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The reason was that Joab was in a measure justified in seeking to
avenge the death of his brother Asahel. Asahel, the supernaturally
swift runner, (87) so swift that he ran through a field without
snapping the ears of wheat (88) had been the attacking party. He
had sough to take Abner's life, and Abner contended, that in killing
Asahel he had but acted in self-defense. Before inflicting the fatal
wound, Joab held a formal court of justice over Abner. He asked:
"Why didst thou no render Asahel harmless by wounding him
rather than kill him?" Abner replied that he could not have done it.
"What," said Joab, incredulous, "if thou wast able to strike him
under the fifth rib, dost thou mean to say thou couldst not have
made him innocuous by a wound, and saved him alive?" (89)

Although Abner was a saint, (90) even a "lion in the law," (91) he
perpetrated many a deed that made his violent death appear just. It
was in his favor that he had refused to obey Saul's command to do
away with the priests of Nob. (92) Yet a man of his stamp should
not have rested content with passive resistance. He should have
interposed actively, and kept Saul from executing his blood design.
And granted that Abner could not have influenced the king's mind
in this matter, (93) at all events he is censurable for having
frustrated a reconciliation between Saul and David. When David,
holding in his hand the corner of the king's mantle which he had
cut off, sought to convince Saul of his innocence, it was Abner
who turned the king against the suppliant fugitive. "Concern not
thyself about it," he said to Saul. "David found the rag on a
thornbush in which thou didst catch the skirt of thy mantle as thou
didst pass it." (94) On the other hand, no blame attaches to Abner
for having espoused the cause of Saul's son against David for two
years and a half. He knew that God had designated David for the
royal office, but, according to an old tradition, God had promised
two kings to the tribe of Benjamin, and Abner considered it his
duty to transmit his father's honor to the son of Saul the Benjamite.

Another figure of importance during Saul's reign, but a man of
radically different character, was Doeg. Doeg, the friend of Saul
from the days of his youth, (96) died when he was thirty-four years
old, (97) yet at that early age he had been president of the
Sanhedrin and the greatest scholar of his time. He was called
Edomi, which means, not Edomite, but "he who causes the blush
of shame," because by his keen mind and his learning he put to
shame all who entered into argument with him. (98) But his
scholarship lay only on his lips, his heart was not concerned in it,
and his one aim was to elicit admiration. (99) Small wonder, then,
that his end was disastrous. At the time of his death he had sunk so
low that he forfeited all share in the life to come. (100) Wounded
vanity caused his hostility to David, who had got the better of him
in a learned discussion. (101) From that moment he bent all his
energies to the task of ruining David. He tried to poison Saul's
mind against David, by praising the latter inordinately, and so
arousing Saul's jealousy. (102) Again, he would harp on David's
Moabite descent, and maintain that on account of it he could not
be admitted into the congregation of Israel. Samuel and other
prominent men had to bring to bear all the weight of their
authority to shield David against the consequences of Doeg's
sophistry. (103)

Doeg's most grievous transgression, however, was his informing
against the priests of Nob, whom he accused of high treason and
executed as traitors. For all his iniquitous deeds he pressed the law
into his service, and derived justification of his conduct from it.
Abimelech, the high priest at Nob, admitted that he had consulted
the Urim and Thummim for David. This served Doeg as the basis
for the charge of treason, and he stated it as an unalterable Halakah
that the Urim and Thummim may be consulted only for a king. In
vain Abner and Amasa and all the other members of the Sanhedrin
demonstrated that the Urim and Thummim may be consulted for
any on whose undertaking concerns the general welfare. Doeg
would not yield, and as no one could be found to execute the
judgement, he himself officiated as hangman. (104) When the
motive of revenge actuated him, he held cheap alike the life and
honor of his fellow-man. He succeeded in convincing Saul that
David's marriage with the king's daughter Michal had lost its
validity from the moment David was declared a rebel. As such, he
said, David was as good as dead, since a rebel was outlawed.
Hence his wife was no longer bound to him. (105) Doeg's
punishment accorded with his misdeeds. He who had made
impious use of his knowledge of the law, completely forgot the
law, and even his disciples rose up against him, and drove him
from the house of study. In the end he died a leper.

Dreadful as this death was, it was not accounted an atonement for
his sins. One angel burned his soul, and another scattered his ashes
in all the house of study and prayer. (106) The son of Doeg was
Saul's armor-bearer, who was killed by David for daring to slay the
king even though he longed for death. (107)

Along with Abner and Doeg, Jonathan distinguished himself in the
reign of his father. His military capacity was joined to deep
scholarship. To the latter he owed his position as Ab Bet Din.
(108) Nevertheless he was one of the most modest men known in
history. (109) Abinadab was another one of Saul's sons who was
worthy of his father, wherefore he was sometimes called Ishvi.
(110) As for Saul's grandson Mephibosheth. He, too, was reputed a
great man. David himself did not scorn to sit at his feet, and he
revered Mephibosheth as his teacher. (111) The wrong done him
by David in granting one-half his possessions to Ziba, the slave of
Mephibosheth, did not go unavenged. When David ordered the
division of the estate of Mephibosheth, a voice from heaven
prophesied: "Jeroboam and Rehoboam shall divide the kingdom
between themselves." (112)


David, the "elect of God," (1) was descended from a family which
itself belonged to the elect of Israel. Those ancestors of his who
are enumerated in the Bible by name are all of them men of
distinguished excellence. Besides, David was a descendant of
Miriam, (2) the sister of Moses, and so the strain of royal
aristocracy was reinforced by the priestly aristocracy. Nor was
David the first of his family to occupy the throne of a ruler. His
great-grandfather Boaz was one and the same person with Ibzan,
the judge of Bethlehem. (3) Othniel, too, the first judge in Israel
after the death of Joshua, and Caleb, (4) the brother of Othniel,
were connected with David's family. As examples of piety and
virtue, David had his grandfather and more particularly his father
before him. His grandfather's whole life was a continuous service
of God, (5) whence his name Obed, "the servant," and his father
Jesse was one of the greatest scholars of his time, (6) and one of
the four who died wholly untainted by sin. (7) If God had not
ordained death for all the descendants of our first parents after
their fall, Jesse would have continued to live forever. As it was, he
died at the age of four hundred, (8) and then a violent death, by the
hand of the Moabite king, (9) in whose care David, trusting in the
ties of kinship between the Moabites and the seed of Ruth, left his
family when he was fleeing before Saul. Jesse's piety will not go
unrewarded. In the Messianic time he will be one of the eight
princes to rule over the world. (10)

In spite of his piety, Jesse was not always proof against temptation.
One of his slaves caught his fancy, and he would have entered into
illicit relations with her, had his wife, Nazbat, the daughter of
Adiel, not frustrated the plan. She disguised herself as the slave,
and Jesse, deceived by the ruse, met his own wife. The child borne
by Nazbat was given out as the son of the freed slave, so that the
father might not discover the deception practiced upon him. This
child was David. (11)

In a measure David was indebted for his life to Adam. At first only
three hours of existence had been allotted to him. When God
caused all future generations to pass in review before Adam, he
besought God to give David seventy of the thousand years destined
for him. A deed of gift, signed by God and the angel Metatron, was
drawn up. Seventy years were legally conveyed from Adam to
David, and in accordance with Adam's wishes, beauty, dominion,
and poetical gift (12) went with them.


Beauty and talent, Adam's gifts to David, did not shield their
possessor against hardship. As the supposed son of a slave, he was
banished from association with his brothers, and his days were
passed in the desert tending his father's sheep. (13) It was his
shepherd life that prepared him for his later exalted position. With
gentle consideration he led the flocks entrusted to him. The young
lambs he guided to pastures of tender grass; the patches of less
juicy herbs he reserved for the sheep; and the full-grown sturdy
rams were given the tough weeds for food. Then God said: "David
knows how to tend sheep, therefore he shall be the shepherd of my
flock Israel." (14)

In the solitude of the desert David had opportunities of displaying
his extraordinary physical strength. One day he slew four lions and
three bears, (15) though he had no weapons. His most serious
adventure was with the reem. David encountered the mammoth
beast asleep, and taking it for a mountain, he began to ascend it.
Suddenly the reem awoke, and David found himself high up in the
air on its horns. He vowed, if he were rescued, to build a temple to
God one hundred ells in height, as high as the horns of the reem.
Thereupon God sent a lion. The king of beasts (16) inspired even
the reem with awe. The reem prostrated himself, and David could
easily descend from his perch. At that moment a deer appeared.
The lion pursued after him, and David was saved from the lion as
well as the reem. (17)

He continued to lead the life of a shepherd until, at the age of
twenty-eight, (18) he was anointed king by Samuel, who was
taught by a special revelation that the despised youngest son of
Jesse was to be king. Samuel's first charge had been to anoint one
of the sons of Jesse, but he was not told which one. When he saw
the oldest, Eliab, he thought him the king of God's choice. God had
allowed him to be deceived, in order to punish Samuel for his
excessive self-consciousness in calling himself the seer. It was
thus proved to him that he could not foresee all things. (19)
However, Samuel's error was pardonable. God's first choice had
rested upon Eliab. Only on account of his violent nature, his
swiftness to anger against David, the position destined for him was
transferred to his youngest brother. (20) Eliab was in a sense
compensated by seeing his daughter become the wife of
Rehoboam. Thus he, too, enjoys the distinction of being among the
ancestors of the Judaic kings, and Samuel's vision of Eliab as king
was not wholly false. (21)

The election of David was obvious from what happened with the
holy oil with which he was anointed. (22) When Samuel had tried
to pour the oil on David's brothers, it had remained in the horn, but
at David's approach it flowed of its own accord, and poured itself
out over him. The drops on his garments changed into diamonds
and pearls, and after the act of anointing him, the horn was as full
as before.

