. Hardly a beginning has been made in this direction. But as long as the task of distinguishing them has not been accomplished, it is impossible to write out the Biblical legends of the Jews without including the supplemental work of scholars in the products of the popular fancy.

In the present work, "The Legends of the Jews," I have made the first attempt to gather from the original sources all Jewish legends, in so far as they refer to Biblical personages and events, and reproduce them with the greatest attainable completeness and accuracy. I use the expression Jewish, rather than Rabbinic, because the sources from which I have levied contributions are not limited to the Rabbinic literature. As I expect to take occasion elsewhere to enter into a description of the sources in detail, the following data must suffice for the present.

The works of the Talmudic Midrashic literature are of the first importance. Covering the period from the second to the fourteenth century, they contain the major part of the Jewish legendary material. Akin to this in content if not always in form is that derived from the Targumim, of which the oldest versions were produced not earlier than the fourth century, and the most recent not later than the tenth. The Midrashic literature has been preserved only in fragmentary form. Many Haggadot not found in our existing collections are quoted by the authors of the Middle Ages. Accordingly, a not inconsiderable number of the legends here printed are taken from medieval Bible commentators and homilists. I was fortunate in being able to avail myself also of fragments of Midrashim of which only manuscript copies are extant.

The works of the older Kabbalah are likewise treasuries of quotations from lost Midrashim, and it was among the Kabbalists, and later among the Hasidim, that new legends arose. The literatures produced in these two circles are therefore of great importance for the present purpose.

Furthermore, Jewish legends can be culled, not from the writings of the Synagogue alone; they appear also in those of  the Church. Certain Jewish works repudiated by the Synagogue were accepted and mothered by the Church. This is the literature usually denominated apocryphal‑ pseudepigraphic. From the point of view of legends, the apocryphal books are of subordinate importance, while the pseudepigrapha are of fundamental value. Even quantitatively the latter are an imposing mass. Besides the Greek writings of the Hellenist Jews, they contain Latin, Syrian, Ethiopic, Aramean, Arabic, Persian, and Old Slavic products translated directly or indirectly from Jewish works of Palestinian or Hellenistic origin. The use of these pseudepigrapha requires great caution. Nearly all of them are embellished with Christian interpolations, and in some cases the inserted portions have choked the original form so completely that it is impossible to determine at first sight whether a Jewish or a Christian legend is under examination. I believe, however, that the pseudepigraphic material made use of by me is Jewish beyond the cavil of a doubt, and therefore it could not have been left out of account in a work like the present.

However, in the appreciation of Jewish Legends, it is the Rabbinic writers that should form the point of departure, and not the pseudepigrapha. The former represent the main stream of Jewish thought and feeling, the latter only an undercurrent. If the Synagogue cast out the pseudepigrapha, and the Church adopted them with a great show of favor, these respective attitudes were not determined arbitrarily or by chance. The pseudepigrapha originated in circles that harbored the germs from which Christianity developed later on. The Church could thus appropriate them as her own with just reason.

In the use of some of the apocryphal and pseudepigraphic writings, I found it expedient to quote the English translations of them made by others, in so far as they could be brought into accord with the general style of the book, for which purpose I permitted myself the liberty of slight verbal changes. In particulars, I was guided, naturally, by my own conception of the subject, which the Notes justify in detail.

Besides the pseudepigrapha there are other Jewish sources in Christian garb.In the rich literature of the Church Fathers many a Jewish legend lies embalmed which one would seek in vain in Jewish books. It was therefore my special concern to use the writings of the Fathers to the utmost.

The luxuriant abundance of the material to be presented made it impossible to give a verbal rendition of each legend. This would have required more than three times the space at my disposal. I can therefore claim completeness for my work only as to content. In form it had to suffer curtailment. When several conflicting versions of the same legend existed, I gave only one in the text, reserving the other one, or the several others, for the Notes, or, when practicable, they were fused into one typical legend, the component parts of which are analyzed in the Notes. In other instances I resorted to the expedient of citing one version in one place and the others in other appropriate places, in furtherance of my aim, to give a smooth presentation of the matter, with as few interruptions to the course of the narrative as possible.

For this reason I avoided such transitional phrases as "Some say," "It has been maintained," etc. That my method sometimes separates things that belong together cannot be considered a grave disadvantage, as the Index at the end of the work will present a logical rearrangement of the material for the benefit of the interested student. I also did not hesitate to treat of the same personage in different chapters, as, for instance, many of the legends bearing upon Jacob, those connected with the latter years of the Patriarch, do not appear in the chapter bearing his name, but will be found in the sections devoted to Joseph, for the reason that once the son steps upon the scene, he becomes the central figure, to which the life and deeds of the father are subordinated. Again, in consideration of lack of space the Biblical narratives underlying the legends had to be omitted‑‑surely not a serious omission in a subject with which widespread acquaintance may be presupposed as a matter of course.

As a third consequence of the amplitude of the material, it was thought advisable to divide it into several volumes. The references, the explanations of the sources used, and the interpretations given, and, especially, numerous emendations of the text of the Midrashim and the pseudepigrapha, which determined my conception of the passages so emended, will be found in the last volume, the fourth, which will contain also an Introduction to the History of Jewish Legends, a number of Excursuses, and the Index.

As the first three volumes are in the hands of the printer almost in their entirety, I venture to express the hope that the whole work will appear within measurable time, the parts following each other at short intervals.

    Louis Ginzberg. New York, March 24, 1909



1). The Creation of the World

The First Things Created; The Alphabet, The First Day, The Second Day, The Third Day, The Fourth Day, The Fifth Day, The Sixth Day, All Things Praise the Lord.

2). ADAM

Man and the World‑‑The Angels and the Creation of Man;  The Creation of Adam; The Soul of  Man; The Ideal Man; The Fall of Satan; Woman; Adam and Eve in Paradise; The Fall of Man; The Punishment; Sabbath in Heaven; Adam's Repentance; The Book of Raziel; The Sickness of Adam; Eve's Story of the Fall; The Death of Adam; The Death of Eve.


The Birth of Cain; Fratricide; The Punishment of Cain; The Inhabitants of the Seven Earths; The Descendants of Cain; The Descendants of Adam and Lilith; Seth and His

Descendants; Enosh; The Fall of the Angels; Enoch, Ruler and Teacher; The Ascension of Enoch; The Translation of

Enoch; Methuselah.

4). NOAH

The Birth of Noah; The Punishment of the Fallen Angels; The Generation of the Deluge; The Holy Book; The Inmates of the Ark; The Flood; Noah Leaves the Ark; The Curse of Drunkenness; Noah's Descendants Spread Abroad; The Depravity of Mankind; Nimrod; The Tower of Babel.


The Wicked Generations; The Birth of Abraham; The Babe Proclaims God; Abraham's First Appearance in Public; The Preacher of the True Faith; In the Fiery Furnace; Abraham Emigrates to Haran; The Star in the East; The True Believer; The Iconoclast; Abraham in Canaan; His Sojourn in Egypt; The First Pharaoh; The War of the Kings; The Covenant of the Pieces; The Birth of Ishmael; The Visit of the Angels; The Cities of Sin; Abraham Pleads for the Sinners; The Destruction of the Sinful Cities; Among the Philistines; The Birth of Isaac; Ishmael Cast Off; The Two Wives

of Ishmael; The Covenant with Abimelech; Satan Accuses

Abraham; The Journey to Moriah; The Akedah; The Death and Burial of Sarah; Eliezer's Mission; The Wooing of Rebekah; The Last Years of Abraham; A Herald of Death; Abraham Views Earth and Heaven; The Patron of Hebron.


The Birth of Esau and Jacob; The Favorite of Abraham; The Sale of the Birthright; Isaac with the Philistines; Isaac Blesses Jacob; Esau's True Character Revealed; Jacob Leaves His Father's House; Jacob Pursued by Eliphaz and Esau; The Day of Miracles; Jacob with Laban; The Marriage of Jacob; The Birth of Jacob's Children; Jacob Flees before Laban; The Covenant with Laban; Jacob and Esau Prepare to Meet; Jacob Wrestles with the Angel; The Meeting between Esau and Jacob; The Outrage at Shechem; A War Frustrated; The War with the Ninevites; The War with the Amorites; Isaac Blesses Levi and Judah; Joy and Sorrow in the House of Jacob; Esau's Campaign against Jacob; The Descendants of Esau.


The Creation of the World

The First Things Created

The Alphabet

The First Day

The Second Day

The Third Day

The Fourth Day

The Fifth Day

The Sixth Day

All Things Praise The Lord


                           The Creation of the World

                            The First Things Created

In the beginning, two thousand years before the heaven and the earth, seven things were created: the Torah written with black fire on white fire, and lying in the lap of God; the Divine Throne, erected in the heaven which later was over the heads of the Hayyot; Paradise on the right side of God, Hell on the left side; the Celestial Sanctuary directly in front of God, having a jewel on its altar graven with the Name of the Messiah, and a Voice that cries aloud, "Return, ye children of men."[1]

When God resolved upon the creation of the world, He took counsel with the Torah.[2] Her advice was this: "O Lord, a king without an army and without courtiers and attendants hardly deserves the name of king, for none is nigh to express the homage due to him." The answer pleased God exceedingly. Thus did He teach all earthly kings, by His Divine example, to undertake naught without first consulting advisers.[3]

The advice of the Torah was given with some reservations. She was skeptical about the value of an earthly world, on account of the sinfulness of men, who would be sure to disregard her precepts. But God dispelled her doubts. He told her, that repentance had been created long before, and sinners would have the opportunity of mending their ways. Besides, the Temple service would be invested with atoning power, and Paradise and hell were intended to do duty as reward and punishment. Finally, the Messiah was appointed to bring salvation, which would put an end to all sinfulness.[4]

Nor is this world inhabited by man the first of things earthly created by God. He made several worlds before ours, but He destroyed them all, because He was pleased with none until He created ours.[5] But even this last world would have had no permanence, if God had executed His original plan of ruling it according to the principle of strict justice. It was only when He saw that justice by itself would undermine the world that He associated mercy with justice, and made them to rule jointly.[6] Thus, from the beginning of all things prevailed Divine goodness, without which nothing could have continued to exist. If not for it, the myriads of evil spirits had soon put an end to the generations of men. But the goodness of God has ordained, that in every Nisan, at the time of the spring equinox, the seraphim shall approach the world of spirits, and intimidate them so that they fear to do harm to men. Again, if God in His goodness had not given protection to the weak, the tame animals would have been extirpated long ago by the wild animals. In Tammuz, at the time of the summer solstice, when the strength of behemot is at its height, he roars so loud that all the animals hear it, and for a whole year they are affrighted and timid, and their acts become less ferocious than their nature is. Again, in Tishri, at the time of the autumnal equinox, the great bird ziz[7] flaps his wings and utters his cry, so that the birds of prey, the eagles and the vultures, blench, and they fear to swoop down upon the others and annihilate them in their greed. And, again, were it not for the goodness of God, the vast number of big fish had quickly put an end to the little ones. But at the time of the winter solstice, in the month of Tebet, the sea grows restless, for then leviathan spouts up water, and the big fish become uneasy. They restrain their appetite, and the little ones escape their rapacity.

Finally, the goodness of God manifests itself in the preservation of His people Israel. It could not have survived the enmity of the Gentiles, if God had not appointed protectors for it, the archangels Michael and Gabriel.[8] Whenever Israel disobeys God, and is accused of misdemeanors by the angels of the other nations, he is defended by his designated guardians, with such good result that the other angels conceive fear of them. Once the angels of the other nations are terrified, the nations themselves venture not to carry out their wicked designs against Israel.

That the goodness of God may rule on earth as in heaven, the Angels of Destruction are assigned a place at the far end of the heavens, from which they may never stir, while the Angels of Mercy encircle the Throne of God, at His behest.[9]

                                    The Alphabet

When God was about to create the world by His word, the twenty‑two letters of the alphabet[10] descended from the terrible and august crown of God whereon they were engraved with a pen of flaming fire. They stood round about God, and one after the other spake and entreated, "Create the world through me! The first to step forward was the letter Taw. It said: "O Lord of the world! May it be Thy will to create Thy world through me, seeing that it is through me that Thou wilt give the Torah to Israel by the hand of Moses, as it is written, 'Moses commanded us the Torah.' " The Holy One, blessed be He, made reply, and said, "No!" Taw asked, "Why not?" and God answered: "Because in days to come I shall place thee as a sign of death upon the foreheads of men." As soon as Taw heard these words issue from the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He, it retired from His presence disappointed.

The Shin then stepped forward, and pleaded: "O Lord of the world, create Thy world through me: seeing that Thine own name Shaddai begins with me." Unfortunately, it is also the first letter of Shaw, lie, and of Sheker, falsehood, and that incapacitated it. Resh had no better luck. It was pointed out that it was the initial letter of Ra', wicked, and Rasha' evil, and after that the distinction it enjoys of being the first letter in the Name of God, Rahum, the Merciful, counted for naught. The Kof was rejected, because Kelalah, curse, outweighs the advantage of being the first in Kadosh, the Holy One. In vain did Zadde call attention to Zaddik, the Righteous One; there was Zarot, the misfortunes of Israel, to testify against it. Pe had Podeh, redeemer, to its credit, but Pesha: transgression, reflected dishonor upon it. 'Ain was declared unfit, because, though it begins 'Anawah, humility, it performs the same service for 'Erwah, immorality. Samek said: "O Lord, may it be Thy will to begin the creation with me, for Thou art called Samek, after me, the Upholder of all that fall." But God said: "Thou art needed in the place in which thou art;[11] thou must continue to uphold all that fall." Nun introduces Ner, "the lamp of the Lord," which is "the spirit of men," but it also introduces Ner, "the lamp of the wicked," which will be put out by God. Mem starts Melek, king, one of the titles of God. As it is the first letter of Mehumah, confusion, as well, it had no chance of accomplishing its desire. The claim of Lamed bore its refutation within itself. It advanced the argument that it was the first letter of Luhot, the celestial tables for the Ten Commandments; it forgot that the tables were shivered in pieces by Moses. Kaf was sure of victory Kisseh, the throne of God, Kabod, His honor, and Keter, His crown, all begin with it. God had to remind it that He would smite together His hands, Kaf, in despair over the misfortunes of Israel. Yod at first sight seemed the appropriate letter for the beginning of creation, on account of its association with Yah, God, if only Yezer ha‑Ra' the evil inclination, had not happened to begin with it, too. Tet is identified with Tob, the good. However, the truly good is not in this world; it belongs to the world to come. Het is the first letter of Hanun, the Gracious One; but this advantage is offset by its place in the word for sin, Hattat. Zain suggests Zakor, remembrance, but it is itself the word for weapon, the doer of mischief. Waw and He compose the Ineffable Name of God; they are therefore too exalted to be pressed into the service of the mundane world. If Dalet Wad stood only for Dabar, the Divine Word, it would have been used, but it stands also for Din, justice, and under the rule of law without love the world would have fallen to ruin. Finally, in spite of reminding one of Gadol, great, Gimel would not do, because Gemul, retribution, starts with it.

After the claims of all these letters had been disposed of, Bet stepped before the Holy One, blessed be He, and pleaded before Him: "O Lord of the world! May it be Thy will to create Thy world through me, seeing that all the dwellers in the world give praise daily unto Thee through me, as it is said, 'Blessed be the Lord forever. Amen, and Amen.' " The Holy One, blessed be He, at once granted the petition of Bet. He said, "Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord." And He created His world through Bet, as it is said, "Bereshit God created the heaven and the earth." The only letter that had refrained from urging its claims was the modest Alef, and God rewarded it later for its humility by giving it the first place in the Decalogue.[12]

                                    The First Day

On the first day of creation God produced ten things:[13] the heavens and the earth, Tohu and Bohu, light and darkness, wind and water, the duration of the day[14] and the duration of the night.[15]

Though the heavens and the earth consist of entirely different elements,[16] they were yet created as a unit, "like the pot and its cover."[17] The heavens were fashioned from the light of God's garment, and the earth from the snow under the Divine Throne.[18] Tohu is a green band which encompasses the whole world, and dispenses darkness, and Bohu consists of stones in the abyss, the producers of the waters. The light created at the very beginning is not the same as the light emitted by the sun, the moon, and the stars, which appeared only on the fourth day. The light of the first day was of a sort that would have enabled man to see the world at a glance from one end to the other. Anticipating the wickedness of the sinful generations of the deluge and the Tower of Babel, who were unworthy to enjoy the blessing of such light, God concealed it, but in the world to come it will appear to the pious in all its pristine glory.[19]

Several heavens were created,[20] seven in fact,[21] each to serve a purpose of its own. The first, the one visible to man, has no function except that of covering up the light during the night time; therefore it disappears every morning. The planets are fastened to the second of the heavens; in the third the manna is made for the pious in the hereafter; the fourth contains the celestial Jerusalem together with the Temple, in which Michael ministers as high priest, and offers the souls of the pious as sacrifices. In the fifth heaven, the angel hosts reside, and sing the praise of God, though only during the night, for by day it is the task of Israel on earth to give glory to God on high. The sixth heaven is an uncanny spot; there originate most of the trials and visitations ordained for the earth and its inhabitants. Snow lies heaped up there and hail; there are lofts full of noxious dew, magazines stocked with storms, and cellars holding reserves of smoke. Doors of fire separate these celestial chambers, which are under the supervision of the archangel Metatron. Their pernicious contents defiled the heavens until David's time. The pious king prayed God to purge His exalted dwelling of whatever was pregnant with evil; it was not becoming that such things should exist near the Merciful One. Only then they were removed to the earth.

The seventh heaven, on the other hand, contains naught but what

is good and beautiful: right, justice, and mercy, the storehouses

of life, peace, and blessing, the souls of the pious, the souls

and spirits of unborn generations, the dew with which God will

revive the dead on the resurrection day, and, above all, the

Divine Throne, surrounded by the seraphim, the ofanim, the holy

Hayyot, and the ministering angels.[22]

Corresponding to the seven heavens, God created seven earths,

each separated from the next by five layers. Over the lowest

earth, the seventh, called Erez, lie in succession the abyss, the

Tohu, the Bohu, a sea, and waters.[23] Then the sixth[24] earth

is reached, the Adamah, the scene of the magnificence of God. In

the same way the Adamah is separated from the fifth earth, the

Arka, which contains Gehenna, and Sha'are Mawet, and Sha'are

Zalmawet, and Beer Shahat, and Tit ha‑Yawen, and Abaddon, and

Sheol,[25] and there the souls of the wicked are guarded by the

Angels of Destruction. In the same way Arka is followed by

Harabah, the dry, the place of brooks and streams in spite of its

name, as the next, called Yabbashah, the mainland, contains the

rivers and the springs. Tebel, the second earth, is the first

mainland inhabited by living creatures, three hundred and

sixty‑five species,[26] all essentially different from those of

our own earth. Some have human heads set on the body of a lion,

or a serpent, or an ox; others have human bodies topped by the

head of one of these animals. Besides, Tebel is inhabited by

human beings with two heads and four hands and feet, in fact with

all their organs doubled excepting only the trunk.[27] It happens

sometimes that the parts of these double persons quarrel with

each other, especially while eating and drinking, when each

claims the best and largest portions for himself. This species of

mankind is distinguished for great piety, another difference

between it and the inhabitants of our earth.

Our own earth is called Heled, and, like the others, it is

separated from the Tebel by an abyss, the Tohu, the Bohu, a sea,

and waters.

Thus one earth rises above the other, from the first to the

seventh, and over the seventh earth the heavens are vaulted, from

the first to the seventh, the last of them attached to the arm of

God. The seven heavens form a unity, the seven kinds of earth

form a unity, and the heavens and the earth together also form a


When God made our present heavens and our present earth, "the new

heavens and the new earth"[29] were also brought forth, yea, and

the hundred and ninety‑six thousand worlds which God created unto

His Own glory.[30]

It takes five hundred years to walk from the earth to the

heavens, and from one end of a heaven to the other, and also from

one heaven to the next,[31] and it takes the same length of time

to travel from the east to the west, or from the south to the

north.[32] Of all this vast world only one‑third is inhabited,

the other two‑thirds being equally divided between water and

waste desert land.

Beyond the inhabited parts to the east is Paradise[33] with its

seven divisions, each assigned to the pious of a certain degree.

The ocean is situated to the west, and it is dotted with islands

upon islands, inhabited by many different peoples. Beyond it, in

turn, are the boundless steppes full of serpents and scorpions,

and destitute of every sort of vegetation, whether herbs or

trees. To the north are the supplies of hell‑fire, of snow, hail,

smoke, ice, darkness, and windstorms, and in that vicinity

sojourn all sorts of devils, demons, and malign spirits. Their

dwelling‑place is a great stretch of land, it would take five

hundred years to traverse it. Beyond lies hell. To the south is

the chamber containing reserves of fire, the cave of smoke, and

the forge of blasts and hurricanes.[34] Thus it comes that the

wind blowing from the south brings heat and sultriness to the

earth. Were it not for the angel Ben Nez, the Winged, who keeps

the south wind back with his pinions, the world would be

consumed.[35] Besides, the fury of its blast is tempered by the

north wind, which always appears as moderator, whatever other

wind may be blowing.[36]

In the east, the west, and the south, heaven and earth touch each

other, but the north God left unfinished, that any man who

announced himself as a god might be set the task of supplying the

deficiency, and stand convicted as a pretender.[37]

The construction of the earth was begun at the centre, with the

foundation stone of the Temple, the Eben Shetiyah,[38] for the

Holy Land is at the central point of the surface of the earth,

Jerusalem is at the central point of Palestine, and the Temple is

situated at the centre of the Holy City. In the sanctuary itself

the Hekal is the centre, and the holy Ark occupies the centre of

the Hekal, built on the foundation stone, which thus is at the

centre of the earth.[39] Thence issued the first ray of light,

piercing to the Holy Land, and from there illuminating the whole

earth.[40] The creation of the world, however, could not take

place until God had banished the ruler of the dark.[41] "Retire,"

God said to him, "for I desire to create the world by means of

light." Only after the light had been fashioned, darkness arose,

the light ruling in the sky, the darkness on the earth.[42] The

power of God displayed itself not only in the creation of the

world of things, but equally in the limitations which He imposed

upon each. The heavens and the earth stretched themselves out in

length and breadth as though they aspired to infinitude, and it

required the word of God to call a halt to their



On the second day God brought forth four creations, the

firmament, hell, fire, and the angels.[44] The firmament is not

the same as the heavens of the first day. It is the crystal

stretched forth over the heads of the Hayyot, from which the

heavens derive their light, as the earth derives its light from

the sun. This firmament saves the earth from being engulfed by

the waters of the heavens; it forms the partition between the

waters above and the waters below.[45] It was made to crystallize

into the solid it is by the heavenly fire, which broke its

bounds, and condensed the surface of the firmament. Thus fire

made a division between the celestial and the terrestrial at the

time of creation, as it did at the revelation on Mount Sinai.[46]

The firmament is not more than three fingers thick,[47]

nevertheless it divides two such heavy bodies as the waters

below, which are the foundations for the nether world, and the

waters above, which are the foundations for the seven heavens,

the Divine Throne, and the abode of the angels.[48]

The separation of the waters into upper and lower waters was the

only act of the sort done by God in connection with the work of

creation.[49] All other acts were unifying. It therefore caused

some difficulties. When God commanded, "Let the waters be

gathered together, unto one place, and let the dry land appear,"

certain parts refused to obey. They embraced each other all the

more closely. In His wrath at the waters, God determined to let

the whole of creation resolve itself into chaos again. He

summoned the Angel of the Face, and ordered him to destroy the

world. The angel opened his eyes wide, and scorching fires and

thick clouds rolled forth from them, while he cried out, "He who

divides the Red Sea in sunder!"‑‑and the rebellious waters stood.

The all, however, was still in danger of destruction. Then began

the singer of God's praises: "O Lord of the world, in days to

come Thy creatures will sing praises without end to Thee, they

will bless Thee boundlessly, and they will glorify Thee without

measure. Thou wilt set Abraham apart from all mankind as Thine

own; one of his sons Thou wilt call 'My first‑born'; and his

descendants will take the yoke of Thy kingdom upon themselves. In

holiness and purity Thou wilt bestow Thy Torah upon them, with

the words, 'I am the Lord your God,' whereunto they will make

answer, 'All that God hath spoken we will do.' And now I beseech

Thee, have pity upon Thy world, destroy it not, for if Thou

destroyest it, who will fulfil Thy will?" God was pacified; He

withdrew the command ordaining the destruction of the world, but

the waters He put under the mountains, to remain there

forever.[50] The objection of the lower waters to division and

Separation[51] was not their only reason for rebelling. The

waters had been the first to give praise to God, and when their

separation into upper and lower was decreed, the waters above

rejoiced, saying, "Blessed are we who are privileged to abide

near our Creator and near His Holy Throne." Jubilating thus, they

flew upward, and uttered song and praise to the Creator of the

world. Sadness fell upon the waters below. They lamented: "Woe

unto us, we have not been found worthy to dwell in the presence

of God, and praise Him together with our companions." Therefore

they attempted to rise upward, until God repulsed them, and

pressed them under the earth.[52] Yet they were not left

unrewarded for their loyalty. Whenever the waters above desire to

give praise to God, they must first seek permission from the

waters below.[53]

The second day of creation was an untoward day in more than the

one respect that it introduced a breach where before there had

been nothing but unity; for it was the day that saw also the

creation of hell. Therefore God could not say of this day as of

the others, that He "saw that it was good." A division may be

necessary, but it cannot be called good, and hell surely does not

deserve the attribute of good.[54] Hell[55] has seven

divisions,[36] one beneath the other. They are called Sheol,

Abaddon, Beer Shahat, Tit ha‑Yawen, Sha'are Mawet, Sha'are

Zalmawet: and Gehenna. It requires three hundred years to

traverse the height, or the width, or the depth of each division,

and it would take six thousand three hundred[37] years to go over

a tract of land equal in extent to the seven divisions.[38]

Each of the seven divisions in turn has seven subdivisions, and

in each compartment there are seven rivers of fire and seven of

hail. The width of each is one thousand ells, its depth one

thousand, and its length three hundred, and they flow one from

the other, and are supervised by ninety thousand Angels of

Destruction. There are, besides, in every compartment seven

thousand caves, in every cave there are seven thousand crevices,

and in every crevice seven thousand scorpions. Every scorpion has

three hundred rings, and in every ring seven thousand pouches of

venom, from which flow seven rivers of deadly poison. If a man

handles it, he immediately bursts, every limb is torn from his

body, his bowels are cleft asunder, and he falls upon his

face.[56] There are also five different kinds of fire in hell.

One devours and absorbs, another devours and does not absorb,

while the third absorbs and does not devour, and there is still

another fire, which neither devours nor absorbs, and furthermore

a fire which devours fire. There are coals big as mountains, and

coals big as hills, and coals as large as the Dead Sea, and coals

like huge stones, and there are rivers of pitch and sulphur

flowing and seething like live coals.[60]

The third creation of the second day was the angel hosts, both

the ministering angels and the angels of praise. The reason they

had not been called into being on the first day was, lest men

believe that the angels assisted God in the creation of the

heavens and the earth.[61] The angels that are fashioned from

fire have forms of fire,[62] but only so long as they remain in

heaven. When they descend to earth, to do the bidding of God here

below, either they are changed into wind, or they assume the

guise of men.[63] There are ten ranks or degrees among the


The most exalted in rank are those surrounding the Divine Throne

on all sides, to the right, to the left, in front, and behind,

under the leadership of the archangels Michael, Gabriel, Uriel,

and Raphael.[65]

All the celestial beings praise God with the words, "Holy, holy,

holy, is the Lord of hosts," but men take precedence of the

angels herein. They may not begin their song of praise until the

earthly beings have brought their homage to God.[66] Especially

Israel is preferred to the angels. When they encircle the Divine

Throne in the form of fiery mountains and flaming hills, and

attempt to raise their voices in adoration of the Creator, God

silences them with the words, "Keep quiet until I have heard the

songs, praises, prayers, and sweet melodies of Israel."

Accordingly, the ministering angels and all the other celestial

hosts wait until the last tones of Israel's doxologies rising

aloft from earth have died away, and then they proclaim in a loud

voice, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts." When the hour

for the glorification of God by the angels draws nigh, the august

Divine herald, the angel Sham'iel, steps to the windows[67] of

the lowest heaven to hearken to the songs, prayers, and praises

that ascend from the synagogues and the houses of learning, and

when they are finished, he announces the end to the angels in all

the heavens. The ministering angels, those who come in contact

with the sublunary world,[68] now repair to their chambers to

take their purification bath. They dive into a stream of fire and

flame seven times, and three hundred and sixty‑five times they

examine themselves carefully, to make sure that no taint clings

to their bodies.[69] Only then they feel privileged to mount the

fiery ladder and join the angels of the seventh heaven, and

surround the throne of God with Hashmal and all the holy Hayyot.

Adorned with millions of fiery crowns, arrayed in fiery garments,

all the angels in unison, in the same words, and with the same

melody, intone songs of praise to God.[70]


Up to this time the earth was a plain, and wholly covered with

water. Scarcely had the words of God, "Let the waters be gathered

together," made themselves heard, when mountains appeared all

over and hills,[71] and the water collected in the deep‑lying

basins. But the water was recalcitrant, it resisted the order to

occupy the lowly spots, and threatened to overflow the earth,

until God forced it back into the sea, and encircled the sea with

sand. Now, whenever the water is tempted to transgress its

bounds, it beholds the sand, and recoils.[72]

The waters did but imitate their chief Rahab, the Angel of the

Sea, who rebelled at the creation of the world. God had commanded

Rahab to take in the water. But he refused, saying, "I have

enough." The punishment for his disobedience was death. His body

rests in the depths of the sea, the water dispelling the foul

odor that emanates from it.[73]

The main creation of the third day was the realm of plants, the

terrestrial plants as well as the plants of Paradise. First of

all the cedars of Lebanon and the other great trees were made. In

their pride at having been put first, they shot up high in the

air. They considered themselves the favored among plants. Then

God spake, "I hate arrogance and pride, for I alone am exalted,

and none beside," and He created the iron on the same day, the

substance with which trees are felled down. The trees began to

weep, and when God asked the reason of their tears, they said:

"We cry because Thou hast created the iron to uproot us

therewith. All the while we had thought ourselves the highest of

the earth, and now the iron, our destroyer, has been called into

existence." God replied: "You yourselves will furnish the axe

with a handle. Without your assistance the iron will not be able

to do aught against you."[74]

The command to bear seed after their kind was given to the trees

alone. But the various sorts of grass reasoned, that if God had

not desired divisions according to classes, He would not have

instructed the trees to bear fruit after their kind with the seed

thereof in it, especially as trees are inclined of their own

accord to divide themselves into species. The grasses therefore

reproduced themselves also after their kinds. This prompted the

exclamation of the Prince of the World, "Let the glory of the

Lord endure forever; let the Lord rejoice in His works."[75]

The most important work done on the third day was the creation of

Paradise. Two gates of carbuncle form the entrance to

Paradise,[76] and sixty myriads of ministering angels keep watch

over them. Each of these angels shines with the lustre of the

heavens. When the just man appears before the gates, the clothes

in which he was buried are taken off him, and the angels array

him in seven garments of clouds of glory, and place upon his head

two crowns, one of precious stones and pearls, the other of gold

of Parvaim,[77] and they put eight myrtles in his hand, and they

utter praises before him and say to him, "Go thy way, and eat thy

bread with joy." And they lead him to a place full of rivers,

surrounded by eight hundred kinds of roses and myrtles. Each one

has a canopy according to his merits,[78] and under it flow four

rivers, one of milk, the other of balsam, the third of wine, and

the fourth of honey. Every canopy is overgrown by a vine of gold,

and thirty pearls hang from it, each of them shining like Venus.

Under each canopy there is a table of precious stones and pearls,

and sixty angels stand at the head of every just man, saying unto

him: "Go and eat with joy of the honey, for thou hast busied

thyself with the Torah, and she is sweeter than honey, and drink

of the wine preserved in the grape since the six days of

creation,[79] for thou hast busied thyself with the Torah, and

she is compared to wine." The least fair of the just is beautiful

as Joseph and Rabbi Johanan, and as the grains of a silver

pomegranate upon which fall the rays of the sun.[80] There is no

light, "for the light of the righteous is the shining light." And

they undergo four transformations every day, passing through four

states. In the first the righteous is changed into a child. He

enters the division for children, and tastes the joys of

childhood. Then he is changed into a youth, and enters the

division for the youths, with whom he enjoys the delights of

youth. Next he becomes an adult, in the prime of life, and he

enters the division of men, and enjoys the pleasures of manhood.

Finally, he is changed into an old man. He enters the division

for the old, and enjoys the pleasures of age.

There are eighty myriads of trees in every corner of Paradise,

the meanest among them choicer than all the spice trees. In every

corner there are sixty myriads of angels singing with sweet

voices, and the tree of life stands in the middle and shades the

whole of Paradise.[81] It has fifteen thousand tastes, each

different from the other, and the perfumes thereof vary likewise.

Over it hang seven clouds of glory, and winds blow upon it from

all four sides,[82] so that its odor is wafted from one end of

the world to the other. Underneath sit the scholars and explain

the Torah. Over each of them two canopies are spread, one of

stars, the other of sun and moon, and a curtain of clouds of

glory separates the one canopy from the other.[83] Beyond

Paradise begins Eden, containing three hundred and ten worlds[84]

and seven compartments for seven different classes of the pious.

In the first are "the martyr victims of the government," like

Rabbi Akiba and his colleagues;[85] in the second those who were

drowned;[86] in the third[87] Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai and his

disciples; in the fourth those who were carried off in the cloud

of glory;[88] in the fifth the penitents, who occupy a place

which even a perfectly pious man cannot obtain; in the sixth are

the youths[89] who have not tasted of sin in their lives; in the

seventh are those poor who studied Bible and Mishnah, and led a

life of self‑respecting decency. And God sits in the midst of

them and expounds the Torah to them.[90]

As for the seven divisions of Paradise, each of them is twelve

myriads of miles in width and twelve myriads of miles in length.

In the first division dwell the proselytes who embraced Judaism

of their own free will, not from compulsion. The walls are of

glass and the wainscoting of cedar. The prophet Obadiah,[91]

himself a proselyte, is the overseer of this first division. The

second division is built of silver, and the wainscoting thereof

is of cedar. Here dwell those who have repented, and Manasseh,

the penitent son of Hezekiah, presides over them. The third

division is built of silver and gold. Here dwell Abraham, Isaac,

and Jacob, and all the Israelites who came out of Egypt, and the

whole generation that lived in the desert.[92] Also David is

there, together with all his sons[93] except Absalom, one of

them, Chileab, still alive. And all the kings of Judah are there,

with the exception of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, who presides

in the second division, over the penitents. Moses and Aaron

preside over the third division. Here are precious vessels of

silver and gold and jewels and canopies and beds and thrones and

lamps, of gold, of precious stones, and of pearls, the best of

everything there is in heaven.[94] The fourth division is built

of beautiful rubies,[95] and its wainscoting is of olive wood.

Here dwell the perfect and the steadfast in faith, and their

wainscoting is of olive wood, because their lives were bitter as

olives to them. The fifth division is built of silver and gold

and refined gold,[96] and the finest of gold and glass and

bdellium, and through the midst of it flows the river Gihon. The

wainscoting is of silver and gold, and a perfume breathes through

it more exquisite than the perfume of Lebanon. The coverings of

the silver and gold beds are made of purple and blue, woven by

Eve, and of scarlet and the hair of goats, woven by angels. Here

dwells the Messiah on a palanquin made of the wood of Lebanon,

"the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom of gold, the seat of

it purple." With him is Elijah. He takes the head of Messiah, and

places it in his bosom, and says to him, "Be quiet, for the end

draweth nigh." On every Monday and Thursday and on Sabbaths and

holidays, the Patriarchs come to him, and the twelve sons of

Jacob, and Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, and all the kings of

Israel and of Judah, and they weep with him and comfort him, and

say unto him, "Be quiet and put trust in thy Creator, for the end

draweth nigh. "Also Korah and his company, and Dathan, Abiram,

and Absalom come to him on every Wednesday, and ask him: "How

long before the end comes full of wonders? When wilt thou bring

us life again, and from the abysses of the earth lift us?" The

Messiah answers them, "Go to your fathers and ask them"; and when

they hear this, they are ashamed, and do not ask their fathers.

In the sixth division dwell those who died in performing a pious

act, and in the seventh division those who died from illness

inflicted as an expiation for the sins of Israel.[97]


The fourth day of creation produced the sun, the moon, and the

stars. These heavenly spheres were not actually fashioned on this

day; they were created on the first day, and merely were assigned

their places in the heavens on the fourth.[98] At first the sun

and the moon enjoyed equal powers and prerogatives.[99] The moon

spoke to God, and said: "O Lord, why didst Thou create the world

with the letter Bet?" God replied: "That it might be made known

unto My creatures that there are two worlds." The moon: "O Lord:

which of the two worlds is the larger, this world or the world to

come?" God: "The world to come is the larger." The moon: "O Lord,

Thou didst create two worlds, a greater and a lesser world; Thou

didst create the heaven and the earth, the heaven exceeding the

earth; Thou didst create fire and water, the water stronger than

the fire, because it can quench the fire; and now Thou hast

created the sun and the moon, and it is becoming that one of them

should be greater than the other." Then spake God to the moon: "I

know well, thou wouldst have me make Thee greater than the sun.

As a punishment I decree that thou mayest keep but one‑sixtieth

of thy light." The moon made supplication: "Shall I be punished

so severely for having spoken a single word?" God relented: "In

the future world I will restore thy light, so that thy light may

again be as the light of the sun." The moon was not yet

satisfied. "O Lord," she said, "and the light of the sun, how

great will it be in that day?" Then the wrath of God was once

more enkindled: "What, thou still plottest against the sun? As

thou livest, in the world to come his light shall be sevenfold

the light he now sheds."[100] The Sun runs his course like a

bridegroom. He sits upon a throne with a garland on his

head.[101] Ninety‑six angels accompany him on his daily journey,

in relays of eight every hour, two to the left of him, and two to

the right, two before Him, and two behind. Strong as he is, he

could complete his course from south to north in a single

instant, but three hundred and sixty‑five angels restrain him by

means of as many grappling‑irons. Every day one looses his hold,

and the sun must thus spend three hundred and sixty‑five days on

his course. The progress of the sun in his circuit is an

uninterrupted song of praise to God. And this song alone makes

his motion possible. Therefore, when Joshua wanted to bid the sun

stand still, he had to command him to be silent. His song of

praise hushed, the sun stood still.[102]

The sun is double‑faced; one face, of fire, is directed toward

the earth, and one of hail, toward heaven, to cool off the

prodigious heat that streams from the other face, else the earth

would catch afire. In winter the sun turns his fiery face upward,

and thus the cold is produced.[103] When the sun descends in the

west in the evening, he dips down into the ocean and takes a

bath, his fire is extinguished, and therefore he dispenses

neither light nor warmth during the night. But as soon as he

reaches the east in the morning, he laves himself in a stream of

flame, which imparts warmth and light to him, and these he sheds

over the earth. In the same way the moon and the stars take a

bath in a stream of hail before they enter upon their service for

the night.[104]

When the sun and the moon are ready to start upon their round of

duties, they appear before God, and beseech him to relieve them

of their task, so that they may be spared the sight of sinning

mankind. Only upon compulsion they proceed with their daily

course. Coming from the presence of God, they are blinded by the

radiance in the heavens, and they cannot find their way. God,

therefore, shoots off arrows, by the glittering light of which

they are guided. It is on account of the sinfulness of man, which

the sun is forced to contemplate on his rounds, that he grows

weaker as the time of his going down approaches, for sins have a

defiling and enfeebling effect, and he drops from the horizon as

a sphere of blood, for blood is the sign of corruption.[105] As

the sun sets forth on his course in the morning, his wings touch

the leaves on the trees of Paradise, and their vibration is

communicated to the angels and the holy Hayyot, to the other

plants, and also to the trees and plants on earth, and to all the

beings on earth and in heaven. It is the signal for them all to

cast their eyes upward. As soon as they see the Ineffable Name,

which is engraved in the sun, they raise their voices in songs of

praise to God. At the same moment a heavenly voice is heard to

say, "Woe to the sons of men that consider not the honor of God

like unto these creatures whose voices now rise aloft in

adoration."[106] These words, naturally, are not heard by men; as

little as they perceive the grating of the sun against the wheel

to which all the celestial bodies are attached, although the

noise it makes is extraordinarily loud.[107] This friction of the

sun and the wheel produces the motes dancing about in the

sunbeams. They are the carriers of healing to the sick,[108] the

only health‑giving creations of the fourth day, on the whole an

unfortunate day, especially for children, afflicting them with

disease.[109] When God punished the envious moon by diminishing

her light and splendor, so that she ceased to be the equal of the

sun as she had been originally,[110] she fell,[111] and tiny

threads were loosed from her body. These are the stars.[112]


On the fifth day of creation God took fire[118] and water, and

out of these two elements He made the fishes of the sea.[114] The

animals in the water are much more numerous than those on land.

For every species on land, excepting only the weasel, there is a

corresponding species in the water, and, besides, there are many

found only in the water.[115]

The ruler over the sea‑animals is leviathan.[116] With all the

other fishes he was made on the fifth day.[117] Originally he was

created male and female like all the other animals. But when it

appeared that a pair of these monsters might annihilate the whole

earth with their united strength, God killed the female.[119] So

enormous is leviathan that to quench his thirst he needs all the

water that flows from the Jordan into the sea.[119] His food

consists of the fish which go between his jaws of their own

accord.[120] When he is hungry, a hot breath blows from his

nostrils, and it makes the waters of the great sea seething hot.

Formidable though behemot, the other monster, is, he feels

insecure until he is certain that leviathan has satisfied his

thirst.[121] The only thing that can keep him in check is the

stickleback, a little fish which was created for the purpose, and

of which he stands in great awe.[122] But leviathan is more than

merely large and strong; he is wonderfully made besides. His fins

radiate brilliant light, the very sun is obscured by it,[123] and

also his eyes shed such splendor that frequently the sea is

illuminated suddenly by it.[121] No wonder that this marvellous

beast is the plaything of God, in whom He takes His pastime.[124]

There is but one thing that makes leviathan repulsive, his foul

smell: which is so strong that if it penetrated thither, it would

render Paradise itself an impossible abode.[125]

The real purpose of leviathan is to be served up as a dainty to

the pious in the world to come. The female was put into brine as

soon as she was killed, to be preserved against the time when her

flesh will be needed.[126] The male is destined to offer a

delectable sight to all beholders before he is consumed. When his

last hour arrives, God will summon the angels to enter into

combat with the monster. But no sooner will leviathan cast his

glance at them than they will flee in fear and dismay from the

field of battle. They will return to the charge with swords, but

in vain, for his scales can turn back steel like straw. They will

be equally unsuccessful when they attempt to kill him by throwing

darts and slinging stones; such missiles will rebound without

leaving the least impression on his body. Disheartened, the

angels will give up the combat, and God will command leviathan

and behemot to enter into a duel with each other. The issue will

be that both will drop dead, behemot slaughtered by a blow of

leviathan's fins, and leviathan killed by a lash of behemot's

tail. From the skin of leviathan God will construct tents to

shelter companies of the pious while they enjoy the dishes made

of his flesh. The amount assigned to each of the pious will be in

proportion to his deserts, and none will envy or begrudge the

other his better share. What is left of leviathan's skin will be

stretched out over Jerusalem as a canopy, and the light streaming

from it will illumine the whole world, and what is left of his

flesh after the pious have appeased their appetite, will be

distributed among the rest of men, to carry on traffic


On the same day with the fishes, the birds were created, for

these two kinds of animals are closely related to each other.

Fish are fashioned out of water, and birds out of marshy ground

saturated with water.[128]

As leviathan is the king of fishes, so the ziz is appointed to

rule over the birds.[129] His name comes from the variety of

tastes his flesh has; it tastes like this, zeh, and like that,

zeh.[130] The ziz is as monstrous of size as leviathan himself.

His ankles rest on the earth, and his head reaches to the very


It once happened that travellers on a vessel noticed a bird. As

he stood in the water, it merely covered his feet, and his head

knocked against the sky. The onlookers thought the water could

not have any depth at that point, and they prepared to take a

bath there. A heavenly voice warned them: "Alight not here! Once

a carpenter's axe slipped from his hand at this spot, and it took

it seven years to touch bottom." The bird the travellers saw was

none other than the ziz.[132] His wings are so huge that unfurled

they darken the sun.[133] They protect the earth against the

storms of the south; without their aid the earth would not be

able to resist the winds blowing thence.[134] Once an egg of the

ziz fell to the ground and broke. The fluid from it flooded sixty

cities, and the shock crushed three hundred cedars. Fortunately

such accidents do not occur frequently. As a rule the bird lets

her eggs slide gently into her nest. This one mishap was due to

the fact that the egg was rotten, and the bird cast it away

carelessly. The ziz has another name, Renanin,[135] because he is

the celestial singer.[136] On account of his relation to the

heavenly regions he is also called Sekwi, the seer, and, besides,

he is called "son of the nest,"[137] because his fledgling birds

break away from the shell without being hatched by the mother

bird; they spring directly from the nest, as it were.[138] Like

leviathan, so ziz is a delicacy to be served to the pious at the

end of time, to compensate them for the privations which

abstaining from the unclean fowls imposed upon them.[139]


As the fish were formed out of water, and the birds out of boggy

earth well mixed with water, so the mammals were formed out of

solid earth,[140] and as leviathan is the most notable

representative of the fish kind, and ziz of the bird kind, so

behemot is the most notable representative of the mammal kind.

Behemot matches leviathan in strength, and he had to be

prevented, like leviathan, from multiplying and increasing, else

the world could not have continued to exist; after God had

created him male and female, He at once deprived him of the

desire to propagate his kind.[141] He is so monstrous that he

requires the produce of a thousand mountains for his daily food.

All the water that flows through the bed of the Jordan in a year

suffices him exactly for one gulp. It therefore was necessary to

give him one stream entirely for his own use, a stream flowing

forth from Paradise, called Yubal.[142] Behemot, too, is destined

to be served to the pious as an appetizing dainty, but before

they enjoy his flesh, they will be permitted to view the mortal

combat between leviathan and behemot, as a reward for having

denied themselves the pleasures of the circus and its

gladiatorial contests.[143]

Leviathan, ziz, and behemot are not the only monsters; there are

many others, and marvellous ones, like the reem, a giant animal,

of which only one couple, male and female, is in existence. Had

there been more, the world could hardly have maintained itself

against them. The act of copulation occurs but once in seventy

years between them, for God has so ordered it that the male and

female reem are at opposite ends of the earth, the one in the

east, the other in the west. The act of copulation results in the

death of the male. He is bitten by the female and dies of the

bite. The female becomes pregnant and remains in this state for

no less than twelve years. At the end of this long period she

gives birth to twins, a male and a female. The year preceding her

delivery she is not able to move. She would die of hunger, were

it not that her own spittle flowing copiously from her mouth

waters and fructifies the earth near her, and causes it to bring

forth enough for her maintenance. For a whole year the animal can

but roll from side to side, until finally her belly bursts, and

the twins issue forth. Their appearance is thus the signal for

the death of the mother reem. She makes room for the new

generation, which in turn is destined to suffer the same fate as

the generation that went before. Immediately after birth, the one

goes eastward and the other westward, to meet only after the

lapse of seventy years, propagate themselves, and perish.[144] A

traveller who once saw a reem one day old described its height to

be four parasangs, and the length of its head one parasang and a

half.[145] Its horns measure one hundred ells, and their height

is a great deal more.[146]

One of the most remarkable creatures is the "man of the

mountain," Adne Sadeh, or, briefly, Adam.[147] His form is

exactly that of a human being, but he is fastened to the ground

by means of a navel‑string, upon which his life depends. The cord

once snapped, he dies. This animal keeps himself alive with what

is produced by the soil around about him as far as his tether

permits him to crawl. No creature may venture to approach within

the radius of his cord, for he seizes and demolishes whatever

comes in his reach. To kill him, one may not go near to him, the

navel‑string must be severed from a distance by means of a dart,

and then he dies amid groans and moans.[143] Once upon a time a

traveller happened in the region where this animal is found. He

overheard his host consult his wife as to what to do to honor

their guest, and resolve to serve "our man," as he said. Thinking

he had fallen among cannibals, the stranger ran as fast as his

feet could carry him from his entertainer, who sought vainly to

restrain him. Afterward, he found out that there had been no

intention of regaling him with human flesh, but only with the

flesh of the strange animal called "man."[146] As the "man of the

mountain" is fixed to the ground by his navel‑string, so the

barnacle‑goose is grown to a tree by its bill. It is hard to say

whether it is an animal and must be slaughtered to be fit for

food, or whether it is a plant and no ritual ceremony is

necessary before eating it.[150]

Among the birds the phoenix is the most wonderful. When Eve gave

all the animals some of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, the

phoenix was the only bird that refused to eat thereof, and he was

rewarded with eternal life. When he has lived a thousand years,

his body shrinks, and the feathers drop from it, until he is as

small as an egg. This is the nucleus of the new bird.[151]

The phoenix is also called "the guardian of the terrestrial

sphere." He runs with the sun on his circuit, and he spreads out

his wings and catches up the fiery rays of the sun.[152] If he

were not there to intercept them, neither man nor any other

animate being would keep alive. On his right wing the following

words are inscribed in huge letters,[153] about four thousand

stadia high: "Neither the earth produces me, nor the heavens, but

only the wings of fire." His food consists of the manna of heaven

and the dew of the earth. His excrement is a worm, whose

excrement in turn is the cinnamon used by kings and princes.[152]

Enoch, who saw the phoenix birds when he was translated,

describes them as flying creatures, wonderful and strange in

appearance, with the feet and tails of lions, and the heads of

crocodiles; their appearance is of a purple color like the

rainbow; their size nine hundred measures. Their wings are like

those of angels, each having twelve, and they attend the chariot

of the sun and go with him, bringing heat and dew as they are

ordered by God. In the morning when the sun starts on his daily

course, the phoenixes and the chalkidri[154] sing, and every bird

flaps its wings, rejoicing the Giver of light, and they sing a

song at the command of the Lord.[155] Among reptiles the

salamander and the shamir are the most marvellous. The salamander

originates from a fire of myrtle wood[156] which has been kept

burning for seven years steadily by means of magic arts. Not

bigger than a mouse, it yet is invested with peculiar properties.

One who smears himself with its blood is invulnerable,[157] and

the web woven by it is a talisman against fire.[158] The people

who lived at the deluge boasted that, were a fire flood to come,

they would protect themselves with the blood of the


King Hezekiah owes his life to the salamander. His wicked father,

King Ahaz, had delivered him to the fires of Moloch, and he would

have been burnt, had his mother not painted him with the blood of

the salamander, so that the fire could do him no harm.[160]

The shamir was made at twilight on the sixth day of creation

together with other extraordinary things.[161] It is about as

large as a barley corn, and it possesses the remarkable property

of cutting the hardest of diamonds. For this reason it was used

for the stones in the breastplate worn by the high priest. First

the names of the twelve tribes were traced with ink on the stones

to be set into the breastplate, then the shamir was passed over

the lines, and thus they were graven. The wonderful circumstance

was that the friction wore no particles from the stones. The

shamir was also used for hewing into shape the stones from which

the Temple was built, because the law prohibited iron tools to be

used for the work in the Temple.[162] The shamir may not be put

in an iron vessel for safe‑keeping, nor in any metal vessel, it

would burst such a receptacle asunder. It is kept wrapped up in a

woollen cloth, and this in turn is placed in a lead basket filled

with barley bran.[163] The shamir was guarded in Paradise until

Solomon needed it. He sent the eagle thither to fetch the

worm.[164] With the destruction of the Temple the shamir

vanished.[165] A similar fate overtook the tahash, which had been

created only that its skin might be used for the Tabernacle. Once

the Tabernacle was completed, the tahash disappeared. It had a

horn on its forehead, was gaily colored like the turkey‑cock, and

belonged to the class of clean animals.[166] Among the fishes

there are also wonderful creatures, the sea‑goats and the

dolphins, not to mention leviathan. A sea‑faring man once saw a

sea‑goat on whose horns the words were inscribed: "I am a little

sea‑animal, yet I traversed three hundred parasangs to offer

myself as food to the leviathan."[167] The dolphins are half man

and half fish; they even have sexual intercourse with human

beings; therefore they are called also "sons of the sea," for in

a sense they represent the human kind in the waters.[163]

Though every species in the animal world was created during the

last two days of the six of creation,[169] yet many

characteristics of certain animals appeared later. Cats and mice,

foes now, were friends originally. Their later enmity had a

distinct cause. On one occasion the mouse appeared before God and

spoke: "I and the cat are partners, but now we have nothing to

eat." The Lord answered: "Thou art intriguing against thy

companion, only that thou mayest devour her. As a punishment, she

shall devour thee." Thereupon the mouse: "O Lord of the world,

wherein have I done wrong?" God replied: "O thou unclean reptile,

thou shouldst have been warned by the example of the moon, who

lost a part of her light, because she spake ill of the sun, and

what she lost was given to her opponent.[170] The evil intentions

thou didst harbor against thy companion shall be punished in the

same way. Instead of thy devouring her, she shall devour thee."

The mouse: "O Lord of the world! Shall my whole kind be

destroyed?" God: "I will take care that a remnant of thee is

spared." In her rage the mouse bit the cat, and the cat in turn

threw herself upon the mouse, and hacked into her with her teeth

until she lay dead. Since that moment the mouse stands in such

awe of the cat that she does not even attempt to defend herself

against her enemy's attacks, and always keeps herself in

hiding.[171] Similarly dogs and cats maintained a friendly

relation to each other, and only later on became enemies. A dog

and a cat were partners, and they shared with each other whatever

they had. It once happened that neither could find anything to

eat for three days. Thereupon the dog proposed that they dissolve

their partnership. The cat should go to Adam, in whose house

there would surely be enough for her to eat, while the dog should

seek his fortune elsewhere. Before they separated, they took an

oath never to go to the same master. The cat took up her abode

with Adam, and she found sufficient mice in his house to satisfy

her appetite. Seeing how useful she was in driving away and

extirpating mice, Adam treated her most kindly. The dog, on the

other hand, saw bad times. The first night after their separation

he spent in the cave of the wolf, who had granted him a night's

lodging. At night the dog caught the sound of steps, and he

reported it to his host, who bade him repulse the intruders. They

were wild animals. Little lacked and the dog would have lost his

life. Dismayed, the dog fled from the house of the wolf, and took

refuge with the monkey. But he would not grant him even a single

night's lodging; and the fugitive was forced to appeal to the

hospitality of the sheep. Again the dog heard steps in the middle

of the night. Obeying the bidding of his host, he arose to chase

away the marauders, who turned out to be wolves. The barking of

the dog apprised the wolves of the presence of sheep, so that the

dog innocently caused the sheep's death. Now he had lost his last

friend. Night after night he begged for shelter, without ever

finding a home. Finally, he decided to repair to the house of

Adam, who also granted him refuge for one night. When wild

animals approached the house under cover of darkness, the dog

began to bark, Adam awoke, and with his bow and arrow he drove

them away. Recognizing the dog's usefulness, he bade him remain

with him always. But as soon as the cat espied the dog in Adam's

house, she began to quarrel with him, and reproach him with

having broken his oath to her. Adam did his best to pacify the

cat. He told her he had himself invited the dog to make his home

there, and he assured her she would in no wise be the loser by

the dog's presence; he wanted both to stay with him. But it was

impossible to appease the cat. The dog promised her not to touch

anything intended for her. She insisted that she could not live

in one and the same house with a thief like the dog. Bickerings

between the dog and the cat became the order of the day. Finally

the dog could stand it no longer, and he left Adam's house, and

betook himself to Seth's. By Seth he was welcomed kindly, and

from Seth's house, he continued to make efforts at reconciliation

with the cat. In vain. Yes, the enmity between the first dog and

the first cat was transmitted to all their descendants until this

very day.[172]

Even the physical peculiarities of certain animals were not

original features with them, but owed their existence to

something that occurred subsequent to the days of creation. The

mouse at first had quite a different mouth from its present

mouth. In Noah's ark, in which all animals, to ensure the

preservation of every kind, lived together peaceably, the pair of

mice were once sitting next to the cat. Suddenly the latter

remembered that her father was in the habit of devouring mice,

and thinking there was no harm in following his example, she

jumped at the mouse, who vainly looked for a hole into which to

slip out of sight. Then a miracle happened; a hole appeared where

none had been before, and the mouse sought refuge in it. The cat

pursued the mouse, and though she could not follow her into the

hole, she could insert her paw and try to pull the mouse out of

her covert. Quickly the mouse opened her mouth in the hope that

the paw would go into it, and the cat would be prevented from

fastening her claws in her flesh. But as the cavity of the mouth

was not big enough, the cat succeeded in clawing the cheeks of

the mouse. Not that this helped her much, it merely widened the

mouth of the mouse, and her prey after all escaped the cat.[173]

After her happy escape, the mouse betook herself to Noah and said

to him, "O pious man, be good enough to sew up my cheek where my

enemy, the cat, has torn a rent in it." Noah bade her fetch a

hair out of the tail of the swine, and with this he repaired the

damage. Thence the little seam‑like line next to the mouth of

every mouse to this very day.[174]

The raven is another animal that changed its appearance during

its sojourn in the ark. When Noah desired to send him forth to

find out about the state of the waters, he hid under the wings of

the eagle. Noah found him, however, and said to him, "Go and see

whether the waters have diminished." The raven pleaded: "Hast

thou none other among all the birds to send on this errand?"

Noah: "My power extends no further than over thee and the

dove."[175] But the raven was not satisfied. He said to Noah with

great insolence: "Thou sendest me forth only that I may meet my

death, and thou wishest my death that my wife may be at thy

service."[176] Thereupon Noah cursed the raven thus: "May thy

mouth, which has spoken evil against me, be accursed, and thy

intercourse with thy wife be only through it."[177] All the

animals in the ark said Amen. And this is the reason why a mass

of spittle runs from the mouth of the male raven into the mouth

of the female during the act of copulation, and only thus the

female is impregnated.[178] Altogether the raven is an

unattractive animal. He is unkind toward his own young so long as

their bodies are not covered with black feathers,[179] though as

a rule ravens love one another.[180] God therefore takes the

young ravens under His special protection. From their own

excrement maggots come forth,[181] which serve as their food

during the three days that elapse after their birth, until their

white feathers turn black and their parents recognize them as

their offspring and care for them.[182]

The raven has himself to blame also for the awkward hop in his

gait. He observed the graceful step of the dove, and envious of

her tried to enmulate it. The outcome was that he almost broke

his bones without in the least succeeding in making himself

resemble the dove, not to mention that he brought the scorn of

the other animals down upon himself. His failure excited their

ridicule. Then he decided to return to his own original gait, but

in the interval he had unlearnt it, and he could walk neither the

one way nor the other properly. His step had become a hop betwixt

and between. Thus we see how true it is, that he who is

dissatisfied with his small portion loses the little he has in

striving for more and better things.[163]

The steer is also one of the animals that have suffered a change

in the course of time. Originally his face was entirely overgrown

with hair, but now there is none on his nose, and that is because

Joshua kissed him on his nose during the siege of Jericho. Joshua

was an exceedingly heavy man. Horses, donkeys, and mules, none

could bear him, they all broke down under his weight. What they

could not do, the steer accomplished. On his back Joshua rode to

the siege of Jericho, and in gratitude he bestowed a kiss upon

his nose.[134]

The serpent, too, is other than it was at first. Before the fall

of man it was the cleverest of all animals created, and in form

it resembled man closely. It stood upright, and was of

extraordinary size.[185] Afterward, it lost the mental advantages

it had possessed as compared with other animals, and it

degenerated physically, too; it was deprived of its feet, so that

it could not pursue other animals and kill them. The mole and the

frog had to be made harmless in similar ways; the former has no

eyes, else it were irresistible, and the frog has no teeth, else

no animal in the water were sure of its life.[186]

While the cunning of the serpent wrought its own undoing, the

cunning of the fox stood him in good stead in many an

embarrassing situation. After Adam had committed the sin of

disobedience, God delivered the whole of the animal world into

the power of the Angel of Death, and He ordered him to cast one

pair of each kind into the water. He and leviathan together thus

have dominion over all that has life. When the Angel of Death was

in the act of executing the Divine command upon the fox, he began

to weep bitterly. The Angel of Death asked him the reason of his

tears, and the fox replied that he was mourning the sad fate of

his friend. At the same time he pointed to the figure of a fox in

the sea, which was nothing but his own reflection. The Angel of

Death, persuaded that a representative of the fox family had been

cast into the water, let him go free. The fox told his trick to

the cat, and she in turn played it on the Angel of Death.[187] So

it happened that neither cats nor foxes are represented in the

water, while all other animals are.[188]

When leviathan passed the animals in review, and missing the fox

was informed of the sly way in which he had eluded his authority,

he dispatched great and powerful fish on the errand of enticing

the truant into the water. The fox walking along the shore espied

the large number of fish, and he exclaimed, "How happy he who may

always satisfy his hunger with the flesh of such as these." The

fish told him, if he would but follow them, his appetite could

easily be appeased. At the same time they informed him that a

great honor awaited him. Leviathan, they said, was at death's

door, and he had commissioned them to install the fox as his

successor. They were ready to carry him on their backs, so that

he had no need to fear the water, and thus they would convey him

to the throne, which stood upon a huge rock. The fox yielded to

these persuasions, and descended into the water. Presently an

uncomfortable feeling took possession of him. He began to suspect

that the tables were turned; he was being made game of instead of

making game of others as usual. He urged the fish to tell him the

truth, and they admitted that they had been sent out to secure

his person for leviathan, who wanted his heart,[189] that he

might become as knowing as the fox, whose wisdom he had heard

many extol. The fox said reproachfully: "Why did you not tell me

the truth at once? Then I could have brought my heart along with

me for King Leviathan, who would have showered honors upon me. As

it is, you will surely suffer punishment for bringing me without

my heart. The foxes, you see," he continued, "do not carry their

hearts around with them. They keep them in a safe place, and when

they have need of them, they fetch them thence." The fish quickly

swam to shore, and landed the fox, so that he might go for his

heart. No sooner did he feel dry land under his feet than he

began to jump and shout, and when they urged him to go in search

of his heart, and follow them, he said: "O ye fools, could I have

followed you into the water, if I had not had my heart with me?

Or exists there a creature able to go abroad without his heart?"

The fish replied: "Come, come, thou art fooling us." Whereupon

the fox: "O ye fools, if I could play a trick on the Angel of

Death, how much easier was it to make game of you?" So they had

to return, their errand undone, and leviathan could not but

confirm the taunting judgment of the fox: "In very truth, the fox

is wise of heart, and ye are fools."[190]


"Whatever God created has value." Even the animals and the

insects that seem useless and noxious at first sight have a

vocation to fulfil. The snail trailing a moist streak after it as

it crawls, and so using up its vitality, serves as a remedy for

boils. The sting of a hornet is healed by the house‑fly crushed

and applied to the wound. The gnat, feeble creature, taking in

food but never secreting it, is a specific against the poison of

a viper, and this venomous reptile itself cures eruptions, while

the lizard is the antidote to the scorpion.[191] Not only do all

creatures serve man, and contribute to his comfort, but also God

"teacheth us through the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wise

through the fowls of heaven." He endowed many animals with

admirable moral qualities as a pattern for man. If the Torah had

not been revealed to us, we might have learnt regard for the

decencies of life from the cat, who covers her excrement with

earth; regard for the property of others from the ants, who never

encroach upon one another's stores; and regard for decorous

conduct from the cock, who, when he desires to unite with the

hen, promises to buy her a cloak long enough to reach to the

ground, and when the hen reminds him of his promise, he shakes

his comb and says, "May I be deprived of my comb, if I do not buy

it when I have the means." The grasshopper also has a lesson to

teach to man. All the summer through it sings, until its belly

bursts, and death claims it. Though it knows the fate that awaits

it, yet it sings on. So man should do his duty toward God, no

matter what the consequences. The stork should be taken as a

model in two respects. He guards the purity of his family life

zealously, and toward his fellows he is compassionate and

merciful. Even the frog can be the teacher of man. By the side of

the water there lives a species of animals which subsist off

aquatic creatures alone. When the frog notices that one of them

is hungry, he goes to it of his own accord, and offers himself as

food, thus fulfilling the injunction, "If thine enemy be hungry,

give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to


The whole of creation was called into existence by God unto His

glory,[193] and each creature has its own hymn of praise

wherewith to extol the Creator. Heaven and earth, Paradise and

hell, desert and field, rivers and seas‑‑all have their own way

of paying homage to God. The hymn of the earth is, "From the

uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, glory to the

Righteous." The sea exclaims, "Above the voices of many waters,

the mighty breakers of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty."

Also the celestial bodies and the elements proclaim the praise of

their Creator‑‑the sun, moon, and stars, the clouds and the

winds, lightning and dew. The sun says, "The sun and moon stood

still in their habitation, at the light of Thine arrows as they

went, at the shining of Thy glittering spear"; and the stars

sing, "Thou art the Lord, even Thou alone; Thou hast made heaven,

the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all

things that are thereon, the seas and all that is in them, and

Thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth


Every plant, furthermore, has a song of praise. The fruitful tree

sings, "Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy, before

the Lord, for He cometh; for He cometh to judge the earth"; and

the ears of grain on the field sing, "The pastures are covered

with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they

shout for joy, they also sing."

Great among singers of praise are the birds, and greatest among

them is the cock. When God at midnight goes to the pious in

Paradise, all the trees therein break out into adoration, and

their songs awaken the cock, who begins in turn to praise God.

Seven times he crows, each time reciting a verse. The first verse

is: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye

everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in. Who is

the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in

battle." The second verse: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; yea,

lift them up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall

come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the

King of glory." The third: "Arise, ye righteous, and occupy

yourselves with the Torah, that your reward may be abundant in

the world hereafter." The fourth: "I have waited for Thy

salvation, O Lord!" The fifth: "How long wilt thou sleep, O

sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?" The sixth:

"Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and

thou shalt be satisfied with bread." And the seventh verse sung

by the cock runs: "It is time to work for the Lord, for they have

made void Thy law."

The song of the vulture is: "I will hiss for them, and gather

them; for I have redeemed them, and they shall increase as they

have increased"‑‑the same verse with which the bird will in time

to come announce the advent of the Messiah, the only difference

being, that when he heralds the Messiah he will sit upon the

ground and sing his verse, while at all other times he is seated

elsewhere when he sings it.

Nor do the other animals praise God less than the birds. Even the

beasts of prey give forth adoration. The lion says: "The Lord

shall go forth as a mighty man; He shall stir up jealousy like a

man of war; He shall cry, yea, He shall shout aloud; He shall do

mightily against his enemies." And the fox exhorts unto justice

with the words: "Woe unto him that buildeth his house by

unrighteousness, and his chambers by injustice; that useth his

neighbor's service without wages, and giveth him not his hire."

Yea, the dumb fishes know how to proclaim the praise of their

Lord. "The voice of the Lord is upon the waters," they say, "the

God of glory thundereth, even the Lord upon many waters"; while

the frog exclaims, "Blessed be the name of the glory of His

kingdom forever and ever."

Contemptible though they are, even the reptiles give praise unto

their Creator. The mouse extols God with the words: "Howbeit Thou

art just in all that is come upon me; for Thou hast dealt truly,

but I have done wickedly." And the cat sings: "Let everything

that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord."[194]






















With ten Sayings God created the world, although a single Saying

would have sufficed. God desired to make known how severe is the

punishment to be meted out to the wicked, who destroy a world

created with as many as ten Sayings, and how goodly the reward

destined for the righteous, who preserve a world created with as

many as ten Sayings.[1]

The world was made for man, though he was the last‑comer among

its creatures. This was design. He was to find all things ready

for him. God was the host who prepared dainty dishes, set the

table, and then led His guest to his seat. At the same time man's

late appearance on earth is to convey an admonition to humility.

Let him beware of being proud, lest he invite the retort that the

gnat is older than he.[2]

The superiority of man to the other creatures is apparent in the

very manner of his creation, altogether different from theirs. He

is the only one who was created by the hand of God.[3] The rest

sprang from the word of God. The body of man is a microcosm, the

whole world in miniature, and the world in turn is a reflex of

man. The hair upon his head corresponds to the woods of the

earth, his tears to a river, his mouth to the ocean.[4] Also, the

world resembles the ball of his eye: the ocean that encircles the

earth is like unto the white of the eye, the dry land is the

iris, Jerusalem the pupil, and the Temple the image mirrored in

the pupil of the eye.[5] But man is more than a mere image of

this world. He unites both heavenly and earthly qualities within

himself. In four he resembles the angels, in four the beasts. His

power of speech, his discriminating intellect, his upright walk,

the glance of his eye‑‑they all make an angel of him. But, on the

other hand, he eats and drinks, secretes the waste matter in his

body, propagates his kind, and dies, like the beast of the field.

Therefore God said before the creation of man: "The celestials

are not propagated, but they are immortal; the beings on earth

are propagated, but they die. I will create man to be the union

of the two, so that when he sins, when he behaves like a beast,

death shall overtake him; but if he refrains from sin, he shall

live forever."[6] God now bade all beings in heaven and on earth

contribute to the creation of man, and He Himself took part in

it. Thus they all will love man, and if he should sin, they will

be interested in his preservation.[7]

The whole world naturally was created for the pious, the

God‑fearing man, whom Israel produces with the helpful guidance

of the law of God revealed to him.[8] It was, therefore, Israel

who was taken into special consideration at the time man was

made. All other creatures were instructed to change their nature,

if Israel should ever need their help in the course of his

history. The sea was ordered to divide before Moses, and the

heavens to give ear to the words of the leader; the sun and the

moon were bidden to stand still before Joshua, the ravens to feed

Elijah, the fire to spare the three youths in the furnace, the

lion to do no harm to Daniel, the fish to spew forth Jonah, and

the heavens to open before Ezekiel.[9]

In His modesty, God took counsel with the angels, before the

creation of the world, regarding His intention of making man. He

said: "For the sake of Israel, I will create the world. As I

shall make a division between light and darkness, so I will in

time to come do for Israel in Egypt‑‑thick darkness shall be over

the land, and the children of Israel shall have light in their

dwellings; as I shall make a separation between the waters under

the firmament and the waters above the firmament, so I will do

for Israel‑‑I will divide the waters for him when he crosses the

Red Sea; as on the third day I shall create plants, so I will do

for Israel‑‑I will bring forth manna for him in the wilderness;

as I shall create luminaries to divide day from night, so I will

do for Israel‑‑I will go before him by day in a pillar of cloud

and by night in a pillar of fire; as I shall create the fowl of

the air and the fishes of the sea, so I will do for Israel‑‑I

will bring quails for him from the sea; and as I shall breathe

the breath of life into the nostrils of man, so I will do for

Israel‑‑I will give the Torah unto him, the tree of life." The

angels marvelled that so much love should be lavished upon this

people of Israel, and God told them: "On the first day of

creation, I shall make the heavens and stretch them out; so will

Israel raise up the Tabernacle as the dwelling‑place of My glory.

