Part 3 out of 7


Never has there lived a man privileged, like Solomon, to make the
demons amenable to his will. God endowed him with the ability to
turn the vicious power of demons into a power working to the
advantage of men. He invented formulas of incantation by which
diseases were alleviated, and others by which demons were
exorcised so that they were banished forever. (48) As his personal
attendants he had spirits and demons whom he could send hither
and thither on the instant. He could grow tropical plants in
Palestine, because his ministering spirits secured water for him
from India. (49)

As the spirits were subservient to him, so also the animals. He had
an eagle upon whose back he was transported to the desert and
back again in one day, to build there the city called Tadmor in the
Bible (50) This city must not be confounded with the later Syrian
city of Palmyra, also called Tadmor. It was situated near the
"mountains of darkness," (51) the trysting-place of the spirits and
demons. Thither the eagle would carry Solomon in the twinkling
of an eye, and Solomon would drop a paper inscribed with a verse
among the spirits, to ward off evil from himself. Then the eagle
would reconnoitre the mountains of darkness, until he had spied
out the spot in which the fallen angels 'Azza and 'Azzael (52) lie
chained with iron fetters a spot which no one, not even a bird,
may visit. When the eagle found the place, he would take Solomon
under his left wing, and fly to the two angels. Through the power
of the ring having the Holy Name graven upon it, which Solomon
put into the eagle's mouth, 'Azza and 'Azzael were forced to reveal
the heavenly mysteries to the king. (53)

The demons were of greatest service to Solomon during the
erection of the Temple. It came about in this wise: When Solomon
began the building of the Temple, it once happened that a
malicious spirit snatched away the money and the food of one of
the king's favorite pages. This occurred several times, and
Solomon was not able to lay hold on the malefactor. The king
besought God fervently to deliver the wicked spirit into his hands.
His prayer was granted. The archangel Michael appeared to him,
and gave him a small ring having a seal consisting of an engraved
stone, and he said to him: "Take, O Solomon, king, son of David,
the gift which the Lord God, the highest Zebaot, hath sent unto
thee. With it thou shalt lock up all the demons of the earth, male
and female; and with their help thou shalt build up Jerusalem. But
thou must wear this seal of God; and this engraving of the seal of
the ring sent thee is a Pentalpha." (54) Armed with it, Solomon
called up all the demons before him, and he asked of each in turn
his or her name, as well as the name of the star or constellation or
zodiacal sign and of the particular angel to the influence of which
each is subject. One after another the spirits were vanquished, and
compelled by Solomon to aid in the construction of the Temple.

Ornias, the vampire spirit who had maltreated Solomon's servant,
was the first demon to appear, and he was set to the task of cutting
stones near the Temple. And Solomon bade Ornias come, and he
gave him the seal, saying: "Away with thee, and bring me hither
the prince of all the demons." Ornias took the finger-ring, and went
to Beelzeboul, who has kingship over the demons. He said to him:
"Hither! Solomon calls thee." But Beelzeboul, having heard, said
to him: "Tell me, who is this Solomon of whom thou speakest to
me?" Then Ornias threw the ring at the chest of Beelzeboul,
saying: "Solomon the king calls thee." But Beelzeboul cried aloud
with a mighty voice, and shot out a great, burning flame of fire;
and he arose and followed Ornias, and came to Solomon. Brought
before the king, he promised him to gather all the unclean spirits
unto him. Beelzeboul proceeded to do so, beginning with
Onoskelis, that had a very pretty shape and the skin of a fair-hued
woman, and he was followed by Asmodeus; both giving an
account of themselves.

Beelzeboul reappeared on the scene, and in his conversation with
Solomon declared that he alone survived of the angels who had
come down from heaven. He reigned over all who are in Tartarus,
and had a child in the Red Sea, which on occasion comes up to
Beelzeboul and reveals to him what he has done. Next the demon
of the Ashes, Tephros, appeared, and after him a group of seven
female spirits, who declared themselves to be of the thirty-six
elements of the darkness. Solomon bade them dig the foundation
of the temple, for the length of it was two hundred and fifty cubits.
And he ordered them to be industrious, and with one united
murmur of protest they began to perform the tasks enjoined.

Solomon bade another demon come before him. And there was
brought to him a demon having all the limbs of a man, but without
a head. The demon said to Solomon: "I am called Envy, for I
delight to devour heads, being desirous to secure for myself a
head; but I do not eat enough, and I am anxious to have such a
head as thou hast." A hound-like spirit, whose name was Rabdos,
followed, and he revealed to Solomon a green stone, useful for the
adornment of the Temple. A number of other male and female
demons appeared, among them the thirty-six world-rulers of the
darkness, whom Solomon commanded to fetch water to the
Temple. Some of these demons he condemned to do the heavy
work on the construction of the Temple, others he shut up in
prison, and others, again, he ordered to wrestle with fire in the
making of gold and silver, sitting down by lead and spoon, and to
make ready places for the other demons, in which they should be

After Solomon with the help of the demons had completed the
Temple, the rulers, among them the Queen of Sheba, who was a
sorceress, came from far and near to admire the magnificence and
art of the building, and no less the wisdom of its builder. (55)

One day an old man appeared before Solomon to complain of his
son, whom he accused of having been so impious as to raise his
hand against his father and give him a blow. The young man
denied the charge, but his father insisted that his life be held
forfeit. Suddenly Solomon heard loud laughter. It was the demon
Ornias, who was guilty of the disrespectful behavior. Rebuked by
Solomon, the demon said: "I pray thee, O king, it was not because
of thee I laughed, but because of this ill-starred old man and the
wretched youth, his son. For after three days his son will die
untimely, and, lo, the old man desires to make away with him
foully." Solomon delayed his verdict for several days, and when
after five days he summoned the old father to his presence, it
appeared that Ornias had spoken the truth.

After some time, Solomon received a letter from Adares, the king
of Arabia. He begged the Jewish king to deliver his land from an
evil spirit, who was doing great mischief, and who could not be
caught and made harmless, because he appeared in the form of
wind. Solomon gave his magic ring and a leather bottle to one of
his slaves, and sent him into Arabia. The messenger succeeded in
confining the spirit in the bottle. A few days later, when Solomon
entered the Temple, he was not a little astonished to see a bottle
walk toward him, and bow down reverently before him; it was the
bottle in which the spirit was shut up. This same spirit once did
Solomon a great service. Assisted by demons, he raised a gigantic
stone out of the Red Sea. Neither human beings nor demons could
move it, but he carried it to the Temple, where it was used as a

Through his own fault Solomon forfeited the power to perform
miraculous deed, which the Divine spirit had conferred upon him.
He fell in love with the Jebusite woman Sonmanites. The priests of
Moloch and Raphan, the false gods she worshiped, advised her to
reject his suit, unless he paid homage to these gods. At first
Solomon was firm, but, when the woman bade him take five
locusts and crush them in his hands in the name of Moloch, he
obeyed her. At once he was bereft of the Divine spirit, of his
strength and his wisdom, and he sank so low that to please his
beloved he built temples to Baal and Raphan. (56)


Among the great achievements of Solomon first place must be
assigned to the superb Temple built by him. He was long in doubt
as to where he was to build it. A heavenly voice directed him to go
to Mount Zion at night, to a field owned by two brothers jointly.
One of the brothers was a bachelor and poor, the other was blessed
both with wealth and a large family of children. It was harvesting
time. Under cover of night, the poor brother kept adding to the
other's heap of grain, for, although he was poor, he thought his
brother needed more on account of his large family. The rich
brother, in the same clandestine way, added to the poor brother's
store, thinking that though he had a family to support, the other
was without means. This field, Solomon concluded, which had
called forth so remarkable a manifestation of brotherly love, was
the best site for the Temple, and he bought it. (57)

Every detail of the equipment and ornamentation of the Temple
testifies to Solomon's rare wisdom. Next to the required furniture,
he planted golden trees, which bore fruit all the time the building
stood. When the enemy entered the Temple, the fruit dropped from
the trees, but they will put forth blossoms again when it is rebuilt
in the days of the Messiah. (58)

Solomon was so assiduous that the erection of the Temple took but
seven years, about half the time for the erection of the king's
palace, in spite of the greater magnificence of the sanctuary. In this
respect, he was the superior of his father David, who first built a
house for himself, and then gave thought to a house for God to
dwell in. Indeed, it was Solomon's meritorious work in connection
with the Temple that saved him from being reckoned by the sages
as one of the impious kings, among whom his later actions might
properly have put him. (59)

According to the measure of the zeal displayed by Solomon were
the help and favor shown him by God. During the seven years it
took to build the Temple, not a single workman died who was
employed about it, nor even did a single one fall sick. And as the
workmen were sound and robust from first to last, so the
perfection of their tools remained unimpaired until the building
stood complete. Thus the work suffered no sort of interruption.
After the dedication of the Temple, however, the workmen died
off, lest they build similar structures for the heathen and their
gods. Their wages they were to receive from God in the world to
come, (60) and the master workman, Hiram, (61) was rewarded by
being permitted to reach Paradise alive. (62)

The Temple was finished in the month of Bul, now called
Marheshwan, but the edifice stood closed for nearly a whole year,
because it was the will of God that the dedication take place in the
month of Abraham's birth. Meantime the enemies of Solomon
rejoiced maliciously. "Was it not the son of Bath-sheba," they said,
"who built the Temple? How, then, could God permit His
Shekinah to rest upon it?" When the consecration of the house
took place, and "the fire came down from heaven," they
recognized their mistake. (63)

The importance of the Temple appeared at once, for the torrential
rains which annually since the deluge had fallen for forty days
beginning with the month of Marheshwan, for the first time failed
to come, and thenceforward appeared no more. (64)

The joy of the people over the sanctuary was so great that they
held the consecration ceremonies on the Day of Atonement. It
contributed not a little to their ease of mind that a heavenly voice
was heard to proclaim: "You all shall have a share in the world to

The great house of prayer reflected honor not only on Solomon
and the people, but also on King David. The following incident
proves it: When the Ark was about to be brought into the Holy of
Holies, the door of the sacred chamber locked itself, and it was
impossible to open it. Solomon prayed fervently to God, but his
entreaties had no effect until he pronounced the words:
"Remember the good deeds of David thy servant." The Holy of
Holies then opened of itself, and the enemies of David had to
admit that God had wholly forgiven his sin. (65)

In the execution of the Temple work a wish cherished by David
was fulfilled. He was averse to having the gold which he had taken
as booty from the heathen places of worship during his campaigns
used for the sanctuary at Jerusalem, because he feared that the
heathen would boast, at the destruction of the Temple, that their
gods were courageous, and were taking revenge by wrecking the
house of the Israelitish God. Fortunately Solomon was so rich that
there was no need to resort to the gold inherited from his father,
and so David's wish was fulfilled. (66)


Next to the Temple in its magnificence, it is the throne of Solomon
that perpetuates the name and fame of the wise king. None before
him and none after him could produce a like work of art, and when
the kings, his vassals, saw the magnificence of the throne they fell
down and praised God. The throne was covered with fine gold
from Ophir, studded with beryls, inlaid with marble, and jewelled
with emeralds, and rubies, and pearls, and all manner of gems. On
each of its six steps there were two golden lions and two golden
eagles, a lion and an eagle to the left, and a lion and an eagle to the
right, the pairs standing face to face, so that the right paw of the
lion was opposite to the left wing of the eagle, and his left paw
opposite to the right wing of the eagle. The royal seat was at the
top, which was round.