The amazement was great that the son of a slave should be made
king. Then the wife of Jesse revealed her secret, and declared
herself the mother of David. (23)

The anointing of David was for a time kept a secret, but its effect
appeared in the gift of prophecy which manifested itself in David,
(24) and in his extraordinary spiritual development. His new
accomplishments naturally earned envy for him. None was more
bitterly jealous than Doeg, the greatest scholar of his time. When
he heard that Saul was about to have David come to court as his
attendant, Doeg began to praise David excessively, with the
purpose of arousing the king's jealousy and making David hateful
in his eyes. He succeeded, (25) yet Saul did not relinquish his plan
of having David at court. David had become known to Saul in his
youth, and at that time the king had conceived great admiration for
him. The occasion was one on which David had shown cleverness
as well as love of justice. A rich woman had had to leave her home
temporarily. She could not carry her fortune with her, nor did she
wish to entrust it to any one. She adopted the device of hiding her
gold in honey jars, and these she deposited with a neighbor.
Accidentally he discovered what was in the jars, and he abstracted
the gold. On her return the woman received her vessels, but the
gold concealed in them was gone. She had no evidence to bring up
against her faithless neighbor, and the court dismissed her
complaint. She appealed to the king, but he was equally powerless
to help. When the woman came out of the palace of the king,
David was playing with his companions. Seeing her dejection, he
demanded an audience of the king, that truth might prevail. The
king authorized him to do as he saw fit. David ordered the honey
jars to be broken, and two coins were found to adhere to the inner
side of the vessels. The thief had overlooked them, and they
proved his dishonesty. (26)


David was not long permitted to enjoy the ease of life at court. The
aggressive manner assumed by Goliath drove him to the front. It
was a curious chance that designated David to be the slayer of
Goliath, who was allied with him by the ties of blood. Goliath, it
will be remembered, was the son of the Moabitess Orpah, (27) the
sister-in-law of David's ancestress Ruth, and her sister as well,
both having been the daughters of the Moabite king Eglon. (28)
David and Goliath differed as widely as their grandams, for in
contrast to Ruth, the pious, religious Jewess, Orpah had led a life
of unspeakable infamy. Her son Goliath was jeered at as "the son
of a hundred fathers and one mother." (29) But God lets naught go
unrewarded, even in the wicked. In return for the forty steps Orpah
had accompanied her mother-in-law Naomi, (30) Goliath the
Philistine, her son, was permitted to display his strength and skill
for forty days, and in return for the four tears Orpah had shed on
parting from her mother-in-law, she was privileged to give birth to
four giant sons. (31)

Of the four, Goliath was the strongest and greatest. What the
Scriptures tell about him is but a small fraction of what might have
been told. The Scriptures refrain intentionally from expatiating
upon the prowess of the miscreant. Nor do they tell how Goliath,
impious as he was, dared challenge the God of Israel to combat
with him, and how he tried by every means in his power to hinder
the Israelites in their Divine worship. Morning and evening he
would appear in the camp at the very time when the Israelites were
preparing to say the Shema. (32)

All the more cause, then, for David to hate Goliath and determine
to annihilate him. His father encouraged him to oppose Goliath,
for he considered it David's duty to protect Saul the Benjamite
against the giant, as Judah, his ancestor, had in ancient days
pledged himself for the safety of Benjamin, the ancestor of Saul.
(33) For Goliath was intent upon doing away with Saul. His
grievance against him was that once, when, in a skirmish between
the Philistines and the Israelites, Goliath had succeeded in
capturing the holy tables of the law, Saul had wrested them from
the giant. (34) In consequence of his malady, Saul could not
venture to cross swords with Goliath, and he accepted David's
offer to enter into combat in his place. David put on Saul's armor,
and when it appeared that the armor of the powerfully-built king
fitted the erstwhile slender youth, Saul recognized that David had
been predestined for the serious task he was about to undertake,
but at the same time David's miraculous transformation did not fail
to arouse his jealousy. (35) David, for this reason, declined to array
himself as a warrior for his contest with Goliath. He wanted to
meet him as a simple shepherd. Five pebbles came to David of
their own accord, (36) and when he touched them, they all turned
into one pebble. (37) The five pebbles stood for God, the three
Patriarchs, and Aaron. Hophni and Phinehas, the descendants of
the last, had only a short time before been killed by Goliath. (38)

Scarcely did David begin to move toward Goliath, when the giant
became conscious of the magic power of the youth. The evil eye
David cast on his opponent sufficed to afflict him with leprosy,
(39) and in the very same instant he was rooted to the ground,
unable to move. (40) Goliath was so confused by his impotence
that he scarcely knew what he was saying, and he uttered the
foolish threat that he would give David's flesh to the cattle of the
field, as though cattle ate flesh. One can see, David said to
himself, that he is crazy, and there can be no doubt he is doomed.
(41) Sure of victory, David retorted that he would cast the carcass
of the Philistine to the fowls of the air. At the mention of fowls,
Goliath raised his eyes skyward, to see whether there were any
birds about. The upward motion of his head pushed his visor
slightly away from his forehead, and in that instant the pebble
aimed by David struck him on the exposed spot. (42) An angel
descended and cast him to the ground face downward, so that the
mouth that had blasphemed God might be choked with earth. He
fell in such wise that the image of Dagon which he wore on his
breast touched the ground, and his head came to lie between the
feet of David, who now had no difficulty in dispatching him. (43)

Goliath was encased, from top to toe, in several suits of armor, and
David did not know how to remove them and cut off the head of
the giant. At this juncture Uriah the Hittite offered him his
services, but under the condition that David secure him an
Israelitish wife. David accepted the condition, and Uriah in turn
showed him how the various suits of armor were fastened together
at the heels of the giant's feet.

David's victory naturally added fuel to the fire of Saul's jealousy.
Saul sent Abner, his general, to make inquiry whether David, who,
he knew, was of the tribe of Judah, belonged to the clan of the
Perez or to the clan of the Zerah. In the former case his suspicion
that David was destined for kingship would be confirmed. Doeg,
David's enemy from of old, observed that David, being the
descendant of the Moabitess Ruth, did not even belong to the
Jewish communion, and Saul need entertain no fears from that
quarter. A lively discussion arose between Abner and Doeg, as to
whether the law in Deuteronomy regarding Moabites affected
women as well as men. Doeg, an expert dialectician, brilliantly
refuted all of Abner's arguments in favor of the admission of
Moabitish women. Samuel's authority had to be appealed to in
order to establish for all times the correctness of Abner's view.
(44) Indeed, the dispute could be settled only by recourse to threats
of violence. Ithra, the father of Amasa, in Arab fashion, for which
reason he was sometimes called the Ishmaelite, threatened to hew
down any one with his sword who refused to accept Samuel's
interpretation of the law, that male Moabites and male Ammonites
are forever excluded from the congregation of Israel, but not
Moabite and Ammonite women. (45)


As God stood by David in his duel with Goliath, so he stood by
him in many other of his difficulties. Often when he thought all
hope lost, the arm of God suddenly succored him, and in
unexpected ways, not only bringing relief, but also conveying
instruction on God's wise and just guidance of the world.

David once said to God: "The world is entirely beautiful and good,
with the one exception of insanity. What use does the world derive
from a lunatic, who runs hither and thither, tears his clothes, and is
pursued by a mob of hooting children?" "Verily, a time will come,"
said God in reply, "when thou wilt supplicate me to afflict thee
with madness." Now, it happened when David, on his flight before
Saul, came to Achish, the king of the Philistines, who lived in
Gath, that the brothers of Goliath formed the heathen king's
body-guard, and they demanded that their brother's murderer be
executed. Achish, though a heathen, was pious, for which reason
he is called Abimelech in the Psalms, after the king of Gerar, who
also was noted for piety. He therefore sought to pacify David's
enemies. He called their attention to the fact that Goliath had been
the one to challenge the Jews to combat, and it was meet,
therefore, that he should be left to bear the consequences. The
brothers rejoined, if that view prevailed, then Achish would have
to give up his throne to David, for, according to the conditions of
the combat, the victor was to have dominion over the vanquished
as his servants. In his distress, David besought God to let him
appear a madman in the eyes of Achish and his court. God granted
his prayer. As the wife and daughter of the Philistine king were
both bereft of reason, we can understand his exclamation: "Do I
lack madmen, that ye have brought this fellow to play the madman
in my presence?" Thus it was that David was rescued. Thereupon
he composed the Psalm beginning with the words, "I will bless the
Lord at all times," which includes even the time of lunacy. (46)

On another occasion David expressed his doubt of God's wisdom
in having formed such apparently useless creatures as spiders are.
They do nothing but spin a web that has no value. He was to have
striking proof that even a spider's web may serve an important
purpose. On one occasion he had taken refuge in a cave, and Saul
and his attendants, in pursuit of him, were about to enter and seek
him there. But God sent a spider to weave its web across the
opening, and Saul told his men to desist from fruitless search in
the cave, for the spider's web was undeniable proof that no one had
passed through its entrance. (47)

Similarly, when David became indebted to one of them for his life,
he was cured of his scorn for wasps. He had thought them good for
nothing but to breed maggots. David once surprised Saul and his
attendants while they were fast asleep in their camp, and he
resolved to carry off, as proof of his magnanimity, the cruse that
stood between the feet of the giant Abner, who like the rest was
sleeping. Fortunately his knees were drawn up, so that David could
carry out his intention unhindered. But as David was retiring with
the cruse, Abner stretched out his feet, and pinned David down as
with two solid pillars. His life would have been forfeit, if a wasp
had not stung Abner, who mechanically, in his sleep, moved his
feet, and released David. (48)

There were still other miracles that happened to David in his
flight. Once, when Saul and his men compassed David round
about, an angel appeared and summoned him home, to repulse the
raid of the Philistines upon the land. Saul gave up the pursuit of
David, but only after a majority had so decided, for some had been
of the opinion that the seizure of David was quite as important as
the repulse of the Philistines. (49) Again, in his battle with the
Amalekites, David enjoyed direct intervention from above.
Lightning in flashes and sheets illumined the dark night, so
enabling him to carry on the struggle. (50)


David's first thought after ascending the throne was to wrest
Jerusalem, sacred since the days of Adam, Noah, and Abraham,
from the grasp of the heathen. The plan was not easy of execution
for various reasons. The Jebusites, the possessors of Jerusalem,
were the posterity of those sons of Heth who had ceded the Cave
of Machpelah to Abraham only on condition that their descendants
should never be forcibly dispossessed of their capital city
Jerusalem. In perpetuation of this agreement between Abraham
and the sons of Heth, monuments of brass were erected, and when
David approached Jerusalem with hostile intent, the Jebusites
pointed to Abraham's promise engraven upon them and still plainly
to be read. (51) They maintained that before David could take the
city, which they had surrounded with a high wall, he would have to
destroy the monuments. Joab devised a plan of getting into
Jerusalem. He set up a tall cypress tree near the wall, bent it
downward, and standing on David's head, he grasped the very tip
of the tree. When the tree rebounded, Joab sat high above the wall,
and could jump down upon it. Once in the city, he destroyed the
monuments, and possessed himself of Jerusalem. (52) For David a
miracle had happened; the wall had lowered itself before him so
that he could walk into the city without difficulty. David, however,
was not desirous of using forcible means. He therefore offered the
Jebusites six hundred shekels, fifty shekels for each Israelitish
tribe. The Jebusites accepted the money, and gave David a bill of
sale. (53)

Jerusalem having been acquired, David had to prepare for war
with the Philistines, in which the king gave proof at once of his
heroic courage and his unshakable trust in God. The latter quality
he displayed signally in the battle that took place in the Valley of
the Giants. God had commanded David not to attack the host of
the Philistines until he heard "the sound of marching in the tops of
the mulberry trees." God desired to pass judgment upon the
tutelary angels of the heathen, before surrendering the heathen
themselves to the pious, (54) and the motion of the tops of the
trees was to indicate that the battle could proceed. The enemy
advanced until there were but four ells between them and the
Israelites. The latter were about to throw themselves against the
Philistines, but David restrained them, saying: "God forbade me to
attack the Philistines before the tops of the trees begin to move. If
we transgress God's command, we shall certainly die. If we delay,
it is probable that we shall be killed by the Philistines, but, at least,
we shall die as pious men that keep God's command. Above all, let
us have confidence in God." Scarcely had he ended his speech
when the tops of the trees rustled, and David made a successful
assault upon the Philistines. Whereupon God said to the angels,
who were constantly questioning him as to why he had taken the
royal dignity from Saul and given it to David: "See the difference
between Saul and David." (55)

Of David's other campaigns, the most notable is his war with
Shobach the Aramean, whom he conquered in spite of his gigantic
size and strength. Shobach was very tall, as tall as a dove-cote, and
one look at him sufficed to strike terror to the heart of the
beholder. (56) The Aramean general indulged in the belief that
David would treat the Syrians gently on account of the monument,
still in existence at that time, which Jacob and Laban had erected
on the frontier between Palestine and Aram as a sign of their
covenant that neither they nor their descendants should wage war
with each other. But David destroyed the monument. (57)
Similarly, the Philistines had placed trust in a relic from Isaac, the
bridle of a mule which the Patriarch had given to Abimelech, the
king of the Philistines, as a pledge of the covenant between Israel
and his people. David took it from them by force. (58)

However, David was as just as he was bold. Disregard of the
covenants made by the Patriarchs was far removed from his
thoughts. Indeed, before departing for the wars with the Arameans
and the Philistines, he had charged the Sanhedrin to investigate
carefully the claims of the two nations. The claims of the
Philistines were shown to be utterly unfounded. In no sense were
they the descendants of those Philistines who had concluded a
treaty with Isaac; they had immigrated from Cyprus at a much later
date. The Arameans, on the other hand, had forfeited their claims
upon considerate treatment, because under the "Aramean" Balaam,
and later again, in the time of Othniel, under their king
Cushan-rishathaim, they had attacked and made war upon the
Israelites. (59)


Among David's courtiers and attendants, a prominent place is
occupied by his counsellor Ahithophel, (60) with whom the king
was connected by family ties, Bath-sheba being his granddaughter.
(61) Ahithophel's wisdom was supernatural, for his counsels
always coincided with the oracles rendered by the Urim and
Thummim, and great as was his wisdom, it was equalled by his
scholarship. Therefore David did not hesitate to submit himself to
his instruction, (62) even though Ahithophel was a very young
man, at the time of his death not more than thirty-three years old.
(63) The one thing lacking in him was sincere piety, (64) and this
it was that proved his undoing in the end, for it induced him to
take part in Absalom's rebellion against David. Thus he forfeited
even his share in the world to come. (65)

To this dire course of action he was misled by astrologic and other
signs, which he interpreted as prophecies of his own kingship,
when in reality they pointed to the royal destiny of his
granddaughter Bath-sheba. (66) Possessed by his erroneous belief,
he cunningly urged Absalom to commit an unheard-of crime. Thus
Absalom would profit nothing by his rebellion, for, though he
accomplished his father's ruin, he would yet be held to account and
condemned to death for his violation of family purity, and the way
to the throne would be clear for Ahithophel, the great sage in
Israel. (67)

The relation between David and Ahithophel had been somewhat
strained even before Absalom's rebellion. Ahithophel's feelings
had been hurt by his being passed over at the time when David,
shortly after ascending the throne, invested, on a single day, no
less than ninety thousand functionaries with positions.

On that day a remarkable incident occurred. When the Ark was to
be brought up from Geba to Jerusalem, the priests who attempted
to take hold of it were raised up in the air and thrown violently to
the ground. In his despair the king turned for advice to Ahithophel,
who retorted mockingly: "Ask thy wise men whom thou hast but
now installed in office." It was only when David uttered a curse on
him who knows a remedy and withholds it from the sufferer, that
Ahithophel advised that a sacrifice should be offered at every step
taken by the priests. Although the measure proved efficacious, and
no further disaster occurred in connection with the Ark, yet
Ahithophel's words had been insincere. He knew the real reason of
the misadventure, and concealed it from the king. Instead of
following the law of having the Ark carried on the shoulders of
priests, David had had it put on a wagon, and so incurred the wrath
of God. (68)

Ahithophel's hostility toward David showed itself also on the
following occasion. When David was digging the foundations of
the Temple, a shard was found at a depth of fifteen hundred cubits.
David was about to lift it, when the shard exclaimed: "Thou canst
not do it." "Why not?" asked David. "Because I rest upon the
abyss." "Since when?" "Since the hour in which the voice of God
was heard to utter the words from Sinai, 'I am the Lord thy God,'
causing the earth to quake and sink into the abyss. I lie here to
cover up the abyss." Nevertheless David lifted the shard, and the
waters of the abyss rose and threatened to flood the earth.
Ahithophel was standing by, and he thought to himself: "Now
David will meet with his death, and I shall be king." Just then
David said: "Whoever knows how to stem the tide of waters, and
fails to do it, will one day throttle himself." (69) Thereupon
Ahithophel had the Name of God inscribed upon the shard, and the
shard thrown into the abyss. The waters at once commenced to
subside, but they sank to so great a depth that David feared the
earth might lose her moisture, and he began to sing the fifteen
"Songs of Ascents," to bring the waters up again. (70)

Nevertheless David's curse was realized. Ahithophel ended his
days by hanging himself. His last will contained the following
three rules of conduct: (71) 1. Refrain from doing aught against a
favorite of fortune. 2. Take heed not to rise up against the royal
house of David. 3. If the Feast of Pentecost falls on a sunny day,
then sow wheat. (72)

Posterity has been favored with the knowledge of but a small part
of Ahithophel's wisdom, and that little through two widely
different sources, through Socrates, (73) who was his disciple, and
through a fortune-book written by him. (74)


Joab, the warrior, was a contrast to Ahithophel in every essential.
He was David's right hand. It was said, if Joab had not been there
to conduct his wars, David would not have had leisure to devote
himself to the study of the Torah. He was the model of a true
Jewish hero, distinguished at the same time for his learning, piety,
and goodness. His house stood wide open for all comers, and the
campaigns which he undertook redounded invariably to the benefit
of the people. They were indebted to him for luxuries even, (75)
and more than that, he took thought for the welfare of scholars, he
himself being the president of the Sanhedrin. (76)

It interested Joab to analyze the character of men and their
opinions. When he heard King David's words: "Like as a father
pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him," he
expressed his astonishment that the comparison should be made
with the love of a father for a child, and not with the love of a
mother; mother love as a rule is considered the stronger and the
more self-sacrificing. He made up his mind to keep his eyes open,
and observe whether David's idea was borne out by facts. On one
of his journeys he happened into the house of a poor old man who
had twelve children, all of whom the father supported, however
meagrely, with the toil of his own hands. Joab proposed that he
sell him one of the twelve children; he would thus be relieved of
the care of one, and the selling-price could be applied to the better
support of the rest. The good father rejected the proposition
brusquely. Then Joab approached the mother, offering her a
hundred gold denarii for one of the children. At first she resisted
the temptation, but finally she yielded. When the father returned in
the evening, he cut the bread, as was his wont, into fourteen
pieces, for himself, his wife, and his twelve children. In allotting
the portions he missed a child, and insisted upon being told its
fate. The mother confessed what had happened during his absence.
He neither ate nor drank, and next morning he set out, firmly
resolved to return the money to Joab and to slay him if he should
refuse to surrender the child. After much parleying, and after the
father had threatened him with death, Joab yielded the child to the
old man, with the exclamation: "Yes, David was right when he
compared God's love for men to a father's love for his child. This
poor fellow who has twelve children to support was prepared to
fight me to the death for one of them, which the mother, who
calmly stayed at home, had sold to me for a price."

Among all the heroic achievements of Joab, the most remarkable
is the taking of the Amalekite capital. For six months the flower of
the Israelitish army, twelve thousand in number, under the
leadership of Joab, had been besieging the capital city of the
Amalekites without result. The soldiers made representations to
their general, that it would be well for them to return home to their
wives and children. Joab urged that this not only would earn for
them contempt and derision, but also would invite new danger.
The heathen would be encouraged to unite against the Israelites.
He proposed that they hurl him into the city by means of a sling,
and then wait forty days. If at the end of this period they saw blood
flow from the gates of the fortress, it should be a sign to them that
he was still alive.

His plan was executed. Joab took with him one thousand pieces of
money and his sword. When he was cast from the sling, he fell into
the courtyard of a widow, whose daughter caught him up. In a little
while he regained consciousness. He pretended to be an Amalekite
taken prisoner by the Israelites, and thrown into the city by his
captors, who thus wished to inflict death. As he was provided with
money, which he dispensed lavishly among his entertainers, he
was received kindly, and was given the Amalekite garb. So
apparelled, he ventured, after ten days, on a tour of inspection
through the city, which he found to be of enormous size.

His first errand was to an armorer, to have him mend his sword,
which had been broken by his fall. When the artisan scanned
Joab's weapon, he started back--he had never seen a sword like it.
He forged a new one, which snapped in two almost at once when
Joab grasped it firmly. So it happened with a second sword, and
with a third. Finally he succeeded in fashioning one that was
acceptable. Joab asked the smith whom he would like him to slay
with the sword, and the reply was, "Joab, the general of the
Israelitish king." "I am he," said Joab, and when the smith in
astonishment turned to look at him, Joab ran him through so
skillfully that the victim had no realization of what was happening.
Thereupon he hewed down five hundred Amalekite warriors whom
he met on his way, and not one escaped to betray him. The rumor
arose that Asmodeus, the king of demons, was raging among the
inhabitants of the city, and slaying them in large numbers.

After another period of ten days, which he spent in retirement with
his hosts, Joab sallied forth a second time, and caused such
bloodshed among the Amalekites that his gory weapon clave to his
hand, and his right hand lost all power of independent motion, it
could be made to move only in a piece with his arm. He hastened
to his lodging place to apply hot water to his hand and free it from
the sword. On his way thither the woman who had caught him up
when he fell into the city called to him: "Thou eatest and drinkest
with us, yet thou slayest our warriors." Seeing himself betrayed, he
could not but kill the woman. Scarcely had his sword touched her,
when it was separated from his hand, and his hand could move
freely, for the dead woman had been with child, and the blood of
the unborn babe loosed the sword.

After Joab had slain thousands, the Israelites without, at the very
moment when they were beginning to mourn their general as dead,
saw blood issue from the city, and joyfully they cried out with one
accord: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One." Joab
mounted a high tower, and in stentorian tones shouted: "The Lord
will not forsake his people." Inspired with high and daring
courage, the Israelites demanded permission to assault the city and
capture it. As Joab turned to descend from the tower, he noticed
that six verses of a Psalm were inscribed on his foot, the first verse
running thus: "The Lord answers thee in the day of trouble, the
name of the God of Jacob is thy defense." Later David added three
verses and completed the Psalm. Thereupon the Israelites took the
Amalekite capital, destroyed the heathen temples in the city, and
slew all its inhabitants, except the king, whom, with his crown of
pure gold on his head, they brought before David. (77)


Neither his great achievements in war nor his remarkable good
fortune moved David from his pious ways, or in aught changed his
mode of life. Even after he became king he sat at the feet of his
teachers, Ira the Jairite (78) and Mephibosheth. To the latter he
always submitted his decisions on religious questions, to make
sure that they were in accordance with law. (79) Whatever leisure
time his royal duties afforded him, he spent in study and prayer.
He contented himself with "sixty breaths" of sleep. (80) At
midnight the strings of his harp, (81) which were made of the gut
of the ram sacrificed by Abraham on Mount Moriah, (82) began to
vibrate. The sound they emitted awakened David, and he would
arise at once to devote himself to the study of the Torah. (83)

Besides study, the composition of psalms naturally claimed a
goodly portion of his time. Pride filled his heart when he had
completed the Psalter, and he exclaimed: "O Lord of the world, is
there another creature in the universe who like me proclaims thy
praise?" A frog came up to the king, and said: "Be not so proud; I
have composed more psalms than thou, and, besides, every psalm
my mouth has uttered I have accompanied with three thousand
parables." (84) And, truly, if David indulged in conceit, it was only
for a moment. As a rule he was the exemplar of modesty. The
coins which were stamped by him bore a shepherd's crook and
pouch on the obverse, and on the reverse the Tower of David. (85)
In other respects, too, his bearing was humble, as though he were
still the shepherd and not the king. (86)

His great piety invested his prayer with such efficacy that he could
bring things in heaven down to earth. (87) It is natural that so
godly a king should have used the first respite granted by his wars
to carry out his design of erecting a house of worship to God. But
in the very night in which David conceived the plan of building the
Temple, God said to Nathan the prophet: "Hasten to David. I know
him to be a man with whom execution follows fast upon the heels
of thought, and I should not like him to hire laborers for the
Temple work, and then, disappointed, complain of me. I
furthermore know him to be a man who obligates himself by vows
to do good deeds, and I desire to spare him the embarrassment of
having to apply to the Sanhedrin for absolution from his vow."

When David heard Nathan's message for him, he began to tremble,
and he said: "Ah, verily, God hath found me unworthy to erect His
sanctuary." But God replied with these words: "Nay, the blood
shed by thee I consider as sacrificial blood, but I do not care to
have thee build the Temple, because then it would be eternal and
indestructible." "But that would be excellent," said David.
Whereupon the reply was vouchsafed him: "I foresee that Israel
will commit sins. I shall wreak My wrath upon the Temple, and
Israel will be saved from annihilation. However, thy good
intentions shall receive their due reward. The Temple, though it be
built by Solomon, shall be called thine." (89)

David's thinking and planning were wholly given to what is good
and noble. He is one of the few pious men over whom the evil
inclination had no power. (90) By nature he was not disposed to
commit such evil-doing as his relation to Bath-sheba involved.
God Himself brought him to his crime, that He might say to other
sinners: "Go to David and learn how to repent." (91) Nor, indeed,
may David be charged with gross murder and adultery. There were
extenuating circumstances. In those days it was customary for
warriors to give their wives bills of divorce, which were to have
validity only if the soldier husbands did not return at the end of the
campaign. Uriah having fallen in battle, Bath-sheba was a
regularly divorced woman. As for the death of her husband, it
cannot be laid entirely at David's door, for Uriah had incurred the
death penalty by his refusal to take his ease in his own house,
according to the king's bidding. (92) Moreover, from the first,
Bath-sheba had been destined by God for David, but by way of
punishment for having lightly promised Uriah the Hittite an
Israelitish woman to wife, in return for his aid in unfastening the
armor of the prostrate Goliath, the king had to undergo bitter trials
before he won her. (93)

Furthermore, the Bath-sheba episode was a punishment for David's
excessive self-consciousness. He had fairly besought God to lead
him into temptation, that he might give proof of his constancy. It
came about thus: He once complained to God: "O Lord of the
world, why do people say God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of
Jacob, and why not God of David?" The answer came: "Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob were tried by me, but thou hast not yet been
proved." David entreated: "Then examine me, O Lord, and try me."
And God said: "I shall prove thee, and I shall even grant thee what
I did not grant the Patriarchs. I shall tell thee beforehand that thou
wilt fall into temptation through a woman."

Once Satan appeared to him in the shape of a bird. David threw a
dart at him. Instead of striking Satan, it glanced off and broke a
wicker screen which hid Bath-sheba combing her hair. The sight of
her aroused passion in the king. (94) David realized his
transgression, and for twenty-two years he was a penitent. Daily he
wept a whole hour and ate his "bread with ashes." (95) But he had
to undergo still heavier penance. For a half-year he suffered with
leprosy, and even the Sanhedrin, which usually was in close
personal attendance upon him, had to leave him. He lived not only
in physical, but also in spiritual isolation, for the Shekinah
departed from him during that time. (96)


Of all the punishments, however, inflicted upon David, none was
so severe as the rebellion of his own son.

Absalom was of such gigantic proportions that a man who was
himself of extraordinary size, standing in the eye-socket of his
skull, sank in down to his nose. (97) As for his marvellous hair, the
account of it in the Bible does not convey a notion of its
abundance. Absalom had taken the vow of a Nazarite. As his vow
was for life, and because the growth of his hair was particularly
heavy, the law permitted him to clip it slightly every week. (98) It
was of this small quantity that the weight amounted to two
hundred shekels.

Absalom arranged for his audacious rebellion with great cunning.
He secured a letter from his royal father empowering him to select
two elders for his suite in every town he visited. With this
document he travelled through the whole of Palestine. In each
town he went to the two most distinguished men, and invited them
to accompany him, at the same time showing them what his father
had written, and assuring them that they had been chosen by him
because he had a particular affection for them. So he succeeded in
gathering the presidents of two hundred courts about him. This
having been accomplished, he arranged a large banquet, at which
he seated one of his emissaries between every two of his guests,
for the purpose of winning them over to his cause. The plan did
not succeed wholly, for, though the elders of the towns stood by
Absalom, in their hearts they hoped for David's victory. (99)

The knowledge that a part of Absalom's following sided with him
in secret,--that, though he was pursued by his son, his friends
remained true to him,--somewhat consoled David in his distress.
He thought that in these circumstances, if the worst came to the
worst, Absalom would at least feel pity for him. (100) At first,
however, the despair of David knew no bounds. He was on the
point of worshipping an idol, when his friend Hushai the Archite
approached him, saying: "The people will wonder that such a king
should serve idols." David replied: "Should a king such as I am be
killed by his own son? It is better for me to serve idols than that
God should be held responsible for my misfortune, and His Name
thus be desecrated." Hushai reproached him: "Why didst thou
marry a captive?" "There is no wrong in that," replied David, "it is
permitted according to the law." Thereupon Hushai: "But thou
didst disregard the connection between the passage permitting it
and the one that follows almost immediately after it in the
Scriptures, dealing with the disobedient and rebellious son, the
natural issue of such a marriage." (101)

Hushai was not the only faithful friend and adherent David had.
Some came to his rescue unexpectedly, as, for instance, Shobi, the
son of Nahash, who is identical with the Ammonite king Hanun,
the enemy of David at first, and later his ally. (102) Barzillai,
another one of his friends in need, also surprised him by his
loyalty, for on the whole his moral attitude was not the highest
conceivable. (103)

Absalom's end was beset with terrors. When he was caught in the
branches of the oak-tree, he was about to sever his hair with a
sword stroke, but suddenly he saw hell yawning beneath him, and
he preferred to hang in the tree to throwing himself into the abyss
alive. (104) Absalom's crime was, indeed, of a nature to deserve
the supreme torture, for which reason he is one of the few Jews
who have no portion in the world to come. (105) His abode is in
hell, where he is charged with the control of ten heathen nations in
the second division. Whenever the avenging angels sit in judgment
on the nations, they desire to visit punishment on Absalom, too,
but each time a heavenly voice is heard to call out: "Do not
chastise him, do not burn him. He is an Israelite, the son of My
servant David." Whereupon Absalom is set upon his throne, and is
accorded the treatment due to a king. (106) That the extreme
penalties of hell were thus averted from him, was on account of
David's eightfold repetition of his son's name in his lament over
him. Besides, David's intercession had the effect of re-attaching
Absalom's severed head to his body. (107)

At his death Absalom was childless, for all his children, his three
sons and his daughter, died before him, as a punishment for his
having set fire to a field of grain belonging to Joab. (108)


All these sufferings did not suffice to atone for David's sin. God
once said to him: "How much longer shall this sin be hidden in thy
hand and remain unatoned? On thy account the priestly city of Nob
was destroyed, (109) on thy account Doeg the Edomite was cast
out of the communion of the pious, and on thy account Saul and
his three sons were slain. What dost thou desire now--that thy
house should perish, or that thou thyself shouldst be delivered into
the hands of thine enemies?" David chose the latter doom.

It happened one day when he was hunting, Satan, in the guise of a
deer, enticed him further and further, into the very territory of the
Philistines, where he was recognized by Ishbi the giant, the brother
of Goliath, his adversary. Desirous of avenging his brother, he
seized David, and cast him into a winepress, where the king would
have suffered a torturous end, if by a miracle the earth beneath him
had not begun to sink, and so saved him from instantaneous death.
His plight, however, remained desperate, and it required a second
miracle to rescue him.

In that hour Abishai, the cousin of David, was preparing for the
advent of the Sabbath, for the king's misfortune happened on
Friday as the Sabbath was about to come in. When Abishai poured
out water to wash himself, he suddenly caught sight of drops of
blood in it. Then he was startled by a dove that came to him
plucking out her plumes, and moaning and wailing. Abishai
exclaimed: "The dove is the symbol of the people of Israel. It
cannot be but that David, the king of Israel, is in distress." Not
finding the king at home, he was confirmed in his fears, and he
determined to go on a search for David on the swiftest animal at
his command, the king's own saddle-beast. But first he had to
obtain the permission of the sages to mount the animal ridden by
the king, for the law forbids a subject to avail himself of things set
aside for the personal use of a king. Only the impending danger
could justify the exception made in this case.

Scarcely had Abishai mounted the king's animal, when he found
himself in the land of the Philistines, for the earth had contracted
miraculously. He met Orpah, the mother of the four giant sons. She
was about to kill him, but he anticipated the blow and slew her.
Ishbi, seeing that he now had two opponents, stuck his lance into
the ground, and hurled David up in the air, in the expectation that
when he fell he would be transfixed by the lance. At that moment
Abishai appeared, and by pronouncing the Name of God he kept
David suspended 'twixt heaven and earth.

Abishai questioned David how such evil plight had overtaken him,
and David told him of his conversation with God, and how he
himself had chosen to fall into the hands of the enemy, rather than
permit the ruin of his house. Abishai replied: "Reverse thy prayer,
plead for thyself, and not for thy descendants. Let thy children sell
wax, and do thou not afflict thyself about their destiny." The two
men joined their prayers, and pleaded with God to avert David's
threatening doom. Abishai again uttered the Name of God, and
David dropped to earth uninjured. Now both of them ran away
swiftly, pursued by Ishbi. When the giant heard of his mother's
death, his strength forsook him, and he was slain by David and
Abishai. (110)


Among the sorrows of David are the visitations that came upon
Palestine during his reign, and he felt them all the more as he had
incurred them through his own fault. There was first the famine,
which was so desolating that it is counted among the ten severest
that are to happen from the time of Adam to the time of the
Messiah. (111) During the first year that it prevailed, David had an
investigation set on foot to discover whether idolatry was practiced
in the land, and was keeping back the rain. His suspicion proved
groundless. The second year he looked into the moral conditions of
his realm, for lewdness can bring about the same punishment as
idolatry. Again he was proved wrong. The third year, he turned his
attention to the administration of charity. Perhaps the people had
incurred guilt in this respect, for abuses in this department also
were visited with the punishment of famine. (112) Again his
search was fruitless, and he turned to God to inquire of Him the
cause of the public distress. God's reply was: "Was not Saul a king
anointed with holy oil, did he not abolish idolatry, is he not the
companion of Samuel in Paradise? Yet, while you all dwell in the
land of Israel, he is 'outside of the land.'" David, accompanied by
the scholars and the nobles of his kingdom, at once repaired to
Jabesh-gilead, disinterred the remains of Saul and Jonathan, and in
solemn procession bore them through the whole land of Israel to
the inheritance of the tribe of Benjamin. There they were buried.
The tributes of affection paid by the people of Israel to its dead
king aroused the compassion of God, and the famine came to an
end. (113)

The sin against Saul was now absolved, but there still remained
Saul's own guilt in his dealings with the Gibeonites, who charged
him with having killed seven of their number. David asked God
why He had punished His people on account of proselytes. God's
answer to him was: "If thou dost not bring near them that are far
off, thou wilt remove them that are near by." To satisfy their
vengeful feelings, the Gibeonites demanded the life of seven
members of Saul's family. David sought to mollify them,
representing to them that they would derive no benefit from the
death of their victims, and offering them silver and gold instead.
But though David treated with each one of them individually, the
Gibeonites were relentless. When he realized their hardness of
heart, he cried out: "Three qualities God gave unto Israel; they are
compassionate, chaste, and gracious in the service of their
fellow-men. The first of these qualities the Gibeonites do not
possess, and therefore they must be excluded from communion
with Israel." (114)

The seven descendants of Saul to be surrendered to the Gibeonites
were determined by letting all his posterity pass by the Ark of the
law. Those who were arrested before it were the designated
victims. Mephibosheth would have been one of the unfortunates,
had he not been permitted to pass by unchecked in answer to the
prayer of David, (115) to whom he was dear, not only as the son of
his friend Jonathan, but also as the teacher who instructed him in
the Torah. (116)

The cruel fate that befell the descendants of Saul had a wholesome
effect. All the heathen who saw and heard exclaimed: "There is no
God like unto the God of Israel, there is no nation like unto the
nation of Israel; the wrong inflicted upon wretched proselytes has
been expiated by the sons of kings." So great was the enthusiasm
among the heathen over this manifestation of the Jewish sense of
justice that one hundred and fifty thousand of them were converted
to Judaism. (117)

As for David, his wrong in connection with the famine lay in his
not having applied his private wealth to the amelioration of the
people's suffering. When David returned victorious from the
combat with Goliath, the women of Israel gave him their gold and
silver ornaments. He put them aside for use in building the
Temple, and even during the three years' famine this fund was not
touched. God said: "Thou didst refrain from rescuing human
beings from death, in order to save thy money for the Temple.
Verily, the Temple shall not be built by thee, but by Solomon."

David is still more blameworthy on account of the census which he
took of the Israelites in defiance of the law in the Pentateuch.
When he was charged by the king with the task of numbering the
people, Joab used every effort to turn him away from his intention.
But in vain. Incensed, David said: "Either thou art king and I am
the general, or I am king and thou art the general." Joab had no
choice but to obey. He selected the tribe of Gad as the first to be
counted, because he thought that the Gadites, independent and
self-willed, would hinder the execution of the royal order, and
David would be forced to give up his plan of taking a census. The
Gadites disappointed the expectations of Joab, and he betook
himself to the tribe of Dan, hoping that if God's punishment
descended, it would strike the idolatrous Danites. Disliking his
mission as he did, Joab spent nine months in executing it, though
he might have dispatched it in a much shorter time. Nor did he
carry out the king's orders to the letter. He himself warned the
people of the census. If he saw the father of a family of five sons,
he would bid him conceal a few of them. Following the example
set by Moses, he omitted the Levites from the enumeration,
likewise the tribe of Benjamin, because he entertained particularly
grave apprehensions in behalf of this greatly decimated tribe. (119)
In the end, David was not informed of the actual number obtained.
Joab made two lists, intending to give the king a partial list if he
found that he had no suspicion of the ruse. (120)

The prophet Gad came to David and gave him the choice of
famine, oppression by enemies, or the plague, as the penalty for
the heavy crime of popular census-taking. David was in the
position of a sick man who is asked whether he prefers to be
buried next to his father or next to his mother. The king
considered: "If I choose the calamities of war, the people will say,
'He cares little, he has his warriors to look to.' If I choose famine,
they will say, 'He cares little, he has his riches to look to.' I shall
choose the plague, whose scourge strikes all alike." (121)
Although the plague raged but a very short time, (122) it claimed a
large number of victims. The most serious loss was the death of
Abishai, whose piety and learning made him the counterpoise of a
host of seventy-five thousand. (123)

David raised his eyes on high, and he saw the sins of Israel heaped
up from earth to heaven. In the same moment an angel descended,
and slew his four sons, the prophet Gad, and the elders who
accompanied him. David's terror at this sight, which was but
increased when the angel wiped his dripping sword on the king's
garments, settled in his limbs, and from that day on they never
ceased to tremble. (124)


David once besought God to tell him when he would die. His
petition was not granted, for God has ordained that no man shall
foreknow his end. One thing, however, was revealed to David, that
his death would occur at the age of seventy on the Sabbath day.
David desired that he might be permitted to die on Friday. This
wish, too, was denied him, because God said that He delighted
more in one day passed by David in the study of the Torah, than in
a thousand holocausts offered by Solomon in the Temple. Then
David petitioned that life might be vouchsafed him until Sunday;
this, too, was refused, because God said it would be an
infringement of the rights of Solomon, for one reign may not
overlap by a hairbreadth the time assigned to another. Thereafter
David spent every Sabbath exclusively in the study of the Torah, in
order to secure himself against the Angel of Death, who has no
power to slay a man while he is occupied with the fulfillment of
God's commandments. The Angel of Death had to resort to
cunning to gain possession of David. (125) One Sabbath day,
which happened to be also the Pentecost holiday, (126) the king
was absorbed in study, when he heard a sound in the garden. He
rose and descended the stairway leading from his palace to the
garden, to discover the cause of the noise. No sooner had he set
foot on the steps than they tumbled in, and David was killed. The
Angel of Death had caused the noise in order to utilize the moment
when David should interrupt his study. The king's corpse could
not be moved on the Sabbath, which was painful to those with
him, as it was lying exposed to the rays of the sun. So Solomon
summoned several eagles, and they stood guard over the body,
shading it with their outstretched pinions. (127)


The death of David did not mean the end of his glory and
grandeur. It merely caused a change of scene. In the heavenly
realm as on earth David ranks among the first. The crown upon his
head outshines all others, and whenever he moves out of Paradise
to present himself before God, suns, stars, angels, seraphim, and
other holy beings run to meet him. In the heavenly court-room a
throne of fire of gigantic dimensions is erected for him directly
opposite to the throne of God. Seated on this throne and
surrounded by the kings of the house of David and other Israelitish
kings, he intones wondrously beautiful psalms. At the end he
always cites the verse: "The Lord reigns forever and ever," to
which the archangel Metatron and those with him reply: "Holy,
holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts!" This is the signal for the holy
Hayyot and heaven and earth to join in with praise. Finally the
kings of the house of David sing the verse: "And the Lord shall be
king over all; in that day shall the Lord be one, and His name one."

The greatest distinction to be accorded David is reserved for the
judgment day, when God will prepare a great banquet in Paradise
for all the righteous. At David's petition, God Himself will be
present at the banquet, and will sit on His throne, opposite to
which David's throne will be placed. At the end of the banquet,
God will pass the wine cup over which grace is said, to Abraham,
with the words: "Pronounce the blessing over the wine, thou who
art the father of the pious of the world." Abraham will reply: "I am
not worthy to pronounce the blessing, for I am the father also of
the Ishmaelites, who kindle God's wrath." God will then turn to
Isaac: "Say the blessing, for thou wert bound upon the altar as a
sacrifice." "I am not worthy," he will reply, "for the children of my
son Esau destroyed the Temple." Then to Jacob: "Do thou speak
the blessing, thou whose children were blameless." Jacob also will
decline the honor on the ground that he was married to two sisters
at the same time, which later was strictly prohibited by the Torah.
God will then turn to Moses: "Say the blessing, for thou didst
receive the law and didst fulfil its precepts." Moses will answer: "I
am not worthy to do it, seeing that I was not found worthy to enter
the Holy Land." God will next offer the honor to Joshua, who both
led Israel into the Holy Land, and fulfilled the commandments of
the law. He, too, will refuse to pronounce the blessing, because he
was not found worthy to bring forth a son. Finally God will turn to
David with the words: "Take the cup and say the blessing, thou the
sweetest singer in Israel and Israel's king. And David will reply:
'Yes, I will pronounce the blessing, for I am worthy of the honor.'"
(129) Then God will take the Torah and read various passages
from it, and David will recite a psalm in which both the pious in
Paradise and the wicked in hell will join with a loud Amen.
Thereupon God will send his angels to lead the wicked from hell
to Paradise. (130)


David had six wives, including Michal, the daughter of Saul, who
is called by the pet name Eglah, "Calfkin," in the list given in the
Bible narrative. (131) Michal was of entrancing beauty, (132) and
at the same time the model of a loving wife. Not only did she save
David out of the hands of her father, but also, when Saul, as her
father and her king, commanded her to marry another man, she
acquiesced only apparently. She entered into a mock marriage in
order not to arouse the anger of Saul, who had annulled her union
with David on grounds which he thought legal. Michal was good
as well as beautiful; she showed such extraordinary kindness to the
orphan children of her sister Merab that the Bible speaks of the
five sons of Michal "whom she bore to Adriel." Adriel, however,
was her brother-in-law and not her husband, but she had raised his
children, treating them as though they were her own. (133) Michal
was no less a model of piety. Although the law exempted her, as a
woman, from the duty, still she executed the commandment of
using phylacteries. (134) In spite of all these virtues, she was
severely punished by God for her scorn of David, whom she
reproached with lack of dignity, when he had in mind only to do
honor to God. Long she remained childless, and at last, when she
was blessed with a child, she lost her own life in giving birth to it.

But the most important among the wives of David was Abigail, in
whom beauty, wisdom, and prophetical gifts were joined. With
Sarah, Rahab, and Esther, she forms the quartet of the most
beautiful women in history. She was so bewitching that passion
was aroused in men by the mere thought of her. (136) Her
cleverness showed itself during her first meeting with David,
when, though anxious about the life of her husband Nabal, she
still, with the utmost tranquility, put a ritual question to him in his
rage. He refused to answer it, because, he said, it was a question to
be investigated by day, not by night. Thereupon Abigail
interposed, that sentence of death likewise may be passed upon a
man only during the day. Even if David's judgment were right, the
law required him to wait until daybreak to execute it upon Nabal.
David's objection, that a rebel like Nabal had no claim upon due
process of law, she overruled with the words: "Saul is still alive,
and thou art not yet acknowledged king by the world."

Her charm would have made David her captive on this occasion, if
her moral strength had not kept him in check. By means of the
expression, "And this shall not be unto thee," she made him
understand that the day had not yet arrived, but that it would come,
when a woman, Bath-sheba, would play a disastrous part in his
life. Thus she manifested her gift of prophecy.

Not even Abigail was free from the feminine weakness of
coquetry. The words "remember thine handmaid" should never
have been uttered by her. As a married woman, she should not
have sought to direct the attention of a man to herself. (137) In the
women's Paradise she supervises the fifth of the seven divisions
into which it is divided, and her domain adjoins that of the wives
of the Patriarchs, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah. (138)

Among the sons of David, Adonijah, the son of Haggith, must be
mentioned particularly, the pretender to the throne. The fifty men
whom he prepared to run before him had fitted themselves for the
place of heralds by cutting out their spleen and the flesh of the
soles of their feet. That Adonijah was not designated for the royal
dignity, was made manifest by the fact that the crown of David did
not fit him. This crown had the remarkable peculiarity of always
fitting the legitimate king of the house of David. (139)

Chileab was a son worthy of his mother Abigail. The meaning of
his name is "like the father," which had been given him because of
his striking resemblance to David in appearance, a circumstance
that silenced the talk against David's all too hasty marriage with
the widow of Nabal. (140) Intellectually, too, Chileab testified to
David's paternity. In fact, he excelled his father in learning, as he
did even the teacher of David, Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan.
(141) On account of his piety he is one of the few who have
entered Paradise alive. (142)

Tamar cannot be called one of the children of David, because she
was born before her mother's conversion to Judaism.
Consequently, her relation to Amnon is not quite of the grave
nature it would have been, had they been sister and brother in the
strict sense of the terms.

To the immediate household of David belonged four hundred
young squires, the sons of women taken captive in battle. They
wore their hair in heathen fashion, and, sitting in golden chariots,
they formed the vanguard of the army, and terrified the enemy by
their appearance. (143)


When David was buried, Solomon put abundant treasures into his
tomb. Thirteen hundred years later the high priest Hyrcanus took a
thousand talents of the money secreted there to use it in preventing
the siege of Jerusalem by the Greek king Antiochus. King Herod
also abstracted great sums. But none of the marauders could
penetrate to the resting-place of the kings,--next to David his
successors were interred,--for it was sunk into the earth so
skillfully that it could not be found. (144)

Once on a time, a Moslem pasha visited the mausoleum, and as he
was looking through the window in it, a weapon of his ornamented
with diamonds and pearls dropped into the tomb. A Mohammedan
was lowered through the window to fetch the weapon. When he
was drawn up again, he was dead, and three other Mohammedans
who tried to enter in the same way met the fate of their comrade.
At the instigation of the kadi, the pasha informed the Rabbi of
Jerusalem that the Jews would be held responsible for the
restoration of the weapon. The Rabbi ordered a three days' fast, to
be spent in prayer. Then lots were cast to designate the messenger
who was to be charged with the perilous errand. The lot fell upon
the beadle of the synagogue, a pious and upright man. He secured
the weapon, and returned it to the pasha, who manifested his
gratitude by kindly treatment of the Jews thereafter. The beadle
later told his adventures in the tomb to the Hakam Bashi. When he
had descended, there suddenly appeared before him an old man of
dignified appearance, and handed him what he was seeking. (145)

Another miraculous tale concerning the tomb of David runs as
follows: A poor but very pious Jewish washerwoman was once
persuaded by the keeper of the tomb to enter it. Hardly was she
within, when the man nailed up the entrance, and ran to the kadi to
inform him that a Jewess had gone in. Incensed, the kadi hastened
to the spot, with the intention of having the woman burnt for her
presumptuousness. In her terror the poor creature had begun to
weep and implore God for help. Suddenly a flood of light
illumined the dark tomb, and a venerable old man took her by the
hand, and led her downward under the earth until she reached the
open. There he parted from her with the words: "Hasten
homeward, and let none know that thou wert away from thy
house." The kadi had the tomb and its surroundings thoroughly
searched by his bailiffs, but not a trace of the woman could be
discovered, although the keeper again and again swore by the
Prophet that the woman had entered. Now the messengers whom
the kadi had sent to the house of the woman returned, and reported
they had found her washing busily, and greatly astonished at their
question, whether she had been at the tomb of David. The kadi
accordingly decided that for his false statements and his perjury,
the keeper must die the very death intended for the innocent
woman, and so he was burnt. The people of Jerusalem suspected a
miracle, but the woman did not divulge her secret until a few hours
before her death. She told her story, and then bequeathed her
possessions to the congregation, under the condition that a scholar
recite Kaddish for her on each anniversary of her death. (146)


At the youthful age of twelve (1) Solomon succeeded his father
David as king. His real name was Jedidiah, the "friend of God,"
but it was superseded by the name Solomon on account of the
peace that prevailed throughout the realm during his reign. He
bore three other names besides: Ben, Jakeh, and Ithiel. He was
called Ben because he was the builder of the Temple; Jakeh,
because he was the ruler of the whole world; and Ithiel, because
God was with him. (2)

The rebellion Adonijah intended to lead against the future king
was suppressed during David's lifetime, by having Solomon
anointed in public. On that occasion Solomon rode upon a
remarkable she-mule, remarkable because she was not the product
of cross-breeding, but of a special act of creation. (3)

As soon as he ascended the throne, Solomon set about executing
the instructions his father had given him on his death-bed. The first
of them was the punishment of Joab. (4)

Notwithstanding all his excellent qualities, which fitted him to be
not only David's first general, but also the president of the
Academy, (5) Joab had committed great crimes, which had to be
atoned for. Beside the murder of Abner (6) and Amasa of which he
was guilty, he had incurred wrong against David himself. The
generals of the army suspected him of having had Uriah the Hittite
put out of the way for purposes of his own, whereupon he showed
them David's letter dooming Uriah. David might have forgiven
Joab, but he wanted him to expiate his sins in this world, so that he
might be exempt from punishment in the world to come. (7)

When Joab perceived that Solomon intended to have him
executed, he sought the protection of the Temple. He knew full
well that he could not save his life in this way, for the arm of
justice reaches beyond the doors of the sanctuary, to the altar of
God. What he wished was to be accorded a regular trial, and not
suffer death by the king's order. In the latter case he would lose
fortune as well as life, and he was desirous of leaving his children
well provided for. Thereupon Solomon sent word to him that he
had no intention of confiscating his estates. (8)

Though he was convinced of Joab's guilt, Solomon nevertheless
granted him the privilege of defense. The king questioned him:
"Why didst thou kill Abner?"

Joab: "I was the avenger of my brother Asahel, whom Abner had

Solomon: "Why, it was Asahel who sought to kill Abner, and
Abner acted in self-defense."

Joab: "Abner might have disabled Asahel without going to

Solomon: "That Abner could not do."

Joab: "What! Abner aimed directly at Asahel's fifth rib, and thou
wouldst say he could not have managed to wound him lightly?"

Solomon: "Very well, then, we shall drop Abner's case. But why
didst thou slay Amasa?"

Joab: "He acted rebelliously toward King David. He omitted to
execute his order to gather an army within three days; for that
offense he deserved to suffer the death penalty."

Solomon: "Amasa failed to obey the king's order, because he had
been taught by our sages that even a king's injunctions may be set
at defiance if they involve neglect of the study of the Torah, which
was the case with the order given to Amasa. And, indeed,"
continued Solomon, "it was not Amasa but thou thyself who didst
rebel against the king, for thou wert about to join Absalom, and if
thou didst refrain, it was from fear of David's strong-fisted troops."

When Joab saw that death was inevitable, he said to Benaiah, who
was charged with the execution of the king's order: "Tell Solomon
he cannot inflict two punishments upon me. If he expects to take
my life, he must remove the curse pronounced by David against
me and my descendants on account of the slaying of Abner. If not,
he cannot put me to death." Solomon realized the justness of the
plea. By executing Joab, he transferred David's curse to his own
posterity: Rehoboam, his son, was afflicted with an issue; Uzziah
suffered with leprosy; Asa had to lean on a staff when he walked;
the pious Josiah fell by the sword of Pharaoh, and Jeconiah lived
off charity. So the imprecations of David were accomplished on
his own family instead of Joab's. (10)


The next to suffer Joab's fate was Shimei ben Gera, whose
treatment of David had outraged every feeling of decency. His
death was of evil portent for Solomon himself. So long as Shimei,
who was Solomon's teacher, was alive, he did not venture to marry
the daughter of Pharaoh. When, after Shimei's death, Solomon
took her to wife, the archangel Gabriel descended from heaven,
and inserted a reed in the sea. About this reed more and more earth
was gradually deposited, and, on the day on which Jeroboam
erected the golden calves, a little hut was built upon the island.
This was the first of the dwelling-places of Rome. (11)

Solomon's wedding-feast in celebration of his marriage with the
Egyptian princess came on the same day as the consecration of the
Temple. (12) The rejoicing over the king's marriage was greater
than over the completion of the Temple. As the proverb has it: "All
pay flattery to a king." Then it was that God conceived the plan of
destroying Jerusalem. It was as the prophet spoke: "This city hath
been to me a provocation of mine anger and of my fury from the
day that they built it even unto this day."

In the nuptial night Pharaoh's daughter had her attendants play
upon a thousand different musical instruments, which she had
brought with her from her home, and as each was used, the name
of the idol to which it was dedicated was mentioned aloud. The
better to hold the king under the spell of her charms, she spread
above his bed a tapestry cover studded with diamonds and pearls,
which gleamed and glittered like constellations in the sky.
Whenever Solomon wanted to rise, he saw these stars, and
thinking it was night still, he slept on until the fourth hour of the
morning. The people were plunged in grief, for the daily sacrifice
could not be brought on this very morning of the Temple
dedication, because the Temple keys lay under Solomon's pillow,
and none dared awaken him. Word was sent to Bath-sheba, who
forthwith aroused her son, and rebuked him for his sloth. "Thy
father," she said, "was known to all as a God-fearing man, and now
people will say, 'Solomon is the son of Bath-sheba, it is his
mother's fault if he goes wrong.' Whenever thy father's wives were
pregnant, they offered vows and prayed that a son worthy to reign
might be born unto them. But my prayer was for a learned son
worthy of the gift of prophecy. Take care, 'give not thy strength
unto women nor thy ways to them that destroy kings,' for
licentiousness confounds the reason of man. Keep well in mind the
things that are necessary in the life of a king. (13) 'Not kings,
Lemuel.' Have naught in common with kings who say: 'What need
have we of a God?' It is not meet that thou shouldst do like the
kings who drink wine and live in lewdness. Be not like unto them.
He to whom the secrets of the world are revealed, (14) should not
intoxicate himself with wine." (15)

Apart from having married a Gentile, whose conversion to
Judaism was not dictated by pure motives, Solomon transgressed
two other Biblical laws. He kept many horses, which a Jewish king
ought not to do, and, what the law holds in equal abhorrence, he
amassed much silver and gold. Under Solomon's rule silver and
gold were so abundant among the people that their utensils were
made of them instead of the baser metals. (16) For all this he had
to atone painfully later on.


But Solomon's wealth and pomp were as naught in comparison
with his wisdom. When God appeared to him in Gibeon, in a
dream by night, and gave him leave to ask what he would, a grace
accorded to none beside except King Ahaz of Judah, and promised
only to the Messiah in time to come, (17) Solomon chose
wisdom, knowing that wisdom once in his possession, all else
would come of itself. (18) His wisdom, the Scriptures testify, was
greater than the wisdom of Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and
Calcol, and Darda, the three sons of Mahol. This means that he
was wiser than Abraham, (19) Moses, (20) Joseph, (21) and the
generation of the desert. (22) He excelled even Adam. (23) His
proverbs which have come down to us are barely eight hundred in
number. Nevertheless the Scripture counts them equal to three
thousand, for the reason that each verse in his book admits of a
double and a triple interpretation. In his wisdom he analyzed the
laws revealed to Moses, and he assigned reasons for the ritual and
ceremonial ordinances of the Torah, which without his explanation
had seemed strange. (24) The "forty-nine gates of wisdom" were
open to Solomon as they had been to Moses, but the wise king
sought to outdo even the wise legislator. He had such confidence
in himself that he would have dispensed judgment without resort
to witnesses, had he not been prevented by a heavenly voice. (25)

The first proof of his wisdom was given in his verdict in the case
of the child claimed by two mothers as their own. When the
women presented their difficulty, the king said that God in His
wisdom had foreseen that such a quarrel would arise, and therefore
had created the organs of man in pairs, so that neither of the two
parties to the dispute might be wronged. on hearing these words
from the king, Solomon's counsellors lamented: "Woe to thee, O
land, when thy king is a youth." In a little while they realized the
wisdom of the king, and then they exclaimed: "Happy art thou, O
land, when thy king is a free man." The quarrel had of set purpose
been brought on by God to the end that Solomon's wisdom might
be made known. In reality the two litigants were not women at all,
but spirits. That all doubt about the fairness of the verdict might be
dispelled, a heavenly voice proclaimed: "This is the mother of the
child." (26)

During the lifetime of David, when Solomon was still a lad, he had
settled another difficult case in an equally brilliant way. A wealthy
man had sent his son on a protracted business trip to Africa. On his
return he found that his father had died in the meantime, and his
treasures had passed into the possession of a crafty slave, who had
succeeded in ridding himself of all the other slaves, or intimidating
them. In vain the rightful heir urged his claim before King David.
As he could not bring witnesses to testify for him, there was no
way of dispossessing the slave, who likewise called himself the
son of the deceased. The child Solomon heard the case, and he
devised a method of arriving at the truth. He had the father's corpse
exhumed, and he dyed one of the bones with the blood first of one
of the claimants, and then of the other. The blood of the slave
showed no affinity with the bone, while the blood of the true heir
permeated it. So the real son secured his inheritance. (27)

After his accession to the throne, a peculiar quarrel among heirs
was brought before Solomon for adjudication. Asmodeus, the king
of demons, once said to Solomon: "Thou art the wisest of men, yet
I shall show thee something thou hast never seen." Thereupon
Asmodeus stuck his finger in the ground, and up came a
double-headed man. He was one of the Cainites, who live
underground, and are altogether different in nature and habit from
the denizens of the upper world. (28) When the Cainite wanted to
descend to his dwelling-place again, it appeared that he could not
return thither. Not even Asmodeus could bring the thing about. So
he remained on earth, took unto himself a wife, and begot seven
sons, one of whom resembled his father in having two heads.
When the Cainite died, a dispute broke out among his descendants
as to how the property was to be divided. The double-headed son
claimed two portions. Both Solomon and the Sanhedrin were at a
loss; they could not discover a precedent to guide them. Then
Solomon prayed to God: "O Lord of all, when Thou didst appear to
me in Gibeon, and didst give me leave to ask a gift of Thee, I
desired neither silver nor gold, but only wisdom, that I might be
able to judge men in justice."

God heard his prayer. When the sons of the Cainite again came
before Solomon, he poured hot water on one of the heads of the
double-headed monster, whereupon both heads flinched, and both
mouths cried out: "We are dying, we are dying! We are but one,
not two." Solomon decided that the double-headed son was after
all only a single being. (29)

On another occasion Solomon invented a lawsuit in order to elicit
the truth in an involved case. Three men appeared before him,
each of whom accused the others of theft. They had been travelling
together, and, when the Sabbath approached, they halted and
prepared to rest and sought a safe hiding-place for their money, for
it is not allowed to carry money on one's person on the Sabbath.
They all three together secreted what they had in the same spot,
and, when the Sabbath was over, they hastened thither, only to find
that it had been stolen. It was clear one of the three must have been
the thief, but which one?

Solomon said to them: "I know you to be experienced and
thorough business men. I should like you to help me decide a suit
which the king of Rome has submitted to me. In the Roman
kingdom there lived a maiden and a youth, who promised each
other under oath never to enter into a marriage without obtaining
each other's permission. The parents of the girl betrothed their
daughter to a man whom she loved, but she refused to become his
wife until the companion of her youth gave his consent. She took
much gold and silver, and sought him out to bribe him. Setting
aside his own love for the girl, he offered her and her lover his
congratulations, and refused to accept the slightest return for the
permission granted. On their homeward way the happy couple
were surprised by an old highwayman, who was about to rob the
young man of his bride and his money. The girl told the brigand
the story of her life, closing with these words: 'If a youth controlled
his passion for me, how much more shouldst thou, an old man, be
filled with fear of God, and let me go my way.' