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Prepared by David Reed haradda@aol.com or davidr@inconnect.com





The Servant of Moses Entering the Promised Land--Conquest of
the Land--The Sun Obeys Joshua--War with the
Armenians--Allotment of the Land.

The First Judge--Campaigns of KenaS--Othniel--Boaz and
Ruth--Deborah--Gideon--Jephthah--Samson--The Crime of the
Crime of the Benjamites.

Elkanah and Hannah--The Youth of Samuel--Eli and His
Sons--The Activities of Samuel--The Reign of Saul--The Court of

David's Birth and Descent--Anointed King--Encounter with
Goliath--Pursued by Saul--Wars--Ahithophel--Joab--David's Piety
and His Sin--Absalom's Rebellion--David's
Atonement--Visitations--The Death of David--David in
Paradise--The Family of David--His Tomb.

Solomon Punishes Joab--The Marriage of Solomon--His Wisdom--
The Queen of Sheba--Solomon Master of the Demons--The
Building of the Temple--The Throne of Solomon--The
Hippodrome--Lessons in Humility--Asmodeus--Solomon as
Beggar--The Court of Solomon.

The Division of the Kingdom--Jeroboam--The Two Ahijabs--Asa--
Jehoshaphat and Ahab--Jezebel--Joram of Israel.

Elijah before His Translation--After His Translation--Censor and
Avenger--Intercourse with the Sages--God's Justice Vindicated--
Elijah and the Angel of Death--Teacher of the
Kabbalah--Forerunner of the Messiah.

Elisha the Disciple of Elijah--The Shunammite--Gehazi--The
Flight of Jonah Jonah in the Whale--The Repentance of Nineveh.

Joash--Three Great Prophets--The Two Kingdoms
Chastised--Hezekjah--Miracles Wrought for
Hezekiah--Manasseh--Josiah and His Successors.

Zedekiah--Jeremiah--Nebuchadnezzar--The Capture of Jerusalem--
The Great Lament--Jeremiah's Journey to Babylon--Transportation
of the Captives--The Sons of Moses--Ebedmelech--The Temple
Vessels--Baruch--The Tombs of Baruch and Ezekie1--Daniel--The
Three Men in the Furnace--Ezekiel Revives the
Dead--Nebuchadnezzar a Beast--Hiram--The False
Prophets--Daniel's Piety.

Belshazzar's Feast--Daniel under the Persian Kings--The Grave of
Daniel--Zerubbabel--Ezra--The Men of the Great Assembly.

The Feast for the Grandees--The Festivities in Shushan--Vashti's
Banquet--The Fate of Vashti--The Follies of Ahasuerus--Mordecai
Esther's Beauty and Piety--The Conspiracy Haman the Jew-baiter--
Mordecai's Pride--Casting the Lots--The Denunciation of the
Jews--The Decree of Annihilation--Satan Indicts the Jews--The
Dream of Mordecai Fulfilled--The Prayer of Esther--Esther
Intercedes--The Disturbed Night--The Fall of Haman--The Edict of
the King.


The early history of the first Jewish conqueror (1) in some respects
is like the early history of the first Jewish legislator. Moses was
rescued from a watery grave, and raised at the court of Egypt.
Joshua, in infancy, was swallowed by a whale, and , wonderful to
relate, did not perish. At a distant point of the sea-coast the
monster spewed him forth unharmed. He was found by
compassionate passers-by, and grew up ignorant of his descent.
The government appointed him to the office of hangman. As luck
would have it, he had to execute his own father. By the law of the
land the wife of the dead man fell to the share of his executioner,
and Joshua was on the point of adding to parricide another crime
equally heinous. He was saved by a miraculous sign. When he
approached his mother, milk flowed from her breasts. His
suspicions were aroused, and through the inquiries he set a foot
regarding his origin, the truth was made manifest. (2)

Later Joshua, who was so ignorant that he was called a fool,
became the minister of Moses, and God rewarded his faithful
service by making him the successor to Moses. (3) He was
designated as such to Moses when, at the bidding of his master, he
was carrying on war with the Amalekites. (4) In this campaign
God's care of Joshua was plainly seen. Joshua had condemned a
portion of the Amalekites to death by lot, and the heavenly sword
picked them out for extermination. (5) Yet there was as great a
difference between Moses and Joshua as between the sun and the
moon. (6) God did not withdraw His help from Joshua, but He was
by no means so close to him as to Moses. This appeared
immediately after Moses had passed away. At the moment when
the Israelitish leader was setting out on his journey to the great
beyond, he summoned his successor and bade him put questions
upon all points about which he felt uncertain. Conscious of his
own industry and devotion, Joshua replied that he had no questions
to ask, seeing that he had carefully studied the teachings of Moses.
Straightway he forgot three hundred Halakot, and doubts assailed
him concerning seven hundred others. The people threatened
Joshua's life, because he was not able to resolve their difficulties in
the law. It was vain to turn to God, for the Torah once revealed
was subject to human, not to heavenly, authority. (7) Directly after
Moses' death, God commanded Joshua to go to war, so that the
people might forget its grievance against him. (8) But it is false to
think that the great conqueror was nothing more than a military
hero. When God appeared to him, to give him instructions
concerning the war, He found him with the Book of Deuteronomy
in his hand, whereupon God called to him: "Be strong and of good
courage; the book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth." (9)


The first step in preparation for war was the selection of spies. To
guard against a repetition of what had happened to Moses, Joshua
chose as his messengers Caleb and Phinehas, on whom he could
place dependence in all circumstances. (10) They were
accompanied on their mission by two demons, the husbands of the
she-devils Lilith and Mahlah. When Joshua was planning his
campaign, these devils offered their services to him; they proposed
that they be sent out to reconnoitre the land. Joshua refused the
offer, but formed their appearance so frightfully that the residents
of Jericho were struck with fear of them. (11) In Jericho the spies
put up with Rahab. She had been leading an immoral life for forty
years, but at the approach of Israel, she paid homage to the true
God, lived the life of a pious convert, and, as the wife of Joshua,
became the ancestress of eight prophets and of the prophetess
Huldah. (12) She had opportunity in her own house of beholding
the wonders of God. When the king's bailiffs came to make their
investigations, and Rahab wanted to conceal the Israelitish spies,
Phinehas calmed her with the words: "I am a priest, and priests are
like angels, visible when they wish to be seen, invisible when they
do not wish to be seen." (13)

After the return of the spies, Joshua decided to pass over the
Jordan. The crossing of the river was the occasion for wonders, the
purpose of which was to clothe him with authority in the eyes of
the people. Scarcely had the priests, who at this solemn moment
took the place of the Levites as bearers of the Ark, set foot in the
Jordan, when the waters of the river were piled up to a height of
three hundred miles. All the peoples of the earth were witnesses of
the wonder. (14) In the bed of the Jordan Joshua assembled the
people around the Ark. A Divine miracle caused the narrow space
between its staves to contain the whole concourse. Joshua then
proclaimed the conditions under which God would give Palestine
to the Israelites, and he added, if these conditions were not
accepted, the waters of the Jordan would descend straight upon
them. Then they marched through the river. When the people
arrived on the further shore, the holy Ark, which had all the while
been standing in the bed of the river, set forward of itself, and,
dragging the priests after it, overtook the people.

The day continued eventful. Unassailed, the Israelites marched
seventy miles to Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, and there
performed the ceremony bidden by Moses in Deuteronomy: six of
the tribes ascended Mount Gerizim, and six Mount Ebal. The
priests and the Levites grouped themselves about the holy Ark in
the vale between the two peaks. With their faces turned toward
Gerizim, the Levites uttered the words: "Happy the man that
maketh no idol, an abomination unto the Lord," and all the people
answered Amen. After reciting twelve blessings similar to this in
form, the Levites turned to Mount Ebal, and recited twelve curses,
counterparts of the blessings, to each of which the people
responded again with Amen. Thereupon an altar was erected on
Mount Ebal with the stones, each weighing forty seim, which the
Israelites had taken from the bed of the river while passing through
the Jordan. The altar was plastered with lime, and the Torah
written upon it in seventy languages, so that the heathen nations
might have the opportunity of learning the law. At the end it was
said explicitly that the heathen outside of Palestine, if they would
but abandon the worship of idols, would be received kindly by the

All this happened on one day, on the same day on which the
Jordan was crossed, and the assembly was held on Gerizim and
Ebal, the day on which the people arrived at Gilgal, where they
left the stones of which the altar had been built. (15) At Gilgal
Joshua performed the rite of circumcision on those born in the
desert, who had remained uncircumcised on account of the rough
climate and for other reasons. (16) And here it was that the manna
gave out. It had ceased to fall at the death of Moses, but the supply
that had been stored up had lasted some time longer. (17) As soon
as the people were under the necessity of providing for their daily
wants, they grew negligent in the study of the Torah. Therefore the
angel admonished Joshua to loose his shoes from off his feet, for
he was to mourn over the decline of the study of the Torah, (18)
and bare feet are a sign of mourning. The angel reproached Joshua
in particular with having allowed the preparations for war to
interfere with the study of the Torah and with the ritual service.
Neglect of the latter might be a venial sin, but neglect of the
former is worthy of condign punishment. (19) At the same time the
angel assured Joshua that he had come to aid him, and he entreated
Joshua not to draw back from him, like Moses, who had refused
the good offices of the angel. (20) He who spoke to Joshua was
none other than the archangel Michael. (21)


Joshua's first victory was the wonderful capture of Jericho. The
whole of the city was declared anathema, because it had been
conquered on the Sabbath day. Joshua reasoned that as the Sabbath
is holy, so also that which conquered on the Sabbath should be
holy. (22) The brilliant victory was followed by the luckless defeat
at Ai. In this engagement perished Jair, the son of Manasseh,
whose loss was as great as if the majority of the Sanhedrin had
been destroyed. (23) Presently Joshua discovered that the cause of
the defeat was the sinfulness of Israel, brought upon it by Achan,
who had laid hands on some of the spoils of Jericho. Achan was a
hardened transgressor and criminal from of old. During the life of
Moses he had several times appropriated to his own use things that
had been declared anathema, (24) and he had committed other
crimes worthy of the death penalty. (25) Before the Israelites
crossed the Jordan, God had not visited Achan's sins upon the
people as a whole, because at that time it did not form a national
unit yet. But when Achan abstracted an idol and all its
appurtenances from Jericho, (26) the misfortune of Ai followed at

Joshua inquired of God, why trouble had befallen Israel, but God
refused to reply. He was no tale-bearer; the evil-doer who had
caused the disaster would have to be singled out by lot. (27)
Joshua first of all summoned the high priest from the assembly of
the people. It appeared that, while the other jewels in his
breastplate gleamed bright, the stone representing the tribe of
Judah was dim. (28) By lot Achan was set apart from the members
of his tribe. Achan, however, refused to submit to the decision by
lot. He said to Joshua: "Among all living men thou and Phinehas
are the most pious. Yet, if lots were cast concerning you two, one
or other of you would be declared guilty. Thy teacher Moses has
been dead scarcely one month, and thou has already begun to go
astray, for thou hast forgotten that a man's guilt can be proved only
through two witnesses."

Endued with the holy spirit, Joshua divined that the land was to be
assigned to the tribes and families of Israel by lot, and he realized
that nothing ought to be done to bring this method of deciding into
disrepute. He, therefore, tried to persuade Achan to make a clean
breast of his transgression. (29) Meantime, the Judeans, the
tribesmen of Achan, rallied about him, and throwing themselves
upon the other tribes, they wrought fearful havoc and bloodshed.
This determined Achan to confess his sins. (30) The confession
cost him his life, but it saved him from losing his share in the
world to come. (31)

In spite of the reverses at Ai, (32) the terror inspired by the
Israelites grew among the Canaanitish peoples. The Gibeonites
planned to circumvent the invaders, and form an alliance with
them. Now, before Joshua set out on his campaign, he had issued
three proclamations: the nation that would leave Canaan might
depart unhindered; the nation that would conclude peace with the
Israelites, should do it at once; and the nation that would choose
war, should make its preparations. If the Gibeonites had sued for
the friendship of the Jews when the proclamation came to their
ears, there would have been no need for subterfuges later. But the
Canaanites had to see with their own eyes what manner of enemy
awaited them, and all the nations prepared for war. The result was
that the thirty-one kings of Palestine perished, as well as the
satraps of many foreign kings, who were proud to own possessions
in the Holy Land. (33) Only the Girgashites departed out of
Palestine, and as a reward for their docility God gave them Africa
as an inheritance. (34)

The Gibeonites deserved no better fate than all the rest, for the
covenant made with them rested upon a misapprehension, yet
Joshua kept his promise to them, in order to sanctify the name of
God, by showing the world how sacred an oath is to the Israelites.
(35) In the course of events it became obvious that the Gibeonites
were by no means worthy of being received into the Jewish
communion, and David, following Joshua's example, excluded
them forever, a sentence that will remain in force even in the
Messianic time. (36)


The task of protecting the Gibeonites involved in the offensive and
defensive alliance made with them, Joshua fulfilled scrupulously.
He had hesitated for a moment whether to aid the Gibeonites in
their distress, but the words of God sufficed to recall him to his
duty. God said to him: "If thou dost not bring near them that are far
off, thou wilt remove them that are near by." (37) God granted
Joshua peculiar favor in his conflict with the assailants of the
Gibeonites. The hot hailstones which, at Moses' intercession, had
remained suspended in the air when they were about to fall upon
the Egyptians, were now cast down upon the Canaanites. (38)
Then happened the great wonder of the sun's standing still, the
sixth (39) of the great wonders since the creation of the world.

The battle took place on a Friday. Joshua knew it would pain the
people deeply to be compelled to desecrate the holy Sabbath day.
Besides, he noticed that the heathen were using sorcery to make
the heavenly hosts intercede for them in the fight against the
Israelites. He, therefore, pronounced the Name of the Lord, and the
sun, moon and stars stood still. (40) The sun at first refused to
obey Joshua's behest, seeing that he was older than man by two
days. Joshua replied that there was no reason why a free-born
youth should refrain from enjoining silence upon an old slave
whom he owns, and had not God given heaven and earth to our
father Abraham? (41) Nay, more than this, had not the sun himself
bowed down like a slave before Joseph? "But," said the sun, "who
will praise God if I am silent?" (42) Whereupon Joshua: "Be thou
silent, and I will intone a song of praise." (43) And he sang thus:

1. Thou hast done mighty things, O Lord, Thou has performed
great deeds. Who is like unto Thee? My lips shall sing unto Thy

2. My goodness and my fortress, my refuge, I will sing a new song
unto Thee, with thanksgiving I will sing unto Thee, Thou art the
strength of my salvation.

3. All the kings of the earth shall praise Thee, the princes of the
world shall sing unto Thee, the children of Israel shall rejoice in
Thy salvation, they shall sing and praise Thy power.

4. In Thee, O God, did we trust; we said, Thou art our God, for
Thou wast our shelter and our strong tower against our enemies.

5. To Thee we cried, and we were not ashamed; in Thee we
trusted, and we were delivered; when we cried unto Thee, Thou
didst hear our voice, Thou didst deliver our souls from the sword.

6. Thou hast shown unto us Thy mercy, Thou didst give unto us
Thy salvation, Thou didst rejoice our hearts with Thy strength.

7. Thou wentest forth for our salvation; with the strength of Thy
arm Thou didst redeem Thy people; Thou did console us from the
heavens of Thy holiness, Thou didst save us from tens of

8. Sun and moon stood still in heaven, and Thou didst stand in Thy
wrath against our oppressors, and Thou didst execute Thy
judgements upon them.

9. All the princes of the earth stood up, the kings of the nations had
gathered themselves together, they were not moved at Thy
presence, they desired Thy battles.

10. Thou didst rise against them in Thine anger, and Thou didst
bring down Thy wrath upon them, Thou didst destroy them in Thy
fury, and Thou didst ruin them in Thy rage.

11. Nations raged from fear of Thee, kingdoms tottered because of
Thy wrath, Thou didst wound kings in the day of Thine anger.

12. Thou didst pour out Thy fury upon them, Thy wrathful anger
took hold of them, Thou didst turn their iniquity upon them, and
Thou didst cut them off in their wickedness.

13. They spread a trap, they fell therein, in the net they hid their
foot was caught.

14. Thine hand found all Thine enemies, who said, through their
sword they possessed the land, through their arm thy dwelt in the

15. Thou didst fill their faces with shame, Thou didst bring their
horns down to the ground.

16. Thou didst terrify them in Thy wrath, and thou didst destroy
them from before Thee.

17. The earth quaked and trembled from the noise of Thy thunder
against them; Thou didst not withhold their souls from earth, and
Thou didst bring down their lives to the grave.

18. Thou didst pursue them in Thy storm, Thou didst consume
them in the whirlwind, Thou didst turn their rain into hail, they fell
in floods, so that they could not rise.

19. Their carcasses were like rubbish cast out in the middle of the

20. They were consumed, and they perished before Thee, Thou
hast delivered Thy people in Thy might.

21. Therefore our hearts rejoice in Thee, our souls exult in Thy

22. Our tongues shall relate Thy might, we will sing and praise
Thy wondrous works.

23. For Thou didst save us from our enemies, Thou didst deliver us
from those who rose up against us, Thou didst destroy them from
before us, and depress them beneath our feet.

24. Thus shall all Thine enemies perish, O Lord, and the wicked
shall be like chaff driven by the wind, and Thy beloved shall be
like trees planted by the waters. (44)


Joshua's victorious course did not end with the conquest of the
land. His war with the Armenians, after Palestine was subdued,
marked the climax of his heroic deeds. Among the thirty-one kings
whom Joshua had slain, there was one whose son, Shobach by
name, was king of Armenia. With the purpose of waging war with
Joshua, he united the forty-five kings of Persia and Media, and
they were joined by the renowned hero Japheth. The allied kings in
a letter informed Joshua of their design against him as follow:
"The noble, distinguished council of the kings of Persia and Media
to Joshua, peace! Thou wolf of the desert, we well know what thou
didst to our kinsmen. Thou didst destroy our palaces; without pity
thou didst slay young and old; our fathers thou didst mow down
with the sword; and their cities thou didst turn into desert. Know,
then, that in the space of thirty days, we shall come to thee, we, the
forty-five kings, each having sixty thousand warriors under him,
all them armed with bows and arrows, girt about with swords, all
of us skilled in the ways of war, and with us the hero Japheth.
Prepare now for the combat, and say not afterward that we took
thee at unawares."

The messenger bearing the letter arrived on the day before the
Feast of Weeks. Although Joshua was greatly wrought up by the
contents of the letter, he kept his counsel until after the feast, in
order not to disturb the rejoicing of the people. Then, at the
conclusion of the feast, he told the people of the message that had
reached him, so terrifying that even he, the veteran warrior,
trembled at the heralded approach of the enemy. Nevertheless
Joshua determined to accept the challenge. From the first words
his reply was framed to show the heathen how little their fear
possessed him whose trust was set in God. The introduction to his
epistle reads as follows: "In the Name of the Lord, the God of
Israel, who saps the strength of the iniquitous warrior, and slays
the rebellious sinner. He breaks up the assemblies of marauding
transgressors, and He gathers together in council the pious and the
just scattered abroad, He the God of all gods, the Lord of all lords,
the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God is the Lord of war!
From me, Joshua, the servant of God, and from the holy and
chosen congregation to the impious nations, who pay worship to
images, and prostrate themselves before idols: No peace unto you,
saith my God! Know that ye acted foolishly to awaken the
slumbering lion, to rouse up the lion's whelp, to excite his wrath. I
am ready to pay you your recompense. Be ye prepared to meet me,
for within a week I shall be with you to slay your warriors to a

Joshua goes on to recite all the wonders God had done for Israel,
who need fear no power on earth; and he ends his missive with the
words: "If the hero Japheth is with you, we have in the midst of us
the Hero of heroes, the Highest above all the high."

The heathen were not a little alarmed at the tone of Joshua's letter.
Their terror grew when the messenger told of the exemplary
discipline maintained in the Isrealitish army, of the gigantic stature
of Joshua, who stood five ells high, of his royal apparel, of his
crown graven with the Name of God. At the end of seven days
Joshua appeared with twelve thousand troops. When the mother of
King Shobach, who was a powerful witch, espied the host, she
exercised her magic art, and enclosed the Isrealitish army in seven
walls. Joshua thereupon sent forth a carrier pigeon to communicate
his plight to Nabiah, the king of the trans-Jordanic tribes. He urged
him to hasten to his help and bring the priest Phinehas and the
sacred trumpets with him. Nabiah did not tarry. Before the relief
detachment arrived, his mother reported to Shobach that she
beheld a star arise out of the East against which her machinations
were vain. Shobach threw his mother from the wall, and he
himself was soon afterward killed by Nabiah. Meantime Phinehas
arrived, and, at the sound of his trumpets, the wall toppled down.
A pitched battle ensued, and the heathen were annihilated. (45)


At the end of seven years of warfare, (46) Joshua could at last
venture to parcel out the conquered land among the tribes. This
was the way he did it. The high priest Eleazar, attended by Joshua
and all the people, and arrayed in the Urim and Thummim, stood
before two urns. One of the urns contained the names of the tribes,
the other the names of the districts into which the land was
divided. The holy spirit caused him to exclaims "Zebulon." When
he put his hand into the first urn, lo, he drew forth the word
Zebulon, and from the other came the word Accho, meaning the
district of Accho. Thus it happened with each tribe in succession.
(47) In order that the boundaries might remain fixed, Joshua had
had the Hazubah (48) planted between the districts. The rootstock
of this plant once established in a spot, it can be extirpated only
with the greatest difficulty. The plough may draw deep furrows
over it, yet it puts forth new shoots, and grows up again amid the
grain, still marking the old division lines. (49)

In connection with the allotment of the land Joshua issued ten
ordinances intended, in a measure, to restrict the rights in private
property: Pasturage in the woods was to be free to the public at
large. Any one was permitted to gather up bits of wood in the field.
The same permission to gather up all grasses, wherever they might
grow, unless they were in a field that had been sown with
fenugreek, which needs grass for protection. For grafting purposes
twigs could be cut from any plant except the olive-trees. Water
springs belonged to the whole town. It was lawful for any one to
catch fish in the Sea of Tiberias, provided navigation was not
impeded. The area adjacent to the outer side of a fence about a
field might be used by any passer-by to ease nature. From the close
of the harvest until the seventeenth day of Marheshwan fields
could be crossed. A traveler who lost his way among vineyards
could not be held responsible for the damage done in the effort to
recover the right path. A dead body found in a field was to be
buried on the spot where it was found. (50)

The allotment of the land to the tribes and subdividing each
district among the tribesmen took as much time as the conquest of
the land. (51)

When the two tribes and a half from the land beyond Jordan
returned home after an absence of fourteen years, they were not a
little astonished to hear that the boys who had been too young to
go to the wars with them had in the meantime shown themselves
worthy of the fathers. They had been successful in repulsing the
Ishmaelitish tribes who had taken advantage of the absence of the
men capable of bearing arms to assault their wives and children.

After a leadership of twenty-eight years (53), marked with success
(54) in war and in peace, Joshua departed this life. His followers
laid the knives he had used in circumcising the Israelites (55) into
his grave, and over it they erected a pillar as a memorial of the
great wonder of the sun's standing still over Ajalon. (56) However,
the mourning for Joshua was not so great as might justly have been
expected. The cultivation of the recently conquered land so
occupied the attention of the tribes that they came nigh forgetting
the man to whom chiefly they owed their possession of it. As a
punishment for their ingratitude, God, soon after Joshua's death,
brought also the life of the high priest Eleazar and of the other
elders to a close, and the mount on which Joshua's body was
interred began to tremble, and threatened to engulf the Jews. (57)


After the death of Joshua the Israelites inquired to God whether
they were to go up against the Canaanites in war. They were given
the answer: "If ye are pure of heart, go forth unto the combat; but
if your hearts are sullied with sin, then refrain." They inquired
furthermore how to test the heart of the people. God ordered them
to cast lots and set apart those designated by lot, for they would be
the sinful among them. Again, when the people besought God to
give it a guide and leader, an angel answered: "Cast lots in the
tribe of Caleb." The lot designated Kenaz, and he was made prince
over Israel. (1)

His first act was to determine by lot who were the sinners in Israel,
and what their inward thought. He declared before the people: "If I
and my house be set apart by lot, deal with us as we deserve, burn
us with fire." The people assenting, lots were cast, and 345 of the
tribe of Judah were singled out, 560 of Reuben, 775 of Simon, 150
of Levi, 665 of Issachar, 545 of Zebulon, 380 of Gad, and 665 of
Asher, 480 of Manasseh, 448 of Ephraim, and 267 of Benhamin.
(2) So 6110 (3) persons were confined in prison, until God should
let it be know what was to be done with them. The united prayers
of Kenaz, Eleazar the high priest, and the elders of the
congregation, were answered thus: "Ask these men now to confess
their iniquity, and they shall be burnt with fire." Kenaz thereupon
exhorted them: "Ye know that Achan, the son of Zabdi, committed
the trespass of taking the anathema, but the lot fell upon him, and
he confessed his sin. Do ye likewise confess your sins, that ye may
come to life with those whom God will revive on the day of the
resurrection." (4)

One of the sinful, a man by the name of Elah, (5) said in reply
thereto: "If thou desirest to bring forth the truth, address thyself to
each of the tribes separately." (6) Kenaz began with his own, the
tribe of Judah. The wicked of Judah confessed to the sin of
worshipping the golden calf, like unto their forefathers in the
desert. The Reubenites had burnt sacrifices to idols. The Levites
said: "We desired to prove whether the Tabernacle is holy." Those
of the tribe of Issachar replied: "We consulted idols to know what
will become of us." (7) The sinners of Zebulon: "We desired to eat
the flesh of our sons and daughters, to know whether the Lord
loves them." The Danites admitted, they had taught their children
out of the books of the Amorites, which they had hidden then
under Mount Abarim, (8) where Kenaz actually found them. The
Naphtalites confessed to the same transgression, only they had
concealed the books in the tent of Elah, and there they were found
by Kenaz. The Gadites acknowledged having led an immoral life,
and the sinners of Asher, that they had found, and had hidden
under Mount Shechem, the seven golden idols called by the
Amorites the holy nymphs the same seven idols which had been
made in a miraculous way after the deluge by the seven sinners,
Canaan, Put, Shelah, Nimrod, Elath, Diul, and Shuah. (9) They
were of precious stones from Havilah, which radiated light,
making night bright as day. Besides, they possessed a rare virtue: if
a blind Amorite kissed one of the idols, and at the same time
touched its eyes, his sight was restored. (10) After the sinners of
Asher, those of Manasseh made their confession they had
desecrated the Sabbath. The Ephraimites owned to having
sacrificed their children to Moloch. Finally, the Benjamites said:
"We desired to prove whether the law emanated from God or from

At the command of God these sinners and all their possessions
were burnt with fire at the brook of Pishon. Only the Amorite
books and the idols of precious stones remained unscathed.
Neither fire nor water could do them harm. Kenaz decided to
consecrate the idols to God, but a revelation came to him, saying:
"If God were to accept what has been declared anathema, why
should not man?" He was assured that God would destroy the
things over which human hands had no power. Kenaz, acting under
Divine instruction, bore them to the summit of a mountain, where
an altar was erected. The books and the idols were placed upon it,
and the people offered many sacrifices and celebrated the whole
day as a festival. During the night following, Kenaz saw dew rise
from the ice in Paradise and descend upon the books. The letters of
their writing were obliterated by it, and then an angel came and
annihilated what was left. (11) During the same night an angel
carried off the seven gems, and threw them to the bottom of the
sea. Meanwhile a second angel brought twelve other gems,
engraving the names of the twelve sons of Jacob upon them, one
name upon each. No two of these gems were alike: (12) the first, to
bear the name of Reuben, was like sardius; the second, for Simon,
like topaz; the third, Levi, like emerald; the fourth, Judah, like
carbuncle; the fifth, Issachar, like sapphire; the sixth, Zebulon, like
jasper; the seventh, Dan, like ligure; the eighth, Naphtali, like
amethyst; the ninth, Gad, like agate; the tenth, Asher, like
chrysolite; the eleventh, Joseph, like beryl; and the twelfth,
Benjamin, like onyx.

Now God commanded Kenaz to deposit twelve stones in the holy
Ark, and there they were to remain until such time as Solomon
should build the Temple, and attach them to the Cherubim. (13)
Furthermore, this Divine communication was made to Kenaz:
"And it shall come to pass, when the sin of the children of men
shall have been completed by defiling My Temple, the Temple
they themselves shall build, that I will take these stones, together
with the tables of the law, and put them in the place whence they
were removed of old, and there they shall remain until the end of
all time, when I will visit the inhabitants of the earth. Then I will
take them up, and they shall be an everlasting light to those who
love me and keep my commandments." (14)

When Kenaz bore the stones to the sanctuary, they illumined the
earth like unto the sun at midday.


After these preparations Kenaz took the field against the enemy,
with three hundred thousand men. (15) The first day he slew eight
thousand of the foe, and the second day five thousand. But not all
the people were devoted to Kenaz. Some murmured against him,
and calumniating him, said: "Kenaz stays at home, while we
expose ourselves on the field." The servants of Kenaz reported
these words to him. He ordered the thirty-seven (16) men who had
railed against him to be incarcerated, and he swore to kill them, if
God would but grant him assistance for the sake of His people.

Thereupon he assembled three hundred men of his attendants,
supplied them with horses, and bade them be prepared to make a
sudden attack during the night, but to tell none of the plans he
harbored in his mind. The scouts sent ahead to reconnoitre
reported that the Amorites were too powerful for him to risk an
engagement. Kenaz, however, refused to be turned away from his
intention. At midnight he and his three hundred trusty attendants
advanced upon the Amorite camp. Close upon it, he commanded
his men to halt, but to resume their march and follow him when
they should hear the notes of the trumpet. If the trumpet was not
sounded, they were to return home.

Alone Kenaz ventured into the very camp of the enemy. Praying to
God fervently, he asked that a sign be given him: "Let this be the
sign of the salvation Thou wilt accomplish for me this day: I shall
draw my sword from its sheath, and brandish it so that it glitters in
the camp of the Amorites. If the enemy recognize it as the sword
of Kenaz, then I shall know Thou wilt deliver them into my hand;
if not, I shall understand Thou hast not granted my prayer, but dost
purpose to deliver me into the hand of the enemy for my sins."

He heard the Amorites say: "Let us proceed to give battle to the
Israelites, for our sacred gods, the nymphs, are in their hands, and
will cause their defeat." When he heard these words, the spirit of
God came over Kenaz. He arose and swung his sword above his
head. Scarce had the Amorites seen it gleam in the air when they
exclaimed: "Verily, this is the sword of Kenaz, who has come to
inflict wounds and pain. But we know that our gods, who are held
by the Israelites, will deliver them into our hands. Up, then, to
battle!" Knowing that God had heard his petition, Kenaz threw
himself upon the Amorites, and mowed down forty-five thousand
of them, and as many perished at the hands of their own brethren,
for God had sent the angel Gabriel (17) to his aid, and he had
struck the Amorites blind, so that they fell upon one another. On
account of the vigorous blows dealt by Kenaz on all sides, his
sword stuck to his hand. A fleeing Amorite, whom he stopped, to
ask him how to loose it, advised him to slay a Hebrew, and let his
warm blood flow over his hand. Kenaz accepted his advice, but
only in part: instead of a Hebrew, he slew the Amorite himself, and
his blood freed his hand from the sword. (18)

When Kenaz came back to his men, he found them sunk in
profound sleep, which had overtaken them that they might not see
the wonders done for their leader. They were not a little
astonished, on awakening, to behold the whole plain strewn with
the dead bodies of the Amorites. Then Kenaz said to them: "Are
the ways of God like unto the ways of man? Through me the Lord
hath sent deliverance to this people. Arise now and go back to your
tents." The people recognized that a great miracle had happened,
and they said: "Now we know that God hath wrought salvation for
His people; He hath no need of numbers, but only of holiness."

On his return from the campaign, Kenaz was received with great
rejoicing. The whole people now gave thanks to God for having
put him over them as their leader. They desired to know how he
had won the great victory. Kenaz only answered: "Ask those who
were with me about my deeds." His men were thus forced to
confess that they knew nothing, only, on awakening, they had seen
the plain full of dead bodies, without being able to account for
their being there. Then Kenaz turned to the thirty-seven men
imprisoned, before he left for the war, for having cast aspersions
upon him. "Well," he said, "what charge have you to make against
me?" Seeing that death was inevitable, they confessed they were of
the sort of sinners whom Kenaz and the people had executed, and
God had now surrendered them to him on account of their
misdeeds. They, too, were burnt with fire.

Kenaz reigned for a period of fifty-seven years. When he felt his
end draw nigh, he summoned the two prophets, Phinehas and
Jabez, (19) together with the priest Phinehas, the son of Eleazar.
To these he spake: "I know the heart of this people, it will turn
from following after the Lord. Therefore do I testify against it."
Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, replied: "As Moses and Joshua
testified, so do I testify against it; for Moses and Joshua
prophesied concerning the vineyard, the beautiful planting of the
Lord, which knew not who had planted it, and did not recognize
Him who cultivated it, so that the vineyard was destroyed, and
brought forth no fruit. These are the words my father commanded
me to say unto this people."

Kenaz broke out into loud wailing, and with him the elders and the
people, and they wept until eventide, saying: "Is it for the iniquity
of the sheep that the shepherd must perish? May the Lord have
compassion upon His inheritance that it may not work in vain."

The spirit of God descended upon Kenaz, and he beheld a vision.
He prophesied that this world would continue to exist only seven
thousand years, to be followed then by the Kingdom of Heaven.
These words spoken, the prophetical spirit departed from him, and
he straightway forgot what he had uttered during his vision. Before
he passed away, he spoke once more, saying: "If such be the rest
which the righteous obtain after their death, it were better for them
to die than live in this corrupt world and see its iniquities." (20)

As Kenaz left no male heirs, Zebul was appointed his successor.
Mindful of the great service Kenaz had performed for the nation,
Zebul acted a father's part toward the three unmarried daughters of
his predecessor. At his instance, the people assigned a rich
marriage portion to each of them; they were given great domains
as their property. The oldest of the three, Ethema by name, he
married to Elizaphan; the second, Pheila, to Odihel; and the
youngest, Zilpah, to Doel.

Zebul, the judge, instituted a treasury at Shiloh. He bade the
people bring contributions, whether of gold or of silver. They were
only to take heed not to carry anything thither that had originally
belonged to an idol. His efforts were crowned with success. The
free-will offerings to the temple treasure amounted to twenty
talents of gold and two hundred and fifty talents of silver.

Zebul's reign lasted twenty-five years. Before his death he
admonished the people solemnly to be God-fearing and observant
of the law. (21)


Othniel was a judge of a very different type. His contemporaries
said, that before the sun of Joshua went down, the sun of Othniel,
his successor in the leadership of the people , appeared on the
horizon. The new leader's real name was Judah; Othniel was one
of his epithets, as Jabez was another. (22)

Among the judges, Othniel represents the class of scholars. His
acumen was so great that he was able, by dint of dialect reasoning,
to restore the seventeen hundred traditions (23) which Moses had
taught the people, and which had been forgotten in the time of
mourning for Moses. Nor was his zeal for the promotion of the
study of the Torah inferior to his learning. The descendants of
Jethro left Jericho, the district assigned to them, and journeyed to
Arad, only that thy might sit at the feed to Othniel. (24) His wife,
the daughter of his half-brother Caleb, was not so well pleased
with him. She complained to her father that her husband's house
was bare of all earthly goods, and his only possession was
knowledge of the Torah. (25)

The first event to be noted in Othniel's forty years' reign (26) is his
victory over Adoni-bezek. This chief did not occupy a prominent
position among the Canaanitish rulers. He was not even accounted
a king, nevertheless he had conquered seventy foreign kings. (27)
The next event was the capture of Luz by the Israelites. The only
way to gain entrance into Luz was by a cave, and the road to the
cave lay through a hollow almond tree. If the secret approach to
the city had not been betrayed by one of its residents, it would
have been impossible for the Israelites to reach it. God rewarded
the informer who put the Israelites in the way of capturing Luz.
The city he founded was left unmolested both by Sennacherib and
Nebuchadnezzar, and not event the Angel of Death has power over
its inhabitants. They never die, unless, weary of life, they leave the
city. (28)

The same good fortune did not mark Othniel's reign throughout.
For eight years Israel suffered oppression at the hands of Cushan,
the evil-doer who in former days had threatened to destroy the
patriarch Jacob, as he was now endeavoring to destroy the
descendants of Jacob, for Cushan is only another name for Laban.

Othniel, however, was held so little answerable for the causes that
had brought on the punishment of the people, that God granted
him eternal life; he is one of the few who reached Paradise alive.


The story of Ruth came to pass a hundred (31) years after Othniel's
reign. Conditions in Palestine were of such a nature that if a judge
said to a man, "Remove the mote from thine eye," his reply was,
"Do thou remove the beam from thine own." (32) To chastise the
Israelites God sent down them one of the ten seasons of famine
which He had ordained, as disciplinary measures for mankind,
from the creation of the world until the advent of Messiah. (33)
Elimelech (34) and his sons, (35) who belonged to the aristocracy
of the land, attempted neither to improve (36) the sinful generation
whose transgressions had called forth the famine, nor alleviated
the distress that prevailed about them. They left Palestine, and thus
withdrew themselves from the needy who had counted upon their
help. They turned their faced to Moab. (37) There, on account of
their wealth and high descent, they were made officers in the army.
(38) Mahlon and Chilion, the sons of Elimelech, rose to still higher
distinction, they married the daughters of the Moabite king Eglon
(39) But this did not happen until after the death of Elimelech,
who was opposed to intermarriage with the heathen. (40) Neither
the wealth nor the family connections of the two men helped them
before God. First they sank into poverty, and, as they continued in
their sinful ways, God took their life. (41)

Naomi, their mother, resolved to return to her home. Her two
daughters-in-law were very dear to her on account of the love they
had borne her sons, a love strong even in death, for they refused to
marry again. (42) Yet she would not take them with her to
Palestine, because she foresaw contemptuous treatment in store for
them as Moabitish women. (43) Orpah was easily persuaded to
remain behind. She accompanied her mother-in-law a distance of
four miles, and then she took leave of her, shedding only four tears
as she bade her farewell. Subsequent events showed that she had
not been worthy of entering into the Jewish communion, for
scarcely had she separated from Naomi when she abandoned
herself to an immoral life. But with God nothing goes unrewarded.
For the four miles which Orpah travelled with Naomi, she was
recompensed by bringing forth four giants, Goliath and his three
brothers. (44)

Ruth's bearing and history were far different. She was determined
to become a Jewess, and her decision could not be shaken by what
Naomi, in compliance with the Jewish injunction, told her of the
difficulties of the Jewish law. Naomi warned her that the Israelites
had been enjoined to keep Sabbaths and feast days, (45) and that
the daughters of Israel were not in the habit of frequenting the
threatres and circuses of the heathen. Ruth only affirmed her
readiness to follow Jewish customs. (46) And when Naomi said:
"We have one Torah, one law, one command; the Eternal our God
is one, there is none beside Him," Ruth answered: "Thy people
shall be my people, thy God my God." (47) So the two women
journeyed together to Bethlehem. They arrived there on the very
day on which the wife of Boaz was buried, and the concourse
assembled for the funeral saw Naomi as she returned to her home.

Ruth supported herself and her mother-in-law sparsely with the
ears of grain which she gathered in the fields. Association with so
pious a woman as Naomi (49) had already exercised great
influence upon her life and ways. Boaz was astonished to notice
that if the reapers let more than two ears fall, in spite of her need
she did not pick them up, for the gleaning assigned to the poor by
law does not refer to quantities of more than two ears inadvertently
dropped at one time. (50) Boaz also admired her grace, her
decorous conduct, her modest demeanor. (51) When he learned
who she was, he commended her for her attachment to Judaism.
To his praise she returned: "Thy ancestors found no delight even in
Timna, (52) the daughter of a royal house. As for me, I am a
member of a low people, abominated by thy God, and excluded
from the assembly of Israel." For the moment Boaz failed to
recollect the Halakah bearing on the Moabites and Ammonites. A
voice from heaven reminded him that only their males were
affected by the command of exclusion. (53) This he told to Ruth,
and he also told her of a vision he had had concerning her
descendants. For the sake of the good she had done to her
mother-in-law, kings and prophets would spring from her womb.

Boaz showed kindness not only to Ruth and Naomi, but also to
their dead. He took upon himself the decent burial of the remains
of Elimelech and his two sons. (55) All this begot in Naomi the
thought that Boaz harbored the intention of marrying Ruth. She
sought to coax the secret, if such there was, from Ruth. (56) When
she found that nothing could be elicited from her daughter-in-law,
she made Ruth her partner in a plan to force Boaz into a decisive
step. Ruth adhered to Naomi's directions in every particular,
except that she did not wash and anoint herself and put on fine
raiment, until after she had reached her destination. She feared to
attract the attention of the lustful, if she walked along the road
decked out in unusual finery. (57)

The moral conditions in those days were very reprehensible.
Though Boaz was high-born and a man of substance, yet he slept
on the threshing-floor, so that his presence might act as a check
upon profligacy. In the midst of his sleep, Boaz was startled to find
some one next to him. At first he thought it was a demon. Ruth
calmed his disquietude (58) with these words: "Thou art the head
of the court, thy ancestors were princes, thou art thyself an
honorable man, and a kinsman of my dead husband. As for me,
who am in the flower of my years, since I left the home of my
parents where homage is rendered unto idols, I have been
constantly menaced by the dissolute young men around. (59) So I
have come hither that thou, who art the redeemer, mayest spread
out thy skirt over me." (60) Boaz gave her the assurance that if his
older brother Tob (61) failed her, he would assume the duties of a
redeemer. The next day he came before the tribunal of the
Sanhedrin (62) to have the matter adjusted. Tob soon made his
appearance, for an angel led him to the place where he was
wanted, (63) that Boaz and Ruth might not have long to wait. Tob,
who was not learned in the Torah, did not know that the
prohibition against the Moabites had reference only to males.
Therefore, he declined to marry Ruth. (64) So she was taken to
wife (65) by the octogenarian (66) Boaz. Ruth herself was forty
years old (67) at the time of her second marriage, and it was
against all expectations that her union with Boaz should be blessed
with offspring, a son Obed the pious. (68) Ruth lived to see the
glory of Solomon, but Boaz died on the day after the wedding. (69)


Not long after Ruth, another ideal woman arose in Israel, the
prophetess Deborah.

When Ehud died, there was none to take his place as judge, and
the people fell off from God and His law. God, therefore, sent an
angel to them with the following message: "Out of all the nations
on earth, I chose a people for Myself, and I thought, so long as the
world stands, My glory will rest upon them. I sent Moses unto
them, My servant, to teach them goodness and righteousness. But
they strayed from My ways. And now I will arouse their enemies
against them, to rule over them, and they will cry out: 'Because we
forsook the ways of our fathers, hath this come over us.' Then I
will send a woman unto them, and she will shine for them as a
light for forty years." (70)

The enemy whom God raised up against Israel was Jabin, (71) the
king of Hazor, who oppressed him sorely. But worse than the king
himself was his general Sisera, one of the greatest heroes know to
history. When he was thirty years old, he had conquered the whole
world. At the sound of his voice the strongest of walls fell in a
heap, and the wild animals in the woods were chained to the spot
by fear. The proportions of his body were vast beyond description.
If he took a bath in the river, and dived beneath the surface,
enough fish were caught in his beard to feed a multitude, and it
required no less than nine hundred horses to draw the chariot in
which he rode. (72)

To rid Israel of this tyrant, God appointed Deborah and her
husband Barak. Barak was an ignoramus, like most of his
contemporaries. It was a time singularly deficient to scholars. (73)
In order to do something meritorious in connection with the Divine
service, he carried candles, at his wife's instance, to the sanctuary,
wherefrom he was called Lipidoth, "Flames." Deborah was in the
habit of making the wicks on the candles very thick, so that they
might burn a long time. Therefore God distinguished her. He said:
"Thou takest pains to shed light in My house, and I will let thy
light, thy flame, shine abroad in the whole land." Thus it happened
that Deborah became a prophetess and a judge. She dispensed
judgement in the open air, for it was not becoming that men should
visit a woman in her house. (74)

Prophetess though she was, she was yet subject to the frailties of
her sex. Her self-consciousness was inordinate. She sent for Barak
(75) to come to her instead of going to him, (76) and in her song
she spoke more of herself than was seemly. The result was that the
prophetical spirit departed from her for a time while she was
composing her song. (77)

The salvation of Israel was effected only after the people,
assembled on the Mount of Judah, had confessed their sins
publicly before God and besought His help. A seven days' fast was
proclaimed for men and women, for young and old. Then God
resolved to help the Israelites, not for their sakes, but for the sake
of keeping the oath he had sworn to their forefathers, never to
abandon their seed. Therefore He sent Deborah unto them. (78)

The task allotted to Deborah and Barak, to lead the attack upon
Sisera, was by no means slight. It is comparable with nothing less
than Joshua's undertaking to conquer Canaan. Joshua had
triumphed over only thirty-one of the sixty-two kings of Palestine,
leaving at large as many as he had subdued. Under the leadership
of Sisera these thirty-one unconquered kings opposed Israel. (79)
No less than forty thousand armies, each counting a hundred
thousand warriors, were arrayed against Deborah and Barak. (80)
God aided Israel with water and fire. The river Kishon and all the
fiery hosts of heaven (81) except the star Meros (82) fought
against Sisera. The Kishon had long before been pledged to play
its part in Sisera's overthrow. When the Egyptians were drowned in
the Red Sea, God commanded the Angel of the Sea to cast their
corpses on the land, that the Israelites might convince themselves
of the destruction of their foes, and those of little faith might not
say afterward that the Egyptians like the Israelites had reached dry
land. The Angel of the Sea complained of the impropriety of
withdrawing a gift. God mollified him with the promise of future
compensation. The Kishon was offered as security that he would
received half as many bodies again as he was now giving up.
When Sisera's troops sought relief from the scorching fire of the
heavenly bodies in the coolness of the waters of the Kishon, God
commanded the river to redeem its pledge. And so the heathen
were swept down into the Sea by the waves of the river Kishon,
whereat the fishes in the Sea exclaimed: "And the truth of the Lord
endureth forever." (83)

Sisera's lot was no better than the lot of the men. He fled from the
battle on horseback (84) after witnessing the annihilation of his
vast army. When Jael saw him approach, she went to meet him
arrayed in rich garments and jewels. She was unusually beautiful,
and her voice was the most seductive ever a woman possessed.
(85) These are the words she addressed to him: "Enter and refresh
thyself with food, and sleep until evening, and then I will send my
attendants with thee to accompany thee, for I know thou wilt not
forget me, and thy recompense will not fail." When Sisera, on
stepping into her tent, saw the bed strewn with roses which Jael
had prepared for him, he resolved to take her home to his mother
as his wife, as soon as his safety should be assured.

He asked her for milk to drink, saying: "My soul burns with the
flame which I saw in the stars contending for Israel." Jael went
forth to milk her goat, meantime supplicating God to grant her His
help: "I pray to Thee, O Lord, to strengthen Thy maid-servant
against the enemy. By this token shall I know that Thou wilt aid
me if, when I enter the house, Sisera will awaken and ask for
water to drink." Scarcely had Jael crossed the threshold when
Sisera awakened and begged for water to quench his burning thirst.
Jael gave him wine mixed with water, which caused him to drop
into a sound sleep again. The woman then took a wooden spike in
her left hand, approached the sleeping warrior, and said: "This
shall be the sign that Thou wilt deliver him into my hand if I
draw him from the bed down on the ground without awaking him."
She tugged at Sisera, and in very truth he did not awaken even
when he dropped from the bed to the floor. Then Jael prayed: "O
God, strengthen the arm of Thy maid-servant this day, for Thy
sake, for the sake of Thy people, and for the sake of those that
hope in Thee." With a hammer she drove the spike into the temple
of Sisera, who cried out as he was expiring: "O that I should lose
my life by the hand of a woman!" Jael's mocking retort was:
"Descend to hell and join thy fathers, and tell them that thou didst
fall by the hand of a woman." (86)

Barak took charge of the body of the dead warrior, and he sent it to
Sisera's mother, Themac, (87) with the message: "Here is thy son,
whom thou didst expect to see returning laden with booty." He had
in mind the vision of Themac and her women-in-waiting. When
Sisera went forth to battle, their conjuring tricks had shown him to
them as he lay on the bed of a Jewish woman. This they had
interpreted to mean that he would return with Jewish captives.
"One damsel, two damsels for ever man." (88) they had said.
Great, therefore, was the disappointment of Sisera's mother. No
less than a hundred cries did she utter over him. (89)

Deborah and Barak thereupon intoned a song of praise, thanking
God for the deliverance of Israel out of the power of Sisera, and
reviewing the history of the people since the time of Abraham.

After laboring for the weal of her nation for forty years, Deborah
departed this life. Her last words to the weeping people were an
exhortation not to depend upon the dead. They can do nothing for
the living. So long as a man is alive, his prayers are efficacious for
himself and for others. They avail naught once he is dead.

The whole nation kept a seventy days' period of mourning in honor
of Deborah, and the land was at peace for seven years. (91)


Elated by the victory over Sisera, Israel sang a hymn of praise, the
song of Deborah, and God, to reward them for their pious
sentiments, pardoned the transgression of the people. (92) But they
soon slipped back into the old ways, and the old troubles harassed
them. Their backsliding was due to the witchcraft of a Midianite
priest named Aud. He made the sun shine at midnight, and so
convinced the Israelites that the idols of Midian were mightier
than God, and God chastised them by delivering them into the
hands of the Midianties. (93) They worshipped their own images
reflected in the water, (94) and they were stricken with dire
poverty. They could not bring so much as a meal offering, the
offering of the poor. (95) On the eve of one Passover, Gideon
uttered the complaint: "Where are all the wondrous works which
God did for our fathers in this night, when he slew the first-born of
the Egyptians, and Israel went forth from slavery with joyous
hearts?" God appeared unto him, and said: "Thou who art
courageous enough to champion Israel, thou art worthy that Israel
should be saved for thy sake." (96)

An angel appeared, and Gideon begged him for a sign, that he
would achieve the deliverance of Israel. He excused his petition
with the precedent of Moses, the first prophet, who likewise has
asked for a sign. The angel bade him pour water on the rock, and
then gave him the choice of how he would have the water
transformed. Gideon desired to see one-half changed into blood,
and one-half into fire. Thus it happened. The blood and the fire
mingled with each other, yet the blood did not quench the fire, nor
did the fire dry out the blood. Encouraged by this and other signs,
(97) Gideon undertook to carry on the war against the Midianites
with a band of three hundred God-fearing men, and he was
successful. Of the enemy one hundred and twenty thousand
corpses covered the field, and all the rest fled precipitately. (98)

Gideon enjoyed the privilege of bringing salvation to Israel
because he was a good son. His old father feared to thresh his grain
on account of the Midianites, and Gideon once went out to him in
the field and said: "Father, thou art too old to do this work; go thou
home, and I shall finish thy task for thee. If the Midianites should
surprise me out here, I can run away, which thou canst not do, on
account of thy age." (99)

The day on which Gideon gained his great victory was during the
Passover, and the cake of barley bread that turned the camp of the
enemy upside down, of which the Midianite dreamed, was a sign
that God would espouse the cause of His people to reward them
for bringing a cake of barley bread as an 'Omer offering. (100)

After God had favored Israel with great help through him, Gideon
had an ephod made. In the high priest's breastplate, Joseph was
represented among the twelve tribes by Ephraim alone, not by
Manasseh, too. To wipe out this slight upon his own tribe, Gideon
made an ephod bearing the name of Manasseh. He consecrated it
to God, but after his death homage was paid to it as an idol. (101)
In those days the Israelites were so addicted to the worship of
Beelzebub that they constantly carried small images of this god
with them in their pockets, and every now and then they were in
the habit of bringing the image forth and kissing it fervently. (102)
Of such idolaters were the vain and light fellows who helped
Abimelech, the son of Gideon by his concubine from Shechem, to
assassinate the other sons of his father. But God is just. As
Abimelech murdered his brothers upon a stone, so Abimelech
himself met his death through a millstone. It was proper, then, that
Jotham, in his parable, should compare Abimelech to a thorn-bush,
while he characterized his predecessors, Othniel, Deborah, and
Gideon, as an olive-tree, or a fig-tree, or a vine. This Jotham, the
youngest of the sons of Gideon, was more than a teller of parables.
He knew then that long afterward the Samaritans would claim
sanctity for Mount Gerizim, on account of the blessing pronounced
from it upon the tribe. For this reason he chose Gerizim from
which to hurl his curse upon Shechem and it inhabitants. (103)

The successor to Abimelech equalled, if he did not surpass, him in
wickedness. Jair erected an altar unto Baal, and on penalty of
death he forced the people to prostrate themselves before it. Only
seven men remained firm in the true faith, and refused to the last
to commit idolatry. Their names were Deuel, Abit Yisreel,
Jekuthiel, Shalom, Ashur, Jehonadab, and Shemiel. (104) They
said to Jair: "We are mindful of the lessons given us by our
teachers and our mother Deborah. 'Take ye heed,' they said, 'that
your heart lead you not astray to the right or to the left. Day and
night ye shall devote yourselves to the study of the Torah.' Why,
then, dost thou seek to corrupt the people of the Lord, saying, 'Baal
is God, let us worship him'? If he really is what thou sayest, then
let him speak like a god, and we will pay him worship." For the
blasphemy they had uttered against Baal, Jair commanded that the
seven men be burnt. When his servants were about to carry out his
order, God sent the angel Nathaniel, the lord over the fire, and he
extinguished the fire though not before the servants of Jair were
consumed by it. Not only did the seven men escape the danger of
suffering death by fire, but the angel enabled them to flee
unnoticed, by striking all the people present with blindness. Then
the angel approached Jair, and said to him: "Hear the words of the
Lord ere thou diest. I appointed thee as prince over my people, and
thou didst break My covenant, seduce My people, and seek to burn
My servants with fire, but they were animated and freed by the
living, the heavenly fire. As for thee, thou wilt die, and die by fire,
a fire in which thou wilt abide forever."

Thereupon the angel burnt him with a thousand men, whom he had
taken in the act of paying homage to Baal. (105)


The first judge of any importance after Gideon was Jephthah. He,
too, fell short of being the ideal Jewish ruler. His father had
married a woman of another tribe, an unusual occurrence in a time
when a woman who left her tribe was held in contempt.(106)
Jephthah, the offspring of this union, had to bear the consequences
of his mother's irregular conduct. So many annoyances were put
upon him that he was forced to leave his home and settle in a
heathen district. (107)

At first Jephthah refused to accept the rulership which the people
offered him in an assembly at Mizpah, for he had not forgotten the
wrongs to which he had been subjected. In the end, however, he
yielded, and placed himself at the head of the people in the war
against Getal, the king of the Ammonites. At his departure, he
vowed before God to sacrifice to Him whatsoever came forth out
of the doors of his house to meet him when he returned a victor
from the war.

God was angry and said: "So Jephthah has vowed to offer unto me
the first thing that shall meet him! If a dog were the first to meet
him, would a dog be sacrificed to me? Now shall the vow of
Jephthah be visited on his first-born, on his own offspring, yea, his
prayer shall be visited on his only daughter. But I assuredly shall
deliver my people, not for Jephthah's sake, but for the sake of the
prayers of Israel."

The first to meet him after his successful campaign was his
daughter Sheilah. Overwhelmed by anguish, the father cried out:
"Rightly was the name Sheilah, the one who is demanded, given to
thee, that thou shouldst be offered up as a sacrifice. Who shall set
my heart in the balance and my soul as the weight, that I may stand
and see whether that which happened to me is joy or sorrow? But
because I opened my mouth to the Lord, and uttered a vow, I
cannot take it back." Then Sheilah spoke, saying: "Why dost thou
grieve for my death, since the people was delivered? Dost thou not
remember what happened in the day of our forefathers, when the
father offered his son as a burnt offering, and the son did not
refuse, but consented gladly, and the offerer and the offered were
both full of joy? Therefore, do as thou hast spoken. But before I
die I will ask a favor of thee. Grant me that I may go with my
companions upon the mountains, sojourn among the hills, and
tread upon the rocks to shed my tears and deposit there the grief
for my lost youth. The trees of the field shall weep for me, and the
beasts of the field mourn for me. I do not grieve for my death, nor
because I have to yield up my life, but because when my father
vowed his heedless vow, he did not have me in mind. I fear,
therefore, that I may not be an acceptable sacrifice, and that my
death shall be for nothing." Sheilah and her companions went forth
and told her case to the sages of the people, but none of them
could give her any help. Then she went up to Mount Telag, where
the Lord appeared to her at night, saying unto her: "I have closed
the mouth of the sages of my people in this generation, that they
cannot answer the daughter of Jephthah a word; that my vow be
fulfilled and nothing of what I have thought remain undone. I
know her to be wiser than her father, and all the wise men, and
now her soul shall be accepted at her request, and her death shall
be very precious before My face all the time." Sheilah began to
bewail her fate in these words: "Hearken, ye mountains, to my
lamentations, and ye hills, to the tears of my eyes, and ye rocks,
testify to the weeping of my soul. My words will go up to heaven,
and my tears will be written in the firmament. I have not been
granted the joy of wedding, nor was the wreath of my betrothal
completed. I have not been decked with ornaments, nor have I
been scented with myrrh and with aromatic perfumes. I have not
been anointed with the oil that was prepared for me. Alas, O
mother, it was in vain thou didst give birth to me, the grave was
destined to be my bridal chamber. The oil thou didst prepare for
me will be spilled, and the white garments my mother sewed for
me, the moth will eat them; the bridal wreath my nurse wound for
me will wither, and my garments in blue and purple, the worms
will destroy them, and my companions will all their days lament
over me. And now, ye trees, incline your branches and weep over
my youth; ye beasts of the forest, come and trample upon my
virginity, for my years are cut off, and the days of my life grow old
in darkness." (108)

Her lamentations were of as little avail as her arguments with her
father. In vain she sought to prove to him from the Torah that the
law speaks only of animal sacrifices, never of human sacrifices. In
vain she cited the example of Jacob, who had vowed to give God a
tenth of all the possessions he owned, and yet did not attempt later
to sacrifice one of his sons. Jephthah was inexorable. All he would
yield was a respite during which his daughter might visit various
scholars, who were to decide whether he was bound by his vow.
According to the Torah his vow was entirely invalid. He was not
even obliged to pay his daughter's value in money. But the scholars
of his time had forgotten this Halakah, and they decided that he
must keep his vow. The forgetfulness of the scholars was of God,
ordained as a punishment upon Jephthah for having slaughtered
thousands of Ephraim.

One man there was living at the time who, if he had been
questioned about the case, would have been able to give a
decision. This was the high priest Phinehas. But he said proudly:
"What! I, a high priest, the son of a high priest, should humiliate
myself and go to an ignoramus!" Jephthah on the other hand said:
"What! I, the chief of the tribes of Israel, the first prince of the
land, should humiliate myself and go to one of the rank and file!"
So only the rivalry between Jephthah and Phinehas caused the loss
of a young life. Their punishment did not miss them. Jephthah dies
a horrible death. Limb by limb his body was dismembered. As for
the high priest, the holy spirit departed from him, and he had to
give up his priestly dignity. (109)

As it had been Jephthah's task to ward off the Ammonites, so his
successor Abdon was occupied with protecting Israel against the
Moabites. The king of Moab sent messengers to Abdon, and they
spoke thus: "Thou well knowest that Israel took possession of
cities that belonged to me. Return them." Abdon's reply was:
"Know ye not how the Ammonites fared? The measure of Moab's
sins, it seems, out against the enemy, slew forty-five thousand of
their number, and routed the rest. (110)


The last judge but one, Samson, was not the most important of the
judges, but he was the greatest hero of the period and, except
Goliath, the greatest hero of all times. He was the son of Manoah
of the tribe of Dan, and his wife Zelalponit (111) of the tribe of
Judah, (112) and he was born to them at a time when they had
given up all hope of having children. Samson's birth is a striking
illustration of the shortsightedness of human beings. The judge
Ibzan had not invited Manoah and Zelalponit to any of the one
hundred and twenty feasts in honor of the marriage of his sixty
children, which were celebrated at his house and at the house of
their parents-in-law, because he thought that "the sterile she-mule"
would never be in a position to repay his courtesy. It turned out
that Samson's parents were blessed with an extraordinary son,
while Ibzan saw his sixty children die during his lifetime. (113)

Samson's strength was superhuman, (114) and the dimensions of
his body were gigantic he measured sixty ells between the
shoulders. Yet he had one imperfection, he was maimed in both
feet. (115) The first evidence of his gigantic strength he gave when
he uprooted two great mountains, and rubbed them against each
other. Such feats he was able to perform as often as the spirit of
God was poured out over him. Whenever this happened, it was
indicated by his hair. In began to move and emit a bell-like sound,
which could be heard far off. Besides, while the spirit rested upon
him, he was able with one stride to cover a distance equal to that
between Zorah and Eshtaol. (116) It was Samson's supernatural
strength that made Jacob think that he would be the Messiah.
When God showed him Samson's latter end, then he realized that
the new era would not be ushered in by the hero-judge. (117)

Samson won his first victory over the Philistines by means of the
jawbone of the ass on which Abraham had made his way to Mount
Moriah. It had been preserved miraculously. (118) After this
victory a great wonder befell. Samson was at the point of perishing
from thirst, when water began to flow from his own mouth as from
a spring. (119)

Besides physical prowess, Samson possessed also spiritual
distinctions. He was unselfish to the last degree. He had been of
exceeding great help to the Israelites, but he never asked the
smallest service for himself. (120) When Samson told Delilah that
he was a "Nazarite unto God," she was certain that he had divulged
the true secret of his strength. She knew his character too well to
entertain the idea that he would couple the name of God with an
untruth. There was a weak side to his character, too. He allowed
sensual pleasures to dominate him. The consequences was that "he
who went astray after his eyes, lost his eyes." Even this severe
punishment produced no change of heart. He continued to lead his
old life of profligacy in prison, and he was encouraged thereto by
the Philistines, who set aside all considerations of family purity in
the hope of descendants who should be the equals of Samson in
giant strength and stature. (121)

As throughout life Samson had given proofs of superhuman power,
so in the moment of death. He entreated God to realize in him the
blessing of Jacob, (122) and endow him with Divine strength.
(123) He expired with these words upon his lips: "O Master of the
world! Vouchsafe unto me in this life a recompense for the loss of
one of my eyes. For the loss of the other I will wait to be rewarded
in the world to come." Even after his death Samson was a shield
unto the Israelites. Fear of him had so cowed the Philistines that
for twenty years they did not dare attack the Israelites. (124)


A part of the money which Delilah received from the Philistine
lords as the price of Samson's secret, she gave to her son Micah,
and he used it to make an idol for himself. (125) This sin was the
more unpardonable as Micah owed his life to a miracle performed
by Moses. During the times of the Egyptian oppression, if the
prescribed number of bricks was not furnished by the Israelites,
their children were used as building material. Such would have
been Micah's fate, if he had not been saved in a miraculous way.
Moses wrote down the Name of God, and put the words on
Micah's body. The dead boy came to life, and Moses drew him out
of the wall of which he made a part. (126) Micah did not show
himself worthy of the wonder done for him. Even before the
Israelites left Egypt, he made his idol, (127) and it was he who
fashioned the golden calf. At the time of Othniel the judge, (128)
he took up his abode at a distance of not more than three miles
from the sanctuary at Shiloh, (129) and won over the grandson of
Moses (130) to officiate as priest before his idol.

The sanctuary which Micah erected harbored various idols. He had
three images of boys, and three of calves, one lion, an eagle, a
dragon, and a dove. When a man came who wanted a wife, he was
directed to appeal to the dove. If riches were his desire, he
worshipped the eagle. For daughters both, to the calves; to the lion
for strength, and to the dragon for long life. Sacrifices and incense
alike were offered to these idols, and both had to be purchased
with cash money from Micah, even didrachms for a sacrifice, and
one for incense. (131)

The rapid degeneration in the family of Moses may be accounted
for by the fact that Moses had married the daughter of a priest who
ministered to idols. Yet, the grandson of Moses was not an idolater
of ordinary calibre. His sinful conduct was not without a
semblance of morality. From his grandfather he had heard the rule
that a man should do "Abodah Zarah" for hire rather than be
dependent upon his fellow-creatures. The meaning of "Abodah
Zarah" here naturally is "strange," in the sense of "unusual" work,
but he took the term in its ordinary acceptation of "service of
strange gods." (132) So far from being a whole-souled idolater, he
adopted methods calculated to harm the cause of idol worship.
Whenever any one came leading an animal with the intention of
sacrificing it, he would say: "What good can the idol do thee? It
can neither see nor hear nor speak." But as he was concerned about
his won livelihood, and did not want to offend the idolaters too
grossly, he would continue: "If thou bringest a dish of flour and a
few eggs, it will suffice." This offering he would himself eat.

Under David he filled the position of treasurer. David appointed
him because he thought that a man who was willing to become
priest to an idol only in order to earn his bread, must be worthy of
confidence. However sincere his repentance may have been, he
relapsed into his former life when he was removed from his office
by Solomon, who filled all position with new incumbents at his
accession to the throne. Finally he abandoned his idolatrous ways
wholly, and became so pure a man that the was favored by God
with the gift of prophecy. This happened on the day on which the
man of God out of Judah came to Jeroboam, for the grandson of
Moses is none other than the old prophet at Beth-el who invited
the man of God out of Judah to come to his house. (133)

The mischief done by Micah spread further and further. Especially
the Benjamites distinguished themselves for their zeal in paying
homage to his idols. God therefore resolved to visit the sins of
Israel and Benjamin upon them. The opportunity did not delay to
come. It was not long before the Benjamites committed the
outrage of Gibeah. Before the house of Bethac, a venerable old
man, they imitated the disgraceful conduct of the Sodomites
before the house of Lot. When the other tribes exacted amends
from the Benjamites, and were denied satisfaction, bloody combats
ensued. At first the Benjamites prevailed, in spit of the fact that the
Urim and Thummim questioned by Phinehas had encouraged the
Israelites to take up the conflict, with the words: "Up to war, I shall
deliver them into your hands." After the tribes had again and again
suffered defeat, they recognized the intention of God, to betray
them as a punishment for their sins. They therefore ordained a day
of fasting and convocation before the holy Ark, and Phinehas the
son of Eleazar entreated God in their behalf: "What means this,
that Thou leadest us astray? Is the deed of the Benjamites right in
Thine eyes? Then why didst Thou not command us to desist from
the combat? But if what our brethren have done is evil in Thy
sight, then why dost Thou cause us to fall before them in battle? O
God of our fathers, hearken unto my voice. Make it known this day
unto Thy servant whether the war waged with Benjamin is
pleasing in Thine eyes, or whether thou desirest to punish Thy
people for its sins. Then the sinners among us will amend their
ways. I am mindful of what happened in the days of my youth, at
the time of Moses. In the zeal of my soul I slew two for the sin of
Zimri, and when his well-wishers sought to kill me, Thou didst
send an angel, who cut off twenty-four thousand of them and
delivered me. But now eleven of Thy tribes have gone forth to do
Thy bidding, to avenge and slay, and, lo, they have themselves
been slain, so that they are made to believe that Thy revelations
are lying and deceitful. O Lord, God of our forefathers, naught is
hidden before Thee. Make it manifest why this misfortune has
overtaken us."

God replied to Phinehas at great length, setting forth why eleven
tribes had suffered so heavily. The Lord had wanted to punished
them for having permitted Micah and his mother Delilah to pursue
their evil ways undisturbed, though they were zealous beyond
measure in avenging the wrong done to the woman at Gibeah. As
soon as all those had perished who were guilty of having aided and
abetted Micah in his idolatrous practices, whether directly or
indirectly, God was willing to help them in their conflicts with the

So it came. In the battle fought soon after, seventy-five thousand
Benjamites fell slain. Only six hundred of the tribe survived. (134)
Fearing to remain in Palestine, the small band emigrated to Italy
and Germany. (135)

At the same time the punishment promised them by God overtook
the two chief sinners. Micah lost his life by fire, and his mother
rotted alive; worms crawled from her body. (136)

In spite of the great mischief caused by Micah, he had one good
quality, and God permitted it to plead for him when the angel
stood up against him as his accusers. He was extremely hospitable.
His house always stood wide open to the wanderer, and to his
hospitality he owed it that he was granted a share in the future
world. (137) In hell Micah is the first in the sixth division, which
is under the guidance of the angel Hadriel, and he is the only one
in the division who is spared hell tortures. (138) Micah's sons was
Jeroboam, whose golden calves were sinful far beyond anything
his father had done. (139)

In those days God spake to Phinehas: "Thou art one hundred and
twenty years old, thou hast reached the natural term of man's life.
Go now, betake thyself to the mountain Danaben, and remain there
many years. I will command the eagles to sustain thee with food,
so that thou returnest not to men until the time when thou lockest
fast the clouds and openest them again. Then I will carry thee to
the place where those are who were before thee, and there thou
wilt tarry until I visit the world, and bring thee thither to taste of
death." (140)


The period of the Judges is linked to the period of the Kingdom by
the prophet Samuel, who anointed both Saul and David as kings.
Not only was Samuel himself a prophet, but his forebears also has
been prophets, (1) and both his parents, Elkanah and Hannah, were
endowed with the gift of prophecy. (2) Aside from this gift,
Elkanah possessed extraordinary virtue. He was a second
Abraham, the only pious man of his generation, who saved the
world from destruction when God, made wroth by the idolatry of
Micah, was on the point of annihilating it utterly. (3) His chief
merit was that he stimulated the people by his example to go on
pilgrimages to Shiloh, the spiritual centre of the nation.
Accompanied by his whole household, including kinsmen, he was
in the habit of making the three prescribed pilgrimages annually,
and though he was a man of only moderate means, (4) his retinue
was equipped with great magnificence. In all the towns through
which it passed, the procession caused commotion. The lookers-on
invariably inquired into the reason of the rare spectacle, and
Elkanah told them: "We are going to the house of the Lord at
Shiloh, for thence come forth the law. Why should you not join
us?" Such gentle, persuasive words did not fail of taking effect. In
the first year five households undertook the pilgrimage, the next
year ten, and so on until the whole town followed his example.
Elkanah chose a new route every year. Thus he touched at many
towns, and their inhabitants were led to do a pious deed. (5)

In spite of his God-fearing ways, Elkanah's domestic life was not
perfectly happy. He had been married ten years, and his union with
Hannah had not been blessed with offspring. (6) The love he bore
his wife compensated him for his childlessness, but Hannah herself
insisted upon his taking a second wife. Peninnah embraced every
opportunity of vexing Hannah. In the morning her derisive greeting
to Hannah would be: "Dost thou not mean to rise and wash thy
children, and send them to school?" (7) Such jeers were to keep
Hannah mindful of her childlessness. Perhaps Peninnah's
intentions were laudable: she may have wanted to bring Hannah to
the point of praying to God for children. (8) However it may have
been forced from her, Hannah's petition for a son was fervent and
devout. She entreats God: "Lord of the world! Hast Thou created
aught in vain? Our eyes Thou hast destined for sight, our ears for
hearing, our mouth for speech, our nose to smell therewith, our
hands for work. Didst Thou not create these breasts above my
heart to give suck to a babe? (9) O grant me a son, that he may
draw nourishment therefrom. Lord, Thou reignest over all beings,
the mortal and the heavenly beings. The heavenly beings neither
eat nor drink, they do not propagate themselves, nor do they die,
but they live forever. Mortal man eats, drinks, propagates his kind
and dies. If, now, I am of the heavenly beings, let me live forever.
But if I belong to mortal mankind, let me do my part in
establishing the race." (10)

Eli the high priest, who at first misinterpreted Hannah's long
prayer, dismissed her with the blessing: "May the son to be born
unto thee acquire great knowledge in the law." (11) Hannah left
the sanctuary, and at once her grief-furrowed countenance
changes. She felt beyond a doubt that the blessing of Eli would be
fulfilled. (12)


Hannah's prayer was heard. At the end of six months and a few
days (13) Samuel was born to her, in the nineteenth year of her
married life, (14) and the one hundred and thirtieth of her age. (15)
Samuel was of a frail constitution, (16) and required tender care
and nurture. For this reason he and his mother could not
accompany Elkanah on his pilgrimages. Hannah withheld her boy
from the sanctuary for some years. Before Samuel's birth a voice
from heaven had proclaimed that in a short time a great man
would be born, whose name would be Samuel. All men children of
that time were accordingly named Samuel. As they grew up, the
mothers were in the habit of getting together and telling of their
children's doings, in order to determine which of them satisfied the
expectations the prophecy had aroused. When the true Samuel was
born, and by his wonderful deed excelled all his companions, it
became plain to whom the word of God applied. (17) His
preeminence now being undisputed, Hannah was willing to part
with him.

The following incident is an illustration of Samuel's unusual
qualities manifested even in infancy. He was two years old when
his mother brought him to Shiloh to leave him there permanently.
An occasion at once presented itself for the display of his learning
and acumen, which were so great as to arouse the astonishment of
the high priest Eli himself. On entering the sanctuary Samuel
noticed that they were seeking a priest to kill the sacrificial
animal. Samuel instructed the attendants that a non-priest was
permitted to kill the sacrifice. The high priest Eli appeared at the
moment when, by Samuel's directions, the sacrifice was being
killed by a non-priest. Angered by the child's boldness, he was
about to have him executed, regardless of Hannah's prayer for his
life. "Let him die," (18) he said, "I shall pray for another in his
place." Hannah replied: "I lent him to the Lord. Whatever betide,
he belongs neither to thee nor to me, but to God." (19) Only then,
after Samuel's life was secure, Hannah offered up her prayer of
thanksgiving. Beside the expression of her gratitude, it contains
also many prophecies regarding Samuel's future achievements, and
it recited the history of Israel from the beginning until the advent
of Messiah. (20) Her prayer incidentally brought relief to the Sons
of Korah. Since the earth had swallowed them, they had been
constantly sinking lower and lower. When Hannah uttered the
words, "God bringeth down to Sheol, and bringeth up," (21) they
came to a standstill in their downward course.

Hannah was spared to witness, not only the greatness of her son,
but also the undoing of her rival. Every time Hannah bore a child,
Peninnah lost two of hers, until eight of her ten children had died,
and she would have had to surrender all, had not Hannah
interceded for her with prayer. (22)


Shortly (23) before Samuel entered upon his novitiate in the
sanctuary, Eli succeeded to the three highest offices in the land: he
was made high priest, president of the Sanhedrin, and ruler over
the political affairs of Israel. Eli was a pious man, and devoted to
the study of the Torah, wherefore he attained to a good old age and
to high honors. (24) In his office as high priest he was successor to
no less a personage than Phinehas, who had lost his high-priestly
dignity on account of his haughty bearing toward Jephthah. With
Eli the line of Ithamar rose to power instead of the line of Eleazar.
(25) However, the iniquitous deed of his two sons brought dire
misfortune upon Eli and upon his family, though the Scriptural
account of their conduct may not be taken literally. The sons of Eli
transgressed only in that they sometimes kept the women waiting
who came to the sanctuary to bring the purification offerings, and
so they retarded their return to their families. (26) This was bad
enough for priest of God. Their misdeeds recoiled upon their
father, who was not strict enough in rebuking them. Eli's
punishment was that he aged prematurely, and, besides, he had to
give up his various offices.

During his lifetime, his youngest son Phinehas, the worthier of the
two, (27) officiated as high priest. The only reproach to which
Phinehas laid himself open was that he made no attempt to mend
his brother's ways.

The worst of God's decree against Eli he learned from Elkanah,
(28) the man of God who came unto Eli, and who announced that
the high-priestly dignity would be wrested from his house, and
once more conferred upon the family of Eleazar, and, furthermore,
his descendant would all die in their prime. The latter doom can be
averted by good deeds, devotion in prayer, and zealous study of the
Torah. These means were often employed successfully. (29) But
against the loss of the high priest's office there is no specific. The
house of Eli forfeited it irrevocably. Abiathar, the great-grandson
of Eli's son Phinehas, (30) the last of the high priest of the line of
Ithamar, had to submit to the fate of seeing David transfer his
dignity to Zadok, in whose family it remained forever.

The sons of Eli brought misfortune also upon the whole of Israel.
To their sins and the ease with which the people condoned them
was attributed the unhappy issue of the war with the Philistines.
The holy Ark, the receptacle for the broken table of the law, which
accompanied the people to the camp, (31) did not have the
expected effect of compelling victory for the Israelites. What Eli
feared happened. He enjoined upon his sons not to appear before
him if they should survive the capture of the Ark. (32) But they did
not survive it; they died upon the battlefield on which their nation
had suffered bitter defeat. The Philistines, to be sure, had to pay
dearly for their victory, especially those who had spoken
contemptuous words when the holy Ark had appeared in the
Israelitish camp: "The God of the Israelites had ten plagues, and
those he expended upon the Egyptians. He no longer has it in His
power to do harm." But God said: "Do ye but wait to see. I shall
bring plague down upon you like of which hath never been." (33)
This new plague consisted in mice crawling forth out of the earth,
and jerking the entrails out of the bodies of the Philistines while
they eased nature. If the Philistines sought to protect themselves by
using brass vessels, the vessels burst at the touch of the mice, and,
as before, the Philistines were at their mercy. (34) After some
months of suffering, when they realized that their god Dagon was
the victim instead of the victor, they resolved to send the Ark back
to the Israelites. Many of the Philistines, (35) however, were not
yet convinced of God's power. The experiment with the milch kine
on which there had come no yoke was to establish the matter for
them. The result was conclusive. Scarcely had the cows begun to
draw the cart containing the Ark when they raised their voices in

Arise thou, O Acacia! Soar aloft in the fulness of thy splendor,

Thou who art adorned with gold embroidery,

Thou who art reverenced within the Holiest of the palace,

Thou who art covered by the two Cherubim! (36)

When the holy Ark was thus brought into the Israelitish domain,
there was exceeding great rejoicing. Yet the people were lacking
in due reverence. They unloaded the holy vessel while doing their
usual work. God punished them severely. (37) The seventy
members of the Sanhedrin perished, and with them fifty thousand
of the people. (38) The punishment was meet for another reason.
At first sight of the Ark some of the people had exclaimed: "Who
vexed these that thou didst feel offended, and what had mollified
thee now?" (39)


In the midst of the defeats and other calamities that overwhelmed
the Israelites, Samuel's authority grew, and the respect for him
increased, until he was acknowledged the helper of his people. His
first efforts were directed toward counteracting the spiritual decay
in Israel. When he assembled the people at Mizpah for prayer, he
sought to distinguish between the faithful and the idolatrous, in
order to mete out punishment to the disloyal. He had all the people
drink water, whose effect was to prevent idolaters from opening
their lips. (40) The majority of the people repented of their sins,
and Samuel turned to God in their behalf: "Lord of the world!
Thou requirest naught of man but that he should repent of his sins.
Israel is penitent, do Thou pardon him." (41) The prayer was
granted, and when, after his sacrifice, Samuel led an attack upon
the Philistines, victory was not withheld from the Israelites. God
terrified the enemy first by an earthquake, and then by thunder and
lightning. Many were scattered and wandered about aimlessly;
many were precipitated into the rents torn in the earth, the rest had
their faces scorched, and in their terror and pain their weapons
dropped from their hands. (42)

In peace as in war Samuel was the type of a disinterested,
incorruptible judge, who even refused compensation for the time,
trouble, and pecuniary sacrifices entailed upon him by his office.
(43) His sons fell far short of resembling their father in these
respects. Instead of continuing Samuel's plan of journeying from
place to place to dispense judgment, they had the people come to
them, and they surrounded themselves with a crew of officials who
preyed upon the people for their maintenance. (44) In a sense,
therefore, the curse with which Eli threatened Samuel in his youth
was accomplished: both he and Samuel had sons unworthy of their
fathers. (45) Samuel at least had the satisfaction of seeing his sons
mend their ways. One of them is the prophet Joel, whose prophecy
forms a book of the Bible. (46)

Though, according to this account, the sons of Samuel were by no
means so iniquitous as might be inferred from the severe
expressions of the Scripture, still the demand for a king made by
the leaders of the people was not unwarranted. All they desired
was a king in the place of a judge. What enkindled the wrath of
God and caused Samuel vexation, was the way in which the
common people formulated the demand. "We want a king," they
said, "that we may be like the other nations." (47)


There were several reasons for the choice of Saul as king. He had
distinguished himself as a military hero in the unfortunate
engagement of the Philistines with Israel under the leadership of
the sons of Eli. Goliath captured the tables of the law. When Saul
heard of this in Shiloh, he marched sixty miles to the camp,
wrested the tables from the giant, and returned to Shiloh on the
same day, bringing Eli the report of the Israelitish misfortune. (48)
Besides, Saul possessed unusual beauty, (49) which explains why
the maidens whom he asked about the seer in their city sought to
engage him in a lengthy conversation. (50) At the same time he
was exceedingly modest. When he and his servant failed to find
the asses they were looking for, he said, "My father will take
thought of us," putting his servants on a level with himself, (51)
and when he was anointed king, he refused to accept the royal
dignity until the Urim and Thummin were consulted. (52) His
chief virtue, however, was his innocence. He was as free from sin
as "a one year old child." (53) No wonder, then, he was held
worthy of the prophetic gift. The prophecies he uttered concerned
themselves with the war of Gog and Magog, the meting out of
reward and punishment at the last judgment. (54) Finally, his
choice as king was due also to the merits of his ancestors,
especially his grandfather Abiel, a man interested in the public
welfare, who would have the streets lighted so that people might
go to the houses of study after dark. (55)

Saul's first act as king was his successful attack upon Nahash, king
of the Ammonites, who had ordered the Gileadites to remove the
injunction from the Torah barring the Ammonites from the
congregation of Israel. (56) In his next undertaking, the campaign
against the Philistines, he displayed his piety. His son Jonathan had
fallen under the severe ban pronounced by Saul against all who
tasted food on a certain day, and Saul did not hesitate to deliver
him up to death. Jonathan's trespass was made know by the stones
in the breastplate of the high priest. All the stones were bright,
only the one bearing the name Benjamin had lost its brilliancy. By
lot it was determined that its dimmed lustre was due to the
Benjamite Jonathan. Saul desisted from his purpose of executing
Jonathan only when it appeared that he had transgressed his
father's command by mistake. A burnt offering and his weight in
gold paid to the sanctuary were considered an atonement for him.
(57) In the same war Saul had occasion to show his zeal for the
scrupulous observance of the sacrificial ordinances. He reproached
his warriors with eating the meat of the sacrifices before the blood
was sprinkled on the altar, (58) and he made it his task to see to it
that the slaughtering knife was kept in the prescribed condition. As
recompense, an angel brought him a sword, there being none
beside Saul in the whole army to bear one. (59)

Saul manifested a different spirit in the next campaign, the war
with the Amalekites, whom, at the bidding of God, he was to
exterminate. When the message of God's displeasure was conveyed
to Saul by the prophet Samuel, he said: "If the Torah ordains that a
heifer of the herd shall be beheaded in the valley as an atonement
for the death of a single man, how great must be the atonement
required for the slaughter of so many men? And granted they are
sinners, what wrong have their cattle done to deserve annihilation?
And granted that the adults are worthy of their fate, what have the
children done?" Then a voice proclaimed from heaven, "Be not
overjust." Later on, when Saul commissioned Doeg to cut down
the priests at Nob, the same voice was heard to say, "Be not
overwicked." (60) It was this very Doeg, destined to play so baleful
a part in his life, who induced Saul to spare Agag, the king of
Amalekites. His argument was the law prohibits the slaying of an
animal and its young on the same day. How much less permissible
is it to destroy at one time old and young, men and children. (61)
As Saul had undertaken the war of extermination against Amalek
only because forced into it, he was easily persuaded to let the
people keep a part of the cattle alive. As far as he himself was
concerned, he could have had no personal interest in the booty, for
he was so affluent that he took a census of the army by giving a
sheep to every one of his soldiers, distributing not less than two
hundred thousand sheep. (62)

Compared with David's sins, Saul's were not sufficiently grievous
to account for the withdrawal of the royal dignity from him and his
family. The real reason was Saul's too great mildness, a drawback
in a ruler. Moreover, his family was of such immaculate nobility
that his descendants might have become too haughty. (63) When
Saul disregarded the Divine command about the Amalekites,
Samuel announced to him that his office would be bestowed upon
another. The name of his successor was not mentioned on that
occasion, but Samuel gave him a sign by which to recognize the
future king: he who would cut off the corner of Saul's mantle,
would reign in his stead. Later on, when David met Saul in the
cave and cut off a piece of the king's skirt, Saul knew him for a
certainty to be his destined successor. (64)

So Saul lost his crown on account of Agag, and yet did not
accomplish his purpose of saving the life of the Amalekite king,
for Samuel inflicted a most cruel death upon Agag, and that not in
accordance with Jewish, but with heathen, forms of justice. No
witnesses of Agag's crime could be summoned before the court,
nor could it be proved that Agag, as the law requires, had been
warned when about to commit the crime. (65) Though due
punishment was meted out to Agag, in a sense it came too late.
Had he been killed by Saul in the course of the battle, the Jews
would have been spared the persecution devised by Haman, for, in
the short span of time that elapsed between war and his execution,
Agag became the ancestor of Haman. (66)

The Amalekite war was the last of Saul's notable achievements.
Shortly afterward he was seized by the evil spirit, and the rest of
his days were passed mainly in persecuting David and his
followers. Saul would have died immediately after the Amalekite
war, if Samuel had not interceded for him. The prophet prayed to
God that the life of the disobedient king be spared, at least so long
as his own years had not come to their destined close: "Thou
regardest me equal to Moses and Aaron. (67) As Moses and Aaron
did not have their handiwork destroyed before their eyes during
their life, so may my handiwork not cease during my life." God
said: "What shall I do? Samuel will not let me put an end to Saul's
days, and if I let Samuel die in his prime, people will speak ill of
him (68) Meanwhile David's time is approaching, and one reign
may not overlap the time assigned to another by his hairbreadth."
God determined to let Samuel age suddenly, and when he died at
fifty-two, (69) the people were under the impression the days of an
old man had come to an end. So long as he lived, Saul was secure.
(70) Scarcely was he dead, when the Philistines began to menace
the Israelites and their king. Soon it appeared how well justified
had been the mourning services for the departed prophet in all the
Israelitish towns. (71) It was not remarkable that the mourning for
Samuel should have been universal. During his active
administration as judge, he had been in the habit of journeying
through every part of the country, and so he was known personally
to all the people. This practice of his testifies not only to the zeal
with which he devoted himself to his office, but also to his wealth,
for the expenses entailed by these journeys were defrayed from his
own purse. Only one person in all the land took no part in the
demonstrations of grief. During the very week of mourning Nabal
held feasts. "What!" God exclaimed, "all weep and lament over the
death of the pious, and this reprobate engages in revelry!"
Punishment was not withheld. Three days after the week of
mourning for Samuel Nabal dies. (72)

There was none that felt the death of Samuel more keenly than
Saul. Left alone and isolated, he did not shrink from extreme
measures to enter into communication with the departed prophet.
With his two adjutants, (73) Abner and Amasa, he betook himself
to Abner's mother, the witch of En-dor. (74) The king did not
reveal his identity, but the witch had no difficulty in recognizing
her visitor. In necromancy the peculiar rule holds good that, unless
it is summoned by a king, a spirit raised from the dead appears
head downward and feet in the air. (75) Accordingly, when the
figure of Samuel stood upright before them, the witch knew that
the king was with her. Though the witch saw Samuel, she could
not hear what he said, while Saul heard his words, but could not
see his person another peculiar phenomenon in necromancy: the
conjuror sees the spirit, and he for whom the spirit had been raised
only hears it. Any other person present neither sees nor hears it.

The witch's excitement grew when she perceived a number of
spirits arise by the side of Samuel. The dead prophet, when he was
summoned back to earth, thought that the judgement day had
arrived. He requested Moses to accompany him and testify to his
always having executed the ordinances of the Torah as Moses had
established them. With these two great leaders a number of the
pious arose, all believing that the day of judgment was at hand.
Samuel was apparelled in the "upper garment" his mother had
made for him when she surrendered him to the sanctuary. This he
had worn throughout his life, and in it he was buried. At the
resurrection all the dead wear their grave clothes, and so it came
about that Samuel stood before Saul in his well-known "upper

Only fragments of the conversation between Samuel and Saul have
been preserved in the Scriptures. Samuel reproached Saul with
having disturbed him. "Was it not enough," he said, "for thee to
enkindle the wrath of thy Creator by calling up the spirits of the
dead, must thou need change me into an idol? For is it not said that
like unto the worshippers so shall the worshipped be punished?"
Samuel then consented to tell the king God's decree, that he had
resolved to rend the kingdom out of his hand, and invest David
with the royal dignity. Whereupon Saul: "These are not the words
thou spakest to me before." (76) "When we dwelt together,"
rejoined Samuel, "I was in the world of lies. Now I abide in the
world of truth, and thou heardest lying words from me, for I feared
thy wrath and thy revenge. Now I abide in the world of truth, and
thou hearest words of truth from me. As to the thing the Lord hath
done unto thee, thou hast deserved it, for thou didst not obey the
voice of the Lord, nor execute his fierce wrath upon Amalek." Saul
asked: "Can I still save myself by flight?" "Yes," replied Samuel,
"if thou fleest, thou art safe. But if thou acceptest God's judgment,
by to-morrow thou wilt be united with me in Paradise."

When Abner and Amasa questioned Saul about his interview with
Samuel, he replied: "Samuel told me I should go into battle
to-morrow, and come forth victorious. More than that, my sons
will be given exalted positions in return for their military
prowess." The next day his three sons went with him to the war,
and all were stricken down. God summoned the angels and said to
them: "Behold the being I have created in my world. A father as a
rule refrains from taking his sons even to a banquet, lest he expose
them to the evil eye. Saul goes to war knowing that he will lose his
life, yet he takes his sons with him, and cheerfully accepts the
punishment I ordain." (77)

So perished the first Jewish king, as a hero and a saint. His latter
days were occupied with regrets on account of the execution of the
priest of Nob, (78) and his remorse secured pardon for him. (79)
Indeed, in all respects his piety was so great that not even David
was his equal: David had many wives and concubines; Saul had
but on wife. David remained behind, fearing to lose his life in
battle with his son Absalom; Saul went into the combat knowing
he should not return alive. Mild and generous, Saul led the life of a
saint in his own house, observing even the priestly laws of purity.
Therefore God reproached David with having pronounced a curse
upon Saul in his prayer. (80) Also, David in his old age was
punished for having cut off the corner of Saul's mantle, for no
amount of clothing would keep him warm. (81) Finally, when a
great famine fell upon the land during the reign of David, God told
him it had been inflicted upon him because Saul's remains had not
been buried with the honor due to him, and at that moment a
heavenly voice resounded calling Saul "the elect of God." (82)


The most important figure at the court of Saul was his cousin
Abner, the son of the witch of En-dor. (83) He was a giant of
extraordinary size. A wall measuring six ells in thickness could be
moved more easily than one of Abner's feet. (84) David once
chanced to get between the feet of Abner as he lay asleep, and he
was almost crushed to death, when fortunately Abner moved them,
and David made his escape. (85) Conscious of his vast strength he
once cried out: "If only I could seize the earth at some point, I
should be able to shake it." Even in the hour of death, wounded
mortally by Joab, he grasped his murderer like a worsted ball. He
was about to kill him, but the people crowded round them, and
said to Abner: "If thou killest Joab, we shall be orphaned, and our
wives and children will be prey to the Philistines." Abner replied:
"What can I do? He was about to extinguish my light." The people
consoled him: "Commit thy cause to the true Judge." Abner
thereupon loosed his hold upon Joab, who remained unharmed,
while Abner fell dead instantly. God had decided against him. (86)

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