On the second day, I shall put a division between the terrestrial

waters and the heavenly waters; so will he hang up a veil in the

Tabernacle to divide the Holy Place and the Most Holy. On the

third day, I shall make the earth put forth grass and herb; so

will he, in obedience to My commands, eat herbs on the first

night of the Passover, and prepare showbread for Me. On the

fourth day, I shall make the luminaries; so will he make a golden

candlestick for Me. On the fifth day, I shall create the birds;

so will he fashion the cherubim with outstretched wings. On the

sixth day, I shall create man; so will Israel set aside a man of

the sons of Aaron as high priest for My service."[10]

Accordingly, the whole of creation was conditional. God said to

the things He made on the first six days: "If Israel accepts the

Torah, you will continue and endure; otherwise, I shall turn

everything back into chaos again." The whole world was thus kept

in suspense and dread until the day of the revelation on Sinai,

when Israel received and accepted the Torah, and so fulfilled the

condition made by God at the time when He created the



God in His wisdom hiving resolved to create man, He asked counsel

of all around Him before He proceeded to execute His purpose‑‑an

example to man, be he never so great and distinguished, not to

scorn the advice of the humble and lowly. First God called upon

heaven and earth, then upon all other things He had created, and

last upon the angels.

The angels were not all of one opinion. The Angel of Love favored

the creation of man, because he would be affectionate and loving;

but the Angel of Truth opposed it, because he would be full of

lies. And while the Angel of Justice favored it, because he would

practice justice, the Angel of Peace opposed it, because he would

be quarrelsome.

To invalidate his protest, God cast the Angel of Truth down from

heaven to earth, and when the others cried out against such

contemptuous treatment of their companion, He said, "Truth will

spring back out of the earth."

The objections of the angels would have been much stronger, had

they known the whole truth about man. God had told them only

about the pious, and had concealed from them that there would be

reprobates among mankind, too. And yet, though they knew but half

the truth, the angels were nevertheless prompted to cry out:

"What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? And the son of man,

that Thou visitest him?" God replied: "The fowl of the air and

the fish of the sea, what were they created for? Of what avail a

larder full of appetizing dainties, and no guest to enjoy them?"

And the angels could not but exclaim: "O Lord, our Lord, how

excellent is Thy name in all the earth! Do as is pleasing in Thy


For not a few of the angels their opposition bore fatal

consequences. When God summoned the band under the archangel

Michael, and asked their opinion on the creation of man, they

answered scornfully: "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?

And the son of man, that Thou visitest him?" God thereupon

stretched forth His little finger, and all were consumed by fire

except their chief Michael. And the same fate befell the band

under the leadership of the archangel Gabriel; he alone of all

was saved from destruction.

The third band consulted was commanded by the archangel Labbiel.

Taught by the horrible fate of his predecessors, he warned his

troop: "You have seen what misfortune overtook the angels who

said 'What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?' Let us have a

care not to do likewise, lest we suffer the same dire punishment.

For God will not refrain from doing in the end what He has

planned. Therefore it is advisable for us to yield to His

wishes." Thus warned, the angels spoke: "Lord of the world, it is

well that Thou hast thought of creating man. Do Thou create him

according to Thy will. And as for us, we will be his attendants

and his ministers, and reveal unto him all our secrets."

Thereupon God changed Labbiel's name to Raphael, the Rescuer,

because his host of angels had been rescued by his sage advice.

He was appointed the Angel of Healing, who has in his

safe‑keeping all the celestial remedies, the types of the medical

remedies used on earth.[12]


When at last the assent of the angels to the creation of man was

given, God said to Gabriel: "Go and fetch Me dust from the four

corners of the earth, and I will create man therewith." Gabriel

went forth to do the bidding of the Lord, but the earth drove him

away, and refused to let him gather up dust from it. Gabriel

remonstrated: "Why, O Earth, dost thou not hearken unto the voice

of the Lord, who founded thee upon the waters without props or

pillars?" The earth replied, and said: "I am destined to become a

curse, and to be cursed through man, and if God Himself does not

take the dust from me, no one else shall ever do it." When God

heard this, He stretched out His hand, took of the dust of the

ground, and created the first man therewith.[14] Of set purpose

the dust was taken from all four corners of the earth, so that if

a man from the east should happen to die in the west, or a man

from the west in the east, the earth should not dare refuse to

receive the dead, and tell him to go whence he was taken.

Wherever a man chances to die, and wheresoever he is buried,

there will he return to the earth from which he sprang. Also, the

dust was of various colors‑‑red, black, white, and green‑‑red for

the blood, black for the bowels, white for the bones and veins,

and green for the pale skin.

At this early moment the Torah interfered. She addressed herself

to God: "O Lord of the world! The world is Thine, Thou canst do

with it as seemeth good in Thine eyes. But the man Thou art now

creating will be few of days and full of trouble and sin. If it

be not Thy purpose to have forbearance and patience with him, it

were better not to call him into being." God replied, "Is it for

naught I am called long‑suffering and merciful?"[15]

The grace and lovingkindness of God revealed themselves

particularly in His taking one spoonful of dust from the spot

where in time to come the altar would stand, saying, "I shall

take man from the place of atonement, that he may endure."[19]


The care which God exercised in fashioning every detail of the

body of man is as naught in comparison with His solicitude for

the human soul. The soul of man was created on the first day, for

it is the spirit of God moving upon the face of the waters. Thus,

instead of being the last, man is really the first work of


This spirit, or, to call it by its usual name, the soul of man,

possesses five different powers. By means of one of them she

escapes from the body every night, rises up to heaven, and

fetches new life thence for man.[18]

With the soul of Adam the souls of all the generations of men

were created. They are stored up in a promptuary, in the seventh

of the heavens, whence they are drawn as they are needed for

human body after human body.[19]

The soul and body of man are united in this way: When a woman has

conceived, the Angel of the Night, Lailah, carries the sperm

before God, and God decrees what manner of human being shall

become of it‑‑whether it shall be male or female, strong or weak,

rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, long or short, fat or thin, and

what all its other qualities shall be. Piety and wickedness alone

are left to the determination of man himself. Then God makes a

sign to the angel appointed over the souls, saying, "Bring Me the

soul so‑and‑so, which is hidden in Paradise, whose name is

so‑and‑so, and whose form is so‑and‑so." The angel brings the

designated soul, and she bows down when she appears in the

presence of God, and prostrates herself before Him. At that

moment, God issues the command, "Enter this sperm." The soul

opens her mouth, and pleads: "O Lord of the world! I am well

pleased with the world in which I have been living since the day

on which Thou didst call me into being. Why dost Thou now desire

to have me enter this impure sperm, I who am holy and pure, and a

part of Thy glory?" God consoles her: "The world which I shall

cause thee to enter is better than the world in which thou hast

lived hitherto, and when I created thee, it was only for this

purpose." The soul is then forced to enter the sperm against her

will, and the angel carries her back to the womb of the mother.

Two angels are detailed to watch that she shall not leave it, nor

drop out of it, and a light is set above her, whereby the soul

can see from one end of the world to the other. In the morning an

angel carries her to Paradise, and shows her the righteous, who

sit there in their glory, with crowns upon their heads. The angel

then says to the soul, "Dost thou know who these are?" She

replies in the negative, and the angel goes on: "These whom thou

beholdest here were formed, like unto thee, in the womb of their

mother. When they came into the world, they observed God's Torah

and His commandments. Therefore they became the partakers of this

bliss which thou seest them enjoy. Know, also thou wilt one day

depart from the world below, and if thou wilt observe God's

Torah, then wilt thou be found worthy of sitting with these pious

ones. But if not, thou wilt be doomed to the other place."

In the evening, the angel takes the soul to hell, and there

points out the sinners whom the Angels of Destruction are smiting

with fiery scourges, the sinners all the while crying out Woe!

Woe! but no mercy is shown unto them. The angel then questions

the soul as before, "Dost thou know who these are?" and as before

the reply is negative. The angel continues: "These who are

consumed with fire were created like unto thee. When they were

put into the world, they did not observe God's Torah and His

commandments. Therefore have they come to this disgrace which

thou seest them suffer. Know, thy destiny is also to depart from

the world. Be just, therefore, and not wicked, that thou mayest

gain the future world."

Between morning and evening the angel carries the soul around,

and shows her where she will live and where she will die, and the

place where she will buried, and he takes her through the whole

world, and points out the just and the sinners and all things. In

the evening, he replaces her in the womb of the mother, and there

she remains for nine months.

When the time arrives for her to emerge from the womb into the

open world, the same angel addresses the soul, "The time has come

for thee to go abroad into the open world." The soul demurs, "Why

dost thou want to make me go forth into the open world?" The

angel replies: "Know that as thou wert formed against thy will,

so now thou wilt be born against thy will, and against thy will

thou shalt die, and against thy will thou shalt give account of

thyself before the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He."

But the soul is reluctant to leave her place. Then the angel

fillips the babe on the nose, extinguishes the light at his head,

and brings him forth into the world against his will. Immediately

the child forgets all his soul has seen and learnt, and he comes

into the world crying, for he loses a place of shelter and

security and rest.

When the time arrives for man to quit this world, the same angel

appears and asks him, "Dost thou recognize me?" And man replies,

"Yes; but why dost thou come to me to‑day, and thou didst come on

no other day?" The angel says, "To take thee away from the world,

for the time of thy departure has arrived." Then man falls to

weeping, and his voice penetrates to all ends of the world, yet

no creature hears his voice, except the cock alone. Man

remonstrates with the angel, "From two worlds thou didst take me,

and into this world thou didst bring me." But the angel reminds

him: "Did I not tell thee that thou wert formed against thy will,

and thou wouldst be born against thy will, and against thy will

thou wouldst die? And against thy will thou wilt have to give

account and reckoning of thyself before the Holy One, blessed be



Like all creatures formed on the six days of creation, Adam came

from the hands of the Creator fully and completely developed. He

was not like a child, but like a man of twenty years of age.[21]

The dimensions of his body were gigantic, reaching from heaven to

earth, or, what amounts to the same, from east to west.[22] Among

later generations of men, there were but few who in a measure

resembled Adam in his extraordinary size and physical

perfections. Samson possessed his strength, Saul his neck,

Absalom his hair, Asahel his fleetness of foot, Uzziah his

forehead, Josiah his nostrils, Zedekiah his eyes, and Zerubbabel

his voice. History shows that these physical excellencies were no

blessings to many of their possessors; they invited the ruin of

almost all. Samson's extraordinary strength caused his death;

Saul killed himself by cutting his neck with his own sword; while

speeding swiftly, Asahel was pierced by Abner's spear; Absalom

was caught up by his hair in an oak, and thus suspended met his

death; Uzziah was smitten with leprosy upon his forehead; the

darts that killed Josiah entered through his nostrils, and

Zedekiah's eyes were blinded.[23]

The generality of men inherited as little of the beauty as of the

portentous size of their first father. The fairest women compared

with Sarah are as apes compared with a human being. Sarah's

relation to Eve is the same, and, again, Eve was but as an ape

compared with Adam. His person was so handsome that the very sole

of his foot obscured the splendor of the sun.[24]

His spiritual qualities kept pace with his personal charm, for

God had fashioned his soul with particular care. She is the image

of God, and as God fills the world, so the soul fills the human

body; as God sees all things, and is seen by none, so the soul

sees, but cannot be seen; as God guides the world, so the soul

guides the body; as God in His holiness is pure, so is the soul;

and as God dwells in secret, so doth the soul.[25]

When God was about to put a soul into Adam's clod‑like body, He

said: "At which point shall I breathe the soul into him? Into the

mouth? Nay, for he will use it to speak ill of his fellow‑man.

Into the eyes? With them he will wink lustfully. Into the ears?

They will hearken to slander and blasphemy. I will breathe her

into his nostrils; as they discern the unclean and reject it, and

take in the fragrant, so the pious will shun sin, and will cleave

to the words of the Torah"[26]

The perfections of Adam's soul showed themselves as soon as he

received her, indeed, while he was still without life. In the

hour that intervened between breathing a soul into the first man

and his becoming alive, God revealed the whole history of mankind

to him. He showed him each generation and its leaders; each

generation and its prophets; each generation and its teachers;

each generation and its scholars; each generation and its

statesmen; each generation and its judges; each generation and

its pious members; each generation and its average, commonplace

members; and each generation and its impious members. The tale of

their years, the number of their days, the reckoning of their

hours, and the measure of their steps, all were made known unto


Of his own free will Adam relinquished seventy of his allotted

years. His appointed span was to be a thousand years, one of the

Lord's days. But he saw that only a single minute of life was

apportioned to the great soul of David, and he made a gift of

seventy years to her, reducing his own years to nine hundred and


The wisdom of Adam displayed itself to greatest advantage when he

gave names to the animals. Then it appeared that God, in

combating the arguments of the angels that opposed the creation

of man, had spoken well, when He insisted that man would possess

more wisdom than they themselves. When Adam was barely an hour

old, God assembled the whole world of animals before him and the

angels. The latter were called upon to name the different kinds,

but they were not equal to the task. Adam, however, spoke without

hesitation: "O Lord of the world! The proper name for this animal

is ox, for this one horse, for this one lion, for this one

camel." And so he called all in turn by name, suiting the name to

the peculiarity of the animal. Then God asked him what his name

was to be, and he said Adam, because he had been created out of

Adamah, dust of the earth. Again, God asked him His own name, and

he said: "Adonai, Lord, because Thou art Lord over all

creatures"‑‑the very name God had given unto Himself, the name by

which the angels call Him, the name that will remain immutable

evermore.[29] But without the gift of the holy spirit, Adam could

not have found names for all; he was in very truth a prophet, and

his wisdom a prophetic quality.[30]

The names of the animals were not the only inheritance handed

down by Adam to the generations after him, for mankind owes all

crafts to him, especially the art of writing, and he was the

inventor of all the seventy languages.[31] And still another task

he accomplished for his descendants. God showed Adam the whole

earth, and Adam designated what places were to be settled later

by men, and what places were to remain waste.[32]


The extraordinary qualities with which Adam was blessed, physical

and spiritual as well, aroused the envy of the angels. They

attempted to consume him with fire, and he would have perished,

had not the protecting hand of God rested upon him, and

established peace between him and the heavenly host.[33] In

particular, Satan was jealous of the first man, and his evil

thoughts finally led to his fall. After Adam had been endowed

with a soul, God invited all the angels to come and pay him

reverence and homage. Satan, the greatest of the angels in

heaven, with twelve wings, instead of six like all the others,

refused to pay heed to the behest of God, saying, "Thou didst

create us angels from the splendor of the Shekinah, and now Thou

dost command us to cast ourselves down before the creature which

Thou didst fashion out of the dust of the ground!" God answered,

"Yet this dust of the ground has more wisdom and understanding

than thou." Satan demanded a trial of wit with Adam, and God

assented thereto, saying: "I have created beasts, birds, and

reptiles, I shall have them all come before thee and before Adam.

If thou art able to give them names, I shall command Adam to show

honor unto thee, and thou shalt rest next to the Shekinah of My

glory. But if not, and Adam calls them by the names I have

assigned to them, then thou wilt be subject to Adam, and he shall

have a place in My garden, and cultivate it." Thus spake God, and

He betook Himself to Paradise, Satan following Him. When Adam

beheld God, he said to his wife, "O come, let us worship and bow

down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker." Now Satan

attempted to assign names to the animals. He failed with the

first two that presented themselves, the ox and the cow. God led

two others before him, the camel and the donkey, with the same

result. Then God turned to Adam, and questioned him regarding the

names of the same animals, framing His questions in such wise

that the first letter of the first word was the same as the first

letter of the name of the animal standing before him. Thus Adam

divined the proper name, and Satan was forced to acknowledge the

superiority of the first man. Nevertheless he broke out in wild

outcries that reached the heavens, and he refused to do homage

unto Adam as he had been bidden.[34] The host of angels led by

him did likewise, in spite of the urgent representations of

Michael, who was the first to prostrate himself before Adam in

order to show a good example to the other angels. Michael

addressed Satan: "Give adoration to the image of God! But if thou

doest it not, then the Lord God will break out in wrath against

thee." Satan replied: "If He breaks out in wrath against me, I

will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will be like the

Most High! "At once God flung Satan and his host out of heaven,

down to the earth, and from that moment dates the enmity between

Satan and man.'


When Adam opened his eyes the first time, and beheld the world

about him, he broke into praise of God, "How great are Thy works,

O Lord!" But his admiration for the world surrounding him did not

exceed the admiration all creatures conceived for Adam. They took

him to be their creator, and they all came to offer him

adoration. But he spoke: "Why do you come to worship me? Nay, you

and I together will acknowledge the majesty and the might of Him

who hath created us all. 'The Lord reigneth,' " he continued, "

'He is apparelled with majesty.' "[36]

And not alone the creatures on earth, even the angels thought

Adam the lord of all, and they were about to salute him with

"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts," when God caused sleep

to fall upon him, and then the angels knew that he was but a

human being.[37]

The purpose of the sleep that enfolded Adam was to give him a

wife, so that the human race might develop, and all creatures

recognize the difference between God and man. When the earth

heard what God had resolved to do, it began to tremble and quake.

"I have not the strength," it said, "to provide food for the herd

of Adam's descendants. "But God pacified it with the words, "I

and thou together, we will find food for the herd." Accordingly,

time was divided between God and the earth; God took the night,

and the earth took the day. Refreshing sleep nourishes and

strengthens man, it affords him life and rest, while the earth

brings forth produce with the help of God, who waters it. Yet man

must work the earth to earn his food.[38]

The Divine resolution to bestow a companion on Adam met the

wishes of man, who had been overcome by a feeling of isolation

when the animals came to him in pairs to be named.[39] To banish

his loneliness, Lilith was first given to Adam as wife. Like him

she had been created out of the dust of the ground. But she

remained with him only a short time, because she insisted upon

enjoying full equality with her husband. She derived her rights

from their identical origin. With the help of the Ineffable Name,

which she pronounced, Lilith flew away from Adam, and vanished in

the air. Adam complained before God that the wife He had given

him had deserted him, and God sent forth three angels to capture

her. They found her in the Red Sea, and they sought to make her

go back with the threat that, unless she went, she would lose a

hundred of her demon children daily by death. But Lilith

preferred this punishment to living with Adam. She takes her

revenge by injuring babes‑‑baby boys during the first night of

their life, while baby girls are exposed to her wicked designs

until they are twenty. days old The only way to ward off the evil

is to attach an amulet bearing the names of her three angel

captors to the children, for such had been the agreement between


The woman destined to become the true companion of man was taken

from Adam's body, for "only when like is joined unto like the

union is indissoluble."[41] The creation of woman from man was

possible because Adam originally had two faces, which were

separated at the birth of Eve.[42]

When God was on the point of making Eve, He said: "I will not

make her from the head of man, lest she carry her head high in

arrogant pride; not from the eye, lest she be wanton‑eyed; not

from the ear, lest she be an eavesdropper; not from the neck,

lest she be insolent; not from the mouth, lest she be a tattler;

not from the heart, lest she be inclined to envy; not from the

hand, lest she be a meddler; not from the foot, lest she be a

gadabout. I will form her from a chaste portion of the body," and

to every limb and organ as He formed it, God said, "Be chaste! Be

chaste! "Nevertheless, in spite of the great caution used, woman

has all the faults God tried to obviate. The daughters of Zion

were haughty and walked with stretched forth necks and wanton

eyes; Sarah was an eavesdropper in her own tent, when the angel

spoke with Abraham; Miriam was a talebearer, accusing Moses;

Rachel was envious of her sister Leah; Eve put out her hand to

take the forbidden fruit, and Dinah was a gadabout.[43]

The physical formation of woman is far more complicated than that

of man, as it must be for the function of child‑bearing, and

likewise the intelligence of woman matures more quickly than the

intelligence of man.[44] Many of the physical and psychical

differences between the two sexes must be attributed to the fact

that man was formed from the ground and woman from bone. Women

need perfumes, while men do not; dust of the ground remains the

same no matter how long it is kept; flesh, however, requires salt

to keep it in good condition. The voice of women is shrill, not

so the voice of men; when soft viands are cooked, no sound is

heard, but let a bone be put in a pot, and at once it crackles. A

man is easily placated, not so a woman; a few drops of water

suffice to soften a clod of earth; a bone stays hard, and if it

were to soak in water for days. The man must ask the woman to be

his wife, and not the woman the man to be her husband, because it

is man who has sustained the loss of his rib, and he sallies

forth to make good his loss again. The very differences between

the sexes in garb and social forms go back to the origin of man

and woman for their reasons. Woman covers her hair in token of

Eve's having brought sin into the world; she tries to hide her

shame; and women precede men in a funeral cortege, because it was

woman who brought death into the world. And the religious

commands addressed to women alone are connected with the history

of Eve. Adam was the heave offering of the world, and Eve defiled

it. As expiation, all women are commanded to separate a heave

offering from the dough. And because woman extinguished the light

of man's soul, she is bidden to kindle the Sabbath light.[45]

Adam was first made to fall into a deep sleep before the rib for

Eve was taken from his side. For, had he watched her creation,

she would not have awakened love in him. To this day it is true

that men do not appreciate the charms of women whom they have

known and observed from childhood up. Indeed, God had created a

wife for Adam before Eve, but he would not have her, because she

had been made in his presence. Knowing well all the details of

her formation, he was repelled by her.[46] But when he roused

himself from his profound sleep, and saw Eve before him in all

her surprising beauty and grace, he exclaimed, "This is she who

caused my heart to throb many a night!" Yet he discerned at once

what the nature of woman was. She would, he knew, seek to carry

her point with man either by entreaties and tears, or flattery

and caresses. He said, therefore, "This is my never‑silent


The wedding of the first couple was celebrated with pomp never

repeated in the whole course of history since. God Himself,

before presenting her to Adam, attired and adorned Eve as a

bride. Yea, He appealed to the angels, saying: "Come, let us

perform services of friendship for Adam and his helpmate, for the

world rests upon friendly services, and they are more pleasing in

My sight than the sacrifices Israel will offer upon the altar."

The angels accordingly surrounded the marriage canopy, and God

pronounced the blessings upon the bridal couple, as the Hazan

does under the Huppah. The angels then danced and played upon

musical instruments before Adam and Eve in their ten bridal

chambers of gold, pearls, and precious stones, which God had

prepared for them.

Adam called his wife Ishah, and himself he called Ish, abandoning

the name Adam, which he had borne before the creation of Eve, for

the reason that God added His own name Yah to the names of the

man and the woman‑‑Yod to Ish and He to Ishah‑‑to indicate that

as long as they walked in the ways of God and observed His

commandments, His name would shield them against all harm. But if

they went astray, His name would be withdrawn, and instead of Ish

there would remain Esh, fire, a fire issuing from each and

consuming the other.[48]


The Garden of Eden was the abode of the first man and woman, and

the souls of all men must pass through it after death, before

they reach their final destination. For the souls of the departed

must go through seven portals before they arrive in the heaven

'Arabot. There the souls of the pious are transformed into

angels, and there they remain forever, praising God and feasting

their sight upon the glory of the Shekinah. The first portal is

the Cave of Machpelah, in the vicinity of Paradise, which is

under the care and supervision of Adam. If the soul that presents

herself at the portal is worthy, he calls out, "Make room! Thou

art welcome!" The soul then proceeds until she arrives at the

gate of Paradise guarded by the cherubim and the flaming sword.

If she is not found worthy, she is consumed by the sword;

otherwise she receives a pass‑bill, which admits her to the

terrestrial Paradise. Therein is a pillar of smoke and light

extending from Paradise to the gate of heaven, and it depends

upon the character of the soul whether she can climb upward on it

and reach heaven. The third portal, Zebul, is at the entrance of

heaven. If the soul is worthy, the guard opens the portal and

admits her 'to the heavenly Temple. Michael presents her to God,

and conducts her to the seventh portal, 'Arabot, within which the

souls of the pious, changed to angels, praise the Lord, and feed

on the glory of the Shekinah.[49]

In Paradise stand the tree of life and the tree of knowledge, the

latter forming a hedge about the former. Only he who has cleared

a path for himself through the tree of knowledge can come close

to the tree of life, which is so huge that it would take a man

five hundred years to traverse a distance equal to the diameter

of the trunk, and no less vast is the space shaded by its crown

of branches. From beneath it flows forth the water that irrigates

the whole earth,[50] parting thence into four streams, the

Ganges, the Nile, the Tigris, and the Euphrates.[51] But it was

only during the days of creation that the realm of plants looked

to the waters of the earth for nourishment. Later on God made the

plants dependent upon the rain, the upper waters. The clouds rise

from earth to heaven, where water is poured into them as from a

conduit.[52] The plants began to feel the effect of the water

only after Adam was created. Although they had been brought forth

on the third day, God did not permit them to sprout and appear

above the surface of the earth, until Adam prayed to Him to give

food unto them, for God longs for the prayers of the pious.[53]

Paradise being such as it was, it was, naturally, not necessary

for Adam to work the land. True, the Lord God put the man into

the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it, but that only

means he is to study the Torah there and fulfil the commandments

of God.[54] There were especially six commandments which every

human being is expected to heed: man should not worship idols;

nor blaspheme God; nor commit murder, nor incest, nor theft and

robbery; and all generations have the duty of instituting

measures of law and order.[55] One more such command there was,

but it was a temporary injunction. Adam was to eat only the green

things of the field. But the prohibition against the use of

animals for food was revoked in Noah's time, after the deluge.

Nevertheless, Adam was not cut off from the enjoyment of meat

dishes. Though he was not permitted to slaughter animals for the

appeasing of his appetite, the angels brought him meat and wine,

serving him like attendants.[56] And as the angels ministered to

his wants, so also the animals. They were wholly under his

dominion, and their food they took out of his hand and out of

Eve's.[57] In all respects, the animal world had a different

relation to Adam from their relation to his descendants. Not only

did they know the language of man,[58] but they respected the

image of God, and they feared the first human couple, all of

which changed into the opposite after the fall of man.[59]


Among the animals the serpent was notable. Of all of them he had

the most excellent qualities, in some of which he resembled man.

Like man he stood upright upon two feet, and in height he was

equal to the camel. Had it not been for the fall of man, which

brought misfortune to them, too, one pair of serpents would have

sufficed to perform all the work man has to do, and, besides,

they would have supplied him with silver, gold, gems, and pearls.

As a matter of fact, it was the very ability of the serpent that

led to the ruin of man and his own ruin. His superior mental

gifts caused him to become an infidel. It likewise explains his

envy of man, especially of his conjugal relations. Envy made him

meditate ways and means of bringing about the death of Adam.[60]

He was too well acquainted with the character of the man to

attempt to exercise tricks of persuasion upon him, and he

approached the woman, knowing that women are beguiled easily. The

conversation with Eve was cunningly planned, she could not but be

caught in a trap. The serpent began, "Is it true that God hath

said, Ye shall not eat of every tree in the garden?" "We may,"

rejoined Eve, "eat of the fruit of all the trees in the garden,

except that which is in the midst of the garden, and that we may

not even touch, lest we be stricken with death." She spoke thus,

because in his zeal to guard her against the transgressing of the

Divine command, Adam had forbidden Eve to touch the tree, though

God had mentioned only the eating of the fruit. It remains a

truth, what the proverb says, "Better a wall ten hands high that

stands, than a wall a hundred ells high that cannot stand." It

was Adam's exaggeration that afforded the serpent the possibility

of persuading Eve to taste of the forbidden fruit. The serpent

pushed Eve against the tree, and said: "Thou seest that touching

the tree has not caused thy death. As little will it hurt thee to

eat the fruit of the tree. Naught but malevolence has prompted

the prohibition, for as soon as ye eat thereof, ye shall be as

God. As He creates and destroys worlds, so will ye have the power

to create and destroy. As He doth slay and revive, so will ye

have the power to slay and revive.[61] He Himself ate first of

the fruit of the tree, and then He created the world. Therefore

doth He forbid you to eat thereof, lest you create other worlds.

Everyone knows that 'artisans of the same guild hate one

another.' Furthermore, have ye not observed that every creature

hath dominion over the creature fashioned before itself? The

heavens were made on the first day, and they are kept in place by

the firmament made on the second day. The firmament, in turn, is

ruled by the plants, the creation of the third day, for they take

up all the water of the firmament. The sun and the other

celestial bodies, which were created on the fourth day, have

power over the world of plants. They can ripen their fruits and

flourish only through their influence. The creation of the fifth

day, the animal world, rules over the celestial spheres. Witness

the ziz, which can darken the sun with its pinions. But ye are

masters of the whole of creation, because ye were the last to be

created. Hasten now and eat of the fruit of the tree in the midst

of the garden, and become independent of God, lest He bring forth

still other creatures to bear rule over you."[62]

To give due weight to these words, the serpent began to shake the

tree violently and bring down its fruit. He ate thereof, saying:

"As I do not die of eating the fruit, so wilt thou not die." Now

Eve could not but say to herself, "All that my master"‑‑so she

called Adam‑‑"commanded me is but lies," and she determined to

follow the advice of the serpent.[63] Yet she could not bring

herself to disobey the command of God utterly. She made a

compromise with her conscience. First she ate only the outside

skin of the fruit, and then, seeing that death did not fell her,

she ate the fruit itself.[64] Scarce had she finished, when she

saw the Angel of Death before her. Expecting her end to come

immediately, she resolved to make Adam eat of the forbidden

fruit, too, lest he espouse another wife after her death.[65] It

required tears and lamentations on her part to prevail upon Adam

to take the baleful step. Not yet satisfied, she gave of the

fruit to all other living beings, that they, too, might be

subject to death.[66] All ate, and they all are mortal, with the

exception of the bird malham, who refused the fruit, with the

words: "Is it not enough that ye have sinned against God, and

have brought death to others? Must ye still come to me and seek

to persuade me into disobeying God's command, that I may eat and

die thereof? I will not do your bidding." A heavenly voice was

heard then to say to Adam and Eve: "To you was the command given.

Ye did not heed it; ye did transgress it, and ye did seek to

persuade the bird malham. He was steadfast, and he feared Me,

although I gave him no command. Therefore he shall never taste of

death, neither he nor his descendants‑‑they all shall live

forever in Paradise."[67]

Adam spoke to Eve: "Didst thou give me of the tree of which I

forbade thee to eat? Thou didst give me thereof, for my eyes are

opened, and the teeth in my mouth are set on edge." Eve made

answer, "As my teeth were set on edge, so may the teeth of all

living beings be set on edge."[68] The first result was that Adam

and Eve became naked. Before, their bodies had been overlaid with

a horny skin, and enveloped with the cloud of glory. No sooner

had they violated the command given them than the cloud of glory

and the horny skin dropped from them, and they stood there in

their nakedness, and ashamed.[69] Adam tried to gather leaves

from the trees to cover part of their bodies, but he heard one

tree after the other say: "There is the thief that deceived his

Creator. Nay, the foot of pride shall not come against me, nor

the hand of the wicked touch me. Hence, and take no leaves from

me!" Only the fig‑tree granted him permission to take of its

leaves. That was because the fig was the forbidden fruit itself.

Adam had the same experience as that prince who seduced one of

the maid‑ser vants in the palace. When the king, his father,

chased him out, he vainly sought a refuge with the other

maid‑servants, but only she who had caused his disgrace would

grant him assistance.[70]


As long as Adam stood naked, casting about for means of escape

from his embarrassment, God did not appear unto him, for one

should not "strive to see a man in the hour of his disgrace." He

waited until Adam and Eve had covered themselves with fig

leaves.[71] But even before God spoke to him, Adam knew what was

impending. He heard the angels announce, "God betaketh Himself

unto those that dwell in Paradise." He heard more, too. He heard

what the angels were saying to one another about his fall, and

what they were saying to God. In astonishment the angels

exclaimed: "What! He still walks about in Paradise? He is not yet

dead?" Whereupon God: "I said to him, 'In the day that thou

eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die!' Now, ye know not what

manner of day I meant‑‑one of My days of a thousand years, or one

of your days. I will give him one of My days. He shall have nine

hundred and thirty years to live, and seventy to leave to his


When Adam and Eve heard God approaching, they hid among the

trees‑‑which would not have been possible before the fall. Before

he committed his trespass, Adam's height was from the heavens to

the earth, but afterward it was reduced to one hundred ells.[73]

Another consequence of his sin was the fear Adam felt when he

heard the voice of God: before his fall it had not disquieted him

in the least.[74] Hence it was that when Adam said, "I heard Thy

voice in the garden, and I was afraid," God replied, "Aforetime

thou wert not afraid, and now thou art afraid?"[75]

God refrained from reproaches at first. Standing at the gate of

Paradise, He but asked, "Where art thou, Adam?" Thus did God

desire to teach man a rule of polite behavior, never to enter the

house of another without announcing himself.[76] It cannot be

denied, the words "Where art thou?" were pregnant with meaning.

They were intended to bring home to Adam the vast difference

between his latter and his former state‑‑between his supernatural

size then and his shrunken size now; between the lordship of God

over him then and the lordship of the serpent over him now.[77]

At the same time, God wanted to give Adam the opportunity of

repenting of his sin, and he would have received Divine

forgiveness for it. But so far from repenting of it, Adam

slandered God, and uttered blasphemies against Him.[78] When God

asked him, "Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee

thou shouldst not eat?" he did not confess his sin, but excused

himself with the words: "O Lord of the world! As long as I was

alone, I did not fall into sin, but as soon as this woman came to

me, she tempted me." God replied: "I gave her unto thee as a

help, and thou art ungrateful when thou accusest her, saying,

'She gave me of the tree.' Thou shouldst not have obeyed her, for

thou art the head, and not she."[79] God, who knows all things,

had foreseen exactly this, and He had not created Eve until Adam

had asked Him for a helpmate, so that he might not have

apparently good reason for reproaching God with having created


As Adam tried to shift the blame for his misdeed from himself, so

also Eve. She, like her husband, did not confess her

transgression and pray for pardon, which would have been granted

to her.[81] Gracious as God is, He did not pronounce the doom

upon Adam and Eve until they showed themselves stiff‑necked. Not

so with the serpent. God inflicted the curse upon the serpent

without hearing his defense; for the serpent is a villain, and

the wicked are good debaters. If God had questioned him, the

serpent would have answered: "Thou didst give them a command, and

I did contradict it. Why did they obey me, and not Thee?"[82]

Therefore God did not enter into an argument with the serpent,

but straightway decreed the following ten punishments: The mouth

of the serpent was closed, and his power of speech taken away;

his hands and feet were hacked off; the earth was given him as

food; he must suffer great pain in sloughing his skin; enmity is

to exist between him and man; if he eats the choicest viands, or

drinks the sweetest beverages, they all change into dust in his

mouth; the pregnancy of the female serpent lasts seven years; men

shall seek to kill him as soon as they catch sight of him; even

in the future world, where all beings will be blessed, he will

not escape the punishment decreed for him; he will vanish from

out of the Holy Land if Israel walks in the ways of God.[83]

Furthermore, God spake to the serpent: "I created thee to be king

over all animals, cattle and the beasts of the field alike; but

thou wast not satisfied. Therefore thou shalt be cursed above all

cattle and above every beast of the field. I created thee of

upright posture; but thou wast not satisfied. Therefore thou

shalt go upon thy belly. I created thee to eat the same food as

man; but thou wast not satisfied. Therefore thou shalt eat dust

all the days of thy life. Thou didst seek to cause the death of

Adam in order to espouse his wife. Therefore I will put enmity

between thee and the woman." How true it is‑‑he who lusts after

what is not his due, not only does he not attain his desire, but

he also loses what he has!

As angels had been present when the doom was pronounced upon the

serpent‑‑for God had convoked a Sanhedrin of seventy‑one angels

when He sat in judgment upon him‑‑so the execution of the decree

against him was entrusted to angels. They descended from heaven,

and chopped off his hands and feet. His suffering was so great

that his agonized cries could be heard from one end of the world

to the other.[84]

The verdict against Eve also consisted of ten curses, the effect

of which is noticeable to this day in the physical, spiritual,

and social state of woman.[85] It was not God Himself who

announced her fate to Eve. The only woman with whom God ever

spoke was Sarah. In the case of Eve, He made use of the services

of an interpreter.[86]

Finally, also the punishment of Adam was tenfold: he lost his

celestial clothing‑‑God stripped it off him; in sorrow he was to

earn his daily bread; the food he ate was to be turned from good

into bad; his children were to wander from land to land; his body

was to exude sweat; he was to have an evil inclination; in death

his body was to be a prey of the worms; animals were to have

power over him, in that they could slay him; his days were to be

few and full of trouble; in the end he was to render account of

all his doings on earth."

These three sinners were not the only ones to have punishment

dealt out to them. The earth fared no better, for it had been

guilty of various misdemeanors. In the first place, it had not

entirely heeded the command of God given on the third day, to

bring forth "tree of fruit." What God had desired was a tree the

wood of which was to be as pleasant to the taste as the fruit

thereof. The earth, however, produced a tree bearing fruit, the

tree itself not being edible.[88] Again, the earth did not do its

whole duty in connection with the sin of Adam. God had appointed

the sun and the earth witnesses to testify against Adam in case

he committed a trespass. The sun, accordingly, had grown dark the

instant Adam became guilty of disobedience, but the earth, not

knowing how to take notice of Adam's fall, disregarded it

altogether.[89] The earth also had to suffer a tenfold

punishment: independent before, she was hereafter to wait to be

watered by the rain from above; sometimes the fruits of the earth

fail; the grain she brings forth is stricken with blasting and

mildew; she must produce all sorts of noxious vermin; thenceforth

she was to be divided into valleys and mountains; she must grow

barren trees, bearing no fruit; thorns and thistles sprout from

her; much is sown in the earth, but little is harvested; in time

to come the earth will have to disclose her blood, and shall no

more cover her slain; and, finally, she shall, one day, "wax old

like a garment."[90]

When Adam heard the words, "Thorns and thistles shall it bring

forth," concerning the ground, a sweat broke out on his face, and

he said: "What! Shall I and my cattle eat from the same manger?"

The Lord had mercy upon him, and spoke, "In view of the sweat of

thy face, thou shalt eat bread."[91]

The earth is not the only thing created that was made to suffer

through the sin of Adam. The same fate overtook the moon. When

the serpent seduced Adam and Eve, and exposed their nakedness,

they wept bitterly, and with them wept the heavens, and the sun

and the stars, and all created beings and things up to the throne

of God. The very angels and the celestial beings were grieved by

the trans gression of Adam. The moon alone laughed, wherefore God

grew wroth, and obscured her light. Instead of shining steadily

like the sun, all the length of the day, she grows old quickly,

and must be born and reborn, again and again.[92] The callous

conduct of the moon offended God, not only by way of contrast

with the compassion of all other creatures, but because He

Himself was full of pity for Adam and his wife. He made clothes

for them out of the skin stripped from the serpent.[93] He would

have done even more. He would have permitted them to remain in

Paradise, if only they had been penitent. But they refused to

repent, and they had to leave, lest their godlike understanding

urge them to ravage the tree of life, and they learn to live

forever. As it was, when God dismissed them from Paradise, He did

not allow the Divine quality of justice to prevail entirely. He

associated mercy with it. As they left, He said: "O what a pity

that Adam was not able to observe the command laid upon him for

even a brief span of time!

To guard the entrance to Paradise, God appointed the cherubim,

called also the ever‑turning sword of flames, because angels can

turn themselves from one shape into another at need.[94] Instead

of the tree of life, God gave Adam the Torah, which likewise is a

tree of life to them that lay hold upon her, and he was permitted

to take up his abode in the vicinity of Paradise in the east.[95]

Sentence pronounced upon Adam and Eve and the serpent, the Lord

commanded the angels to turn the man and the woman out of

Paradise. They began to weep and supplicate bitterly, and the

angels took pity upon them and left the Divine command

unfulfilled, until they could petition God to mitigate His severe

verdict. But the Lord was inexorable, saying, "Was it I that

committed a trespass, or did I pronounce a false judgment?" Also

Adam's prayer, to be given of the fruit of the tree of life, was

turned aside, with the promise, however, that if he would lead a

pious life, he would be given of the fruit on the day of

resurrection, and he would then live forever.

Seeing that God had resolved unalterably, Adam began to weep

again and implore the angels to grant him at least permission to

take sweet‑scented spices with him out of Paradise, that outside,

too, he might be able to bring offerings unto God, and his

prayers be accepted before the Lord. Thereupon the angels came

before God, and spake: "King unto everlasting, command Thou us to

give Adam sweetscented spices of Paradise," and God heard their

prayer. Thus Adam gathered saffron, nard, calamus, and cinnamon,

and all sorts of seeds besides for his sustenance. Laden with

these, Adam and Eve left Paradise, and came upon earth.[96] They

had enjoyed the splendors of Paradise but a brief span of

time‑‑but a few hours. It was in the first hour of the sixth day

of creation that God conceived the idea of creating man; in the

second hour, He took counsel with the angels; in the third, He

gathered the dust for the body of man; in the fourth, He formed

Adam; in the fifth, He clothed him with skin; in the sixth, the

soulless shape was complete, so that it could stand upright; in

the seventh, a soul was breathed into it; in the eighth, man was

led into Paradise; in the ninth, the Divine command prohibiting

the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden was issued to

him; in the tenth, he transgressed the command; in the eleventh,

he was judged; and in the twelfth hour of the day, he was cast

out of Paradise, in atonement for his sin.

This eventful day was the first of the month of Tishri. Therefore

God spoke to Adam: "Thou shalt be the prototype of thy children.

As thou hast been judged by Me on this day and absolved, so thy

children Israel shall be judged by Me on this New Year's Day, and

they shall be absolved."[97]

Each day of creation brought forth three things: the first,

heaven, earth, and light; the second, the firmament, Gehenna, and

the angels; the third, trees, herbs, and Paradise; the fourth,

sun, moon, and stars; and the fifth, fishes, birds, and

leviathan. As God intended to rest on the seventh day, the

Sabbath, the sixth day had to do double duty. It brought forth

six creations: Adam, Eve, cattle, reptiles, the beasts of the

field, and demons. The demons were made shortly before the

Sabbath came in, and they are, therefore, incorporeal

spirits‑‑the Lord had no time to create bodies for them.[98]

In the twilight, between the sixth day and the Sabbath, ten

creations were, brought forth: the rainbow, invisible until

Noah's time; the manna; watersprings, whence Israel drew water

for his thirst in the desert; the writing upon the two tables of

stone given at Sinai; the pen with which the writing was written;

the two tables themselves; the mouth of Balaam's she‑ass; the

grave of Moses; the cave in which Moses and Elijah dwelt; and the

rod of Aaron, with its blossoms and its ripe almonds.[99]


Before the world was created, there was none to praise God and

know Him. Therefore He created the angels and the holy Hayyot,

the heavens and their host, and Adam as well. They all were to

praise and glorify their Creator. During the week of creation,

however, there was no suitable time to proclaim the splendor and

praise of the Lord. Only on the Sabbath, when all creation

rested, the beings on earth and in heaven, all together, broke

into song and adoration when God ascended His throne and sate

upon it.[100] It was the Throne of Joy upon which He sate, and He

had all the angels pass before Him‑‑the angel of the water, the

angel of the rivers, the angel of the mountains, the angel of the

hills, the angel of the abysses, the angel of the deserts, the

angel of the sun, the angel of the moon, the angel of the

Pleiades, the angel of Orion, the angel of the herbs, the angel

of Paradise, the angel of Gehenna, the angel of the trees, the

angel of the reptiles, the angel of the wild beasts, the angel of

the domestic animals, the angel of the fishes, the angel of the

locusts, the angel of the birds, the chief angel of the angels,

the angel of each heaven, the chief angel of each division of the

heavenly hosts, the chief angel of the holy Hayyot, the chief

angel of the cherubim, the chief angel of the ofanim, and all the

other splendid, terrible, and mighty angel chiefs. They all

appeared before God with great joy, laved in a stream of joy, and

they rejoiced and danced and sang, and extolled the Lord with

many praises and many instruments. The ministering angels began,

"Let the glory of the Lord endure forever!" And the rest of the

angels took up the song with the words, "Let the Lord rejoice in

His works!" 'Arabot, the seventh heaven, was filled with joy and

glory, splendor and strength, power and might and pride and

magnificence and grandeur, praise and jubilation, song and

gladness, steadfastness and righteousness, honor and adoration.

Then God bade the Angel of the Sabbath seat himself upon a throne

of glory, and He brought before him the chiefs of the angels of

all the heavens and all the abysses, and bade them dance and

rejoice, saying, "Sabbath it is unto the Lord!" and the exalted

princes of the heavens responded, "Unto the Lord it is Sabbath!"

Even Adam was permitted to ascend to the highest heaven, to take

part in the rejoicing over the Sabbath.

By bestowing Sabbath joy upon all beings, not excepting Adam,

thus did the Lord dedicate His creation. Seeing the majesty of

the Sabbath, its honor and greatness, and the joy it conferred

upon all, being the fount of all joy, Adam intoned a song of

praise for the Sabbath day. Then God said to him, "Thou singest a

song of praise to the Sabbath day, and singest none to Me, the

God of the Sabbath?" Thereupon the Sabbath rose from his seat,

and prostrated himself before God, saying, "It is a good thing to

give thanks unto the Lord," and the whole of creation added, "And

to sing praises unto Thy Name, O Most High!"[101]

This was the first Sabbath, and this its celebration in heaven by

God and the angels. The angels were informed at the same time

that in days to come Israel would hallow the day in similar

manner. God told them: "I will set aside for Myself a people from

among all the peoples. This people will observe the Sabbath, and

I will sanctify it to be My people, and I will be God unto it.

>From all that I have seen, I have chosen the seed of Israel

wholly, and I have inscribed him as My first‑born son, and I

sanctified him unto Myself unto all eternity, him and the

Sabbath, that he keep the Sabbath and hallow it from all


For Adam the Sabbath had a peculiar significance. When he was

made to depart out of Paradise in the twilight of the Sabbath

eve, the angels called after him, "Adam did not abide in his

glory overnight!" Then the Sabbath appeared before God as Adam's

defender, and he spoke: "O Lord of the world! During the six

working days no creature was slain. If Thou wilt begin now by

slaying Adam, what will become of the sanctity and the blessing

of the Sabbath?" In this way Adam was rescued from the fires of

hell, the meet punishment for his sins, and in gratitude he

composed a psalm in honor of the Sabbath, which David later

embodied in his Psalter.[103]

Still another opportunity was given to Adam to learn and

appreciate the value of the Sabbath. The celestial light, whereby

Adam could survey the world from end to end, should properly have

been made to disappear immediately after his sin. But out of

consideration for the Sabbath, God had let this light continue to

shine, and the angels, at sundown on the sixth day, intoned a

song of praise and thanksgiving to God, for the radiant light

shining through the night. Only with the going out of the Sabbath

day the celestial light ceased, to the consternation of Adam, who

feared that the serpent would attack him in the dark. But God

illumined his understanding, and he learned to rub two stones

against each other and produce light for his needs.[104]

The celestial light was but one of the seven precious gifts

enjoyed by Adam before the fall and to be granted to man again

only in the Messianic time. The others are the resplendence of

his countenance; life eternal; his tall stature; the fruits of

the soil; the fruits of the tree; and the luminaries of the sky,

the sun and the moon, for in the world to come the light of the

moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun

shall be sevenfold.[105]


Cast out of Paradise, Adam and Eve built a hut for themselves,

and for seven days they sat in it in great distress, mourning and

lamenting. At the end of the seven days, tormented by hunger,

they came forth and sought food. For seven other days, Adam

journeyed up and down in the land, looking for such dainties as

he had enjoyed in Paradise. In vain; he found nothing. Then Eve

spoke to her husband: "My lord, if it please thee, slay me.

Mayhap God will then take thee back into Paradise, for the Lord

God became wroth with thee only on account of me." But Adam

rejected her plan with abhorrence, and both went forth again on

the search for food. Nine days passed, and still they found

naught resembling what they had had in Paradise. They saw only

food fit for cattle and beasts. Then Adam proposed: "Let us do

penance, mayhap the Lord God will forgive us and have pity on us,

and give us something to sustain our life." Knowing that Eve was

not vigorous enough to undergo the mortification of the flesh

which he purposed to inflict upon himself, he prescribed a

penance for her different from his own. He said to her: "Arise,

and go to the Tigris, take a stone and stand upon it in the

deepest part of the river, where the water will reach as high as

thy neck. And let no speech issue forth from thy mouth, for we

are unworthy to supplicate God, our lips are unclean by reason of

the forbidden fruit of the tree. Remain in the water for

thirty‑seven days."

For himself Adam ordained forty days of fasting, while he stood

in the river Jordan in the same way as Eve was to take up her

stand in the waters of the Tigris. After he had adjusted the

stone in the middle of the Jordan, and mounted it, with the

waters surging up to his neck, he said: "I adjure thee, O thou

water of the Jordan! Afflict thyself with me, and gather unto me

all swimming creatures that live in thee. Let them surround me

and sorrow with me, and let them not beat their own breasts with

grief, but let them beat me. Not they have sinned, only I alone!"

Very soon they all came, the dwellers in the Jordan, and they

encompassed him, and from that moment the water of the Jordan

stood still and ceased from flowing.

The penance which Adam and Eve laid upon themselves awakened

misgivings in Satan. He feared God might forgive their sin, and

therefore essayed to hinder Eve in her purpose. After a lapse of

eighteen days he appeared unto her in the guise of an angel. As

though in distress on account of her, he began to cry, saying:

"Step up out of the river, and weep no longer. The Lord God hath

heard your mourning, and your penitence hath been accepted by

Him. All the angels supplicated the Lord in your behalf, and He

hath sent me to fetch you out of the water and give you the

sustenance that you enjoyed in Paradise, and for which you have

been mourning." Enfeebled as she was by her penances and

mortifications, Eve yielded to the solicitations of Satan, and he

led her to where her husband was. Adam recognized him at once,

and amid tears he cried out: "O Eve, Eve, where now is thy

penitence? How couldst thou let our adversary seduce thee

again‑‑him who robbed us of our sojourn in Paradise and all

spiritual joy?" Thereupon Eve, too, began to weep and cry out:

"Woe unto thee, O Satan! Why strivest thou against us without any

reason? What have we done unto thee that thou shouldst pursue us

so craftily?" With a deep‑fetched sigh, Satan told them how that

Adam, of whom he had been jealous, had been the real reason of

his fall. Having lost his glory through him, he had intrigued to

have him driven from Paradise.

When Adam heard the confession of Satan, he prayed to God: "O

Lord my God! In Thy hands is my life. Remove from me this

adversary, who seeks to deliver my soul to destruction, and grant

me the glory he has forfeited." Satan disappeared forthwith, but

Adam continued his penance, standing in the waters of the Jordan

for forty days.[106]

While Adam stood in the river, he noticed that the days were

growing shorter, and he feared the world might be darkened on

account of his sin, and go under soon. To avert the doom, be

spent eight days in prayer and fasting. But after the winter

solstice, when he saw that the days grew longer again, he spent

eight days in rejoicing, and in the following year he celebrated

both periods, the one before and the one after the solstice. This

is why the heathen celebrate the calends and the saturnalia in

honor of their gods, though Adam had consecrated those days to

the honor of God.[107]

The first time Adam witnessed the sinking of the sun be was also

seized with anxious fears. It happened at the conclusion of the

Sabbath, and Adam said, "Woe is me! For my sake, because I

sinned, the world is darkened, and it will again become void and

without form. Thus will be executed the punishment of death which

God has pronounced against me!" All the night he spent in tears,

and Eve, too, wept as she sat opposite to him. When day began to

dawn, he understood that what he had deplored was but the course

of nature, and be brought an offering unto God, a unicorn whose

horn was created before his hoofs,[108] and he sacrificed it on

the spot on which later the altar was to stand in Jerusalem.[109]


After Adam's expulsion from Paradise, he prayed to God in these

words: "O God, Lord of the world! Thou didst create the whole

world unto the honor and glory of the Mighty One, and Thou didst

as was pleasing unto Thee. Thy kingdom is unto all eternity, and

Thy reign unto all generations. Naught is hidden from Thee, and

naught is concealed from Thine eyes. Thou didst create me as Thy

handiwork, and didst make me the ruler over Thy creatures, that I

might be the chief of Thy works. But the cunning, accursed

serpent seduced me with the tree of desire and lusts, yea, he

seduced the wife of my bosom. But Thou didst not make known unto

me what shall befall my children and the generations after me. I

know well that no human being can be righteous in Thine eyes, and

what is my strength that I should step before Thee with an

impudent face? I have no mouth wherewith to speak and no eye

wherewith to see, for I did sin and commit a trespass, and, by

reason of my sins, I was driven forth from Paradise. I must

plough the earth whence I was taken, and the other inhabitants of

the earth, the beasts, no longer, as once, stand in awe and fear

of me. From the time I ate of the tree of knowledge of good and

evil, wisdom departed from me, and I am a fool that knoweth

naught, an ignorant man that understandeth not. Now, O merciful

and gracious God, I pray to Thee to turn again Thy compassion to

the head of Thy works, to the spirit which Thou didst instil into

him, and the soul Thou didst breathe into him. Meet me with Thy

grace, for Thou art gracious, slow to anger, and full of love. O

that my prayer would reach unto the throne of Thy glory, and my

supplication unto the throne of Thy mercy, and Thou wouldst

incline to me with lovingkindness. May the words of my mouth be

acceptable, that Thou turn not away from my petition. Thou wert

from everlasting, and Thou wilt be unto everlasting; Thou wert

king, and Thou wilt ever be king. Now, have Thou mercy upon the

work of Thy hands. Grant me knowledge and understanding, that I

may know what shall befall me, and my posterity, and all the

generations that come after me, and what shall befall me on every

day and in every month, and mayest Thou not withhold from me the

help of Thy servants and of Thy angels."

On the third day after he had offered up this prayer, while he

was sitting on the banks of the river that flows forth out of

Paradise, there appeared to him, in the heat of the day, the

angel Raziel, bearing a book in his hand. The angel addressed

Adam thus: "O Adam, why art thou so fainthearted? Why art thou

distressed and anxious? Thy words were heard at the moment when

thou didst utter thy supplication and entreaties, and I have

received the charge to teach thee pure words and deep

understanding, to make thee wise through the contents of the

sacred book in my hand, to know what will happen to thee until

the day of thy death. And all thy descendants and all the later

generations, if they will but read this book in purity, with a

devout heart and an humble mind, and obey its precepts, will

become like unto thee. They, too, will foreknow what things shall

happen, and in what month and on what day or in what night. All

will be manifest to them‑‑they will know and understand whether a

calamity will come, a famine or wild beasts, floods or drought;

whether there will be abundance of grain or dearth; whether the

wicked will rule the world; whether locusts will devastate the

land; whether the fruits will drop from the trees unripe; whether

boils will afflict men; whether wars will prevail, or diseases or

plagues among men and cattle; whether good is resolved upon in

heaven, or evil; whether blood will flow, and the death‑rattle of

the slain be heard in the city. And now, Adam, come and give heed

unto what I shall tell thee regarding the manner of this book and

its holiness."

Raziel, the angel, then read from the book, and when Adam heard

the words of the holy volume as they issued from the mouth of the

angel, he fell down affrighted. But the angel encouraged him.

"Arise, Adam," he said, "be of good courage, be not afraid, take

the book from me and keep it, for thou wilt draw knowledge from

it thyself and become wise, and thou wilt also teach its contents

to all those who shall be found worthy of knowing what it


In the moment when Adam took the book, a flame of fire shot up

from near the river, and the angel rose heavenward with it. Then

Adam knew that he who had spoken to him was an angel of God, and

it was from the Holy King Himself that the book had come, and he

used it in holiness and purity. It is the book out of which all

things worth knowing can be learnt, and all mysteries, and it

teaches also how to call upon the angels and make them appear

before men, and answer all their questions. But not all alike can

use the book, only he who is wise and God‑fearing, and resorts to

it in holiness. Such an one is secure against all wicked

counsels, his life is serene, and when death takes him from this

world, he finds repose in a place where there are neither demons

nor evil spirits, and out of the hands of the wicked he is

quickly rescued.[110]


When Adam had lived to be nine hundred and thirty years old, a

sickness seized him, and he felt that his days were drawing to an

end. He summoned all his descendants, and assembled them before

the door of the house of worship in which he had always offered

his prayers to God, to give them his last blessing. His family

were astonished to find him stretched out on the bed of sickness,

for they did not know what pain and suffering were.[111] They

thought he was overcome with longing after the fruits of

Paradise, and for lack of them was depressed. Seth announced his

willingness to go to the gates of Paradise and beg God to let one

of His angels give him of its fruits. But Adam explained to them

what sickness and pain are, and that God had inflicted them upon

him as a punishment for his sin.[112] Adam suffered violently;

tears and groans were wrung from him. Eve sobbed, and said,

"Adam, my lord, give me the half of thy sickness, I will gladly

bear it. Is it not on account of me that this hath come upon

thee? On account of me thou undergoest pain and anguish."

Adam bade Eve go with Seth to the gates of Paradise and entreat

God to have mercy upon him, and send His angel to catch up some

of the oil of life flowing from the tree of His mercy and give it

to his messengers. The ointment would bring him rest, and banish

the pain consuming him. On his way to Paradise, Seth was attacked

by a wild beast. Eve called out to the assailant, "How durst thou

lay hand on the image of God?" The ready answer came: "It is

thine own fault. Hadst thou not opened thy mouth to eat of the

forbidden fruit, my mouth would not be opened now to destroy a

human being." But Seth remonstrated: "Hold thy tongue! Desist

from the image of God until the day of judgment." And the beast

gave way, saying, "See, I refrain myself from the image of God,"

and it slunk away to its covert.[113]

Arrived at the gates of Paradise, Eve and Seth began to cry

bitterly, and they besought God with many lamentations to give

them oil from the tree of His mercy. For hours they prayed thus.

At last the archangel Michael appeared, and informed them that he

came as the messenger of God to tell them that their petition

could not be granted. Adam would die in a few days, and as he was

subject to death, so would be all his descendants. Only at the

time of the resurrection, and then only to the pious, the oil of

life would be dispensed, together with all the bliss and all the

delights of Paradise.[114] Returned to Adam, they reported what

had happened, and he said to Eve: "What misfortune didst thou

bring upon us when thou didst arouse great wrath! See, death is

the portion of all our race! Call hither our children and our

children's children, and tell them the manner of our sinning."

And while Adam lay prostrate upon the bed of pain, Eve told them

the story of their fall.[115]


After I was created, God divided Paradise and all the animals

therein between Adam and me. The east and the north were assigned

to Adam, together with the male animals. I was mistress of the

west and the south and all the female animals. Satan, smarting

under the disgrace of having been dismissed from the heavenly

host," resolved to bring about our ruin and avenge himself upon

the cause of his discomfiture. He won the serpent over to his

side, and pointed out to him that before the creation of Adam the

animals could enjoy all that grew in Paradise, and now they were

restricted to the weeds. To drive Adam from Paradise would

therefore be for the good of all. The serpent demurred, for he

stood in awe of the wrath of God. But Satan calmed his fears, and

said, "Do thou but become my vessel,[117] and I shall speak a

word through thy mouth wherewith thou wilt succeed in seducing


The serpent thereupon suspended himself from the wall surrounding

Paradise, to carry on his conversation with me from without. And

this happened at the very moment when my two guardian angels had

betaken themselves to heaven to supplicate the Lord. I was quite

alone therefore, and when Satan assumed the appearance of an

angel, bent over the wall of Paradise, and intoned seraphic songs

of praise, I was deceived, and thought him an angel. A

conversation was held between us, Satan speaking through the

mouth of the serpent:

"Art thou Eve?"

"Yes, it is I."

"What art thou doing in Paradise?"

"The Lord has put us here to cultivate it and eat of its fruits."

"That is good. Yet you eat not of all the trees."

That we do, excepting a single one, the tree that stands in the

midst of Paradise. Concerning it alone, God has forbidden us to

eat of it, else, the Lord said, ye will die."

The serpent made every effort to persuade me that I had naught to

fear‑‑that God knew that in the day that Adam and I ate of the

fruit of the tree, we should be as He Himself. It was jealousy

that had made Him say,[118] "Ye shall not eat of it." In spite of

all his urging, I remained steadfast and refused to touch the

tree. Then the serpent engaged to pluck the fruit for me.

Thereupon I opened the gate of Paradise, and he slipped in.

Scarcely was he within, when he said to me, "I repent of my

words, I would rather not give thee of the fruit of the forbidden

tree." It was but a cunning device to tempt me more. He consented

to give me of the fruit only after I swore to make my husband eat

of it, too. This is the oath he made me take: "By the throne of

God, by the cherubim, and by the tree of life, I shall give my

husband of this fruit, that he may eat, too." Thereupon the

serpent ascended the tree and injected his poison, the poison of

the evil inclination, into the fruit,[119] and bent the branch on

which it grew to the ground. I took hold of it, but I knew at

once that I was stripped of the righteousness in which I had been

clothed.[120] I began to weep, because of it and because of the

oath the serpent had forced from me.

The serpent disappeared from the tree, while I sought leaves

wherewith to cover my nakedness, but all the trees within my

reach had cast off their leaves at the moment when I ate of the

forbidden fruit.[121] There was only one that retained its

leaves, the fig‑tree, the very tree the fruit of which had been

forbidden to me.[122] I summoned Adam, and by means of

blasphemous words I prevailed upon him to eat of the fruit. As

soon as it had passed his lips, he knew his true condition, and

he exclaimed against me: "Thou wicked woman, what bast thou

brought down upon me? Thou hast removed me from the glory of


At the same time Adam and I heard the archangel Michael[123] blow

his trumpet, and all the angels cried out: "Thus saith the Lord,

Come ye with Me to Paradise and hearken unto the sentence which I

will pronounce upon Adam."[124]

We hid ourselves because we feared the judgment of God. Sitting

in his chariot drawn by cherubim, the Lord, accompanied by angels

uttering His praise, appeared in Paradise. At His coming the bare

trees again put forth leaves.[125] His throne was erected by the

tree of life, and God addressed Adam: "Adam, where dost thou keep

thyself in hiding? Thinkest thou I cannot find thee? Can a house

conceal itself from its architect?"[126]

Adam tried to put the blame on me, who had promised to hold him

harmless before God. And I in turn accused the serpent. But God

dealt out justice to all three of us. To Adam He said: "Because

thou didst not obey My commands, but didst hearken unto the voice

of thy wife, cursed is the ground in spite of thy work. When thou

dost cultivate it, it will not yield thee its strength. Thorns

and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and in the sweat of

thy face shalt thou eat bread. Thou wilt suffer many a hardship,

thou wilt grow weary, and yet find no rest. Bitterly oppressed,

thou shalt never taste of any sweetness. Thou shalt be scourged

by heat, and yet pinched by cold. Thou shalt toil greatly, and

yet not gain wealth. Thou shalt grow fat, and yet cease to live.

And the animals over which thou art the master will rise up

against thee, because thou didst not keep my command."[127]

Upon me God pronounced this sentence: "Thou shalt suffer anguish

in childbirth and grievous torture. In sorrow shalt thou bring

forth children, and in the hour of travail, when thou art near to

lose thy life, thou wilt confess and cry, 'Lord, Lord, save me

this time, and I will never again indulge in carnal pleasure,'

and yet thy desire shall ever and ever be unto thy husband."[128]

At the same time all sorts of diseases were decreed upon us. God

said to Adam: "Because thou didst turn aside from My covenant, I

will inflict seventy plagues upon thy flesh. The pain of the

first plague shall lay hold on thy eyes; the pain of the second

plague upon thy hearing, and one after the other all the plagues

shall come upon thee."[129] The serpent God addressed thus:

"Because thou becamest the vessel of the Evil One,[130] deceiving

the innocent, cursed art thou above all cattle and above every

beast of the field. Thou shalt be robbed of the food thou wast

wont to eat, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.

Upon thy breast and thy belly shalt thou go, and of thy hands and

thy feet thou shalt be deprived. Thou shalt not remain in

possession of thy ears, nor of thy wings, nor of any of thy limbs

wherewith thou didst seduce the woman and her husband, bringing

them to such a pass that they must be driven forth from Paradise.

And I will put enmity between thee and the seed of man. It shall

bruise thy head, and, thou shalt bruise his heel until the day of



On the last day of Adam's life, Eve said to him, "Why should I go

on living, when thou art no more? How long shall I have to linger

on after thy death? Tell me this!" Adam assured her she would not

tarry long. They would die together, and be buried together in

the same place. He commanded her not to touch his corpse until an

angel from God had made provision regarding it, and she was to

begin at once to pray to God until his soul escaped from his


While Eve was on her knees in prayer, an angel came,[132] and

bade her rise. "Eve, arise from thy penance," he commanded.

"Behold, thy husband hath left his mortal coil. Arise, and see

his spirit go up to his Creator, to appear before Him." And, lo,

she beheld a chariot of light, drawn by four shining eagles, and

preceded by angels. In this chariot lay the soul of Adam, which

the angels were taking to heaven. Arrived there, they burnt

incense until the clouds of smoke enveloped the heavens. Then

they prayed to God to have mercy upon His image and the work of

His holy hands. In her awe and fright, Eve summoned Seth, and she

bade him look upon the vision and explain the celestial sights

beyond her understanding. She asked, "Who may the two Ethiopians

be, who are adding their prayers to thy father's?" Seth told her,

they were the sun and the moon, turned so black because they

could not shine in the face of the Father of light.[133] Scarcely

had he spoken, when an angel blew a trumpet, and all the angels

cried out with awful voices, "Blessed be the glory of the Lord by

His creatures, for He has shown mercy unto Adam, the work of His

hands!" A seraph then seized Adam, and carried him off to the

river Acheron, washed him three times, and brought him before the

presence of God, who sat upon His throne, and, stretching out His

hand, lifted Adam up and gave him over to the archangel Michael,

with the words, "Raise him to the Paradise of the third heaven,

and there thou shalt leave him until the great and fearful day

ordained by Me." Michael executed the Divine behest, and all the

angels sang a song of praise, extolling God for the pardon He had

accorded Adam.

Michael now entreated God to let him attend to the preparation of

Adam's body for the grave. Permission being given, Michael

repaired to earth, accompanied by all the angels. When they

entered the terrestrial Paradise, all the trees blossomed forth,

and the perfume wafted thence lulled all men into slumber except

Seth alone. Then God said to Adam, as his body lay on the ground:

"If thou hadst kept My commandment, they would not rejoice who

brought thee hither. But I tell thee, I will turn the joy of

Satan and his consorts into sorrow, and thy sorrow shall be

turned into joy. I will restore thee to thy dominion, and thou

shalt sit upon the throne of thy seducer, while he shall be

damned, with those who hearken unto him."[134]

Thereupon, at the bidding of God, the three great archangels[135]

covered the body of Adam with linen, and poured sweet‑smelling

oil upon it. With it they interred also the body of Abel, which

had lain unburied since Cain had slain him, for all the

murderer's efforts to hide it had been in vain. The corpse again

and again sprang forth from the earth, and a voice issued thence,

proclaiming, "No creature shall rest in the earth until the first

one of all has returned the dust to me of which it was

formed."[136] The angels carried the two bodies to Paradise,

Adam's and Abel's‑‑the latter had all this time been lying on a

stone on which angels had placed it‑‑and they buried them both on

the spot whence God had taken the dust wherewith to make


God called unto the body of Adam, "Adam! Adam!" and it answered,

"Lord, here am I!" Then God said: "I told thee once, Dust thou

art, and unto dust shalt thou return. Now I promise thee

resurrection. I will awaken thee on the day of judgment, when all

the generations of men that spring from thy loins, shall arise

from the grave." God then sealed up the grave, that none might do

him harm during the six days to elapse until his rib should be

restored to him through the death of Eve.[138]


The interval between Adam's death and her own Eve spent in

weeping. She was distressed in particular that she knew not what

had become of Adam's body, for none except Seth had been awake

while the angel interred it. When the hour of her death drew

nigh, Eve supplicated to be buried in the selfsame spot in which

the remains of her husband rested. She prayed to God: "Lord of

all powers! Remove not Thy maid‑servant from the body of Adam,

from which Thou didst take me, from whose limbs Thou didst form

me. Permit me, who am an unworthy and sinning woman, to enter

into his habitation. As we were together in Paradise, neither

separated from the other; as together we were tempted to

transgress Thy law, neither separated from the other, so, O Lord,

separate us not now." To the end of her prayer she added the

petition, raising her eyes heavenward, "Lord of the world!

Receive my spirit!" and she gave up her soul to God.

The archangel Michael came and taught Seth how to prepare Eve for

burial, and three angels descended and interred her body in the

grave with Adam and Abel. Then Michael spoke to Seth, "Thus shalt

thou bury all men that die until the resurrection day." And

again, having given him this command, he spoke: "Longer than six

days ye shall not mourn.[139] The repose of the seventh day is

the token of the resurrection in the latter day, for on the

seventh day the Lord rested from all the work which He had

created and made."[140]

Though death was brought into the world through Adam, yet he

cannot be held responsible for the death of men. Once on a time

he said to God: "I am not concerned about the death of the

wicked, but I should not like the pious to reproach me and lay

the blame for their death upon me. I pray Thee, make no mention

of my guilt." And God promised to fulfil his wish. Therefore,

when a man is about to die, God appears to him, and bids him set

down in writing all he has done during his life, for, He tells

him, "Thou art dying by reason of thy evil deeds." The record

finished, God orders him to seal it with his seal. This is the

writing God will bring out on the judgment day, and to each will

be made known his deeds.[141] As soon as life is extinct in a

man, he is presented to Adam, whom be accuses of having caused

his death. But Adam repudiates the charge: "I committed but one

trespass. Is there any among you, and be he the most pious, who

has not been guilty of more than one?"[142]



















There were ten generations from Adam to Noah, to show how

long‑suffering is the Lord, for all the generations provoked Him

unto wrath, until He brought the deluge upon them.[1] By reason

of their impiousness God changed His plan of calling one thousand

generations into being between the creation of the world and the

revelation of the law at Mount Sinai; nine hundred and

seventy‑four He suppressed before the flood.[2]

Wickedness came into the world with the first being born of

woman, Cain, the oldest son of Adam. When God bestowed Paradise

upon the first pair of mankind, He warned them particularly

against carnal intercourse with each other. But after the fall of

Eve, Satan, in the guise of the serpent, approached her, and the

fruit of their union was Cain, the ancestor of all the impious

generations that were rebellious toward God, and rose up against

Him. Cain's descent from Satan, who is the angel Samael, was

revealed in his seraphic appearance. At his birth, the

exclamation was wrung from Eve, "I have gotten a man through an

angel of the Lord."[3]

Adam was not in the company of Eve during the time of her

pregnancy with Cain. After she had succumbed a second time to the

temptations of Satan, and permitted herself to be interrupted in

her penance,[4] she left her husband and journeyed westward,

because she feared her presence might continue to bring him

misery. Adam remained in the east. When the days of Eve to be

delivered were fulfilled, and she began to feel the pangs of

travailing, she prayed to God for help. But He hearkened not unto

her supplications. "Who will carry the report to my lord Adam?"

she asked herself. "Ye luminaries in the sky, I beg you, tell it

to my master Adam when ye return to the east!" In that self same

hour, Adam cried out: "The lamentation of Eve has pierced to my

ear! Mayhap the serpent has again assaulted her," and he hastened

to his wife. Finding her in grievous pain, he besought God in her

behalf, and twelve angels appeared, together with two heavenly

powers.[5] All these took up their post to right of her and to

left of her, while Michael, also standing on her right side,

passed his hand over her, from her face downward to her breast,

and said to her, "Be thou blessed, Eve, for the sake of Adam.

Because of his solicitations and his prayers I was sent to grant

thee our assistance. Make ready to give birth to thy child!"

Immediately her son was born, a radiant figure.[6] A little while

and the babe stood upon his feet, ran off, and returned holding

in his hands a stalk of straw, which he gave to his mother. For

this reason he was named Cain, the Hebrew word for stalk of


Now Adam took Eve and the boy to his home in the east. God sent

him various kinds of seeds by the hand of the angel Michael, and

he was taught how to cultivate the ground and make it yield

produce and fruits, to sustain himself and his family and his


After a while, Eve bore her second son, whom she named Hebel,

because, she said, he was born but to die.


The slaying of Abel by Cain did not come as a wholly unexpected

event to his parents. In a dream Eve had seen the blood of Abel

flow into the mouth of Cain, who drank it with avidity, though

his brother entreated him not to take all. When she told her

dream to Adam, he said, lamenting, "O that this may not portend

the death of Abel at the hand of Cain!" He separated the two

lads, assigning to each an abode of his own, and to each he

taught a different occupation. Cain became a tiller of the

ground, and Abel a keeper of sheep. It was all in vain. In spite

of these precautions, Cain slew his brother.[9]

His hostility toward Abel had more than one reason. It began when

God had respect unto the offering of Abel, and accepted it by

sending heavenly fire down to consume it, while the offering of

Cain was rejected.[10] They brought their sacrifices on the

fourteenth day of Nisan, at the instance of their father, who had

spoken thus to his sons: "This is the day on which, in times to

come, Israel will offer sacrifices. Therefore, do ye, too, bring

sacrifices to your Creator on this day, that He may take pleasure

in you." The place of offering which they chose was the spot

whereon the altar of the Temple at Jerusalem stood later.[11]

Abel selected the best of his flocks for his sacrifice, but Cain

ate his meal first, and after he had satisfied his appetite, he

offered unto God what was left over, a few grains of flax seed.

As though his offense had not been great enough in offering unto

God fruit of the ground which had been cursed by God![12] What

wonder that his sacrifice was not received with favor! Besides, a

chastisement was inflicted upon him. His face turned black as

smoke.[13] Nevertheless, his disposition underwent no change,

even when God spoke to him thus: "If thou wilt amend thy ways,

thy guilt will be forgiven thee; if not, thou wilt be delivered

into the power of the evil inclination. It coucheth at the door

of thy heart, yet it depends upon thee whether thou shalt be

master over it, or it shall be master over thee."[14]

Cain thought he had been wronged, and a dispute followed between

him and Abel. "I believed," he said, "that the world was created

through goodness,[15] but I see that good deeds bear no fruit.

God rules the world with arbitrary power, else why had He respect

unto thy offering, and not unto mine also?" Abel opposed him; he

maintained that God rewards good deeds, without having respect

unto persons. If his sacrifice had been accepted graciously by

God, and Cain's not, it was because his deeds were good, and his

brother's wicked.[16]

But this was not the only cause of Cain's hatred toward Abel.

Partly love for a woman brought about the crime. To ensure the

propagation of the human race, a girl, destined to be his wife,

was born together with each of the sons of Adam. Abel's twin

sister was of exquisite beauty, and Cain desired her.[17]

Therefore he was constantly brooding over ways and means of

ridding himself of his brother.

The opportunity presented itself ere long. One day a sheep

belonging to Abel tramped over a field that had been planted by

Cain. In a rage, the latter called out, "What right hast thou to

live upon my land and let thy sheep pasture yonder?" Abel

retorted: "What right hast thou to use the products of my sheep,

to make garments for thyself from their wool? If thou wilt take

off the wool of my sheep wherein thou art arrayed, and wilt pay

me for the flesh of the flocks which thou hast eaten, then I will

quit thy land as thou desirest, and fly into the air, if I can do

it." Cain thereupon said, "And if I were to kill thee, who is

there to demand thy blood of me?" Abel replied: "God, who brought

us into the world, will avenge me. He will require my blood at

thine hand, if thou shouldst slay me. God is the Judge, who will

visit their wicked deeds upon the wicked, and their evil deeds

upon the evil. Shouldst thou slay me, God will know thy secret,

and He will deal out punishment unto thee."

These words but added to the anger of Cain, and he threw himself

upon his brother.[18] Abel was stronger than he, and he would

have got the worst of it, but at the last moment he begged for

mercy, and the gentle Abel released his hold upon him. Scarcely

did he feel himself free, when he turned against Abel once more,

and slew him. So true is the saying, "Do the evil no good, lest

evil fall upon thee."[19]


The manner of Abel's death was the most cruel conceivable. Not

knowing what injury was fatal, Cain pelted all parts of his body

with stones, until one struck him on the neck and inflicted


After committing the murder, Cain resolved to flee, saying, "My

parents will demand account of me concerning Abel, for there is

no other human being on earth." This thought had but passed

through his mind when God appeared unto him, and addressed him in

these words: "Before thy parents thou canst flee, but canst thou

go out from My presence, too? 'Can any hide himself in secret

places that I shall not see him?' Alas for Abel that he showed

thee mercy, and refrained from killing thee, when he had thee in

his power! Alas that he granted thee the opportunity of slaying


Questioned by God, "Where is Abel thy brother?" Cain answered:

"Am I my brother's keeper? Thou art He who holdest watch over all

creatures, and yet Thou demandest account of me! True, I slew

him, but Thou didst create the evil inclination in me. Thou

guardest all things; why, then, didst Thou permit me to slay him?

Thou didst Thyself slay him, for hadst Thou looked with a

favorable countenance toward my offering as toward his, I had had

no reason for envying him, and I had not slain him." But God

said, "The voice of thy brother's blood issuing from his many

wounds crieth out against thee,[20] and likewise the blood of all

the pious who might have sprung from the loins of Abel."

Also the soul of Abel denounced the murderer, for she could find

rest nowhere. She could neither soar heavenward, nor abide in the

grave with her body, for no human soul had done either

before.[21] But Cain still refused to confess his guilt. He

insisted that he had never seen a man killed, and how was he to

suppose that the stones which he threw at Abel would take his

life? Then, on account of Cain, God cursed the ground, that it

might not yield fruit unto him.[22] With a single punishment both

Cain and the earth were chastised, the earth because it retained

the corpse of Abel, and did not cast it above ground.[23]

In the obduracy of his heart, Cain spake: "O Lord of the world!

Are there informers who denounce men before Thee? My parents are

the only living human beings, and they know naught of my deed.

Thou abidest in the heavens, and how shouldst Thou know what

things happen on earth?" God said in reply: "Thou fool! I carry

the whole world. I have made it, and I will bear it"‑‑a reply

that gave Cain the opportunity of feigning repentance. "Thou

bearest the whole world," he said, "and my sin Thou canst not

bear?[24] Verily, mine iniquity is too great to be borne! Yet,

yesterday Thou didst banish my father from Thy presence, to‑day

Thou dost banish me. In sooth, it will be said, it is Thy way to


Although this was but dissimulation, and not true repentance, yet

God granted Cain pardon, and removed the half of his chastisement

from him. Originally, the decree had condemned him to be a

fugitive and a wanderer on the earth. Now he was no longer to

roam about forever, but a fugitive he was to remain. And so much

was hard enough to have to suffer, for the earth quaked under

Cain, and all the animals, the wild and the tame, among them the

accursed serpent, gathered together and essayed to devour him in

order to avenge the innocent blood of Abel. Finally Cain could

bear it no longer, and, breaking out in tears, he cried: "Whither

shall I go from Thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy

presence?"[26] To protect him from the onslaught of the beasts,

God inscribed one letter of His Holy Name upon his forehead," and

furthermore He addressed the animals: "Cain's punishment shall

not be like unto the punishment of future murderers. He has shed

blood, but there was none to give him instruction. Henceforth,

however, he who slays another shall himself be slain." Then God

gave him the dog as a protection against the wild beasts, and to

mark him as a sinner, He afflicted him with leprosy.

Cain's repentance, insincere though it was, bore a good result.

When Adam met him, and inquired what doom had been decreed

against him, Cain told how his repentance had propitiated God,

and Adam exclaimed, "So potent is repentance, and I knew it not!"

Thereupon he composed a hymn of praise to God, beginning with the

words, "It is a good thing to confess thy sins unto the


The crime committed by Cain had baneful consequences, not for

himself alone, but for the whole of nature also. Before, the

fruits which the earth bore unto him when he tilled the ground

had tasted like the fruits of Paradise. Now his labor produced

naught but thorns and thistles.[29] The ground changed and

deteriorated at the very moment of Abel's violent end. The trees

and the plants in the part of the earth whereon the victim lived

refused to yield their fruits, on account of their grief over

him, and only at the birth of Seth those that grew in the portion

belonging to Abel began to flourish and bear again. But never did

they resume their former powers. While, before, the vine had

borne nine hundred and twenty‑six different varieties of fruit,

it now brought forth but one kind. And so it was with all other

species. They will regain their pristine powers only in the world

to come.[30]

Nature was modified also by the burial of the corpse of Abel. For

a long time it lay there exposed, above ground, because Adam and

Eve knew not what to do with it. They sat beside it and wept,

while the faithful dog of Abel kept guard that birds and beasts

did it no harm. On a sudden, the mourning parents observed how a

raven scratched the earth away in one spot, and then hid a dead

bird of his own kind in the ground. Adam, following the example

of the raven, buried the body of Abel, and the raven was rewarded

by God. His young are born with white feathers, wherefore the old

birds desert them, not recognizing them as their offspring. They

take them for serpents. God feeds them until their plumage turns

black, and the parent birds return to them. As an additional

reward, God grants their petition when the ravens pray for



When Adam was cast out of Paradise, he first reached the lowest

of the seven earths, the Erez, which is dark, without a ray of

light, and utterly void. Adam was terrified, particularly by the

flames of the ever‑turning sword, which is on this earth. After

he had done penance, God led him to the second earth, the Adamah,

where there is light reflected from its own sky and from its

phantom‑like stars and constellations. Here dwell the

phantom‑like beings that issued from the union of Adam with the

spirits." They are always sad; the emotion of joy is not known to

them. They leave their own earth and repair to the one inhabited

by men, where they are changed into evil spirits. Then they

return to their abode for good, repent of their wicked deeds, and

till the ground, which, however, bears neither wheat nor any

other of the seven species.[34] In this Adamah, Cain, Abel, and

Seth were born. After the murder of Abel, Cain was sent back to

the Erez, where he was frightened into repentance by its darkness

and by the flames of the ever‑turning sword. Accepting his

penitence, God permitted him to ascend to the third earth, the

Arka, which receives some light from the sun. The Arka was

surrendered to the Cainites forever, as their perpetual domain.

They till the ground, and plant trees, but they have neither

wheat nor any other of the seven species.

Some of the Cainites are giants, some of them are dwarfs. They

have two heads, wherefore they can never arrive at a decision;

they are always at loggerheads with themselves.[34] It may happen

that they are pious now, only to be inclined to do evil the next


In the Ge, the fourth earth, live the generation of the Tower of

Babel and their descendants. God banished them thither because

the fourth earth is not far from Gehenna, and therefore close to

the flaming fire.[35] The inhabitants of the Ge are skilful in

all arts, and accomplished in all departments of science and

knowledge, and their abode overflows with wealth. When an

inhabitant of our earth visits them, they give him the most

precious thing in their possession, but then they lead him to the

Neshiah, the fifth earth, where he becomes oblivious of his

origin and his home. The Neshiah is inhabited by dwarfs without

noses; they breathe through two holes instead. They have no

memory; once a thing has happened, they forget it completely,

whence their earth is called Neshiah, "forgetting." The fourth

and fifth earths are like the Arka; they have trees, but neither

wheat nor any other of the seven species.

The sixth earth, the Ziah, is inhabited by handsome men, who are

the owners of abundant wealth, and live in palatial residences,

but they lack water, as the name of their territory, Ziah,

"drought," indicates. Hence vegetation is sparse with them, and

their tree culture meets with indifferent success. They hasten to

any waterspring that is discovered, and sometimes they succeed in

slipping through it up to our earth, where they satisfy their

sharp appetite for the food eaten by the inhabitants of our

earth. For the rest, they are men of steadfast faith, more than

any other class of mankind.[36]

Adam remained in the Adamah until after the birth of Seth. Then,

passing the third earth, the Arka, the abiding place of the

Cainites, and the next three earths as well, the Ge, the Neshiah,

and the Ziah, God transported him to the Tebel, the seventh

earth, the earth inhabited by men.


Cain knew only too well that his blood‑guiltiness would be

visited upon him in the seventh generation. Thus had God decreed

against him.[37] He endeavored, therefore, to immortalize his

name by means of monuments,[38] and he became a builder of

cities. The first of them he called Enoch, after his son, because

it was at the birth of Enoch that he began to enjoy a measure of

rest and peace.[39] Besides, he founded six other cities.[40]

This building of cities was a godless deed, for he surrounded

them with a wall, forcing his family to remain within. All his

other doings were equally impious. The punishment God had

ordained for him did not effect any improvement. He sinned in

order to secure his own pleasure, though his neighbors suffered

injury thereby. He augmented his household substance by rapine

and violence; he excited his acquaintances to procure pleasures

and spoils by robbery, and he became a great leader of men into

wicked courses. He also introduced a change in the ways of

simplicity wherein men had lived before, and he was the author of

measures and weights. And whereas men lived innocently and

generously while they knew nothing of such arts, he changed the

world into cunning craftiness.[41]

Like unto Cain were all his descendants, impious and godless,

wherefore God resolved to destroy them.[42]

The end of Cain overtook him in the seventh generation of men,

and it was inflicted upon him by the hand of his great‑grandson

Lamech. This Lamech was blind, and when he went a‑hunting, he was

led by his young son, who would apprise his father when game came

in sight, and Lamech would then shoot at it with his bow and

arrow. Once upon a time he and his son went on the chase, and the

lad discerned something horned in the distance. He naturally took

it to be a beast of one kind or another, and he told the blind

Lamech to let his arrow fly. The aim was good, and the quarry

dropped to the ground. When they came close to the victim, the

lad exclaimed: "Father, thou hast killed something that resembles

a human being in all respects, except it carries a horn on its

forehead!" Lamech knew at once what had happened‑‑he had killed

his ancestor Cain, who had been marked by God with a horn.[43] In

despair he smote his hands together, inadvertently killing his

son as he clasped them. Misfortune still followed upon

misfortune. The earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the four

generations sprung from Cain‑‑Enoch, Irad, Mehujael, and

Methushael. Lamech, sightless as he was, could not go home; he

had to remain by the side of Cain's corpse and his son's. Toward

evening, his wives, seeking him, found him there. When they heard

what he had done, they wanted to separate from him, all the more

as they knew that whoever was descended from Cain was doomed to

annihilation. But Lamech argued, "If Cain, who committed murder

of malice aforethought, was punished only in the seventh

generation, then I, who had no intention of killing a human

being, may hope that retribution will be averted for seventy and

seven generations." With his wives, Lamech repaired to Adam, who

heard both parties, and decided the case in favor of Lamech.[44]

The corruptness of the times, and especially the depravity of

Cain's stock, appears in the fact that Lamech, as well as all the

men in the generation of the deluge, married two wives, one with

the purpose of rearing children, the other in order to pursue

carnal indulgences, for which reason the latter was rendered

sterile by artificial means. As the men of the time were intent

upon pleasure rather than desirous of doing their duty to the

human race, they gave all their love and attention to the barren

women, while their other wives spent their days like widows,

joyless and in gloom.

The two wives of Lamech, Adah and Zillah, bore him each two

children, Adah two sons, Jabal and Jubal, and Zillah a son,

Tubal‑cain, and a daughter, Naamah. Jabal was the first among men

to erect temples to idols, and Jubal invented the music sung and

played therein. Tubal‑cain was rightly named, for he completed

the work of his ancestor Cain. Cain committed murder, and

Tubal‑cain, the first who knew how to sharpen iron and copper,

furnished the instruments used in wars and combats. Naamah, "the

lovely," earned her name from the sweet sounds which she drew

from her cymbals when she called the worshippers to pay homage to



When the wives of Lamech heard the decision of Adam, that they

were to continue to live with their husband, they turned upon

him, saying, "O physician, heal thine own lameness!" They were

alluding to the fact that he himself had been living apart from

his wife since the death of Abel, for he had said, "Why should I

beget children, if it is but to expose them to death?"[46]

Though he avoided intercourse with Eve, he was visited in his

sleep by female spirits, and from his union with them sprang

shades and demons of various kinds,[47] and they were endowed

with peculiar gifts.

Once upon a time there lived in Palestine a very rich and pious

man, who had a son named Rabbi Hanina. He knew the whole of the

Torah by heart. When he was at the point of death, he sent for

his son, Rabbi Hanina, and bade him, as his last request, to

study the Torah day and night, fulfil the commands of the law,

and be a faithful friend to the poor. He also told him that he

and his wife, the mother of Rabbi Hanina, would die on the

selfsame day, and the seven days of mourning for the two would

end on the eve of the Passover. He enjoined him not to grieve

excessively, but to go to market on that day, and buy the first

article offered to him, no matter how costly it might be. If it

happened to be an edible, he was to prepare it and serve it with

much ceremony. His expense and trouble would receive their

recompense. All happened as foretold: the man and his wife died

upon the same day, and the end of the week of mourning coincided

with the eve of the Passover. The son in turn carried out his

father's behest: he repaired to market, and there he met an old

man who offered a silver dish for sale. Although the price asked

was exorbitant, yet he bought it, as his father had bidden. The

dish was set upon the Seder table, and when Rabbi Hanina opened

it, he found a second dish within, and inside of this a live

frog, jumping and hopping around gleefully. He gave the frog food

and drink, and by the end of the festival he was grown so big

that Rabbi Hanina made a cabinet for him, in which he ate and

lived. In the course of time, the cabinet became too small, and

the Rabbi built a chamber, put the frog within, and gave him

abundant food and drink. All this he did that he might not

violate his father's last wish. But the frog waxed and grew; he

consumed all his host owned, until, finally, Rabbi Hanina was

stripped bare of all his possessions. Then the frog opened his

mouth and began to speak. "My dear Rabbi Hanina," he said, "do

not worry! Seeing thou didst raise me and care for me, thou

mayest ask of me whatever thy heart desireth, and it shall be

granted thee." Rabbi Hanina made reply, "I desire naught but that

thou shouldst teach me the whole of the Torah." The frog

assented, and he did, indeed, teach him the whole of the Torah,

and the seventy languages of men besides.[48] His method was to

write a few words upon a scrap of paper, which he had his pupil

swallow. Thus he acquired not alone the Torah and the seventy

tongues, but also the language of beasts and birds. Thereupon the

frog spoke to the wife of Rabbi Hanina: "Thou didst tend me well,

and I have given thee no recompense. But thy reward will be paid

thee before I depart from you, only you must both accompany me to

the woods. There you shall see what I shall do for you."

Accordingly, they went to the woods with him. Arrived there, the

frog began to cry aloud, and at the sound all sorts of beasts and

birds assembled. These he commanded to produce precious stones,

as many as they could carry. Also they were to bring herbs and

roots for the wife of Rabbi Hanina, and he taught her how to use

them as remedies for all varieties of disease. All this they were

bidden to take home with them. When they were about to return,

the frog addressed them thus: "May the Holy One, blessed be He,

have mercy upon you, and requite you for all the trouble you took

on my account, without so much as inquiring who I am. Now I shall

make my origin known to you. I am the son of Adam, a son whom he

begot during the hundred and thirty years of his separation from

Eve. God has endowed me with the power of assuming any form or

guise I desire." Rabbi Hanina and his wife departed for their

home, and they became very rich, and enjoyed the respect and

confidence of the king.[49]


The exhortations of the wives of Lamech took effect upon Adam.

After a separation of one hundred and thirty years, he returned

to Eve, and the love he now bore her was stronger by far than in

the former time. She was in his thoughts even when she was not

present to him bodily. The fruit of their reunion was Seth, who

was destined to be the ancestor of the Messiah.[50]

Seth was so formed from birth that the rite of circumcision could

be dispensed with. He was thus one of the thirteen men born

perfect in a way.[51] Adam begot him in his likeness and image,

different from Cain, who had not been in his likeness and image.

Thus Seth became, in a genuine sense, the father of the human

race, especially the father of the pious, while the depraved and

godless are descended from Cain.[52]

Even during the lifetime of Adam the descendants of Cain became

exceedingly wicked, dying successively, one after another, each

more wicked than the former. They were intolerable in war, and

vehement in robberies, and if any one were slow to murder people,

yet was he bold in his profligate behavior in acting unjustly and

doing injury for gain.

Now as to Seth. When he was brought up, and came to those years

in which he could discern what was good, he became a virtuous

man, and as he was himself of excellent character, so he left

children behind him who imitated his virtues. All these proved to

be of good disposition. They also inhabited one and the same

country without dissensions, and in a happy condition, without

any misfortune's falling upon them, until they died. They also

were the inventors of that peculiar sort of wisdom which is

concerned with the heavenly bodies and their order. And that

their inventions might not be lost before they were sufficiently

known, they made two pillars, upon Adam's prediction that the

world was to be destroyed at one time by the force of fire and at

another time by the violence and quantity of water. The one was

of brick, the other of stone, and they inscribed their

discoveries on both, that in case the pillar of brick should be

destroyed by the flood, the pillar of stone might remain, and

exhibit these discoveries to mankind, and also inform them that

there was another pillar, of brick, erected by them.[53]


Enosh was asked who his father was, and he named Seth. The

questioners, the people of his time, continued: "Who was the

father of Seth?" Enosh: "Adam."‑‑"And who was the father of

Adam?"‑‑"He had neither father nor mother, God formed him from

the dust of the earth."‑‑"But man has not the appearance of

dust!"‑‑"After death man returns to dust, as God said, 'And man

shall turn again unto dust;' but on the day of his creation, man

was made in the image of God."‑‑"How was the woman created?"‑

"Male and female He created them."‑‑"But how?"‑‑"God took water

and earth, and moulded them together in the form of man."‑‑"But

how?" pursued the questioners.

Enosh took six clods of earth, mixed them, and moulded them, and

formed an image of dust and clay. "But," said the people, "this

image does not walk, nor does it possess any breath of life." He

then essayed to show them how God breathed the breath of life

into the nostrils of Adam, but when he began to blow his breath

into the image he had formed, Satan entered it, and the figure

walked, and the people of his time who had been inquiring these

matters of Enosh went astray after it, saying, "What is the

difference between bowing down before this image and paying

homage to a man?"[54]

The generation of Enosh were thus the first idol worshippers, and

the punishment for their folly was not delayed long. God caused

the sea to transgress its bounds, and a portion of the earth was

flooded. This was the time also when the mountains became rocks,

and the dead bodies of men began to decay. And still another

consequence of the sin of idolatry was that the countenances of

the men of the following generations were no longer in the

likeness and image of God, as the countenances of Adam, Seth, and

Enosh had been. They resembled centaurs and apes, and the demons

lost their fear of men.[55]

But there was a still more serious consequence from the

idolatrous practices introduced in the time of Enosh. When God

drove Adam forth from Paradise, the Shekinah remained behind,

enthroned above a cherub under the tree of life. The angels

descended from heaven and repaired thither in hosts, to receive

their instructions, and Adam and his descendants sat by the gate

to bask in the splendor of the Shekinah, sixty‑five thousand

times more radiant than the splendor of the sun. This brightness

of the Shekinah makes all upon whom it falls exempt from disease,

and neither insects nor demons can come nigh unto them to do them


Thus it was until the time of Enosh, when men began to gather

gold, silver, gems, and pearls from all parts of the earth, and

made idols thereof a thousand parasangs high. What was worse, by

means of the magic arts taught them by the angels Uzza and

Azzael, they set themselves as masters over the heavenly spheres,

and forced the sun, the moon, and the stars to be subservient to

themselves instead of the Lord. This impelled the angels to ask

God: " 'What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?' Why didst

Thou abandon the highest of the heavens, the seat of Thy glory

and Thy exalted Throne in 'Arabot, and descend to men, who pay

worship to idols, putting Thee upon a level with them?" The

Shekinah was induced to leave the earth and ascend to heaven,

amid the blare and flourish of the trumpets of the myriads of

angel hosts.[56]


The depravity of mankind, which began to show itself in the time

of Enosh, had increased monstrously in the time of his grandson

Jared, by reason of the fallen angels. When the angels saw the

beautiful, attractive daughters of men, they lusted after them,

and spoke: "We will choose wives for ourselves only from among

the daughters of men, and beget children with them." Their chief

Shemhazai said, "I fear me, ye will not put this plan of yours

into execution, and I alone shall have to suffer the consequences

of a great sin." Then they answered him, and said: "We will all

swear an oath, and we will bind ourselves, separately and

together, not to abandon the plan, but to carry it through to the


Two hundred angels descended to the summit of Mount Hermon, which

owes its name to this very occurrence, because they bound

themselves there to fulfil their purpose, on the penalty of

Herem, anathema. Under the leadership of twenty captains they

defiled themselves with the daughters of men, unto whom they

taught charms, conjuring formulas, how to cut roots, and the

efficacy of plants. The issue from these mixed marriages was a

race of giants, three thousand ells tall, who consumed the

possessions of men. When all had vanished, and they could obtain

nothing more from them, the giants turned against men and

devoured many of them, and the remnant of men began to trespass

against the birds, beasts, reptiles, and fishes, eating their

flesh and drinking their blood.

Then the earth complained about the impious evil‑doers. But the

fallen angels continued to corrupt mankind. Azazel taught men how

to make slaughtering knives, arms, shields, and coats of mail. He

showed them metals and how to work them, and armlets and all

sorts of trinkets, and the use of rouge for the eyes, and how to

beautify the eyelids, and how to ornament themselves with the

rarest and most precious jewels and all sorts of paints. The

chief of the fallen angels, Shemhazai, instructed them in

exorcisms and how to cut roots; Armaros taught them how to raise

spells; Barakel, divination from the stars; Kawkabel, astrology;

Ezekeel, augury from the clouds; Arakiel, the signs of the earth;

Samsaweel, the signs of the sun; and Seriel, the signs of the


While all these abominations defiled the earth, the pious Enoch

lived in a secret place. None among men knew his abode, or what

had become of him, for he was sojourning with the angel watchers

and holy ones. Once he heard the call addressed to him: "Enoch,

thou scribe of justice, go unto the watchers of the heavens, who

have left the high heavens, the eternal place of holiness,

defiling themselves with women, doing as men do, taking wives

unto themselves, and casting themselves into the arms of

destruction upon earth. Go and proclaim unto them that they shall

find neither peace nor pardon. For every time they take joy in

their offspring, they shall see the violent death of their sons,

and sigh over the ruin of their children. They will pray and

supplicate evermore, but never shall they attain to mercy or


Enoch repaired to Azazel and the other fallen angels, to announce

the doom uttered against them. They all were filled with fear.

Trembling seized upon them, and they implored Enoch to set up a

petition for them and read it to the Lord of heaven, for they

could not speak with God as aforetime, nor even raise their eyes

heavenward, for shame on account of their sins. Enoch granted

their request, and in a vision he was vouchsafed the answer which

he was to carry back to the angels. It appeared to Enoch that he

was wafted into heaven upon clouds, and was set down before the

throne of God. God spake: "Go forth and say to the watchers of

heaven who have sent thee hither to intercede for them: Verily,

it is you who ought to plead in behalf of men, not men in behalf

of you I Why did ye forsake the high, holy, and eternal heavens,

to pollute yourselves with the daughters of men, taking wives

unto yourselves, doing like the races of the earth, and begetting

giant sons? Giants begotten by flesh and spirits will be called

evil spirits on earth, and on the earth will be their

dwelling‑place. Evil spirits proceed from their bodies, because

they are created from above, and from the holy watchers is their

beginning and primal origin; they will be evil spirits on earth,

and evil spirits they will be named. And the spirits of heaven

have their dwelling in heaven, but the spirits of the earth,

which were born upon the earth, have their dwelling on the earth.

And the spirits of the giants will devour, oppress, destroy,

attack, do battle, and cause destruction on the earth, and work

affliction. They will take no kind of food, nor will they thirst,

and they will be invisible. And these spirits will rise up

against the children of men and against the women, because they

have proceeded from them. Since the days of murder and

destruction and the death of the giants, when the spirits went

forth from the soul of their flesh, in order to destroy without

incurring judgment‑‑thus will they destroy until the day when the

great consummation of the great world be consummated. And now as

to the watchers who have sent thee to intercede for them, who had

been aforetime in heaven, say to them: You have been in heaven,

and though the hidden things had not yet been revealed to you,

you know worthless mysteries, and in the hardness of your hearts

you have recounted these to the women, and through these

mysteries women and men work much evil on earth. Say to them

therefore: You have no peace!"[58]


After Enoch had lived a long time secluded from men, he once

heard the voice of an angel calling to him: "Enoch, Enoch, make

thyself ready and leave the house and the secret place wherein

thou hast kept thyself hidden, and assume dominion over men, to

teach them the ways in which they shall walk, and the deeds which

they shall do, in order that they may walk in the ways of God."

Enoch left his retreat and betook himself to the haunts of men.

He gathered them about him, and instructed them in the conduct

pleasing to God. He sent messengers all over to announce, "Ye who

desire to know the ways of God and righteous conduct, come ye to

Enoch!" Thereupon a vast concourse of people thronged about him,

to hear the wisdom he would teach and learn from his mouth what

is good and right. Even kings and princes, no less than one

hundred and thirty in number, assembled about him, and submitted

themselves to his dominion, to be taught and guided by him, as he

taught and guided all the others. Peace reigned thus over the

whole world all the two hundred and forty‑three years during

which the influence of Enoch prevailed.

At the expiration of this period, in the year in which Adam died,

and was buried with great honors by Seth, Enosh, Enoch, and

Methuselah, Enoch resolved to retire again from intercourse with

men, and devote himself wholly to the service of God. But he

withdrew gradually. First he would spend three days in prayer and

praise of God, and on the fourth day he would return to his

disciples and grant them instruction. Many years passed thus,

then he appeared among them but once a week, later, once a month,

and, finally, once a year. The kings, princes, and all others who

were desirous of seeing Enoch and hearkening to his words did not

venture to come close to him during the times of his retirement.

Such awful majesty sat upon his countenance, they feared for

their very life if they but looked at him. They therefore

resolved that all men should prefer their requests before Enoch

on the day he showed himself unto them.

The impression made by the teachings of Enoch upon all who heard

them was powerful. They prostrated themselves before him, and

cried "Long live the king! Long live the king!" On a certain day,

while Enoch was giving audience to his followers, an angel

appeared and made known unto him that God had resolved to install

him as king over the angels in heaven, as until then he had

reigned over men. He called together all the inhabitants of the

earth, and addressed them thus: "I have been summoned to ascend

into heaven, and I know not on what day I shall go thither.

Therefore I will teach you wisdom and righteousness before I go

hence." A few days yet Enoch spent among men, and all the time

left to him he gave instruction in wisdom, knowledge, God‑fearing

conduct, and piety, and established law and order, for the

regulation of the affairs of men. Then those gathered near him

saw a gigantic steed descend from the skies, and they told Enoch

of it, who said, "The steed is for me, for the time has come and

the day when I leave you, never to be seen again." So it was. The

steed approached Enoch, and he mounted upon its back, all the

time instructing the people, exhorting them, enjoining them to

serve God and walk in His ways. Eight hundred thousand of the

people followed a day's journey after him. But on the second day

Enoch urged his retinue to turn back: "Go ye home, lest death

overtake you, if you follow me farther." Most of them heeded his

words and went back, but a number remained with him for six days,

though he admonished them daily to return and not bring death

down upon themselves. On the sixth day of the journey, he said to

those still accompanying him, "Go ye home, for on the morrow I

shall ascend to heaven, and whoever will then be near me, he will

die." Nevertheless, some of his companions remained with him,

saying: "Whithersoever thou goest, we will go. By the living God,

death alone shall part us."

On the seventh day Enoch was carried into the heavens in a fiery

chariot drawn by fiery chargers. The day thereafter, the kings

who had turned back in good time sent messengers to inquire into

the fate of the men who had refused to separate themselves from

Enoch, for they had noted the number of them. They found snow and

great hailstones upon the spot whence Enoch had risen, and, when

they searched beneath, they discovered the bodies of all who had

remained behind with Enoch. He alone was not among them; he was

on high in heaven.[59]


This was not the first time Enoch had been in heaven. Once

before, while he sojourned among men, he had been permitted to

see all there is on earth and in the heavens. On a time when he

was sleeping, a great grief came upon his heart, and he wept in

his dream, not knowing what the grief meant, nor what would

happen to him. And there appeared to him two men, very tall.

Their faces shone like the sun, and their eyes were like burning

lamps, and fire came forth from their lips; their wings were

brighter than gold, their hands whiter than snow. They stood at

the head of Enoch's bed, and called him by his name. He awoke

from his sleep, and hastened and made obeisance to them, and was

terrified. And these men said to him: "Be of good cheer, Enoch,

be not afraid; the everlasting God hath sent us to thee, and lo!

to‑day thou shalt ascend with us into heaven. And tell thy sons

and thy servants, and let none seek thee, till the Lord bring

thee back to them."

Enoch did as he was told, and after he had spoken to his sons,

and instructed them not to turn aside from God, and to keep His

judgment, these two men summoned him, and took him on their

wings, and placed him on the clouds, which moved higher and

higher, till they set him down in the first heaven. Here they

showed him the two hundred angels who rule the stars, and their

heavenly service. Here he saw also the treasuries of snow and

ice, of clouds and dew.

>From there they took him to the second heaven, where he saw the

fallen angels imprisoned, they who obeyed not the commandments of

God, and took counsel of their own will. The fallen angels said

to Enoch, "O man of God! Pray for us to the Lord," and he

answered: "Who am I, a mortal man, that I should pray for angels?

Who knows whither I go, or what awaits me?"

They took him from thence to the third heaven, where they showed

him Paradise, with all the trees of beautiful colors, and their

fruits, ripe and luscious, and all kinds of food which they

produced, springing up with delightful fragrance. In the midst of

Paradise he saw the tree of life, in that place in which God

rests when He comes into Paradise. This tree cannot be described

for its excellence and sweet fragrance, and it is beautiful, more

than any created thing, and on all its sides it is like gold and

crimson in appearance, and transparent as fire, and it covers

everything. From its root in the garden there go forth four

streams, which pour out honey, milk, oil, and wine, and they go

down to the Paradise of Eden, that lies on the confines between

the earthly region of corruptibility and the heavenly region of

incorruptibility, and thence they go along the earth. He also saw

the three hundred angels who keep the garden, and with

never‑ceasing voices and blessed singing they serve the Lord

every day. The angels leading Enoch explained to him that this

place is prepared for the righteous, while the terrible place

prepared for the sinners is in the northern regions of the third

heaven. He saw there all sorts of tortures, and impenetrable

gloom, and there is no light there, but a gloomy fire is always

burning. And all that place has fire on all sides, and on all

sides cold and ice, thus it burns and freezes. And the angels,

terrible and without pity, carry savage weapons, and their

torture is unmerciful.

The angels took him then to the fourth heaven, and showed him all

the comings in and goings forth, and all the rays of the light of

the sun and the moon. He saw the fifteen myriads of angels who go

out with the sun, and attend him during the day, and the thousand

angels who attend him by night. Each angel has six wings, and

they go before the chariot of the sun, while one hundred angels

keep the sun warm, and light it up. He saw also the wonderful and

strange creatures named phoenixes and chalkidri, who attend the

chariot of the sun, and go with him, bringing heat and dew. They

showed him also the six gates in the east of the fourth heaven,

by which the sun goes forth, and the six gates in the west where

he sets, and also the gates by which the moon goes out, and those

by which she enters. In the middle of the fourth heaven he saw an

armed host, serving the Lord with cymbals and organs and

unceasing voices.

In the fifth heaven he saw many hosts of the angels called

Grigori. Their appearance was like men, and their size was

greater than the size of the giants, their countenances were

withered, and their lips silent. On his question who they were,

the angels leading him answered, "These are the Grigori, who with

their prince Salamiel rejected the holy Lord." Enoch then said to

the Grigori, "Why wait ye, brethren, and serve ye not before the

face of the Lord, and why perform ye not your duties before the

face of the Lord, and anger not your Lord to the end?" The

Grigori listened to the rebuke, and when the trumpets resounded

together with a loud call, they also began to sing with one

voice, and their voices went forth before the Lord with sadness

and tenderness.

In the seventh heaven he saw the seven bands of archangels who

arrange and study the revolutions of the stars and the changes of

the moon and the revolution of the sun, and superintend the good

or evil conditions of the world. And they arrange teachings and

instructions and sweet speaking and singing and all kinds of

glorious praise. They hold in subjection all living things, both

in heaven and on earth. In the midst of them are seven phoenixes,

and seven cherubim, and seven six‑winged creatures, singing with

one voice.

When Enoch reached the seventh heaven, and saw all the fiery

hosts of great archangels and incorporeal powers and lordships

and principalities and powers, he was afraid and trembled with a

great terror. Those leading him took hold of him, and brought him

into the midst of them, and said to him, "Be of good cheer,

Enoch, be not afraid," and they showed him the Lord from afar,

sitting on His lofty throne, while all the heavenly hosts,

divided in ten classes, having approached, stood on the ten steps

according to their rank, and made obeisance to the Lord. And so

they proceeded to their places in joy and mirth and boundless

light, singing songs with low and gentle voices, and gloriously

serving Him. They leave not nor depart day or night, standing

before the face of the Lord, working His will, cherubim and

seraphim, standing around His throne. And the six‑winged

creatures overshadow all His throne, singing with a soft voice

before the face of the Lord, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of

hosts; heaven and earth are full of His glory." When he had seen

all these, the angels leading him said to him, "Enoch, up to this

time we were ordered to accompany thee." They departed, and he

saw them no more. Enoch remained at the extremity of the seventh

heaven, in great terror, saying to himself, "Woe is me! What has

come upon me!" But then Gabriel came and said unto him, "Enoch,

be not afraid, stand up and come with me, and stand up before the

face of the Lord forever." And Enoch answered: "O my lord, my

spirit has departed from me with fear and trembling. Call the men

to me who have brought me to the place! Upon them I have relied,

and with them I would go before the face of the Lord." And

Gabriel hurried him away like a leaf carried off by the wind, and

set him before the face of the Lord. Enoch fell down and

worshipped the Lord, who said to him: "Enoch, be not afraid! Rise

up and stand before My face forever." And Michael lifted him up,

and at the command of the Lord took his earthly robe from him,

and anointed him with the holy oil, and clothed him, and when he

gazed upon himself, he looked like one of God's glorious ones,

and fear and trembling departed from him. God called then one of

His archangels who was more wise than all the others, and wrote

down all the doings of the Lord, and He said to him, "Bring forth

the books from My store‑place, and give a reed to Enoch, and

interpret the books to him." The angel did as he was commanded,

and he instructed Enoch thirty days and thirty nights, and his

lips never ceased speaking, while Enoch was writing down all the

things about heaven and earth, angels and men, and all that is

suitable to be instructed in. He also wrote down all about the

souls of men, those of them which are not born, and the places

prepared for them forever. He copied all accurately, and he wrote

three hundred and sixty‑six books. After he had received all the

instructions from the archangel, God revealed unto him great

secrets, which even the angels do not know. He told him how, out

of the lowest darkness, the visible and the invisible were

created, how He formed heaven, light, water, and earth, and also

the fall of Satan and the creation and sin of Adam He narrated to

him, and further revealed to him that the duration of the world

will be seven thousand years, and the eighth millennium will be a

time when there is no computation, no end, neither years, nor

months, nor weeks, nor days, nor hours.

The Lord finished this revelation to Enoch with the words: "And

now I give thee Samuil and Raguil, who brought thee to Me. Go

with them upon the earth, and tell thy sons what things I have

said to thee, and what thou hast seen from the lowest heaven up

to My throne. Give them the works written out by thee, and they

shall read them, and shall distribute the books to their

children's children and from generation to generation and from

nation to nation. And I will give thee My messenger Michael for

thy writings and for the writings of thy fathers, Adam, Seth,

Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, and Jared thy father. And I shall not

require them till the last age, for I have instructed My two

angels, Ariuk and Mariuk, whom I have put upon the earth as their

guardians, and I have ordered them in time to guard them, that

the account of what I shall do in thy family may not be lost in

the deluge to come. For on account of the wickedness and iniquity

of men, I will bring a deluge upon the earth, and I will destroy

all, but I will leave a righteous man of thy race with all his

house, who shall act according to My will. From their seed will

be raised up a numerous generation, and on the extinction of that

family, I will show them the books of thy writings and of thy

father, and the guardians of them on earth will show them to the

men who are true and please Me. And they shall tell to another

generation, and they, having read them, shall be glorified at

last more than before."

Enoch was then sent to earth to remain there for thirty days to

instruct his sons, but before he left heaven, God sent an angel

to him whose appearance was like snow, and his hands were like

ice. Enoch looked at him, and his face was chilled, that men

might be able to endure the sight of him. The angels who took him

to heaven put him upon his bed, in the place where his son

Methuselah was expecting him by day and by night. Enoch assembled

his sons and all his household, and instructed them faithfully

about all things he had seen, heard, and written down, and he

gave his books to his sons, to keep them and read them,

admonishing them not to conceal the books, but tell them to all

desiring to know. When the thirty days had been completed, the

Lord sent darkness upon the earth, and there was gloom, and it

hid the men standing with Enoch. And the angels hasted and took

Enoch, and carried him to the highest heaven, where the Lord

received him and set him before His face, and the darkness

departed from the earth, and there was light. And the people saw,

and did not understand how Enoch was taken, and they glorified


Enoch was born on the sixth day of the month of Siwan, and he was

taken to heaven in the same month, Siwan, on the same day and in

the same hour when he was born. And Methuselah hasted and all his

brethren, the sons of Enoch, and built an altar in the place

called Achuzan, whence Enoch was taken up to heaven. The elders

and all the people came to the festivity and brought their gifts

to the sons of Enoch, and made a great festivity, rejoicing and

being merry for three days, praising God, who had given such a

sign by means of Enoch, who had found favor with them.[60]


The sinfulness of men was the reason why Enoch was translated to

heaven. Thus Enoch himself told Rabbi Ishmael. When the

generation of the deluge transgressed, and spoke to God, saying,

"Depart from us, for we do not desire to know Thy ways," Enoch

was carried to heaven, to serve there as a witness that God was

not a cruel God in spite of the destruction decreed upon all

living beings on earth.

When Enoch, under the guidance of the angel 'Anpiel, was carried

from earth to heaven, the holy beings, the ofanim, the seraphim,

the cherubim, all those who move the throne of God, and the

ministering spirits whose substance is of consuming fire, they

all, at a distance of six hundred and fifty million and three

hundred parasangs, noticed the presence of a human being, and

they exclaimed: "Whence the odor of one born of woman? How comes

he into the highest heaven of the fire‑coruscating angels?" But

God replied: "O My servants and hosts, ye, My cherubim, ofanim,

and seraphim, let this not be an offense unto you, for all the

children of men denied Me and My mighty dominion, and they paid

homage to the idols, so that I transferred the Shekinah from

earth to heaven. But this man Enoch is the elect of men. He has

more faith, justice, and righteousness than all the rest, and he

is the only reward I have derived from the terrestrial world."

Before Enoch could be admitted to service near the Divine throne,

the gates of wisdom were opened unto him, and the gates of

understanding, and of discernment, of life, peace, and the

Shekinah, of strength and power, of might, loveliness, and grace,

of humility and fear of sin. Equipped by God with extraordinary

wisdom, sagacity, judgment, knowledge, learning,

compassionateness, love, kindness, grace, humility, strength,

power, might, splendor, beauty, shapeliness, and all other

excellent qualities, beyond the endowment of any of the celestial

beings, Enoch received, besides, many thousand blessings from

God, and his height and his breadth became equal to the height

and the breadth of the world, and thirty‑six wings were attached

to his body, to the right and to the left, each as large as the

world, and three hundred and sixty‑five thousand eyes were

bestowed upon him, each brilliant as the sun. A magnificent

throne was erected for him beside the gates of the seventh

celestial palace, and a herald proclaimed throughout the heavens

concerning him, who was henceforth to be called Metatron in the

celestial regions: "I have appointed My servant Metatron as

prince and chief over all the princes in My realm, with the

exception only of the eight august and exalted princes that bear

My name. Whatever angel has a request to prefer to Me, shall

appear before Metatron, and what he will command at My bidding,

ye must observe and do, for the prince of wisdom and the prince

of understanding are at his service, and they will reveal unto

him the sciences of the celestials and the terrestrials, the

knowledge of the present order of the world and the knowledge of

the future order of the world. Furthermore, I have made him the

guardian of the treasures of the palaces in the heaven 'Arabot,

and of the treasures of life that are in the highest heaven."

Out of the love He bore Enoch, God arrayed him in a magnificent

garment, to which every kind of luminary in existence was

attached, and a crown gleaming with forty‑nine jewels, the

splendor of which pierced to all parts of the seven heavens and

to the four corners of the earth. In the presence of the heavenly

family, He set this crown upon the head of Enoch, and called him

"the little Lord." It bears also the letters by means of which

heaven and earth were created, and seas and rivers, mountains and

valleys, planets and constellations, lightning and thunder, snow

and hail, storm and whirlwind‑‑these and also all things needed

in the world, and the mysteries of creation. Even the princes of

the heavens, when they see Metatron, tremble before him, and

prostrate themselves; his magnificence and majesty, the splendor

and beauty radiating from him overwhelm them, even the wicked

Samael, the greatest of them, even Gabriel the angel of the fire,

Bardiel the angel of the hail, Ruhiel the angel of the wind,

Barkiel the angel of the lightning, Za'miel the angel of the

hurricane, Zakkiel the angel of the storm, Sui'el the angel of

the earthquake, Za'fiel the angel of the showers, Ra'miel the

angel of the thunder, Ra'shiel the angel of the whirlwind,

Shalgiel the angel of the snow, Matriel the angel of the rain,

Shamshiel the angel of the day, Leliel the angel of the night,

Galgliel the angel of the solar system, Ofaniel the angel of the

wheel of the moon, Kokabiel the angel of the stars, and Rahtiel

the angel of the constellations.

When Enoch was transformed into Metatron, his body was turned

into celestial fire‑‑his flesh became flame, his veins fire, his

bones glimmering coals, the light of his eyes heavenly

brightness, his eyeballs torches of fire, his hair a flaring

blaze, all his limbs and organs burning sparks, and his frame a

consuming fire. To right of him sparkled flames of fire, to left

of him burnt torches of fire, and on all sides he was engirdled

by storm and whirlwind, hurricane and thundering.[61]


After the translation of Enoch, Methuselah was proclaimed ruler

of the earth by all the kings. He walked in the footsteps of his

father, teaching truth, knowledge, and fear of God to the

children of men all his life, and deviating from the path of

rectitude neither to the right nor the left.[62] He delivered the

world from thousands of demons, the posterity of Adam which he

had begotten with Lilith, that she‑devil of she‑devils. These

demons and evil spirits, as often as they encountered a man, had

sought to injure and even slay him, until Methuselah appeared,

and supplicated the mercy of God. He spent three days in fasting,

and then God gave him permission to write the Ineffable Name upon

his sword, wherewith he slew ninety‑four myriads of the demons in

a minute, until Agrimus, the first‑born of them, came to him and

entreated him to desist, at the same time handing the names of

the demons and imps over to him. And so Methuselah placed their

kings in iron fetters, while the remainder fled away and hid

themselves in the innermost chambers and recesses of the ocean.

And it is on account of the wonderful sword by means of which the

demons were killed that he was called Methuselah.[63]

He was so pious a man that he composed two hundred and thirty

parables in praise of God for every word he uttered. When he

died, the people heard a great commotion in the heavens, and they

saw nine hundred rows of mourners corresponding to the nine

hundred orders of the Mishnah which he had studied, and tears

flowed from the eyes of the holy beings down upon the spot where

he died. Seeing the grief of the celestials, the people on earth

also mourned over the demise of Methuselah, and God rewarded them

therefor. He added seven days to the time of grace which He had

ordained before bringing destruction upon the earth by a flood of


















Methuselah took a wife for his son Lamech, and she bore him a man

child. The body of the babe was white as snow and red as a

blooming rose, and the hair of his head and his long locks were

white as wool, and his eyes like the rays of the sun. When he

opened his eyes, he lighted up the whole house, like the sun, and

the whole house was very full of light.[1] And when he was taken

from the hand of the midwife, he opened his mouth and praised the

Lord of righteousness.[2] His father Lamech was afraid of him,

and fled, and came to his own father Methuselah. And he said to

him: "I have begotten a strange son; he is not like a human

being, but resembles the children of the angels of heaven, and

his nature is different, and he is not like us, and his eyes are

as the rays of the sun, and his countenance is glorious.[3] And

it seems to me that he is not sprung from me, but from the

angels, and I fear that in his days a wonder may be wrought on

the earth. And now, my father, I am here to petition thee and

implore thee, that thou mayest go to Enoch, our father, and learn

from him the truth, for his dwelling place is among the angels."

And when Methuselah heard the words of his son, he went to Enoch,

to the ends of the earth, and he cried aloud, and Enoch heard his

voice, and appeared before him, and asked him the reason of his

coming. Methuselah told him the cause of his anxiety, and

requested him to make the truth known to him. Enoch answered, and

said: "The Lord will do a new thing in the earth. There will come

a great destruction on the earth, and a deluge for one year. This

son who is born unto thee will be left on the earth, and his

three children will be saved with him, when all mankind that are

on the earth shall die. And there will be a great punishment on

the earth, and the earth will be cleansed from all impurity. And

now make known to thy son Lamech that he who was born is in truth

his son, and call his name Noah, for he will be left to you, and

he and his children will be saved from the destruction which will

come upon the earth." When Methuselah had heard the words of his

father, who showed him all the secret things, he returned home,

and he called the child Noah, for he would cause the earth to

rejoice in compensation for all destruction.[4]

By the name Noah he was called only by his grandfather

Methuselah; his father and all others called him Menahem. His

generation was addicted to sorcery, and Methuselah apprehended

that his grandson might be bewitched if his true name were known,

wherefore he kept it a secret. Menahem, Comforter, suited him as

well as Noah; it indicated that he would be a consoler, if but

the evil‑doers of his time would repent of their misdeeds.[5] At

his very birth it was felt that he would bring consolation and

deliverance. When the Lord said to Adam, "Cursed is the ground

for thy sake," he asked, "For how long a time?" and the answer

made by God was, "Until a man child shall be born whose

conformation is such that the rite of circumcision need not be

practiced upon him." This was fulfilled in Noah, he was

circumcised from his mother's womb.

Noah had scarcely come into the world when a marked change was

noticeable. Since the curse brought upon the earth by the sin of

Adam, it happened that wheat being sown, yet oats would sprout

and grow. This ceased with the appearance of Noah: the earth bore

the products planted in it. And it was Noah who, when he was

grown to manhood, invented the plough, the scythe, the hoe, and

other implements for cultivating the ground. Before him men had

worked the land with their bare hands.[6]

There was another token to indicate that the child born unto

Lamech was appointed for an extraordinary destiny. When God

created Adam, He gave him dominion over all things: the cow

obeyed the ploughman, and the furrow was willing to be drawn. But

after the fall of Adam all things rebelled against him: the cow

refused obedience to the ploughman, and also the furrow was

refractory. Noah was born, and all returned to its state

preceding the fall of man.

Before the birth of Noah, the sea was in the habit of

transgressing its bounds twice daily, morning and evening, and

flooding the land up to the graves. After his birth it kept

within its confines. And the famine that afflicted the world in

the time of Lamech, the second of the ten great famines appointed

to come upon it, ceased its ravages with the birth of Noah.[7]


Grown to manhood, Noah followed in the ways of his grandfather

Methuselah, while all other men of the time rose up against this

pious king. So far from observing his precepts, they pursued the

evil inclination of their hearts, and perpetrated all sorts of

abominable deeds.[8] Chiefly the fallen angels and their giant

posterity caused the depravity of mankind. The blood spilled by

the giants cried unto heaven from the ground, and the four

archangels accused the fallen angels and their sons before God,

whereupon He gave the following orders to them: Uriel was sent to

Noah to announce to him that the earth would be destroyed by a

flood, and to teach him how to save his own life. Raphael was

told to put the fallen angel Azazel into chains, cast him into a

pit of sharp and pointed stones in the desert Dudael, and cover

him with darkness, and so was he to remain until the great day of

judgment, when he would be thrown into the fiery pit of hell, and

the earth would be healed of the corruption he had contrived upon

it. Gabriel was charged to proceed against the bastards and the

reprobates, the sons of the angels begotten with the daughters of

men, and plunge them into deadly conflicts with one another.

Shemhazai's ilk were handed over to Michael, who first caused

them to witness the death of their children in their bloody

combat with each other, and then he bound them and pinned them

under the hills of the earth, where they will remain for seventy

generations, until the day of judgment, to be carried thence to

the fiery pit of hell.[9]

The fall of Azazel and Shemhazai came about in this way. When the

generation of the deluge began to practice idolatry, God was

deeply grieved. The two angels Shemhazai and Azazel arose, and

said: "O Lord of the world! It has happened, that which we

foretold at the creation of the world and of man, saying, 'What

is man, that Thou art mindful of him?' " And God said, "And what

will become of the world now without man?" Whereupon the angels:

"We will occupy ourselves with it." Then said God: "I am well

aware of it, and I know that if you inhabit the earth, the evil

inclination will overpower you, and you will be more iniquitous

than ever men." The angels pleaded, "Grant us but permission to

dwell among men, and Thou shalt see how we will sanctify Thy

Name." God yielded to their wish, saying, "Descend and sojourn

among men!"

When the angels came to earth, and beheld the daughters of men in

all their grace and beauty, they could not restrain their

passion. Shemhazai saw a maiden named Istehar, and he lost his

heart to her. She promised to surrender herself to him, if first

he taught her the Ineffable Name, by means of which he raised

himself to heaven. He assented to her condition. But once she

knew it, she pronounced the Name, and herself ascended to heaven,

without fulfilling her promise to the angel. God said, "Because

she kept herself aloof from sin, we will place her among the

seven stars, that men may never forget her," and she was put in

the constellation of the Pleiades.

Shemhazai and Azazel, however, were not deterred from entering

into alliances with the daughters of men, and to the first two

sons were born. Azazel began to devise the finery and the

ornaments by means of which women allure men. Thereupon God sent

Metatron to tell Shemhazai that He had resolved to destroy the

world and bring on a deluge. The fallen angel began to weep and

grieve over the fate of the world and the fate of his two sons.

If the world went under, what would they have to eat, they who

needed daily a thousand camels, a thousand horses, and a thousand


These two sons of Shemhazai, Hiwwa and Hiyya by name, dreamed

dreams. The one saw a great stone which covered the earth, and

the earth was marked all over with lines upon lines of writing.

An angel came, and with a knife obliterated all the lines,

leaving but four letters upon the stone. The other son saw a

large pleasure grove planted with all sorts of trees. But angels

approached bearing axes, and they felled the trees, sparing a

single one with three of its branches.

When Hiwwa and Hiyya awoke, they repaired to their father, who

interpreted the dreams for them, saying, "God will bring a

deluge, and none will escape with his life, excepting only Noah

and his sons." When they heard this, the two began to cry and

scream, but their father consoled them: "Soft, soft! Do not

grieve. As often as men cut or haul stones, or launch vessels,

they shall invoke your names, Hiwwa! Hiyya!" This prophecy

soothed them.

Shemhazai then did penance. He suspended himself between heaven

and earth, and in this position of a penitent sinner he hangs to

this day. But Azazel persisted obdurately in his sin of leading

mankind astray by means of sensual allurements. For this reason

two he‑goats were sacrificed in the Temple on the Day of

Atonement, the one for God, that He pardon the sins of Israel,

the other for Azazel, that he bear the sins of Israel.[10]

Unlike Istehar, the pious maiden, Naamah, the lovely sister of

Tubal‑cain, led the angels astray with her beauty, and from her

union with Shamdon sprang the devil Asmodeus.[11] She was as

shameless as all the other descendants of Cain, and as prone to

bestial indulgences. Cainite women and Cainite men alike were in

the habit of walking abroad naked, and they gave themselves up to

every conceivable manner of lewd practices. Of such were the

women whose beauty and sensual charms tempted the angels from the

path of virtue. The angels, on the other hand, no sooner had they

rebelled against God and descended to earth than they lost their

transcendental qualities, and were invested with sublunary

bodies, so that a union with the daughters of men became

possible. The offspring of these alliances between the angels and

the Cainite women were the giants,[12] known for their strength

and their sinfulness; as their very name, the Emim, indicates,

they inspired fear. They have many other names. Sometimes they go

by the name Rephaim, because one glance at them made one's heart

grow weak; or by the name Gibborim, simply giants, because their

size was so enormous that their thigh measured eighteen ells; or

by the name Zamzummim, because they were great masters in war; or

by the name Anakim, because they touched the sun with their neck;

or by the name Ivvim, because, like the snake, they could judge

of the qualities of the soil; or finally, by the name Nephilim,

because, bringing the world to its fall, they themselves



While the descendants of Cain resembled their father in his

sinfulness and depravity, the descendants of Seth led a pious,

well‑regulated life, and the difference between the conduct of

the two stocks was reflected in their habitations. The family of

Seth was settled upon the mountains in the vicinity of Paradise,

while the family of Cain resided in the field of Damascus, the

spot whereon Abel was slain by Cain.

Unfortunately, at the time of Methuselah, following the death of

Adam, the family of Seth became corrupted after the manner of the

Cainites. The two strains united with each other to execute all

kinds of iniquitous deeds. The result of the marriages between

them were the Nephilim, whose sins brought the deluge upon the

world. In their arrogance they claimed the same pedigree as the

posterity of Seth, and they compared themselves with princes and

men of noble descent.[14]

The wantonness of this generation was in a measure due to the

ideal conditions under which mankind lived before the flood. They

knew neither toil nor care, and as a consequence of their

extraordinary prosperity they grew insolent. In their arrogance

they rose up against God. A single sowing bore a harvest

sufficient for the needs of forty years, and by means of magic

arts they could compel the very sun and moon to stand ready to do

their service.[15] The raising of children gave them no trouble.

They were born after a few days' pregnancy, and immediately after

birth they could walk and talk; they themselves aided the mother

in severing the navel string. Not even demons could do them harm.

Once a new‑born babe, running to fetch a light whereby his mother

might cut the navel string, met the chief of the demons, and a

combat ensued between the two. Suddenly the crowing of a cock was

heard, and the demon made off, crying out to the child, "Go and

report unto thy mother, if it had not been for the crowing of the

cock, I had killed thee!" Whereupon the child retorted, "Go and

report unto thy mother, if it had not been for my uncut navel

string, I had killed thee!"[16]

It was their care‑free life that gave them space and leisure for

their infamies. For a time God, in His long‑suffering kindness,

passed by the iniquities of men, but His forbearance ceased when

once they began to lead unchaste lives, for "God is patient with

all sins save only an immoral life."[17]

The other sin that hastened the end of the iniquitous generation

was their rapacity. So cunningly were their depredations planned

that the law could not touch them. If a countryman brought a

basket of vegetables to market, they would edge up to it, one

after the other, and abstract a bit, each in itself of petty

value, but in a little while the dealer would have none left to


Even after God had resolved upon the destruction of the sinners,

He still permitted His mercy to prevail, in that He sent Noah

unto them, who exhorted them for one hundred and twenty years to

amend their ways, always holding the flood over them as a threat.

As for them, they but derided him. When they saw him occupying

himself with the building of the ark, they asked, "Wherefore this


Noah: "God will bring a flood upon you."

The sinners: "What sort of flood? If He sends a fire flood,

against that we know how to protect ourselves. If it is a flood

of waters, then, if the waters bubble up from the earth, we will

cover them with iron rods, and if they descend from above, we

know a remedy against that, too."

Noah: "The waters will ooze out from under your feet, and you

will not be able to ward them off."

Partly they persisted in their obduracy of heart because Noah had

made known to them that the flood would not descend so long as

the pious Methuselah sojourned among them. The period of one

hundred and twenty years which God had appointed as the term of

their probation having expired, Methuselah died, but out of

regard for the memory of this pious man God gave them another

week's respite, the week of mourning for him. During this time of

grace, the laws of nature were suspended, the sun rose in the

west and set in the east. To the sinners God gave the dainties

that await man in the future world, for the purpose of showing

them what they were forfeiting.[19] But all this proved

unavailing, and, Methuselah and the other pious men of the

generation having departed this life, God brought the deluge upon

the earth.[20]


Great wisdom was needed for building the ark, which was to have

space for all beings on earth, even the spirits. Only the fishes

did not have to be provided for.[21] Noah acquired the necessary

wisdom from the book given to Adam by the angel Raziel, in which

all celestial and all earthly knowledge is recorded.

While the first human pair were still in Paradise, it once

happened that Samael, accompanied by a lad, approached Eve and

requested her to keep a watchful eye upon his little son until he

should return. Eve gave him the promise. When Adam came back from

a walk in Paradise, he found a howling, screaming child with Eve,

who, in reply to his question, told him it was Samael's. Adam was

annoyed, and his annoyance grew as the boy cried and screamed

more and more violently. In his vexation he dealt the little one

a blow that killed him. But the corpse did not cease to wail and

weep, nor did it cease when Adam cut it up into bits. To rid

himself of the plague, Adam cooked the remains, and he and Eve

ate them. Scarcely had they finished, when Samael appeared and

demanded his son. The two malefactors tried to deny everything;

they pretended they had no knowledge of his son. But Samael said

to them: "What! You dare tell lies, and God in times to come will

give Israel the Torah in which it is said, 'Keep thee far from a

false word'?"

While they were speaking thus, suddenly the voice of the slain

lad was heard proceeding from the heart of Adam and Eve, and it

addressed these words to Samael: "Go hence! I have penetrated to

the heart of Adam and the heart of Eve, and never again shall I

quit their hearts, nor the hearts of their children, or their

children's children, unto the end of all generations."

Samael departed, but Adam was sore grieved, and he put on

sackcloth and ashes, and he fasted many, many days, until God

appeared unto him, and said: "My son, have no fear of Samael. I

will give thee a remedy that will help thee against him, for it

was at My instance that he went to thee." Adam asked, "And what

is this remedy?" God: "The Torah." Adam: "And where is the

Torah?" God then gave him the book of the angel Raziel, which he

studied day and night. After some time had passed, the angels

visited Adam, and, envious of the wisdom he had drawn from the

book, they sought to destroy him cunningly by calling him a god

and prostrating themselves before him, in spite of his

remonstrance, "Do not prostrate yourselves before me, but magnify

the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together." However,

the envy of the angels was so great that they stole the book God

had given Adam from him, and threw it in the sea. Adam searched

for it everywhere in vain, and the loss distressed him sorely.

Again he fasted many days, until God appeared unto him, and said:

"Fear not! I will give the book back to thee," and He called

Rahab, the Angel of the Sea, and ordered him to recover the book

from the sea and restore it to Adam. And so he did.[22]

Upon the death of Adam, the holy book disappeared, but later the

cave in which it was hidden was revealed to Enoch in a dream. It

was from this book that Enoch drew his knowledge of nature, of

the earth and of the heavens, and he became so wise through it

that his wisdom exceeded the wisdom of Adam. Once he had

committed it to memory, Enoch hid the book again.

Now, when God resolved upon bringing the flood on the earth, He

sent the archangel Raphael to Noah, as the bearer of the

following message: "I give thee herewith the holy book, that all

the secrets and mysteries written therein may be made manifest

unto thee, and that thou mayest know how to fulfil its injunction

in holiness, purity, modesty, and humbleness. Thou wilt learn

from it how to build an ark of the wood of the gopher tree,

wherein thou, and thy sons, and thy wife shall find protection."

Noah took the book, and when he studied it, the holy spirit came

upon him, and he knew all things needful for the building of the

ark and the gathering together of the animals. The book, which

was made of sapphires, he took with him into the ark, having

first enclosed it in a golden casket. All the time he spent in

the ark it served him as a time‑piece, to distinguish night from

day. Before his death, he entrusted it to Shem, and he in turn to

Abraham. From Abraham it descended through Jacob, Levi, Moses,

and Joshua to Solomon, who learnt all his wisdom from it, and his

skill in the healing art, and also his mastery over the



The ark was completed according to the instructions laid down in

the Book of Raziel. Noah's next task was gathering in the

animals. No less than thirty‑two species of birds and three

hundred and sixty‑five of reptiles he had to take along with him.

But God ordered the animals to repair to the ark, and they

trooped thither, and Noah did not have to do so much as stretch

out a finger.[24] Indeed, more appeared than were required to

come, and God instructed him to sit at the door of the ark and

note which of the animals lay down as they reached the entrance

and which stood. The former belonged in the ark, but not the

latter. Taking up his post as he had been commanded, Noah

observed a lioness with her two cubs. All three beasts crouched.

But the two young ones began to struggle with the mother, and she

arose and stood up next to them. Then Noah led the two cubs into

the ark. The wild beasts, and the cattle, and the birds which

were not accepted remained standing about the ark all of seven

days, for the assembling of the animals happened one week before

the flood began to descend. On the day whereon they came to the

ark, the sun was darkened, and the foundations of the earth

trembled, and lightning flashed, and the thunder boomed, as never

before. And yet the sinners remained impenitent. In naught did

they change their wicked doings during those last seven days.

When finally the flood broke loose, seven hundred thousand of the

children of men gathered around the ark, and implored Noah to

grant them protection. With a loud voice he replied, and said:

"Are ye not those who were rebellious toward God, saying, 'There

is no God'? Therefore He has brought ruin upon you, to annihilate

you and destroy you from the face of the earth. Have I not been

prophesying this unto you these hundred and twenty years, and you

would not give heed unto the voice of God? Yet now you desire to

be kept alive!" Then the sinners cried out: "So be it! We all are

ready now to turn back to God, if only thou wilt open the door of

thy ark to receive us, that we may live and not die." Noah made

answer, and said: "That ye do now, when your need presses hard

upon you. Why did you not turn to God during all the hundred and

twenty years which the Lord appointed unto you as the term of

repentance? Now do ye come, and ye speak thus, because distress

besets your lives. Therefore God will not hearken unto you and

give you ear; naught will you accomplish!"

The crowd of sinners tried to take the entrance to the ark by

storm, but the wild beasts keeping watch around the ark set upon

them, and many were slain, while the rest escaped, only to meet

death in the waters of the flood.[25] The water alone could not

have made an end of them, for they were giants in stature and

strength. When Noah threatened them with the scourge of God, they

would make reply: "If the waters of the flood come from above,

they will never reach up to our necks; and if they come from

below, the soles of our feet are large enough to dam up the

springs." But God bade each drop pass through Gehenna before it

fell to earth, and the hot rain scalded the skin of the sinners.

The punishment that overtook them was befitting their crime. As

their sensual desires had made them hot, and inflamed them to

immoral excesses, so they were chastised by means of heated


Not even in the hour of the death struggle could the sinners

suppress their vile instincts. When the water began to stream up

out of the springs, they threw their little children into them,

to choke the flood.[27]

It was by the grace of God, not on account of his merits, that

Noah found shelter in the ark before the overwhelming force of

the waters.[28] Although he was better than his contemporaries,

he was yet not worthy of having wonders done for his sake. He had

so little faith that he did not enter the ark until the waters

had risen to his knees. With him his pious wife Naamah, the

daughter of Enosh, escaped the peril, and his three sons, and the

wives of his three sons."

Noah had not married until he was four hundred and ninety‑eight

years old. Then the Lord had bidden him to take a wife unto

himself. He had not desired to bring children into the world,

seeing that they would all have to perish in the flood, and he

had only three sons, born unto him shortly before the deluge

came.[30] God had given him so small a number of offspring that

he might be spared the necessity of building the ark on an

overlarge scale in case they turned out to be pious. And if not,

if they, too, were depraved like the rest of their generation,

sorrow over their destruction would but be increased in

proportion to their number.[31]

As Noah and his family were the only ones not to have a share in

the corruptness of the age, so the animals received into the ark

were such as had led a natural life. For the animals of the time

were as immoral as the men: the dog united with the wolf, the

cock with the pea‑fowl, and many others paid no heed to sexual

purity. Those that were saved were such as had kept themselves


Before the flood the number of unclean animals had been greater

than the number of the clean. Afterward the ratio was reversed,

because while seven pairs of clean animals were preserved in the

ark, but two pairs of the unclean were preserved.[33]

One animal, the reem, Noah could not take into the ark. On

account of its huge size it could not find room therein. Noah

therefore tied it to the ark, and it ran on behind.[34] Also, he

could not make space for the giant Og, the king of Bashan. He sat

on top of the ark securely, and in this way escaped the flood of

waters. Noah doled out his food to him daily, through a hole,

because Og had promised that he and his descendants would serve

him as slaves in perpetuity.[35]

Two creatures of a most peculiar kind also found refuge in the

ark. Among the beings that came to Noah there was Falsehood

asking for shelter. He was denied admission, because he had no

companion, and Noah was taking in the animals only by pairs.

Falsehood went off to seek a partner, and he met Misfortune, whom

he associated with himself on the condition that she might

appropriate what Falsehood earned. The pair were then accepted in

the ark. When they left it, Falsehood noticed that whatever he

gathered together disappeared at once, and he betook himself to

his companion to seek an explanation, which she gave him in the

following words, "Did we not agree to the condition that I might

take what you earn?" and Falsehood had to depart empty‑handed."


The assembling of the animals in the ark was but the smaller part

of the task imposed upon Noah. His chief difficulty was to

provide food for a year and accommodations for them. Long

afterward Shem, the son of Noah, related to Eliezer, the servant

of Abraham, the tale of their experiences with the animals in the

ark. This is what he said: "We had sore troubles in the ark. The

day animals had to be fed by day, and the night animals by night.

My father knew not what food to give to the little zikta. Once he

cut a pomegranate in half, and a worm dropped out of the fruit,

and was devoured by the zikta. Thenceforth my father would knead

bran, and let it stand until it bred worms, which were fed to the

animal. The lion suffered with a fever all the time, and

therefore he did not annoy the others, because he did not relish

dry food. The animal urshana my father found sleeping in a corner

of the vessel, and he asked him whether he needed nothing to eat.

He answered, and said: 'I saw thou wast very busy, and I did not

wish to add to thy cares.' Whereupon my father said, 'May it be

the will of the Lord to keep thee alive forever,' and the

blessing was realized."[37]

The difficulties were increased when the flood began to toss the

ark from side to side. All inside of it were shaken up like

lentils in a pot. The lions began to roar, the oxen lowed, the

wolves howled, and all the animals gave vent to their agony, each

through the sounds it had the power to utter.

Also Noah and his sons, thinking that death was nigh, broke into

tears. Noah prayed to God: "O Lord, help us, for we are not able

to bear the evil that encompasses us. The billows surge about us,

the streams of destruction make us afraid, and death stares us in

the face. O hear our prayer, deliver us, incline Thyself unto us,

and be gracious unto us! Redeem us and save us!"[38]

The flood was produced by a union of the male waters, which are

above the firmament, and the female waters issuing from the

earth.[39] The upper waters rushed through the space left when

God removed two stars out of the constellation Pleiades.

Afterward, to put a stop to the flood, God had to transfer two

stars from the constellation of the Bear to the constellation of

the Pleiades. That is why the Bear runs after the Pleiades. She

wants her two children back, but they will be restored to her

only in the future world.[40]

There were other changes among the celestial spheres during the

year of the flood. All the time it lasted, the sun and the moon

shed no light, whence Noah was called by his name, "the resting

one," for in his life the sun and the moon rested. The ark was

illuminated by a precious stone, the light of which was more

brilliant by night than by day, so enabling Noah to distinguish

between day and night.[41]

The duration of the flood was a whole year. It began on the

seventeenth day of Heshwan, and the rain continued for forty

days, until the twenty‑seventh of Kislew. The punishment

corresponded to the crime of the sinful generation. They had led

immoral lives, and begotten bastard children, whose embryonic

state lasts forty days. From the twenty seventh of Kislew until

the first of Siwan, a period of one hundred and fifty days, the

water stood at one and the same height, fifteen ells above the

earth. During that time all the wicked were destroyed, each one

receiving the punishment due to him.[42] Cain was among those

that perished, and thus the death of Abel was avenged.[43] So

powerful were the waters in working havoc that the corpse of Adam

was not spared in its grave.[44]

On the first of Siwan the waters began to abate, a quarter of an

ell a day, and at the end of sixty days, on the tenth day of Ab,

the summits of the mountains showed themselves. But many days

before, on the tenth of Tammuz, Noah had sent forth the raven,

and a week later the dove, on the first of her three sallies,

repeated at intervals of a week. It took from the first of Ab

until the first of Tishri for the waters to subside wholly from

the face of the earth. Even then the soil was so miry that the

dwellers in the ark had to remain within until the twenty‑seventh

day of Heshwan, completing a full sun year, consisting of twelve

moons and eleven days.[45]

Noah had experienced difficulty all along in ascertaining the

state of the waters. When he desired to dispatch the raven, the

bird said: "The Lord, thy Master, hates me, and thou dost hate

me, too. Thy Master hates me, for He bade thee take seven pairs

of the clean animals into the ark, and but two pairs of the

unclean animals, to which I belong. Thou hatest me, for thou dost

not choose, as a messenger, a bird of one of the kinds of which

there are seven pairs in the ark, but thou sendest me, and of my

kind there is but one pair. Suppose, now, I should perish by

reason of heat or cold, would not the world be the poorer by a

whole species of animals? Or can it be that thou hast cast a

lustful eye upon my mate, and desirest to rid thyself of me?"

Where unto Noah made answer, and said: "Wretch! I must live apart

from my own wife in the ark. How much less would such thoughts

occur to my mind as thou imputest to me!"[46]

The raven's errand had no success, for when he saw the body of a

dead man, he set to work to devour it, and did not execute the

orders given to him by Noah. Thereupon the dove was sent out.

Toward evening she returned with an olive leaf in her bill,

plucked upon the Mount of Olives at Jerusalem, for the Holy Land

had not been ravaged by the deluge. As she plucked it, she said

to God: "O Lord of the world, let my food be as bitter as the

olive, but do Thou give it to me from Thy hand, rather than it

should be sweet, and I be delivered into the power of men."[47]


Though the earth assumed its old form at the end of the year of

punishment, Noah did not abandon the ark until he received the

command of God to leave it. He said to himself, "As I entered the

ark at the bidding of God, so I will leave it only at His

bidding." Yet, when God bade Noah go out of the ark, he refused,

because he feared that after he had lived upon the dry land for

some time, and begotten children, God would bring another flood.

He therefore would not leave the ark until God swore He would

never visit the earth with a flood again.[48]

When he stepped out from the ark into the open, he began to weep

bitterly at sight of the enormous ravages wrought by the flood,

and he said to God: "O Lord of the world! Thou art called the

Merciful, and Thou shouldst have had mercy upon Thy creatures."

God answered, and said: "O thou foolish shepherd, now thou

speakest to Me. Thou didst not so when I addressed kind words to

thee, saying: 'I saw thee as a righteous man and perfect in thy

generation, and I will bring the flood upon the earth to destroy

all flesh. Make an ark for thyself of gopher wood.' Thus spake I

to thee, telling thee all these circumstances, that thou mightest

entreat mercy for the earth. But thou, as soon as thou didst hear

that thou wouldst be rescued in the ark, thou didst not concern

thyself about the ruin that would strike the earth. Thou didst

but build an ark for thyself, in which thou wast saved. Now that

the earth is wasted, thou openest thy mouth to supplicate and


Noah realized that he had been guilty of folly. To propitiate God

and acknowledge his sin, he brought a sacrifice.[49] God accepted

the offering with favor, whence he is called by his name

Noah.[50] The sacrifice was not offered by Noah with his own

hands; the priestly services connected with it were performed by

his son Shem. There was a reason for this. One day in the ark

Noah forgot to give his ration to the lion, and the hungry beast

struck him so violent a blow with his paw that he was lame

forever after, and, having a bodily defect, he was not permitted

to do the offices of a priest.[51]

The sacrifices consisted of an ox, a sheep, a goat, two turtle

doves, and two young pigeons. Noah had chosen these kinds because

he supposed they were appointed for sacrifices, seeing that God

had commanded him to take seven pairs of them into the ark with

him. The altar was erected in the same place on which Adam and

Cain and Abel had brought their sacrifices, and on which later

the altar was to be in the sanctuary at Jerusalem.[52]

After the sacrifice was completed, God blessed Noah and his sons.

He made them to be rulers of the world as Adam had been,[53] and

He gave them a command, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply upon

the earth," for during their sojourn in the ark, the two sexes,

of men and animals alike, had lived apart from each other,

because while a public calamity rages continence is becoming even

to those who are left unscathed. This law of conduct had been

violated by none in the ark except by Ham, by the dog, and by the

raven. They all received a punishment. Ham's was that his

descendants were men of dark‑hued skin.[54]

As a token that He would destroy the earth no more, God set His

bow in the cloud. Even if men should be steeped in sin again, the

bow proclaims to them that their sins will cause no harm to the

world. Times came in the course of the ages when men were pious

enough not to have to live in dread of punishment. In such times

the bow was not visible.[55]

God accorded permission to Noah and his descendants to use the

flesh of animals for food, which had been forbidden from the time

of Adam until then. But they were to abstain from the use of

blood. He ordained the seven Noachian laws, the observance of

which is incumbent upon all men, not upon Israel alone. God

enjoined particularly the command against the shedding of human

blood. Whoso would shed man's blood, his blood would be shed.

Even if human judges let the guilty man go free, his punishment

would overtake him. He would die an unnatural death, such as he

had inflicted upon his fellow‑man. Yea, even beasts that slew

men, even of them would the life of men be required.[56]


Noah lost his epithet "the pious" when he began to occupy himself

with the growing of the vine. He became a "man of the ground,"

and this first attempt to produce wine at the same time produced

the first to drink to excess, the first to utter curses upon his

associates, and the first to introduce slavery. This is the way

it all came about. Noah found the vine which Adam had taken with

him from Paradise, when he was driven forth. He tasted the grapes

upon it, and, finding them palatable, he resolved to plant the

vine and tend it.[57] On the selfsame day on which he planted it,

it bore fruit, he put it in the wine‑press, drew off the juice,

drank it, became drunken, and was dishonored‑‑all on one day. His

assistant in the work of cultivating the vine was Satan, who had

happened along at the very moment when he was engaged in planting

the slip he had found. Satan asked him: "What is it thou art

planting here?"

Noah: "A vineyard."

Satan: "And what may be the qualities of what it produces?"

Noah: "The fruit it bears is sweet, be it dry or moist. It yields

wine that rejoiceth the heart of man."

Satan: "Let us go into partnership in this business of planting a


Noah: "Agreed!"

Satan thereupon slaughtered a lamb, and then, in succession, a

lion, a pig, and a monkey. The blood of each as it was killed he

made to flow under the vine. Thus he conveyed to Noah what the

qualities of wine are: before man drinks of it, he is innocent as

a lamb; if he drinks of it moderately, he feels as strong as a

lion; if he drinks more of it than he can bear, he resembles the

pig; and if he drinks to the point of intoxication, then he

behaves like a monkey, he dances around, sings, talks obscenely,

and knows not what he is doing.[58]

This deterred Noah no more than did the example of Adam, whose

fall had also been due to wine, for the forbidden fruit had been

the grape, with which he had made himself drunk.[59]

In his drunken condition Noah betook himself to the tent of his

wife. His son Ham saw him there, and he told his brothers what he

had noticed, and said: "The first man had but two sons, and one

slew the other; this man Noah has three sons, yet he desires to

beget a fourth besides." Nor did Ham rest satisfied with these

disrespectful words against his father. He added to this sin of

irreverence the still greater outrage of attempting to perform an

operation upon his father designed to prevent procreation.

When Noah awoke from his wine and became sober, he pronounced a

curse upon Ham in the person of his youngest son Canaan. To Ham

himself he could do no harm, for God had conferred a blessing

upon Noah and his three sons as they departed from the ark.

Therefore he put the curse upon the last‑born son of the son that

had prevented him from begetting a younger son than the three he

had." The descendants of Ham through Canaan therefore have red

eyes, because Ham looked upon the nakedness of his father; they

have misshapen lips, because Ham spoke with his lips to his

brothers about the unseemly condition of his father; they have

twisted curly hair, because Ham turned and twisted his head round

to see the nakedness of his father; and they go about naked,

because Ham did not cover the nakedness of his father. Thus he

was requited, for it is the way of God to mete out punishment

measure for measure.

Canaan had to suffer vicariously for his father's sin. Yet some

of the punishment was inflicted upon him on his own account, for

it had been Canaan who had drawn the attention of Ham to Noah's

revolting condition. Ham, it appears, was but the worthy father

of such a son.[61] The last will and testament of Canaan

addressed to his children read as follows: "Speak not the truth;

hold not yourselves aloof from theft; lead a dissolute life; hate

your master with an exceeding great hate; and love one


As Ham was made to suffer requital for his irreverence, so Shem

and Japheth received a reward for the filial, deferential way in

which they took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders,

and walking backward, with averted faces, covered the nakedness

of their father. Naked the descendants of Ham, the Egyptians and

Ethiopians, were led away captive and into exile by the king of

Assyria, while the descendants of Shem, the Assyrians, even when

the angel of the Lord burnt them in the camp, were not exposed,

their garments remained upon their corpses unsinged. And in time

to come, when Gog shall suffer his defeat, God will provide both

shrouds and a place of burial for him and all his multitude, the

posterity of Japheth.

Though Shem and Japheth both showed themselves to be dutiful and

deferential, yet it was Shem who deserved the larger meed of

praise. He was the first to set about covering his father.

Japheth joined him after the good deed had been begun. Therefore

the descendants of Shem received as their special reward the

tallit, the garment worn by them, while the Japhethites have only

the toga.[63] A further distinction accorded to Shem was the

mention of his name in connection with God's in the blessing of

Noah. "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem," he said, though as

a rule the name of God is not joined to the name of a living

person, only to the name of one who has departed this life.[64]

The relation of Shem to Japheth was expressed in the blessing

their father pronounced upon them: God will grant a land of

beauty to Japheth, and his sons will be proselytes dwelling in

the academies of Shem.[65] At the same time Noah conveyed by his

words that the Shekinah would dwell only in the first Temple,

erected by Solomon, a son of Shem, and not in the second Temple,

the builder of which would be Cyrus, a descendant of Japheth.[66]


When it became known to Ham that his father had cursed him, he

fled ashamed, and with his family he settled in the city built by

him, and named Neelatamauk for his wife. Jealous of his brother,

Japheth followed his example. He likewise built a city which he

named for his wife, Adataneses. Shem was the only one of the sons

of Noah who did not abandon him. In the vicinity of his father's

home, by the mountain, he built his city, to which he also gave

his wife's name, Zedeketelbab. The three cities are all near

Mount Lubar, the eminence upon which the ark rested. The first

lies to the south of it, the second to the west, and the third to

the east.

Noah endeavored to inculcate the ordinances and the commands

known to him upon his children and his children's children. In

particular he admonished them against the fornication, the

uncleanness, and all the iniquity which had brought the flood

down upon the earth. He reproached them with living apart from

one another, and with their jealousies, for he feared that, after

his death, they might go so far as to shed human blood. Against

this he warned them impressively, that they be not annihilated

from the earth like those that went before. Another law which he

enjoined upon them, to observe it, was the law ordaining that the

fruit of a tree shall not be used the first three years it bears,

and even in the fourth year it shall be the portion of the

priests alone, after a part thereof has been offered upon the

altar of God. And having made an end of giving his teachings and

injunctions, Noah said: "For thus did Enoch, your ancestor,

exhort his son Methuselah, and Methuselah his son Lamech, and

Lamech delivered all unto me as his father had bidden him, and

now I do exhort you, my children, as Enoch exhorted his son. When

he lived, in his generation, which was the seventh generation of

man, he commanded it and testified it unto his children and his

children's children, until the day of his death."[67]

In the year 1569 after the creation of the world, Noah divided

the earth by lot among his three sons, in the presence of an

angel. Each one stretched forth his hand and took a slip from the

bosom of Noah. Shem's slip was inscribed with the middle of the

earth, and this portion became the inheritance of his descendants

unto all eternity. Noah rejoiced that the lot had assigned it to

Shem. Thus was fulfilled his blessing upon him, "And God in the

habitation of Shem," for three holy places fell within his

precincts‑‑the Holy of Holies in the Temple, Mount Sinai, the

middle point of the desert, and Mount Zion, the middle point of

the navel of the earth.

The south fell to the lot of Ham, and the north became the

inheritance of Japheth. The land of Ham is hot, Japheth's cold,

but Shem's is neither hot nor cold, its temperature is hot and

cold mixed.[68]

This division of the earth took place toward the end of the life

of Peleg, the name given to him by his father Eber, who, being a

prophet, knew that the division of the earth would take place in

the time of his son.[69] The brother of Peleg was called Joktan,

because the duration of the life of man was shortened in his


In turn, the three sons of Noah, while they were still standing

in the presence of their father, divided each his portion among

his children, Noah threatening with his curse any who should

stretch out his hand to take a portion not assigned to him by

lot. And they all cried, "So be it! So be it!"[71]

Thus were divided one hundred and four lands and ninety‑nine

islands among seventy‑two nations, each with a language of its

own, using sixteen different sets of characters for writing. To

Japheth were allotted forty‑four lands, thirty‑three islands,

twenty‑two languages, and five kinds of writing; Ham received

thirty‑four lands, thirty‑three islands, twenty‑four languages,

and five kinds of writing; and Shem twenty‑six lands,

thirty‑three islands, twenty‑six languages, and six kinds of

writing‑‑one set of written characters more to Shem than to

either of his brothers, the extra set being the Hebrew.[72]

The land appointed as the inheritance of the twelve sons of Jacob

was provisionally granted to Canaan, Zidon, Heth, the Jebusites,

the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the

Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. It was

the duty of these nations to take care of the land until the

rightful owners should come.[73]

No sooner had the children of Noah and their children's children

taken possession of the habitations apportioned to them, than the

unclean spirits began to seduce men and torment them with pain

and all sorts of suffering leading to spiritual and physical

death. Upon the entreaties of Noah God sent down the angel

Raphael, who banished nine‑tenths of the unclean spirits from the

earth, leaving but one‑tenth for Mastema, to punish sinners

through them. Raphael, supported by the chief of the unclean

spirits, at that time revealed to Noah all the remedies residing

in plants, that he might resort to them at need. Noah recorded

them in a book, which he transmitted to his son Shem.[74] This is

the source to which go back all the medical books whence the wise

men of India, Aram, Macedonia, and Egypt draw their knowledge.

The sages of India devoted themselves particularly to the study

of curative trees and spices; the Arameans were well versed in

the knowledge of the properties of grains and seeds, and they

translated the old medical books into their language. The wise

men of Macedonia were the first to apply medical knowledge

practically, while the Egyptians sought to effect cures by means

of magic arts and by means of astrology, and they taught the

Midrash of the Chaldees, composed by Kangar, the son of Ur, the

son of Kesed. Medical skill spread further and further until the

time of aesculapius. This Macedonian sage, accompanied by forty

learned magicians, journeyed from country to country, until they

came to the land beyond India, in the direction of Paradise. They

hoped there to find some wood of the tree of life, and thus

spread their fame abroad over the whole world. Their hope was

frustrated. When they arrived at the spot, they found healing

trees and wood of the tree of life, but when they were in the act

of stretching forth their hands to gather what they desired,

lightning darted out of the ever‑turning sword, smote them to the

ground, and they were all burnt. With them disappeared all

knowledge of medicine, and it did not revive until the time of

the first Artaxerxes, under the Macedonian sage Hippocrates,

Dioscorides of Baala, Galen of Caphtor, and the Hebrew Asaph.[75]


With the spread of mankind corruption increased. While Noah was

still alive, the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth appointed

princes over each of the three groups‑ Nimrod for the descendants

of Ham, Joktan for the descendants of Shem, and Phenech for the

descendants of Japheth. Ten years before Noah's death, the number

of those subject to the three princes amounted to millions. When

this great concourse of men came to Babylonia upon their

journeyings, they said to one another: "Behold, the time is

coming when, at the end of days, neighbor will be separated from

neighbor, and brother from brother, and one will carry on war

against the other. Go to, let us build us a city, and a tower,

whose top may reach unto heaven, and let us make us a great name

upon the earth. And now let us make bricks, and each one write

his name upon his brick." All agreed to this proposal, with the

exception of twelve pious men, Abraham among them. They refused

to join the others. They were seized by the people, and brought

before the three princes, to whom they gave the following reason

for their refusal: "We will not make bricks, nor remain with you,

for we know but one God, and Him we serve; even if you burn us in

the fire together with the bricks, we will not walk in your

ways." Nimrod and Phenech flew into such a passion over the

twelve men that they resolved to throw them into the fire.

Joktan, however, besides being a God‑fearing man, was of close

kin to the men on trial, and he essayed to save them. He proposed

to his two colleagues to grant them a seven days' respite. His

plan was accepted, such deference being paid him as the primate

among the three. The twelve were incarcerated in the house of

Joktan. In the night he charged fifty of his attendants to mount

the prisoners upon mules and take them to the mountains. Thus

they would escape the threatened punishment. Joktan provided them

with food for a month. He was sure that in the meantime either a

change of sentiment would come about, and the people desist from

their purpose, or God would help the fugitives. Eleven of the

prisoners assented to the plan with gratitude. Abraham alone

rejected it, saying: "Behold, to‑day we flee to the mountains to

escape from the fire, but if wild beasts rush out from the

mountains and devour us, or if food is lacking, so that we die by

famine, we shall be found fleeing before the people of the land

and dying in our sins. Now, as the Lord liveth, in whom I trust,

I will not depart from this place wherein they have imprisoned

me, and if I am to die through my sins, then will I die by the

will of God, according to His desire."

In vain Joktan endeavored to persuade Abraham to flee. He

persisted in his refusal. He remained behind alone in the prison

house, while the other eleven made their escape. At the

expiration of the set term, when the people returned and demanded

the death of the twelve captives, Joktan could produce only

Abraham. His excuse was that the rest had broken loose during the

night. The people were about to throw themselves upon Abraham and

cast him into the lime kiln. Suddenly an earthquake was felt, the

fire darted from the furnace, and all who were standing round

about, eighty four thousand of the people, were consumed, while

Abraham remained untouched. Thereupon he repaired to his eleven

friends in the mountains, and told them of the miracle that had

befallen for his sake. They all returned with him, and,

unmolested by the people, they gave praise and thanks to God.[76]


The first among the leaders of the corrupt men was Nimrod.[77]

His father Cush had married his mother at an advanced age, and

Nimrod, the offspring of this belated union, was particularly

dear to him as the son of his old age. He gave him the clothes

made of skins with which God had furnished Adam and Eve at the

time of their leaving Paradise. Cush himself had gained

possession of them through Ham. From Adam and Eve they had

descended to Enoch, and from him to Methuselah, and to Noah, and

the last had taken them with him into the ark. When the inmates

of the ark were about to leave their refuge, Ham stole the

garments and kept them concealed, finally passing them on to his

first‑born son Cush. Cush in turn hid them for many years. When

his son Nimrod reached his twentieth year, he gave them to

him.[78] These garments had a wonderful property. He who wore

them was both invincible and irresistible. The beasts and birds

of the woods fell down before Nimrod as soon as they caught sight

of him arrayed in them,[79] and he was equally victorious in his

combats with men.[80] The source of his unconquerable strength

was not known to them. They attributed it to his personal

prowess, and therefore they appointed him king over

themselves.[81] This was done after a conflict between the

descendants of Cush and the descendants of Japheth, from which

Nimrod emerged triumphant, having routed the enemy utterly with

the assistance of a handful of warriors. He chose Shinar as his

capital. Thence he extended his dominion farther and farther,

until he rose by cunning and force to be the sole ruler of the

whole world. the first mortal to hold universal sway, as the

ninth ruler to possess the same power will be the Messiah.[82]

His impiousness kept pace with his growing power. Since the flood

there had been no such sinner as Nimrod. He fashioned idols of

wood and stone, and paid worship to them. But not satisfied to

lead a godless life himself, he did all he could to tempt his

subjects into evil ways, wherein he was aided and abetted by his

son Mardon. This son of his outstripped his father in iniquity.

It was their time and their life that gave rise to the proverb,

"Out of the wicked cometh forth wickedness."[83]

The great success that attended all of Nimrod's undertakings

produced a sinister effect. Men no longer trusted in God, but

rather in their own prowess and ability,[84] an attitude to which

Nimrod tried to convert the whole world.[85] Therefore people

said, "Since the creation of the world there has been none like

Nimrod, a mighty hunter of men and beasts, and a sinner before


And not all this sufficed unto Nimrod's evil desire. Not enough

that he turned men away from God, he did all he could to make

them pay Divine honors unto himself. He set himself up as a god,

and made a seat for himself in imitation of the seat of God. It

was a tower built out of a round rock, and on it he placed a

throne of cedar wood, upon which arose, one above the other, four

thrones, of iron, copper, silver, and gold. Crowning all, upon

the golden throne, lay a precious stone, round in shape and

gigantic in size. This served him as a seat, and as he sate upon

it, all nations came and paid him Divine homage.[87]


The iniquity and godlessness of Nimrod reached their climax in

the building of the Tower of Babel. His counsellors had proposed

the plan of erecting such a tower, Nimrod had agreed to it, and

it was executed in Shinar by a mob of six hundred thousand men.

The enterprise was neither more nor less than rebellion against

God, and there were three sorts of rebels among the builders. The

first party spoke, Let us ascend into the heavens and wage

warfare with Him; the second party spoke, Let us ascend into the

heavens, set up our idols, and pay worship unto them there; and

the third party spoke, Let us ascend into the heavens, and ruin

them with our bows and spears.

Many, many years were passed in building the tower. It reached so

great a height that it took a year to mount to the top. A brick

was, therefore, more precious in the sight of the builders than a

human being. If a man fell down, and met his death, none took

notice of it, but if a brick dropped, they wept, because it would

take a year to replace it. So intent were they upon accomplishing

their purpose that they would not permit a woman to interrupt

herself in her work of brick‑making when the hour of travail came

upon her. Moulding bricks she gave birth to her child, and, tying

it round her body in a sheet, she went on moulding bricks.

They never slackened in their work, and from their dizzy height

they constantly shot arrows toward heaven, which, returning, were

seen to be covered with blood. They were thus fortified in their

delusion, and they cried, "We have slain all who are in heaven."

Thereupon God turned to the seventy angels who encompass His

throne, and He spake: "Go to, let us go down, and there confound

their language, that they may not understand one another's

speech." Thus it happened. Thenceforth none knew what the other

spoke. One would ask for the mortar, and the other handed him a

brick; in a rage, he would throw the brick at his partner and

kill him. Many perished in this manner, and the rest were

punished according to the nature of their rebellious conduct.

Those who had spoken, "Let us ascend into the heavens, set up our

idols, and pay worship unto them there," God transformed into

apes and phantoms; those who had proposed to assault the heavens

with their arms, God set against each other so that they fell in

the combat; and those who had resolved to carry on a combat with

God in heaven were scattered broadcast over the earth. As for the

unfinished tower, a part sank into the earth, and another part

was consumed by fire; only one‑third of it remained standing.[88]

The place of the tower has never lost its peculiar quality.

Whoever passes it forgets all he knows.[89]

The punishment inflicted upon the sinful generation of the tower

is comparatively lenient. On account of rapine the generation of

the flood were utterly destroyed, while the generation of the

tower were preserved in spite of their blasphemies and all their

other acts offensive to God. The reason is that God sets a high

value upon peace and harmony. Therefore the generation of the

deluge, who gave themselves up to depredation, and bore hatred to

one another, were extirpated, root and branch, while the

generation of the Tower of Babel dwelling amicably together, and

loving one another, were spared alive, at least a remnant of


Beside the chastisement of sin and sinners by the confounding of

speech, another notable circumstance was connected with the

descent of God upon earth‑‑one of only ten such descents to occur

between the creation of the world and the day of judgment. It was

on this occasion that God and the seventy angels that surround

His throne cast lots concerning the various nations. Each angel

received a nation, and Israel fell to the lot of God. To every

nation a peculiar language was assigned, Hebrew being reserved

for Israel‑ the language made use of by God at the creation of

the world.[91]








































Ten generations there were from Noah to Abraham, to show how

great is the clemency of God, for all the generations provoked

His wrath, until Abraham our father came and received the reward

of all of them.[1] For the sake of Abraham God had shown himself

long‑suffering and patient during the lives of these ten

generations. Yea, more, the world itself had been created for the

sake of his merits.[2] His advent had been made manifest to his

ancestor Reu, who uttered the following prophecy at the birth of

his son Serug: "From this child he shall be born in the fourth

generation that shall set his dwelling over the highest, and he

shall be called perfect and spotless, and shall be the father of

nations, and his covenant shall not be dissolved, and his seed

shall be multiplied forever."[3]

It was, indeed, high time that the "friend of God"[4] should make

his appearance upon earth. The descendants of Noah were sinking

from depravity to lower and lower depths of depravity. They were

beginning to quarrel and slay, eat blood, build fortified cities

and walls and towers, and set one man over the whole nation as

king, and wage wars, people against people, and nations against

nations, and cities against cities, and do all manner of evil,

and acquire weapons, and teach warfare unto their children. And

they began also to take captives and sell them as slaves. And

they made unto themselves molten images, which they worshipped,

each one the idol he had molten for himself, for the evil spirits

under their leader Mastema led them astray into sin and

uncleanness. For this reason Reu called his son Serug, because

all mankind had turned aside unto sin and transgression. When he

grew to manhood, the name was seen to have been chosen fittingly,

for he, too, worshipped idols, and when he himself had a son,

Nahor by name, he taught him the arts of the Chaldees, how to be

a soothsayer and practice magic according to signs in the

heavens. When, in time, a son was born to Nahor, Mastema sent

ravens and other birds to despoil the earth and rob men of the

proceeds of their work. As soon as they had dropped the seed in

the furrows, and before they could cover it over with earth, the

birds picked it up from the surface of the ground, and Nahor

called his son Terah, because the ravens and the other birds

plagued men, devoured their seed, and reduced them to



Terah married Emtelai, the daughter of Karnabo,[6] and the

offspring of their union was Abraham. His birth had been read in

the stars by Nimrod,[7] for this impious king was a cunning

astrologer, and it was manifest to him that a man would be born

in his day who would rise up against him and triumphantly give

the lie to his religion. In his terror at the fate foretold him

in the stars, he sent for his princes and governors, and asked

them to advise him in the matter. They answered, and said: "Our

unanimous advice is that thou shouldst build a great house,

station a guard at the entrance thereof, and make known in the

whole of thy realm that all pregnant women shall repair thither

together with their midwives, who are to remain with them when

they are delivered. When the days of a woman to be delivered are

fulfilled, and the child is born, it shall be the duty of the

midwife to kill it, if it be a boy. But if the child be a girl,

it shall be kept alive, and the mother shall receive gifts and

costly garments, and a herald shall proclaim, 'Thus is done unto

the woman who bears a daughter!' "

The king was pleased with this counsel, and he had a proclamation

published throughout his whole kingdom, summoning all the

architects to build a great house for him, sixty ells high and

eighty wide. After it was completed, he issued a second

proclamation, summoning all pregnant women thither, and there

they were to remain until their confinement. Officers were

appointed to take the women to the house, and guards were

stationed in it and about it, to prevent the women from escaping

thence. He furthermore sent midwives to the house, and commanded

them to slay the men children at their mothers' breasts. But if a

woman bore a girl, she was to be arrayed in byssus, silk, and

embroidered garments, and led forth from the house of detention

amid great honors. No less than seventy thousand children were

slaughtered thus. Then the angels appeared before God, and spoke,

"Seest Thou not what he doth, yon sinner and blasphemer, Nimrod

son of Canaarl, who slays so many innocent babes that have done

no harm?" God answered, and said: "Ye holy angels, I know it and

I see it, for I neither slumber nor sleep. I behold and I know

the secret things and the things that are revealed, and ye shall

witness what I will do unto this sinner and blasphemer, for I

will turn My hand against him to chastise him."[8]

It was about this time that Terah espoused the mother of Abraham,

and she was with child. When her body grew large at the end of

three months of pregnancy,[9] and her countenance became pale,

Terah said unto her, "What ails thee, my wife, that thy

countenance is so pale and thy body so swollen?" She answered,

and said, "Every year I suffer with this malady."[10] But Terah

would not be put off thus. He insisted: "Show me thy body. It

seems to me thou art big with child. If that be so, it behooves

us not to violate the command of our god Nimrod."[11] When he

passed his hand over her body, there happened a miracle. The

child rose until it lay beneath her breasts, and Terah could feel

nothing with his hands. He said to his wife, "Thou didst speak

truly," and naught became visible until the day of her delivery.

When her time approached, she left the city in great terror and

wandered toward the desert, walking along the edge of a

valley,[12] until she happened across a cave. She entered this

refuge, and on the next day she was seized with throes, and she

gave birth to a son. The whole cave was filled with the light of

the child's countenance as with the splendor of the sun, and the

mother rejoiced exceedingly. The babe she bore was our father


His mother lamented, and said to her son: "Alas that I bore thee

at a time when Nimrod is king. For thy sake seventy thousand men

children were slaughtered, and I am seized with terror on account

of thee, that he hear of thy existence, and slay thee. Better

thou shouldst perish here in this cave than my eye should behold

thee dead at my breast." She took the garment in which she was

clothed, and wrapped it about the boy. Then she abandoned him in

the cave, saying, "May the Lord be with thee, may He not fail

thee nor forsake thee."[13]


Thus Abraham was deserted in the cave, without a nurse, and he

began to wail. God sent Gabriel down to give him milk to drink,

and the angel made it to flow from the little finger of the

baby's right hand, and he sucked at it until he was ten days

old.[14] Then he arose and walked about, and he left the cave,

and went along the edge of the valley.[15] When the sun sank, and

the stars came forth, he said, "These are the gods!" But the dawn

came, and the stars could be seen no longer, and then he said, "I

will not pay worship to these, for they are no gods." Thereupon

the sun came forth, and he spoke, "This is my god, him will I

extol." But again the sun set, and he said, "He is no god," and

beholding the moon, he called her his god to whom he would pay

Divine homage. Then the moon was obscured, and he cried out:

"This, too, is no god! There is One who sets them all in


He was still communing with himself when the angel Gabriel

approached him and met him with the greeting, "Peace be with

thee," and Abraham returned, "With thee be peace," and asked,

"Who art thou?" And Gabriel answered, and said, "I am the angel

Gabriel, the messenger of God," and he led Abraham to a spring of

water near by, and Abraham washed his face and his hands and

feet, and he prayed to God, bowing down and prostrating himself.

Meantime the mother of Abraham thought of him in sorrow and

tears, and she went forth from the city to seek him in the cave

in which she had abandoned him. Not finding her son, she wept

bitterly, and said, "Woe unto me that I bore thee but to become a

prey of wild beasts, the bears and the lions and the wolves!" She

went to the edge of the valley, and there she found her son. But

she did not recognize him, for he had grown very large. She

addressed the lad, "Peace be with thee!" and he returned, "With

thee be peace!" and he continued, "Unto what purpose didst thou

come to the desert?" She replied, "I went forth from the city to

seek my son." Abraham questioned further, "Who brought thy son

hither?" and the mother replied thereto: "I had become pregnant

from my husband Terah, and when the days of my delivery were

fulfilled, I was in anxiety about my son in my womb, lest our

king come, the son of Canaan, and slay him as he had slain the

seventy thousand other men children. Scarcely had I reached the

cave in this valley when the throes of travailing seized me, and

I bore a son, whom I left behind in the cave, and I went home

again. Now am I come to seek him, but I find him not."

Abraham then spoke, "As to this child thou tellest of, how old

was it?"

The mother: "It was about twenty days old."

Abraham: "Is there a woman in the world who would forsake her

new‑born son in the desert, and come to seek him after twenty


The mother: "Peradventure God will show Himself a merciful God!"

Abraham: "I am the son whom thou hast come to seek in this


The mother: "My son, how thou art grown! But twenty days old, and

thou canst already walk, and talk with thy mouth!"[17]

Abraham: "So it is, and thus, O my mother, it is made known unto

thee that there is in the world a great, terrible, living, and

ever‑existing God, who doth see, but who cannot be seen. He is in

the heavens above, and the whole earth is full of His glory."

The mother: "My son, is there a God beside Nimrod?"

Abraham: "Yes, mother, the God of the heavens and the God of the

earth, He is also the God of Nimrod son of Canaan. Go, therefore,

and carry this message unto Nimrod."

The mother of Abraham returned to the city and told her husband

Terah how she had found their son. Terah, who was a prince and a

magnate in the house of the king, betook himself to the royal

palace, and cast himself down before the king upon his face. It

was the rule that one who prostrated himself before the king was

not permitted to lift up his head until the king bade him lift it

up. Nimrod gave permission to Terah to rise and state his

request. Thereupon Terah related all that had happened with his

wife and his son. When Nimrod heard his tale, abject fear seized

upon him, and he asked his counsellors and princes what to do

with the lad. They answered, and said: "Our king and our god!

Wherefore art thou in fear by reason of a little child? There are

myriads upon myriads of princes in thy realm,[18] rulers of

thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of

tens, and overseers without number. Let the pettiest of the

princes go and fetch the boy and put him in prison." But the king

interposed, "Have ye ever seen a baby of twenty days walking with

his feet, speaking with his mouth, and proclaiming with his

tongue that there is a God in heaven, who is One, and none beside

Him, who sees and is not seen?" All the assembled princes were

horror struck at these words.[19]

At this time Satan in human form appeared, clad in black silk

garb, and he cast himself down before the king. Nimrod said,

"Raise thy head and state thy request." Satan asked the king:

"Why art thou terrified, and why are ye all in fear on account of

a little lad? I will counsel thee what thou shalt do: Open thy

arsenal and give weapons unto all the princes, chiefs, and

governors, and unto all the warriors, and send them to fetch him

unto thy service and to be under thy dominion."

This advice given by Satan the king accepted and followed. He

sent a great armed host to bring Abraham to him. When the boy saw

the army approach him, he was sore afraid, and amid tears he

implored God for help. In answer to his prayer, God sent the

angel Gabriel to him, and he said: "Be not afraid and disquieted,

for God is with thee. He will rescue thee out of the hands of all

thine adversaries." God commanded Gabriel to put thick, dark

clouds between Abraham and his assailants. Dismayed by the heavy

clouds, they fled, returning to Nimrod, their king, and they said

to him, "Let us depart and leave this realm," and the king gave

money unto all his princes and his servants, and together with

the king they departed and journeyed to Babylon.[20]


Now Abraham, at the command of God, was ordered by the angel

Gabriel to follow Nimrod to Babylon. He objected that he was in

no wise equipped to undertake a campaign against the king, but

Gabriel calmed him with the words: "Thou needest no provision for

the way, no horse to ride upon, no warriors to carry on war with

Nimrod, no chariots, nor riders. Do thou but sit thyself upon my

shoulder, and I shall bear thee to Babylon."

Abraham did as he was bidden, and in the twinkling of an eye he

found himself before the gates of the city of Babylon.[21] At the

behest of the angel, he entered the city, and he called unto the

dwellers therein with a loud voice: "The Eternal, He is the One

Only God, and there is none beside. He is the God of the heavens,

and the God of the gods, and the God of Nimrod. Acknowledge this

as the truth, all ye men, women, and children. Acknowledge also

that I am Abraham His servant, the trusted steward of His house."

Abraham met his parents in Babylon, and also he saw the angel

Gabriel, who bade him proclaim the true faith to his father and

his mother. Therefore Abraham spake to them, and said: "Ye serve

a man of your own kind, and you pay worship to an image of

Nimrod. Know ye not that it has a mouth, but it speaks not; an

eye, but it sees not; an ear, but it hears not; nor does it walk

upon its feet, and there is no profit in it, either unto itself

or unto others?"

When Terah heard these words, he persuaded Abraham to follow him

into the house, where his son told him all that had happened‑‑how

in one day he had completed a forty days' journey. Terah

thereupon went to Nimrod and reported to him that his son Abraham

had suddenly appeared in Babylon.[22] The king sent for Abraham,

and he came before him with his father. Abraham passed the

magnates and the dignitaries until he reached the royal throne,

upon which he seized hold, shaking it and crying out with a loud

voice: "O Nimrod, thou contemptible wretch, that deniest the

essence of faith, that deniest the living and immutable God, and

Abraham His servant, the trusted steward of His house.

Acknowledge Him, and repeat after me the words: The Eternal is

God, the Only One, and there is none beside; He is incorporeal,

living, ever‑existing; He slumbers not and sleeps not, who hath

created the world that men might believe in Him. And confess also

concerning me, and say that I am the servant of God and the

trusted steward of His house."[23]

While Abraham proclaimed this with a loud voice, the idols fell

upon their faces, and with them also King Nimrod.[24] For a space

of two hours and a half the king lay lifeless, and when his soul

returned upon him, he spoke and said, "Is it thy voice, O

Abraham, or the voice of thy God?" And Abraham answered, and

said, "This voice is the voice of the least of all creatures

called into existence by God." Thereupon Nimrod said, "Verily,

the God of Abraham is a great and powerful God, the King of all

kings," and he commanded Terah to take his son and remove him,

and return again unto his own city, and father and son did as the

king had ordered.[25]


When Abraham attained the age of twenty years, his father Terah

fell ill. He spoke as follows to his sons Haran and Abraham, "I

adjure you by your lives, my sons, sell these two idols for me,

for I have not enough money to meet our expenses." Haran executed

the wish of his father, but if any one accosted Abraham, to buy

an idol from him, and asked him the price, he would answer,

"Three manehs," and then question in turn, "How old art thou?"

"Thirty years," the reply would be. "Thou art thirty years of

age, and yet thou wouldst worship this idol which I made but

to‑day?" The man would depart and go his way, and another would

approach Abraham, and ask, "How much is this idol?" and "Five

manehs" would be the reply, and again Abraham would put the

question, "How old art thou?"‑‑"Fifty years."‑‑"And dost thou who

art fifty years of age bow down before this idol which was made

but to‑day?" Thereupon the man would depart and go his way.

Abraham then took two idols, put a rope about their necks, and,

with their faces turned downward, he dragged them along the

ground, crying aloud all the time: "Who will buy an idol wherein

there is no profit, either unto itself or unto him that buys it

in order to worship it? It has a mouth, but it speaketh not;

eyes, but it seeth not; feet, but it walketh not; ears, but it

heareth not."

The people who heard Abraham were amazed exceedingly at his

words. As he went through the streets, he met an old woman who

approached him with the purpose of buying an idol, good and big,

to be worshipped and loved. "Old woman, old woman," said Abraham,

"I know no profit therein, either in the big ones or in the

little ones, either unto themselves or unto others. And," he

continued to speak to her, "what has become of the big image thou

didst buy from my brother Haran, to worship it?" "Thieves," she

replied, "came in the night and stole it, while I was still at

the bath." "If it be thus," Abraham went on questioning her, "how

canst thou pay homage to an idol that cannot save itself from

thieves, let alone save others, like thyself, thou silly old

woman, out of misfortune? How is it possible for thee to say that

the image thou worshippest is a god? If it be a god, why did it

not save itself out of the hands of those thieves? Nay, in the

idol there is no profit, either unto itself or unto him that

adores it."[26]

The old woman rejoined, "If what thou sayest be true, whom shall

I serve?" "Serve the God of all gods," returned Abraham, "the

Lord of lords, who hath created heaven and earth, the sea and all

therein‑‑the God of Nimrod and the God of Terah, the God of the

east, the west, the south, and the north. Who is Nimrod, the dog,

who calleth himself a god, that worship be offered unto him?"

Abraham succeeded in opening the eyes of the old woman, and she

became a zealous missionary for the true God. When she discovered

the thieves who had carried off her idol, and they restored it to

her, she broke it in pieces with a stone, and as she wended her

way through the streets, she cried aloud, "Who would save his

soul from destruction, and be prosperous in all his doings, let

him serve the God of Abraham." Thus she converted many men and

women to the true belief.

Rumors of the words and deeds of the old woman reached the king,

and he sent for her. When she appeared before him, he rebuked her

harshly, asking her how she dared serve any god but himself. The

old woman replied: "Thou art a liar, thou deniest the essence of

faith, the One Only God, beside whom there is no other god. Thou

livest upon His bounty, but thou payest worship to another, and

thou dost repudiate Him, and His teachings, and Abraham His


The old woman had to pay for her zeal for the faith with her

life. Nevertheless great fear and terror took possession of

Nimrod, because the people became more and more attached to the

teachings of Abraham, and he knew not how to deal with the man

who was undermining the old faith. At the advice of his princes,

he arranged a seven days' festival, at which all the people were

bidden to appear in their robes of state, their gold and silver

apparel. By such display of wealth and power he expected to

intimidate Abraham and bring him back to the faith of the king.

Through his father Terah, Nimrod invited Abraham to come before

him, that he might have the opportunity of seeing his greatness

and wealth, and the glory of his dominion, and the multitude of

his princes and attendants. But Abraham refused to appear before

the king. On the other hand, he granted his father's request that

in his absence he sit by his idols and the king's, and take care

of them.

Alone with the idols, and while he repeated the words, "The

Eternal He is God, the Eternal He is God!" he struck the king's

idols from their thrones, and began to belabor them with an axe.

With the biggest he started, and with the smallest he ended. He

hacked off the feet of one, and the other he beheaded. This one

had his eyes struck out, the other had his hands crushed.[27]

After all were mutilated, he went away, having first put the axe

into the hand of the largest idol.

The feast ended, the king returned, and when he saw all his idols

shivered in pieces, he inquired who had perpetrated the mischief.

Abraham was named as the one who had been guilty of the outrage,

and the king summoned him and questioned him as to his motive for

the deed. Abraham replied: "I did not do it; it was the largest

of the idols who shattered all the rest. Seest thou not that he

still has the axe in his hand? And if thou wilt not believe my

words, ask him and he will tell thee."


Now the king was exceedingly wroth at Abraham, and ordered him to

be cast into prison, where he commanded the warden not to give

him bread or water.[28] But God hearkened unto the prayer of

Abraham, and sent Gabriel to him in his dungeon. For a year the

angel dwelt with him, and provided him with all sorts of food,

and a spring of fresh water welled up before him, and he drank of

it. At the end of a year, the magnates of the realm presented

themselves before the king, and advised him to cast Abraham into

the fire, that the people might believe in Nimrod forever.

Thereupon the king issued a decree that all the subjects of the

king in all his provinces, men and women, young and old, should

bring wood within forty days, and he caused it to be thrown into

a great furnace and set afire.[29] The flames shot up to the

skies, and the people were sore afraid of the fire. Now the

warden of the prison was ordered to bring Abraham forth and cast

him in the flames. The warden reminded the king that Abraham had

not had food or drink a whole year, and therefore must be dead,

but Nimrod nevertheless desired him to step in front of the

prison and call his name. If he made reply, he was to be hauled

out to the pyre. If he had perished, his remains were to receive

burial, and his memory was to be wiped out henceforth.

Greatly amazed the warden was when his cry, "Abraham, art thou

alive?" was answered with "I am living." He questioned further,

"Who has been bringing thee food and drink all these many days?"

and Abraham replied: "Food and drink have been bestowed upon me

by Him who is over all things, the God of all gods and the Lord

of all lords, who alone doeth wonders, He who is the God of

Nimrod and the God of Terah and the God of the whole world. He

dispenseth food and drink unto all beings. He sees, but He cannot

be seen, He is in the heavens above, and He is present in all

places, for He Himself superviseth all things and provideth for


The miraculous rescue of Abraham from death by starvation and

thirst convinced the prison‑keeper of the truth of God and His

prophet Abraham, and he acknowledged his belief in both publicly.

The king's threat of death unless he recanted could not turn him

away from his new and true faith. When the hangman raised his

sword and set it at his throat to kill him, he exclaimed, "The

Eternal He is God, the God of the whole world as well as of the

blasphemer Nimrod." But the sword could not cut his flesh. The

harder it was pressed against his throat, the more it broke into


Nimrod, however, was not to be turned aside from his purpose, to

make Abraham suffer death by fire. One of the princes was

dispatched to fetch him forth. But scarcely did the messenger set

about the task of throwing him into the fire, when the flame

leapt forth from the furnace and consumed him. Many more attempts

were made to cast Abraham into the furnace, but always with the

same success‑ whoever seized him to pitch him in was himself

burnt, and a large number lost their lives. Satan appeared in

human shape, and advised the king to place Abraham in a catapult

and sling him into the fire. Thus no one would be required to

come near the flame. Satan himself constructed the catapult.

Having proved it fit three times by means of stones put in the

machine, they bound Abraham, hand and foot, and were about to

consign him to the flames. At that moment Satan, still disguised

in human shape, approached Abraham, and said, "If thou desirest

to deliver thyself from the fire of Nimrod, bow down before him

and believe in him." But Abraham rejected the tempter with the

words, "May the Eternal rebuke thee, thou vile, contemptible,

accursed blasphemer!" and Satan departed from him.

Then the mother of Abraham came to him and implored him to pay

homage to Nimrod and escape the impending misfortune. But he said

to her: "O mother, water can extinguish Nimrod's fire, but the

fire of God will not die out for evermore. Water cannot quench

it."[31] When his mother heard these words, she spake, "May the

God whom thou servest rescue thee from the fire of Nimrod!"

Abraham was finally placed in the catapult, and he raised his

eyes heavenward, and spoke, "O Lord my God, Thou seest what this

sinner purposes to do unto me!"[32] His confidence in God was

unshakable. When the angels received the Divine permission to

save him, and Gabriel approached him, and asked, "Abraham, shall

I save thee from the fire?" he replied, "God in whom I trust, the

God of heaven and earth, will rescue me," and God, seeing the

submissive spirit of Abraham, commanded the fire, "Cool off and

bring tranquillity to my servant Abraham."[33]

No water was needed to extinguish the fire. The logs burst into

buds, and all the different kinds of wood put forth fruit, each

tree bearing its own kind. The furnace was transformed into a

royal pleasance, and the angels sat therein with Abraham. When

the king saw the miracle, he said: "Great witchcraft! Thou makest

it known that fire hath no power over thee, and at the same time

thou showest thyself unto the people sitting in a pleasure

garden." But the princes of Nimrod interposed all with one voice,

"Nay, our lord, this is not witchcraft, it is the power of the

great God, the God of Abraham, beside whom there is no other god,

and we acknowledge that He is God, and Abraham is His servant."

All the princes and all the people believed in God at this hour,

in the Eternal, the God of Abraham, and they all cried out, "The

Lord He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there

is none else."[34]

Abraham was the superior, not only of the impious king Nimrod and

his attendants, but also of the pious men of his time, Noah,

Shem, Eber, and Asshur.[35] Noah gave himself no concern

whatsoever in the matter of spreading the pure faith in God. He

took an interest in planting his vineyard, and was immersed in

material pleasures. Shem and Eber kept in hiding, and as for

Asshur, he said, "How can I live among such sinners?" and

departed out of the land.[36] The only one who remained unshaken

was Abraham. "I will not forsake God," he said, and therefore God

did not forsake him, who had hearkened neither unto his father

nor unto his mother.

The miraculous deliverance of Abraham from the fiery furnace,

together with his later fortunes, was the fulfilment and

explanation of what his father Terah had read in the stars. He

had seen the star of Haran consumed by fire, and at the same time

fill and rule the whole world. The meaning was plain now. Haran

was irresolute in his faith, he could not decide whether to

adhere to Abraham or the idolaters. When it befell that those who

would not serve idols were cast into the fiery furnace, Haran

reasoned in this manner: "Abraham, being my elder, will be called

upon before me. If he comes forth out of the fiery trial

triumphant, I will declare my allegiance to him; otherwise I will

take sides against him." After God Himself had rescued Abraham

from death, and Haran's turn came to make his confession of

faith, he announced his adherence to Abraham. But scarcely had he

come near the furnace,[37] when he was seized by the flames and

consumed, because he was lacking in firm faith in God. Terah had

read the stars well, it now appeared: Haran was burnt, and his

daughter Sarah[38] became the wife of Abraham, whose descendants

fill the earth.[39] In another way the death of Haran was

noteworthy. It was the first instance, since the creation of the

world, of a son's dying while his father was still alive.[40]

The king, the princes, and all the people, who had been witnesses

of the wonders done for Abraham, came to him, and prostrated

themselves before him. But Abraham said: "Do not bow down before

me, but before God, the Master of the universe, who hath created

you. Serve Him and walk in His ways, for He it was who delivered

me from the flames, and He it is who hath created the soul and

the spirit of every human being, who formeth man in the womb of

his mother, and bringeth him into the world. He saveth from all

sickness those who put their trust in Him."

The king then dismissed Abraham, after loading him down with an

abundance of precious gifts, among them two slaves who had been

raised in the royal palace. 'Ogi was the name of the one, Eliezer

the name of the other. The princes followed the example of the

king, and they gave him silver, and gold, and gems. But all these

gifts did not rejoice the heart of Abraham so much as the three

hundred followers that joined him and became adherents of his



For a period of two years Abraham could devote himself

undisturbed to his chosen task of turning the hearts of men to

God and His teachings.[41] In his pious undertaking he was aided

by his wife Sarah, whom he had married in the meantime. While he

exhorted the men and sought to convert them, Sarah addressed

herself to the women.[42] She was a helpmeet worthy of Abraham.

Indeed, in prophetical powers she ranked higher than her

husband.[43] She was sometimes called Iscah, "the seer," on that


At the expiration of two years it happened that Nimrod dreamed a

dream. In his dream he found himself with his army near the fiery

furnace in the valley into which Abraham had been cast. A man

resembling Abraham stepped out of the furnace, and he ran after

the king with drawn sword, the king fleeing before him in terror.

While running, the pursuer threw an egg at Nimrod's head, and a

mighty stream issued therefrom, wherein the king's whole host was

drowned. The king alone survived, with three men. When Nimrod

examined his companions, he observed that they wore royal attire,

and in form and stature they resembled himself. The stream

changed back into an egg again, and a little chick broke forth

from it, and it flew up, settled upon the head of the king, and

put out one of his eyes.

The king was confounded in his sleep, and when he awoke, his

heart beat like a trip‑hammer, and his fear was exceeding great.

In the morning, when he arose, he sent and called for his wise

men and his magicians, and told them his dream. One of his wise

men, Anoko by name, stood up, and said: "Know, O king, this dream

points to the misfortune which Abraham and his descendants will

bring upon thee. A time will come when he and his followers will

make war upon thy army, and they will annihilate it. Thou and the

three kings, thy allies, will be the only ones to escape death.

But later thou wilt lose thy life at the hands of one of the

descendants of Abraham. Consider, O king, that thy wise men read

this fate of thine in the stars, fifty‑two years ago, at the

birth of Abraham. As long as Abraham liveth upon the ground, thou

shalt not be stablished, nor thy kingdom." Nimrod took Anoko's

words to heart, and dispatched some of his servants to seize

Abraham and kill him. It happened that Eliezer, the slave whom

Abraham had received as a present from Nimrod, was at that time

at the royal court. With great haste he sped to Abraham to induce

him to flee before the king's bailiffs. His master accepted his

advice, and took refuge in the house of Noah and Shem, where he

lay in hiding a whole month. The king's officers reported that

despite zealous efforts Abraham was nowhere to be found.

Thenceforth the king did not concern himself about Abraham.

When Terah visited his son in his hiding‑place, Abraham proposed

that they leave the land and take up their abode in Canaan, in

order to escape the pursuit of Nimrod. He said: "Consider that it

was not for thy sake that Nimrod overloaded thee with honors, but

for his own profit. Though he continue to confer the greatest of

benefactions upon thee, what are they but earthly vanity? for

riches and possessions profit not in the day of wrath and fury.

Hearken unto my voice, O my father, let us depart for the land of

Canaan, and serve the God that hath created thee, that it may be

well with thee."

Noah and Shem aided and abetted the efforts of Abraham to

persuade Terah, whereupon Terah consented to leave his country,

and he, and Abraham, and Lot, the son of Haran, departed for

Haran with their households. They found the land pleasant, and

also the inhabitants thereof, who readily yielded to the

influence of Abraham's humane spirit and his piety. Many of them

obeyed his precepts and became God‑fearing and good.[45]

Terah's resolve to quit his native land for the sake of Abraham

and take up his abode in strange parts, and his impulse to do it

before even the Divine call visited Abraham himself‑‑this the

Lord accounted a great merit unto Terah, and he was permitted to

see his son Abraham rule as king over the whole world. For when

the miracle happened, and Isaac was born unto his aged parents,

the whole world repaired to Abraham and Sarah, and demanded to

know what they had done that so great a thing should be

accomplished for them. Abraham told them all that had happened

between Nimrod and himself, how he had been ready to be burnt for

the glory of God, and how the Lord had rescued him from the

flames. In token of their admiration for Abraham and his

teachings, they appointed him to be their king, and in

commemoration of Isaac's wondrous birth, the money coined by

Abraham bore the figures of an aged husband and wife on the

obverse side, and of a young man and his wife on the reverse

side, for Abraham and Sarah both were rejuvenated at the birth of

Isaac, Abraham's white hair turned black, and the lines in

Sarah's face were smoothed out.

For many years Terah continued to live a witness of his son's

glory, for his death did not occur until Isaac was a youth of

thirty‑five.[46] And a still greater reward waited upon his good

deed. God accepted his repentance, and when he departed this

life, he entered into Paradise, and not into hell, though he had

passed the larger number of his days in sin. Indeed, it had been

his fault that Abraham came near losing his life at the hands of



Terah had been a high official at the court of Nimrod, and he was

held in great consideration by the king and his suite. A son was

born unto him whom he called Abram, because the king had raised

him to an exalted place. In the night of Abraham's birth, the

astrologers and the wise men of Nimrod came to the house of

Terah, and ate and drank, and rejoiced with him that night. When

they left the house, they lifted up their eyes toward heaven to

look at the stars, and they saw, and, behold, one great star came

from the east and ran athwart the heavens and swallowed up the

four stars at the four corners. They all were astonished at the

sight, but they understood this matter, and knew its import. They

said to one another: "This only betokens that the child that hath

been born unto Terah this night will grow up and be fruitful, and

he will multiply and possess all the earth, he and his children

forever, and he and his seed will slay great kings and inherit

their lands."

They went home that night, and in the morning they rose up early,

and assembled in their meeting‑house. They spake, and said to one

another: "Lo, the sight that we saw last night is hidden from the

king, it has not been made known to him, and should this thing

become known to him in the latter days, he will say to us, Why

did you conceal this matter from me? and then we shall all suffer

death. Now, let us go and tell the king the sight which we saw,

and the interpretation thereof, and we shall be clear from this

thing." And they went to the king and told him the sight they had

seen, and their interpretation thereof, and they added the advice

that he pay the value of the child to Terah, and slay the babe.

Accordingly, the king sent for Terah, and when he came, he spake

to him: "It hath been told unto me that a son was born to thee

yesternight, and a wondrous sign was observed in the heavens at

his birth. Now give me the boy, that we may slay him before evil

comes upon us from him, and I will give thee thy house full of

silver and gold in exchange for him." Terah answered: "This thing

which thou promisest unto me is like the words which a man spoke

to a mule, saying, 'I will give thee a great heap of barley, a

houseful thereof, on condition that I cut off thy head!' The mule

replied, 'Of what use will all the barley be to me, if thou

cuttest off my head? Who will eat it when thou givest it to me?'

Thus also do I say: What shall I do with silver and gold after

the death of my son? Who shall inherit me?" But when Terah saw

how the king's anger burned within him at these words, he added,

"Whatever the king desireth to do unto his servant, that let him

do, even my son is at the king's disposal, without value or

exchange, he and his two older brethren."

The king spake, however, saying, "I will purchase thy youngest

son for a price." And Terah made answer, "Let my king give me

three days' time to consider the matter and consult about it with

my family." The king agreed to this condition, and on the third

day he sent to Terah, saying, "Give me thy son for a price, as I

spoke unto thee, and if thou wilt not do this, I will send and

slay all thou hast in thy house, there shall not be a dog left

unto thee."

Then Terah took a child which his handmaid had borne unto him

that day, and he brought the babe to the king, and received value

for him, and the king took the child and dashed his head against

the ground, for he thought it was Abraham. But Terah took his son

Abraham, together with the child's mother and his nurse, and

concealed them in a cave, and thither he carried provisions to

them once a month, and the Lord was with Abraham in the cave, and

he grew up, but the king and all his servants thought that

Abraham was dead.

And when Abraham was ten years old, he and his mother and his

nurse went out from the cave, for the king and his servants had

forgotten the affair of Abraham.

In that time all the inhabitants of the earth, with the exception

of Noah and his household, transgressed against the Lord, and

they made unto themselves every man his god, gods of wood and

stone, which could neither speak, nor hear, nor deliver from

distress. The king and all his servants, and Terah with his.

household, were the first to worship images of wood and stone.

Terah made twelve gods of large size, of wood and of stone,

corresponding to the twelve months of the year, and he paid

homage to them monthly in turn.[48]


Once Abraham went into the temple of the idols in his father's

house, to bring sacrifices to them, and he found one of them,

Marumath by name, hewn out of stone, lying prostrate on his face

before the iron god of Nahor. The idol was too heavy for him to

raise it alone, and he called his father to help him put Marumath

back in his place. While they were handling the image, its head

dropped off, and Terah took a stone, and chiselled another

Marumath, setting the head of the first upon the new body. Then

Terah continued and made five more gods, and all these he

delivered to Abraham, and bade him sell them in the streets of

the city.

Abraham saddled his mule, and went to the inn where merchants

from Fandana in Syria put up on their way to Egypt. He hoped to

dispose of his wares there. When he reached the inn, one of the

camels belonging to the merchants belched, and the sound

frightened his mule so that it ran off pell‑mell and broke three

of the idols. The merchants not only bought the two sound idols

from him, they also gave him the price of the broken ones, for

Abraham had told them how distressed he was to appear before his

father with less money than he had expected to receive for his


This incident made Abraham reflect upon the worthlessness of

idols, and he said to himself: "What are these evil things done

by my father? Is not he the god of his gods, for do they not come

into being by reason of his carving and chiselling and

contriving? Were it not more seemly that they should pay worship

to him than he to them, seeing they are the work of his hands?"

Meditating thus, he reached his father's house, and he entered

and handed his father the money for the five images, and Terah

rejoiced, and said, "Blessed art thou unto my gods, because thou

didst bring me the price of the idols, and my labor was not in

vain." But Abraham made reply: "Hear, my father Terah, blessed

are thy gods through thee, for thou art their god, since thou

didst fashion them, and their blessing is destruction and their

help is vanity. They that help not themselves, how can they help

thee or bless me?"

Terah grew very wrathful at Abraham, that he uttered such speech

against his gods, and Abraham, thinking upon his father's anger,

left him and went from the house. But Terah called him back, and

said, "Gather together the chips of the oak wood from which I

made images before thou didst return, and prepare my dinner for

me." Abraham made ready to do his father's bidding, and as he

took up the chips he found a little god among them, whose

forehead bore the inscription "God Barisat." He threw the chips

upon the fire, and set Barisat up next to it, saying: "Attention!

Take care, Barisat, that the fire go not out until I come back.

If it burns low, blow into it, and make it flame up again."

Speaking thus, he went out. When he came in again, he found

Barisat lying prone upon his back, badly burnt. Smiling, he said

to himself, "In truth, Barisat, thou canst keep the fire alive

and prepare food," and while he spoke, the idol was consumed to

ashes. Then he took the dishes to his father, and he ate and

drank and was glad and blessed his god Marumath. But Abraham said

to his father, "Bless not thy god Marumath, but rather thy god

Barisat, for he it was who, out of his great love for thee, threw

himself into the fire that thy meal might be cooked." "Where is

he now?" exclaimed Terah, and Abraham answered, "He hath become

ashes in the fierceness of the fire." Terah said, "Great is the

power of Barisat! I will make me another this day, and to‑morrow

he will prepare my food for me."

These words of his father made Abraham laugh in his mind, but his

soul was grieved at his obduracy, and he proceeded to make clear

his views upon the idols, saying: "Father, no matter which of the

two idols thou blessest, thy behavior is senseless, for the

images that stand in the holy temple are more to be worshipped

than thine. Zucheus, the god of my brother Nahor, is more

venerable than Marumath, because he is made cunningly of gold,

and when he grows old, he will be worked over again. But when thy

Marumath becomes dim, or is shivered in pieces, he will not be

renewed, for he is of stone. And the god Joauv, who stands above

the other gods with Zucheus, is more venerable than Barisat, made

of wood, because he is hammered out of silver, and ornamented by

men, to show his magnificence. But thy Barisat, before thou didst

fashion him into a god with thy axe, was rooted in the earth,

standing there great and wonderful, with the glory of branches

and blossoms. Now he is dry, and gone is his sap. From his height

he has fallen to the earth, from grandeur he came to pettiness,

and the appearance of his face has paled away, and he himself was

burnt in the fire, and he was consumed unto ashes, and he is no

more. And thou didst then say, 'I will make me another this day,

and to‑morrow he will prepare my food for me.' Father," Abraham

continued, and said, "the fire is more to be worshipped than thy

gods of gold and silver and wood and stone, because it consumes

them. But also the fire I call not god, because it is subject to

the water, which quenches it. But also the water I call not god,

because it is sucked up by the earth, and I call the earth more

venerable, because it conquers the water. But also the earth I

call not god, because it is dried out by the sun, and I call the

sun more venerable than the earth, because he illumines the whole

world with his rays. But also the sun I call not god, because his

light is obscured when darkness cometh up. Nor do I call the moon

and the stars gods, because their light, too, is extinguished

when their time to shine is past. But hearken unto this, my

father Terah, which I will declare unto thee, The God who hath

created all things, He is the true God, He hath empurpled the

heavens, and gilded the sun, and given radiance to the moon and

also the stars, and He drieth out the earth in the midst of many

waters, and also thee hath He put upon the earth, and me hath He

sought out in the confusion of my thoughts."[49]


But Terah could not be convinced, and in reply to Abraham's

question, who the God was that had created heaven and earth and

the children of men, he took him to the hall wherein stood twelve

great idols and a large number of little idols, and pointing to

them he said, "Here are they who have made all thou seest on

earth, they who have created also me and thee and all men on the

earth," and he bowed down before his gods, and left the hall with

his son.

Abraham went thence to his mother, and he spoke to her, saying:

"Behold, my father has shown those unto me who made heaven and

earth and all the sons of men. Now, therefore, hasten and fetch a

kid from the flock, and make of it savory meat, that I may bring

it to my father's gods, perhaps I may thereby become acceptable

to them." His mother did according to his request, but when

Abraham brought the offering to the gods, he saw that they had no

voice, no hearing, no motion, and not one of them stretched forth

his hand to eat. Abraham mocked them, and said, "Surely, the

savory meat that I prepared doth not please you, or perhaps it is

too little for you! Therefore I will prepare fresh savory meat

to‑morrow, better and more plentiful than this, that I may see

what cometh therefrom." But the gods remained mute and without

motion before the second offering of excellent savory meat as

before the first offering, and the spirit of God came over

Abraham, and he cried out, and said: "Woe unto my father and his

wicked generation, whose hearts are all inclined to vanity, who

serve these idols of wood and stone, which cannot eat, nor smell,

nor hear, nor speak, which have mouths without speech, eyes

without sight, ears without hearing, hands without feeling, and

legs without motion!"

Abraham then took a hatchet in his hand, and broke all his

father's gods, and when he had done breaking them he placed the

hatchet in the hand of the biggest god among them all, and he

went out. Terah, having heard the crash of the hatchet on the

stone, ran to the room of the idols, and he reached it at the

moment when Abraham was leaving it, and when he saw what had

happened, he hastened after Abraham, and he said to him, "What is

this mischief thou hast done to my gods?" Abraham answered: "I

set savory meat before them, and when I came nigh unto them, that

they might eat, they all stretched out their hands to take of the

meat, before the big one had put forth his hand to eat. This one,

enraged against them on account of their behavior, took the

hatchet and broke them all, and, behold, the hatchet is yet in

his hands, as thou mayest see."

Then Terah turned in wrath upon Abraham, and he said: "Thou

speakest lies unto me! Is there spirit, soul, or power in these

gods to do all thou hast told me? Are they not wood and stone?

and have I not myself made them? It is thou that didst place the

hatchet in the hand of the big god, and thou sayest he smote them

all." Abraham answered his father, and said: "How, then, canst

thou serve these idols in whom there is no power to do anything?

Can these idols in which thou trustest deliver thee? Can they

hear thy prayers when thou callest upon them?" After having

spoken these and similar words, admonishing his father to mend

his ways and refrain from worshipping idols, he leapt up before

Terah, took the hatchet from the big idol, broke it therewith,

and ran away.

Terah hastened to Nimrod, bowed down before him, and besought him

to hear his story, about his son who had been born to him fifty

years back, and how he had done to his gods, and how he had

spoken. "Now, therefore, my lord and king," he said, "send for

him that he may come before thee, and do thou judge him according

to the law, that we may be delivered from his evil." When Abraham

was brought before the king, he told him the same story as he had

told Terah, about the big god who broke the smaller ones, but the

king replied, "Idols do neither speak, nor eat, nor move." Then

Abraham reproached him for worshipping gods that can do nothing,

and admonished him to serve the God of the universe. His last

words were, "If thy wicked heart will not hearken to my words, to

cause thee to forsake thy evil ways and serve the Eternal God,

then wilt thou die in shame in the latter days, thou, thy people,

and all that are connected with thee, who hear thy words, and

walk in thy evil ways."

The king ordered Abraham to be put into prison, and at the end of

ten days he caused all the princes and great men of the realm to

appear before him, and to them he put the case of Abraham. Their

verdict was that he should be burnt, and, accordingly, the king

had a fire prepared for three days and three nights, in his

furnace at Kasdim, and Abraham was to be carried thither from

prison to be burnt.

All the inhabitants of the land, about nine hundred thousand men,

and the women and the children besides, came to see what would be

done with Abraham. And when he was brought forth, the astrologers

recognized him, and they said to the king, "Surely, this is the

man whom we knew as a child, at whose birth the great star

swallowed the four stars. Behold, his father did transgress thy

command, and he made a mockery of thee, for he did bring thee

another child, and him didst thou kill."

Terah was greatly terrified, for he was afraid of the king's

wrath, and he admitted that he had deceived the king, and when

the king said, "Tell me who advised thee to do this. Hide naught,

and thou shalt not die," he falsely accused Haran, who had been

thirty‑two years old at the time of Abraham's birth, of having

advised him to deceive the king. At the command of the king,

Abraham and Haran, stripped of all their clothes except their

hosen, and their hands and feet bound with linen cords, were cast

into the furnace. Haran, because his heart was not perfect with

the Lord, perished in the fire, and also the men who cast them

into the furnace were burnt by the flames which leapt out over

them, and Abraham alone was saved by the Lord, and he was not

burnt, though the cords with which he was bound were consumed.

For three days and three nights Abraham walked in the midst of

the fire, and all the servants of the king came and told him,

"Behold, we have seen Abraham walking about in the midst of the


At first the king would not believe them, but when some of his

faithful princes corroborated the words of his servants, he rose

up and went to see for himself. He then commanded his servants to

take Abraham from the fire, but they could not, because the

flames leapt toward them from the furnace, and when they tried

again, at the king's command, to approach the furnace, the flames

shot out and burnt their faces, so that eight of their number

died. The king then called unto Abraham, and said: "O servant of

the God who is in heaven, go forth from the midst of the fire,

and come hither and stand before me," and Abraham came and stood

before the king. And the king spoke to Abraham, and said, "How

cometh it that thou wast not burnt in the fire?" And Abraham made

answer, "The God of heaven and earth in whom I trust, and who

hath all things in His power, He did deliver me from the fire

into which thou didst cast me."[51]


With ten temptations Abraham was tempted, and he withstood them

all, showing how great was the love of Abraham.[52] The first

test to which he was subjected was the departure from his native

land. The hardships were many and severe which he encountered,

and he was loth to leave his home, besides. He spoke to God, and

said, "Will not the people talk about me, and say, 'He is

endeavoring to bring the nations under the wings of the Shekinah,

yet he leaves his old father in Haran, and he goes away.' " But

God answered him, and said: "Dismiss all care concerning thy

father and thy kinsmen from thy thoughts. Though they speak words

of kindness to thee, yet are they all of one mind, to ruin


Then Abraham forsook his father in Haran, and journeyed to

Canaan, accompanied by the blessing of God, who said unto him, "I

will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make

thy name great." These three blessings were to counteract the

evil consequences which, he feared, would follow emigration, for

travelling from place to place interferes with the growth of the

family, it lessens one's substance, and it diminishes the

consideration one enjoys.[54] The greatest of all blessings,

however, was the word of God, "And be thou a blessing." The

meaning of this was that whoever came in contact with Abraham was

blessed. Even the mariners on the sea were indebted to him for

prosperous voyages.[55] Besides, God held out the promise to him

that in time to come his name would be mentioned in the

Benedictions, God would be praised as the Shield of Abraham, a

distinction accorded to no other mortal except David.[56] But the

words, "And be thou a blessing," will be fulfilled only in the

future world, when the seed of Abraham shall be known among the

nations and his offspring among the peoples as "the seed which

the Lord hath blessed."[57]

When Abraham first was bidden to leave his home, he was not told

to what land he was to journey‑‑all the greater would be his

reward for executing the command of God.[58] And Abraham showed

his trust in God, for he said, "I am ready to go whithersoever

Thou sendest me." The Lord then bade him go to a land wherein He

would reveal Himself, and when he went to Canaan later, God

appeared to him, and he knew that it was the promised land.[59]

On entering Canaan, Abraham did not yet know that it was the land

appointed as his inheritance. Nevertheless he rejoiced when he

reached it. In Mesopotamia and in Aramnaharaim, the inhabitants

of which he had seen eating, drinking, and acting wantonly, he

had always wished, "O that my portion may not be in this land,"

but when he came to Canaan, he observed that the people devoted

themselves industriously to the cultivation of the land, and he

said, "O that my portion may be in this land!" God then spoke to

him, and said, "Unto thy seed will I give this land."[60] Happy

in these joyous tidings, Abraham erected an altar to the Lord to

give thanks unto Him for the promise, and then he journeyed on,

southward, in the direction of the spot whereon the Temple was

once to stand. In Hebron he again erected an altar, thus taking

possession of the land in a measure. And likewise he raised an

altar in Ai, because he foresaw that a misfortune would befall

his offspring there, at the conquest of the land under Joshua.

The altar, he hoped, would obviate the evil results that might


Each altar raised by him was a centre for his activities as a

missionary. As soon as he came to a place in which he desired to

sojourn, he would stretch a tent first for Sarah, and next for

himself, and then he would proceed at once to make proselytes and

bring them under the wings of the Shekinah. Thus he accomplished

his purpose of inducing all men to proclaim the Name of God.[61]

For the present Abraham was but a stranger in his promised land.

After the partition of the earth among the sons of Noah, when all

had gone to their allotted portions, it happened that Canaan son

of Ham saw that the land extending from the Lebanon to the River

of Egypt was fair to look upon, and he refused to go to his own

allotment, westward by the sea. He settled in the land upon

Lebanon, eastward and westward from the border of the Jordan and

the border of the sea. And Ham, his father, and his brothers Cush

and Mizraim spoke to him, and said: "Thou livest in a land that

is not thine, for it was not assigned unto us when the lots were

drawn. Do not thus! But if thou persistest, ye, thou and thy

children, will fall, accursed, in the land, in a rebellion. Thy

settling here was rebellion, and through rebellion thy children

will be felled down, and thy seed will be destroyed unto all

eternity. Sojourn not in the land of Shem, for unto Shem and unto

the children of Shem was it apportioned by lot. Accursed art

thou, and accursed wilt thou be before all the children of Noah

on account of the curse, for we took an oath before the holy

Judge and before our father Noah."

But Canaan hearkened not unto the words of his father and his

brothers. He dwelt in the land of the Lebanon from Hamath even

unto the entrance of Egypt, he and his sons.[62] Though the

Canaanites had taken unlawful possession of the land, yet Abraham

respected their rights; he provided his camels with muzzles, to

prevent them from pasturing upon the property of others.[63]


Scarcely had Abraham established himself in Canaan, when a

devastating famine broke out‑‑one of the ten God appointed

famines for the chastisement of men. The first of them came in

the time of Adam, when God cursed the ground for his sake; the

second was this one in the time of Abraham; the third compelled

Isaac to take up his abode among the Philistines; the ravages of

the fourth drove the sons of Jacob into Egypt to buy grain for

food; the fifth came in the time of the Judges, when Elimelech

and his family had to seek refuge in the land of Moab; the sixth

occurred during the reign of David, and it lasted three years;

the seventh happened in the day of Elijah, who had sworn that

neither rain nor dew should fall upon the earth; the eighth was

the one in the time of Elisha, when an ass's head was sold for

fourscore pieces of silver; the ninth is the famine that comes

upon men piecemeal, from time to time; and the tenth will scourge

men before the advent of Messiah, and this last will be "not a

famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words

of the Lord."[64]

The famine in the time of Abraham prevailed only in Canaan, and

it had been inflicted upon the land in order to test his faith.

He stood this second temptation as he had the first. He murmured

not, and he showed no sign of impatience toward God, who had

bidden him shortly before to abandon his native land for a land

of starvation.[65] The famine compelled him to leave Canaan for a

time, and he repaired to Egypt, to become acquainted there with

the wisdom of the priests and, if necessary, give them

instruction in the truth.[66]

On this journey from Canaan to Egypt, Abraham first observed the

beauty of Sarah. Chaste as he was, he had never before looked at

her, but now, when they were wading through a stream, he saw the

reflection of her beauty in the water like the brilliance of the

sun.[67] Wherefore he spoke to her thus, "The Egyptians are very

sensual, and I will put thee in a casket that no harm befall me

on account of thee." At the Egyptian boundary, the tax collectors

asked him about the contents of the casket, and Abraham told them

he had barley in it. "No," they said, "it contains wheat." "Very

well," replied Abraham, "I am prepared to pay the tax on wheat."

The officers then hazarded the guess, "It contains pepper!"

Abraham agreed to pay the tax on pepper, and when they charged

him with concealing gold in the casket, he did not refuse to pay

the tax on gold, and finally on precious stones. Seeing that he

demurred to no charge, however high, the tax collectors, made

thoroughly suspicious, insisted upon his unfastening the casket

and letting them examine the contents. When it was forced open,

the whole of Egypt was resplendent with the beauty of Sarah. In

comparison with her, all other beauties were like apes compared

with men. She excelled Eve herself.[68] The servants of Pharaoh

outbid one another in seeking to obtain possession of her, though

they were of opinion that so radiant a beauty ought not to remain

the property of a private individual. They reported the matter to

the king,[69] and Pharaoh sent a powerful armed force to bring

Sarah to the palace,[70] and so bewitched was he by her charms

that those who had brought him the news of her coming into Egypt

were loaded down with bountiful gifts.[71]

Amid tears, Abraham offered up a prayer. He entreated God in

these words: "Is this the reward for my confidence in Thee? For

the sake of Thy grace and Thy lovingkindness, let not my hope be

put to shame."[72] Sarah also implored God, saying: "O God, Thou

didst bid my lord Abraham leave his home, the land of his

fathers, and journey to Canaan, and Thou didst promise him to do

good unto him if he fulfilled Thy commands. And now we have done

as Thou didst command us to do. We left our country and our

kindred, and we journeyed to a strange land, unto a people which

we knew not heretofore. We came hither to save our people from

starvation, and now hath this terrible misfortune befallen. O

Lord, help me and save me from the hand of this enemy, and for

the sake of Thy grace show me good."

An angel appeared unto Sarah while she was in the presence of the

king, to whom he was not visible, and he bade her take courage,

saying, "Fear naught, Sarah, for God hath heard thy prayer." The

king questioned Sarah as to the man in the company of whom she

had come to Egypt, and Sarah called Abraham her brother. Pharaoh

pledged himself to make Abraham great and powerful, to do for him

whatever she wished. He sent much gold and silver to Abraham, and

diamonds and pearls, sheep and oxen, and men slaves and women

slaves, and he assigned a residence to him within the precincts

of the royal palace.[73] In the love he bore Sarah, he wrote out

a marriage contract, deeding to her all he owned in the way of

gold and silver, and men slaves and women slaves, and the

province of Goshen besides, the province occupied in later days

by the descendants of Sarah, because it was their property. Most

remarkable of all, he gave her his own daughter Hagar as slave,

for he preferred to see his daughter the servant of Sarah to

reigning as mistress in another harem.[74]

His free‑handed generosity availed naught. During the night, when

he was about to approach Sarah, an angel appeared armed with a

stick, and if Pharaoh but touched Sarah's shoe to remove it from

her foot, the angel planted a blow upon his hand, and when he

grasped her dress, a second blow followed. At each blow he was

about to deal, the angel asked Sarah whether he was to let it

descend, and if she bade him give Pharaoh a moment to recover

himself, he waited and did as she desired. And another great

miracle came to pass. Pharaoh, and his nobles, and his servants,

the very walls of his house and his bed were afflicted with

leprosy, and he could not indulge his carnal desires.[75] This

night in which Pharaoh and his court suffered their well deserved

punishment was the night of the fifteenth of Nisan, the same

night wherein God visited the Egyptians in a later time in order

to redeem Israel, the descendants of Sarah.[76]

Horrified by the plague sent upon him, Pharaoh inquired how he

could rid himself thereof. He applied to the priests, from whom

he found out the true cause of his affliction, which was

corroborated by Sarah. He then sent for Abraham and returned his

wife to him, pure and untouched, and excused himself for what had

happened, saying that he had had the intention of connecting

himself in marriage with him, whom he had thought to be the

brother of Sarah.[77] He bestowed rich gifts upon the husband and

the wife, and they departed for Canaan, after a three months'

sojourn in Egypt.[78]

Arrived in Canaan they sought the same night‑shelters at which

they had rested before, in order to pay their accounts, and also

to teach by their example that it is not proper to seek new

quarters unless one is forced to it.[79]

Abraham's sojourn in Egypt was of great service to the

inhabitants of the country, because he demonstrated to the wise

men of the land how empty and vain their views were, and also he

taught them astronomy and astrology, unknown in Egypt before his



The Egyptian ruler, whose meeting with Abraham had proved so

untoward an event, was the first to bear the name Pharaoh. The

succeeding kings were named thus after him. The origin of the

name is connected with the life and adventures of Rakyon,

Have‑naught, a man wise, handsome, and poor, who lived in the

land of Shinar. Finding himself unable to support himself in

Shinar, he resolved to depart for Egypt, where he expected to

display his wisdom before the king, Ashwerosh, the son of 'Anam.

Perhaps he would find grace in the eyes of the king, who would

give Rakyon the opportunity of supporting himself and rising to

be a great man. When he reached Egypt, he learnt that it was the

custom of the country for the king to remain in retirement in his

palace, removed from the sight of the people. Only on one day of

the year he showed himself in public, and received all who had a

petition to submit to him. Richer by a disappointment, Rakyon

knew not how he was to earn a livelihood in the strange country.

He was forced to spend the night in a ruin, hungry as he was. The

next day he decided to try to earn something by selling

vegetables. By a lucky chance he fell in with some dealers in

vegetables, but as he did not know the customs of the country,

his new undertaking was not favored with good fortune. Ruffians

assaulted him, snatched his wares from him, and made a

laughing‑stock of him. The second night, which he was compelled

to spend in the ruin again, a sly plan ripened in his mind. He

arose and gathered together a crew of thirty lusty fellows. He

took them to the graveyard, and bade them, in the name of the

king, charge two hundred pieces of silver for every body they

buried. Otherwise interment was to be prevented. In this way he

succeeded in amassing great wealth within eight months. Not only

did he acquire silver, gold, and precious gems, but also he

attached a considerable force, armed and mounted, to his person.

On the day on which the king appeared among the people, they

began to complain of this tax upon the dead. They said: "What is

this thou art inflicting upon thy servants‑ permitting none to be

buried unless they pay thee silver and gold! Has a thing like

this come to pass in the world since the days of Adam, that the

dead should not be interred unless money be paid therefor! We

know well that it is the privilege of the king to take an annual

tax from the living. But thou takest tribute from the dead, too,

and thou exactest it day by day. O king, we cannot endure this

any longer, for the whole of the city is ruined thereby."

The king, who had had no suspicion of Rakyon's doings, fell into

a great rage when the people gave him information about them. He

ordered him and his armed force to appear before him. Rakyon did

not come empty‑handed. He was preceded by a thousand youths and

maidens, mounted upon steeds and arrayed in state apparel. These

were a present to the king. When he himself stepped before the

king, he delivered gold, silver, and diamonds to him in great

abundance, and a magnificent charger. These gifts and the display

of splendor did not fail of taking effect upon the king, and when

Rakyon, in well‑considered words and with a pliant tongue,

described the undertaking, he won not only the king to his side,

but also the whole court, and the king said to him, "No longer

shalt thou be called Rakyon, Have‑naught, but Pharaoh, Paymaster,

for thou didst collect taxes from the dead."

So profound was the impression made by Rakyon that the king, the

grandees, and the people, all together resolved to put the

guidance of the realm in the hands of Pharaoh. Under the

suzerainty of Ashwerosh he administered law and justice

throughout the year; only on the one day when he showed himself

to the people did the king himself give judgment and decide

cases. Through the power thus conferred upon him and through

cunning practices, Pharaoh succeeded in usurping royal authority,

and he collected taxes from all the inhabitants of Egypt.

Nevertheless he was beloved of the people, and it was decreed

that every ruler of Egypt should thenceforth bear the name



On his return from Egypt Abraham's relations to his own family

were disturbed by annoying circumstances. Strife developed

between the herdmen of his cattle and the herdmen of Lot's

cattle. Abraham furnished his herds with muzzles, but Lot made no

such provision, and when the shepherds that pastured Abraham's

flocks took Lot's shepherds to task on account of the omission,

the latter replied: "It is known of a surety that God said unto

Abraham, 'To thy seed will I give the land.' But Abraham is a

sterile mule. Never will he have children. On the morrow he will

die, and Lot will be his heir. Thus the flocks of Lot are but

consuming what belongs to them or their master." But God spoke:

"Verily, I said unto Abraham I would give the land unto his seed,

but only after the seven nations shall have been destroyed from

out of the land. To‑day the Canaanites are therein, and the

Perizzites. They still have the right of habitation."

Now, when the strife extended from the servants to the masters,

and Abraham vainly called his nephew Lot to account for his

unbecoming behavior, Abraham decided he would have to part from

his kinsman, though he should have to compel Lot thereto by

force. Lot thereupon separated himself not from Abraham alone,

but from the God of Abraham also, and he betook himself to a

district in which immorality and sin reigned supreme, wherefore

punishment overtook him, for his own flesh seduced him later unto


God was displeased with Abraham for not living in peace and

harmony with his own kindred, as he lived with all the world

beside. On the other hand, God also took it in ill part that

Abraham was accepting Lot tacitly as his heir, though He had

promised him, in clear, unmistakable words, "To thy seed will I

give the land." After Abraham had separated himself from Lot, he

received the assurance again that Canaan should once belong to

his seed, which God would multiply as the sand which is upon the

sea‑shore. As the sand fills the whole earth, so the offspring of

Abraham would be scattered over the whole earth, from end to end;

and as the earth is blessed only when it is moistened with water,

so his offspring would be blessed through the Torah, which is

likened unto water; and as the earth endures longer than metal,

so his offspring would endure forever, while the heathen would

vanish; and as the earth is trodden upon, so his offspring would

be trodden upon by the four kingdoms.[82]

The departure of Lot had a serious consequence, for the war waged

by Abraham against the four kings is intimately connected with

it. Lot desired to settle in the well‑watered circle of the

Jordan, but the only city of the plain that would receive him was

Sodom, the king of which admitted the nephew of Abraham out of

consideration for the latter.[83] The five impious kings planned

first to make war upon Sodom on account of Lot and then advance

upon Abraham.[84] For one of the five, Amraphel, was none other

than Nimrod, Abraham's enemy from of old. The immediate occasion

for the war was this: Chedorlaomer, one of Nimrod's generals,

rebelled against him after the builders of the tower were

dispersed, and he set himself up as king of Elam. Then he

subjugated the Hamitic tribes living in the five cities of the

plain of the Jordan, and made them tributary. For twelve years

they were faithful to their sovereign ruler Chedorlaomer, but

then they refused to pay the tribute, and they persisted in their

insubordination for thirteen years. Making the most of

Chedorlaomer's embarrassment, Nimrod led a host of seven thousand

warriors against his former general. In the battle fought between

Elam and Shinar, Nimrod suffered a disastrous defeat, he lost six

hundred of his army, and among the slain was the king's son

Mardon. Humiliated and abased, he returned to his country, and he

was forced to acknowledge the suzerainty of Chedorlaomer, who now

proceeded to form an alliance with Arioch king of Ellasar, and

Tidal, the king of several nations, the purpose of which was to

crush the cities of the circle of the Jordan. The united forces

of these kings, numbering eight hundred thousand, marched upon

the five cities, subduing whatever they encountered in their

course,[85] and annihilating the descendants of the giants.

Fortified places, unwalled cities, and flat, open country, all

fell in their hands.[86] They pushed on through the desert as far

as the spring issuing from the rock at Kadesh, the spot appointed

by God as the place of pronouncing judgment against Moses and

Aaron on account of the waters of strife. Thence they turned

toward the central portion of Palestine, the country of dates,

where they encountered the five godless kings, Bera, the villain,

king of Sodom; Birsha, the sinner, king of Gomorrah; Shinab, the

father‑hater, king of Admah; Shemeber, the voluptuary, king of

Zeboiim; and the king of Bela, the city that devours its

inhabitants. The five were routed in the fruitful Vale of Siddim,

the canals of which later formed the Dead Sea. They that remained

of the rank and file fled to the mountains, but the kings fell

into the slime pits and stuck there. Only the king of Sodom was

rescued, miraculously, for the purpose that he might convert

those heathen to faith in God that had not believed in the

wonderful deliverance of Abraham from the fiery furnace.[87]

The victors despoiled Sodom of all its goods and victuals, and

took Lot, boasting, "We have taken the son of Abraham's brother

captive," so betraying the real object of their undertaking;

their innermost desire was to strike at Abraham.[88]

It was on the first evening of the Passover, and Abraham was

eating of the unleavened bread,[89] when the archangel Michael

brought him the report of Lot's captivity. This angel bears

another name besides, Palit, the escaped, because when God threw

Samael and his host from their holy place in heaven, the

rebellious leader held on to Michael and tried to drag him along

downward, and Michael escaped falling from heaven only through

the help of God.[90]

When the report of his nephew's evil state reached Abraham, he

straightway dismissed all thought of his dissensions with Lot

from his mind, and only considered ways and means of

deliverance.[91] He convoked his disciples to whom he had taught

the true faith, and who all called themselves by the name

Abraham.[92] He gave them gold and silver, saying at the same

time: "Know that we go to war for the purpose of saving human

lives. Therefore, do ye not direct your eyes upon money, here lie

gold and silver before you." Furthermore he admonished them in

these words: "We are preparing to go to war. Let none join us who

hath committed a trespass, and fears that Divine punishment will

descend upon him." Alarmed by his warning, not one would obey his

call to arms, they were fearful on account of their sins. Eliezer

alone remained with him, wherefore God spake, and said: "All

forsook thee save only Eliezer. Verily, I shall invest him with

the strength of the three hundred and eighteen men whose aid thou

didst seek in vain."[93]

The battle fought with the mighty hosts of the kings, from which

Abraham emerged victorious, happened on the fifteenth of Nisan,

the night appointed for miraculous deeds.[94] The arrows and

stones hurled at him effected naught,[95] but the dust of the

ground, the chaff, and the stubble which he threw at the enemy

were transformed into death‑dealing javelins and swords.[96]

Abraham, as tall as seventy men set on end, and requiring as much

food and drink as seventy men, marched forward with giant

strides, each of his steps measuring four miles, until he

overtook the kings, and annihilated their troops. Further he

could not go, for he had reached Dan, where Jeroboam would once

raise the golden calves, and on this ominous spot Abraham's

strength diminished.[97]

His victory was possible only because the celestial powers

espoused his side. The planet Jupiter made the night bright for

him, and an angel, Lailah by name, fought for him.[98] In a true

sense, it was a victory of God. All the nations acknowledged his

more than human achievement, and they fashioned a throne for

Abraham, and erected it on the field of battle. When they

attempted to seat him upon it, amid exclamations of "Thou art our

king! Thou art our prince! Thou art our god!" Abraham warded them

off, and said, "The universe has its King, and it has its God!"

He declined all honors, and returned his property unto each man.

Only the little children he kept by himself. He reared them in

the knowledge of God, and later they atoned for the disgrace of

their parents.

Somewhat arrogantly the king of Sodom set out to meet Abraham. He

was proud that a great miracle, his rescue from the slime pit,

had been performed for him, too. He made Abraham the proposition

that he keep the despoiled goods for himself.[99] But Abraham

refused them, and said: "I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord,

God Most High, who hath created the world for the sake of the

pious, that I will not take a thread nor a shoe‑latchet nor aught

that is thine. I have no right upon any goods taken as

spoils,[100] save only that which the young men have eaten, and

the portion of the men who tarried by the stuff, though they went

not down to the battle itself." The example of Abraham in giving

a share in the spoils even unto the men not concerned directly in

the battle, was followed later by David, who heeded not the

protest of the wicked men and the base fellows with him, that the

watchers who staid by the stuff were not entitled to share alike

with the warriors that had gone down to the battle.[101]

In spite of his great success, Abraham nevertheless was concerned

about the issue of the war. He feared that the prohibition

against shedding the blood of man had been transgressed, and he

also dreaded the resentment of Shem, whose descendants had

perished in the encounter. But God reassured him, and said: "Be

not afraid! Thou hast but extirpated the thorns, and as to Shem,

he will bless thee rather than curse thee." So it was. When

Abraham returned from the war, Shem, or, as he is sometimes

called, Melchizedek, the king of righteousness, priest of God

Most High, and king of Jerusalem, came forth to meet him with

bread and wine.[102] And this high priest instructed Abraham in

the laws of the priesthood and in the Torah, and to prove his

friendship for him he blessed him, and called him the partner of

God in the possession of the world, seeing that through him the

Name of God had first been made known among men.[103] But

Melchizedek arranged the words of his blessing in an unseemly

way. He named Abraham first and then God. As a punishment, he was

deposed by God from the priestly dignity, and instead it was

passed over to Abraham, with whose descendants it remained


As a reward for the sanctification of the Holy Name, which

Abraham had brought about when he refused to keep aught of the

goods taken in battle,[105] his descendants received two

commands, the command of the threads in the borders of their

garments, and the command of the latchets to be bound upon their

hands and to be used as frontlets between their eyes. Thus they

commemorate that their ancestor refused to take so much as a

thread or a latchet. And because he would not touch a

shoe‑latchet of the spoils, his descendants cast their shoe upon



Shortly after the war, God revealed Himself unto Abraham, to

soothe his conscience as to the spilling of innocent blood, for

it was a scruple that gave him much anguish of spirit. God

assured him at the same time that He would cause pious men to

arise among his descendants, who, like himself, would be a shield

unto their generation.[107] As a further distinction, God gave

him leave to ask what he would have, rare grace accorded to none

beside, except Jacob, Solomon, Ahaz, and the Messiah. Abraham

spoke, and said: "O Lord of the world, if in time to come my

descendants should provoke Thy wrath, it were better I remained

childless. Lot, for the sake of whom I journeyed as far as

Damascus, where God was my protection, would be well pleased to

be my heir. Moreover, I have read in the stars, 'Abraham, thou

wilt beget no children.' " Thereupon God raised Abraham above the

vault of the skies, and He said, "Thou art a prophet, not an

astrologer!"[108] Now Abraham demanded no sign that he would be

blessed with offspring. Without losing another word, he believed

in the Lord, and he was rewarded for his simple faith by a share

in this world and a share in the world to come as well, and,

besides, the redemption of Israel from the exile will take place

as a recompense for his firm trust.[109]

But though he believed the promise made him with a full and

abiding faith, he yet desired to know by what merit of theirs his

descendants would maintain themselves. Therefore God bade him

bring Him a sacrifice of three heifers, three she‑goats, three

rams, a turtle dove, and a young pigeon, thus indicating to

Abraham the various sacrifices that should once be brought in the

Temple, to atone for the sins of Israel and further his

welfare.[110] "But what will become of my descendants," asked

Abraham, "after the Temple is destroyed?" God replied, and said,

"If they read the order of sacrifices as they will be set down in

the Scriptures, I will account it unto them as though they had

offered the sacrifices, and I will forgive all their sins."[111]

And God continued and revealed to Abraham the course of Israel's

history and the history of the whole world: The heifer of three

years indicates the dominion of Babylon, the she‑goat of three

years stands for the empire of the Greeks, the ram of three years

for the Medo‑Persian power, the rule of Ishmael is represented by

the ram, and Israel is the innocent dove.

Abraham took him these animals and divided them in the midst. Had

he not done so, Israel would not have been able to resist the

power of the four kingdoms. But the birds he divided not, to

indicate that Israel will remain whole. And the birds of prey

came down upon the carcasses, and Abraham drove them away. Thus

was announced the advent of the Messiah, who will cut the heathen

in pieces, but Abraham bade Messiah wait until the time appointed

unto him.[112] And as the Messianic time was made known unto

Abraham, so also the time of the resurrection of the dead. When

he laid the halves of the pieces over against each other, the

animals became alive again, as the bird flew over them.[112]

While he was preparing these sacrifices, a vision of great import

was granted to Abraham. The sun sank, and a deep sleep fell upon

him, and he beheld a smoking furnace, Gehenna, the furnace that

God prepares for the sinner; and he beheld a flaming torch, the

revelation on Sinai, where all the people saw flaming torches;

and he beheld the sacrifices to be brought by Israel; and an

horror of great darkness fell upon him, the dominion of the four

kingdoms. And God spake to him: "Abraham, as long as thy children

fulfil the two duties of studying the Torah and performing the

service in the Temple, the two visitations, Gehenna and alien

rule, will be spared them. But if they neglect the two duties,

they will have to suffer the two chastisements; only thou mayest

choose whether they shall be punished by means of Gehenna or by

means of the dominion of the stranger." All the day long Abraham

wavered, until God called unto him: "How long wilt thou halt

between two opinions? Decide for one of the two, and let it be

for the dominion of the stranger!" Then God made known to him the

four hundred years' bondage of Israel in Egypt, reckoning from

the birth of Isaac, for unto Abraham himself was the promise

given that he should go to his fathers in peace, and feel naught

of the arrogance of the stranger oppressor. At the same time, it

was made known to Abraham that his father Terah would have a

share in the world to come, for he had done penance for his

sinful deeds. Furthermore it was revealed to him that his son

Ishmael would turn into the path of righteousness while yet his

father was alive, and his grandson Esau would not begin his

impious way of life until he himself had passed away. And as he

received the promise of their deliverance together with the

announcement of the slavery of his seed, in a land not theirs, so

it was made known to him that God would judge the four kingdoms

and destroy them.[114]


The covenant of the pieces, whereby the fortunes of his

descendants were revealed to Abraham, was made at a time when he

was still childless.[115] As long as Abraham and Sarah dwelt

outside of the Holy Land, they looked upon their childlessness as

a punishment for not abiding within it. But when a ten years'

sojourn in Palestine found her barren as before, Sarah perceived

that the fault lay with her.[116] Without a trace of jealousy she

was ready to give her slave Hagar to Abraham as wife,[117] first

making her a freed woman.[118] For Hagar was Sarah's property,

not her husband's. She had received her from Pharaoh, the father

of Hagar. Taught and bred by Sarah, she walked in the same path

of righteousness as her mistress,[119] and thus was a suitable

companion for Abraham, and, instructed by the holy spirit, he

acceded to Sarah's proposal.

No sooner had Hagar's union with Abraham been consummated, and

she felt that she was with child, than she began to treat her

former mistress contemptuously, though Sarah was particularly

tender toward her in the state in which she was. When noble

matrons came to see Sarah, she was in the habit of urging them to

pay a visit to "poor Hagar," too. The dames would comply with her

suggestion, but Hagar would use the opportunity to disparage

Sarah. "My lady Sarah," she would say, "is not inwardly what she

appears to be outwardly. She makes the impression of a righteous,

pious woman, but she is not, for if she were, how could her

childlessness be explained after so many years of marriage, while

I became pregnant at once?"

Sarah scorned to bicker with her slave, yet the rage she felt

found vent in these words to Abraham:[120] "It is thou who art

doing me wrong. Thou hearest the words of Hagar, and thou sayest

naught to oppose them, and I hoped that thou wouldst take my

part. For thy sake did I leave my native land and the house of my

father, and I followed thee into a strange land with trust in

God. In Egypt I pretended to be thy sister, that no harm might

befall thee. When I saw that I should bear no children, I took

the Egyptian woman, my slave Hagar, and gave her unto thee for

wife, contenting myself with the thought that I would rear the

children she would bear. Now she treats me disdainfully in thy

presence. O that God might look upon the injustice which hath

been done unto me, to judge between thee and me, and have mercy

upon us, restore peace to our home, and grant us offspring, that

we have no need of children from Hagar, the Egyptian bondwoman of

the generation of the heathen that cast thee in the fiery


Abraham, modest and unassuming as he was, was ready to do justice

to Sarah, and he conferred full power upon her to dispose of

Hagar according to her pleasure. He added but one caution,

"Having once made her a mistress, we cannot again reduce her to

the state of a bondwoman." Unmindful of this warning, Sarah

exacted the services of a slave from Hagar. Not alone this, she

tormented her, and finally she cast an evil eye upon her, so that

the unborn child dropped from her, and she ran away. On her

flight she was met by several angels, and they bade her return,

at the same time making known to her that she would bear a son

who should be called Ishmael‑‑one of the six men who have been

given a name by God before their birth, the others being Isaac,

Moses, Solomon, Josiah, and the Messiah.[122]

Thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael the command was issued

to Abraham that he put the sign of the covenant upon his body and

upon the bodies of the male members of his household. Abraham was

reluctant at first to do the bidding of God, for he feared that

the circumcision of his flesh would raise a barrier between

himself and the rest of mankind. But God said unto him, "Let it

suffice thee that I am thy God and thy Lord, as it sufficeth the

world that I am its God and its Lord."[123]

Abraham then consulted with his three true friends, Aner, Eshcol,

and Mamre, regarding the command of the circumcision. The first

one spoke, and said, "Thou art nigh unto a hundred years old, and

thou considerest inflicting such pain upon thyself?" The advice

of the second was also against it. "What," said Eshcol, "thou

choosest to mark thyself so that thy enemies may recognize thee

without fail?" Mamre, the third, was the only one to advise

obedience to the command of God. "God succored thee from the

fiery furnace," he said, "He helped thee in the combat with the

kings, He provided for thee during the famine, and thou dost

hesitate to execute His behest concerning the circumcision?[124]

Accordingly, Abraham did as God had commanded, in bright

daylight, bidding defiance to all, that none might say, "Had we

seen him attempt it, we should have prevented him."[125]

The circumcision was performed on the tenth day of Tishri, the

Day of Atonement, and upon the spot on which the altar was later

to be erected in the Temple, for the act of Abraham remains a

never‑ceasing atonement for Israel.[126]


On the third day after his circumcision, when Abraham was

suffering dire pain,[127] God spoke to the angels, saying, "Go

to, let us pay a visit to the sick." The angels refused, and

said: "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? And the son of

man, that Thou visitest him? And Thou desirest to betake Thyself

to a place of uncleanness, a place of blood and filth?" But God

replied unto them, "Thus do ye speak. As ye live, the savor of

this blood is sweeter to me than myrrh and incense, and if you do

not desire to visit Abraham, I will go alone."[128]

The day whereon God visited him was exceedingly hot, for He had

bored a hole in hell, so that its heat might reach as far as the

earth, and no wayfarer venture abroad on the highways, and

Abraham be left undisturbed in his pain.[129] But the absence of

strangers caused Abraham great vexation, and he sent his servant

Eliezer forth to keep a lookout for travellers. When the servant

returned from his fruitless search, Abraham himself, in spite of

his illness and the scorching heat, prepared to go forth on the

highway and see whether he would not succeed where failure had

attended Eliezer, whom he did not wholly trust at any rate,

bearing in mind the well‑known saying, "No truth among

slaves."[130] At this moment God appeared to him, surrounded by

the angels. Quickly Abraham attempted to rise from his seat, but

God checked every demonstration of respect, and when Abraham

protested that it was unbecoming to sit in the presence of the

Lord, God said, "As thou livest, thy descendants at the age of

four and five will sit in days to come in the schools and in the

synagogues while I reside therein."[131]

Meantime Abraham beheld three men. They were the angels Michael,

Gabriel, and Raphael. They had assumed the form of human beings

to fulfil his wish for guests toward whom to exercise

hospitality. Each of them had been charged by God with a special

mission, besides, to be executed on earth. Raphael was to heal

the wound of Abraham, Michael was to bring Sarah the glad tidings

that she would bear a son, and Gabriel was to deal destruction to

Sodom and Gomorrah. Arrived at the tent of Abraham, the three

angels noticed that he was occupied in nursing himself, and they

withdrew.[132] Abraham, however, hastened after them through

another door of the tent, which had wide open entrances on all

sides.[133] He considered the duty of hospitality more important

than the duty of receiving the Shekinah. Turning to God, he said,

"O Lord, may it please Thee not to leave Thy servant while he

provides for the entertainment of his guests."[134] Then he

addressed himself to the stranger walking in the middle between

the other two, whom by this token he considered the most

distinguished,‑ it was the archangel Michael‑‑and he bade him and

his companions turn aside into his tent. The manner of his

guests, who treated one another politely, made a good impression

upon Abraham. He was assured that they were men of worth whom he

was entertaining.[135] But as they appeared outwardly like Arabs,

and the people worshipped the dust of their feet, he bade them

first wash their feet, that they might not defile his tent.[136]

He did not depend upon his own judgment in reading the character

of his guests. By his tent a tree was planted, which spread its

branches out over all who believed in God, and afforded them

shade. But if idolaters went under the tree, the branches turned

upward, and cast no shade upon the ground. Whenever Abraham saw

this sign, he would at once set about the task of converting the

worshippers of the false gods. And as the tree made a distinction

between the pious and the impious, so also between the clean and

the unclean. Its shade was denied them as long as they refrained

from taking the prescribed ritual bath in the spring that flowed

out from its roots, the waters of which rose at once for those

whose uncleanness was of a venial character and could be removed

forthwith, while others had to wait seven days for the water to

come up. Accordingly, Abraham bade the three men lean against the

trunk of the tree. Thus he would soon learn their worth or their


Being of the truly pious, "who promise little, but perform

much,"[133] Abraham said only: "I will fetch a morsel of bread,

and comfort ye your heart, seeing that ye chanced to pass my tent

at dinner time. Then, after ye have given thanks to God, ye may

pass on."[139] But when the meal was served to the guests, it was

a royal banquet, exceeding Solomon's at the time of his most

splendid magnificence. Abraham himself ran unto the herd, to

fetch cattle for meat. He slaughtered three calves, that he might

be able to set a "tongue with mustard" before each of his

guests.[140] In order to accustom Ishmael to God‑pleasing deeds,

he had him dress the calves,[141] and he bade Sarah bake the

bread. But as he knew that women are apt to treat guests

niggardly, he was explicit in his request to her. He said, "Make

ready quickly three measures of meal, yea, fine meal." As it

happened, the bread was not brought to the table, because it had

accidentally become unclean, and our father Abraham was

accustomed to eat his daily bread only in a clean state.[142]

Abraham himself served his guests, and it appeared to him that

the three men ate. But this was an illusion. In reality the

angels did not eat,[143] only Abraham, his three friends, Aner,

Eshcol, and Mamre, and his son Ishmael partook of the banquet,

and the portions set before the angels were devoured by a

heavenly fire.[144]

Although the angels remained angels even in their human disguise,

nevertheless the personality of Abraham was so exalted that in

his presence the archangels felt insignificant.[145]

After the meal the angels asked after Sarah, though they knew

that she was in retirement in her tent, but it was proper for

them to pay their respects to the lady of the house and send her

the cup of wine over which the blessing had been said.[146]

Michael, the greatest of the angels, thereupon announced the

birth of Isaac. He drew a line upon the wall, saying, "When the

sun crosses this point, Sarah will be with child, and when he

crosses the next point, she will give birth to a child." This

communication, which was intended for Sarah and not for Abraham,

to whom the promise had been revealed long before,[147] the

angels made at the entrance to her tent, but Ishmael stood

between the angel and Sarah, for it would not have been seemly to

deliver the message in secret, with none other by. Yet, so

radiant was the beauty of Sarah that a beam of it struck the

angel, and made him look up. In the act of turning toward her, he

heard her laugh within herself:[148] "Is it possible that these

bowels can yet bring forth a child, these shrivelled breasts give

suck? And though I should be able to bear, yet is not my lord

Abraham old?[149]

And the Lord said unto Abraham: "Am I too old to do wonders? And

wherefore doth Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a

child, which am old?"[150] The reproach made by God was directed

against Abraham as well as against Sarah, for he, too, had showed

himself of little faith when he was told that a son would be born

unto him. But God mentioned only Sarah's incredulity, leaving

Abraham to become conscious of his defect himself.[151]

Regardful of the peace of their family life, God had not repeated

Sarah's words accurately to Abraham. Abraham might have taken

amiss what his wife had said about his advanced years, and so

precious is the peace between hus band and wife that even the

Holy One, blessed be He, preserved it at the expense of


After Abraham had entertained his guests, he went with them to

bring them on their way, for, important as the duty of

hospitality is, the duty of speeding the parting guest is even

more important.[153] Their way lay in the direction of Sodom,

whither two of the angels were going, the one to destroy it, and

the second to save Lot, while the third, his errand to Abraham

fulfilled, returned to heaven.[154]


The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah and the three other cities

of the plain were sinful and godless. In their country there was

an extensive vale, where they foregathered annually with their

wives and their children and all belonging to them, to celebrate

a feast lasting several days and consisting of the most revolting

orgies. If a stranger merchant passed through their territory, he

was besieged by them all, big and little alike, and robbed of

whatever he possessed. Each one appropriated a bagatelle, until

the traveller was stripped bare. If the victim ventured to

remonstrate with one or another, he would show him that he had

taken a mere trifle, not worth talking about. And the end was

that they hounded him from the city.

Once upon a time it happened that a man journeying from Elam

arrived in Sodom toward evening. No one could be found to grant

him shelter for the night. Finally a sly fox named Hedor invited

him cordially to follow him to his house. The Sodomite had been

attracted by a rarely magnificent carpet, strapped to the

stranger's ass by means of a rope. He meant to secure it for

himself. The friendly persuasions of Hedor induced the stranger

to remain with him two days, though he had expected to stay only

overnight. When the time came for him to continue on his journey,

he asked his host for the carpet and the rope. Hedor said: "Thou

hast dreamed a dream, and this is the interpretation of thy

dream: the rope signifies that thou wilt have a long life, as

long as a rope; the varicolored carpet indicates that thou wilt

own an orchard wherein thou wilt plant all sorts of fruit trees."

The stranger insisted that his carpet was a reality, not a dream

fancy, and he continued to demand its return. Not only did Hedor

deny having taken anything from his guest, he even insisted upon

pay for having interpreted his dream to him. His usual price for

such services, he said, was four silver pieces, but in view of

the fact that he was his guest, he would, as a favor to him,

content himself with three pieces of silver.

After much wrangling, they put their case before one of the

judges of Sodom, Sherek by name, and he said to the plaintiff,

"Hedor is known in this city as a trustworthy interpreter of

dreams, and what he tells thee is true." The stranger declared

himself not satisfied with the verdict, and continued to urge his

side of the case. Then Sherek drove both the plaintiff and the

defendant from the court room. Seeing this, the inhabitants

gathered together and chased the stranger from the city, and

lamenting the loss of his carpet, he had to pursue his way.

As Sodom had a judge worthy of itself, so also had the other

cities‑‑Sharkar in Gomorrah, Zabnak in Admah, and Manon in

Zeboiim. Eliezer, the bondman of Abraham, made slight changes in

the names of these judges, in accordance with the nature of what

they did: the first he called Shakkara, Liar; the second

Shakrura, Arch‑deceiver; the third Kazban, Falsifier; and the

fourth, Mazle‑Din, Perverter of Judgment. At the suggestion of

these judges, the cities set up beds on their commons. When a

stranger arrived, three men seized him by his head, and three by

his feet, and they forced him upon one of the beds. If he was too

short to fit into it exactly, his six attendants pulled and

wrenched his limbs until he filled it out; if he was too long

for; it, they tried to jam him in with all their combined

strength, until the victim was on the verge of death. Hit

outcrles were met with the words, "Thus will be done to any man

that comes into our land."

After a while travellers avoided these cities, but if some poor

devil was betrayed occasionally into entering them, they would

give him gold and silver, but never any bread, so that he was

bound to die of starvation. Once he was dead, the residents of

the city came and took back the marked gold and silver which they

had given him, and they would quarrel about the distribution of

his clothes, for they would bury him naked.

Once Eliezer, the bondman of Abraham, went to Sodom, at the

bidding of Sarah, to inquire after the welfare of Lot. He

happened to enter the city at the moment when the people were

robbing a stranger of his garments. Eliezer espoused the cause of

the poor wretch, and the Sodomites turned against him; one threw

a stone at his forehead and caused considerable loss of blood.

Instantly, the assailant, seeing the blood gush forth, demanded

payment for having performed the operation of cupping. Eliezer

refused to pay for the infliction of a wound upon him, and he was

haled before the judge Shakkara. The decision went against him,

for the law of the land gave the assailant the right to demand

payment. Eliezer quickly picked up a stone and threw it at the

judge's forehead. When he saw that the blood was flowing

profusely, he said to the judge, "Pay my debt to the man and give

me the balance."

The cause of their cruelty was their exceeding great wealth.

Their soil was gold, and in their miserliness and their greed for

more and more gold, they wanted to prevent strangers from

enjoying aught of their riches. Accordingly, they flooded the

highways with streams of water, so that the roads to their city

were obliterated, and none could find the way thither. They were

as heartless toward beasts as toward men. They begrudged the

birds what they ate, and therefore extirpated them.[155] They

behaved impiously toward one another, too, not shrinking back

from murder to gain possession of more gold. If they observed

that a man owned great riches, two of them would conspire against

him. They would beguile him to the vicinity of ruins, and while

the one kept him on the spot by pleasant converse, the other

would undermine the wall near which he stood, until it suddenly

crashed down upon him and killed him. Then the two plotters would

divide his wealth between them.

Another method of enriching themselves with the property of

others was in vogue among them. They were adroit thieves. When

they made up their minds to commit theft, they would first ask

their victim to take care of a sum of money for them, which they

smeared with strongly scented oil before handing it over to him.

The following night they would break into his house, and rob him

of his secret treasures, led to the place of concealment by the

smell of the oil.

Their laws were calculated to do injury to the poor. The richer a

man, the more was he favored before the law. The owner of two

oxen was obliged to render one day's shepherd service, but if he

had but one ox, he had to give two days' service. A poor orphan,

who was thus forced to tend the flocks a longer time than those

who were blessed with large herds, killed all the cattle

entrusted to him in order to take revenge upon his oppressors,

and he insisted, when the skins were assigned, that the owner of

two head of cattle should have but one skin, but the owner of one

head should receive two skins, in correspondence to the method

pursued in assigning the work. For the use of the ferry, a

traveller had to pay four zuz, but if he waded through the water,

he had to pay eight zuz.[156]

The cruelty of the Sodomites went still further. Lot had a

daughter, Paltit, so named because she had been born to him

shortly after he escaped captivity through the help of Abraham.

Paltit lived in Sodom, where she had married. Once a beggar came

to town, and the court issued a proclamation that none should

give him anything to eat, in order that he might die of

starvation. But Paltit had pity upon the unfortunate wretch, and

every day when she went to the well to draw water, she supplied

him with a piece of bread, which she hid in her water pitcher.

The inhabitants of the two sinful cities, Sodom and Gomorrah,

could not understand why the beggar did not perish, and they

suspected that some one was giving him food in secret. Three men

concealed themselves near the beggar, and caught Paltit in the

act of giving him something to eat. She had to pay for her

humanity with death; she was burnt upon a pyre.

The people of Admah were no better than those of Sodom. Once a

stranger came to Admah, intending to stay overnight and continue

his journey the next morning. The daughter of a rich man met the

stranger, and gave him water to drink and bread to eat at his

request. When the people of Admah heard of this infraction of the

law of the land, they seized the girl and arraigned her before

the judge, who condemned her to death. The people smeared her

with honey from top to toe, and exposed her where bees would be

attracted to her. The insects stung her to death, and the callous

people paid no heed to her heartrending cries. Then it was that

God resolved upon the destruction of these sinners.[157]


When God saw that there was no righteous man among the

inhabitants of the sinful cities, and there would be none among

their descendants, for the sake of whose merits the rest might be

treated with lenient consideration, He resolved to annihilate

them one and all.[158] But before judgment was executed, the Lord

made known unto Abraham what He would do to Sodom, Gomorrah, and

the other cities of the plain, for they formed a part of Canaan,

the land promised unto Abraham, and therefore did God say, "I

will not destroy them without the consent of Abraham."[159]

Like a compassionate father, Abraham importuned the grace of God

in behalf of the sinners. He spoke to God, and said: "Thou didst

take an oath that no more should all flesh be cut off by the

waters of a flood. Is it meet that Thou shouldst evade Thy oath

and destroy cities by fire? Shall the Judge of all the earth not

do right Himself? Verily, if Thou desirest to maintain the world,

Thou must give up the strict line of justice. If Thou insistest

upon the right alone, there can be no world." Whereupon God said

to Abraham: "Thou takest delight in defending My creatures, and

thou wouldst not call them guilty. Therefore I spoke with none

but thee during the ten generations since Noah."[160] Abraham

ventured to use still stronger words in order to secure the

safety of the godless. "That be far from Thee," he said, "to slay

the righteous with the wicked, that the dwellers on the earth say

not, 'It is His trade to destroy the generations of men in a

cruel manner; for He destroyed the generation of Enosh, then the

generation of the flood, and then He sent the confusion of

tongues. He sticks ever to His trade.' "

God made reply: "I will let all the generations I have destroyed

pass before thee, that thou mayest see they have not suffered the

extreme punishment they deserved. But if thou thinkest that I did

not act justly, then instruct thou Me in what I must do, and I

will endeavor to act in accordance with thy words." And Abraham

had to admit that God had not diminished in aught the justice due

to every creature in this world or the other world.[161]

Nevertheless he continued to speak, and he said: "Wilt Thou

consume the cities, if there be ten righteous men in each?" And

God said, "No, if I find fifty righteous therein, I will not

destroy the cities."[162]

Abraham: "I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, I who

would have been turned long since into dust of the ground by

Amraphel and into ashes by Nimrod, had it not been for Thy

grace.[163] Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty

righteous for Zoar, the smallest of the five cities. Wilt Thou

destroy all the city for lack of five?"

God: "I will not destroy it, if I find there forty and five."

Abraham: "Peradventure there be ten pious in each of the four

cities, then forgive Zoar in Thy grace, for its sins are not so

great in number as the sins of the others."

God granted his petition, yet Abraham continued to plead, and he

asked whether God would not be satisfied if there were but thirty

righteous, ten in each of the three larger cities, and would

pardon the two smaller ones, even though there were no righteous

therein, whose merits would intercede for them. This, too, the

Lord granted, and furthermore He promised not to destroy the

cities if but twenty righteous were found therein; yes, God

conceded that He would preserve the five cities for the sake of

ten righteous therein.[164] More than this Abraham did not ask,

for he knew that eight righteous ones, Noah and his wife, and his

three sons and their wives, had not sufficed to avert the doom of

the generation of the flood, and furthermore he hoped that Lot,

his wife, and their four daughters, together with the husbands of

their daughters, would make up the number ten. What he did not

know was that even the righteous in these sin‑laden cities,

though better than the rest, were far from good.[165]

Abraham did not cease to pray for the deliverance of the sinners

even after the Shekinah had removed from him. But his

supplications and his intercessions were in vain.[166] For

fifty‑two years God had warned the godless; He had made mountains

to quake and tremble. But they hearkened not unto the voice of

admonition. They persisted in their sins, and their well‑merited

punishment overtook them.[167] God forgives all sins, only not an

immoral life. And as all these sinners led a life of debauchery,

they were burnt with fire.[168]


The angels left Abraham at noon time, and they reached Sodom at

the approach of evening. As a rule, angels proclaim their errand

with the swiftness of lightning, but these were angels of mercy,

and they hesitated to execute their work of destruction, ever

hoping that the evil would be turned aside from Sodom.[169] With

nightfall, the fate of Sodom was sealed irrevocably, and the

angels arrived there.[170]

Bred in the house of Abraham, Lot had learnt from him the

beautiful custom of extending hospitality, and when he saw the

angels before him in human form, thinking they were wayfarers, he

bade them turn aside and tarry all night in his house. But as the

entertainment of strangers was forbidden in Sodom on penalty of

death, he dared invite them only under cover of the darkness of

night,[171] and even then he had to use every manner of

precaution, bidding the angels to follow him by devious ways.

The angels, who had accepted Abraham's hospitality without delay,

first refused to comply with Lot's request, for it is a rule of

good breeding to show reluctance when an ordinary man invites

one, but to accept the invitation of a great man at once. Lot,

however, was insistent, and carried them into his house by main

force.[172] At home he had to overcome the opposition of his

wife, for she said, "If the inhabitants of Sodom hear of this,

they will slay thee."

Lot divided his dwelling in two parts, one for himself and his

guests, the other for his wife, so that, if aught happened, his

wife would be spared.[173] Nevertheless it was she who betrayed

him. She went to a neighbor and borrowed some salt, and to the

question, whether she could not have supplied herself with salt

during daylight hours, she replied, "We had enough salt, until

some guests came to us; for them we needed more." In this way the

presence of strangers was bruited abroad in the city.[174]

In the beginning the angels were inclined to hearken to the

petition of Lot in behalf of the sinners, but when all the people

of the city, big and little, crowded around the house of Lot with

the purpose of committing a monstrous crime, the angels warded

off his prayers, saying, "Hitherto thou couldst intercede for

them, but now no longer." It was not the first time that the

inhabitants of Sodom wanted to perpetrate a crime of this sort.

They had made a law some time before that all strangers were to

be treated in this horrible way. Lot, who was appointed chief

judge on the very day of the angels' coming, tried to induce the

people to desist from their purpose, saying to them, "My

brethren, the generation of the deluge was extirpated in

consequence of such sins as you desire to commit, and you would

revert to them?" But they replied: "Back! And though Abraham

himself came hither, we should have no consideration for him. Is

it possible that thou wouldst set aside a law which thy

predecessors administered?"[175]

Even Lot's moral sense was no better than it should have been. It

is the duty of a man to venture his life for the honor of his

wife and his daughters, but Lot was ready to sacrifice the honor

of his daughters, wherefor he was punished severely later


The angels told Lot who they were, and what the mission that had

brought them to Sodom, and they charged him to flee from the city

with his wife and his four daughters, two of them married, and

two betrothed.[177] Lot communicated their bidding to his

sons‑in‑law, and they mocked at him, and said: "O thou fool!

Violins, cymbals, and flutes resound in the city, and thou sayest

Sodom will be destroyed!" Such scoffing but hastened the

execution of the doom of Sodom.[178] The angel Michael laid hold

upon the hand of Lot, and his wife and his daughters, while with

his little finger the angel Gabriel touched the rock whereon the

sinful cities were built, and overturned them. At the same time

the rain that was streaming down upon the two cities was changed

into brimstone.[179]

When the angels had brought forth Lot and his family and set them

without the city, he bade them run for their lives, and not look

behind, lest they behold the Shekinah, which had descended to

work the destruction of the cities. The wife of Lot could not

control herself. Her mother love made her look behind to see if

her married daughters were following. She beheld the Shekinah,

and she became a pillar of salt. This pillar exists unto this

day. The cattle lick it all day long, and in the evening it seems

to have disappeared, but when morning comes it stands there as

large as before.[180]

The savior angel had urged Lot himself to take refuge with

Abraham. But he refused, and said: "As long as I dwelt apart from

Abraham, God compared my deeds with the deeds of my

fellow‑citizens, and among them I appeared as a righteous man. If

I should return to Abraham, God will see that his good deeds

outweigh mine by far."[181] The angel then granted his plea that

Zoar be left undestroyed. This city had been founded a year later

than the other four; it was only fifty‑one years old, and

therefore the measure of its sins was not so full as the measure

of the sins of the neighboring cities.[182]

The destruction of the cities of the plain took place at dawn of

the sixteenth day of Nisan, for the reason that there were moon

and sun worshippers among the inhabitants. God said: "If I

destroy them by day, the moon worshippers will say, Were the moon

here, she would prove herself our savior; and if I destroy them

by night, the sun worshippers will say, Were the sun here, he

would prove himself our savior. I will therefore let their

chastisement overtake them on the sixteenth day of Nisan at an

hour at which the moon and the sun are both in the skies."[183]

The sinful inhabitants of the cities of the plain not only lost

their life in this world, but also their share in the future

world. As for the cities themselves, however, they will be

restored in the Messianic time.[184]

The destruction of Sodom happened at the time at which Abraham

was performing his morning devotions, and for his sake it was

established as the proper hour for the morning prayer unto all

times.[185] When he turned his eyes toward Sodom and beheld the

rising smoke, he prayed for the deliverance of Lot, and God

granted his petition‑‑the fourth time that Lot became deeply

indebted to Abraham. Abraham had taken him with him to Palestine,

he had made him rich in flocks, herds, and tents, he had rescued

him from captivity, and by his prayer he saved him from the

destruction of Sodom. The descendants of Lot, the Ammonites and

the Moabites, instead of showing gratitude to the Israelites, the

posterity of Abraham, committed four acts of hostility against

them. They sought to compass the destruction of Israel by means

of Balaam's curses, they waged open war against him at the time

of Jephthah, and also at the time of Jehoshaphat, and finally

they manifested their hatred against Israel at the destruction of

the Temple. Hence it is that God appointed four prophets, Isaiah,

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zephaniah, to proclaim punishment unto the

descendants of Lot, and four times their sin is recorded in Holy


Though Lot owed his deliverance to the petition of Abraham, yet

it was at the same time his reward for not having betrayed

Abraham in Egypt, when he pretended to be the brother of

Sarah.[187] But a greater reward still awaits him. The Messiah

will be a descendant of his, for the Moabitess Ruth is the

great‑grandmother of David, and the Ammonitess Naamah is the

mother of Rehoboam, and the Messiah is of the line of these two



The destruction of Sodom induced Abraham to journey to Gerar.

Accustomed to extend hospitality to travellers and wayfarers, he

no longer felt comfortable in a district in which all traffic had

ceased by reason of the ruined cities. There was another reason

for Abraham's leaving his place; the people spoke too much about

the ugly incident with Lot's daughters.[189]

Arrived in the land of the Philistines, he again, as aforetime in

Egypt, came to an understanding with Sarah, that she was to call

herself his sister. When the report of her beauty reached the

king, he ordered her to be brought before him, and he asked her

who her companion was, and she told him that Abraham was her

brother. Entranced by her beauty, Abimelech the king took Sarah

to wife, and heaped marks of honor upon Abraham in accordance

with the just claims of a brother of the queen. Toward evening,

before retiring, while he was still seated upon his throne,

Abimelech fell into a sleep, and he slept until the morning, and

in the dream he dreamed he saw an angel of the Lord raising his

sword to deal him a death blow. Sore frightened, he asked the

cause, and the angel replied, and said: "Thou wilt die on account

of the woman thou didst take into thy house this day, for she is

the wife of Abraham, the man whom thou didst cite before thee.

Return his wife unto him! But if thou restore her not, thou shalt

surely die, thou and all that are thine."

In that night the voice of a great crying was heard in the whole

land of the Philistines, for they saw the figure of a man walking

about, with sword in hand, slaying all that came in his way. At

the same time it happened that in men and beasts alike all the

apertures of the body closed up, and the land was seized with

indescribable excitement. In the morning, when the king awoke, in

agony and terror, he called all his servants and told his dream

in their ears. One of their number said: "O lord and king!

Restore this woman unto the man, for he is her husband. It is but

his way in a strange land to pretend that she is his sister. Thus

did he with the king of Egypt, too, and God sent heavy

afflictions upon Pharaoh when he took the woman unto himself.

Consider, also, O lord and king, what hath befallen this night in

the land; great pain, wailing, and confusion there was, and we

know that it came upon us only because of this woman."[190]

There were some among his servants who spake: "Be not afraid of

dreams! What dreams make known to man is but falsehood." Then God

appeared unto Abimelech again and commanded him to let Sarah go

free, otherwise he would be a dead man.[191] Abimelech replied:

"Is this Thy way? Then, I ween, the generation of the flood and

the generation of the confusion of tongues were innocent, too!

The man himself did say unto me, She is my sister, and she, even

she herself said, He is my brother, and all the people of their

household said the same words." And God said unto him: "Yea, I

know that thou hast not yet committed a trespass, for I withheld

thee from sinning. Thou didst not know that Sarah was a man's

wife.[192] But is it becoming to question a stranger, no sooner

does he set foot upon thy territory, about the woman accompanying

him, whether she be his wife or his sister? Abraham, who is a

prophet, knew beforehand the danger to himself if he revealed the

whole truth.[193] But, being a prophet, he also knows that thou

didst not touch his wife, and he shall pray for thee, and thou

shalt live."

The smoke was still rising from the ruins of Sodom, and Abimelech

and his people, seeing it, feared that a like fate might overtake

them.[194] The king called Abraham and reproached him for having

caused such great misfortune through his false statements

concerning Sarah. Abraham excused his conduct by his apprehension

that, the fear of God not being in the place, the inhabitants of

the land slay him for his wife.[195] Abraham went on and told the

history of his whole life, and he said: "When I dwelt in the

house of my father, the nations of the world sought to do me

harm, but God proved Himself my Redeemer. When the nations of the

world tried to lead me astray to idolatry, God revealed Himself

to me, and He said, 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy

kindred, and from thy father's house.' And when the nations of

the world were about to go astray, God sent two prophets, my

kinsmen Shem and Eber, to admonish them."[196]

Abimelech gave rich gifts to Abraham, wherein he acted otherwise

than Pharaoh in similar circumstances. The Egyptian king gave

gifts to Sarah, but Abimelech was God fearing, and desired that

Abraham pray for him.[197] To Sarah he gave a costly robe that

covered her whole person, hiding her seductive charms from the

view of beholders. At the same time it was a reproach to Abraham,

that he had not fitted Sarah out with the splendor due to his


Though Abimelech had done him great injury, Abraham not only

granted him the forgiveness he craved, but also he prayed for him

to God. Thus he is an exemplar unto all. "Man should be pliant as

a reed, not hard like the cedar." He should be easily appeased,

and slow to anger, and as soon as he who has sinned against him

asks for pardon, he should forgive him with all his heart. Even

if deep and serious injury has been done to him, he should not be

vengeful, nor bear his brother a grudge in his heart.[199]

Abraham prayed thus for Abimelech: "O Lord of the world! Thou

hast created man that he may increase and propagate his kind.

Grant that Abimelech and his house may multiply and

increase!"[200] God fulfilled Abraham's petition in behalf of

Abimelech and his people, and it was the first time it happened

in the history of mankind that God fulfilled the prayer of one

human being for the benefit of another.[201] Abimelech and his

subjects were healed of all their diseases, and so efficacious

was the prayer offered by Abraham that the wife of Abimelech,

barren hitherto, bore a child.[202]


When the prayer of Abraham for Abimelech was heard, and the king

of the Philistines recovered, the angels raised a loud cry, and

spoke to God thus: "O Lord of the world! All these years hath

Sarah been barren, as the wife of Abimelech was. Now Abraham

prayed to Thee, and the wife of Abimelech hath been granted a

child. It is just and fair that Sarah should be remembered and

granted a child." These words of the angels, spoken on the New

Year's Day, when the fortunes of men are determined in heaven for

the whole year, bore a result. Barely seven months later, on the

first day of the Passover, Isaac was born.

The birth of Isaac was a happy event, and not in the house of

Abraham alone. The whole world rejoiced, for God remembered all

barren women at the same time with Sarah. They all bore children.

And all the blind were made to see, all the lame were made whole,

the dumb were made to speak, and the mad were restored to reason.

And a still greater miracle happened: on the day of Isaac's birth

the sun shone with such splendor as had not been seen since the

fall of man, and as he will shine again only in the future


To silence those who asked significantly, "Can one a hundred

years old beget a son?" God commanded the angel who has charge

over the embryos, to give them form and shape, that he fashion

Isaac precisely according to the model of Abraham, so that all

seeing Isaac might exclaim, "Abraham begot Isaac."[204]

That Abraham and Sarah were blessed with offspring only after

they had attained so great an age, had an important reason. It

was necessary that Abraham should bear the sign of the covenant

upon his body before he begot the son who was appointed to be the

father of Israel.[205] And as Isaac was the first child born to

Abraham after he was marked with the sign, he did not fail to

celebrate his circumcision with much pomp and ceremony on the

eighth day.[206] Shem, Eber, Abimelech king of the Philistines,

and his whole retinue, Phicol the captain of his host in it‑‑they

all were present, and also Terah and his son Nahor, in a word,

all the great ones round about.[207] On this occasion Abraham

could at last put a stop to the talk of the people, who said,

"Look at this old couple! They picked up a foundling on the

highway, and they pretend he is their own son, and to make their

statement seem credible, they arrange a feast in his honor."

Abraham had invited not only men to the celebration, but also the

wives of the magnates with their infants, and God permitted a

miracle to be done. Sarah had enough milk in her breasts to

suckle all the babes there,[208] and they who drew from her

breasts had much to thank her for. Those whose mothers had

harbored only pious thoughts in their minds when they let them

drink the milk that flowed from the breasts of the pious Sarah,

they became proselytes when they grew up; and those whose mothers

let Sarah nurse them only in order to test her, they grew up to

be powerful rulers, losing their dominion only at the revelation

on Mount Sinai, because they would not accept the Torah. All

proselytes and pious heathen are the descendants of these


Among the guests of Abraham were the thirty‑one kings and

thirty‑one viceroys of Palestine who were vanquished by Joshua at

the conquest of the Holy Land. Even Og king of Bashan was

present, and he had to suffer the teasing of the other guests,

who rallied him upon having called Abraham a sterile mule, who

would never have offspring. Og, on his part, pointed at the

little boy with contempt, and said, "Were I to lay my finger upon

him, he would be crushed." Whereupon God said to him: "Thou

makest mock of the gift given to Abraham! As thou livest, thou

shalt look upon millions and myriads of his descendants, and in

the end thou shalt fall into their hands."[210]


When Isaac grew up, quarrels broke out between him and Ishmael,

on account of the rights of the first‑born. Ishmael insisted he

should receive a double portion of the inheritance after the

death of Abraham, and Isaac should receive only one portion.

Ishmael, who had been accustomed from his youth to use the bow

and arrow, was in the habit of aiming his missiles in the

direction of Isaac, saying at the same time that he was but

jesting.[211] Sarah, however, insisted that Abraham make over to

Isaac all he owned, that no disputes might arise after his

death,[212] "for," she said, "Ishmael is not worthy of being heir

with my son, nor with a man like Isaac, and certainly not with my

son Isaac."[213] Furthermore, Sarah insisted that Abraham divorce

himself from Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, and send away the

woman and her son, so that there be naught in common between them

and her own son, either in this world or in the future world.

Of all the trials Abraham had to undergo, none was so hard to

bear as this, for it grieved him sorely to separate himself from

his son. God appeared to him in the following night, and said to

him: "Abraham, knowest thou not that Sarah was appointed to be

thy wife from her mother's womb? She is thy companion and the

wife of thy youth, and I named not Hagar as thy wife, nor Sarah

as thy bondwoman. What Sarah spoke unto thee was naught but

truth, and let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the

lad, and because of thy bondwoman." The next morning Abraham rose

up early, gave Hagar her bill of divorcement, and sent her away

with her son, first binding a rope about her loins that all might

see she was a bondwoman.[214]

The evil glance cast upon her stepson by Sarah made him sick and

feverish, so that Hagar had to carry him, grown‑up as he was. In

his fever he drank often of the water in the bottle given her by

Abraham as she left his house, and the water was quickly spent.

That she might not look upon the death of her child, Hagar cast

Ishmael under the willow shrubs growing on the selfsame spot

whereon the angels had once spoken with her and made known to her

that she would bear a son. In the bitterness of her heart, she

spoke to God, and said, "Yesterday Thou didst say to me, I will

greatly multiply thy seed, that it shall not be numbered for

multitude, and to‑day my son dies of thirst." Ishmael himself

cried unto God, and his prayer and the merits of Abraham brought

them help in their need, though the angels appeared against

Ishmael before God. They said, "Wilt Thou cause a well of water

to spring up for him whose descendants will let Thy children of

Israel perish with thirst?" But God replied, and said, "What is

Ishmael at this moment‑‑righteous or wicked?" and when the angels

called him righteous, God continued, "I treat man according to

his deserts at each moment."[215]

At that moment Ishmael was pious indeed, for he was praying to

God in the following words: "O Lord of the world! If it be Thy

will that I shall perish, then let me die in some other way, not

by thirst, for the tortures of thirst are great beyond all

others." Hagar, instead of praying to God, addressed her

supplications to the idols of her youth. The prayer of Ishmael

was acceptable before God, and He bade Miriam's well spring up,

the well created in the twilight of the sixth day of

creation.[216] Even after this miracle Hagar's faith was no

stronger than before. She filled the bottle with water, because

she feared it might again be spent, and no other would be nigh.

Thereupon she journeyed to Egypt with her son, for "Throw the

stick into the air as thou wilt, it will always land on its

point." Hagar had come from Egypt, and to Egypt she returned, to

choose a wife for her son.[217]


The wife of Ishmael bore four sons and a daughter, and afterward

Ishmael, his mother, and his wife and children went and returned

to the wilderness. They made themselves tents in the wilderness

in which they dwelt, and they continued to encamp and journey,

month by month and year by year. And God gave Ishmael flocks, and

herds, and tents, on account of Abraham his father, and the man

increased in cattle. And some time after, Abraham said to Sarah,

his wife, "I will go and see my son Ishmael; I yearn to look upon

him, for I have not seen him for a long time." And Abraham rode

upon one of his camels to the wilderness, to seek his son

Ishmael, for he heard that he was dwelling in a tent in the

wilderness with all belonging to him. And Abraham went to the

wilderness, and he reached the tent of Ishmael about noon, and he

asked after him. He found the wife of Ishmael sitting in the tent

with her children, and her husband and his mother were not with

them. And Abraham asked the wife of Ishmael, saying, "Where has

Ishmael gone?" And she said, "He has gone to the field to hunt

game." And Abraham was still mounted upon the camel, for he would

not alight upon the ground, as he had sworn to his wife Sarah

that he would not get off from the camel. And Abraham said to

Ishmael's wife, "My daughter, give me a little water, that I may

drink, for I am fatigued and tired from the journey." And

Ishmael's wife answered, and said to Abraham, "We have neither

water nor bread," and she was sitting in the tent, and did not

take any notice of Abraham. She did not even ask him who he was.

But all the while she was beating her children in the tent, and

she was cursing them, and she also cursed her husband Ishmael,

and spoke evil of him, and Abraham heard the words of Ishmael's

wife to her children, and it was an evil thing in his eyes. And

Abraham called to the woman to come out to him from the tent, and

the woman came out, and stood face to face with Abraham, while

Abraham was still mounted upon the camel. And Abraham said to

Ishmael's wife, "When thy husband Ishmael returns home, say these

words to him: A very old man from the land of the Philistines

came hither to seek thee, and his appearance was thus and so, and

thus was his figure. I did not ask him who he was, and seeing

thou wast not here, he spoke unto me, and said, When Ishmael thy

husband returns, tell him, Thus did the man say, When thou comest

home, put away this tentpin which thou hast placed here, and

place another tent‑pin in its stead." And Abraham finished his

instructions to the woman, and he turned and went off on the

camel homeward. And when Ishmael returned to the tent, he heard

the words of his wife, and he knew that it was his father, and

that his wife had not honored him. And Ishmael understood his

father's words that he had spoken to his wife, and he hearkened

to the voice of his father, and he divorced his wife, and she

went away. And Ishmael afterward went to the land of Canaan, and

he took another wife, and he brought her to his tent, to the

place where he dwelt.

And at the end of three years, Abraham said, "I will go again and

see Ishmael my son, for I have not seen him for a long time." And

he rode upon his camel, and went to the wilderness, and he

reached the tent of Ishmael about noon. And he asked after

Ishmael, and his wife came out of the tent, and she said, "He is

not here, my lord, for he has gone to hunt in the fields and feed

the camels," and the woman said to Abraham, "Turn in, my lord,

into the tent, and eat a morsel of bread, for thy soul must be

wearied on account of the journey." And Abraham said to her, "I

will not stop, for I am in haste to continue my journey, but give

me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty," and the woman

hastened and ran into the tent, and she brought out water and

bread to Abraham, which she placed before him, urging him to eat

and drink, and he ate and drank, and his heart was merry, and he

blessed his son Ishmael. And he finished his meal, and he blessed

the Lord, and he said to Ishmael's wife: "When Ishmael comes

home, say these words to him: A very old man from the land of the

Philistines came hither, and asked after thee, and thou wast not

here, and I brought him out bread and water, and he ate and

drank, and his heart was merry. And he spoke these words to me,

When Ishmael thy husband comes home, say unto him, The tent‑pin

which thou hast is very good, do not put it away from the tent."

And Abraham finished commanding the woman, and he rode off to his

home, to the land of the Philistines, and when Ishmael came to

his tent, his wife went forth to meet him with joy and a cheerful

heart, and she told him the words of the old man. Ishmael knew

that it was his father, and that his wife had honored him, and he

praised the Lord. And Ishmael then took his wife and his children

and his cattle and all belonging to him, and he journeyed from

there, and he went to his father in the land of the Philistines.

And Abraham related to Ishmael all that had happened between him

and the first wife that Ishmael had taken, according to what she

had done. And Ishmael and his children dwelt with Abraham many

days in that land, and Abraham dwelt in the land of the

Philistines a long time.[218]


After a sojourn of twenty‑six years in the land of the

Philistines, Abraham departed thence, and he settled in the

neighborhood of Hebron. There he was visited by Abimelech with

twenty of his grandees,[219] who requested him to make an

alliance with the Philistines.

As long as Abraham was childless, the heathen did not believe in

his piety, but when Isaac was born, they said to him, "God is

with thee." But again they entertained doubt of his piety when he

cast off Ishmael. They said, "Were he a righteous man, he would

not drive his first‑born forth from his house." But when they

observed the impious deeds of Ishmael, they said, "God is with

thee in all thou doest." That Abraham was the favorite of God,

they saw in this, too, that although Sodom was destroyed and all

traffic had come to a standstill in that region, yet Abraham's

treasure chambers were filled. For these reasons, the Philistines

sought to form an alliance with him, to remain in force for three

generations to come, for it is to the third generation that the

love of a father extends.

Before Abraham concluded the covenant with Abimelech, king of the

Philistines, he reproved him on account of a well, for

"Correction leads to love," and "There is no peace without

correction." The herdmen of Abraham and those of Abimelech had

left their dispute about the well to decision by ordeal: the well

was to belong to the party for whose sheep the waters would rise

so that they could drink of them. But the shepherds of Abimelech

disregarded the agreement, and they wrested the well for their

own use.[220] As a witness and a perpetual sign that the well

belonged to him, Abraham set aside seven sheep, corresponding to

the seven Noachian laws binding upon all men alike.[221] But God

said, "Thou didst give him seven sheep. As thou livest, the

Philistines shall one day slay seven righteous men, Samson,

Hophni, Phinehas, and Saul with his three sons, and they will

destroy seven holy places, and they will keep the holy Ark in

their country as booty of war for a period of seven months, and

furthermore only the seventh generation of thy descendants will

be able to rejoice in the possession of the land promised to

them."[222] After concluding the alliance with Abimelech, who

acknowledged Abraham's right upon the well, Abraham called the

place Beer‑sheba, because there they swore both of them unto a

covenant of friendship.

In Beer‑sheba Abraham dwelt many years, and thence he endeavored

to spread the law of God. He planted a large grove there, and he

made four gates for it, facing the four sides of the earth, east,

west, north, and south, and he planted a vineyard therein. If a

traveller came that way, he entered by the gate that faced him,

and he sat in the grove, and ate, and drank, until he was

satisfied, and then he departed. For the house of Abraham was

always open for all passers‑by, and they came daily to eat and

drink there. If one was hungry, and he came to Abraham, he would

give him what he needed, so that he might eat and drink and be

satisfied; and if one was naked, and he came to Abraham, he would

clothe him with the garments of the poor man's choice, and give

him silver and gold, and make known to him the Lord, who had

created him and set him on earth.[223] After the wayfarers had

eaten, they were in the habit of thanking Abraham for his kind

entertainment of them, whereto he would reply: "What, ye give

thanks unto me! Rather return thanks to your host, He who alone

provides food and drink for all creatures." Then the people would

ask, "Where is He?" and Abraham would answer them, and say: "He

is the Ruler of heaven and earth. He woundeth and He healeth, He

formeth the embryo in the womb of the mother and bringeth it

forth into the world, He causeth the plants and the trees to

grow, He killeth and He maketh alive, He bringeth down to Sheol

and bringeth up." When the people heard such words, they would

ask, "How shall we return thanks to God and manifest our

gratitude unto Him?" And Abraham would instruct them in these

words: "Say, Blessed be the Lord who is blessed! Blessed be He

that giveth bread and food unto all flesh!" In this manner did

Abraham teach those who had enjoyed his hospitality how to praise

and thank God.[224] Abraham's house thus became not only a

lodging‑place for the hungry and thirsty, but also a place of

instruction where the knowledge of God and His law were



In spite of the lavish hospitality practiced in the house of

Abraham, it happened once that a poor man, or rather an alleged

poor man, was turned away empty‑handed, and this was the

immediate reason for the last of Abraham's temptations, the

sacrifice of his favorite son Isaac. It was the day on which

Abraham celebrated the birth of Isaac with a great banquet, to

which all the magnates of the time were bidden with their wives.

Satan, who always appears at a feast in which no poor people

participate, and keeps aloof from those to which poor guests are

invited, turned up at Abraham's banquet in the guise of a beggar

asking alms at the door. He had noticed that Abraham had invited

no poor man, and he knew that his house was the right place for


Abraham was occupied with the entertainment of his distinguished

guests, and Sarah was endeavoring to convince their wives, the

matrons, that Isaac was her child in very truth, and not a

spurious child. No one concerned himself about the beggar at the

door, who thereupon accused Abraham before God.[226]

Now, there was a day when the sons of God came to present

themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.[227]

And the Lord said unto Satan, "From whence comest thou?" and

Satan answered the Lord, and said, "From going to and fro on the

earth, and from walking up and down in it." And the Lord said

unto Satan, "What hast thou to say concerning all the children of

the earth?" and Satan answered the Lord, and said: "I have seen

all the children of the earth serving Thee and remembering Thee,

when they require aught from Thee. And when Thou givest them what

they require from Thee, then they forsake Thee, and they remember

Thee no more. Hast Thou seen Abraham, the son of Terah, who at

first had no children, and he served Thee and erected altars to

Thee wherever he came, and he brought offerings upon them, and he

proclaimed Thy name continually to all the children of the earth?

And now his son Isaac is born to him, he has forsaken Thee. He

made a great feast for all the inhabitants of the land, and the

Lord he has forgotten. For amidst all that he has done, he

brought Thee no offering, neither burnt offering nor peace

offering, neither one lamb nor goat of all that he had killed in

the day that his son was weaned. Even from the time of his son's

birth till now, being thirty‑seven years, he built no altar

before Thee, nor brought up any offering to Thee, for he saw that

Thou didst give what he requested before Thee, and he therefore

forsook Thee." And the Lord said to Satan: "Hast thou considered

My servant Abraham? For there is none like him in the earth, a

perfect and an upright man before Me for a burnt offering, and

that feareth God and escheweth evil. As I live, were I to say

unto him, Bring up Isaac thy son before Me, he would not withhold

him from Me, much less if I told him to bring up a burnt offering

before Me from his flocks or herds." And Satan answered the Lord,

and said, "Speak now unto Abraham as Thou hast said, and Thou

wilt see whether he will not transgress and cast aside Thy words

this day."[228]

God wished to try Isaac also. Ishmael once boasted to Isaac,

saying, "I was thirteen years old when the Lord spoke to my

father to circumcise us, and I did not transgress His word, which

He commanded my father." And Isaac answered Ishmael, saying,

"What dost thou boast to me about this, about a little bit of thy

flesh which thou didst take from thy body, concerning which the

Lord commanded thee? As the Lord liveth, the God of my father

Abraham, if the Lord should say unto my father, Take now thy son

Isaac and bring him up as an offering before Me, I would not

refrain, but I would joyfully accede to it."


And the Lord thought to try Abraham and Isaac in this

matter.[229] And He said to Abraham, "Take now thy son."

Abraham: "I have two sons, and I do not know which of them Thou

commandest me to take."

God: "Thine only son."

Abraham: "The one is the only son of his mother, and the other is

the only son of his mother."

God: "Whom thou lovest."

Abraham: "I love this one and I love that one."

God: "Even Isaac."[230]

Abraham: "And where shall I go?"

God: "To the land I will show thee, and offer Isaac there for a

burnt offering."

Abraham: "Am I fit to perform the sacrifice, am I a priest? Ought

not rather the high priest Shem to do it?"

God: "When thou wilt arrive at that place, I will consecrate thee

and make thee a priest."[231]

And Abraham said within himself, "How shall I separate my son

Isaac from Sarah his mother?" And he came into the tent, and he

sate before Sarah his wife, and he spake these words to her: "My

son Isaac is grown up, and he has not yet studied the service of

God. Now, to‑morrow I will go and bring him to Shem and Eber his

son, and there he will learn the ways of the Lord, for they will

teach him to know the Lord, and to know how to pray unto the Lord

that He may answer him, and to know the way of serving the Lord

his God." And Sarah said, "Thou hast spoken well. Go, my lord,

and do unto him as thou hast said, but remove him not far from

me, neither let him remain there too long, for my soul is bound

within his soul." And Abraham said unto Sarah, "My daughter, let

us pray to the Lord our God that He may do good with us." And

Sarah took her son Isaac, and he abode with her all that night,

and she kissed and embraced him, and she laid injunctions upon

him till morning, and she said to Abraham: "O my lord, I pray

thee, take heed of thy son, and place thine eyes over him, for I

have no other son nor daughter but him. O neglect him not. If he

be hungry, give him bread, and if he be thirsty, give him water

to drink; do not let him go on foot, neither let him sit in the

sun, neither let him go by himself on the road, neither turn him

from whatever he may desire, but do unto him as he may say to


After spending the whole night in weeping on account of Isaac,

she got up in the morning and selected a very fine and beautiful

garment from those that Abimelech had given to her. And she

dressed Isaac therewith, and she put a turban upon his head, and

she fastened a precious stone in the top of the turban, and she

gave them provisions for the road. And Sarah went out with them,

and she accompanied them upon the road to see them off, and they

said to her, "Return to the tent." And when Sarah heard the words

of her son Isaac, she wept bitterly, and Abraham wept with her,

and their son wept with them, a great weeping, also those of

their servants who went with them wept greatly. And Sarah caught

hold of Isaac, and she held him in her arms, and she embraced

him, and continued to weep with him, and Sarah said, "Who knoweth

if I shall ever see thee again after this day?"

Abraham departed with Isaac amid great weeping, while Sarah and

the servants returned to the tent.[232] He took two of his young

men with him, Ishmael and Eliezer, and while they were walking in

the road, the young men spoke these words to each other. Said

Ishmael to Eliezer: "Now my father Abraham is going with Isaac to

bring him up for a burnt offering to the Lord, and when he

returneth, he will give unto me all that he possesses, to inherit

after him, for I am his first‑born." Eliezer answered: "Surely,

Abraham did cast thee off with thy mother, and swear that thou

shouldst not inherit anything of all he possesses. And to whom

will he give all that he has, all his precious things, but unto

his servant, who has been faithful in his house, to me, who have

served him night and day, and have done all that he desired me?"

The holy spirit answered, "Neither this one nor that one will

inherit Abraham."[233]

And while Abraham and Isaac were proceeding along the road, Satan

came and appeared to Abraham in the figure of a very aged man,

humble and of contrite spirit, and said to him: "Art thou silly

or foolish, that thou goest to do this thing to thine only son?

God gave thee a son in thy latter days, in thine old age, and

wilt thou go and slaughter him, who did not commit any violence,

and wilt thou cause the soul of thine only son to perish from the

earth? Dost thou not know and understand that this thing cannot

be from the Lord? For the Lord would not do unto man such evil,

to command him, Go and slaughter thy son." Abraham, hearing these

words, knew that it was Satan, who endeavored to turn him astray

from the way of the Lord, and he rebuked him that he went away.

And Satan returned and came to Isaac, and he appeared unto him in

the figure of a young man, comely and well‑favored, saying unto

him: "Dost thou not know that thy silly old father bringeth thee

to the slaughter this day for naught? Now, my son, do not listen

to him, for he is a silly old man, and let not thy precious soul

and beautiful figure be lost from the earth." And Isaac told

these words to his father, but Abraham said to him, "Take heed of

him, and do not listen to his words, for he is Satan endeavoring

to lead us astray from the commands of our God." And Abraham

rebuked Satan again, and Satan went from them, and, seeing he

could not prevail over them, he transformed himself into a large

brook of water in the road, and when Abraham, Isaac, and the two

young men reached that place, they saw a brook large and powerful

as the mighty waters. And they entered the brook, trying to pass

it, but the further they went, the deeper the brook, so that the

water reached up to their necks, and they were all terrified on

account of the water. But Abraham recognized the place, and he

knew that there had been no water there before, and he said to

his son: "I know this place, on which there was no brook nor

water. Now, surely, it is Satan who doth all this to us, to draw

us aside this day from the commands of God." And Abraham rebuked

Satan, saying unto him: "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan. Begone

from us, for we go by the command of God." And Satan was terri

fied at the voice of Abraham, and he went away from them, and the

place became dry land again as it was at first. And Abraham went

with Isaac toward the place that God had told him.[234]

Satan then appeared unto Sarah in the figure of an old man, and

said unto her, "Where did thine husband go?" She said, "To his

work." "And where did thy son Isaac go?" he inquired further, and

she answered, "He went with his father to a place of study of the

Torah." Satan said: "O thou poor old woman, thy teeth will be set

on edge on account of thy son, as thou knowest not that Abraham

took his son with him on the road to sacrifice him." In this hour

Sarah's loins trembled, and all her limbs shook. She was no more

of this world. Nevertheless she aroused herself, and said, "All

that God hath told Abraham, may he do it unto life and unto


On the third day of his journey, Abraham lifted up his eyes and

saw the place at a distance, which God had told him. He noticed

upon the mountain a pillar of fire reaching from the earth to

heaven, and a heavy cloud in which the glory of God was seen.

Abraham said to Isaac, "My son, dost thou see on that mountain

which we perceive at a distance that which I see upon it?" And

Isaac answered, and said unto his father, "I see, and, lo, a

pillar of fire and a cloud, and the glory of the Lord is seen

upon the cloud." Abraham knew then that Isaac was accepted before

the Lord for an offering. He asked Ishmael and Eliezer, "Do you

also see that which we see upon the mountain?" They answered, "We

see nothing more than like the other mountains," and Abraham knew

that they were not accepted before the Lord to go with them.[236]

Abraham said to them, "Abide ye here with the ass, you are like

the ass‑‑as little as it sees, so little do you see.[237] I and

Isaac my son go to yonder mount, and worship there before the

Lord, and this eve we will return to you."[238] An unconscious

prophecy had come to Abraham, for he prophesied that he and Isaac

would both return from the mountain.[239] Eliezer and Ishmael

remained in that place, as Abraham had commanded, while he and

Isaac went further.


And while they were walking along, Isaac spake unto his father,

"Behold, the fire and the wood, but where then is the lamb for a

burnt offering before the Lord?" And Abraham answered Isaac,

saying, "The Lord hath chosen thee, my son, for a perfect burnt

offering, instead of the lamb." And Isaac said unto his father,

"I will do all that the Lord hath spoken to thee with joy and

cheerfulness of heart." And Abraham again said unto Isaac his

son, "Is there in thy heart any thought or counsel concerning

this which is not proper? Tell me, my son, I pray thee! O my son,

conceal it not from me." And Isaac answered, "As the Lord liveth,

and as thy soul liveth, there is nothing in my heart to cause me

to deviate either to the right or the left from the word that He

hath spoken unto thee. Neither limb nor muscle hath moved or

stirred on account of this, nor is there in my heart any thought

or evil counsel concerning this. But I am joyful and cheerful of

heart in this matter, and I say, Blessed is the Lord who has this

day chosen me to be a burnt offering before Him."

Abraham greatly rejoiced at the words of Isaac, and they went on

and came together to that place that the Lord had spoken of.[240]

And Abraham approached to build the altar in that place, and

Abraham did build, while Isaac handed him stones and mortar,

until they finished erecting the altar. And Abraham took the wood

and arranged it upon the altar, and he bound Isaac, to place him

upon the wood which was upon the altar, to slay him for a burnt

offering before the Lord.[241] Isaac spake hereupon: "Father,

make haste, bare thine arm, and bind my hands and feet securely,

for I am a young man, but thirty‑seven years of age, and thou art

an old man. When I behold the slaughtering knife in thy hand, I

may perchance begin to tremble at the sight and push against

thee, for the desire unto life is bold. Also I may do myself an

injury and make myself unfit to be sacrificed. I adjure thee,

therefore, my father, make haste, execute the will of thy

Creator, delay not. Turn up thy garment, gird thy loins, and

after that thou hast slaughtered me, burn me unto fine ashes.

Then gather the ashes, and bring them to Sarah, my mother, and

place them in a casket in her chamber. At all hours, whenever she

enters her chamber, she will remember her son Isaac and weep for


And again Isaac spoke: "As soon as thou hast slaughtered me, and

hast separated thyself from me, and returnest to Sarah my mother,

and she asketh thee, Where is my son Isaac? what wilt thou answer

her, and what will you two do in your old age?" Abraham answered,

and said, "We know we can survive thee by a few days only. He who

was our Comfort before thou wast born, will comfort us now and


After he had laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac on the

altar, upon the wood, Abraham braced his arms, rolled up his

garments, and leaned his knees upon Isaac with all his strength.

And God, sitting upon His throne, high and exalted, saw how the

hearts of the two were the same, and tears were rolling down from

the eyes of Abraham upon Isaac, and from Isaac down upon the

wood, so that it was submerged in tears. When Abraham stretched

forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son, God spoke to

the angels: "Do you see how Abraham my friend proclaims the unity

of My Name in the world? Had I hearkened unto you at the time of

the creation of the world, when ye spake, What is man, that Thou

art mindful of him? And the son of man, that Thou visitest him?

who would there have been to make known the unity of My Name in

this world?" The angels then broke into loud weeping, and they

exclaimed: "The highways lie waste, the wayfaring man ceaseth, he

hath broken the covenant. Where is the reward of Abraham, he who

took the wayfarers into his house, gave them food and drink, and

went with them to bring them on the way? The covenant is broken,

whereof Thou didst speak to him, saying, 'For in Isaac shall thy

seed be called,' and saying, 'My covenant will I establish with

Isaac,' for the slaughtering knife is set upon his throat."

The tears of the angels fell upon the knife, so that it could not

cut Isaac's throat, but from terror his soul escaped from him.

Then God spoke to the archangel Michael, and said: "Why standest

thou here? Let him not be slaughtered." Without delay, Michael,

anguish in his voice, cried out: "Abraham! Abraham! Lay not thine

hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him!" Abraham

made answer, and he said: "God did command me to slaughter Isaac,

and thou dost command me not to slaughter him! The words of the

Teacher and the words of the disciple‑ unto whose words doth one

hearken?"[242] Then Abraham heard it said: "By Myself have I

sworn, saith the Lord, because thou hast done this thing, and

hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I

will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as

the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the

sea‑shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies,

and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,

because thou hast obeyed My voice."

At once Abraham left off from Isaac, who returned to life,

revived by the heavenly voice admonishing Abraham not to

slaughter his son. Abraham loosed his bonds, and Isaac stood upon

his feet, and spoke the benediction, "Blessed art Thou, O Lord,

who quickenest the dead."[243]

Then spake Abraham to God, "Shall I go hence without having

offered up a sacrifice?" Whereunto God replied, and said, "Lift

up thine eyes, and behold the sacrifice behind thee."[244] And

Abraham lifted up his eyes, and, behold, behind him a ram caught

in the thicket, which God had created in the twilight of Sabbath

eve in the week of creation, and prepared since then as a burnt

offering instead of Isaac. And the ram had been running toward

Abraham, when Satan caught hold of him and entangled his horns in

the thicket, that he might not advance to Abraham. And Abraham,

seeing this, fetched him from the thicket, and brought him upon

the altar as an offering in the place of his son Isaac. And

Abraham sprinkled the blood of the ram upon the altar, and he

exclaimed, and said, "This is instead of my son, and may this be

considered as the blood of my son before the Lord." And

whatsoever Abraham did by the altar, he exclaimed, and said,

"This is instead of my son, and may it be considered before the

Lord in place of my son." And God accepted the sacrifice of the

ram, and it was accounted as though it had been Isaac.[245]

As the creation of this ram had been extraordinary, so also was

the use to which all parts of his carcass were put. Not one thing

went to waste. The ashes of the parts burnt upon the altar formed

the foundation of the inner altar, whereon the expiatory

sacrifice was brought once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the

day on which the offering of Isaac took place. Of the sinews of

the ram, David made ten strings for his harp upon which he

played. The skin served Elijah for his girdle, and of his two

horns, the one was blown at the end of the revelation on Mount

Sinai, and the other will be used to proclaim the end of the

Exile, when the "great horn shall be blown, and they shall come

which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and they that

were outcasts in the land of Egypt, and they shall worship the

Lord in the holy mountain at Jerusalem."[246]

When God commanded the father to desist from sacrificing Isaac,

Abraham said: "One man tempts another, because he knoweth not

what is in the heart of his neighbor. But Thou surely didst know

that I was ready to sacrifice my son!"

God: "It was manifest to Me, and I foreknew it, that thou wouldst

withhold not even thy soul from Me."

Abraham: "And why, then, didst Thou afflict me thus?"

God: "It was My wish that the world should become acquainted with

thee, and should know that it is not without good reason that I

have chosen thee from all the nations. Now it hath been witnessed

unto men that thou fearest God."[247]

Hereupon God opened the heavens, and Abraham heard the words, "By

Myself I swear!"

Abraham: "Thou swearest, and also I swear, I will not leave this

altar until I have said what I have to say."

God: "Speak whatsoever thou hast to speak!"

Abraham: "Didst Thou not promise me Thou wouldst let one come

forth out of mine own bowels, whose seed should fill the whole


God: "Yes."

Abraham: "Whom didst Thou mean?"

God: "Isaac."

Abraham: "Didst Thou not promise me to make my seed as numerous

as the sand of the sea‑shore?"

God: "Yes."

Abraham: "Through which one of my children?"

God: "Through Isaac."

Abraham: "I might have reproached Thee, and said, O Lord of the

world, yesterday Thou didst tell me, In Isaac shall Thy seed be

called, and now Thou sayest, Take thy son, thine only son, even

Isaac, and offer him for a burnt offering. But I refrained

myself, and I said nothing. Thus mayest Thou, when the children

of Isaac commit trespasses and because of them fall upon evil

times, be mindful of the offering of their father Isaac, and

forgive their sins and deliver them from their suffering."

God: "Thou hast said what thou hadst to say, and I will now say

what I have to say. Thy children will sin before me in time to

come, and I will sit in judgment upon them on the New Year's Day.

If they desire that I should grant them pardon, they shall blow

the ram's horn on that day, and I, mindful of the ram that was

substituted for Isaac as a sacrifice, will forgive them for their


Furthermore, the Lord revealed unto Abraham that the Temple, to

be erected on the spot of Isaac's offering, would be

destroyed,[249] and as the ram substituted for Isaac extricated

himself from one tree but to be caught in another, so his

children would pass from kingdom to kingdom‑‑delivered from

Babylonia they would be subjugated by Media, rescued from Media

they would be enslaved by Greece, escaped from Greece they would

serve Rome‑‑yet in the end they would be redeemed in a final

redemption, at the sound of the ram's horn, when "the Lord God

shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds of the


The place on which Abraham had erected the altar was the same

whereon Adam had brought the first sacrifice, and Cain and Abel

had offered their gifts to God‑‑the same whereon Noah raised an

altar to God after he left the ark;[251] and Abraham, who knew

that it was the place appointed for the Temple, called it Yireh,

for it would be the abiding place of the fear and the service of

God.[252] But as Shem had given it the name Shalem, Place of

Peace, and God would not give offence to either Abraham or Shem,

He united the two names, and called the city by the name


After the sacrifice on Mount Moriah, Abraham returned to

Beer‑sheba, the scene of so many of his joys.[254] Isaac was

carried to Paradise by angels, and there he sojourned for three

years. Thus Abraham returned home alone, and when Sarah beheld

him, she exclaimed, "Satan spoke truth when he said that Isaac

was sacrificed," and so grieved was her soul that it fled from

her body.[255]


While Abraham was engaged in the sacrifice, Satan went to Sarah,

and appeared to her in the figure of an old man, very humble and

meek, and said to her: "Dost thou not know all that Abraham has

done unto thine only son this day? He took Isaac, and built an

altar, slaughtered him, and brought him up as a sacrifice. Isaac

cried and wept before his father, but he looked not at him,

neither did he have compassion upon him." After saying these

words to Sarah, Satan went away from her, and she thought him to

be an old man from amongst the sons of men who had been with her

son. Sarah lifted up her voice, and cried bitterly, saying: "O my

son, Isaac, my son, O that I had this day died instead of thee I

It grieves me for thee! After that I have reared thee and have

brought thee up, my joy is turned into mourning over thee. In my

longing for a child, I cried and prayed, till I bore thee at

ninety. Now hast thou served this day for the knife and the fire.

But I console myself, it being the word of God, and thou didst

perform the command of thy God, for who can transgress the word

of our God, in whose hands is the soul of every living creature?

Thou art just, O Lord our God, for all Thy works are good and

righteous, for I also rejoice with the word which Thou didst

command, and while mine eye weepeth bitterly, my heart

rejoiceth." And Sarah laid her head upon the bosom of one of her

handmaids, and she became as still as a stone.

She rose up afterward and went about making inquiries concerning

her son, till she came to Hebron, and no one could tell her what

had happened to her son. Her servants went to seek him in the

house of Shem and Eber, and they could not find him, and they

sought throughout the land, and he was not there. And, behold,

Satan came to Sarah in the shape of an old man, and said unto

her, "I spoke falsely unto thee, for Abraham did not kill his

son, and he is not dead," and when she heard the word, her joy

was so exceedingly violent that her soul went out through joy.

When Abraham with Isaac returned to Beer‑sheba, they sought for

Sarah and could not find her, and when they made inquiries

concerning her, they were told that she had gone as far as Hebron

to seek them. Abraham and Isaac went to her to Hebron, and when

they found that she was dead, they cried bitterly over her, and

Isaac said: "O my mother, my mother, how hast thou left me, and

whither hast thou gone? O whither hast thou gone, and how hast

thou left me?" And Abraham and all his servants wept and mourned

over her a great and heavy mourning," even that Abraham did not

pray, but spent his time in mourning and weeping over Sarah.[257]

And, indeed, he had great reason to mourn his loss, for even in

her old age Sarah had retained the beauty of her youth and the

innocence of her childhood.[258]

The death of Sarah was a loss not only for Abraham and his

family, but for the whole country. So long as she was alive, all

went well in the land. After her death confusion ensued. The

weeping, lamenting, and wailing over her going hence was

universal, and Abraham, instead of receiving consolation, had to

offer consolation to others. He spoke to the mourning people, and

said: "My children, take not the going hence of Sarah too much to

heart. There is one event unto all, to the pious and the impious

alike. I pray you now, give me a burying‑place with you, not as a

gift, but for money."[259]

In these last few words Abraham's unassuming modesty was

expressed. God had promised him the whole land, yet when he came

to bury his dead, he had to pay for the grave, and it did not

enter his heart to cast aspersions upon the ways of God. In all

humility he spake to the people of Hebron, saying, "I am a

stranger and a sojourner with you." Therefore spake God to him,

and said, "Thou didst bear thyself modestly. As thou livest, I

will appoint thee lord and prince over them."[260]

To the people themselves he appeared an angel, and they answered

his words, saying: "Thou art a prince of God among us. In the

choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead, among the rich if thou

wilt, or among the poor if thou wilt."[261]

Abraham first of all gave thanks to God for the friendly feeling

shown to him by the children of Heth, and then he continued his

negotiations for the Cave of Machpelah.[262] He had long known

the peculiar value of this spot. Adam had chosen it as a

burial‑place for himself. He had feared his body might be used

for idolatrous purposes after his death; he therefore designated

the Cave of Machpelah as the place of his burial, and in the

depths his corpse was laid, so that none might find it.[263] When

he interred Eve there, he wanted to dig deeper, because he

scented the sweet fragrance of Paradise, near the entrance to

which it lay, but a heavenly voice called to him, Enough! Adam

himself was buried there by Seth, and until the time of Abraham

the place was guarded by angels, who kept a fire burning near it

perpetually, so that none dared approach it and bury his dead

therein.[264] Now, it happened on the day when Abraham received

the angels in his house, and he wanted to slaughter an ox for

their entertainment, that the ox ran away, and in his pursuit of

him Abraham entered the Cave of Machpelah. There he saw Adam and

Eve stretched out upon couches, candles burning at the head of

their resting‑places, while a sweet scent pervaded the cave.

Therefore Abraham wished to acquire the Cave of Machpelah from

the children of Heth, the inhabitants of the city of Jebus. They

said to him. "We know that in time to come God will give these

lands unto thy seed, and now do thou swear a covenant with us

that Israel shall not wrest the city of Jebus from its

inhabitants without their consent." Abraham agreed to the

condition, and he acquired the field from Ephron, in whose

possession it lay.[265]

This happened the very day on which Ephron had been made the

chief of the children of Heth, and he had been raised to the

position so that Abraham might not have to have dealings with a

man of low rank. It was of advantage to Abraham, too, for Ephron

at first refused to sell his field, and only the threat of the

children of Heth to depose him from his office, unless he

fulfilled the desire of Abraham, could induce him to change his


Dissembling deceitfully, Ephron then offered to give Abraham the

field without compensation, but when Abraham insisted upon paying

for it, Ephron said: "My lord, hearken unto me. A piece of land

worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that betwixt me and

thee?" showing only too well that the money was of the greatest

consequence to him. Abraham understood his words, and when he

came to pay for the field, he weighed out the sum agreed upon

between them in the best of current coin.[267] A deed, signed by

four witnesses, was drawn up, and the field of Ephron, which was

in Machpelah, the field, and the cave which was therein, were

made sure unto Abraham and his descendants for all times.

The burial of Sarah then took place, amid great magnificence and

the sympathy of all. Shem and his son Eber, Abimelech king of the

Philistines, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, as well as all the great of

the land, followed her bier. A seven days' mourning was kept for

her, and all the inhabitants of the land came to condole with

Abraham and Isaac.[268]

When Abraham entered the cave to place the body of Sarah within,

Adam and Eve refused to remain there, "because," they said, "as

it is, we are ashamed in the presence of God on account of the

sin we committed, and now we shall be even more ashamed on

account of your good deeds." Abraham soothed Adam. He promised to

pray to God for him, that the need for shame be removed from him.

Adam resumed his place, and Abraham entombed Sarah, and at the

same time he carried Eve, resisting, back to her place.[269]

One year after the death of Sarah, Abimelech king of the

Philistines died, too, at the age of one hundred and ninety‑three

years. His successor upon the throne was his twelve‑year old son

Benmelek, who took the name of his father after his accession.

Abraham did not fail to pay a visit of condolence at the court of


Lot also died about this time, at the age of one hundred and

forty‑two. His sons, Moab and Ammon, both married Canaanitish

wives. Moab begot a son, and Ammon had six sons, and the

descendants of both were numerous exceedingly.

Abraham suffered a severe loss at the same time in the death of

his brother Nahor, whose days ended at Haran, when he had reached

the age of one hundred and seventy two years.[270]


The death of Sarah dealt Abraham a blow from which he did not

recover. So long as she was alive, he felt himself young and

vigorous, but after she had passed away, old age suddenly

overtook him.[271] It was he himself who made the plea that age

be betrayed by suitable signs and tokens. Before the time of

Abraham an old man was not distinguishable externally from a

young man, and as Isaac was the image of his father, it happened

frequently that father and son were mistaken for each other, and

a request meant for the one was preferred to the other. Abraham

prayed therefore that old age might have marks to distinguish it

from youth, and God granted his petition, and since the time of

Abraham the appearance of men changes in old age. This is one of

the seven great wonders that have occurred in the course of


The blessing of God did not forsake Abraham in old age, either.

That it might not be said it had been granted to him only for the

sake of Sarah, God prospered him after her death, too. Hagar bore

him a daughter, and Ishmael repented of his evil ways and

subordinated himself to Isaac. And as Abraham enjoyed undisturbed

happiness in his family, so also outside, in the world. The kings

of the east and the west eagerly besieged the door of his house

in order to derive benefit from his wisdom. From his neck a

precious stone was suspended, which possessed the power of

healing the sick who looked upon it. On the death of Abraham, God

attached it to the wheel of the sun. The greatest blessing

enjoyed by him, and by none beside except his son Isaac and Jacob

the son of Isaac, was that the evil inclination had no power over

him, so that in this life he had a foretaste of the future


But all these Divine blessings showered upon Abraham were not

undeserved. He was clean of hand, and pure of heart, one that did

not lift up his soul unto vanity.[274]

He fulfilled all the commands that were revealed later, even the

Rabbinical injunctions, as, for instance, the one relating to the

limits of a Sabbath day's journey, wherefor his reward was that

God disclosed to him the new teachings which He expounded daily

in the heavenly academy.[275]

But one thing lacked to complete the happiness of Abraham, the

marriage of Isaac. He therefore called his old servant Eliezer

unto himself. Eliezer resembled his master not only externally,

in his appearance, but also spiritually. Like Abraham he

possessed full power over the evil inclination,[276] and like the

master, the servant was an adept in the law.[277] Abraham spake

the following words to Eliezer: "I am stricken in age, and I know

not the day of my death. Therefore prepare thyself, and go unto

my country, and to my kindred, and fetch hither a wife for my

son."[278] Thus he spake by reason of the resolution he had taken

immediately after the sacrifice of Isaac on Moriah, for he had

there said within himself, that if the sacrifice had been

executed, Isaac would have gone hence childless. He was even

ready to choose a wife for his son from among the daughters of

his three friends, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, because he knew them

to be pious, and he did not attach much importance to

aristocratic stock. Then spake God to him, and said: "Concern

thyself not about a wife for Isaac.[279] One has already been

provided for him," and it was made known to Abraham that Milcah,

the wife of his brother Nahor, childless until the birth of

Isaac, had then been remembered by God and made fruitful. She

bore Bethuel, and he in turn, at the time of Isaac's sacrifice,

begot the daughter destined to be the wife of Isaac.[280]

Mindful of the proverb, "Even if the wheat of thine own place be

darnel, use it for seed," Abraham determined to take a wife for

Isaac from his own family. He argued that as any wife he chose

would have to become a proselyte, it would be best to use his own

stock, which had the first claim upon him.[281]

Eliezer now said to his master: "Peradventure no woman will be

willing to follow me unto this land. May I then marry my own

daughter to Isaac?" "No," replied Abraham, "thou art of the

accursed race, and my son is of the blessed race, and curse and

blessing cannot be united.[282] But beware thou that thou bring

not my son again unto the land from whence I came, for if thou

broughtest him thither again, it were as though thou tookest him

to hell. God who sets the heavens in motion, He will set this

matter right, too,[283] and He that took me from my father's

house, and that spake unto me, and that swore unto me in Haran,

and at the covenant of the pieces, that He would give this land

unto my seed, He shall send His excellent angel before thee, and

thou shalt take a wife for my son from thence." Eliezer then

swore to his master concerning the matter, and Abraham made him

take the oath by the sign of the covenant.[284]


Attended by ten men,[285] mounted upon ten camels laden with

jewels and trinkets, Eliezer betook himself to Haran under the

convoy of two angels, the one appointed to keep guard over

Eliezer, the other over Rebekah.[286]

The journey to Haran took but a few hours, at evening of the same

day he reached there, because the earth hastened to meet him in a

wonderful way.[287] He made a halt at the well of water, and he

prayed to God to permit him to distinguish the wife appointed for

Isaac among the damsels that came to draw water, by this token,

that she alone, and not the others, would give him drink.[288]

Strictly speaking, this wish of his was unseemly, for suppose a

bondwoman had given him water to drink![289] But God granted his

request. All the damsels said they could not give him of their

water, because they had to take it home. Then appeared Rebekah,

coming to the well contrary to her wont, for she was the daughter

of a king, Bethuel her father being king of Haran. When Eliezer

addressed his request for water to drink to this young innocent

child, not only was she ready to do his bidding, but she rebuked

the other maidens on account of their discourtesy to a

stranger.[290] Eliezer noticed, too, how the water rose up to her

of its own accord from the bottom of the well, so that she needed

not to exert herself to draw it. Having scrutinized her

carefully, he felt certain that she was the wife chosen for

Isaac. He gave her a nose ring, wherein was set a precious stone,

half a shekel in weight, foreshadowing the half‑shekel which her

descendants would once bring to the sanctuary year by year. He

gave her also two bracelets for her hands, of ten shekels weight

in gold, in token of the two tables of stone and the Ten

Commandments upon them.[291]

When Rebekah, bearing the jewels, came to her mother and to her

brother Laban, this one hastened to Eliezer in order to slay him

and take possession of his goods. Laban soon learnt that he would

not be able to do much harm to a giant like Eliezer. He met him

at the moment when Eliezer seized two camels and bore them across

the stream.[292] Besides, on account of Eliezer's close

resemblance to Abraham, Laban thought he saw Abraham before him,

and he said: "Come in, thou blessed of the Lord! It is not

becoming that thou shouldst stand without, I have cleansed my

house of idols."[293]

But when Eliezer arrived at the house of Bethuel, they tried to

kill him with cunning. They set poisoned food before him.

Luckily, he refused to eat before he had discharged himself of

his errand. While he was telling his story, it was ordained by

God that the dish intended for him should come to stand in front

of Bethuel, who ate of it and died.[294]

Eliezer showed the document he had in which Abraham deeded all

his possessions to Isaac, and he made it known to the kindred of

Abraham, how deeply attached to them his master was, in spite of

the long years of separation.[295] Yet he let them know at the

same time that Abraham was not dependent wholly upon them. He

might seek a wife for his son among the daughters of Ishmael or

Lot. At first the kindred of Abraham consented to let Rebekah go

with Eliezer, but as Bethuel had died in the meantime, they did

not want to give Rebekah in marriage without consulting her.

Besides, they deemed it proper that she should remain at home at

least during the week of mourning for her father.[296] But

Eliezer, seeing the angel wait for him, would brook no delay, and

he said, "The man who came with me and prospered my way, waits

for me without," and as Rebekah professed herself ready to go at

once with Eliezer, her mother and brother granted her wish and

dismissed her with their blessings.[297] But their blessings did

not come from the bottom of their hearts. Indeed, as a rule, the

blessing of the impious is a curse, wherefore Rebekah remained

barren for years.

Eliezer's return to Canaan was as wonderful as his going to Haran

had been. A seventeen days' journey he accomplished in three

hours. He left Haran at noon, and he arrived at Hebron[299] at

three o'clock in the afternoon, the time for the Minhah Prayer,

which had been introduced by Isaac. He was in the posture of

praying when Rebekah first laid eyes upon him, wherefore she

asked Eliezer what man this was. She saw he was not an ordinary

individual. She noticed the unusual beauty of Isaac, and also

that an angel accompanied him. Thus her question was not dictated

by mere curiosity.[300] At this moment she learnt through the

holy spirit, that she was destined to be the mother of the

godless Esau. Terror seized her at the knowledge, and, trembling,

she fell from the camel and inflicted an injury upon


After Isaac had heard the wonderful adventures of Eliezer, he

took Rebekah to the tent of his mother Sarah, and she showed

herself worthy to be her successor. The cloud appeared again that

had been visible over the tent during the life of Sarah, and had

vanished at her death; the light shone again in the tent of

Rebekah that Sarah had kindled at the coming in of the Sabbath,

and that had burnt miraculously throughout the week; the blessing

returned with Rebekah that had hovered over the dough kneaded by

Sarah; and the gates of the tent were opened for the needy, wide

and spacious, as they had been during the lifetime of Sarah.[302]

For three years Isaac had mourned for his mother, and he could

find no consolation in the academy of Shem and Eber, his

abiding‑place during that period. But Rebekah comforted him after

his mother's death,[303] for she was the counterpart of Sarah in

person and in spirit.[304]

As a reward for having executed to his full satisfaction the

mission with which he had charged him, Abraham set his bondman

free.[305] The curse resting upon Eliezer, as upon all the

descendants of Canaan, was transformed into a blessing, because

he ministered unto Abraham loyally.[306] Greatest reward of all,

God found him worthy of entering Paradise alive, a distinction

that fell to the lot of very few.[307]


Rebekah first saw Isaac as he was coming from the way of

Beer‑lahai‑roi, the dwelling‑place of Hagar, whither he had gone

after the death of his mother, for the purpose of reuniting his

father with Hagar,[308] or, as she is also called, Keturah.[309]

Hagar bore him six sons, who, however, did scant honor to their

father, for they all were idolaters.[310] Abraham, therefore,

during his own lifetime, sent them away from the presence of

Isaac, that they might not be singed by Isaac's flame, and gave

them the instruction to journey eastward as far as possible.[311]

There he built a city for them, surrounded by an iron wall, so

high that the sun could not shine into the city. But Abraham

provided them with huge gems and pearls, their lustre more

brilliant than the light of the sun, which will be used in the

Messianic time when "the moon shall be confounded and the sun

ashamed."[312] Also Abraham taught them the black art, wherewith

they held sway over demons and spirits. It is from this city in

the east that Laban, Balaam, and Balaam's father Beor derived

their sorceries.[313]

Epher, one of the grandsons of Abraham and Keturah, invaded Lybia

with an armed force, and took possession of the country. From

this Epher the whole land of Africa has its name.[314] Aram is

also a country made habitable by a kinsman of Abraham. In his old

age Terah contracted a new marriage with Pelilah, and from this

union sprang a son Zoba, who was the father in turn of three

sons. The oldest of these, Aram, was exceedingly rich and

powerful, and the old home in Haran sufficed not for him and his

kinsmen, the sons of Nahor, the brother of Abraham. Aram and his

brethren and all that belonged to him therefore departed from

Haran, and they settled in a vale, and they built themselves a

city there which they called Aram‑Zoba, to perpetuate the name of

the father and his first‑born son. Another Aram, Aram‑naharaim,

on the Euphrates, was built by Aram son of Kemuel, a nephew of

Abraham. Its real name was Petor, after the son of Aram, but it

is better known as Aram‑naharaim. The descendants of Kesed,

another nephew of Abraham, a son of his brother Nahor,

established themselves opposite to Shinar, where they founded the

city of Kesed, the city whence the Chaldees are called


Though Abraham knew full well that Isaac deserved his paternal

blessing beyond all his sons, yet he withheld it from him, that

no hostile feelings be aroused among his descendants. He spake,

and said: "I am but flesh and blood, here to‑day, to‑morrow in

the grave. What I was able to do for my children I have done.

Henceforth let come what God desires to do in His world," and it

happened that immediately after the death of Abraham God Himself

appeared unto Isaac, and gave him His blessing.[316]


When the day of the death of Abraham drew near, the Lord said to

Michael, "Arise and go to Abraham and say to him, Thou shalt

depart from life!" so that he might set his house in order before

he died. And Michael went and came to Abraham and found him

sitting before his oxen for ploughing. Abraham, seeing Michael,

but not knowing who he was, saluted him and said to him, "Sit

down a little while, and I will order a beast to be brought, and

we will go to my house, that thou mayest rest with me, for it is

toward evening, and arise in the morning and go whithersoever

thou wilt." And Abraham called one of his servants, and said to

him: "Go and bring me a beast, that the stranger may sit upon it,

for he is wearied with his journey." But Michael said, "I abstain

from ever sitting upon any fourfooted beast, let us walk

therefore, till we reach the house."

On their way to the house they passed a huge tree, and Abraham

heard a voice from its branches, singing, "Holy art thou, because

thou hast kept the purpose for which thou wast sent." Abraham hid

the mystery in his heart, thinking that the stranger did not hear

it. Arrived at his house, he ordered the servants to prepare a

meal, and while they were busy with their work, he called his son

Isaac, and said to him, "Arise and put water in the vessel, that

we may wash the feet of the stranger." And he brought it as he

was commanded, and Abraham said, "I perceive that in this basin I

shall never again wash the feet of any man coming to us as a

guest." Hearing this, Isaac began to weep, and Abraham, seeing

his son weep, also wept, and Michael, seeing them weep, wept

also, and the tears of Michael fell into the water, and became

precious stones.

Before sitting down to the table, Michael arose, went out for a

moment, as if to ease nature, and ascended to heaven in the

twinkling of an eye, and stood before the Lord, and said to Him:

"Lord and Master, let Thy power know that I am unable to remind

that righteous man of his death, for I have not seen upon the

earth a man like him, compassionate, hospitable, righteous,

truthful, devout, refraining from every evil deed." Then the Lord

said to Michael, "Go down to My friend Abraham, and whatever he

may say to thee, that do thou also, and whatever he may eat, eat

thou also with him, and I will cast the thought of the death of

Abraham into the heart of Isaac, his son, in a dream, and Isaac

will relate the dream, and thou shalt interpret it, and he

himself will know his end." And Michael said, "Lord, all the

heavenly spirits are incorporeal, and neither eat nor drink, and

this man has set before me a table with an abundance of all good

things earthly and corruptible. Now, Lord, what shall I do?" The

Lord answered him, "Go down to him and take no thought for this,

for when thou sittest down with him, I will send upon thee a

devouring spirit, and it will consume out of thy hands and

through thy mouth all that is on the table."

Then Michael went into the house of Abraham, and they ate and

drank and were merry. And when the supper was ended, Abraham

prayed after his custom, and Michael prayed with him, and each

lay down to sleep upon his couch in one room, while Isaac went to

his chamber, lest he be troublesome to the guest. About the

seventh hour of the night, Isaac awoke and came to the door of

his father's chamber, crying out and saying, "Open, father, that

I may touch thee before they take thee away from me." And Abraham

wept together with his son, and when Michael saw them weep, he

wept likewise. And Sarah, hearing the weeping, called forth from

her bedchamber, saying: "My lord Abraham, why this weeping? Has

the stranger told thee of thy brother's son Lot, that he is dead?

or has aught befallen us?" Michael answered, and said to her,

"Nay, my sister Sarah, it is not as thou sayest, but thy son

Isaac, methinks, beheld a dream, and came to us weeping, and we,

seeing him, were moved in our hearts and wept." Sarah, hearing

Michael speak, knew straightway that it was an angel of the Lord,

one of the three angels whom they had entertained in their house

once before, and therefore she made a sign to Abraham to come out

toward the door, to inform him of what she knew. Abraham said:

"Thou hast perceived well, for I, too, when I washed his feet,

knew in my heart that they were the feet that I had washed at the

oak of Mamre, and that went to save Lot." Abraham, returning to

his chamber, made Isaac relate his dream, which Michael

interpreted to them, saying: "Thy son Isaac has spoken truth, for

thou shalt go and be taken up into the heavens, but thy body

shall remain on earth, until seven thousand ages are fulfilled,

for then all flesh shall arise. Now, therefore, Abraham, set thy

house in order, for thou wast heard what is decreed concerning

thee." Abraham answered, "Now I know thou art an angel of the

Lord, and wast sent to take my soul, but I will not go with thee,

but do thou whatever thou art commanded." Michael returned to

heaven and told God of Abraham's refusal to obey his summons, and

he was again commanded to go down and admonish Abraham not to

rebel against God, who had bestowed many blessings upon him, and

he reminded him that no one who has come from Adam and Eve can

escape death, and that God in His great kindness toward him did

not permit the sickle of death to meet him, but sent His chief

captain, Michael, to him. "Wherefore, then," he ended, "hast thou

said to the chief captain, I will not go with thee?" When Michael

delivered these exhortations to Abraham, he saw that it was

futile to oppose the will of God, and he consented to die, but

wished to have one desire of his fulfilled while still alive. He

said to Michael: "I beseech thee, lord, if I must depart from my

body, I desire to be taken up in my body, that I may see the

creatures that the Lord has created in heaven and on earth."

Michael went up into heaven, and spake before the Lord concerning

Abraham, and the Lord answered Michael, "Go and take up Abraham

in the body and show him all things, and whatever he shall say to

thee, do to him as to My friend."


The archangel Michael went down, and took Abraham upon a chariot

of the cherubim, and lifted him up into the air of heaven, and

led him upon the cloud, together with sixty angels, and Abraham

ascended upon the chariot over all the earth, and saw all things

that are below on the earth, both good and bad. Looking down upon

the earth, he saw a man committing adultery with a wedded woman,

and turning to Michael he said, "Send fire from heaven to consume

them." Straightway there came down fire and consumed them, for

God had commanded Michael to do whatsoever Abraham should ask him

to do. He looked again, and he saw thieves digging through a

house, and Abraham said, "Let wild beasts come out of the desert,

and tear them in pieces," and immediately wild beasts came out of

the desert and devoured them. Again he looked down, and he saw

people preparing to commit murder, and he said, "Let the earth

open and swallow them," and, as he spoke, the earth swallowed

them alive. Then God spoke to Michael: "Turn away Abraham to his

own house and let him not go round the whole earth, because he

has no compassion on sinners, but I have compassion on sinners,

that they may turn and live and repent of their sins, and be


So Michael turned the chariot, and brought Abraham to the place

of judgment of all souls. Here he saw two gates, the one broad

and the other narrow, the narrow gate that of the just, which

leads to life, they that enter through it go into Paradise. The

broad gate is that of sinners, which leads to destruction and

eternal punishment. Then Abraham wept, saying, "Woe is me, what

shall I do? for I am a man big of body, and how shall I be able

to enter by the narrow gate?" Michael answered, and said to

Abraham, "Fear not, nor grieve, for thou shalt enter by it

unhindered, and all they who are like thee." Abraham, perceiving

that a soul was adjudged to be set in the midst, asked Michael

the reason for it, and Michael answered, "Because the judge found

its sins and its righteousness equal, he neither committed it to

judgment nor to be saved." Abraham said to Michael, "Let us pray

for this soul, and see whether God will hear us," and when they

rose up from their prayer, Michael informed Abraham that the soul

was saved by the prayer, and was taken by an angel and carried up

to Paradise. Abraham said to Michael, "Let us yet call upon the

Lord and supplicate His compassion and entreat His mercy for the

souls of the sinners whom I formerly, in my anger, cursed and

destroyed, whom the earth devoured, and the wild beasts tore in

pieces, and the fire consumed, through my words. Now I know that

I have sinned before the Lord our God."

After the joint prayer of the archangel and Abraham, there came a

voice from heaven, saying, "Abraham, Abraham, I have hearkened to

thy voice and thy prayer, and I forgive thee thy sin, and those

whom thou thinkest that I destroyed, I have called up and brought

them into life by My exceeding kindness, because for a season I

have requited them in judgment, and those whom I destroy living

upon earth, I will not requite in death."

When Michael brought Abraham back to his house, they found Sarah

dead. Not seeing what had become of Abraham, she was consumed

with grief and gave up her soul. Though Michael had fulfilled

Abraham's wish, and had shown him all the earth and the judgment

and recompense, he still refused to surrender his soul to

Michael, and the archangel again ascended to heaven, and said

unto the Lord: "Thus speaks Abraham, I will not go with thee, and

I refrain from laying my hands on him, because from the beginning

he was Thy friend, and he has done all things pleasing in Thy

sight. There is no man like him on earth, not even Job, the

wondrous man." But when the day of the death of Abraham drew

nigh, God commanded Michael to adorn Death with great beauty and

send him thus to Abraham, that he might see him with his eyes.

While sitting under the oak of Mamre, Abraham perceived a

flashing of light and a smell of sweet odor, and turning around

he saw Death coming toward him in great glory and beauty. And

Death said unto Abraham: "Think not, Abraham, that this beauty is

mine, or that I come thus to every man. Nay, but if any one is

righteous like thee, I thus take a crown and come to him, but if

he is a sinner, I come in great corruption, and out of their sins

I make a crown for my head, and I shake them with great fear, so

that they are dismayed." Abraham said to him, "And art thou,

indeed, he that is called Death?" He answered, and said, "I am

the bitter name," but Abraham answered, "I will not go with

thee." And Abraham said to Death, "Show us thy corruption." And

Death revealed his corruption, showing two heads, the one had the

face of a serpent, the other head was like a sword. All the

servants of Abraham, looking at the fierce mien of Death, died,

but Abraham prayed to the Lord, and he raised them up. As the

looks of Death were not able to cause Abraham's soul to depart

from him, God removed the soul of Abraham as in a dream, and the

archangel Michael took it up into heaven. After great praise and

glory had been given to the Lord by the angels who brought

Abraham's soul, and after Abraham bowed down to worship, then

came the voice of God, saying thus: "Take My friend Abraham into

Paradise, where are the tabernacles of My righteous ones and the

abodes of My saints Isaac and Jacob in his bosom, where there is

no trouble, nor grief, nor sighing, but peace and rejoicing and

life unending."[317]

Abraham's activity did not cease with his death, and as he

interceded in this world for the sinners, so will he intercede

for them in the world to come. On the day of judgment he will sit

at the gate of hell, and he will not suffer those who kept the

law of circumcision to enter therein.[318]


Once upon a time some Jews lived in Hebron, few in number, but

pious and good, and particularly hospitable. When strangers came

to the Cave of Machpelah to pray there, the inhabitants of the

place fairly quarrelled with each other for the privilege of

entertaining the guests, and the one who carried off the victory

rejoiced as though he had found great spoil.

On the eve of the Day of Atonement, it appeared that, in spite of

all their efforts, the dwellers at Hebron could not secure the

tenth man needed for public Divine service, and they feared they

would have none on the holy day. Toward evening, when the sun was

about to sink, they descried an old man with silver white beard,

bearing a sack upon his shoulder, his raiment tattered, and his

feet badly swollen from much walking. They ran to meet him, took

him to one of the houses, gave him food and drink, and, after

supplying him with new white garments, they all together went to

the synagogue for worship. Asked what his name was, the stranger

replied, Abraham.

At the end of the fast, the residents of Hebron cast lots for the

privilege of entertaining the guest. Fortune favored the beadle,

who, the envy of the rest, bore his guest away to his house. On

the way, he suddenly disappeared, and the beadle could not find

him anywhere. In vain all the Jews of the place went on a quest

for him. Their sleepless night, spent in searching, had no

result. The stranger could not be found. But no sooner had the

beadle lain down, toward morning, weary and anxious, to snatch

some sleep, than he saw the lost guest before him, his face

luminous as lightning, and his garments magnificent and studded

with gems radiant as the sun. Before the beadle, stunned by

fright, could open his mouth, the stranger spake, and said: "I am

Abraham the Hebrew, your ancestor, who rests here in the Cave of

Machpelah. When I saw how grieved you were at not having the

number of men prescribed for a public service, I came forth to

you. Have no fear! Rejoice and be merry of heart!"[319]

On another occasion Abraham granted his assistance to the people

of Hebron. The lord of the city was a heartless man, who

oppressed the Jews sorely. One day he commanded them to pay a

large sum of money into his coffers, the whole sum in uniform

coins, all stamped with the same year. It was but a pretext to

kill the Jews. He knew that his demand was impossible of


The Jews proclaimed a fast and day of public prayer, on which to

supplicate God that He turn aside the sword suspended above them.

The night following, the beadle in a dream saw an awe‑inspiring

old man, who addressed him in the following words: "Up, quickly!

Hasten to the gate of the court, where lies the money you need. I

am your father Abraham. I have beheld the affliction wherewith

the Gentiles oppress you, but God has heard your groans." In

great terror the beadle arose, but he saw no one, yet he went to

the spot designated by the vision, and he found the money and

took it to the congregation, telling his dream at the same time.

Amazed, they counted the gold, precisely the amount required of

them by the prince, no more and no less. They surrendered the sum

to him, and he who had considered compliance with his demand

impossible, recognized now that God is with the Jews, and

thenceforth they found favor in his eyes.[320]































Isaac was the counterpart of his father in body and soul. He

resembled him in every particular‑‑"in beauty, wisdom, strength,

wealth, and noble deeds."[1] It was, therefore, as great an honor

for Isaac to be called the son of his father as for Abraham to be

called the father of his son, and though Abraham was the

progenitor of thirty nations, he is always designated as the

father of Isaac.[2]

Despite his many excellent qualities, Isaac married late in life.

God permitted him to meet the wife suitable to him only after he

had successfully disproved the mocking charges of Ishmael, who

was in the habit of taunting him with having been circumcised at

the early age of eight days, while Ishmael had submitted himself

voluntarily to the operation when be was thirteen years old. For

this reason God demanded Isaac as a sacrifice when he had

attained to full manhood, at the age of thirty‑seven, and Isaac

was ready to give up his life. Ishmael's jibes were thus robbed

of their sting, and Isaac was permitted to marry. But another

delay occurred before his marriage could take place. Directly

after the sacrifice on Mount Moriah, his mother died, and he

mourned her for three years.[3] Finally he married Rebekah, who

was then a maiden of fourteen.[4]

Rebekah was "a rose between thorns." Her father was the Aramean

Bethuel, and her brother was Laban, but she did not walk in their

ways.[5] Her piety was equal to Isaac's.[6] Nevertheless their

marriage was not entirely happy, for they lived together no less

than twenty years without begetting children.[7] Rebekah besought

her husband to entreat God for the gift of children, as his

father Abraham had done. At first Isaac would not do her bidding.

God had promised Abraham a numerous progeny, and he thought their

childlessness was probably Rebekah's fault, and it was her duty

to supplicate God, and not his. But Rebekah would not desist, and

husband and wife repaired to Mount Moriah together to pray to God

there. And Isaac said: "O Lord God of heaven and earth, whose

goodness and mercies fill the earth, Thou who didst take my

father from his father's house and from his birthplace, and didst

bring him unto this land, and didst say unto him, To thee and thy

seed will I give the land, and didst promise him and declare unto

him, I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven and as the

sand of the sea, now may Thy words be verified which Thou didst

speak unto my father. For Thou art the Lord our God, our eyes are

toward Thee, to give us seed of men as Thou didst promise us, for

Thou art the Lord our God, and our eyes are upon Thee."[8] Isaac

prayed furthermore that all children destined for him might be

born unto him from this pious wife of his, and Rebekah made the

same petition regarding her husband Isaac and the children

destined for her.

Their united prayer was heard.[9] Yet it was chiefly for the sake

of Isaac that God gave them children. It is true, Rebekah's piety

equalled her husband's, but the prayer of a pious man who is the

son of a pious man is far more efficacious than the prayer of one

who, though pious himself, is descended from a godless father.

The prayer wrought a great miracle, for Isaac's physique was such

that he could not have been expected to beget children, and

equally it was not in the course of nature that Rebekah should

bear children.[10]

When Rebekah had been pregnant seven months,[11] she began to

wish that the curse of childlessness had not been removed from

her.[12] She suffered torturous pain, because her twin sons began

their lifelong quarrels in her womb. They strove to kill each

other. If Rebekah walked in the vicinity of a temple erected to

idols, Esau moved in her body, and if she passed a synagogue or a

Bet ha‑Midrash, Jacob essayed to break forth from her womb.[13]

The quarrels of the children turned upon such differences as

these. Esau would insist that there was no life except the

earthly life of material pleasures, and Jacob would reply: "My

brother, there are two worlds before us, this world and the world

to come. In this world, men eat and drink, and traffic and marry,

and bring up sons and daughters, but all this does not take place

in the world to come. If it please thee, do thou take this world,

and I will take the other."[14] Esau had Samael as his ally, who

desired to slay Jacob in his mother's womb. But the archangel

Michael hastened to Jacob's aid. He tried to burn Samael, and the

Lord saw it was necessary to constitute a heavenly court for the

purpose of arbitrating the case of Michael and Samael.[15] Even

the quarrel between the two brothers regarding the birthright had

its beginning before they emerged from the womb of their mother.

Each desired to be the first to come into the world. It was only

when Esau threatened to carry his point at the expense of his

mother's life that Jacob gave way.[16]

Rebekah asked other women whether they, too, had suffered such

pain during their pregnancy, and when they told her they had not

heard of a case like hers, except the pregnancy of Nimrod's

mother, she betook herself to Mount Moriah, whereon Shem and Eber

had their Bet ha‑Midrash. She requested them as well as Abraham

to inquire of God what the cause of her dire suffering was.[17]

And Shem replied: "My daughter, I confide a secret to thee. See

to it that none finds it out. Two nations are in thy womb, and

how should thy body contain them, seeing that the whole world

will not be large enough for them to exist in it together

peaceably? Two nations they are, each owning a world of its own,

the one the Torah, the other sin. From the one will spring

Solomon, the builder of the Temple, from the other Vespasian, the

destroyer thereof. These two are what are needed to raise the

number of nations to seventy. They will never be in the same

estate. Esau will vaunt lords, while Jacob will bring forth

prophets, and if Esau has princes, Jacob will have kings.[18]

They, Israel and Rome, are the two nations destined to be hated

by all the world.[19] One will exceed the other in strength.

First Esau will subjugate the whole world, but in the end Jacob

will rule over all.[20] The older of the two will serve the

younger, provided this one is pure of heart, otherwise the

younger will be enslaved by the older."[21]

The circumstances connected with the birth of her twin sons were

as remarkable as those during the period of Rebekah's pregnancy.

Esau was the first to see the light, and with him all impurity

came from the womb;[22] Jacob was born clean and sweet of body.

Esau was brought forth with hair, beard, and teeth, both front

and back,[23] and he was blood‑red, a sign of his future

sanguinary nature.[24] On account of his ruddy appearance he

remained uncircumcised. Isaac, his father, feared that it was due

to poor circulation of the blood, and he hesitated to perform the

circumcision. He decided to wait until Esau should attain his

thirteenth year, the age at which Ishmael had received the sign

of the covenant. But when Esau grew up, he refused to give heed

to his father's wish, and so he was left uncircumcised.[25] The

opposite of his brother in this as in all respects, Jacob was

born with the sign of the covenant upon his body, a rare

distinction.[26] But Esau also bore a mark upon him at birth, the

figure of a serpent, the symbol of all that is wicked and hated

of God.[27]

The names conferred upon the brothers are pregnant with meaning.

The older was called Esau, because he was 'Asui, fully developed

when he was born, and the name of the younger was given to him by

God, to point to some important events in the future of Israel by

the numerical value of each letter. The first letter in Ya'akob,

Yod, with the value of ten, stands for the decalogue; the second,

'Ayin, equal to seventy, for the seventy elders, the leaders of

Israel; the third, Kof, a hundred, for the Temple, a hundred ells

in height; and the last, Bet, for the two tables of stone.[28]


While Esau and Jacob were little, their characters could not be

judged properly. They were like the myrtle and the thorn‑bush,

which look alike in the early stages of their growth. After they

have attained full size, the myrtle is known by its fragrance,

and the thorn‑bush by its thorns.

In their childhood, both brothers went to school, but when they

reached their thirteenth year, and were of age, their ways

parted. Jacob continued his studies in the Bet ha Midrash of Shem

and Eber, and Esau abandoned himself to idolatry and an immoral

life.[29] Both were hunters of men, Esau tried to capture them in

order to turn them away from God, and Jacob, to turn them toward

God.[30] In spite of his impious deeds, Esau possessed the art of

winning his father's love. His hypocritical conduct made Isaac

believe that his first‑born son was extremely pious. "Father," he

would ask Isaac, "what is the tithe on straw and salt?" The

question made him appear God‑fearing in the eyes of his father,

because these two products are the very ones that are exempt from

tithing.[31] Isaac failed to notice, too, that his older son gave

him forbidden food to eat. What he took for the flesh of young

goats was dog's meat.[32]

Rebekah was more clear‑sighted. She knew her sons as they really

were, and therefore her love for Jacob was exceeding great. The

oftener she heard his voice, the deeper grew her affection for

him.[33] Abraham agreed with her. He also loved his grandson

Jacob, for he knew that in him his name and his seed would be

called. And he said unto Rebekah, "My daughter, watch over my son

Jacob, for he shall be in my stead on the earth and for a

blessing in the midst of the children of men, and for the glory

of the whole seed of Shem." Having admonished Rebekah thus to

keep guard over Jacob, who was destined to be the bearer of the

blessing given to Abraham by God, he called for his grandson, and

in the presence of Rebekah he blessed him, and said: "Jacob, my

beloved son, whom my soul loveth, may God bless thee from above

the firmament, and may He give thee all the blessing wherewith He

blessed Adam, and Enoch, and Noah, and Shem, and all the things

of which He told me, and all the things which He promised to give

me may He cause to cleave to thee and to thy seed forever,

according to the days of the heavens above the earth. And the

spirit of Mastema shall not rule over thee or over thy seed, to

turn thee from the Lord, who is thy God from henceforth and

forever. And may the Lord God be a father to thee, and mayest

thou be His first‑born son, and may He be a father to thy people

always. Go in peace, my son."[34]

And Abraham had good reason to be particularly fond of Jacob, for

it was due to the merits of his grandson that he had been rescued

from the fiery furnace.[35]

Isaac and Rebekah, knowing of Abraham's love for their young son,

sent their father a meal by Jacob on the last Feast of Pentecost

which Abraham was permitted to celebrate on earth, that he might

eat and bless the Creator of all things before he died. Abraham

knew that his end was approaching, and he thanked the Lord for

all the good He had granted him during the days of his life, and

blessed Jacob and bade him walk in the ways of the Lord, and

especially he was not to marry a daughter of the Canaanites. Then

Abraham prepared for death. He placed two of Jacob's fingers upon

his eyes, and thus holding them closed he fell into his eternal

sleep, while Jacob lay beside him on the bed. The lad did not

know of his grandfather's death, until he called him, on

awakening next morning, "Father, father," and received no



Though Abraham reached a good old age, beyond the limit of years

vouchsafed later generations, he yet died five years before his

allotted time. The intention was to let him live to be one

hundred and eighty years old, the same age as Isaac's at his

death, but on account of Esau God brought his life to an abrupt

close. For some time Esau had been pursuing his evil inclinations

in secret. Finally he dropped his mask, and on the day of

Abraham's death he was guilty of five crimes: he ravished a

betrothed maiden, committed murder, doubted the resurrection of

the dead, scorned the birthright, and denied God. Then the Lord

said: "I promised Abraham that he should go to his fathers in

peace. Can I now permit him to be a witness of his grandson's

rebellion against God, his violation of the laws of chastity, and

his shedding of blood? It is better for him to die now in


The men slain by Esau on this day were Nimrod and two of his

adjutants. A long‑standing feud had existed between Esau and

Nimrod, because the mighty hunter before the Lord was jealous of

Esau, who also devoted himself assiduously to the chase. Once

when he was hunting it happened that Nimrod was separated from

his people, only two men were with him. Esau, who lay in ambush,

noticed his isolation, and waited until he should pass his

covert. Then he threw himself upon Nimrod suddenly, and felled

him and his two companions, who hastened to his succor. The

outcries of the latter brought the attendants of Nimrod to the

spot where he lay dead, but not before Esau had stripped him of

his garments, and fled to the city with them.[38]

These garments of Nimrod had an extraordinary effect upon cattle,

beasts, and birds. Of their own accord they would come and

prostrate themselves before him who was arrayed in them. Thus

Nimrod and Esau after him were able to rule over men and


After slaying Nimrod, Esau hastened cityward in great fear of his

victim's followers. Tired and exhausted he arrived at home to

find Jacob busy preparing a dish of lentils. Numerous male and

female slaves were in Isaac's household. Nevertheless Jacob was

so simple and modest in his demeanor that, if he came home late

from the Bet ha‑Midrash, he would disturb none to prepare his

meal, but would do it himself.[40] On this occasion he was

cooking lentils for his father, to serve to him as his mourner's

meal after the death of Abraham. Adam and Eve had eaten lentils

after the murder of Abel, and so had the parents of Haran, when

he perished in the fiery furnace. The reason they are used for

the mourner's meal is that the round lentil symbolizes death: as

the lentil rolls, so death, sorrow, and mourning constantly roll

about among men, from one to the other.[41]

Esau accosted Jacob thus, "Why art thou preparing lentils?"

Jacob: "Because our grandfather passed away; they shall be a sign

of my grief and mourning, that he may love me in the days to


Esau: "Thou fool! Dost thou really think it possible that man

should come to life again after he has been dead and has

mouldered in the grave?"[42] He continued to taunt Jacob. "Why

dost thou give thyself so much trouble?" he said. "Lift up thine

eyes, and thou wilt see that all men eat whatever comes to

hand‑‑fish, creeping and crawling creatures, swine's flesh, and

all sorts of things like these, and thou vexest thyself about a

dish of lentils."

Jacob: "If we act like other men, what shall we do on the day of

the Lord, the day on which the pious will receive their reward,

when a herald will proclaim: Where is He that weigheth the deeds

of men, where is He that counteth?"

Esau: "Is there a future world? Or will the dead be called back

to life? If it were so, why hath not Adam returned? Hast thou

heard that Noah, through whom the world was raised anew, hath

reappeared? Yea, Abraham, the friend of God, more beloved of Him

than any man, hath he come to life again?"

Jacob: "If thou art of opinion that there is no future world, and

that the dead do not rise to new life, then why dost thou want

thy birthright? Sell it to me, now, while it is yet possible to

do so. Once the Torah is revealed, it cannot be done. Verily,

there is a future world, in which the righteous receive their

reward. I tell thee this, lest thou say later I deceived


Jacob was little concerned about the double share of the

inheritance that went with the birthright. What he thought of was

the priestly service, which was the prerogative of the first‑born

in ancient times, and Jacob was loth to have his impious brother

Esau play the priest, he who despised all Divine service.[44]

The scorn manifested by Esau for the resurrection of the dead he

felt also for the promise of God to give the Holy Land to the

seed of Abraham. He did not believe in it, and therefore he was

willing to cede his birthright and the blessing attached thereto

in exchange for a mess of pottage.[45] In addition, Jacob paid

him in coin,[46] and, besides, he gave him what was more than

money, the wonderful sword of Methuselah, which Isaac had

inherited from Abraham and bestowed upon Jacob.[47]

Esau made game of Jacob. He invited his associates to feast at

his brother's table, saying, "Know ye what I did to this Jacob? I

ate his lentils, drank his wine, amused myself at his expense,

and sold my birthright to him." All that Jacob replied was, "Eat

and may it do thee good!" But the Lord said, "Thou despisest the

birthright, therefore I shall make thee despised in all

generations." And by way of punishment for denying God and the

resurrection of the dead, the descendants of Esau were cut off

from the world.[48]

As naught was holy to Esau, Jacob made him swear, concerning the

birthright, by the life of their father, for he knew Esau's love

for Isaac, that it was strong.[49] Nor did he fail to have a

document made out, duly signed by witnesses, setting forth that

Esau had sold him the birthright together with his claim upon a

place in the Cave of Machpelah.[50]

Though no blame can attach to Jacob for all this, yet he secured

the birthright from him by cunning, and therefore the descendants

of Jacob had to serve the descendants of Esau.[51]


The life of Isaac was a faithful reflex of the life of his

father. Abraham had to leave his birthplace; so also Isaac.

Abraham was exposed to the risk of losing his wife; so also

Isaac. The Philistines were envious of Abraham; so also of Isaac.

Abraham long remained childless; so also Isaac. Abraham begot one

pious son and one wicked son; so also Isaac. And, finally, as in

the time of Abraham, so also in the time of Isaac, a famine came

upon the land.[52]

At first Isaac intended to follow the example of his father and

remove to Egypt, but God appeared unto him, and spake: "Thou art

a perfect sacrifice, without a blemish, and as a burnt offering

is made unfit if it is taken outside of the sanctuary, so thou

wouldst be profaned if thou shouldst happen outside of the Holy

Land. Remain in the land, and endeavor to cultivate it. In this

land dwells the Shekinah, and in days to come I will give unto

thy children the realms possessed by mighty rulers, first a part

thereof, and the whole in the Messianic time."[53]

Isaac obeyed the command of God, and he settled in Gerar. When he

noticed that the inhabitants of the place began to have designs

upon his wife, he followed the example of Abraham, and pretended

she was his sister.[54] The report of Rebekah's beauty reached

the king himself, but he was mindful of the great danger to which

he had once exposed himself on a similar occasion, and he left

Isaac and his wife unmolested.[55] After they had been in Gerar

for three months, Abimelech noticed that the manner of Isaac, who

lived in the outer court of the royal palace, was that of a

husband toward Rebekah.[56] He called him to account, saying, "It

might have happened to the king himself to take the woman thou

didst call thy sister."[57] Indeed, Isaac lay under the suspicion

of having illicit intercourse with Rebekah, for at first the

people of the place would not believe that she was his wife. When

Isaac persisted in his statement,[58] Abimelech sent his grandees

for them, ordered them to be arrayed in royal vestments, and had

it proclaimed before them, as they rode through the city: "These

two are man and wife. He that toucheth this man or his wife shall

surely be put to death."

Thereafter the king invited Isaac to settle in his domains, and

he assigned fields and vineyards to him for cultivation, the best

the land afforded.[59] But Isaac was not self‑interested. The

tithe of all he possessed he gave to the poor of Gerar. Thus he

was the first to introduce the law of tithing for the poor, as

his father Abraham had been the first to separate the priests'

portion from his fortune.[60] Isaac was rewarded by abundant

harvests; the land yielded a hundred times more than was

expected, though the soil was barren and the year unfruitful. He

grew so rich that people wished to have "the dung from Isaac's

she‑mules rather than Abimelech's gold and silver."[61] But his

wealth called forth the envy of the Philistines, for it is

characteristic of the wicked that they begrudge their fellow‑men

the good, and rejoice when they see evil descend upon them, and

envy brings hatred in its wake, and so the Philistines first

envied Isaac, and then hated him. In their enmity toward him,

they stopped the wells which Abraham had had his servants dig.

Thus they broke their covenant with Abraham and were faithless,

and they have only themselves to blame if they were exterminated

later on by the Israelites.

Isaac departed from Gerar, and began to dig again the wells of

water which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father,

and which the Philistines had stopped. His reverence for his

father was so great that he even restored the names by which

Abraham had called the wells. To reward him for his filial

respect, the Lord left the name of Isaac unchanged, while his

father and his son had to submit to new names.[62]

After four attempts to secure water, Isaac was successful; he

found the well of water that followed the Patriarchs. Abraham had

obtained it after three diggings. Hence the name of the well,

Beer‑sheba, "the well of seven diggings," the same well that will

supply water to Jerusalem and its environs in the Messianic


Isaac's success with his wells but served to increase the envy of

the Philistines, for he had come upon water in a most unlikely

spot and, besides, in a year of drouth. But "the Lord fulfils the

desire of them that fear Him." As Isaac executed the will of his

Creator, so God accomplished his desire.[64] And Abimelech, the

king of Gerar, speedily came to see that God was on the side of

Isaac, for, to chastise him for having instigated Isaac's removal

from Gerar, his house was ravaged by robbers in the night, and he

himself was stricken with leprosy.[65] The wells of the

Philistines ran dry as soon as Isaac left Gerar, and also the

trees failed to yield their fruit. None could be in doubt but

that these things were the castigation for their unkindness.

Now Abimelech entreated his friends, especially the administrator

of his kingdom, to accompany him to Isaac and help him win back

his friendship.[66] Abimelech and the Philistines spake thus to

Isaac: "We have convinced ourselves that the Shekinah is with

thee, and therefore we desire thee to renew the covenant which

thy father made with us, that thou wilt do us no hurt, as we also

did not touch thee." Isaac consented. It illustrates the

character of the Philistines strikingly that they took credit

unto themselves for having done him no hurt. It shows that they

would have been glad to inflict harm upon him, for "the soul of

the wicked desireth evil."

The place in which the covenant was made between Isaac and the

Philistines was called Shib'ah, for two reasons, because an oath

was "sworn" there, and as a memorial of the fact that even the

heathen are bound to observe the "seven" Noachian laws.[67]

For all the wonders executed by God for Isaac, and all the good

he enjoyed throughout his life, he is indebted to the merits of

his father. For his own merits he will be rewarded in future.[68]

On the great day of judgment it will be Isaac who will redeem his

descendants from Gehenna. On that day the Lord will speak to

Abraham, "Thy children have sinned," and Abraham will make reply,

"Then let them be wiped out, that Thy Name be sanctified." The

Lord will turn to Jacob, thinking that he who had suffered so

much in bringing his sons to manhood's estate would display more

love for his posterity. But Jacob will give the same answer as

Abraham. Then God will say: "The old have no understanding, and

the young no counsel. I will now go to Isaac. Isaac," God will

address him, "thy children have sinned," and Isaac will reply: "O

Lord of the world, sayest Thou my children, and not THINE? When

they stood at Mount Sinai and declared themselves ready to

execute all Thy bidding before even they heard it, Thou didst

call Israel 'My first‑born,' and now they are MY children, and

not THINE! Let us consider. The years of a man are seventy. From

these twenty are to be deducted, for Thou inflictest no

punishment upon those under twenty. Of the fifty years that are

left, one‑half are to be deducted for the nights passed in sleep.

There remain only twenty‑five years, and these are to be

diminished by twelve and a half, the time spent in praying,

eating, and attending to other needs in life, during which men

commit no sins. That leaves only twelve years and a half. If Thou

wilt take these upon Thyself, well and good. If not, do Thou take

one‑half thereof, and I will take the other half." The

descendants of Isaac will then say, "Verily, thou art our true

father!" But he will point to God, and admonish them, "Nay, give

not your praises to me, but to God alone," and Israel, with eyes

directed heavenward, will say, "Thou, O Lord, art our Father; our

Redeemer from everlasting is Thy name."[69]

It was Isaac, or, as he is sometimes called, Elihu the son of

Barachel, who revealed the wonderful mysteries of nature in his

arguments with Job.[70]

At the end of the years of famine, God appeared unto Isaac, and

bade him return to Canaan. Isaac did as he was commanded, and he

settled in Hebron. At this time he sent his younger son Jacob to

the Bet ha‑Midrash of Shem and Eber, to study the law of the

Lord. Jacob remained there thirty‑two years. As for Esau, he

refused to learn, and he remained in the house of his father. The

chase was his only occupation, and as he pursued beasts, so he

pursued men, seeking to capture them with cunning and deceit.

On one of his hunting expeditions, Esau came to Mount Seir, where

he became acquainted with Judith, of the family of Ham, and he

took her unto himself as his wife, and brought her to his father

at Hebron.

Ten years later, when Shem his teacher died, Jacob returned home,

at the age of fifty. Another six years passed, and Rebekah

received the joyful news that her sister‑in‑law 'Adinah, the wife

of Laban, who, like all the women of his house, had been

childless until then, had given birth to twin daughters, Leah and

Rachel.[71] Rebekah, weary of her life on account of the woman

chosen by her older son, exhorted Jacob not to marry one of the

daughters of Canaan, but a maiden of the family of Abraham. He

assured his mother that the words of Abraham, bidding him to

marry no woman of the Canaanites, were graven upon his memory,

and for this reason he was still unmarried, though he had

attained the age of sixty‑two, and Esau had been urging him for

twenty‑two years past to follow his example and wed a daughter of

the people of the land in which they lived. He had heard that his

uncle Laban had daughters, and he was resolved to choose one of

them as his wife. Deeply moved by the words of her son, Rebekah

thanked him and gave praise unto God with the words: "Blessed be

the Lord God, and may His Holy Name be blessed for ever and ever,

who hath given me Jacob as a pure son and a holy seed; for he is

Thine, and Thine shall his seed be continually and throughout all

the generations for evermore. Bless him, O Lord, and place in my

mouth the blessing of righteousness, that I may bless him."

And when the spirit of the Lord came over her, she laid her hands

upon the head of Jacob and gave him her maternal blessing. It

ended with the words, "May the Lord of the world love thee, as

the heart of thy affectionate mother rejoices in thee, and may He

bless thee."[72]


Esau's marriage with the daughters of the Canaanites was an

abomination not only in the eyes of his mother, but also in the

eyes of his father. He suffered even more than Rebekah through

the idolatrous practices of his daughters in‑law. It is the

nature of man to oppose less resistance than woman to

disagreeable circumstances. A bone is not harmed by a collision

that would shiver an earthen pot in pieces. Man, who is created

out of the dust of the ground, has not the endurance of woman

formed out of bone. Isaac was made prematurely old by the conduct

of his daughters‑in‑law, and he lost the sight of his eyes.

Rebekah had been accustomed in the home of her childhood to the

incense burnt before idols, and she could therefore bear it under

her own roof‑tree. Unlike her, Isaac had never had any such

experience while he abode with his parents, and he was stung by

the smoke arising from the sacrifices offered to their idols by

his daughters‑in‑law in his own house.[73] Isaac's eyes had

suffered earlier in life, too. When he lay bound upon the altar,

about to be sacrificed by his father, the angels wept, and their

tears fell upon his eyes, and there they remained and weakened

his sight.

At the same time he had brought the scourge of blindness down

upon himself by his love for Esau. He justified the wicked for a

bribe, the bribe of Esau's filial love, and loss of vision is the

punishment that follows the taking of bribes. "A gift," it is

said, "blinds the eyes of the wise."

Nevertheless his blindness proved a benefit for Isaac as well as

Jacob. In consequence of his physical ailments, Isaac had to keep

at home, and so he was spared the pain of being pointed out by

the people as the father of the wicked Esau.[74] And, again, if

his power of vision had been unimpaired, he would not have

blessed Jacob. As it was, God treated him as a physician treats a

sick man who is forbidden to drink wine, for which, however, he

has a strong desire. To placate him, the physician orders that

warm water be given him in the dark, and he be told that it is


When Isaac reached the age of one hundred and twenty three, and

was thus approaching the years attained by his mother, he began

to meditate upon his end. It is proper that a man should prepare

for death when he comes close to the age at which either of his

parents passed out of life. Isaac reflected that he did not know

whether the age allotted to him was his mother's or his father's,

and he therefore resolved to bestow his blessing upon his older

son, Esau, before death should overtake him.[76] He summoned

Esau, and he said, "My son," and Esau replied, "Here am I," but

the holy spirit interposed: "Though he disguises his voice and

makes it sound sweet, put no confidence in him. There are seven

abominations in his heart. He will destroy seven holy places‑‑the

Tabernacle, the sanctuaries at Gilgal, Shiloh, Nob, and Gibeon,

and the first and the second Temple."

Gently though Esau continued to speak to his father, he yet

longed for his end to come.[77] But Isaac was stricken with

spiritual as well as physical blindness. The holy spirit deserted

him, and he could not discern the wickedness of his older son. He

bade him sharpen his slaughtering knives and beware of bringing

him the flesh of an animal that had died of itself, or had been

torn by a beast, and he was to guard also against putting an

animal before Isaac that had been stolen from its rightful owner.

"Then," continued Isaac, "will I bless him who is worthy of being


This charge was laid upon Esau on the eve of the Passover, and

Isaac said to him: "To‑night the whole world will sing the Hallel

unto God. It is the night when the storehouses of dew are

unlocked. Therefore prepare dainties for me, that my soul may

bless thee before I die." But the holy spirit interposed, "Eat

not the bread of him that hath an evil eye."[79] Isaac's longing

for tidbits was due to his blindness. As the sightless cannot

behold the food they eat, they do not enjoy it with full relish,

and their appetite must be tempted with particularly palatable


Esau sallied forth to procure what his father desired, little

recking the whence or how, whether by robbery or theft.[80] To

hinder the quick execution of his father's order, God sent Satan

on the chase with Esau. He was to delay him as long as possible.

Esau would catch a deer and leave him lying bound, while he

pursued other game. Immediately Satan would come and liberate the

deer, and when Esau returned to the spot, his victim was not to

be found. This was repeated several times. Again and again the

quarry was run down, and bound, and liberated, so that Jacob was

able meanwhile to carry out the plan of Rebekah whereby he would

be blessed instead of Esau.

Though Rebekah had not heard the words that had passed between

Isaac and Esau, they nevertheless were revealed to her through

the holy spirit,[81] and she resolved to restrain her husband

from taking a false step. She was not actuated by love for Jacob,

but by the wish of keeping Isaac from committing a detestable

act.[82] Rebekah said to Jacob: "This night the storehouses of

dew are unlocked; it is the night during which the celestial

beings chant the Hallel unto God, the night set apart for the

deliverance of thy children from Egypt, on which they, too, will

sing the Hallel. Go now and prepare savory meat for thy father,

that he may bless thee before his death.[83] Do as I bid thee,

obey me as thou art wont, for thou art my son whose children,

every one, will be good and God‑fearing‑‑not one shall be


In spite of his great respect for his mother,[84] Jacob refused

at first to heed her command. He feared he might commit a

sin,[85] especially as he might thus bring his father's curse

down upon him. As it was, Isaac might still have a blessing for

him, after giving Esau his. But Rebekah allayed his anxieties,

with the words: "When Adam was cursed, the malediction fell upon

his mother, the earth, and so shall I, thy mother, bear the

imprecation, if thy father curses thee. Moreover, if the worst

comes to the worst, I am prepared to step before thy father and

tell him, 'Esau is a villain, and Jacob is a righteous man.' "

Thus constrained by his mother, Jacob, in tears and with body

bowed, went off to execute the plan made by Rebekah.[86] As he

was to provide a Passover meal, she bade him get two kids, one

for the Passover sacrifice and one for the festival

sacrifice.[87] To soothe Jacob's conscience, she added that her

marriage contract entitled her to two kids daily. "And," she

continued, "these two kids will bring good unto thee, the

blessing of thy father, and they will bring good unto thy

children, for two kids will be the atoning sacrifice offered on

the Day of Atonement."

Jacob's hesitation was not yet removed. His father, he feared,

would touch him and convince himself that he was not hairy, and

therefore not his son Esau. Accordingly, Rebekah tore the skins

of the two kids into strips and sewed them together, for Jacob

was so tall a giant that otherwise they would not have sufficed

to cover his hands.[88] To make Jacob's disguise complete,

Rebekah felt justified in putting Esau's wonderful garments on

him. They were the high priestly raiment in which God had clothed

Adam, "the first‑born of the world," for in the days before the

erection of the Tabernacle all the first‑born males officiated as

priests. From Adam these garments descended to Noah, who

transmitted them to Shem, and Shem bequeathed them to Abraham,

and Abraham to his son Isaac, from whom they reached Esau as the

older of his two sons. It was the opinion of Rebekah that as

Jacob had bought the birthright from his brother, he had thereby

come into possession of the garments as well.[89] There was no

need for her to go and fetch them from the house of Esau. He knew

his wives far too well to entrust so precious a treasure to them;

they were in the safe‑keeping of his mother. Besides, he used

them most frequently in the house of his parents. As a rule, he

did not lay much stress upon decent apparel. He was willing to

appear on the street clad in rags, but he considered it his duty

to wait upon his father arrayed in his best. "My father," Esau

was in the habit of saying, "is a king in my sight, and it would

ill become me to serve before him in any thing but royal

apparel." To the great respect he manifested toward his father,

the descendants of Esau owe all their good fortune on earth. Thus

doth God reward a good deed.

Rebekah led Jacob equipped and arrayed in this way to the door of

Isaac's chamber. There she parted from him with the words,

"Henceforward may thy Creator assist thee."[90] Jacob entered,

addressing Isaac with "Father," and receiving the response, "Here

am I! Who art thou, my son?" he replied equivocally, "It is I,

thy first‑born son is Esau." He sought to avoid a falsehood, and

yet not betray that he was Jacob.[91] Isaac then said: "Thou art

greatly in haste to secure thy blessing. Thy father Abraham was

seventy‑five years old when he was blessed, and thou art but

sixty‑three." Jacob replied awkwardly, "Because the Lord thy God

sent me good speed." Isaac concluded at once that this was not

Esau, for he would not have mentioned the name of God, and he

made up his mind to feel the son before him and make sure who he

was. Terror seized upon Jacob at the words of Isaac, "Come near,

I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son." A cold sweat covered

his body, and his heart melted like wax. Then God caused the

archangels Michael and Gabriel to descend. The one seized his

right hand, the other his left hand, while the Lord God Himself

supported him, that his courage might not fail him. Isaac felt

him, and, finding his hands hairy, he said, "The voice is Jacob's

voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau," words in which he

conveyed the prophecy that so long as the voice of Jacob is heard

in the houses of prayer and of learning, the hands of Esau will

not be able to prevail against him. "Yes," he continued, "it is

the voice of Jacob, the voice that imposes silence upon those on

earth and in heaven," for even the angels may not raise their

voices in praise of God until Israel has finished his prayers.

Isaac's scruples about blessing the son before him were not yet

removed, for with his prophetical eye he foresaw that this one

would have descendants who would vex the Lord. At the same time,

it was revealed to him that even the sinners in Israel would turn

penitents, and then he was ready to bless Jacob. He bade him come

near and kiss him, to indicate that it would be Jacob who would

imprint the last kiss upon Isaac before he was consigned to the

grave‑ he and none other. When Jacob stood close to him, he

discerned the fragrance of Paradise clinging to him, and he

exclaimed, "See, the smell of my son is as the smell of the field

which the Lord hath blessed."[92]

The fragrance emanating from Jacob was not the only thing about

him derived from Paradise. The archangel Michael had fetched

thence the wine which Jacob gave his father to drink,[93] that an

exalted mood might descend upon him, for only when a man is

joyously excited the Shekinah rests upon him.[94] The holy spirit

filled Isaac, and he gave Jacob his tenfold blessing: "God give

thee of the dew of heaven," the celestial dew wherewith God will

awaken the pious to new life in days to come; "and of the fatness

of the earth," the goods of this world; "and plenty of corn and

wine," the Torah and the commandments which bestow the same joy

upon man as abundant harvests;[95] "peoples shall serve thee,"

the Japhethites and the Hamites; "nations shall bow down to

thee," the Shemite nations; "thou wilt be lord over thy

brethren," the Ishmaelites and the descendants of Keturah; "thy

mother's sons will bow down to thee," Esau and his princes;

"cursed be every one that curseth thee," like Balaam; "and

blessed be every one that blesseth thee," like Moses.[96]

For each blessing invoked upon Jacob by his father Isaac, a

similar blessing was bestowed upon him by God Himself in the same

words. As Isaac blessed him with dew, so also God: "And the

remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples as dew

from the Lord." Isaac blessed him with the fatness of the earth,

so also God: "And he shall give the rain of thy seed, that thou

shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the

ground, and it shall be fat and plenteous." Isaac blessed him

with plenty of corn and wine, so also God: "I will send you corn

and wine." Isaac said, "Peoples shall serve thee," so also God:

"Kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing

mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their faces to the

earth, and lick the dust of thy feet." Isaac said, "Nations shall

bow down to thee," so also God: "And He will make thee high above

all nations which He hath made, in praise, and in name, and in


To this double blessing his mother Rebekah joined hers: "For He

shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy

ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy

feet against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder;

the young lion and the serpent shalt thou trample under feet.

Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver

him; I will set him on high, because he hath known my name."

The holy spirit added in turn: "He shall call upon me, and I will

answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him,

and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my


Jacob left the presence of his father crowned like a bridegroom,

adorned like a bride, and bathed in celestial dew, which filled

his bones with marrow, and transformed him into a hero and a


Of a miracle done for him at that very moment Jacob himself was

not aware. Had he tarried with his father an instant longer, Esau

would have met him there, and would surely have slain him. It

happened that exactly as Jacob was on the point of leaving the

tent of his father, carrying in his hands the plates off which

Isaac had eaten, he noticed Esau approaching, and he concealed

himself behind the door. Fortunately, it was a revolving door, so

that though he could see Esau, he could not be seen by him.


Esau arrived after a delay of four hours.[99] In spite of all the

efforts he had put forth, he had not succeeded in catching any

game, and he was compelled to kill a dog and prepare its flesh

for his father's meal.[100] All this had made Esau ill‑humored,

and when he bade his father partake of the meal, the invitation

sounded harsh. "Let my father arise," he said, "and eat of his

son's venison." Jacob had spoken differently; he had said,

"Arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison." The words of

Esau terrified Isaac greatly. His fright exceeded that which he

had felt when his father was about to offer him as a sacrifice,

and he cried out, "Who then is he that hath been the mediator

between me and the Lord, to make the blessing reach Jacob?"‑

words meant to imply that he suspected Rebekah of having

instigated Jacob's act.

Isaac's alarm was caused by his seeing hell at the feet of Esau.

Scarcely had he entered the house when the walls thereof began to

get hot on account of the nearness of hell, which he brought

along with him. Isaac could not but exclaim, "Who will be burnt

down yonder, I or my son Jacob?" and the Lord answered him,

"Neither thou nor Jacob, but the hunter."

Isaac told Esau that the meat set before him by Jacob had had

marvellous qualities. Any savor that one desired it possessed, it

was even endowed with the taste of the food that God will grant

the pious in the world to come. "I know not," he said, "what the

meat was. But I had only to wish for bread, and it tasted like

bread, or fish, or locusts, or flesh of animals, in short, it had

the taste of any dainty one could wish for." When Esau heard the

word "flesh," he began to weep, and he said: "To me Jacob gave no

more than a dish of lentils, and in payment for it he took my

birthright. What must he have taken from thee for flesh of

animals?" Hitherto Isaac had been in great anguish on account of

the thought that he had committed a wrong in giving his blessing

to his younger son instead of the firstborn, to whom it belonged

by law and custom. But when he heard that Jacob had acquired the

birthright from Esau, he said, "I gave my blessing to the right


In his dismay, Isaac had had the intention of cursing Jacob for

having wrested the blessing from him through cunning. God

prevented him from carrying out his plan. He reminded him that he

would but curse himself, seeing that his blessing contained the

words, "Cursed be every one that curseth thee." But Isaac was not

willing to acknowledge his blessing valid as applied to Jacob,

until he was informed that his second son was the possessor of

the birthright. Only then did he say, "Yea, he shall be blessed,"

whereat Esau cried with an exceeding great and bitter cry. By way

of punishment for having been the cause of such distress, a

descendant of Jacob, Mordecai, was also made to cry with a loud

and bitter cry, and his grief was brought forth by the Amalekite

Haman, the descendant of Esau. At the words of Isaac, "Thy

brother came with wisdom, and hath taken away thy blessing," Esau

spat out in vexation, and said, "He took away my birthright, and

I kept silence, and now that he takes away my blessing, should I

also keep silence?[101] Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he

hath supplanted me these two times."[102]

Isaac continued to speak to Esau: "Behold, I have made him thy

lord, he is thy king, and do what thou wilt, thy blessings will

still belong to him; all his brethren have I given to him for

slaves, and what slaves possess belongs to their owner. There is

nothing for it, thou must be content that thou wilt receive thy

bread baked from thy master." The Lord took it ill of Isaac that

he cheered him with such kind words. "To Mine enemy," He

reproached him, "thou sayest, 'What shall I do for thee, my son?'

" Isaac replied, "O that he might find grace with Thee!" God: "He

is a recreant." Isaac: "Doth he not act righteously when he

honors his parents?" God: "In the land of uprightness will he

deal wrongfully, he will stretch his hand forth in days to come

against the Temple." Isaac: "Then let him enjoy much good in this

world, that he may not behold the abiding‑place of the Lord in

the world to come."[103]

When it became plain to Esau that he could not induce his father

to annul the blessing bestowed upon Jacob, he tried to force a

blessing for himself by an underhand trick. He said: "Hast thou

but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father,

else it will be said thou hast but one blessing to bestow.

Suppose both Jacob and I had been righteous men, had not then thy

God had two blessings, one for each?" The Lord Himself made

reply: "Silence! Jacob will bless the twelve tribes, and each

blessing will be different from every other." But Isaac felt

great pity for his older son, and he wanted to bless him, but the

Shekinah forsook him, and he could not carry out what he

purposed. Thereupon Esau began to weep. He shed three tears‑‑one

ran from his right eye, the second from his left eye, and the

third remained hanging from his eyelash. God said, "This villain

cries for his very life, and should I let him depart

empty‑handed?" and then He bade Isaac bless his older son.[104]

The blessing of Isaac ran thus: "Behold, of the fat of the earth

shall be thy dwelling," by which he meant Greater Greece, in

Italy; "and of the dew of heaven from above," referring to

Bet‑Gubrin; "and by thy sword shalt thou live, and thou shalt

serve thy brother," but when he casts off the yoke of the Lord,

then shalt thou "shake his yoke from off thy neck," and thou wilt

be his master.[105]

The blessing which Isaac gave to his older son was bound to no

condition whatsoever. Whether he deserved them or not, Esau was

to enjoy the goods of this world. Jacob's blessing, however,

depended upon his pious deeds; through them he would have a just

claim upon earthly prosperity. Isaac thought: "Jacob is a

righteous man, he will not murmur against God, though it should

come to pass that suffering be inflicted upon him in spite of his

upright life. But that reprobate Esau, if he should do a good

deed, or pray to God and not be heard, he would say, 'As I pray

to the idols for naught, so it is in vain to pray to God.' " For

this reason did Isaac bestow an unconditional blessing upon



Esau hated his brother Jacob on account of the blessing that his

father had given him, and Jacob was very much afraid of his

brother Esau, and he fled to the house of Eber, the son of Shem,

and he concealed himself there fourteen years on account of his

brother Esau, and he continued there to learn the ways of the

Lord and His commandments. When Esau saw that Jacob had fled and

escaped from him, and Jacob had cunningly obtained the blessing,

then Esau grieved exceedingly, and he was also vexed at his

father and mother. He also rose up and took his wife, and went

away from his father and mother to the land of Seir. There he

married his second wife, Basemath, the daughter of Elon the

Hittite, and he called her name Adah, saying that the blessing

had in that time passed from him. After dwelling in Seir for six

months, Esau returned to the land of Canaan, and placed his two

wives in his father's house in Hebron. And the wives of Esau

vexed and provoked Isaac and Rebekah with their works, for they

walked not in the ways of the Lord, but served their fathers'

gods of wood and stone, as their fathers had taught them, and

they were more wicked than their fathers. They sacrificed and

burnt incense to the Baalim, and Isaac and Rebekah became weary

of them. And at the end of fourteen years of Jacob's residing in

the house of Eber, Jacob desired to see his father and his

mother, and he returned home. Esau had forgotten in those days

what Jacob had done to him, in having taken the blessing from

him, but when Esau saw Jacob returning to his parents, he

remembered what Jacob had done to him, and he was greatly

incensed against him, and he sought to slay him.[107]

But Esau would not kill Jacob while his father was yet alive,

lest Isaac beget another son. He wanted to be sure of being the

only heir.[108] However, his hatred against Jacob was so great

that he determined to hasten the death of his father and then

dispatch Jacob. Such murderous plans Esau cherished in his heart,

though he denied that he was harboring them. But God spoke,

"Probably thou knowest not that I examine the hearts of men, for

I am the Lord that searcheth the heart." And not God alone knew

the secret desires of Esau. Rebekah, like all the Mothers, was a

prophetess, and she delayed not to warn Jacob of the danger that

hung over him. "Thy brother," she said to him, "is as sure of

accomplishing his wicked purpose as though thou wert dead. Now

therefore, my son, obey my voice, and arise, flee thou to Laban

my brother, to Haran, and tarry with him for seven years, until

thy brother's fury turn away." In the goodness of her heart,

Rebekah could not but believe that the anger of Esau was only a

fleeting passion, and would disappear in the course of time. But

she was mistaken, his hate persisted until the end of his


Courageous as he was, Jacob would not run away from danger. He

said to his mother, "I am not afraid; if he wishes to kill me, I

will kill him," to which she replied, "Let me not be bereaved of

both my sons in one day."[110] By words Rebekah again showed her

prophetic gift. As she spoke, so it happened‑‑when their time

came, Esau was slain while the burial of Jacob was taking


And Jacob said to Rebekah: "Behold, thou knowest that my father

has become old and does not see, and if I leave him and go away,

he will be angry and will curse me. I will not go; if he sends

me, only then will I go."[112]

Accordingly, Rebekah went to Isaac, and amid tears she spoke to

him thus: "If Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, what

good shall my life do me?"[113] And Isaac called Jacob, and

charged him, and said unto him: "Thou shalt not take a wife of

the daughters of Canaan, for thus did our father Abraham command

us according to the word of the Lord, which He had commanded him,

saying, 'Unto thy seed will I give the land; if thy children keep

My covenant that I have made with thee, then will I also perform

to thy children that which I have spoken unto thee, and I will

not forsake them.' Now therefore, my son, hearken to my voice, to

all that I shall command thee, and refrain from taking a wife

from amongst the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Haran, to the

house of Bethuel, thy mother's father, and take thee a wife from

thence of the daughters of Laban, thy mother's brother. Take heed

lest thou shouldst forget the Lord thy God and all His ways in

the land to which thou goest, and shouldst join thyself to the

people of the land, and pursue vanity, and forsake the Lord thy

God. But when thou comest to the land, serve the Lord. Do not

turn to the right or to the left from the way which I commanded

thee, and which thou didst learn. And may the Almighty God grant

thee favor before the people of the land, that thou mayest take a

wife there according to thy choice, one who is good and upright

in the way of the Lord. And may God give unto thee and thy seed

the blessing of thy father Abraham and make thee fruitful and

multiply thee, and mayest thou become a multitude of people in

the land whither thou goest, and may God cause thee to return to

thy land, the land of thy father's dwelling, with children and

with great riches, with joy and with pleasure."[114]

As the value of a document is attested by its concluding words,

the signature of the witnesses, so Isaac confirmed the blessing

he had bestowed upon Jacob.[116] That none might say Jacob had

secured it by intrigue and cunning, he blessed him again with

three blessings, in these words, "In so far as I am endowed with

the power of blessing, I bestow blessing upon thee. May God, with

whom there is endless blessing, give thee His, and also the

blessing wherewith Abraham desired to bless me, desisting only in

order not to provoke the jealousy of Ishmael."[116]

Seeing with his prophetic eye that the seed of Jacob would once

be compelled to go into exile, Isaac offered up one more

petition, that God would bring the exiles back again. He said,

"He shall deliver thee in six troubles, and in the seventh there

shall no evil touch thee." And also Rebekah prayed to God in

behalf of Jacob: "O Lord of the world, let not the purpose

prosper which Esau harbors against Jacob. Put a bridle upon him,

that he accomplish not all he wills to do."[117]

When Esau observed that even his father's love had passed from

him to Jacob, he went away, to Ishmael, and he addressed him as

follows: "Lo, as thy father gave all his possessions to thy

brother Isaac, and dismissed thee with empty hands, so my father

purposeth to do to me. Make thyself ready then, go forth and slay

thy brother, and I will slay mine, and then we two shall divide

the whole world between us." And Ishmael replied: "Why dost thou

want me to slay thy father? thou canst do it thyself." Esau said:

"It hath happened aforetime that a man killed his brother‑ Cain

murdered Abel. But that a son should kill his father is unheard


Esau did not really shrink back from parricide, only it chanced

not to fit the plan he had hatched. "If Ishmael slays my father,"

he said to himself, "I am the rightful redeemer, and I shall kill

Ishmael to avenge my father, and if, then, I murder Jacob, too,

everything will belong to me, as the heir of my father and my

uncle."[118] This shows that Esau's marriage with Mahalath, the

daughter of Ishmael and grandchild of Abraham, was not concluded

out of regard for his parents, who were opposed to his two other

wives, daughters of the Canaanites. All he desired was to enter

into amicable relations with Ishmael in order to execute his

devilish plan.[119]

But Esau reckoned without his host. The night before his wedding

with Mahalath Ishmael died, and Nebaioth, the son of Ishmael,

stepped into his father's place, and gave away his sister.[120]

How little it had been in Esau's mind to make his parents happy

by taking a granddaughter of Abraham to wife, appears from the

fact that he kept his two other wives, the Canaanitish women. The

daughter of Ishmael followed the example of her companions, and

thus she but added to the grief caused the parents of Esau by

their daughters‑in‑law.[121] And the opportunity might have been

a most favorable one for Esau to turn aside from his godless ways

and amend his conduct, for the bridegroom is pardoned on his

wedding day for all his sins committed in years gone by.[122]

Scarcely had Jacob left his father's house, when Rebekah began to

weep, for she was sorely distressed about him. Isaac comforted

her, saying: "Weep not for Jacob! In peace doth he depart, and in

peace will he return. The Lord, God Most High, will guard him

against all evil and be with him. He will not forsake him all the

days of his life. Have no fear for him, for he walketh on the

right path, he is a perfect man, and he hath faith in God‑‑he

will not perish."[123]


When Jacob went away to go to Haran, Esau called his son Eliphaz,

and secretly spoke unto him, saying: "Now hasten, take thy sword

in thy hand and pursue Jacob, and pass before him in the road,

and lurk for him and slay him with thy sword in one of the

mountains, and take all belonging unto him, and come back." And

Eliphaz was dexterous and expert with the bow, as his father had

taught him, and he was a noted hunter in the field and a valiant

man. And Eliphaz did as his father had commanded him. And Eliphaz

was at that time thirteen years old, and he arose and went and

took ten of his mother's brothers with him, and pursued Jacob.

And he followed Jacob closely, and when he overtook him, he lay

in ambush for him on the borders of the land of Canaan, opposite

to the city of Shechem. And Jacob saw Eliphaz and his men

pursuing after him, and Jacob stood in the place in which he was

going in order to know what it was, for he did not understand

their purpose. Eliphaz drew his sword and went on advancing, he

and his men, toward Jacob, and Jacob said unto them, "Wherefore

have you come hither, and why do you pursue with your swords?"

Eliphaz came near to Jacob, and answered as follows, "Thus did my

father command me, and now therefore I will not deviate from the

orders which my father gave me." And when Jacob saw that Esau had

impressed his command urgently upon Eliphaz, he approached and

supplicated Eliphaz and his men, saying, "Behold, all that I

have, and that which my father and mother gave unto me, that take

unto thee and go from me, and do not slay me, and may this thing

that thou wilt do with me be accounted unto thee as

righteousness." And the Lord caused Jacob to find favor in the

sight of Eliphaz and his men, and they hearkened to the voice of

Jacob, and they did not put him to death, but took all his

belongings, together with the silver and gold that he had brought

with him from Beer‑sheba. They left him nothing. When Eliphaz and

his men returned to Esau, and told him all that had happened to

them with Jacob, he was wroth with his son Eliphaz and with his

men, because they had not put Jacob to death. And they answered,

and said unto Esau, "Because Jacob supplicated us in this matter,

not to slay him, our pity was moved toward him, and we took all

belonging to him, and we came back." Esau then took all the

silver and gold which Eliphaz had taken from Jacob, and he put

them by in his house.[124]

Nevertheless Esau did not give up the hope of intercepting Jacob

on his flight and slaying him. He pursued him, and with his men

occupied the road along which he had to journey to Haran. There a

great miracle happened to Jacob. When he observed what Esau's

intention was, he turned off toward the Jordan river, and, with

eyes directed to God, he cleft the waters with his wanderer's

staff, and succeeded in crossing to the other side. But Esau was

not to be deterred. He kept up the pursuit, and reached the hot

springs at Baarus before his brother, who had to pass by there.

Jacob, not knowing that Esau was on the watch for him, decided to

bathe in the spring, saying, "I have neither bread nor other

things needful, so I will at least warm my body in the waters of

the well." While he was in the bath, Esau occupied every exit,

and Jacob would surely have perished in the hot water, if the

Lord had not caused a miracle to come to pass. A new opening

formed of itself, and through it Jacob escaped. Thus were

fulfilled the words, "When thou passest through the waters, I

will be with thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt

not be burnt," for Jacob was saved from the waters of the Jordan

and from the fire of the hot spring.

At the same time with Jacob, a rider, leaving his horse and his

clothes on the shore, had stepped into the river to cool off, but

he was overwhelmed by the waves, and he met his death. Jacob put

on the dead man's clothes, mounted his horse, and went off. It

was a lucky chance, for Eliphaz had stripped him of everything,

even his clothes, and the miracle of the river had happened only

that he might not be forced to appear naked among men.[125]

Though Jacob was robbed of all his possessions, his courage did

not fail him. He said: "Should I lose hope in my Creator? I set

my eyes upon the merits of my fathers. For the sake of them the

Lord will give me His aid." And God said: "Jacob, thou puttest

thy trust in the merits of thy fathers, therefore I will not

suffer thy foot to be moved; He that keepeth thee will not

slumber. Yea, still more! While a keeper watcheth only by day as

a rule, and sleepeth by night, I will guard thee day and night,

for, behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor

sleep. The Lord will keep thee from all evil, from Esau as well

as Laban; He will keep thy soul, that the Angel of Death do thee

no hurt; He will keep thy going out and thy coming in, He will

support thee now thou art leaving Canaan, and when thou returnest

to Canaan."[126]

Jacob was reluctant to leave the Holy Land before he received

direct permission from God. "My parents," he reflected, "bade me

go forth and sojourn outside of the land, but who knows whether

it be the will of God that I do as they say, and beget children

outside of the Holy Land?"[127] Accordingly, he betook himself to

Beer‑sheba. There, where the Lord had given permission to Isaac

to depart from Canaan and go to Philistia, he would learn the

will of the Lord concerning himself.

He did not follow the example of his father and grandfather and

take refuge with Abimelech, because he feared the king might

force also him into a covenant, and make it impossible for his

descendants of many generations to take possession of the

Philistine land. Nor could he stay at home, because of his fear

that Esau might wrest the birthright and the blessing from him,

and to that he would not and could not agree.[128] He was as

little disposed to take up the combat with Esau, for he knew the

truth of the maxim, "He who courts danger will be overcome by it;

he who avoids danger will overcome it." Both Abraham and Isaac

had lived according to this rule. His grandfather had fled from

Nimrod, and his father had gone away from the Philistines.[129]


Jacob's journey to Haran was a succession of miracles. The first

of the five that befell for his sake in the course of it was that

the sun sank while Jacob was passing Mount Moriah, though it was

high noon at the time. He was following the spring that appeared

wherever the Patriarchs went or settled. It accompanied Jacob

from Beer‑sheba to Mount Moriah, a two days' journey. When he

arrived at the holy hill, the Lord said to him: "Jacob, thou hast

bread in thy wallet, and the spring of waters is near by to

quench thy thirst. Thus thou hast food and drink, and here thou

canst lodge for the night." But Jacob replied: "The sun has

barely passed the fifth of its twelve day stages, why should I

lie down to sleep at so unseemly an hour?" But then Jacob

perceived that the sun was about to sink, and he prepared to make

ready his bed.[130] It was the Divine purpose not to let Jacob

pass the site of the future Temple without stopping; he was to

tarry there at least one night. Also, God desired to appear unto

Jacob, and He shows Himself unto His faithful ones only at

night.[131] At the same time Jacob was saved from the pursuit of

Esau, who had to desist on account of the premature


Jacob took twelve stones from the altar on which his father Isaac

had lain bound as a sacrifice, and he said: "It was the purpose

of God to let twelve tribes arise, but they have not been

begotten by Abraham or Isaac. If, now, these twelve stones will

unite into a single one, then shall I know for a certainty that I

am destined to become the father of the twelve tribes." At this

time the second miracle came to pass, the twelve stones joined

themselves together and made one, which he put under his head,

and at once it became soft and downy like a pillow. It was well

that he had a comfortable couch. He was in great need of rest,

for it was the first night in fourteen years that he did not keep

vigils. During all those years, passed in Eber's house of

learning, he had devoted the nights to study. And for twenty

years to come he was not to sleep, for while he was with his

uncle Laban, he spent all the night and every night reciting the


On the whole it was a night of marvels. He dreamed a dream in

which the course of the world's history was unfolded to him. On a

ladder set up on the earth, with the top of it reaching to

heaven, he beheld the two angels who had been sent to Sodom. For

one hundred and thirty‑eight years they had been banished from

the celestial regions, because they had betrayed their secret

mission to Lot. They had accompanied Jacob from his father's

house thither, and now they were ascending heavenward. When they

arrived there, he heard them call the other angels, and say,

"Come ye and see the countenance of the pious Jacob, whose

likeness appears on the Divine throne, ye who yearned long to see

it," and then he beheld the angels descend from heaven to gaze

upon him.[134] He also saw the angels of the four kingdoms

ascending the ladder. The angel of Babylon mounted seventy

rounds, the angel of Media, fifty‑two, that of Greece, one

hundred and eighty, and that of Edom mounted very high, saying,

"I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like

the Most High," and Jacob heard a voice remonstrating, "Yet thou

shalt be brought down to hell, to the uttermost parts of the

pit." God Himself reproved Edom, saying, "Though thou mount on

high as the eagle, and though thy nest be set among the stars, I

will bring thee down from thence."[135]

Furthermore, God showed unto Jacob the revelation at Mount Sinai,

the translation of Elijah, the Temple in its glory and in its

spoliation, Nebuchadnezzar's attempt to burn the three holy

children in the fiery furnace, and Daniel's encounter with


In this, the first prophetic dream dreamed by Jacob,[137] God

made him the promise that the land upon which he was lying would

be given to him, but the land he lay upon was the whole of

Palestine, which God had folded together and put under him.

"And," the promise continued, "thy seed will be like unto the

dust of the earth. As the earth survives all things, so thy

children will survive all the nations of the earth. But as the

earth is trodden upon by all, so thy children, when they commit

trespasses, will be trodden upon by the nations of the

earth."[138] And, furthermore, God promised that Jacob should

spread out to the west and to the east, a greater promise than

that given to his fathers Abraham and Isaac, to whom He had

allotted a limited land. Jacob's was an unbounded


>From this wondrous dream Jacob awoke with a start of fright, on

account of the vision he had had of the destruction of the

Temple.[140] He cried out, "How dreadful is this place! this is

none other but the house of God, wherein is the gate of heaven

through which prayer ascends to Him." He took the stone made out

of the twelve, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon

the top of it, which had flowed down from heaven for him, and God

sank this anointed stone unto the abyss, to serve as the centre

of the earth, the same stone, the Eben Shetiyah,[141] that forms

the centre of the sanctuary, whereon the Ineffable Name is

graven, the knowledge of which makes a man master over nature,

and over life and death.[142]

Jacob cast himself down before the Eben Shetiyah, and entreated

God to fulfil the promise He had given him, and also he prayed

that God grant him honorable sustenance. For God had not

mentioned bread to eat and raiment to put on, that Jacob might

learn to have faith in the Lord. Then he vowed to give the tenth

of all he owned unto God, if He would but grant his petition.

Thus Jacob was the first to take a vow upon himself,[143] and the

first, too, to separate the tithe from his income.[144]

God had promised him almost all that is desirable, but he feared

he might forfeit the pledged blessings through his

sinfulness,[145] and again he prayed earnestly that God bring him

back to his father's house unimpaired in body, possessions, and

knowledge,[146] and guard him, in the strange land whither he was

going, against idolatry, an immoral life, and bloodshed.[147]

His prayer at an end, Jacob set out on his way to Haran, and the

third wonder happened. In the twinkling of an eye he arrived at

his destination. The earth jumped from Mount Moriah to Haran. A

wonder like this God has executed only four times in the whole

course of history.[148]

The first thing to meet his eye in Haran was the well whence the

inhabitants drew their supply of water. Although it was a great

city, Haran suffered from dearth of water, and therefore the well

could not be used by the people free of charge. Jacob's sojourn

in the city produced a change. By reason of his meritorious deeds

the water springs were blessed, and the city had water enough for

its needs.

Jacob saw a number of people by the well, and he questioned them,

"My brethren, whence be ye?" He thus made himself a model for all

to follow. A man should be companionable, and address others like

brothers and friends, and not wait for them to greet him. Each

one should strive to be the first to give the salutation of

peace, that the angels of peace and compassion may come to meet

him. When he was informed that the by‑standers hailed from Haran,

he made inquiry about the character and vocation of his uncle

Laban, and whether they were on terms of friendly intercourse

with him. They answered briefly: "There is peace between us, but

if thou art desirous of inquiring further, here comes Rachel the

daughter of Laban. From her thou canst learn all thou hast a mind

to learn." They knew that women like to talk, wherefore they

referred him to Rachel.[149]

Jacob found it strange that so many should be standing idle by

the well, and he questioned further: "Are you day laborers? then

it is too early for you to put by your work. But if you are

pasturing your own sheep, why do you not water your flocks and

let them feed?"[150] They told him they were waiting until all

the shepherds brought their flocks thither, and together rolled

the stone from the mouth of the well. While he was yet speaking

with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for Laban had no

sons, and a pest having broken out shortly before among his

cattle, so few sheep were left that a maiden like Rachel could

easily tend them. Now, when Jacob saw the daughter of his

mother's brother approaching, he rolled the great stone from the

mouth of the well as easily as a cork is drawn from a bottle‑‑the

fourth wonder of this extraordinary day. Jacob's strength was

equal to the strength of all the shepherds; with his two arms

alone he accomplished what usually requires the united forces of

a large assemblage of men. He had been divinely endowed with this

supernatural strength on leaving the Holy Land. God had caused

the dew of the resurrection to drop down upon him, and his

physical strength was so great that even in a combat with the

angels he was victorious.[152]

The fifth and last wonder of the day was that the water rose from

the depths of the well to the very top, there was no need to draw

it up, and there it remained all the twenty years that Jacob

abode in Haran.[153]


Rachel's coming to the well at the moment when Jacob reached the

territory belonging to Haran was an auspicious omen. To meet

young maidens on first entering a city is a sure sign that

fortune is favorable to one's undertakings. Experience proves

this through Eliezer, Jacob, Moses, and Saul. They all

encountered maidens when they approached a place new to them, and

they all met with success.[154]

Jacob treated Rachel at once as his cousin, which caused

significant whispering among the by‑standers. They censured Jacob

for his demeanor toward her, for since God had sent the deluge

upon the world, on account of the immoral life led by men, great

chastity had prevailed, especially among the people of the east.

The talk of the men reduced Jacob to tears. Scarcely had he

kissed Rachel when he began to weep, for he repented of having

done it.

There was reason enough for tears. Jacob could not but remember

sadly that Eliezer, his grandfather's slave, had brought ten

camels laden with presents with him to Haran, when he came to sue

for a bride for Isaac, while he had not even a ring to give to

Rachel. Moreover, he foresaw that his favorite wife Rachel would

not lie beside him in the grave, and this, too, made him weep.

As soon as Rachel heard that Jacob was her cousin, she ran home

to tell her father about his coming. Her mother was no longer

among the living, else she would naturally have gone to her. In

great haste Laban ran to receive Jacob. He reflected, if Eliezer,

the bondman, had come with ten camels, what would not the

favorite son of the family bring with him, and when he saw that

Jacob was unattended, he concluded that he carried great sums of

money in his girdle, and he threw his arms about his waist to

find out whether his supposition was true. Disappointed in this,

he yet did not give up hope that his nephew Jacob was a man of

substance. Perhaps he concealed precious stones in his mouth, and

he kissed him in order to find out whether he had guessed aright.

But Jacob said to him: "Thou thinkest I have money. Nay, thou art

mistaken, I have but words."[155] Then he went on to tell him how

it had come about that he stood before him empty‑handed. He said

that his father Isaac had sent him on his way provided with gold,

silver, and money, but he had encountered Eliphaz, who had

threatened to slay him. To this assailant Jacob had spoken thus:

"Know that the descendants of Abraham have an obligation to meet,

they will have to serve four hundred years in a land that is not

theirs. If thou slayest me, then you, the seed of Esau, will have

to pay the debt. It were better, therefore, to take all I have,

and spare my life, so that what is owing may be paid by me.

Hence," Jacob continued, "I stand before thee bare of all the

substance carried off by Eliphaz."[156]

This tale of his nephew's poverty filled Laban with dismay.

"What," he exclaimed, "shall I have to give food and drink for a

month or, perhaps, even a year to this fellow, who has come to me

empty‑handed!" He betook himself to his teraphim, to ask them for

counsel upon the matter, and they admonished him, saying: "Beware

of sending him away from thy house. His star and his

constellation are so lucky that good fortune will attend all his

undertakings, and for his sake the blessing of the Lord will rest

upon all thou doest, in thy house or in thy field."

Laban was satisfied with the advice of the teraphim, but he was

embarrassed as to the way in which he was to attach Jacob to his

house. He did not venture to offer him service, lest Jacob's

conditions be impossible of fulfilment. Again he resorted to the

teraphim, and asked them with what reward to tempt his nephew,

and they replied: "A wife is his wage; he will ask nothing else

of thee but a wife. It is his nature to be attracted by women,

and whenever he threatens to leave thee, do but offer him another

wife, and he will not depart.

Laban went back to Jacob, and said, "Tell me, what shall thy

wages be?" and he replied, "Thinkest thou I came hither to make

money? I came only to get me a wife,"[158] for Jacob had no

sooner beheld Rachel than he fell in love with her and made her a

proposal of marriage. Rachel consented, but added the warning:

"My father is cunning, and thou art not his match." Jacob: "I am

his brother in cunning." Rachel: "But is deception becoming unto

the pious?" Jacob: "Yes, 'with the righteous righteousness is

seemly, and with the deceiver deception.' But," continued Jacob,

"tell me wherein he may deal cunningly with me." Rachel: "I have

an older sister, whom he desires to see married before me, and he

will try to palm her off on thee instead of me." To be prepared

for Laban's trickery, Jacob and Rachel agreed upon a sign by

which he would recognize her in the nuptial night.[159]

Thus warned to be on his guard against Laban, Jacob worded his

agreement with him regarding his marriage to Rachel with such

precision that no room was left for distortion or guile. Jacob

said: "I know that the people of this place are knaves, therefore

I desire to put the matter very clearly to thee. I will serve

thee seven years for Rachel, hence not Leah; for thy daughter,

that thou bringest me not some other woman likewise named Rachel;

for the younger daughter, that thou exchangest not their names in

the meantime."

Nothing of all this availed: "It profits not if a villain is cast

into a sawmill"‑‑neither force nor gentle words can circumvent a

rascal. Laban deceived not only Jacob, but also the guests whom

he invited to the wedding.


After Jacob had served Laban seven years, he said to his uncle:

"The Lord destined me to be the father of twelve tribes. I am now

eighty‑four years old, and if I do not take thought of the matter

now, when can I?"[160] Thereupon Laban consented to let him have

his daughter Rachel to wife, and he was married forty‑four years

after his brother Esau. The Lord often defers the happiness of

the pious, while He permits the wicked to enjoy the fulfilment of

their desires soon.[161] Esau, however, had purposely chosen his

fortieth year for his marriage; he had wanted to indicate that he

was walking in the footsteps of his father Isaac, who had

likewise married at forty years of age. Esau was like a swine

that stretches out its feet when it lies down, to show that it is

cloven‑footed like the clean animals, though it is none the less

one of the unclean animals. Until his fortieth year Esau made a

practice of violating the wives of other men, and then at his

marriage he acted as though he were following the example of his

pious father. Accordingly, the woman he married was of his own

kind, Judith, a daughter of Heth, for God said: "This one, who is

designed for stubble, to be burnt by fire, shall take unto wife

one of a people also destined for utter destruction." They, Esau

and his wife, illustrated the saying, "Not for naught does the

raven consort with the crow; they are birds of a feather."[162]

Far different it was with Jacob. He married the two pious and

lovely sisters, Leah and Rachel, for Leah, like her younger

sister, was beautiful of countenance, form, and stature. She had

but one defect, her eyes were weak, and this malady she had

brought down upon herself, through her own action. Laban, who had

two daughters, and Rebekah, his sister, who had two sons, had

agreed by letter, while their children were still young, that the

older son of the one was to marry the older daughter of the

other, and the younger son the younger daughter. When Leah grew

to maidenhood, and inquired about her future husband, all her

tidings spoke of his villainous character, and she wept over her

fate until her eyelashes dropped from their lids. But Rachel grew

more and more beautiful day by day, for all who spoke of Jacob

praised and extolled him, and "good tidings make the bones fat."

In view of the agreement between Laban and Rebekah, Jacob refused

to marry the older daughter Leah. As it was, Esau was his mortal

enemy, on account of what had happened regarding the birthright

and the paternal blessing. If, now, Jacob married the maiden

appointed for him, Esau would never forgive his younger brother.

Therefore Jacob resolved to take to wife Rachel, the younger

daughter of his uncle.[163]

Laban was of another mind. He purposed to marry of his older

daughter first, for he knew that Jacob would consent to serve him

a second period of seven years for love of Rachel. On the day of

the wedding he assembled the inhabitants of Haran, and addressed

them as follows: "Ye know well that we used to suffer from lack

of water, and as soon as this pious man Jacob came to dwell among

us, we had water in abundance." "What hast thou in mind to do?"

they asked Laban. He replied: "If ye have naught to say against

it, I will deceive him and give him Leah to wife. He loves Rachel

with an exceeding great love, and for her sake he will tarry with

us yet seven other years." "Do as it pleaseth thee," his friends

said. "Well, then," said Laban, "let each one of you give me a

pledge that ye will not betray my purpose."

With the pledges they left with him, Laban bought wine, oil, and

meat for the wedding feast, and he set a meal before them which

they had themselves paid for. Because he deceived his

fellow‑citizens thus, Laban is called Arami, "the deceiver." They

feasted all day long, until late at night, and when Jacob

expressed his astonishment at the attention shown him, they said

to him: "Through thy piety thou didst a great service of

lovingkindness unto us, our supply of water was increased unto

abundance, and we desire to show our gratitude therefor." And,

indeed, they tried to give him a hint of Laban's purpose. In the

marriage ode which they sang they used the refrain "Halia," in

the hope that he would understand it as Ha Leah, "This is Leah."

But Jacob was unsuspicious and noticed nothing.

When the bride was led into the nuptial chamber, the guests

extinguished all the candles, much to Jacob's amazement. But

their explanation satisfied him. "Thinkest thou," they said, "we

have as little sense of decency as thy countrymen?" Jacob

therefore did not discover the deception practiced upon him until

morning. During the night Leah responded whenever he called

Rachel, for which he reproached her bitterly when daylight came.

"O thou deceiver, daughter of a deceiver, why didst thou answer

me when I called Rachel's name?" "Is there a teacher without a

pupil?" asked Leah, in return. "I but profited by thy

instruction. When thy father called thee Esau, didst thou not

say, Here am I?"[164]

Jacob was greatly enraged against Laban, and he said to him: "Why

didst thou deal treacherously with me? Take back thy daughter,

and let me depart, seeing thou didst act wickedly toward

me."[165] Laban pacified him, however, saying, "It is not so done

in our place, to give the younger before the first‑born," and

Jacob agreed to serve yet seven other years for Rachel, and after

the seven days of the feast of Leah's wedding were fulfilled, he

married Rachel.[166]

With Leah and Rachel, Jacob received the handmaids Zilpah and

Bilhah, two other daughters of Laban, whom his concubines had

borne unto him.[167]


The ways of God are not like unto the ways of men. A man clings

close to his friend while he has riches, and forsakes him when he

falls into poverty. But when God sees a mortal unsteady and

faltering, He reaches a hand out to him, and raises him up. Thus

it happened with Leah. She was hated by Jacob, and God visited

her in mercy. Jacob's aversion to Leah began the very morning

after their wedding, when his wife taunted him with not being

wholly free from cunning and craft himself. Then God said, "Help

can come to Leah only if she gives birth to a child; then the

love of her husband will return to her."[168] God remembered the

tears she had shed when she prayed that her doom, chaining her to

that recreant Esau, be averted from her, and so wondrous are the

uses of prayer that Leah, besides turning aside the impending

decree, was permitted to marry Jacob before her sister and be the

first to bear him a child. There was another reason why the Lord

was compassionately inclined toward Leah. She had gotten herself

talked about. The sailors on the sea, the travellers along the

highways, the women at their looms, they all gossiped about Leah,

saying, "She is not within what her seeming is without. She

appears to be pious, but if she were, she would not have deceived

her sister."[169] To put an end to all this tattle, God granted

her the distinction of bearing a son at the end of seven months

after her marriage. He was one of a pair of twins, the other

child being a daughter. So it was with eleven of the sons of

Jacob, all of them except Joseph were born twins with a girl, and

the twin sister and brother married later on.[170] Altogether it

was an extraordinary childbirth, for Leah was barren, not formed

by nature to bear children.

She called her first‑born son Reuben, which means "See the normal

man," for he was neither big nor little, neither dark nor fair,

but exactly normal.[171] In calling her oldest child Reuben, "See

the son," Leah indicated his future character. "Behold the

difference," the name implied, "between my first‑born son and the

first‑born son of my father in‑law. Esau sold his birthright to

Jacob of his own free will, and yet he hated him. As for my

first‑born son, although his birthright was taken from him

without his consent, and given to Joseph, it was nevertheless he

who rescued Joseph from the hands of his brethren."[172]

Leah called her second son Shime'on, "Yonder is sin," for one of

his descendants was that Zimri who was guilty of vile trespasses

with the daughters of Moab.[173]

The name of her third son, Levi, was given him by God Himself,

not by his mother. The Lord summoned him through the angel

Gabriel, and bestowed the name upon him as one who is "crowned"

with the twenty‑four gifts that are the tribute due to the


At the birth of her fourth son, Leah returned thanks to God for a

special reason. She knew that Jacob would beget twelve sons, and

if they were distributed equally among his four wives, each would

bear three. But now it appeared that she had one more than her

due share, and she called him Jehudah, "thanks unto God." She was

thus the first since the creation of the world to give thanks to

God,[175] and her example was followed by David and Daniel, the

descendants of her son Judah.

When Rachel saw that her sister had borne Jacob four sons, she

envied Leah. Not that she begrudged her the good fortune she

enjoyed, she only envied her for her piety, saying to herself

that it was to her righteous conduct that she owed the blessing

of many children.[176] Then she besought Jacob: "Pray unto God

for me, that He grant me children, else my life is no life.

Verily, there are four that may be regarded as though they were

dead, the blind, the leper, the childless, and he who was once

rich and has lost his fortune." Jacob's anger was kindled against

Rachel, and he said: "It were better thou shouldst address thy

petition to God, and not to me, for am I in God's stead, who hath

withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?"[177] God was

displeased with this answer that Jacob made to his sad wife. He

rebuked him with the words: "Is it thus thou wouldst comfort a

grief‑stricken heart? As thou livest, the day will come when thy

children will stand before the son of Rachel, and he will use the

same words thou hast but now used, saying, 'Am I in the place of

the Lord?' "

Rachel also made reply to Jacob, saying: "Did not thy father,

too, entreat God for thy mother with earnest words, beseeching

Him to remove her barrenness?" Jacob: "It is true, but Isaac had

no children, and I have several." Rachel: "Remember thy

grandfather Abraham, thou canst not deny that he had children

when he supplicated God in behalf of Sarah!" Jacob: "Wouldst thou

do for me what Sarah did for my grandfather?" Rachel: "Pray, what

did she?" Jacob: "She herself brought a rival into her house."

Rachel: "If that is all that is necessary, I am ready to follow

the example of Sarah, and I pray that as she was granted a child

for having invited a rival, so may I be blessed, too."[178]

Thereupon Rachel gave Jacob Bilhah, her freed handmaid, to wife,

and she bore him a son, whom Rachel called Dan, saying, "As the

Lord was gracious unto me and gave me a son according to my

petition, so He will permit Samson, the descendant of Dan, to

judge his people, that it fall not into the hands of the

Philistines."[179] Bilhah's second son Rachel named Naphtali,

saying, "Mine is the bond that binds Jacob to this place, for it

was for my sake that he came to Laban." At the same time she

wanted to convey by this name that the Torah, which is as sweet

as Nofet, "honeycomb," would be taught in the territory of

Naphtali.[180] And the name had still a third meaning: "As God

hath heard my fervent prayer for a son, so He will hearken unto

the fervent prayer of the Naphtalites when they are beset by

their enemies."[181]

Leah, seeing that she had left bearing, while Bilhah, her

sister's handmaid, bore Jacob two sons, concluded that it was

Jacob's destiny to have four wives, her sister and herself, and

their half‑sisters Bilhah and Zilpah. Therefore she also gave him

her handmaid to wife.[182] Zilpah was the youngest of the four

women. It was the custom of that time to give the older daughter

the older handmaid, and the younger daughter the younger

handmaid, as their dowry, when they got married. Now, in order to

make Jacob believe that his wife was the younger daughter he had

served for, Laban had given Leah the younger handmaid as her

marriage portion. This Zilpah was so young that her body betrayed

no outward signs of pregnancy, and nothing was known of her

condition until her son was born. Leah called the boy Gad, which

means "fortune," or it may mean "the cutter," for from Gad was

descended the prophet Elijah, who brings good fortune to Israel,

and he also cuts down the heathen world.[183] Leah had other

reasons, too, for choosing this name of double meaning. The tribe

of Gad had the good fortune of entering into possession of its

allotment in the Holy Land before any of the others,[184] and,

also, Gad the son of Jacob was born circumcised.[185]

To Zilpah's second son Leah gave the name of Asher, "praise,"

for, she said, "Unto me all manner of praise is due, for I

brought my handmaid into the house of my husband as wife. Sarah

did likewise, but only because she had no children, and so it was

also with Rachel. But as for me, I had children, and nevertheless

I subdued my passion, and without jealousy I gave my handmaid to

my husband for wife. Verily, all will praise and extol me."[186]

Furthermore she spoke: "As the women will praise me, so the sons

of Asher will in time to come praise God for their fruitful

possession in the Holy Land."[187]

The next son born unto Jacob was Issachar, "a reward," and once

more it was Leah who was permitted to bring forth the child, as a

reward from God for her pious desire to have the twelve tribes

come into the world. To secure this result, she left no means


It happened once that her oldest son Reuben was tending his

father's ass during the harvest, and he bound him to a root of

dudaim, and went his way. On returning, he found the dudaim torn

out of the ground, and the ass lying dead beside it. The beast

had uprooted it in trying to get loose, and the plant has a

peculiar quality, whoever tears it up must die.[189] As it was

the time of the harvest, when it is permitted for any one to take

a plant from a field, and as dudaim is, besides, a plant which

the owner of a field esteems lightly, Reuben carried it home.

Being a good son, he did not keep it for himself, but gave it to

his mother. Rachel desired the dudaim, and she asked the plant of

Leah, who parted with it to her sister, but on the condition that

Jacob, when he returned from work in the evening, should tarry

with her for a while. It was altogether unbecoming conduct in

Rachel to dispose thus of her husband. She gained the dudaim, but

she lost two tribes. If she had acted otherwise, she would have

borne four sons instead of two. And she suffered another

punishment, her body was not permitted to rest in the grave

beside her husband's.

Jacob came home from the field after night had fallen, for he

observed the law obliging a day laborer to work until darkness

sets in, and Jacob's zeal in the affairs of Laban was as great in

the last seven years, after his marriage, as in the first seven,

while he was serving for the hand of Rachel.[190] When Leah heard

the braying of Jacob's ass, she ran to meet her husband,[191] and

without giving him time to wash his feet, she insisted upon his

turning aside into her tent.[192] At first Jacob refused to go,

but God compelled him to enter, for unto God it was known that

Leah acted from pure, disinterested motives.[193] Her dudaim

secured two sons for her, Issachar, the father of the tribe that

devotes itself to the study of the Torah, whence his name meaning

"reward," and Zebulon, whose descendants carried on commerce,

using their profits to enable their brethren of Issachar to keep

at their studies.[194] Leah called this last‑born son of hers

Zebulon, "dwelling‑place," for she said, "Now will my husband

dwell with me, seeing that I have borne him six sons, and, also,

the sons of Zebulon will have a goodly dwelling‑place in the Holy


Leah bore once more, and this last time it was a daughter, a man

child turned into a woman by her prayer. When she conceived for

the seventh time, she spake as follows: "God promised Jacob

twelve sons. I bore him six, and each of the two handmaids has

borne him two. If, now, I were to bring forth another son, my

sister Rachel would not be equal even unto the handmaids."

Therefore she prayed to God to change the male embryo in her womb

into a female, and God hearkened unto her prayer.[196]

Now all the wives of Jacob, Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah,

united their prayers with the prayer of Jacob, and together they

besought God to remove the curse of barrenness from Rachel. On

New Year's Day, the day whereon God sits in judgment upon the

inhabitants of the earth, He remembered Rachel, and granted her a

son.[197] And Rachel spake, "God hath taken away my reproach,"

for all the people had said that she was not a pious woman, else

had she borne children, and now that God had hearkened to her,

and opened her womb, such idle talk no longer had any


By bearing a son, she had escaped another disgrace. She had said

to herself: "Jacob hath a mind to return to the land of his

birth, and my father will not be able to hinder his daughters who

have borne him children from following their husband thither with

their children. But he will not let me, the childless wife, go,

too, and he will keep me here and marry me to one of the

uncircumcised."[199] She said furthermore, "As my son hath

removed my reproach, so Joshua, his descendant, will roll away a

reproach from the Israelites, when he circumcises them beyond


Rachel called her son Joseph, "increase," saying, "God will give

me an additional son." Prophetess as she was, she foresaw she

would have a second son. But an increase added on by God is

larger than the original capital itself. Benjamin, the second

son, whom Rachel regarded merely as a supplement, had ten sons,

while Joseph begot only two. These twelve together may be

considered the twelve tribes borne by Rachel.[201] Had Rachel not

used the form of expression, "The Lord add to me another son,"

she herself would have begotten twelve tribes with Jacob.[202]


Jacob had only been waiting for Joseph to be born to begin

preparations for his journey home. The holy spirit had revealed

to him that the house of Joseph would work the destruction of the

house of Esau, and, therefore, Jacob exclaimed at the birth of

Joseph, "Now I need not fear Esau or his legions.[203]

About this time, Rebekah sent her nurse Deborah, the daughter of

Uz, accompanied by two of Isaac's servants, to Jacob, to urge him

to return to his father's house, now that his fourteen years of

service had come to an end. Then Jacob approached Laban, and

spoke, "Give me my wives and my children, that I may go unto mine

own place, and to my country, for my mother has sent messengers

unto me, bidding me to return to my father's house."[204] Laban

answered, saying, "O that I might find favor in thine eyes! By a

sign it was made known unto me that God blesseth me for thy

sake." What Laban had in mind was the treasure he had found on

the day Jacob came to him, and he considered that a token of his

beneficent powers.[205] Indeed, God had wrought many a thing in

the house of Laban that testified to the blessings spread abroad

by the pious. Shortly before Jacob came, a pest had broken out

among Laban's cattle, and with his arrival it ceased.[206] And

Laban had had no son, but during Jacob's sojourn in Haran sons

were born unto him.[207]

All the hire he asked in return for his labor and for the

blessings he had brought Laban was the speckled and spotted among

the goats of his herd, and the black among the sheep. Laban

assented to his conditions, saying, "Behold, I would it might be

according to thy word." The arch‑villain Laban, whose tongue

wagged in all directions, and who made all sorts of promises that

were never kept, judged others by himself, and therefore

suspected Jacob of wanting to deceive him.[208] And yet, in the

end, it was Laban himself who broke his word. No less than a

hundred times he changed the agreement between them. Nevertheless

his unrighteous conduct was of no avail. Though a three days'

journey had been set betwixt Laban's flocks and Jacob's, the

angels were wont to bring the sheep belonging to Laban down to

Jacob's sheep, and Jacob's droves grew constantly larger and

better.[209] Laban had given only the feeble and sick to Jacob,

yet the young of the flock, raised under Jacob's tendance, were

so excellent in quality that people bought them at a heavy

price.[210] And Jacob had no need to resort to the peeled rods.

He had but to speak, and the flocks bare according to his

desire.[211] What Laban deserved was utter ruin, for having

permitted the pious Jacob to work for him without hire, and after

his wages had been changed ten times, and ten times Laban had

tried to overreach him, God rewarded him in this way.[212] But

his good luck with the flocks was only what Jacob deserved. Every

faithful laborer is rewarded by God in this world, quite

regardless of what awaits him in the world to come.[213] With

empty hands Jacob had come to Laban, and he left him with herds

numbering six hundred thousand. Their increase had been

marvellous, an increase that will be equalled only in the

Messianic time.[214]

The wealth and good fortune of Jacob called forth the envy of

Laban and his sons, and they could not hide their vexation in

their intercourse with him. And the Lord said unto Jacob, "Thy

father‑in‑law's countenance is not toward thee as beforetime, and

yet thou tarriest with him? Do thou rather return unto the land

of thy fathers, and there I will let My Shekinah rest upon thee,

for I cannot permit the Shekinah to reside outside of the Holy

Land."[215] Immediately Jacob sent the fleet messenger

Naphtali[216] to Rachel and Leah to summon them to a

consultation, and he chose as the place of meeting the open

field, where none could overhear what was said.[217]

His two wives approved the plan of returning to his home, and

Jacob resolved at once to go away with all his substance, without

as much as acquainting Laban with his intention. Laban was gone

to shear his sheep, and so Jacob could execute his plan without


That her father might not learn about their flight from his

teraphim, Rachel stole them, and she took them and concealed them

upon the camel upon which she sat, and she went on. And this is

the manner they used to make the images: They took a man who was

the first‑born, slew him and took the hair off his head, then

salted the head, and anointed it with oil, then they wrote "the

Name" upon a small tablet of copper or gold, and placed it under

his tongue. The head with the tablet under the tongue was then

put in a house where lights were lighted before it, and at the

time when they bowed down to it, it spoke to them on all matters

that they asked of it, and that was due to the power of the Name

which was written upon it.[218]


Jacob departed and crossed the Euphrates, and set his face toward

Gilead, for the holy spirit revealed to him that God would bring

help there to his children in the days of Jephthah. Meantime the

shepherds of Haran observed that the well, which had been filled

to overflowing since the arrival of Jacob in their place, ran dry

suddenly. For three days they watched and waited, in the hope

that the waters would return in the same abundance as before.

Disappointed, they finally told Laban of the misfortune, and he

divined at once that Jacob had departed thence, for he knew that

the blessing had been conferred upon Haran only for the sake of

his son‑in‑law's merits.[219]

On the morrow Laban rose early, assembled all the people of the

city, and pursued Jacob with the intention of killing him when he

overtook him. But the archangel Michael appeared unto him, and

bade him take heed unto himself, that he do not the least unto

Jacob, else would he suffer death himself.[220] This message from

heaven came to Laban during the night, for when, in extraordinary

cases, God finds it necessary to reveal Himself unto the heathen,

He does it only in the dark, clandestinely as it were, while He

shows Himself to the prophets of the Jews openly, during


Laban accomplished the journey in one day for which Jacob had

taken seven,[221] and he overtook him at the mountain of Gilead.

When he came upon Jacob, he found him in the act of praying and

giving praise unto God.[222] Immediately Laban fell to

remonstrating with his son‑in‑law for having stolen away unawares

to him. He showed his true character when he said, "It is in the

power of my hand to do thee hurt, but the God of thy father spake

unto me yesternight, saying, Take heed to thyself that thou speak

not to Jacob either good or bad." That is the way of the wicked,

they boast of the evil they can do. Laban wanted to let Jacob

know that only the dream warning him against doing aught that was

harmful to Jacob prevented him from carrying out the wicked

design he had formed against him.[223]

Laban continued to take Jacob to task, and he concluded with the

words, "And now, though thou wouldst needs be gone, because thou

sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou

stolen my gods?" When he pronounced the last words, his

grandchildren interrupted him, saying, "We are ashamed of thee,

grandfather, that in thy old age thou shouldst use such words as

'my gods.' " Laban searched all the tents for his idols, going

first to the tent of Jacob, which was Rachel's at the same time,

for Jacob always dwelt with his favorite wife. Finding nothing,

he went thence to Leah's tent, and to the tents of the two

handmaids, and, noticing that Rachel was feeling about here and

there, his suspicions were aroused, and he entered her tent a

second time. He would now have found what he was looking for, if

a miracle had not come to pass. The teraphim were transformed

into drinking vessels, and Laban had to desist from his fruitless


Now Jacob, who did not know that Rachel had stolen her father's

teraphim in order to turn him aside from his idolatrous ways, was

wroth with Laban, and began to chide with him. In the quarrel

between them, Jacob's noble character manifested itself.

Notwithstanding his excitement, he did not suffer a single

unbecoming word to escape him. He only reminded Laban of the

loyalty and devotion with which he had served him, doing for him

what none other would or could have done. He said: "I dealt

wrongfully with the lion, for God had appointed of Laban's sheep

for the lion's daily sustenance, and I deprived him thereof.

Could another shepherd have done thus? Yes, the people abused me,

calling me robber and sneak thief, for they thought that only by

stealing by day and stealing by night could I replace the animals

torn by wild beasts. And as to my honesty," he continued, "is it

likely there is another son‑in‑law who, having lived with his

father‑in‑law, hath not taken some little thing from the

household of his father‑in‑law, a knife, or other trifle? But

thou hast felt about all my stuff, what hast thou found of all

thy household stuff? Not so much as a needle or a nail."

In his indignation, and conscious of his innocence, Jacob

exclaimed, "With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, he shall not

live," words which contained a curse‑‑the thief was cursed with

premature death, and therefore Rachel had to die in giving birth

to Benjamin. Indeed, the curse would have taken effect at once,

had it not been the wish of God that Rachel should bear Jacob his

youngest son.[224]

After the quarrel, the two men made a treaty, and with his

gigantic strength Jacob set up a huge rock as a memorial, and a

heap of stones as a sign of their covenant. In this matter Jacob

followed the example of his fathers, who likewise had covenanted

with heathen nations, Abraham with the Jebusites, and Isaac with

the Philistines. Therefore Jacob did not hesitate to make a

treaty with the Arameans.[225] Jacob summoned his sons, calling

them brethren, for they were his peers in piety and strength, and

he bade them cast up heaps of stones. Thereupon he swore unto his

father‑in‑law that he would take no wives beside his four

daughters, either while they were alive or after their death, and

Laban, on his part, swore that he would not pass over the heaps

or over the pillar unto Jacob with hostile intent,[226] and he

took the oath by the God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, while

Jacob made mention of the Fear of Isaac. He refrained from using

the term "the God of Isaac," because God never unites His name

with that of a living person, for the reason that so long as a

man has not ended his years, no trust may be put in him, lest he

be seduced by the evil inclination. It is true, when He appeared

unto Jacob at Beth‑el, God called Himself "the God of Isaac."

There was a reason for the unusual phrase. Being blind, Isaac led

a retired life, within his tent, and the evil inclination had no

power over him any more. But though God had full confidence in

Isaac, yet Jacob could not venture to couple the name of God with

the name of a living man, wherefore he took his oath by "the Fear

of Isaac."[227]

Early in the morning after the day of covenanting, Laban rose up,

and kissed his grandchildren and his daughters, and blessed them.

But these acts and words of his did not come from the heart; in

his innermost thoughts he regretted that Jacob and his family and

his substance had escaped him.[228] His true feelings he betrayed

in the message which he sent to Esau at once upon his return to

Haran, by the hand of his son Beor and ten companions of his son.

The message read: "Hast thou heard what Jacob thy brother has

done unto me, who first came to me naked and bare, and I went to

meet him, and took him to my house with honor, and brought him

up, and gave him my two daughters for wives, and also two of my

maids? And God blessed him on my account, and he increased

abundantly, and had sons and daughters and maidservants, and also

an uncommon stock of flocks and herds, camels and asses, also

silver and gold in abundance. But when he saw that his wealth

increased, he left me while I went to shear my sheep, and he rose

up and fled in secrecy. And he put his wives and children upon

camels, and he led away all his cattle and substance which he

acquired in my land, and he resolved to go to his father Isaac,

to the land of Canaan. And he did not suffer me to kiss my sons

and daughters, and he carried away my daughters as captives of

the sword, and he also stole my gods, and he fled. And now I have

left him in the mountain of the brook of Jabbok, he and all

belonging to him, not a jot of his substance is lacking. If it be

thy wish to go to him, go, and there wilt thou find him, and thou

canst do unto him as thy soul desireth."[229]

Jacob had no need to fear either Laban or Esau, for on his

journey he was accompanied by two angel hosts, one going with him

from Haran to the borders of the Holy Land, where he was received

by the other host, the angels of Palestine.[230] Each of these

hosts consisted of no less than six hundred thousand angels,[231]

and when he beheld them, Jacob said: "Ye belong neither to the

host of Esau, who is preparing to go out to war against me, nor

the host of Laban, who is about to pursue me again. Ye are the

hosts of the holy angels sent by the Lord." And he gave the name

Mahanaim, Double‑Host, to the spot on which the second army

relieved the first.[232]


The message of Laban awakened Esau's old hatred toward Jacob with

increased fury, and he assembled his household, consisting of

sixty men. With them and three hundred and forty inhabitants of

Seir, he went forth to do battle with Jacob and kill him. He

divided his warriors into seven cohorts, giving to his son

Eliphaz his own division of sixty, and putting the other six

divisions under as many of the Horites.

While Esau was hastening onward to meet Jacob, the messengers

which Laban had sent to Esau came to Rebekah and told her that

Esau and his four hundred men were about to make war upon Jacob,

with the purpose of slaying him and taking possession of all he

had. Anxious lest Esau should execute his plan while yet Jacob

was on the journey, she hastily dispatched seventy‑two of the

retainers of Isaac's household, to give him help. Jacob, tarrying

on the banks of the brook Jabbok, rejoiced at the sight of these

men, and he greeted them with the words, "This is God's helping

host," wherefore he called the place of their meeting Mahanaim,


After the warriors sent by Rebekah had satisfied his questions

regarding the welfare of his parents, they delivered his mother's

message unto him, thus: "I have heard, my son, that thy brother

Esau hath gone forth against thee on the road, with men of the

children of Seir the Horite, and therefore, my son, hearken to my

voice, and take counsel with thyself what thou wilt do, and when

he cometh up to thee, supplicate him, and do not speak roughly to

him, and give him a present from what thou possessest, and from

what God has favored thee with. And when he asketh thee

concerning thy affairs, conceal nothing from him, perhaps he may

turn from his anger against thee, and thou wilt thereby save thy

soul, thou and all belonging to thee, for it is thy duty to honor

him, since he is thy elder brother."

And when Jacob heard the words of his mother which the messengers

had spoken to him, he lifted up his voice and wept bitterly, and

did as his mother commanded him.

He sent messengers to Esau to placate him, and they said unto

him: "Thus speaketh thy servant Jacob: My lord, think not that

the blessing which my father bestowed upon me profited me. Twenty

years I served Laban, and he deceived me, and changed my hire ten

times, as thou well knowest. Yet did I labor sorely in his house,

and God saw my affliction, my labor, and the work of my hands,

and afterward He caused me to find grace and favor in the sight

of Laban. And through God's great mercy and kindness, I acquired

oxen and asses and cattle and men‑servants and maid servants. And

now I am coming to my country and to my home, to my father and

mother, who are in the land of Canaan. And I have sent to let my

lord know all this in order to find favor in the eyes of my lord,

so that he may not imagine that I have become a man of substance,

or that the blessing with which my father blessed me has

benefited me."[233]

Furthermore spake the messengers: "Why dost thou envy me in

respect to the blessing wherewith my father blessed me? Is it

that the sun shineth in my land, and not in thine? Or doth the

dew and the rain fall only upon my land, and not upon thine? If

my father blessed me with the dew of heaven, he blessed thee with

the fatness of the earth, and if he spoke to me, Peoples will

serve thee, he hath said unto thee, By thy sword shalt thou live.

How long, then, wilt thou continue to envy me? Come, now, let us

set up a covenant between us, that we will share equally all the

vexations that may occur."

Esau would not agree to this proposal, his friends dissuaded him

therefrom, saying, "Accept not these conditions, for God hath

said to Abraham, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a

stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve the people

thereof, and the aliens shall afflict them four hundred years.

Wait, therefore, until Jacob and his family go down into Egypt to

pay off this debt."

Jacob also sent word to Esau, saying: "Though I dwelt with that

heathen of the heathen, Laban, yet have I not forgotten my God,

but I fulfil the six hundred and thirteen commandments of the

Torah.[234] If thy mind be set upon peace, thou wilt find me

ready for peace. But if thy desire be war, thou wilt find me

ready for war. I have with me men of valor and strength, they

have but to utter a word, and God fulfils it. I tarried with

Laban until Joseph should be born, he who is destined to subdue

thee.[235] And though my descendants be held in bondage in this

world, yet a day will come when they will rule over their


In reply to all these gentle words, Esau spoke with arrogance:

"Surely I have heard, and truly it has been told unto me what

Jacob has been to Laban, who brought him up in his house, and

gave him his daughters for wives, and he begot sons and

daughters, and abundantly increased in wealth and riches in

Laban's house and with his help. And when he saw that his wealth

was abundant and his riches were great, he fled with all

belonging to him from Laban's house, and he carried away Laban's

daughters from their father as captives of the sword, without

telling him of it. And not only to Laban hath Jacob done thus,

but also unto me hath he done so, and he hath twice supplanted

me, and shall I be silent? Now, I have this day come with my camp

to meet him, and I will do unto him according to the desire of my


The messengers dispatched by Jacob now returned to him, and

reported these words of Esau unto him.[237] They also told him

that his brother was advancing against him with an army

consisting of four hundred crowned heads, each leading a host of

four hundred men.[238] "It is true, thou art his brother, and

thou treatest him as a brother should," they said to Jacob, "but

he is an Esau, thou must be made aware of his villainy."[239]

Jacob bore in mind the promise of God, that He would bring him

back to his father's house in peace, yet the report about his

brother's purpose alarmed him greatly. A pious man may never

depend upon promises of earthly good. God does not keep the

promise if he is guilty of the smallest conceivable trespass, and

Jacob feared that he might have forfeited happiness by reason of

a sin committed by him. Moreover, he was anxious lest Esau be the

one favored by God, inasmuch as he had these twenty years been

fulfilling two Divine commands that Jacob had had to disregard.

Esau had been living in the Holy Land, Jacob outside of it; the

former had been in attendance upon his parents, the latter

dwelling at a distance from them. And much as he feared defeat,

Jacob also feared the reverse, that he might be victorious over

Esau, or might even slay his brother, which would be as bad as to

be slain by him. And he was depressed by another apprehension,

that his father had died, for he reasoned that Esau would not

take such warlike steps against his own brother, were his father

still alive.[240]

When his wives saw the anxiety that possessed Jacob, they began

to quarrel with him, and reproach him for having taken them away

from their father's house, though he knew that such danger

threatened from Esau.[241] Then Jacob determined to apply the

three means that might save him from the fate impending: he would

cry to God for help, appease Esau's wrath with presents, and hold

himself in readiness for war if the worst came to the worst.[242]

He prayed to God: "O Thou God of my father Abraham, and God of my

father Isaac, God of all who walk in the ways of the pious and do

like unto them! I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies,

and of all the truth, which Thou hast showed unto Thy servant. O

Lord of the world, as Thou didst not suffer Laban to execute his

evil designs against me, so also bring to naught the purpose of

Esau, who desireth to slay me. O Lord of the world, in Thy Torah

which Thou wilt give us on Mount Sinai it is written, And whether

it be cow or ewe, ye shall not kill it and her young both in one

day. If this wretch should come and murder my children and their

mothers at the same time, who would then desire to read Thy Torah

which Thou wilt give us on Mount Sinai? And yet Thou didst speak,

For the sake of thy merits and for the merits of thy fathers I

will do good unto thee, and in the future world thy children

shall be as numerous as the sand of the sea."

As Jacob prayed for his own deliverance, so also he prayed for

the salvation of his descendants, that they might not be

annihilated by the descendants of Esau.

Such was the prayer of Jacob when he saw Esau approaching from

afar, and God heard his petition and looked upon his tears, and

He gave him the assurance that for his sake his descendants, too,

would be redeemed from all distress.[243]

Then the Lord sent three angels, and they went before Esau, and

they appeared unto Esau and his people as hundreds and thousands

of men riding upon horses. They were furnished with all sorts of

weapons, and divided into four columns. And one division went on,

and they found Esau coming with four hundred men, and the

division ran toward them, and terrified them. Esau fell off his

horse in alarm, and all his men separated from him in great fear,

while the approaching column shouted after them, "Verily, we are

the servants of Jacob, the servant of God, and who can stand

against us?" Esau then said unto them, "O, then my lord and

brother Jacob is your lord, whom I have not seen these twenty

years, and now that I have this day come to see him, do you treat

me in this manner?" The angels answered, "As the Lord liveth,

were not Jacob thy brother, we had not left one remaining of thee

and thy people, but on account of Jacob we will do nothing to

thee." This division passed from Esau, and when he had gone from

there about a league, the second division came toward him, and

they also did unto Esau and his men as the first had done to

them, and when they permitted him to go on, the third came and

did like the first, and when the third had passed also, and Esau

still continued with his men on the road to Jacob, the fourth

division came and did to them as the others had done. And Esau

was greatly afraid of his brother, because he thought that the

four columns of the army which he had encountered were the

servants of Jacob.

After Jacob had made an end of praying, he divided all that

journeyed with him into two companies, and he set over them

Damesek and Alinus, the two sons of Eliezer, the bondman of

Abraham, and their sons.[244] Jacob's example teaches us not to

conceal the whole of our fortune in one hiding‑place, else we run

the danger of losing everything at one stroke.

Of his cattle he sent a part to Esau as a present, first dividing

it into three droves in order to impress his brother more. When

Esau received the first drove, he would think he had the whole

gift that had been sent to him, and suddenly he would be

astonished by the appearance of the second portion, and again by

the third. Jacob knew his brother's avarice only too well.[245]

The men who were the bearers of Jacob's present to Esau were

charged with the following message, "This is an offering to my

lord Esau from his slave Jacob." But God took these words of

Jacob in ill part, saying, "Thou profanest what is holy when thou

callest Esau lord." Jacob excused himself; he was but flattering

the wicked in order to escape death at his hands.[246]


The servants of Jacob went before him with the present for Esau,

and he followed with his wives and his children. As he was about

to pass over the ford of Jabbok, he observed a shepherd, who

likewise had sheep and camels. The stranger approached Jacob and

proposed that they should ford the stream together, and help each

other move their cattle over, and Jacob assented, on the

condition that his possessions should be put across first. In the

twinkling of an eye Jacob's sheep were transferred to the other

side of the stream by the shepherd. Then the flocks of the

shepherd were to be moved by Jacob, but no matter how many he

took over to the opposite bank, always there remained some on the

hither shore. There was no end to the cattle, though Jacob

labored all the night through. At last he lost patience, and he

fell upon the shepherd and caught him by the throat, crying out,

"O thou wizard, thou wizard, at night no enchantment succeeds!"

The angel thought, "Very well, let him know once for all with

whom he has had dealings," and with his finger he touched the

earth, whence fire burst forth. But Jacob said, "What! thou

thinkest thus to affright me, who am made wholly of fire?"[247]

The shepherd was no less a personage than the archangel Michael,

and in his combat with Jacob he was assisted by the whole host of

angels under his command. He was on the point of inflicting a

dangerous wound upon Jacob, when God appeared, and all the

angels, even Michael himself, felt their strength ooze away.

Seeing that he could not prevail against Jacob, the archangel

touched the hollow of his thigh, and injured him, and God rebuked

him, saying, "Dost thou act as is seemly, when thou causest a

blemish in My priest Jacob?" Michael said in astonishment, "Why,

it is I who am Thy priest!" But God said, "Thou art My priest in

heaven, and he is My priest on earth." Thereupon Michael summoned

the archangel Raphael, saying, "My comrade, I pray thee, help me

out of my distress, for thou art charged with the healing of all

disease," and Raphael cured Jacob of the injury Michael had


The Lord continued to reproach Michael, saying, "Why didst thou

do harm unto My first‑born son?" and the archangel answered, "I

did it only to glorify Thee," and then God appointed Michael as

the guardian angel of Jacob and his seed unto the end of all

generations, with these words: "Thou art a fire, and so is Jacob

a fire; thou art the head of the angels, and he is the head of

the nations; thou art supreme over all the angels, and he is

supreme over all the peoples. Therefore he who is supreme over

all the angels shall be appointed unto him who is supreme over

all the peoples, that he may entreat mercy for him from the

Supreme One over all."

Then Michael said unto Jacob, "How is it possible that thou who

couldst prevail against me, the most distinguished of the angels,

art afraid of Esau?"

When the day broke, Michael said to Jacob, "Let me go, for the

day breaketh," but Jacob held him back, saying, "Art thou a

thief, or a gambler with dice, that thou fearest the daylight?"

At that moment appeared many different hosts of angels, and they

called unto Michael: "Ascend, O Michael, the time of song hath

come, and if thou art not in heaven to lead the choir, none will

sing." And Michael entreated Jacob with supplications to let him

go, for he feared the angels of 'Arabot would consume him with

fire, if he were not there to start the songs of praise at the

proper time. Jacob said, "I will not let thee go, except thou

bless me," whereto Michael made reply: "Who is greater, the

servant or the son? I am the servant, and thou art the son. Why,

then, cravest thou my blessing?"[248] Jacob urged as an argument,

"The angels that visited Abraham did not leave without blessing

him," but Michael held, "They were sent by God for that very

purpose, and I was not." Yet Jacob insisted upon his demand, and

Michael pleaded with him, saying, "The angels that betrayed a

heavenly secret were banished from their place for one hundred

and thirty eight years. Dost thou desire that I should acquaint

thee with what would cause my banishment likewise?" In the end

the angel nevertheless had to yield; Jacob could not be moved,

and Michael took counsel with himself thus: "I will reveal a

secret to him, and if God demands to know why I revealed it, I

will make answer, Thy children stand upon their wishes with Thee,

and Thou dost yield to them. How, then, could I have left Jacob's

wish unfulfilled?"

Then Michael spoke to Jacob, saying: "A day will come when God

will reveal Himself unto thee, and He will change thy name, and I

shall be present when He changeth it.[249] Thy name shall be

called no more Jacob, but Israel, for happy thou, of woman born,

who didst enter the heavenly palace, and didst escape thence with

thy life." And Michael blessed Jacob with the words, "May it be

the will of God that thy descendants be as pious as thou


At the same time the archangel reminded Jacob that he had

promised to give a tithe of his possessions unto God, and at once

Jacob separated five hundred and fifty head of cattle from his

herds, which counted fifty‑five hundred. Then Michael went on,

"But thou hast sons, and of them thou hast not set apart the

tenth." Jacob proceeded to pass his sons in review: Reuben,

Joseph, Dan, and Gad being the first‑born, each of his mother,

were exempt, and there remained but eight sons, and when he had

named them, down to Benjamin, he had to go back and begin over

again with Simon, the ninth, and finish with Levi as the tenth.

Michael took Levi with him into heaven, and presented him before

God, saying, "O Lord of the world, this one is Thy lot, and the

tenth belonging unto Thee," and God stretched forth His hand and

blessed Levi with the blessing that his children should be the

servants of God on earth as the angels were His servants on high.

Michael spoke again, "Doth not a king provide for the sustenance

of his servants?" whereupon God appointed for the Levites all

that was holy unto the Lord.[251]

Then Jacob spoke to the angel: "My father conferred the blessing

upon me that was intended for Esau, and now I desire to know

whether thou wilt acknowledge the blessing as mine, or wilt bring

charges against me on account of it." And the angel said: "I

acknowledge the blessing to be thine by right. Thou didst not

gain it by craft and cunning, and I and all the heavenly powers

recognize it to be valid, for thou hast shown thyself master over

the mighty powers of the heavens as over Esau and his


And even then Jacob would not let the angel depart, he had to

reveal his name to him first, and the angel made known to him

that it was Israel, the same name that Jacob would once


At last the angel departed, after Jacob had blessed him, and

Jacob called the place of wrestling Penuel, the same place to

which before he had given the name Mahanaim, for both words have

but one meaning, the place of encounter with angels.[254]


At the break of day the angel left off from wrestling with Jacob.

The dawn on that day was of particularly short duration. The sun

rose two hours before his time, by way of compensation for having

set early, on the day on which Jacob passed Mount Moriah on his

journey to Haran, to induce him to turn aside and lodge for a

night on the future Temple place.[255] Indeed, the power of the

sun on this same day was altogether remarkable. He shone with the

brilliance and ardor with which he was invested during the six

days of the creation, and as he will shine at the end of days, to

make whole the halt and the blind among the Jews and to consume

the heathen. This same healing and devastating property he had on

that day, too, for Jacob was cured, while Esau and his princes

were all but burnt up by his terrible heat.[256]

Jacob was in dire need of healing lotions for the injury he had

sustained in the encounter with the angel. The combat between

them had been grim, the dust whirled up by the scuffle rose to

the very throne of God.[257] Though Jacob prevailed against his

huge opponent, as big as one‑third of the whole world, throwing

him to the ground and keeping him pinned down, yet the angel had

injured him by clutching at the sinew of the hip which is upon

the hollow of the thigh, so that it was dislocated, and Jacob

halted upon his thigh.[258] The healing power of the sun restored

him, nevertheless his children took it upon themselves not to eat

the sinew of the hip which is upon the hollow of the thigh, for

they reproached themselves with having been the cause of his

mishap, they should not have left him alone in that night.[259]

Now, although Jacob had prepared for the worst, for open

hostilities even, yet when he saw Esau and his men, he thought it

discreet to make separate divisions of the households of Leah,

Rachel, and the handmaids, and divide the children unto each of

them. And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and

Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost. It

was the stratagem which the fox used with the lion. Once upon a

time the king of beasts was wroth with his subjects, and they

looked hither and thither for a spokesman who mastered the art of

appeasing their ruler. The fox offered himself for the

undertaking, saying, "I know three hundred fables which will

allay his fury." His offer was accepted with joy. On the way to

the lion, the fox suddenly stood still, and in reply to the

questions put to him, he said, "I have forgotten one hundred of

the three hundred fables." "Never mind," said those accompanying

him, "two hundred will serve the purpose." A little way further

on the fox again stopped suddenly, and, questioned again, he

confessed that he had forgotten half of the two hundred remaining

fables. The animals with him still consoled him that the hundred

he knew would suffice. But the fox halted a third time, and then

he admitted that his memory had failed him entirely, and he had

forgotten all the fables he knew, and he advised that every

animal approach the king on his own account and endeavor to

appease his anger. At first Jacob had had courage enough to enter

the lists with Esau in behalf of all with him. Now he came to the

conclusion to let each one try to do what he could for himself.

However, Jacob was too fond a father to expose his family to the

first brunt of the danger. He himself passed over before all the

rest, saying, "It is better that they attack me than my

children."[260] After him came the handmaids and their children.

His reason for placing them there was that, if Esau should be

overcome by passion for the women, and try to violate them, he

would thus meet the handmaids first, and in the meantime Jacob

would have the chance of preparing for more determined resistance

in the defense of the honor of his wives.[261] Joseph and Rachel

came last, and Joseph walked in front of his mother, though Jacob

had ordered the reverse. But the son knew both the beauty of his

mother and the lustfulness of his uncle, and therefore he tried

to hide Rachel from the sight of Esau.[262]

In the vehemence of his rage against Jacob, Esau vowed that he

would not slay him with bow and arrow, but would bite him dead

with his mouth, and suck his blood. But he was doomed to bitter

disappointment, for Jacob's neck turned as hard as ivory, and in

his helpless fury Esau could but gnash his teeth.[263] The two

brothers were like the ram and the wolf. A wolf wanted to tear a

ram in pieces, and the ram defended himself with his horns,

striking them deep into the flesh of the wolf. Both began to

howl, the wolf because he could not secure his prey, and the ram

from fear that the wolf renew his attacks. Esau bawled because

his teeth were hurt by the ivory‑like flesh of Jacob's neck, and

Jacob feared that his brother would make a second attempt to bite


Esau addressed a question to his brother. "Tell me," he said,

"what was the army I met?" for on his march against Jacob he had

had a most peculiar experience with a great host of forty

thousand warriors. It consisted of various kinds of troops,

armor‑clad soldiers walking on foot, mounted on horses, and

seated in chariots, and they all threw themselves upon Esau when

they met. He demanded to know whence they came, and the strange

soldiers hardly interrupted their savage onslaught to reply that

they belonged to Jacob. Only when Esau told them that Jacob was

his brother did they leave off, saying, "Woe to us if our master

hears that we did thee harm." This was the army and the encounter

Esau inquired about as soon as he met his brother. But the army

was a host of angels, who had the appearance of warriors to Esau

and his men.[265] Also the messengers sent by Jacob to Esau had

been angels, for no mere human being could be induced to go forth

and face the recreant.[266]

Jacob now gave Esau the presents intended for him, a tenth of all

his cattle,[267] and also pearls and precious stones,[268] and,

besides, a falcon for the chase.[269] But even the animals

refused to give up their gentle master Jacob and become the

property of the villain Esau. They all ran away when Jacob wanted

to hand them over to his brother, and the result was that the

only ones that reached Esau were the feeble and the lame, all

that could not make good their escape.[270]

At first Esau declined the presents offered to him. Naturally,

that was a mere pretense. While refusing the gifts with words, he

held his hand outstretched ready to receive them.[271] Jacob took

the hint, and insisted that he accept them, saying: "Nay, I pray

thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my

present at my hand, forasmuch as I have seen thy face, as I have

seen the face of angels, and thou art pleased with me." The

closing words were chosen with well‑calculated purpose. Jacob

wanted Esau to derive the meaning that he had intercourse with

angels, and to be inspired with awe. Jacob was like the man

invited to a banquet by his mortal enemy who has been seeking an

opportunity to slay him. When the guest divines the purpose for

which he has been brought thither, he says to the host: "What a

magnificent and delicious meal this is! But once before in my

life did I partake of one like it, and that was when I was bidden

by the king to his table"‑‑enough to drive terror to the heart of

the would‑be slayer. He takes good care not to harm a man on such

intimate terms with the king as to be invited to his table![272]

Jacob had valid reason for recalling his encounter with the

angel, for it was the angel of Esau who had measured his strength

with Jacob's, and had been overcome.[273]

As Esau accepted the presents of Jacob willingly on this first

occasion, so he continued to accept them for a whole year; daily

Jacob gave him presents as on the day of their meeting, for, he

said, " 'A gift doth blind the eyes of the wise,' and how much

more doth it blind the wicked! Therefore will I give him presents

upon presents, perhaps he will let me alone." Besides, he did not

attach much value to the possessions he had acquired outside of

the Holy Land. Such possessions are not a blessing, and he did

not hesitate to part with them.

Beside the presents which Jacob gave Esau, he also paid out a

large sum of money to him for the Cave of Machpelah. Immediately

upon his arrival in the Holy Land he sold all he had brought with

him from Haran, and a pile of gold was the proceeds of the sale.

He spoke to Esau, saying: "Like me thou hast a share in the Cave

of Machpelah, wilt thou take this pile of gold for thy portion

therein?" "What care I for the Cave?" returned Esau. "Gold is

what I want," and for his share in Machpelah he took the gold

realized from the sale of the possessions Jacob had accumulated

outside of the Holy Land. But God "filled the vacuum without

delay," and Jacob was as rich as before.[274]

Wealth was not an object of desire to Jacob. He would have been

well content, in his own behalf and in behalf of his family, to

resign all earthly treasures in favor of Esau and his family. He

said to Esau: "I foresee that in future days suffering will be

inflicted by thy children upon mine. But I do not demur, thou

mayest exercise thy dominion and wear thy crown until the time

when the Messiah springs from my loins, and receives the rule

from thee." These words spoken by Jacob will be realized in days

to come, when all the nations will rise up against the kingdom of

Edom, and take away one city after another from him, one realm

after another, until they reach Bet‑Gubrin, and then the Messiah

will appear and assume his kingship. The angel of Edom will flee

for refuge to Bozrah, but God will appear there, and slay him,

for though Bozrah is one of the cities of refuge, yet will the

Lord exercise the right of the avenger therein. He will seize the

angel by his hair, and Elijah will slaughter him, letting the

blood spatter the garments of God.[275] All this Jacob had in

mind when he said to Esau, "Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over

before his servant, until I come unto my lord unto Seir." Jacob

himself never went to Seir. What he meant was the Messianic time

when Israel shall go to Seir, and take possession thereof.[276]

Jacob tarried in Succoth a whole year, and he opened a house of

learning there.[277] Then he journeyed on to Shechem, while Esau

betook himself to Seir, saying to himself, "How long shall I be a

burden to my brother?" for it was during Jacob's sojourn at

Succoth that Esau received daily presents from Jacob.[278]

And Jacob, after abiding these many years in a strange land, came

to Shechem in peace, unimpaired in mind and body. He had

forgotten none of the knowledge he had acquired before; the gifts

he gave to Esau did not encroach upon his wealth; the injury

inflicted by the angel that wrestled with him had been healed,

and likewise his children were sound and healthy.[279]

Jacob entered Shechem on a Friday, late in the afternoon, and his

first concern was to lay out the boundaries of the city, that the

laws of the Sabbath might not be transgressed. As soon as he was

settled in the place, he sent presents to the notables. A man

must be grateful to a city from which he derives benefits. No

less did the common people enjoy his bounty. For them he opened a

market where he sold all wares at low prices.[280]

Also he lost no time in buying a parcel of ground, for it is the

duty of every man of substance who comes to the Holy Land from

outside to make himself the possessor of land there.[281] He gave

a hundred lambs for his estate, a hundred yearling sheep, and a

hundred pieces of money, and received in return a bill of sale,

to which he attached his signature, using the letters Yod‑He for

it. And then he erected an altar to God upon his land, and he

said, "Thou art the Lord of all celestial things, and I am the

lord of all earthly things." But God said, "Not even the overseer

of the synagogue arrogates privileges in the synagogue, and thou

assumest lordship with a high hand? Forsooth, on the morrow thy

daughter will go abroad, and she shall be humbled."[282]


While Jacob and his sons were sitting in the house of learning,

occupied with the study of the Torah,[283] Dinah went abroad to

see the dancing and singing women, whom Shechem had hired to

dance and play in the streets in order to entice her forth.[284]

Had she remained at home, nothing would have happened to her. But

she was a woman, and all women like to show themselves in the

street.[285] When Shechem caught sight of her, he seized her by

main force, young though she was,[286] and violated her in

beastly fashion.[287]

This misfortune befell Jacob as a punishment for his excessive

self‑confidence. In his negotiations with Laban, he had used the

expression, "My righteousness shall answer for me hereafter."

Besides, on his return to Palestine, when he was preparing to

meet his brother, he concealed his daughter Dinah in a chest,

lest Esau desire to have her for wife, and he be obliged to give

her to him. God spoke to him, saying: "Herein hast thou acted

unkindly toward thy brother, and therefore Dinah will have to

marry Job, one that is neither circumcised nor a proselyte. Thou

didst refuse to give her to one that is circumcised, and one that

is uncircumcised will take her. Thou didst refuse to give her to

Esau in lawful wedlock, and now she will fall a victim to the

ravisher's illicit passion."[288]

When Jacob heard that Shechem had defiled his daughter, he sent

twelve servants to fetch Dinah from Shechem's house, but Shechem

went out to them with his men, and drove them from his house, and

he would not suffer them to come unto Dinah, and he kissed and

embraced her before their eyes. Jacob then sent two maidens of

his servants' daughters to remain with Dinah in the house of

Shechem. Shechem bade three of his friends go to his father

Hamor, the son of Haddakum, the son of Pered, and say, "Get me

this damsel to wife." Hamor tried at first to persuade his son

not to take a Hebrew woman to wife, but when Shechem persisted in

his request, he did according to the word of his son, and went

forth to communicate with Jacob concerning the matter. In the

meanwhile the sons of Jacob returned from the field, and, kindled

with wrath, they spoke unto their father, saying, "Surely death

is due to this man and his household, because the Lord God of the

whole earth commanded Noah and his children that man shall never

rob nor commit adultery. Now, behold, Shechem has ravaged and

committed fornication with our sister, and not one of all the

people of the city spake a word to him." And whilst they were

speaking, Hamor came to speak to Jacob the words of his son

concerning Dinah, and after he ceased to speak, Shechem himself

came to Jacob and repeated the request made by his father. Simon

and Levi answered Hamor and Shechem deceitfully, saying: "All you

have spoken unto us we will do. And, behold, our sister is in

your house, but keep away from her until we send to our father

Isaac concerning this matter, for we can do nothing without his

counsel. He knows the ways of our father Abraham, and whatever he

saith unto us we will tell you, we will conceal nothing from


Shechem and his father went home thereafter, satisfied with the

result achieved, and when they had gone, the sons of Jacob asked

him to seek counsel and pretext in order to kill all the

inhabitants of the city, who had deserved this punishment on

account of their wickedness. Then Simon said to them: "I have

good counsel to give you. Bid them be circumcised. If they

consent not, we shall take our daughter from them, and go away.

And if they consent to do this, then, when they are in pain, we

shall attack them and slay them." The next morning Shechem and

his father came again to Jacob, to speak concerning Dinah, and

the sons of Jacob spoke deceitfully to them, saying: "We told our

father Isaac all your words, and your words pleased him, but he

said, that thus did Abraham his father command him from God, that

any man that is not of his descendants, who desireth to take one

of his daughters to wife, shall cause every male belonging to him

to be circumcised."

Shechem and his father hastened to do the wishes of the sons of

Jacob, and they persuaded also the men of the city to do

likewise, for they were greatly esteemed by them, being the

princes of the land.

On the next day, Shechem and his father rose up early in the

morning, and they assembled all the men of the city, and they

called for the sons of Jacob, and they circumcised Shechem, his

father, his five brothers, and all the males in the city, six

hundred and forty‑five men and two hundred and seventy‑six lads.

Haddakum, the grandfather of Shechem, and his six brothers would

not be circumcised, and they were greatly incensed against the

people of the city for submitting to the wishes of the sons of


In the evening of the second day, Shechem and his father sent to

have eight little children whom their mothers had concealed

brought to them to be circumcised. Haddakum and his six brothers

sprang at the messengers, and sought to slay them, and sought to

slay also Shechem, Hamor, and Dinah. They chided Shechem and his

father for doing a thing that their fathers had never done, which

would raise the ire of the inhabitants of the land of Canaan

against them, as well as the ire of all the children of Ham, and

that on account of a Hebrew woman. Haddakum and his brothers

finished by saying: "Behold, to‑morrow we will go and assemble

our Canaanitish brethren, and we will come and smite you and all

in whom you trust, that there shall not be a remnant left of you

or them."

When Hamor and his son Shechem and all the people of the city

heard this, they were sore afraid, and they repented what they

had done, and Shechem and his father answered Haddakum and his

brothers: "Because we saw that the Hebrews would not accede to

our wishes concerning their daughter, we did this thing, but when

we shall have obtained our request from them, we will then do

unto them that which is in your hearts and in ours, as soon as we

shall become strong."

Dinah, who heard their words, hastened and dispatched one of her

maidens whom her father had sent to take care of her in Shechem's

house, and informed Jacob and his sons of the conspiracy plotted

against them. When the sons of Jacob heard this, they were filled

with wrath, and Simon and Levi swore, and said, "As the Lord

liveth, by to‑morrow there shall not be a remnant left In the

whole city."

They began the extermination by killing eighteen of the twenty

young men who had concealed themselves and were not circumcised,

and two of them fled and escaped to some lime pits that were in

the city. Then Simon and Levi slew all the city, not leaving a

male over, and while they were looking for spoils outside of the

city, three hundred women rose against them and threw stones and

dust upon them, but Simon single‑handed slew them all, and

returned to the city, where he joined Levi. Then they took away

from the people outside of the city their sheep, their oxen,

their cattle, and also the women and the little children, and

they led all these away, and took them to the city to their

father Jacob. The number of women whom they did not slay, but

only took captive, was eighty‑five virgins, among them a young

damsel of great beauty by the name of Bunah, whom Simon took to

wife. The number of the males which they took captive and did not

slay was forty‑seven, and all these men and women were servants

to the sons of Jacob, and to their children after them, until the

day they left Egypt.


When Simon and Levi had gone from the city, the two young men who

had concealed themselves in the lime pits, and were not slain

amongst the people of the city, rose up, and they found the city

desolate, without a man, only weeping women, and they cried out,

saying, "Behold, this is the evil which the sons of Jacob did who

destroyed one of the Canaanite cities, and were not afraid of all

the land of Canaan."

They left the city and went to Tappuah, and told the inhabitants

all that the sons of Jacob had done to the city of Shechem.

Jashub, the king of Tappuah, sent to Shechem to see whether these

young men told the truth, for he did not believe them, saying,

"How could two men destroy a large city like Shechem?" The

messengers of Jashub returned, and they reported, "The city is

destroyed, not a man is left there, only weeping women, neither

are there flocks and cattle there, for all that was in the city

was taken away by the sons of Jacob."

Jashub wondered thereat, for the like had not been heard from the

days of Nimrod, and not even from the remotest times, that two

men should be able to destroy so large a city, and he decided to

go to war against the Hebrews, and avenge the cause of the people

of Shechem. His counsellors said to him: "If two of them laid

waste a whole city, surely if thou goest against them, they all

will rise up against us, and destroy us. Therefore, send to the

kings round about, that we all together fight against the sons of

Jacob, and prevail against them."

The seven kings of the Amorites, when they heard the evil that

the sons of Jacob had done to the city of Shechem, assembled

together, with all their armies, ten thousand men, with drawn

swords, and they came to fight against the sons of Jacob. And

Jacob was greatly afraid, and he said to Simon and Levi, "Why

have you brought such evil upon me? I was at rest, and you

provoked the inhabitants of the land against me by your acts."

Then Judah spoke to his father: "Was it for naught that Simon and

Levi killed the inhabitants of Shechem? Verily, it was because

Shechem dishonored our sister, and transgressed the command of

our God to Noah and his children, and not one of the inhabitants

of the city interfered in the matter. Now, why art thou afraid,

and why art thou displeased at my brethren? Surely, our God, who

delivered the city of Shechem and its people into their hand, He

will also deliver into our hands all the Canaanitish kings who

are coming against us. Now cast away thy fears, and pray to God

to assist us and deliver us."

Judah then addressed his brethren, saying: "The Lord our God is

with us! Fear naught, then! Stand ye forth, each man girt with

his weapons of war, his bow and his sword, and we will go and

fight against the uncircumcised. The Lord is our God, He will

save us."

Jacob, his eleven sons, and one hundred servants belonging to

Isaac, who had come to their assistance, marched forward to meet

the Amorites, a people exceedingly numerous, like unto the sand

upon the sea‑shore. The sons of Jacob sent unto their grandfather

Isaac, at Hebron, requesting him to pray unto the Lord to protect

them from the hand of the Canaanites, and he prayed as follows:

"O Lord God, Thou didst promise my father, saying, I will

multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and also me Thou didst

promise that Thou wouldst establish Thy word to my father. Now, O

Lord, God of the whole world, pervert, I pray Thee, the counsel

of these kings, that they may not fight against my sons, and

impress the hearts of their kings and their people with the

terror of my sons, and bring down their pride that they turn away

from my sons. Deliver my sons and their servants from them with

Thy strong hand and outstretched arm, for power and might are in

Thy hands to do all this."

Jacob also prayed unto God, and said: "O Lord God, powerful and

exalted God, who hast reigned from days of old, from then until

now and forever! Thou art He who stirreth up wars and causeth

them to cease. In Thy hand are power and might to exalt and to

bring low. O may my prayer be acceptable unto Thee, that Thou

mayest turn to me with Thy mercies, to impress the hearts of

these kings and their people with the terror of my sons, and

terrify them and their camps, and with Thy great kindness deliver

all those that trust in Thee, for Thou art He who subdues the

peoples under us, and the nations under our feet."

God heard the prayers of Isaac and Jacob, and He filled the

hearts of all the advisers of the Canaanite kings with great fear

and terror, and when the kings, who were undecided whether to

undertake a campaign against the sons of Jacob, consulted them,

they said: "Are you silly, or is there no understanding in you,

that you propose to fight with the Hebrews? Why do you take

delight in your own destruction this day? Behold, two of them

came to the city of Shechem without fear or terror, and they put

all the inhabitants of the city to the sword, no man stood up

against them, and how will you be able to fight with them all?"

The royal counsellors then proceeded to enumerate all the mighty

things God had done for Abraham, Jacob, and the sons of Jacob,

such as had not been done from days of old and by any of the gods

of the nations. When the kings heard all the words of their

advisers, they were afraid of the sons of Jacob, and they would

not fight against them. They turned back with their armies on

that day, each to his own city. But the sons of Jacob kept their

station that day till evening, and seeing that the kings did not

advance to do battle with them in order to avenge the inhabitants

of Shechem whom they had killed, they returned home.[289]

The wrath of the Lord descended upon the inhabitants of Shechem

to the uttermost on account of their wickedness. For they had

sought to do unto Sarah and Rebekah as they did unto Dinah, but

the Lord had prevented them. Also they had persecuted Abraham

when he was a stranger, and they had vexed his flocks when they

were big with young, and Eblaen, one born in his house, they had

handled most shamefully. And thus they did to all strangers,

taking away their wives by force.[290]


The destruction of Shechem by Simon and Levi terrified the

heathen all around. If two sons of Jacob had succeeded in ruining

a great city like Shechem, they argued, what would Jacob and all

his sons accomplish acting together? Jacob meanwhile left

Shechem, hindered by none, and with all his possessions he set

out, to betake himself to his father Isaac. But after an eight

days' march he encountered a powerful army, which had been

dispatched from Nineveh to levy tribute upon the whole world and

subjugate it. On coming in the vicinity of Shechem, this army

heard to what the city had been exposed at the hands of the sons

of Jacob, and fury seized the men, and they resolved to make war

upon Jacob.

But Jacob said to his sons: "Fear not, God will be your helper,

and He will fight for you against your enemies. Only you must put

away from you the strange gods in your possession, and you must

purify yourselves, and wash your garments clean."

Girt with his sword, Jacob advanced against the enemy, and in the

first onslaught he slew twelve thousand of the weak in the army.

Then Judah spake to him, and said, "Father, thou art tired and

exhausted, let me fight the enemy alone." And Jacob replied,

saying, "Judah, my son, I know thy strength and thy bravery, that

they are exceeding great, so that none in the world is like unto

thee therein." His countenance like a lion's and inflamed with

wrath, Judah attacked the army, and slew twelve myriads of tried

and famous warriors. The battle raged hot in front and in the

rear, and Levi his brother hastened to his aid, and together they

won a victory over the Ninevites. Judah alone slew five thousand

more soldiers, and Levi dealt blows right and left with such

vigor that the men of the enemy's army fell like grain under the

scythe of the reaper.

Alarmed about their fate, the people of Nineveh said: "How long

shall we fight with these devils? Let us return to our land, lest

they exterminate us root and branch, without leaving a remnant."

But their king desired to restrain them, and he said: "O ye

heroes, ye men of might and valor, have you lost your senses that

you ask to return to your land? Is this your bravery? After you

have subdued many kingdoms and countries, ye are not able to hold

out against twelve men? If the nations and the kings whom we have

made tributary to ourselves hear of this, they will rise up

against us as a man, and make a laughing‑stock of us, and do with

us according to their desire. Take courage, ye men of the great

city of Nineveh, that your honor and your name be exalted, and

you become not a mockery in the mouth of your enemies."

These words of their king inspired the warriors to continue the

campaign. They sent messengers to all the lands to ask for help,

and, reinforced by their allies, the Ninevites assaulted Jacob a

second time. He spoke to his sons, saying, "Take courage and be

men, fight against your enemies." His twelve sons then took up

their stand in twelve different places, leaving considerable

intervals between one and another, and Jacob, a sword in his

right hand and a bow in his left, advanced to the combat. It was

a desperate encounter for him. He had to ward off the enemy to

the right and the left. Nevertheless he inflicted a severe blow,

and when a band of two thousand men beset him, he leapt up in the

air and over them and vanished from their sight. Twenty‑two

myriads he slew on this day, and when evening came he planned to

flee under cover of darkness. But suddenly ninety thousand men

appeared, and he was compelled to continue the fight. He rushed

at them with his sword, but it broke, and he had to defend

himself by grinding huge rocks into lime powder, and this he

threw at the enemy and blinded them so that they could see

nothing. Luckily, darkness was about to fall, and he could permit

himself to take rest for the night.

In the morning, Judah said to Jacob, "Father, thou didst fight

the whole of yesterday, and thou art weary and exhausted. Let me

fight this day." When the warriors caught sight of Judah's lion

face and his lion teeth, and heard his lion voice, they were

greatly afraid. Judah hopped and jumped over the army like a

flea, from one warrior to the next, raining blows down upon them

incessantly, and by evening he had slain eighty thousand and

ninety‑six men, armed with swords and bows. But fatigue overcame

him, and Zebulon took up his station at his brother's left hand,

and mowed down eighty thousand of the enemy. Meantime Judah

regained some of his strength, and, rising up in wrath and fury,

and gnashing his teeth with a noise like unto thunder claps in

midsummer, he put the army to flight. It ran a distance of

eighteen miles, and Judah could enjoy a respite that night.

But the army reappeared on the morrow, ready for battle again, to

take revenge on Jacob and his children. They blew their trumpets,

whereupon Jacob spake to his sons, "Go forth and fight with your

enemies." Issachar and Gad said that this day they would take the

combat upon themselves, and their father bade them do it while

their brothers kept guard and held themselves in readiness to aid

and relieve the two combatants when they showed signs of

weariness and exhaustion.

The leaders of the day slew forty‑eight thousand warriors, and

put to flight twelve myriads more, who concealed themselves in a

cave. Issachar and Gad fetched trees from the woods, piled the

trunks up in front of the opening of the cave, and set fire to

them. When the fire blazed with a fierce flame, the warriors

spoke, saying: "Why should we stay in this cave and perish with

the smoke and the heat? Rather will we go forth and fight with

our enemies, then we may have a chance of saving ourselves." They

left the cave, going through openings at the side, and they

attacked Issachar and Gad in front and behind. Dan and Naphtali

saw the plight of their brothers and ran to their assistance.

They laid about with their swords, hewing a way for themselves to

Issachar and Gad, and, united with them, they, too, opposed the


It was the third day of the conflict, and the Ninevites were

reinforced by an army as numerous as the sand on the sea‑shore.

All the sons of Jacob united to oppose it, and they routed the

host. But when they pursued after the enemy, the fugitives faced

about and resumed the battle, saying: "Why should we run away?

Let us rather fight them, perhaps we may be victorious, now they

are weary." A stubborn combat ensued, and when Jacob saw the

vehement attack upon his children, he himself sprang into the

thick of the battle and dealt blows right and left. Nevertheless

the heathen were victorious, and succeeded in separating Judah

from his brethren. As soon as Jacob was aware of the peril of his

son, he whistled, and Judah responded, and his brethren hastened

to his aid. Judah was fatigued and parched with thirst, and there

was no water for him to drink, but he dug his finger into the

ground with such force that water gushed out in the sight of the

whole army. Then said one warrior to another, "I will flee before

these devils, for God fights on their side," and he and all the

army fled precipitately, pursued by the sons of Jacob. Soldiers

without number they slew, and then they went back to their tents.

On their return they noticed that Joseph was missing, and they

feared he had been killed or taken captive. Naphtali ran after

the retreating enemy, to make search for Joseph, and he found him

still fighting against the Ninevite army. He joined Joseph, and

killed countless soldiers, and of the fugitives many drowned, and

the men that were besetting Joseph ran off and left him in


At the end of the war Jacob continued his journey, unhindered, to

his father Isaac.[291]


At first the people that lived round about Shechem made no

attempt to molest Jacob, who had returned thither after a while,

together with his household, to take up his abode there and

establish himself. But at the end of seven years the heathen

began to harass him. The kings of the Amorites assembled together

against the sons of Jacob to slay them in the Valley of Shechem.

"Is it not enough," they said, "that they have slain all the men

of Shechem? Should they be permitted now to take possession of

their land, too?" and they advanced to render battle.

Judah leapt into the midst of the ranks of the foot soldiers of

the allied kings, and slew first of all Jashub, the king of

Tappuah, who was clad in iron and brass from top to toe. The king

was mounted, and from his horse he cast his spears downward with

both hands, in front of him and in back, without ever missing his

aim, for he was a mighty warrior, and he could throw javelins

with one hand or the other. Nevertheless Judah feared neither him

nor his prowess. He ran toward him, snatching a stone of sixty

sela'im from the ground and hurling it at him. Jashub was at a

distance of one hundred and seventy‑seven ells and one‑third of

an ell, and, protected with iron armor and throwing spears, he

moved forward upon Judah. But Judah struck him on his shield with

the stone, and unhorsed him. When the king attempted to rise,

Judah hastened to his side to slay him before he could get on his

feet. But Jashub was nimble, he stood ready to attack Judah,

shield to shield, and he drew his sword to cut off Judah's head.

Quickly Judah raised his shield to catch the blow upon it, but it

broke in pieces. What did Judah now? He wrested the shield of his

opponent away from him, and swung his sword against Jashub's

feet, cutting them off above the ankles. The king fell prostrate,

his sword slipped from his grasp, and Judah hastened to him and

severed his head from his body.

While Judah was removing the armor of his slain adversary, nine

of Jashub's followers appeared. Judah slung a stone against the

head of the first of them that approached him, with such force

that he dropped his shield, which Judah snatched from the ground

and used to defend himself against his eight assailants. His

brother Levi came and stood next to him, and shot off an arrow

that killed Elon, king of Gaash, and then Judah killed the eight

men. And his father Jacob came and killed Zerori king of Shiloh.

None of the heathen could prevail against these sons of Jacob,

they had not the courage to stand up before them, but took to

flight, and the sons of Jacob pursued after them, and each slew a

thousand men of the Amorites on that day, before the going down

of the sun. And the other sons of Jacob set forth from the Hill

of Shechem, where they had taken up their stand, and they also

pursued after them as far as Hazor. Before this city they had

another severe encounter with the enemy, more severe than that in

the Valley of Shechem. Jacob let his arrows fly, and slew

Pirathon king of Hazor, and then Pasusi king of Sartan, Laban

king of Aram, and Shebir king of Mahanaim.

Judah was the first to mount the walls of Hazor. As he approached

the top, four warriors attacked him, but he slew them without

stopping in his ascent, and before his brother Naphtali could

bring him succor. Naphtali followed him, and the two stood upon

the wall, Judah to the right and Naphtali to the left, and thence

they dealt out death to the warriors. The other sons of Jacob

followed their two brothers in turn, and made an end of

exterminating the heathen host on that day. They subjugated

Hazor, slew the warriors thereof, let no man escape with his

life, and despoiled the city of all therein.

On the day following they went to Sartan, and again a bloody

battle took place. Sartan was situated upon high land, and the

hill before the city was likewise very high, so that none could

come near unto it, and also none could come near unto the

citadel, because the wall thereof was high. Nevertheless they

made themselves masters of the city. They scaled the walls of the

citadel, Judah on the east side being the first to ascend, then

Gad on the west side, Simon and Levi on the north, and Reuben and

Dan on the south, and Naphtali and Issachar set fire to the

hinges upon which the gates of the city were hung.

In the same way the sons of Jacob subdued five other cities,

Tappuah, Arbel, Shiloh, Mahanaim, and Gaash, making an end of all

of them in five days. On the sixth day all the Amorites

assembled, and they came to Jacob and his sons unarmed, bowed

down before them, and sued for peace. And the sons of Jacob made

peace with the heathen, who ceded Timna to them, and all the land

of Harariah. In that day also Jacob concluded peace with them,

and they made restitution to the sons of Jacob for all the cattle

they had taken, two head for one, and they restored all the spoil

they had carried off. And Jacob turned to go to Timna, and Judah

went to Arbel, and thenceforth the Amorites troubled them no



If a man voweth a vow, and he does not fulfil it in good time, he

will stumble through three grave sins, idolatry, unchastity, and

bloodshed. Jacob had been guilty of not accomplishing promptly

the vow he had taken upon himself at Beth‑el, and therefore

punishment overtook him‑‑his daughter was dishonored, his sons

slew men, and they kept the idols found among the spoils of

Shechem.[293] Therefore, when Jacob prostrated himself before God

after the bloody outrage at Shechem, He bade him arise, and go to

Beth‑el and accomplish the vow he had vowed there.[294] Before

Jacob set out for the holy place to do the bidding of God, he

took the idols which were in the possession of his sons, and the

teraphim which Rachel had stolen from her father, and he shivered

them in pieces, and buried[295] the bits under an oak upon Mount

Gerizim,[296] uprooting the tree with one hand, concealing the

remains of the idols in the hollow left in the earth, and

planting the oak again with one hand.[297]

Among the destroyed idols was one in the form of a dove, and this

the Samaritans dug up later and worshipped.

On reaching Beth‑el he erected an altar to the Lord, and on a

pillar he set up the stone whereon he had rested his head during

the night which he had passed there on his journey to Haran.[298]

Then he bade his parents come to Beth‑el and take part in his

sacrifice. But Isaac sent him a message, saying, "O my son Jacob,

that I might see thee before I die," whereupon Jacob hastened to

his parents, taking Levi and Judah with him. When his

grandchildren stepped before Isaac, the darkness that shrouded

his eyes dropped away, and he said, "My son, are these thy

children, for they resemble thee?" And the spirit of prophecy

entered his mouth, and he grasped Levi with his right hand and

Judah with his left in order to bless them, and he spoke these

words to Levi: "May the Lord bring thee and thy seed nigh unto

Him before all flesh, that ye serve in His sanctuary like the

Angel of the Face and the Holy Angels. Princes, judges, and

rulers shall they be unto all the seed of the children of Jacob.

The word of God they will proclaim in righteousness, and all His

judgments they will execute in justice, and they will make

manifest His ways unto the children of Jacob, and unto Israel His

paths." And unto Judah he spake, saying: "Be ye princes, thou and

one of thy sons, over the sons of Jacob. In thee shall be the

help of Jacob, and the salvation of Israel shall be found in

thee. And when thou sittest upon the throne of the glory of thy

justice, perfect peace shall reign over all the seed of the

children of my beloved Abraham."

On the morrow, Isaac told his son that he would not accompany him

to Beth‑el on account of his great age, but he bade him not delay

longer to fulfil his vow, and gave him permission to take his

mother Rebekah with him to the holy place. And Rebekah and her

nurse Deborah went to Beth‑el with Jacob.[299]


Deborah, the nurse of Rebekah, and some of the servants of Isaac

had been sent to Jacob by his mother, while he still abode with

Laban, to summon him home at the end of his fourteen years' term

of service. As Jacob did not at once obey his mother's behest,

the two servants of Isaac returned to their master, but Deborah

remained with Jacob then and always. Therefore, when Deborah died

in Beth‑el, Jacob mourned for her, and he buried her below

Beth‑el under the palm‑tree,[300] the same under which the

prophetess Deborah sat later, when the children of Israel came to

her for judgment.[301]

But a short time elapsed after the death of the nurse Deborah,

and Rebekah died, too. Her passing away was not made the occasion

for public mourning. The reason was that, as Abraham was dead,

Isaac blind, and Jacob away from home, there remained Esau as the

only mourner to appear in public and represent her family, and

beholding that villain, it was feared, might tempt a looker‑on to

cry out, "Accursed be the breasts that gave thee suck." To avoid

this, the burial of Rebekah took place at night.

God appeared unto Jacob to comfort him in his grief,[302] and

with Him appeared the heavenly family. It was a sign of grace,

for all the while the sons of Jacob had been carrying idols with

them the Lord had not revealed Himself to Jacob.[303] At this

time God announced to Jacob the birth of Benjamin soon to occur,

and the birth of Manasseh and Ephraim, who also were to be

founders of tribes, and furthermore He told him that these three

would count kings among their descendants, Saul and Ish‑bosheth,

of the seed of Benjamin, Jeroboam the Ephraimite, and Jehu of the

tribe of Manasseh. In this vision, God confirmed the change of

his name from Jacob to Israel, promised him by the angel with

whom he had wrestled on entering the Holy Land, and finally God

revealed to him that he would be the last of the three with whose

names the Name of God would appear united, for God is called only

the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and

never the God of any one else.[304]

In token of this revelation from God, Jacob set up a pillar of

stone, and he poured out a drink offering thereon, as in a later

day the priests were to offer libations in the Temple on the

Feast of Tabernacles,[305] and the libation brought by Jacob at

Beth‑el was as much as all the waters in the Sea of


At the time when Deborah and Rebekah died, occurred also the

death of Rachel, at the age of thirty‑six,[307] but not before

her prayer was heard, that she bear Jacob a second son, for she

died in giving birth to Benjamin. Twelve years she had borne no

child, then she fasted twelve days, and her petition was granted

her. She brought forth the youngest son of Jacob, whom he called

Benjamin, the son of days, because he was born in his father's

old age,[308] and with him a twin sister was born.[309]

Rachel was buried in the way to Ephrath, because Jacob, gifted

with prophetic spirit, foresaw that the exiles would pass this

place on their march to Babylon, and as they passed, Rachel would

entreat God's mercy for the poor outcasts.[310]

Jacob journeyed on to Jerusalem.[311]

During Rachel's lifetime, her couch had always stood in the tent

of Jacob. After her death, he ordered the couch of her handmaid

Bilhah to be carried thither. Reuben was sorely vexed thereat,

and he said, "Not enough that Rachel alive curtailed the rights

of my mother, she must needs give her annoyance also after

death!" He went and took the couch of his mother Leah and placed

it in Jacob's tent instead of Bilhah's couch.[312] Reuben's

brothers learned of his disrespectful act from Asher. He had

found it out in one way or another, and had told it to his

brethren, who ruptured their relations with him, for they would

have nothing to do with an informer, and they did not become

reconciled with Asher until Reuben himself confessed his

transgression.[313] For it was not long before Reuben recognized

that he had acted reprehensibly toward his father, and he fasted

and put on sackcloth, and repented of his misdeed. He was the

first among men to do penance, and therefore God said to him:

"Since the beginning of the world it hath not happened that a man

hath sinned and then repented thereof. Thou art the first to do

penance, and as thou livest, a prophet of thy seed, Hosea, shall

be the first to proclaim, 'O Israel, return.' "[314]


When Isaac felt his end approaching, he called his two sons to

him, and charged them with his last wish and will, and gave them

his blessing. He said: "I adjure you by the exalted Name, the

praised, honored, glorious, immutable, and mighty One, who hath

made heaven and earth and all things together, that ye fear Him,

and serve Him, and each shall love his brother in mercy and

justice, and none wish evil unto the other, now and henceforth

unto all eternity, all the days of your life, that ye may enjoy

good fortune in all your undertakings, and that ye perish not."

Furthermore he commanded them to bury him in the Cave of

Machpelah, by the side of his father Abraham, in the grave which

he had dug for himself with his own hands. Then he divided his

possessions between his two sons, giving Esau the larger portion,

and Jacob the smaller. But Esau said, "I sold my birthright to

Jacob, and I ceded it to him, and it belongs unto him." Isaac

rejoiced greatly that Esau acknowledged the rights of Jacob of

his own accord, and he closed his eyes in peace.[315]

The funeral of Isaac was not disturbed by any unseemly act, for

Esau was sure of his heritage in accordance with the last wishes

expressed by his father. But when the time came to divide Isaac's

possessions between the two brothers, Esau said to Jacob, "Divide

the property of our father into two portions, but I as the elder

claim the right of choosing the portion I desire." What did Jacob

do? He knew well that "the eye of the wicked never beholds

treasures enough to satisfy it," so he divided their common

heritage in the following way: all the material possessions of

his father formed one portion, and the other consisted of Isaac's

claim upon the Holy Land, together with the Cave of Machpelah,

the tomb of Abraham and Isaac. Esau chose the money and the other

things belonging to Isaac for his inheritance, and to Jacob were

left the Cave and the title to the Holy Land. An agreement to

this effect was drawn up in writing in due form, and on the

strength of the document Jacob insisted upon Esau's leaving

Palestine. Esau acquiesced, and he and his wives and his sons and

daughters journeyed to Mount Seir, where they took up their


Though Esau gave way before Jacob for the nonce, he returned to

the land to make war upon his brother. Leah had just died, and

Jacob and the sons borne by Leah were mourning for her, and the

rest of his sons, borne unto him by his other wives, were trying

to comfort them, when Esau came upon them with a powerful host of

four thousand men, well equipped for war, clad in armor of iron

and brass, all furnished with bucklers, bows, and swords. They

surrounded the citadel wherein Jacob and his sons dwelt at that

time with their servants and children and households, for they

had all assembled to console Jacob for the death of Leah, and

they sat there unconcerned, none entertained a suspicion that an

assault upon them was meditated by any man. And the great army

had already encircled their castle, and still none within

suspected any harm, neither Jacob and his children nor the two

hundred servants. Now when Jacob saw that Esau presumed to make

war upon them, and sought to slay them in the citadel, and was

shooting darts at them, he ascended the wall of the citadel and

spake words of peace and friendship and brotherly love to Esau.

He said: "Is this the consolation which thou hast come to bring

me, to comfort me for my wife, who hath been taken by death? Is

this in accordance with the oath thou didst swear twice unto thy

father and thy mother before they died? Thou hast violated thy

oath, and in the hour when thou didst swear unto thy father, thou

wast judged." But Esau made reply: "Neither the children of men

nor the beasts of the field swear an oath to keep it unto all

eternity, but on every day they devise evil against one another,

when it is directed against an enemy, or when they seek to slay

an adversary. If the boar will change his skin and make his

bristles as soft as wool, or if he can cause horns to sprout

forth on his head like the horns of a stag or a ram, then shall I

observe the tie of brotherhood with thee."

Then spoke Judah to his father Jacob, saying: "How long wilt thou

stand yet wasting words of peace and friendship upon him? And he

attacks us unawares, like an enemy, with his mail‑clad warriors,

seeking to slay us." Hearing these words, Jacob grasped his bow

and killed Adoram the Edomite, and a second time he bent his bow,

and the arrow struck Esau upon the right thigh. The wound was

mortal, and his sons lifted Esau up and put him upon his ass, and

he came to Adora, and there he died.

Judah made a sally to the south of the citadel, and with him were

Naphtali and Gad, aided by fifty of Jacob's servants; to the east

Levi and Dan went forth with fifty servants; Reuben, Issachar,

and Zebulon with fifty servants, to the north; and Simon,

Benjamin, and Enoch, the last the son of Reuben, with fifty

servants, to the west. Judah was exceedingly brave in battle.

Together with Naphtali and Gad he pressed forward into the ranks

of the enemy, and captured one of their iron towers. On their

bucklers they caught the sharp missiles hurled against them in

such numbers that the light of the sun was darkened by reason of

the rocks and darts and stones. Judah was the first to break the

ranks of the enemy, of whom he killed six valiant men, and he was

accompanied on the right by Naphtali and by Gad on the left. They

also hewed down two soldiers each, while their troop of servants

killed one man each. Nevertheless they did not succeed in forcing

the army away from the south of the citadel, not even when all

together, Judah and his brethren, made an united attack upon the

enemy, each of them picking out a victim and slaying him. And

they were still unsuccessful in a third combined attack, though

this time each killed two men.

When Judah saw now that the enemy remained in possession of the

field, and it was impossible to dislodge them, he girded himself

with strength, and an heroic spirit animated him. Judah,

Naphtali, and Gad united, and together they pierced the ranks of

the enemy, Judah slaying ten of them, and his brothers each

eight. Seeing this, the servants took courage, and they joined

their leaders and fought at their side. Judah laid about him to

right and to left, always aided by Naphtali and Gad, and so they

succeeded in forcing the enemy one ris further to the south, away

from the citadel. But the hostile army recovered itself, and

maintained a brave stand against all the sons of Jacob, who were

faint from the hardships of the combat, and could not continue to

fight. Thereupon Judah turned to God in prayer, and God hearkened

unto his petition, and He helped them. He set loose a storm from

one of His treasure chambers, and it blew into the faces of the

enemy, and filled their eyes with darkness, and they could not

see how to fight. But Judah and his brothers could see clearly,

for the wind blew upon their backs. Now Judah and his two

brothers wrought havoc among them, they hewed the enemy down as

the reaper mows down the stalks of grain and heaps them up for


After they had routed the division of the army assigned to them

on the south, they hastened to the aid of their brothers, who

were defending the east, north, and west of the citadel with

three companies. On each side the wind blew into the faces of the

enemy, and so the sons of Jacob succeeded in annihilating their

army. Four hundred were slain in battle, and six hundred fled,

among the latter Esau's four sons, Reuel, Jeush, Lotan, and

Korah. The oldest of his sons, Eliphaz, took no part in the war,

because he was a disciple of Jacob, and therefore would not bear

arms against him.

The sons of Jacob pursued after the fleeing remnant of the army

as far as Adora. There the sons of Esau abandoned the body of

their father, and continued their flight to Mount Seir. But the

sons of Jacob remained in Adora over night, and out of respect

for their father they buried the remains of his brother Esau. In

the morning they went on in pursuit of the enemy, and besieged

them on Mount Seir. Now the sons of Esau and all the other

fugitives came and fell down before them, bowed down, and

entreated them without cease, until they concluded peace with

them. But the sons of Jacob exacted tribute from them.[317]


The worthiest among the sons of Esau was his first‑born Eliphaz.

He had been raised under the eyes of his grandfather Isaac, from

whom he had learnt the pious way of life.[318] The Lord had even

found him worthy of being endowed with the spirit of prophecy,

for Eliphaz the son of Esau is none other than the prophet

Eliphaz, the friend of Job. It was from the life of the

Patriarchs that he drew the admonitions which he gave unto Job in

his disputes with him. Eliphaz spake: "Thou didst ween thyself

the equal of Abraham, and thou didst marvel, therefore, that God

should deal with thee as with the generation of the confusion of

tongues. But Abraham stood the test of ten temptations, and thou

faintest when but one toucheth thee. When any that was not whole

came to thee, thou wouldst console him. To the blind thou wouldst

say, If thou didst build thyself a house, thou wouldst surely put

windows in it, and if God hath denied thee light, it is but that

He may be glorified through thee in the day when 'the eyes of the

blind shall be opened.' To the deaf thou wouldst say, If thou

didst fashion a water pitcher, thou wouldst surely not forget to

make ears for it, and if God created thee without hearing, it is

but that He may be glorified through thee in the day when 'the

ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.' In such wise thou didst

endeavor to console the feeble and the maimed. But now it is come

unto thee, and thou art troubled. Thou sayest, I am an upright

man, why doth He chastise me? But who, I pray thee, ever

perished, being innocent? Noah was saved from the flood, Abraham

from the fiery furnace, Isaac from the slaughtering knife, Jacob

from angels, Moses from the sword of Pharaoh, and Israel from the

Egyptians that were drowned in the Sea. Thus shall all the wicked


Job answered Eliphaz, and said, "Look at thy father Esau!"

But Eliphaz returned: "I have nothing to do with him, the son

should not bear the iniquity of the father. Esau will be

destroyed, because he executed no good deeds, and likewise his

dukes will perish. But as for me, I am a prophet, and my message

is not unto Esau, but unto thee, to make thee render account of

thyself." But God rebuked Eliphaz, and said: "Thou didst speak

harsh words unto My servant Job. Therefore shall Obadiah, one of

thy descendants, utter a prophecy of denunciation against thy

father's house, the Edomites."[319]

The concubine of Eliphaz was Timna, a princess of royal blood,

who had asked to be received into the faith of Abraham and his

family, but they all, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had rejected

her, and she said, "Rather will I be a maid servant unto the

dregs of this nation, than mistress of another nation," and so

she was willing to be concubine to Eliphaz. To punish the

Patriarchs for the affront they had offered her, she was made the

mother of Amalek, who inflicted great injury upon Israel.[320]

Another one of Esau's descendants, Anah, had a most unusual

experience. Once when he was pasturing his father's asses in the

wilderness, he led them to one of the deserts on the shores of

the Red Sea, opposite the wilderness of the nations, and while he

was feeding the beasts, a very heavy storm came from the other

side of the sea, and the asses could not move. Then about one

hundred and twenty great and terrible animals came out from the

wilderness at the other side of the sea, and they all came to the

place where the asses were, and they placed themselves there.

>From the middle down, these animals were in the shape of a man,

and from the middle up some had the likeness of bears, some of

apes, and they all had tails behind them like the tail of the

dukipat, from between their shoulders reaching down to the earth.

The animals mounted the asses, and they rode away with them, and

unto this day no eye hath seen them. One of them approached Anah,

and smote him with its tail, and then ran off.

When Anah saw all this, he was exceedingly afraid on account of

his life, and he fled to the city, where he related all that had

happened to him. Many sallied forth to seek the asses, but none

could find them. Anah and his brothers went no more to the same

place from that day forth, for they were greatly afraid on

account of their lives.[321]

This Anah was the offspring of an incestuous marriage; his mother

was at the same time the mother of his father Zibeon. And as he

was born of an unnatural union, so he tried to bring about

unnatural unions among animals. He was the first to mix the breed

of the horse and the ass and produce the mule. As a punishment,

God crossed the snake and the lizard, and they brought forth the

habarbar, whose bite is certain death, like the bite of the white


The descendants of Esau had eight kings before there reigned any

king over the descendants of Jacob. But a time came when the Jews

had eight kings during whose reign the Edomites had none and were

subject to the Jewish kings. This was the time that intervened

between Saul, the first Israelitish king, who ruled over Edom,

and Jehoshaphat, for Edom did not make itself independent of

Jewish rule until the time of Joram, the son of Jehoshaphat.

There was a difference between the kings of Esau's seed and the

kings of Jacob's seed. The Jewish people always produced their

kings from their own midst, while the Edomites had to go to alien

peoples to secure theirs.[323] The first Edomite king was the

Aramean Balaam,[324] called Bela in his capacity as ruler of

Edom. His successor Job, called Jobab also, came from Bozrah, and

for furnishing Edom with a king this city will be chastised in

time to come. When God sits in judgment on Edom, Bozrah will be

the first to suffer punishment.[325]

The rule of Edom was of short duration, while the rule of Israel

will be unto all times, for the standard of the Messiah shall

wave forever and ever.[326]


Reference Materials