On the first step leading to the seat crouched an ox, and opposite
to him a lion; on the second, a wolf and a lamb; on the third, a
leopard and a goat; (67) on the fourth perched an eagle and a
peacock; on the fifth a falcon (68) and a cock; and on the sixth a
hawk and a sparrow; all made of gold. At the very top rested a
dove, her claws set upon a hawk, to betoken that the time would
come when all peoples and nations shall be delivered into the
hands of Israel. Over the seat hung a golden candlestick, with
golden lamps, pomegranates, snuff dishes, censers, chains, and
lilies. Seven branches extended from each side. On the arms to the
right were the images of the seven patriarchs of the world, Adam,
Noah, Shem, Job, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and on the arms to
the left, the images of the seven pious men of the world, Kohath,
Amram, Moses, Aaron, Eldad, Medad, and the prophet Hur.
Attached to the top of the candlestick was a golden bowl filled
with the purest olive oil, to be used for the candlestick in the
Temple, and below, a golden basin, also filled with the purest
olive oil, for the candlestick over the throne. The basin bore the
image of the high priest Eli; those of his sons Hophni and Phinehas
were on the two faucets protruding from the basin, and those of
Nadab and Abihu on the tubes connection the faucets with the

On the upper part of the throne stood seventy golden chairs for the
members of the Sanhedrin, and two more for the high priest and
his vicar. When the high priest came to do homage to the king, the
members of the Sanhedrin also appeared, to judge the people, and
they took their seats to the right and to the left of the king. At the
approach of the witnesses, the machinery of the throne rumbled
the wheels turned, the ox lowed, the lion roared, the wolf howled,
the lamb bleated, the leopard growled, the goat cried, the falcon
screamed, the peacock gobbled, the cock crowed, the hawk
screeched, the sparrow chirped all to terrify the witnesses and
keep them from giving false testimony.

When Solomon set foot upon the first step to ascend to his seat, its
machinery was put into motion. The golden ox arose and led him
to the second step, and there passed him over to the care of the
beasts guarding it, and so he was conducted from step to step up to
the sixth, where the eagles received him and placed him upon his
seat. As soon as he was seated, a great eagle set the royal crown
upon his head. Thereupon a huge snake rolled itself up against the
machinery, forcing the lions and eagles upward until they
encircled the head of the king. A golden dove flew down from a
pillar, took the sacred scroll out of a casket, and gave it to the king,
so that he might obey the injunction of the Scriptures, to have the
law with him and read therein all the days of his life. Above the
throne twenty-four vines interlaced, forming a shady arbor over the
head of the king, and sweet aromatic perfumes exhaled from two
golden lions, while Solomon made the ascent to his seat upon the
throne. (69)

It was the task of seven heralds to keep Solomon reminded of his
duties as king and judge. The first one of the heralds approached
him when he set foot on the first step of the throne, and began to
recite the law for kings, "He shall not multiply wives to himself."
At the second step, the second herald reminded him, "He shall not
multiply horses to himself"; at the third, the next one of the heralds
said, "Neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold."
At the fourth step, he was told by the fourth herald, "Thou shalt not
wrest judgment"; at the fifth step, by the fifth herald, "Thou shalt
not respect persons," and at the sixth, by the sixth herald, "Neither
shalt thou take a gift." Finally, when he was about to seat himself
upon the throne, the seventh herald cried out: "Know before whom
thou standest." (70)

The throne did not remain long in the possession of the Israelites.
During the life of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, it was carried to
Egypt. Shishak, the father-in-law of Solomon, appropriated it as
indemnity for claims which he urged against the Jewish state in
behalf of his widowed daughter. When Sennacherib conquered
Egypt, he carried the throne away with him, but, on his homeward
march, during the overthrow of his army before the gates of
Jerusalem, he had to part with it to Hezekiah. Now it remained in
Palestine until the time of Jehoash, when it was once more carried
to Egypt by Pharaoh Necho. His possession of the throne brought
him little joy. Unacquainted with its wonderful mechanism, he was
injured in the side by one of the lions the first time he attempted to
mount it, and forever after he limped, wherefore he was given the
surname Necho, the hobbler. (71) Nebuchadnezzar was the next
possessor of the throne. It fell to his lot at the conquest of Egypt,
but when he attempted to use it in Babylonia, he fared no better
than his predecessor in Egypt. The lion standing near the throne
gave him so severe a blow that he never again dared ascend it.
Through Darius the throne reached Elam, but, knowing what its
other owners had suffered, he did not venture to seat himself on it,
and his example was imitated by Ahasuerus. The latter tried to
have his artificers fashion him a like artistic work, but, of course,
they failed. (72) The Median rulers parted with the throne to the
Greek monarchs, and finally it was carried to Rome. (73)


The throne was not the only remarkable sight at the court of the
magnificent king. Solomon attracted visitors to his capital by
means of games and shows. In every month of the year the official
who was in charge for the month, was expected to arrange for a
horse race, and once a year (74) a race took place in which the
competitors were ten thousand youths, mainly of the tribes of Gad
and Naphtali, who lived at the court of the king year in, year out,
and were maintained by him. For the scholars, their disciples, the
priests, and the Levites, the races were held on the last of the
month; on the first day of the month the residents of Jerusalem
were the spectators, and, on the second day, strangers. The
hippodrome occupied an area of three parasangs square, with an
inner square measuring one parasang on each side, around which
the races were run. Within were two grilles ornamented with all
sorts of animals. Out of the jaws of four gilded lions, attached to
pillars by twos, perfumes and spices flowed for the people. The
spectators were divided into four parties distinguished by the color
of their garb: the king and his attendants, the scholars and their
disciples, and the priests and Levites were attired in light blue
garments; all the rest from Jerusalem wore white; the sight-seers
from the surrounding towns and villages wore red, and green
marked the heathen hailing from afar, who came laden with tribute
and presents. The four colors corresponded to the four seasons. In
the autumn the sky is brilliantly blue; in winter the white snow
falls; the color of spring is green like the ocean, because it is the
season favorable to voyages, and red is the color of summer, when
the fruits grow red and ripe. (75)

As the public spectacles were executed with pomp and splendor,
so the king's table was royally sumptuous. Regardless of season
and climate, it was always laden with the delicacies of all parts of
the globe. Game and poultry, even of such varieties as were
unknown in Palestine, were not lacking, and daily there came a
gorgeous bird from Barbary and settled down before the king's seat
at the table. The Scriptures tell us of great quantities of food
required by Solomon's household, and yet it was not all that was
needed. What the Bible mentions, covers only the accessories,
such as spices and the minor ingredients. The real needs were far
greater, as may be judged from the custom that all of Solomon's
thousand wives arranged a banquet daily, each in the hope of
having the king dine with her. (76)


Great and powerful as Solomon was, and wise and just, still
occasions were not lacking to bring home to him the truth that the
wisest and mightiest of mortals may not indulge in pride and

Solomon had a precious piece of tapestry, sixty miles square, on
which he flew through the air so swiftly that he could eat breakfast
in Damascus and supper in Media. To carry out his orders he had
at his beck and call Asaph ben Berechiah (77) among men,
Ramirat among demons, the lion among beasts, and the eagle
among birds. Once it happened that pride possessed Solomon
while he was sailing through the air on his carpet, and he said:
"There is none like unto me in the world, upon whom God has
bestowed sagacity, wisdom, intelligence, and knowledge, besides
making me the ruler of the world." The same instant the air stirred,
and forty thousand men dropped from the magic carpet. The king
ordered the wind to cease from blowing, with the word: "Return!"
Whereupon the wind: "If thou wilt return to God, and subdue thy
pride, I, too, will return." The king realized his transgression.

On one occasion he strayed into the valley of the ants in the course
of his wanderings. He heard one ant order all the others to
withdraw, to avoid being crushed by the armies of Solomon. The
king halted and summoned the ant that had spoken. She told him
that she was the queen of the ants, and she gave her reasons for the
order of withdrawal. Solomon wanted to put a question to the ant
queen, but she refused to answer unless the king took her up and
placed her on his hand. He acquiesced, and then he put his
question: "Is there any one greater than I am in all the world?"
"Yes," said the ant.

Solomon: "Who?"

Ant: "I am."

Solomon: "How is that possible?"

Ant: "Were I not greater than thou, God would not have led thee
hither to put me on thy hand."

Exasperated, Solomon threw her to the ground, and said: "Thou
knowest who I am? I am Solomon, the son of David."

Not at all intimidated, the ant reminded the king of his earthly
origin, and admonished him to humility, and the king went off

Next he came to a magnificent building, into which he sought to
enter in vain; he could find no door leading into it. After long
search the demons came upon an eagle seven hundred years old,
and he, unable to give them any information, sent him to his nine
hundred years old brother, whose eyrie was higher than his own,
and who would probably be in a position to advise them. But he in
turn directed them to go to his still older brother. His age counted
thirteen hundred years, and he had more knowledge than himself.
This oldest one of the eagles reported that he remembered having
heard his father say there was a door on the west side, but it was
covered up by the dust of the ages that had passed since it was last
used. So it turned out to be. They found an old iron door with the
inscription: "We, the dwellers in this palace, for many years lived
in comfort and luxury; then, forced by hunger, we ground pearls
into flour instead of wheat but to no avail, and so, when we were
about to die, we bequeathed this palace to the eagles." A second
statement contained a detailed description of the wonderful palace,
and mentioned where the keys for the different chambers were to
be found. Following the directions on the door, Solomon inspected
the remarkable building, whose apartments were made of pearls
and precious stones. Inscribed on the doors he found the following
three wise proverbs, dealing with the vanity of all earthly things,
and admonishing men to be humble:

1. O son of man, let not time deceive thee; thou must wither away,
and leave thy place, to rest in the bosom of the earth.

2. Haste thee not, move slowly, for the world is taken from one
and bestowed upon another.

3. Furnish thyself with food for the journey, prepare thy meal
while daylight lasts, for thou wilt not remain on earth forever, and
thou knowest not the day of thy death. (78)

In one of the chambers, Solomon saw a number of statues, among
them one that looked as though alive. When he approached it, it
called out in a loud voice: "Hither, ye satans, Solomon has come to
undo you." Suddenly there arose great noise and tumult among the
statues. Solomon pronounced the Name, and quiet was restored.
The statues were overthrown, and the sons of the satans ran into
the sea and were drowned. From the throat of the lifelike statue he
drew a silver plate inscribed with characters which he could not
decipher, but a youth from the desert told the king: "These letters
are Greek, and the words mean: 'I, Shadad ben Ad, ruled over a
thousand thousand provinces, rode on a thousand thousand horses,
had a thousand thousand kings under me, and slew a thousand
thousand heroes, and when the Angel of Death approached me, I
was powerless.'" (79)


When Solomon in his wealth and prosperity grew unmindful of his
God, and, contrary to the injunctions laid down for kings in the
Torah, multiplied wives unto himself, and craved the possession of
many horses and much gold, the Book of Deuteronomy stepped
before God and said: "Lo, O Lord of the world, Solomon is seeking
to remove a Yod from out of me, (80) for Thou didst write: 'The
king shall not multiply horses unto himself, nor shall he multiply
wives to himself, neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver
and gold'; but Solomon has acquired many horses, many wives,
and much silver and gold." Hereupon God said: "As thou livest,
Solomon and a hundred of his kind shall be annihilated ere a
single one of thy letters shall be obliterated." (81)

The charge made against Solomon was soon followed by
consequences. He had to pay heavily for his sins. It came about in
this way: While Solomon was occupied with the Temple, he had
great difficulty in devising ways of fitting the stone from the
quarry into the building, for the Torah explicitly prohibits the use
of iron tools in erecting an altar. The scholars told him that Moses
had used the shamir, (82) the stone that splits rocks, to engrave the
names of the tribes on the precious stones of the ephod worn by
the high priest. Solomon's demons could give him no information
as to where the shamir could be found. They surmised, however,
that Asmodeus, (83) king of demons, was in possession of the
secret, and they told Solomon the name of the mountain on which
Asmodeus dwelt, and described also his manner of life. On this
mountain there was a well from which Asmodeus obtained his
drinking water. He closed it up daily with a large rock, and sealed
it before going to heaven, whither he went every day, to take part
in the discussions in the heavenly academy. Thence he would
descend again to earth in order to be present, though invisible, (84)
at the debates in the earthly houses of learning. Then, after
investigating the seal on the well to ascertain if it had been
tampered with, he drank of the water.

Solomon sent his chief man, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, to
capture Asmodeus. For this purpose he provided him with a chain,
the ring on which the Name of God was engraved, a bundle of
wool, and a skin of wine. Benaiah drew the water from the well
through a hole bored from below, and, after having stopped up the
hole with the wool, he filled the well with wine from above. When
Asmodeus descended from heaven, to his astonishment he found
wine instead of water in the well, although everything seemed
untouched. At first he would not drink of it, and cited the Bible
verses that inveigh against wine, to inspire himself with moral
courage. At length Asmodeus succumbed to his consuming thirst,
and drank till his senses were overpowered, and he fell into a deep
sleep. Benaiah, watching him from a tree, then came, and drew the
chain about Asmodeus' neck. The demon, on awakening, tried to
free himself, but Benaiah called to him: "The Name of thy Lord is
upon thee." Though Asmodeus now permitted himself to be led off
unresistingly, he acted most peculiarly on the way to Solomon. He
brushed against a palm-tree and uprooted it; he knocked against a
house and overturned it; and when, at the request of a poor
woman, he was turned aside from her hut, he broke a bone. He
asked with grim humor: "Is it not written, 'A soft tongue breaketh
the bone?'" A blind man going astray he set in the right path, and to
a drunkard he did a similar kindness. He wept when a wedding
party passed them, and laughed at a man who asked his shoemaker
to make him shoes to last for seven years, and at a magician who
was publicly showing his skill.

Having finally arrived at the end of the journey, Asmodeus, after
several days of waiting, was led before Solomon, who questioned
him about his strange conduct on the journey. Asmodeus answered
that he judged persons and things according to their real character,
and not according to their appearance in the eyes of human beings.
He cried when he saw the wedding company, because he knew the
bridegroom had not a month to live, and he laughed at him who
wanted shoes to last seven years, because the man would not own
them for seven days, also at the magician who pretended to
disclose secrets, because he did not know that a buried treasure lay
under his very feet; the blind man whom he set in the right path
was one of the "perfect pious," and he wanted to be kind to him;
on the other hand, the drunkard to whom he did a similar kindness
was known in heaven as a very wicked man, but he happened to
have done a good deed once, and he was rewarded accordingly.

Asmodeus told Solomon that the shamir was given by God to the
Angel of the Sea, and that Angel entrusted none with the shamir
except the moor-hen, (85) which had taken an oath to watch the
shamir carefully. The moor-hen takes the shamir with her to
mountains which are not inhabited by men, splits them by means
of the shamir, and injects seeds, which grow and cover the naked
rocks, and then they can be inhabited. Solomon sent one of his
servants to seek the nest of the bird and lay a piece of glass over it.
When the moor-hen came and could not reach her young, she flew
away and fetched the shamir and placed it on the glass. Then the
man shouted, and so terrified the bird that she dropped the shamir
and flew away. By this means the man obtained possession of the
coveted shamir, and bore it to Solomon. But the moor-hen was so
distressed at having broken her oath to the Angel of the Sea that
she committed suicide.

Although Asmodeus was captured only for the purpose of getting
the shamir, Solomon nevertheless kept him after the completion of
the Temple. One day the king told Asmodeus that he did not
understand wherein the greatness of the demons lay, if their king
could be kept in bonds by a mortal. Asmodeus replied, that if
Solomon would remove his chains and lend him the magic ring, he
would prove his own greatness. Solomon agreed. The demon stood
before him with one wing touching heaven and the other reaching
to the earth. Snatching up Solomon, who had parted with his
protecting ring, he flung him four hundred parasangs away from
Jerusalem, and then palmed himself off as the king.


Banished from his home, deprived of his realm, Solomon
wandered about in far-off lands, among strangers, begging his
daily bread. Nor did his humiliation end there; people thought him
a lunatic, because he never tired of assuring them that he was
Solomon, Judah's great and mighty king. Naturally that seemed a
preposterous claim to the people. (86) The lowest depth of despair
he reached, however, when he met some one who recognized him.
The recollections and associations that stirred within him then
made his present misery almost unendurable.

It happened (87) that once on his peregrinations he met an old
acquaintance, a rich and well-considered man, who gave a
sumptuous banquet in honor of Solomon. At the meal his host
spoke to Solomon constantly of the magnificence and splendor he
had once seen with his own eyes at the court of the king. These
reminiscences moved the king to tears, and he wept so bitterly
that, when he rose from the banquet, he was satiated, not with the
rich food, but with salt tears. The following day it again happened
that Solomon met an acquaintance of former days, this time a poor
man, who nevertheless entreated Solomon to do him the honor and
break bread under his roof. All that the poor man could offer his
distinguished guest was a meagre dish of greens. But he tried in
every way to assuage the grief that oppressed Solomon. He said:
"O my lord and king, God hath sworn unto David He would never
let the royal dignity depart from his house, but it is the way of God
to reprove those He loves if they sin. Rest assured, He will restore
thee in good time to thy kingdom." These words of his poor host
were more grateful to Solomon's bruised heart than the banquet the
rich man had prepared for him. It was to the contrast between the
consolations of the two men that he applied the verse in Proverbs:
"Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and
hatred therewith."

For three long years Solomon journeyed about, begging his way
from city to city, and from country to country, atoning for the three
(88) sins of his life by which he had set aside the commandment
laid upon kings in Deuteronomy not to multiply horses, and
wives, and silver and gold. At the end of that time, God took
mercy upon him for the sake of his father David, and for the sake
of the pious princess Naamah, the daughter of the Ammonite king,
destined by God to be the ancestress of the Messiah. The time was
approaching when she was to become the wife of Solomon (89)
and reign as queen in Jerusalem. God therefore led the royal
wanderer to the capital city of Ammon. (90) Solomon took service
as an underling with the cook in the royal household, and he
proved himself so proficient in the culinary art that the king of
Ammon raised him to the post of chief cook. Thus he came under
the notice of the king's daughter Naamah, who fell in love with her
father's cook. In vain her parents endeavored to persuade her to
choose a husband befitting her rank. Not even the king's threat to
have her and her beloved executed availed to turn her thoughts
away from Solomon. The Ammonite king had the lovers taken to a
barren desert, in the hope that they would die of starvation there.
Solomon and his wife wandered through the desert until they came
to a city situated by the sea-shore. They purchased a fish to stave
off death. When Naamah prepared the fish, she found in its belly
the magic ring belonging to her husband, which he had given to
Asmodeus, and which, thrown into the sea by the demon, had been
swallowed by a fish. Solomon recognized his ring, put it on his
finger, and in the twinkling of an eye he transported himself to
Jerusalem. Asmodeus, who had been posing as King Solomon
during the three years, he drove out, and himself ascended the
throne again.

Later on he cited the king of Ammon before his tribunal, and
called him to account for the disappearance of the cook and the
cook's wife, accusing him of having killed them. The king of
Ammon protested that he had not killed, but only banished them.
Then Solomon had the queen appear, and to his great astonishment
and still greater joy the king of Ammon recognized his daughter.

Solomon succeeded in regaining his throne only after undergoing
many hardships. The people of Jerusalem considered him a
lunatic, because he said that he was Solomon. After some time, the
members of the Sanhedrin noticed his peculiar behavior, and they
investigated the matter. They found that a long time had passed
since Benaiah, the confidant of the king, had been permitted to
enter the presence of the usurper. Furthermore the wives of
Solomon and his mother Bath-sheba informed them that the
behavior of the king had completely changed it was not befitting
royalty and in no respect like Solomon's former manner. It was
also very strange that the king never by any chance allowed his
foot to be seen, for fear, of course, of betraying his demon origin.
(92) The Sanhedrin, therefore, gave the king's magic ring to the
wandering beggar who called himself King Solomon, and had him
appear before the pretender on the throne. As soon as Asmodeus
caught sight of the true king protected by his magic ring, he flew
away precipitately.

Solomon did not escape unscathed. The sight of Asmodeus in all
his forbidding ugliness had so terrified him that henceforth he
surrounded his couch at night with all the valiant heroes among the
people. (93)


As David had been surrounded by great scholars and heroes of
repute, so the court of Solomon was the gathering-place of the
great of his people. The most important of them all doubtless was
Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, who had no peer for learning and
piety either in the time of the first or the second Temple. (94) In
his capacity as the chancellor of Solomon, he was the object of the
king's special favor. He was frequently invited to be the companion
of the king in his games of chess. The wise king naturally was
always the winner. One day Solomon left the chess-board for a
moment, Benaiah used his absence to remove one of the king's
chess-men, and the king lost the game. Solomon gave much
thought to the occurrence. He came to the conclusion that his
chancellor had dealt dishonestly with him, and he was determined
to give him a lesson.

Some days later Solomon noticed two suspicious characters
hanging about the palace. Acting at once upon an idea that
occurred to him, he put on the clothes of one of his servants and
joined the two suspects. The three of them, he proposed, should
make the attempt to rob the royal palace, and he drew forth a key
which would facilitate their entrance. While the thieves were
occupied in gathering booty, the king roused his servants, and the
malefactors were taken into custody. Next morning Solomon
appeared before the Sanhedrin, which was presided over by
Benaiah (95) at the time, and he desired to know from the court
what punishment was meted out to a thief. Benaiah, seeing no
delinquents before him, and unwilling to believe that the king
would concern himself about the apprehension of thieves, was
convinced that Solomon was bent on punishing him for his
dishonest play. He fell at the feet of the king, confessed his guilt,
and begged his pardon. Solomon was pleased to have his
supposition confirmed, and also to have Benaiah acknowledge his
wrong-doing. he assured him he harbored no evil designs against
him, and that when he asked this question of the Sanhedrin, he had
had real thieves in mind, who had broken into the palace during
the night. (96)

Another interesting incident happened, in which Benaiah played a
part. The king of Persia was very ill, and his physician told him he
could be cured by nothing but the milk of a lioness. The king
accordingly sent a deputation bearing rich presents to Solomon,
the only being in the world who might in his wisdom discover
means to obtain lion's milk. Solomon charged Benaiah to fulfil the
Persian king's wish. Benaiah took a number of kids, and repaired
to a lion's den. Daily he threw a kid to the lioness, and after some
time the beasts became familiar with him, and finally he could
approach the lioness close enough to draw milk from her udders.

On the way back to the Persian king the physician who had
recommended the milk cure dreamed a dream. All the organs of
his body, his hands, feet, eyes, mouth, and tongue, were
quarrelling with one another, each claiming the greatest share of
credit in procuring the remedy for the Persian monarch. When the
tongue set forth its own contribution to the cause of the king's
service, the other organs rejected its claim as totally unfounded.
The physician did not forget the dream, and when he appeared
before the king, he spoke: "Here is the dog's milk which we went
to fetch for you." The king, enraged, ordered the physician to be
hanged, because he had brought the milk of a bitch instead of the
milk of a lion's dam. During the preliminaries to the execution, all
the limbs and organs of the physician began to tremble, whereupon
the tongue said: "Did I not tell you that you all are of no good? If
you will acknowledge my superiority, I shall even now save you
from death." They all made the admission it demanded, and the
physician requested the executioner to take him to the king. Once
in the presence of his master, he begged him as a special favor to
drink of the milk he had brought. The king granted his wish,
recovered from his sickness, and dismissed the physician in peace.
So it came about that all the organs of the body acknowledge the
supremacy of the tongue. (97)

Besides Benaiah, Solomon's two scribes, Elihoreph and Ahijah, the
sons of Shisha, deserve mention. They both met their death in a
most peculiar way. Solomon once upon a time noticed a care-worn
expression on the countenance of the Angel of Death. When he
asked the reason, he received the answer, that he had been charged
with the task of bringing the two scribes to the next world.
Solomon was desirous of stealing a march upon the Angel of
Death, as well as keeping his secretaries alive. He ordered the
demons to carry Elihoreph and Ahijah to Luz, the only spot on
earth in which the Angel of Death has no power. (98) In a jiffy, the
demons had done his bidding, but the two secretaries expired at
the very moment of reaching the gates of Luz. Next day, the Angel
of Death appeared before Solomon in very good humor, and said
to him: "Thou didst transport those two men to the very spot in
which I wanted them." The fate destined for them was to die at the
gates of Luz, and the Angel of Death had been at a loss how to get
them there. (99)

A most interesting incident in Solomon's own family circle is
connected with one of his daughters. She was of extraordinary
beauty, and in the stars he read that she was to marry an extremely
poor youth. To prevent the undesirable union, Solomon had a high
tower erected in the sea, and to this he sent his daughter. Seventy
eunuchs were to guard her, and a huge quantity of food was stored
in the tower for her use.

The poor youth whom fate had appointed to be her husband was
travelling one cold night. He did not know where to rest his head,
when he espied the rent carcass of an ox lying in the field. In this
he lay down to keep warm. When he was ensconced in it, there
came a large bird, which took the carcass, bore it, together with the
youth stretched out in it, to the roof of the tower in which the
princess lived, and, settling down there, began to devour the flesh
of the ox. In the morning, the princess, according to her wont,
ascended to the roof to look out upon the sea, and she caught sight
of the youth. She asked him who he was, and who had brought him
thither? He told her that he was a Jew from Accho, and had been
carried to the tower by a bird. She showed him to a chamber,
where he could wash and anoint himself, and array himself in a
fresh garb. Then it appeared that he possessed unusual beauty.
Besides, he was a scholar of great attainments and of acute mind.
So it came about that the princess fell in love with him. She asked
him whether he would have her to wife, and he assented gladly. He
opened one of his veins, and wrote the marriage contract with his
own blood. Then he pronounced the formula of betrothal, taking
God and the two archangels Michael and Gabriel as witnesses, and
she became his wife, legally married to him.

After some time the eunuchs noticed that she was pregnant. Their
questions elicited the suspected truth from the princess, and they
sent for Solomon. His daughter admitted her marriage, and the
king, though he recognized in her husband the poor man predicted
in the constellations, yet he thanked God for his son-in-law,
distinguished no less for learning than for his handsome person.


The division of the kingdom into Judah and Israel, which took
place soon after the death of Solomon, had cast its shadow before.
When Solomon, on the day after his marriage with the Egyptian
princess, disturbed the regular course of the Temple service by
sleeping late with his head on the pillow under which lay the key
of the Temple, Jeroboam with eighty thousand Ephraimites
approached the king and publicly called him to account for is
negligence. God administered a reproof to Jeroboam; "Why dost
thou reproach a prince of Israel? As thou livest, thou shalt have a
taste of his rulership, and thou wilt see thou are not equal to its
responsibilities." (1)

On another occasion a clash occurred between Jeroboam and
Solomon. The latter ordered his men to close the openings David
had made in the city wall to facilitate the approach of the pilgrims
to Jerusalem. This forced them all the walk through the gates and
pay toll. The tax thus collected Solomon gave to his wife, the
daughter of Pharaoh, as pin-money. Indignant at this, Jeroboam
questioned the king about it in public. In other ways, too, he failed
to pay Solomon the respect due to royal position, as his father
before him, Sheba the son of Bichri, had rebelled against David,
misled by signs and tokens which he had falsely interpreted as
pointing to his own elevation to royal dignity, when in reality they
concerned themselves with his son. (2)

It was when Jeroboam was preparing to depart from Jerusalem
forever, in order to escape the dangers to which Solomon's
displeasure exposed him, (3) that Ahijah of Shilo met him with the
Divine tidings of his elevation to the kingship. The prophet Ahijah,
of the tribe of Levi, was venerable, not only by reason of his hoary
age, his birth occurred at least sixty years before the exodus from
Egypt, (4) but because his piety was so profound that a saint of
the exalted standing of Simon ben Yohai associated Ahijah with
himself. Simon once exclaimed: "My merits and Ahijah together
suffice to atone for the iniquity of all sinners from the time of
Abraham until the advent of the Messiah." (5)


Jeroboam was the true disciple (6) of this great prophet, His
doctrine was as pure as the new garment Ahijah wore when he met
Jeroboam near Jerusalem, and his learning exceeded that of all the
scholars of his time except his own teacher Ahijah alone. The
prophet was in the habit of discussing secret love with Jeroboam
and subjects in the Torah whose existence was wholly unknown to
others. (7)

Had Jeroboam proved himself worthy of his high position, the
length of his reign would have equalled David's. (8) It was his
pride that led him into destruction. He set up the golden calves as
objects to be worshipped by the people, in order to wean them
from their habit of going on pilgrimages to Jerusalem. He knew
that in the Temple only members of the royal house of David were
privileged to sit down. No exception would be made in favor of
Jeroboam, and so he would have to stand while Rehoboam would
be seated. Rather than appear in public as the subordinate of the
Judean king, he introduced the worship of idols, which secured
him full royal prerogatives.

In the execution of his plan he proceeded with great cunning, and
his reputation as a profound scholar and pious saint stood him in
good stead. This was his method: He seated an impious man next
to a pious man, and then said to each couple: "Will you put your
signature to anything I intend to do?" The two would give an
affirmative answer. "Do you want me as king?" he would then ask,
only to receive and affirmative answer again. "And you will do
whatever I order?" he continued. "Yes," was the reply. "I am to
infer, then, that you will even pay worship to idols if I command
it?" said Jeroboam. "God forbid !" the pious member of the couple
would exclaim, whereupon his impious companion, who was in
league with the king, would turn upon him: "Canst thou really
suppose for an instant that a man like Jeroboam would serve idols?
He only wishes to put our loyalty to the test." Through such
machinations he succeeded in obtaining the signatures of the most
pious, even the signature of the prophet Ahijah. Now Jeroboam
had the people is his power. He could exact the vilest deeds from
them. (9)

So entrenched, Jeroboam brought about the division between
Judah and Israel, a consummation which his father, Sheba the son
of Bichri, had not been able to compass under David, because God
desired to have the Temple erected before the split occurred. (10)
Not yet satisfied, Jeroboam sought to involve the Ten Tribes in a
war against Judah and Jerusalem. But the people of the northern
kingdom refused to enter into hostilities with their brethren, and
with the ruler of their brethren, a descendant of David. Jeroboam
appealed to the elders of the Israelites, and they referred him to the
Danites, the most efficient of their warriors; but they swore by the
head of Dan, the ancestor of their tribe, that they would never
consent to shed blood of their brethren. They were even on the
point of rising against Jeroboam, and the clash between them and
the followers of Jeroboam was prevented only because God
prompted the Danites to leave Palestine.

Their first plan was to journey to Egypt and take possession of the
land. They gave it up when their princes reminded them of the
Biblical prohibition (11) against dwelling in Egypt. Likewise they
were restrained from attacking the Edomites, Ammonites, and
Moabites, for the Torah commands considerate treatment of them.
Finally they decided to go to Egypt, but not to stay there, only to
pass through to Ethiopia. The Egyptians were in great terror of the
Danites, and their hardiest warriors occupied the roads travelled by
them. Arrived in Ethiopia, the Danites slew a part of the
population, and exacted tribute from the rest. (12)

The departure of the Danites relieved Judah from the apprehended
invasion by Jeroboam, but danger arose from another quarter.
Shishak, (13) the ruler of Egypt, who was the father-in-law of
Solomon, came to Jerusalem and demanded his daughter's
jointure. He carried off the throne of Solomon, (14) and also the
treasure which the Israelites had taken from the Egyptians at the
time of the exodus. So the Egyptian money returned to its source.


Jeroboam did not entirely forego his plan of a campaign against
Judah, but it was not executed until Abijah had succeeded his
father Rehoboam on the throne of Jerusalem. The Judean king was
victorious. However, he could not long enjoy the fruits of his
victory. Shortly after occurred his death, brought on by his own
crimes. In his war against Jeroboam he had indulged in excessive
cruelty; he ordered the corpses of the enemy to be mutilated, and
permitted them to be buried only after putrefaction had set in.
Such savagery was all the more execrable as it prevented many
widows from entering into a second marriage. Mutilating the
corpses had made identification impossible, and so it was left
doubtful whether their husbands were among the dead.

Moreover, Abijah used most disrespectful language about the
prophet Abijah the Shilonite; he called him a "son of Belial" in his
address to the people on Mount Zemaraim. That in itself merited
severe punishment. Finally, his zeal for true worship of God,
which Abijah had urged as the reason of the war between himself
and Jeroboam, cooled quickly. When he obtained possession of
Beth-el, he failed to do away with the golden calves. (16)

In this respect his namesake, the Israelitish king Abijah, the son of
Jeroboam, was by far his superior. By removing the guards
stationed at the frontier, he bade defiance to the command of his
father, who had decreed the death penalty for pilgrimages to
Jerusalem. More than this, he himself ventured to go up to
Jerusalem in fulfilment of his religious duty. (17)


Asa, the son of Abijah of Judah, was a worthier and a more pious
ruler than his father had been. He did away with the gross worship
of Priapus, (18) to which his mother was devoted. To reward him
for his piety, God gave him the victory over Zerah, the king of the
Ethiopians. As a result of this victory he came again into
possession of the throne of Solomon and of the treasures Shishak
had taken from his grandfather, which Zerah in turn had wrested
form Shishak. (19) Asa himself did not long keep them. Baasha,
the king of Israel, together with Ben-hadad, the Aramean king,
attacked Asa, who tried to propitiate Ben-hadad by giving him his
lately re-acquired treasures. (20) The prophet justly rebuked him
for trusting in princes rather than in God, and that in spite of the
fact that Divine help had been visible in his conflicts with the
Ethiopians and the Lubim; for there had been no need for him to
engage in battle with them; in response to his mere prayer God had
slain the enemy. (21) In general, Asa showed little confidence in
God; he rather trusted his own skill. Accordingly, he made even
the scholars of his realm enlist in the army sent out against Baasha.
He was punished by being afflicted with gout, he of all men, who
was distinguished on account of the strength residing in his feet.
(22) Furthermore, the division between Judah and Israel was made
permanent, though God had at first intended to limit the exclusion
of David's house from Israel to only thirty-six years. Had Asa
shown himself deserving, he would have been accorded dominion
over the whole of Israel. (23) In point of fact, Asa, through his
connection by marriage with the house of Omri, contributed to the
stability of the Israelitish dynasty, for as a result of the support
given by the southern ruler Omri succeeded in putting his rival
Tibni out of the way. Then it was that God resolved that the
descendants of Asa should perish simultaneously with the
descendants of Omri. This doom was accomplished when Jehu
killed the king of Judah on account of his friendship and kinship
with Joram the king of Samaria. (24)


The successors of Omri and Asa, each in his way, were worthy of
their fathers. Jehoshaphat, the son of Asa, was very wealthy. The
treasures which his father had sent to the Aramean ruler reverted
to him in consequence of his victory over the Ammonites,
themselves the conquerors of the Arameans, whom they had
despoiled of their possessions. (25) His power was exceedingly
great; each division of his army counted no less than one hundred
and sixty thousand warriors. (26) Yet rich and powerful as he was,
he was so modest that he refused to don his royal apparel when he
went to the house of the prophet Elisha to consult him; he
appeared before him in the attire of one of the people. (27) Unlike
his father, who had little consideration for scholars, Jehoshaphat
was particularly gracious toward them. When a scholar appeared
before him, he arose, hastened to meet him, and kissing and
embracing him, greeted him with "Rabbi, Rabbi!" (28)

Jehoshaphat concerned himself greatly about the purity and
sanctification of the Temple. He was the author of the ordinance
forbidding any one to ascend the Temple mount whose term of
uncleanness had not expired, even though he had taken the ritual
bath. (29) His implicit trust in God made him a complete contrast
to his skeptical father. He turned to God and implored His help
when to human reason help seemed an utter impossibility. In the
war with the Arameans, an enemy held his sword at Jehoshaphat's
very throat, ready to deal the fatal blow, but the king entreated
help of God, and it was granted. (30)

In power and wealth, Ahab, king of Samaria, outstripped his friend
Jehoshaphat, for Ahab is one of that small number of kings who
have ruled over the whole world. (31) No less than two hundred
and fifty-two kingdoms acknowledged his dominion. (32) As for
his wealth, it was so abundant that each of his hundred and forty
children possessed several ivory palaces, summer and winter
residences. (33) But what gives Ahab his prominence among the
Jewish kings is neither his power nor his wealth, but his sinful
conduct. For him the gravest transgressions committed by
Jeroboam were slight peccadilloes. At his order the gates of
Samaria bore the inscription: "Ahab denies the God of Israel." He
was so devoted to idolatry, to which he was led astray by his wife
Jezebel, that the fields of Palestine were full of idols. But he was
not wholly wicked, he possessed some good qualities. He was
liberal toward scholars, and he showed great reverence for the
Torah, which he studied zealously. When Ben-hadad exacted all he
possessed his wealth, his wives, his children he acceded to his
demands regarding everything except the Torah; that he refused
peremptorily to surrender. (34) In the war that followed between
himself and the Syrians, he was so indignant at the
presumptuousness of the Aramean upstart that he himself saddled
his warhorse for the battle. His zeal was rewarded by God; he
gained a brilliant victory in a battle in which no less than a
hundred thousand of the Syrians were slain, as the prophet Micaiah
had foretold to him. (35) The same seer (36) admonished him not
to deal gently with Ben-hadad. God's word to him had been:
"Know that I had to set many a pitfall and trap to deliver him into
thy hand. If thou lettest him escape, thy life will be forfeit for his."

Nevertheless the disastrous end of Ahab is not to be ascribed to his
disregard of the prophet's warning for he finally liberated
Ben-hahad, but chiefly to the murder of his kinsman Naboth,
whose execution on the charge of treason he had ordered, so that
he might put himself in possession of Naboth's wealth. (38) His
victim was a pious man, and in the habit of going on pilgrimages
to Jerusalem on the festivals. As he was a great singer, his
presence in the Holy City attracted many other pilgrims thither.
Once Naboth failed to go on his customary pilgrimage. Then it was
that his false conviction took place a very severe punishment for
the transgression, but not wholly unjustifiable. (39) Under
Jehoshaphat's influence and counsel, Ahab did penance for his
crime, and the punishment God meted out to him was thereby
mitigated to the extent that his dynasty was not cut off from the
throne at this death. (40) In the heavenly court of justice, (41) at
Ahab's trial, the accusing witnesses and his defenders exactly
balanced each other in number and statements, until the spirit of
Naboth appeared and turned the scale against Ahab. The spirit of
Naboth it had been, too, that had let astray the prophets of Ahab,
making them all use the very same words in prophesying a victory
at Ramothgilead. This literal unanimity aroused Jehoshaphat's
suspicion, and caused him to ask for "a prophet of the Lord," for
the rule is: "The same thought is revealed to many prophets, but no
two prophets express it in the same words." (42) Jehoshaphat's
mistrust was justified by the issue of war. Ahab was slain in a
miraculous way by Naaman, at the time only a common soldier of
the rank and file. God permitted Naaman's missile to penetrate
Ahab's armor, though the latter was harder than the former. (43)

The mourning for Ahab was so great that the memory of it reached
posterity. (44) The funeral procession was unusually impressive;
no less than thirty-six thousand warriors, their shoulders bared,
marched before his bier. (45) Ahab is one of the few in Israel who
have no portion in the world to come. (46) He dwells in the fifth
division of the nether world, which is under the supervision of the
angel Oniel. However, he is exempt from the tortures inflicted
upon his heathen associates. (47)


Wicked as Ahab was, his wife Jezebel was incomparably worse.
Indeed, she is in great part the cause of his suffering, and Ahab
realized it. Once Rabbi Levi expounded the Scriptural verse in
which the iniquity of Ahab and the influence of his wife over him
are discussed, dwelling upon the first half for two months. Ahab
visited him in a dream, and reproached him with expatiating on the
first half of the verse to the exclusion of the latter half. Thereupon
the Rabbi took the second half of the verse as the text of his
lectures for the next two months, demonstrating all the time that
Jezebel was the instigator of Ahab's sins. (48) Her misdeed are told
in the Scriptures. To those there recounted must be added her
practice of attaching unchaste images to Ahab's chariot for the
purpose of stimulating his carnal desires. Therefore those parts of
his chariot were spattered with his blood when he fell at the hand
of the enemy. (49) She had her husband weighed every day, and
the increase of his weight in gold she sacrificed to the idol. (50)
Jezebel was not only the daughter and the wife of a king, she was
also co-regent with her husband, the only reigning queen in Jewish
history except Athaliah. (51)

Hardened sinner though Jezebel was, even she had good qualities.
One of them was her capacity for sympathy with others in joy and
sorrow. Whenever a funeral cortege passed the royal palace,
Jezebel would descend and join the ranks of the mourners, and,
also, when a marriage procession went by, she took part in the
merry-making in honor of the bridal couple. By way of reward the
limbs and organs with which she had executed these good deeds
were left intact by the horses that trampled her to death in the
portion of Jezreel. (52)


Of Joram, the son of Ahab, it can only be said that he had his
father's faults without his father's virtues. Ahab was liberal, Joram
miserly, nay, he even indulged in usurious practices. From
Obadiah, the pious protector of the prophets in hiding, he exacted
a high rate of interest on the money needed for their support. As a
consequence, at his death he fell pierced between his arms, the
arrow going out at his heart, for he had stretched out his arms to
receive usury, and had hardened his heart against compassion. (53)
In his reign only one event deserves mention, his campaign against
Moab, undertaken in alliance with the kings of Judah and Edom,
and ending with a splendid victory won by the allied kings. Joram
and his people, it need hardly be said, failed to derive the proper
lesson from the war. Their disobedience to God's commands went
on as before. The king of Moab, on the other hand, in his way
sought to come nearer to God. He assembled his astrologers and
inquired of them, why it was that the Moabites, successful in their
warlike enterprises against other nations, could not measure up to
the standard of the Israelites. They explained that God was
gracious to Israel, because his ancestor Abraham had been ready to
sacrifice Isaac at His bidding. Then the Moabite king reasoned,
that if God set so high a value upon mere good intention, how
much greater would be the reward for its actual execution, and he,
who ordinarily was a sun worshipper, proceeded to sacrifice his
son, the successor to the throne, to the God of Israel. God said:
"The heathen do not know Me, and their wrong-doing arises from
ignorance; but you, Israelites, know Me, and yet you act
rebelliously toward Me." (54)

As a result of the seven years' famine, conditions in Samaria were
frightful during the great part of Joram's reign. In the first year
everything stored in the houses was eaten up. In the second, the
people supported themselves with what they could scrape together
in the fields. The flesh of the clean animals sufficed for the third
year; in the fourth the sufferers resorted to the unclean animals; in
the fifth, the reptiles and insects; and in the sixth the monstrous
thing happened that women crazed by hunger consumed their own
children as food. But the acme of distress was reached in the
seventh year, when men sought to gnaw the flesh from their own
bones. (55) To these occurrences the prophecies of Joel apply, for
he lived in the awful days of the famine in Joram's reign.

Luckily, God revealed to Joel at the same time how Israel would
be rescued from the famine. The winter following the seven years
of dearth brought no relief, for the rain held back until the first day
of the month of Nisan. When it began to fall, the prophet said to
the people, "Go forth and sow seed!" But they remonstrated with
him, "Shall one who hath saved a measure of wheat or two
measures of barely not use his store for food and live, rather than
for seed and die?" But the prophet urged them, "Nay, go forth and
sow seed." And a miracle happened. In the ant hills and mouse
holes, they found enough grain for seed, and they cast it upon the
ground on the second, the third, and the fourth day of Nisan. On
the fifth day of the month rain fell again. Eleven days later the
grain was ripe, and the offering of the 'Omer could be brought at
the appointed time, on the sixteenth of the month. Of this the
Psalmist was thinking when he said, "They that sow in tears shall
reap in joy." (56)


The Biblical account of the prophet Elijah, (1) of his life and work
during the reigns of Ahab and his son Joram, gives but a faint idea
of a personage whose history begins with Israel's sojourn in Egypt,
and will end only when Israel, under the leadership of the Messiah,
shall have taken up his abode again in Palestine.

The Scripture tells us only the name of Elijah's home, (2) but it
must be added that he was a priest, identical with Phinehas, (3) the
priest zealous for the honor of God, who distinguished himself on
the journey through the desert, and played a prominent role again
in the time of the Judges. (4)

Elijah's first appearance in the period of the Kings was his meeting
with Ahab in the house of Hiel, the Beth-elite, the
commander-in-chief of the Israelitish army, whom he was visiting
to condole with him for the loss of his sons. God Himself had
charged the prophet to offer sympathy to Hiel, whose position
demanded that honor be paid him. Elijah at first refused to seek
out the sinner who had violated the Divine injunction against
rebuilding Jericho, for he said that the blasphemous talk of such
evil-doers always called forth his rage. Thereupon God promised
Elijah that fulfilment should attend whatever imprecation might in
his wrath escape him against the godless for their unholy speech.
As the prophet entered the general's house, he heard Hiel utter
these words: "Blessed be the Lord God of the pious, who grants
fulfilment to the words of the pious." Hiel thus acknowledged that
he had been justly afflicted with Joshua's curse against him who
should rebuild Jericho.

Ahab mockingly asked him: "Was not Moses greater than Joshua,
and did he not say that God would let no rain descend upon the
earth, if Israel served and worshipped idols? There is not an idol
known to which I do not pay homage, yet we enjoy all that is
goodly and desirable. Dost thou believe that if the words of Moses
remain unfulfilled, the words of Joshua will come true?" Elijah
rejoined: "Be it as thou sayest: 'As the Lord, the God of Israel
liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these
years, but according to my word.'" In pursuance of His promise,
God could not but execute the words of Elijah, and neither dew
nor rain watered the land. (5)

A famine ensued, and Ahab sought to wreak his vengeance upon
the prophet. To escape the king's persecutions, Elijah hid himself.
He was sustained with food brought from the larder of the pious
king Jehoshaphat by ravens, (6) which at the same time would not
approach near to the house of the iniquitous Ahab. (7)

God, who has compassion even upon the impious, tried to induce
the prophet to release Him from His promise. To influence him He
made the brook run dry (8) whence Elijah drew water for his thirst.
As this failed to soften the inflexible prophet, God resorted to the
expedient of causing him pain through the death of the son of the
widow with whom Elijah was abiding, and by whom he had been
received with great honor. When her son, who was later to be
known as the prophet Jonah, (9) died, she thought God had
formerly been gracious to her on account of her great worthiness
as compared with the merits of her neighbors and of the
inhabitants of the city, and now He had abandoned her, because
her virtues had become as naught in the presence of the great
prophet. (10) In his distress Elijah supplicated God to revive the
child. (11) Now God had the prophet in His power. He could give
heed unto Elijah's prayer only provided the prophet released Him
from the promise about a drought, for resuscitation from death is
brought about by means of dew, and this remedy was precluded so
long as Elijah kept God to His word withholding dew and rain
from the earth. (12) Elijah saw there was nothing for it but to
yield. However, he first betook himself to Ahab with the purpose
of overcoming the obduracy of the people, upon whom the famine
had made no impression. Manifest wonders displayed before their
eyes were to teach them wisdom. The combat between God and
Baal took place on Carmel. The mount that had esteemed itself the
proper place for the greatest event in Israelitish history, the
revelation of the law, was compensated, by the many miracles now
performed upon it, for its disappointment at Sinai's having been
preferred to it. (13)

The first wonder occurred in connection with the choice of the
bullocks. According to Elijah's arrangement with Ahab, one was to
be sacrificed to God, and then one to Baal. A pair to twins, raised
together, were brought before the contestants, and it was decided
by lot which belonged to God and which to Baal. Elijah had no
difficulty with his offering; quickly he led it to his altar. But all the
priests of Baal, eight hundred and fifty in number, could not make
their victim stir a foot. When Elijah began to speak persuasively to
the bullock of Baal, urging it to follow the idolatrous priests, it
opened its mouth and said: "We two, yonder bullock and myself,
came forth from the same womb, we took our food from the same
manger, and now he has been destined for God, as an instrument
for the glorification of the Divine Name, while I am to be used for
Baal, as an instrument to enrage my Creator." Elijah urged: "Do
thou but follow the priests of Baal that they may have no excuse,
and then thou wilt have a share in that glorification of God for
which my bullock will be used." The bullock: "So dost thou advise,
but I swear I will not move from the spot, unless thou with thine
own hands wilt deliver me up." Elijah thereupon led the bullock to
the priests of Baal. (14)

In spite of this miracle, the priests sought to deceive the people.
They undermined the altar, and Hiel hid himself under it with the
purpose of igniting a fire at the mention of the word Baal. But God
sent a serpent to kill him. (15) In vain the false priests cried and
called, Baal! Baal! the expected flame did not shoot up. To add to
the confusion of the idolaters, God had imposed silence upon the
whole world. The powers of the upper and of the nether regions
were dumb, the universe seemed deserted and desolate, as if
without a living creature. If a single sound had made itself heard,
the priests would have said, "It is the voice of Baal." (16)

That all preparations might be completed in one day, the erection
of the altar, the digging of the trench, and whatever else was
necessary, Elijah commanded the sun to stand still. "For Joshua,"
he said, "thou didst stand still that Israel might conquer his
enemies; now stand thou still, neither for my sake, nor for the sake
of Israel, but that the Name of God may be exalted." And the sun
obeyed his words. (17)

Toward evening Elijah summoned his disciple Elisha, and bade
him pour water over his hands. A miracle happened. Water flowed
out from Elijah's fingers until the whole trench was filled. (18)
Then the prophet prayed to God to let fire descend, but in such
wise that the people would know it to be a wonder from heaven,
and not think it a magician's trick. (19) He spoke: "Lord of the
world, Thou wilt send me as a messenger 'at the end of time,' but if
my words do not meet with fulfilment now, the Jews cannot be
expected to believe me in the latter days." (20) His pleading was
heard on high, and fire fell from heaven upon the altar, a fire that
not only consumed what it touched, but also licked up the water.
(21) Nor was that all; his prayer for rain was also granted. Scarcely
had these words dropped from his lips, "Though we have no other
merits, yet remember the sign of the covenant which the Israelites
bear upon their bodies," when the rain fell to earth. (22)

In spite of all these miracles, the people persisted in their
idolatrous ways and thoughts. Even the seven thousand who had
not bowed down unto Baal were unworthy sons of Israel, for they
paid homage to the golden calves of Jeroboam. (23)

The misdeeds of the people had swelled to such number that they
could no longer reckon upon "the merits of the fathers" to
intercede for them; they had overdrawn their account. (24) When
they sank to the point of degradation at which they gave up the
sign of the covenant, Elijah could control his wrath no longer, and
he accused Israel before God. (25) In the cleft of the rock in which
God had once aforetimes appeared to Moses, and revealed Himself
as compassionate and long-suffering, He now met with Elijah, (26)
and conveyed to him, by various signs, that it had been better to
defend Israel than accuse him. But Elijah in his zeal for God was
inexorable. Then God commanded him to appoint Elisha as his
successor, for He said: "I cannot do as thou wouldst have me." (27)
Furthermore God charged him: "Instead of accusing My children,
journey to Damascus, where the Gentiles have an idol for each day
of the year. Though Israel hath thrown down My altars and slain
My prophets, what concern is it of thine?" (28)

The four phenomena that God sent before His appearance wind,
(29) earthquake, fire, and a still small voice were to instruct
Elijah about the destiny of man. God told Elijah that these four
represent the worlds through which man must pass: the first stands
for this world, fleeting as the wind; the earthquake is the day of
death, which makes the human body to tremble and quake; fire is
the tribunal in Gehenna, and the still small voice is the Last
Judgment, when there will be none but God alone. (30)

About three years (31) later, Elijah was taken up into heaven, (32)
but not without first undergoing a struggle with the Angel of
Death. He refused to let Elijah enter heaven at his translation, on
the ground that he exercised jurisdiction over all mankind, Elijah
not excepted. God maintained that at the creation of heaven and
earth He had explicitly ordered the Angel of Death to grant
entrance to the living prophet, but the Angel of Death insisted that
by Elijah's translation God had given just cause for complaint to all
other men, who could not escape the doom of death. Thereupon
God: "Elijah is not like other men. He is able to banish thee from
the world, only thou dost not recognize his strength." With the
consent of God, a combat took place between Elijah and the Angel
of Death. The prophet was victorious, and, if God had not
restrained him, he would have annihilated his opponent. Holding
his defeated enemy under his feet, Elijah ascended heavenward.

In heaven he goes on living for all time. (34) There he sits
recording the deeds of men (35) and the chronicles of the world.
(36) He has another office besides. He is the Psychopomp, whose
duty is to stand at the cross-ways in Paradise and guide the pious to
their appointed places; (37) who brings the souls of sinners up
from Gehenna at the approach of the Sabbath, and leads them back
again to their merited punishment when the day of rest is about to
depart; and who conducts these same souls, after they have atoned
for their sins, to the place of everlasting bliss. (38)

Elijah's miraculous deeds will be better understood if we
remember that he had been an angel from the very first, even
before the end of his earthly career. When God was about to create
man, Elijah said to Him: "Master of the world! If it be pleasing in
Thine eyes, I will descend to earth, and make myself serviceable to
the sons of men." Then God changed his angel name, and later,
under Ahab, He permitted him to abide among men on earth, that
he might convert the world to the belief that "the Lord is God." His
mission fulfilled, God took him again into heaven, and said to him:
"Be thou the guardian spirit of My children forever, and spread the
belief in Me abroad in the whole world." (39)

His angel name is Sandalphon, (40) one of the greatest and
mightiest of the fiery angel host. As such it is his duty to wreathe
garlands for God out of the prayers sent aloft by Israel. (41)
Besides, he must offer up sacrifices in the invisible sanctuary, for
the Temple was destroyed only apparently; in reality, it went on
existing, hidden from the sight of ordinary mortals. (42)


Elijah's removal from earth, so far being an interruption to his
relations with men, rather marks the beginning of his real activity
as a helper in time of need, as a teacher and as a guide. At first his
intervention in sublunar affairs was not frequent. Seven years after
his translation, (43) he wrote a letter to the wicked king Jehoram,
who reigned over Judah. The next occasion on which he took part
in an earthly occurrence was at the time of Ahasuerus, when he did
the Jews a good turn by assuming the guise of the courtier
Harbonah, (44) in a favorable moment inciting the king against
Haman. (45)

It was reserved for later days, however, for Talmudic times, the
golden age of the great scholars, the Tannaim and the Amoraim, to
enjoy Elijah's special vigilance as protector of the innocent, as a
friend in need, who hovers over the just and the pious, ever present
to guard them against evil or snatch them out of danger. With four
strokes of his wings Elijah can traverse the world. (46) Hence no
spot on earth is too far removed for his help. As an angel (47) he
enjoys the power of assuming the most various appearances to
accomplish his purposes. Sometimes he looks like an ordinary
man, sometimes he takes the appearance of an Arab, sometimes of
a horseman, now he is a Roman court-official, now he is a harlot.

Once upon a time it happened that when Nahum, the great and
pious teacher, was journeying to Rome on a political mission, he
was without knowledge robbed of the gift he bore to the Emperor
as an offering from the Jews. When he handed the casket to the
ruler, it was found to contain common earth, which the thieves had
substituted for the jewels they had abstracted. The Emperor
thought the Jews were mocking at him, and their representative,
Nahum, was condemned to suffer death. In his piety the Rabbi did
not lose confidence in God; he only said: "This too is for good."
(48) And so it turned out to be. Suddenly Elijah appeared, and,
assuming the guise of a court-official, he said: "Perhaps the earth
in this casket is like that used by Abraham for purposes of war. A
handful will do the work of swords and bows." At his instance the
virtues of the earth were tested in the attack upon a city that had
long resisted Roman courage and strength. His supposition was
verified. The contents of the casket proved more efficacious than
all the weapons of the army, and the Romans were victorious.
Nahum was dismissed, laden with honors and treasures, and the
thieves, who had betrayed themselves by claiming the precious
earth, were executed, for, naturally enough, Elijah works no
wonder for evil-doers. (49)

Another time, for the purpose of rescuing Rabbi Shila, Elijah
pretended to be a Persian. An informer had announced the Rabbi
with the Persian Government, accusing him of administering the
law according to the Jewish code. Elijah appeared as witness for
the Rabbi and against the informer, and Shila was honorably
dismissed. (50)

When the Roman bailiffs were pursuing Rabbi Meir, Elijah joined
him in the guise of a harlot. The Roman emissaries desisted from
their pursuit, for they could not believe that Rabbi Meir would
choose such a companion. (51)

A contemporary of Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Simon ben Yohai, who
spent thirteen years in a cave to escape the vengeance of the
Romans, was informed by Elijah of the death of the Jew-baiting
emperor, so that he could leave his hiding-place. (52)

Equally characteristic is the help Elijah afforded the worthy poor.
Frequently he brought them great wealth. Rabbi Kahana was so
needy that he had to support himself by peddling with household
utensils. Once a lady of high standing endeavored to force him to
commit an immoral act, and Kahana, preferring death to iniquity,
threw himself from a loft. Though Elijah was at a distance of four
hundred parasangs, he hastened to the post in time to catch the
Rabbi before he touched the ground. Besides, he gave him means
enough to enable him to abandon an occupation beset with perils.

Rabba bar Abbahu likewise was a victim of poverty. He admitted
to Elijah that on account of his small means he had no time to
devote to his studies. Thereupon Elijah led him into Paradise, bade
him remove his mantle, and fill it with leaves grown in the regions
of the blessed. When the Rabbi was about to quit Paradise, his
garment full of leaves, a voice was heard to say: "Who desires to
anticipate his share in the world to come during his earthly days, as
Rabba bar Abbahu is doing?" The Rabbi quickly cast the leaves
away; nevertheless he received twelve thousand denarii for his
upper garment, because it retained the wondrous fragrance of the
leaves of Paradise. (54)

Elijah's help was not confined to poor teachers of the law; all who
were in need, and were worthy of his assistance, had a claim upon
him. A poor man, the father of a family, in his distress once prayed
to God: "O Lord of the world, Thou knowest, there is none to
whom I can tell my tale of woe, none who will have pity upon me.
I have neither brother nor kinsman nor friend, and my starving
little ones are crying with hunger. Then do Thou have mercy and
be compassionate, or let death come and put an end to our
suffering." His words found a hearing with God, for, as he
finished, Elijah stood before the poor man, and sympathetically
inquired why he was weeping. When the prophet had heard the tale
of his troubles, he said: "Take me and sell me as a slave; the
proceeds will suffice for thy needs." At first the poor man refused
to accept the sacrifice, but finally yielded, and Elijah was sold to a
prince for eighty denarii. This sum formed the nucleus of the
fortune which the poor man amassed and enjoyed until the end of
his days. The prince who had purchased Elijah intended to build a
palace, and he rejoiced to hear that his new slave was an architect.
He promised Elijah liberty if within six months he completed the
edifice. After nightfall of the same day, Elijah offered a prayer,
and instantaneously the palace stood in its place in complete
perfection. Elijah disappeared. The next morning the prince was
not a little astonished to see the palace finished. But when he
sought his slave to reward him, and sought him in vain, he realized
that he had had dealings with an angel. Elijah meantime repaired
to the man who had sold him, and related his story to him, that he
might know he had not cheated the purchaser out of his price; on
the contrary, he had enriched him, since the palace was worth a
hundred times more than the money paid for the pretended slave.

A similar thing happened to a well-to-do man who lost his fortune,
and became so poor that he had to do manual labor in the field of
another. Once, when he was at work, he was accosted by Elijah,
who had assumed the appearance of an Arab: "Thou art destined to
enjoy seven good years. When dost thou want them now, or as the
closing years of thy life?" The man replied: "Thou art a wizard; go
in peace, I have nothing for thee." Three times the same question
was put, three times the same reply was given. Finally the man
said: "I shall ask the advice of my wife." When Elijah came again,
and repeated his question, the man, following the counsel of his
wife, said: "See to it that seven good years come to us at once."
Elijah replied: "Go home. Before thou crossest thy threshold, thy
good fortune will have filled thy house." And so it was. His
children had found a treasure in the ground, and, as he was about
to enter his house, his wife met him and reported the lucky find.
His wife was an estimable, pious woman, and she said to her
husband: "We shall enjoy seven good years. Let us use this time to
practice as much charity as possible; perhaps God will lengthen
out our period of prosperity." After the lapse of seven years, during
which man and wife used every opportunity of doing good, Elijah
appeared again, and announced to the man that the time had come
to take away what he had given him. The man responded: "When I
accepted thy gift, it was after consultation with my wife. I should
not like to return it without first acquainting her with what is about
to happen." His wife charged him to say to the old man who had
come to resume possession of his property: "If thou canst find any
who will be more conscientious stewards of the pledges entrusted
to us than we have been, I shall willingly yield them up to thee."
God recognized that these people had made a proper use of their
wealth, and He granted it to them as a perpetual possession. (56)

If Elijah was not able to lighten the poverty of the pious, he at least
sought to inspire them with hope and confidence. Rabbi Akiba, the
great scholar, lived in dire poverty before he became the famous
Rabbi. His rich father-in-law would have nothing to do with him or
his wife, because the daughter had married Akiba against her
father's will. On a bitter cold winter night, Akiba could offer his
wife, who had been accustomed to the luxuries wealth can buy,
nothing but straw as a bed to sleep upon, and he tried to comfort
her with assurances of his love for the privations she was suffering.
At that moment Elijah appeared before their hut, and cried out in
supplicating tones: "O good people, give me, I pray you, a little
bundle of straw. My wife has been delivered of a child, and I am
so poor I haven't even enough straw to make a bed for her." Now
Abika could console his wife with the fact that their own misery
was not so great as it might have been, and thus Elijah had attained
his end, to sustain the courage of the pious. (57)

In the form of an Arab, he once appeared before a very poor man,
whose piety equalled his poverty. He gave him two shekels. These
two coins brought him such good fortune that he attained great
wealth. But in his zeal to gather worldly treasures, he had no time
for deeds of piety and charity. Elijah again appeared before him
and took away the two shekels. In a short time the man was as
poor as before. A third time Elijah came to him. He was crying
bitterly and complaining of his misfortune, and the prophet said: "I
shall make thee rich once more, if thou wilt promise me under
oath thou wilt not let wealth ruin they character." He promised, the
two shekels were restored to him, he regained his wealth, and he
remained in possession of it for all time, because his piety was not
curtailed by his riches. (58)

Poverty was not the only form of distress Elijah relieved. He
exercised the functions of a physician upon Rabbi Shimi bar Ashi,
who had swallowed a noxious reptile. Elijah appeared to him as an
awe-inspiring horseman, and forced him to apply the preventives
against the disease to be expected in these circumstances.

He also cured Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi of long-continued toothache by
laying his hand on the sufferer, and at the same time he brought
about the reconciliation of Rabbi Judan with Rabbi Hayyah, whose
form he had assumed. Rabbi Judah paid the highest respect to
Rabbi Hayyah after he found out that Elijah had considered him
worthy of taking his appearance. (59)

On another occasion, Elijah re-established harmony between a
husband and his wife. The woman had come home very late on
Friday evening, having allowed herself to be detained by the
sermon preached by Rabbi Meir. Her autocratic husband swore she
should not enter the house until she had spat in the very face of the
highly-esteemed Rabbi. Meantime Elijah went to Rabbi Meir, and
told him a pious woman had fallen into a sore predicament on his
account. To help the poor woman, the Rabbi restored to a ruse. He
announced that he was looking for one who knew how to cast
spells, which was done by spitting into the eye of the afflicted one.
When he caught sight of the woman designated by Elijah, he asked
her to try her power upon him. Thus she was able to comply with
her husband's requirement without disrespect to the Rabbi; and
through the instrumentality of Elijah conjugal happiness was
restored to an innocent wife. (60)

Elijah's versatility is shown in the following occurrence. A pious
man bequeathed a spice-garden to his three sons. They took turns
in guarding it against thieves. The first night the oldest son
watched the garden. Elijah appeared to him and asked him: "My
son, what wilt thou have knowledge of the Torah, or great wealth,
or a beautiful wife?" He chose wealth, great wealth. Accordingly
Elijah gave him a coin, and he became rich. The second son, to
whom Elijah appeared the second night, chose knowledge of the
Torah. Elijah gave him a book, and "he knew the whole Torah."
The third son, on the third night, when Elijah put the same choice
before him as before his brothers, wished for a beautiful wife.
Elijah invited this third brother to go on a journey with him. Their
first night was passed at the house of a notorious villain, who had a
daughter. During the night Elijah overheard the chickens and the
geese say to one another: "What a terrible sin that young may must
have committed, that he should be destined to marry the daughter
of so great a villain!" The two travellers journeyed on. The second
night the experiences of the first were repeated. The third night
they lodged with a man who had a very pretty daughter. During the
night Elijah heard the chickens and the geese say to one another:
"How great must be the virtues of this young man, if he is
privileged to marry so beautiful and pious a wife." In the morning,
when Elijah arose, he at once became a matchmaker, the young
man married the pretty maiden, and husband and wife journeyed
homeward in joy. (61)

If it became necessary, Elijah was ready to do even the services of
a sexton. When Rabbi Akiba died in prison, Elijah betook himself
to the dead man's faithful disciple, Rabbi Joshua, and the two
together went to the prison. There was none to forbid their
entrance; a deep sleep had fallen upon the turnkeys and the
prisoners alike. Elijah and Rabbi Joshua took the corpse with
them, Elijah bearing it upon his shoulder. Rabbi Joshua in
astonishment demanded how he, a priest, dared defile himself
upon a corpse. The answer was: "God forbid! the pious can never
cause defilement." All night the two walked on with their burden.
At break of day they found themselves near Caesarea. A cave
opened before their eyes, and within they saw a bed, a chair, a
table, and a lamp. They deposited the corpse upon the bed, and left
the cave, which closed up behind them. Only the light of the lamp,
which had lit itself after they left, shone through the chinks.
Whereupon Elijah said: "Hail, ye just, hail to you who devote
yourselves to the study of the law. Hail to you, ye God-fearing
men, for your places are set aside, and kept, and guarded, in
Paradise, for the time to come. Hail to thee, Rabbi Akiba, that thy
lifeless body found lodgment for a night in a lovely spot." (62)


Helpfulness and compassion do not paint the whole of the
character of Elijah. He remained the stern and inexorable censor
whom Ahab feared. The old zeal for the true and the good he never
lost, as witness, he once struck a man dead because he failed to
perform his devotions with due reverence. (63)

There were two brothers, one of them rich and miserly, the other
poor and kind-hearted. Elijah, in the garb of an old beggar,
approached the rich man, and asked him for alms. Repulsed by
him, he turned to the poor brother, who received him kindly, and
shared his meagre supper with him. On bidding farewell to him
and his equally hospitable wife, Elijah said: "May God reward you!
The first thing you undertake shall be blessed, and shall take no
end until you yourselves cry out Enough!" Presently the poor man
began to count the few pennies he had, to convince himself that
they sufficed to purchase bread for his next meal. But the few
became many, and he counted and counted, and still their number
increased. He counted a whole day, and the following night, until
he was exhausted, and had to cry out Enough! And, indeed, it was
enough, for he had become a very wealthy man. His brother was
not a little astonished to see the fortunate change in his kinsman's
circumstances, and when he heard how it had come about, he
determined, if the opportunity should present itself again, to show
his most amiable side to the old beggar with the miraculous power
of blessing. He had not long to wait. A few days later he saw the
old man pass by. He hastened to accost him, and, excusing himself
for his unfriendliness at their former meeting, begged him to come
into his house. All that the larder afforded was put before Elijah,
who pretended to eat of the dainties. At his departure, he
pronounced a blessing upon his hosts: "May the first thing you do
have no end, until it is enough." The mistress of the house
thereupon said to her husband: "That we may count gold upon gold
undisturbed, let us first attend to our most urgent physical needs."
So they did and they had to continue to do it until life was
extinct. (64)

The extreme of his rigor Elijah displayed toward teachers of the
law. From them he demanded more than obedience to the mere
letter of a commandment. For instance, he pronounced severe
censure upon Rabbi Ishmael ben Jose because he was willing to
act as bailiff in prosecuting Jewish thieves and criminals. He
advised Rabbi Ishmael to follow the example of his father and
leave the country. (65)

His estrangement from his friend Rabbi Joshua ben Levi is
characteristic. One who was sought by the officers of the law took
refuge with Rabbi Joshua. His pursuers were informed of his place
of concealment. Threatening to put all the inhabitants of the city to
the sword if he was not delivered up, they demanded his surrender.
The Rabbi urged the fugitive from justice to resign himself to his
fate. Better for one individual to die, he said, than for a whole
community to be exposed to peril. The fugitive yielded to the
Rabbi's argument, and gave himself up to the bailiffs. Thereafter
Elijah, who had been in the habit of visiting Rabbi Joshua
frequently, stayed away from his house, and he was induced to
come back only by the Rabbi's long fasts and earnest prayers. In
reply to the Rabbi's question, why he had shunned him, he said:
"Dost thou suppose I care to have intercourse with informers?" The
Rabbi quoted a passage from the Mishnah to justify his conduct,
but Elijah remained unconvinced. "Dost thou consider this a law
for a pious man?" he said. "Other people might have been right in
doing as thou didst; thou shouldst have done otherwise." (66)

A number of instances are known which show how exalted a
standard Elijah set up for those who would be considered worthy
of intercourse with him. Of two pious brothers, one provided for
his servants as for his own table, while the other permitted his
servants to eat abundantly only of the first course; of the other
courses they could have nothing but the remnants. Accordingly,
with the second brother Elijah would have nothing to do, while he
often honored the former with his visits.

A similar attitude Elijah maintained toward another pair of pious
brothers. One of them was in the habit of providing for his servants
after his own needs were satisfied, while the other of them
attended to the needs of his servants first. To the latter it was that
Elijah gave the preference. (67)

He dissolved an intimacy of many years' standing, because his
friend built a vestibule which was so constructed that the
supplications of the poor could be heard but faintly by those within
the house. (68)

Rabbi Joshua ben Levi incurred the displeasure of Elijah a second
time, because a man was torn in pieces by a lion in the vicinity of
his house. In a measure Elijah held Rabbi responsible, because he
did not pray for the prevention of such misfortunes. (69)

The story told of Elijah and Rabbi Anan forms the most striking
illustration of the severity of the prophet. Someone brought Rabbi
Anan a mess of little fish as a present, and at the same time asked
the Rabbi to act as judge in a lawsuit he was interested in. Anan
refused in these circumstances to accept a gift from the litigant. To
demonstrate his single-mindedness, the applicant urged the Rabbit
to take the fish and assign the case to another judge. Anan
acquiesced, and he requested one of his colleagues to act for him,
because he was incapacitated from serving as a judge. His legal
friend drew the inference, that the litigant introduced to him was a
kinsman of Rabbi Anan's, and accordingly he showed himself
particularly complaisant toward him. As a result, the other party to
the suit was intimidated. He failed to present his side as
convincingly as he might otherwise have done, and so lost the
case. Elijah, who had been the friend of Anan and his teacher as
well, thenceforth shunned his presence, because he considered that
the injury done the second party to the suit was due to Anan's
carelessness. Anan in his distress kept many fasts, and offered up
many prayers, before Elijah would return to him. Even then the
Rabbi could not endure the sight of him; he had to content himself
with listening to Elijah's words without looking upon his face. (70)

Sometimes Elijah considered it his duty to force people into
abandoning a bad habit. A rich man was once going to a cattle
sale, and he carried a snug sum of money to buy oxen. He was
accosted by a stranger none other than Elijah who inquired the
purpose of his journey. "I go to buy cattle," replied the would-be
purchaser. "Say, it if please God," urged Elijah. "Fiddlesticks! I
shall buy cattle whether it please God or not! I carry the money
with me, and the business will be dispatched." "But not with good
fortune," said the stranger, and went off. Arrived at the market, the
cattle-buyer discovered the loss of his purse, and he had to return
home to provide himself with other money. He again set forth on
his journey, but this time he took another road to avoid the
stranger of ill omen. To his amazement he met an old man with
whom he had precisely the same adventure as with the first
stranger. Again he had to return home to fetch money. By this time
had learned his lesson. When a third stranger questioned him about
the object of his journey, he answered: "If it please God, I intend to
buy oxen." The stranger wished him success, and the wish was
fulfilled. To the merchant's surprise, when a pair of fine cattle
were offered him, and their price exceeded the sum of money he
had about his person, he found the two purses he had lost on his
first and second trips. Later he sold the same pair of oxen to the
king for a considerable price, and he became very wealthy. (71)

As Elijah coerced this merchant into humility toward God, so he
carried home a lesson to the great Tanna Eliezer, the son of Rabbi
Simon ben Yohai. This Rabbi stood in need of correction on
account of his overweening conceit. Once, on returning from the
academy, he took a walk on the sea-beach, his bosom swelling
with pride at the thought of his attainments in the Torah. He met a
hideously ugly man, who greeted him with the words: "Peace be
with thee, Rabbi." Eliezer, instead of courteously acknowledging
the greeting, said: "O thou wight, (72) how ugly thou art! Is it
possible that all the residents of thy town are as ugly as thou?" "I
know not," was the reply, "but it is the Master Artificer who
created me that thou shouldst have said: 'How ugly is this vessel
which Thou hast fashioned.'" The Rabbi realized the wrong he had
committed, and humbly begged pardon of the ugly man another
of the protean forms adopted by Elijah. The latter continued to
refer him to the Master Artificer of the ugly vessel. The inhabitants
of the city, who had hastened to do honor to the great Rabbi,
earnestly urged the offended man to grant pardon, and finally he
declared himself appeased, provided the Rabbi promised never
again to commit the same wrong. (73)

The rigor practiced by Elijah toward his friends caused one of
them, the Tanna Rabbi Jose, to accuse him of being passionate and
irascible. As a consequence, Elijah would have nothing to do with
him for a long time. When he reappeared, and confessed the cause
of his withdrawal, Rabbi Jose said he felt justified, for his charge
could not have received a more striking verification. (74)


Elijah's purely human relations to the world revealed themselves in
their fulness, neither in his deeds of charity, nor in his censorious
rigor, but rather in his gentle and scholarly intercourse with the
great in Israel, especially the learned Rabbis of the Talmudic time.
He is at once their disciple and their teacher. To one he resorts for
instruction on difficult points, to another he himself dispenses
instruction. As a matter of course, his intimate knowledge of the
supernatural world makes him appear more frequently in the role
of giver than receiver. Many a bit of secret lore the Jewish teachers
learnt from Elijah, and he it was who, with the swiftness of
lightning, carried the teachings of one Rabbi to another sojourning
hundreds of miles away. (75)

Thus it was Elijah who taught Rabbi Jose the deep meaning hidden
in the Scriptural passage in which woman is designated as the
helpmeet of man. By means of examples he demonstrated to the
Rabbi how indispensable woman is to man. (76)

Rabbi Nehorai profited by his exposition of why God created
useless, even noxious insects. The reason for their existence is that
the sight of superfluous and harmful creatures prevents God from
destroying His world at times when, on account of the wickedness
and iniquity prevailing in it, it repents Him of having created it. If
He preserves creatures that at their best are useless, and at their
worst injurious, how much more should He preserve human beings
with all their potentialities for good.

The same Rabbi Nehorai was told by Elijah, that God sends
earthquakes and other destructive phenomena when He sees places
of amusement prosperous and flourishing, while the Temple lies a
heap of dust and ashes. (77)

To Rabbi Judah he communicated the following three maxims: Let
not anger master thee, and thou wilt not fall into sin; let not drink
master thee, and thou wilt be spared pain; before thou settest out
on a journey, take counsel with thy Creator. (78)

In case of a difference of opinion among scholars, Elijah was
usually questioned as to how the moot point was interpreted in the
heavenly academy. (79) Once, when the scholars were not
unanimous in their views as to Esther's intentions when she invited
Haman to her banquets with the king, Elijah, asked by Rabba bar
Abbahu to tell him her real purpose, said that each and every one
of the motives attributed to her by various scholars were true, for
her invitations to Haman had many a purpose. (80)

A similar answer he gave the Amora Abiathar, who disputed with
his colleagues as to why the Ephraimite who cause the war against
the tribe of Benjamin first cast off his concubine, and then became
reconciled to her. Elijah informed Rabbi Abiathar that in heaven
the cruel conduct of the Ephraimite was explained in two ways,
according to Abiathar's conception and according to his opponent
Jonathan's as well. (81)

Regarding the great contest between Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus
and the whole body of scholars, in which the majority maintained
the validity of its opinion, though a heavenly voice pronounced
Rabbi Eliezer's correct, Elijah told Rabbi Nathan, that God in His
heaven had cried out: "My children have prevailed over Me!" (82)

On one occasion Elijah fared badly for having betrayed celestial
events to his scholars. He was a daily attendant at the academy of
Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi. One day, it was the New Moon Day, he was
late. The reason for his tardiness, he said, was that it was his daily
duty to awaken the three Patriarchs, (83) wash their hands for
them, so that they might offer up their prayers, and after their
devotions lead them back to their resting-places. On this day their
prayers took very long, because they were increased by the Musaf
service on account of the New Moon celebration, and hence he did
not make his appearance at the academy in good time. Elijah did
not end his narrative at this point, but went on to tell the Rabbi,
that this occupation of his was rather tedious, for the three
Patriarchs were not permitted to offer up their payers at the same
time. Abraham prayed first, then came Isaac, and finally Jacob. If
they all were to pray together, the united petitions of three such
paragons of piety would be so efficacious as to force God to fulfil
them, and He would be induced to bring the Messiah before his
time. Then Rabbi Judah wanted to know whether there were any
among the pious on earth whose prayer possessed equal efficacy.
Elijah admitted that the same power resided in the prayers of
Rabbi Hayyah and his two sons. Rabbi Judah lost no time in
proclaiming a day of prayer and fasting and summoning Rabbi
Hayyah and his sons to officiate as the leaders in prayer. They
began to chant the Eighteen Benedictions. Then they uttered the
word for wind, a storm arose; when they continued and made
petition for rain, the rain descended at once. But as the readers
approached the passage relating to the revival of the dead, great
excitement arose in heaven, and when it became known that Elijah
had revealed the secret of the marvellous power attaching to the
prayers of the three men, he was punished with fiery blows. To
thwart Rabbi Judah's purpose, Elijah assumed the form of a bear,
and put the praying congregation to flight. (84)

Contrariwise, Elijah was also in the habit of reporting earthly
events in the celestial regions. He told Rabba bar Shila that the
reason Rabbi Meir was never quoted in the academy on high was
because he had had so wicked a teacher as Elisha ben Abuyah.
Rabba explained Rabbi Meir's conduct by an apologue. "Rabbi
Meir," he said, "found a pomegranate; he enjoyed the heart of the
fruit, and cast the skin aside." Elijah was persuaded of the justness
of this defense, and so were all the celestial powers. Thereupon
one of Rabbi Meir's interpretations was quoted in the heavenly
academy. (85)

Elijah was no less interested in the persons of the learned than in
their teachings, especially when scholars were to be provided with
the means of devoting themselves to their studies. It was he who,
when Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, later a great celebrity, resolved
to devote himself to the law, advised him to repair to Jerusalem
and sit at the feet of Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai. (86)

He once met a man who mocked at his exhortations to study, and
he said that on the great day of reckoning he would excuse himself
for his neglect of intellectual pursuits by the fact that he had been
granted neither intelligence nor wisdom. Elijah asked him what his
calling was. "I am a fisherman," was the reply. "Well, my son,"
questioned Elijah, "who taught thee to take flax and make nets and
throw them into the sea to catch fish?" He replied: "For this heaven
gave me intelligence and insight." Hereupon Elijah: "If thou
possessest intelligence and insight to cast nets and catch fish, why
should these qualities desert thee when thou dealest with the
Torah, which, thou knowest, is very nigh unto man that he may do
it?" The fisherman was touched, and he began to weep. Elijah
pacified him by telling him that what he had said applied to many
another beside him. (87)

In another way Elijah conveyed the lesson of the great value
residing in devotion to the study of the Torah. Disguised as a
Rabbi, he was approached by a man who promised to relieve him
of all material cares if he would but abide with him. Refusing to
leave Jabneh, the centre of Jewish scholarship, he said to the
tempter: "Wert thou to offer me a thousand million gold denarii, I
would not quit the abode of the law, and dwell in a place in which
there is no Torah." (88)

By Torah, of course, is meant the law as conceived and interpreted
by the sages and the scholars, for Elijah was particularly solicitous
to establish the authority of the oral law, (89) as he was solicitous
to demonstrate the truth of Scriptural promises that appeared
incredible at first sight. For instance, he once fulfilled Rabbi
Joshua ben Levi's wish to see the precious stones which would take
the place of the sun in illuminating Jerusalem in the Messianic
time. A vessel in mid-ocean was nigh unto shipwreck. Among a
large number of heathen passengers there was a single Jewish
youth. To him Elijah appeared and said, he would rescue the
vessel, provided the boy went to Rabbi Joshua ben Levi, and took
him to a certain place far removed from the town and from human
habitation, and showed him the gems. The boy doubted that so
great a man would consent to follow a mere slip of a youth to a
remote spot, but, reassured by Elijah, who told him of Rabbi
Joshua's extraordinary modesty, he undertook the commission, and
the vessel with its human freight was saved. The boy came to the
Rabbi, besought him to go whither he would lead, and Joshua, who
was really possessed of great modesty, followed the boy three
miles without even inquiring the purpose of the expedition. When
they finally reached the cave, the boy said: "See, here are the
precious stones!" The Rabbi grasped them, and a flood of light
spread as far as Lydda, the residence of Rabbi Joshua. Startled, he
cast the precious stones away from him, and they disappeared. (90)

This Rabbi was a particular favorite of Elijah, who even secured
him an interview with the Messiah. The Rabbi found the Messiah
among the crowd of afflicted poor gathered near the city gates of
Rome, and he greeted him with the words: "Peace be with thee, my
teacher and guide!" Whereunto the Messiah replied: "Peace be
with thee, thou son of Levi!" The Rabbi then asked him when he
would appear, and the Messiah said, "To-day." Elijah explained to
the Rabbi later that what the Messiah meant by "to-day" was, that
he for his part was ready to bring Israel redemption at any time. If
Israel but showed himself worthy, he would instantly fufil his
mission. (91)

Elijah wanted to put Rabbi Joshua into communication with the
departed Rabbi Simon ben Yohai also, but the later did not
consider him of sufficient importance to honor him with his
conversation. Rabbi Simon had addressed a question to him, and
Rabbi Joshua in his modesty had made a reply not calculated to
give one a high opinion of him. (92) In reality Rabbi Joshua was
the possessor of such sterling qualities, that when he entered
Paradise Elijah walked before him calling out: "Make room for the


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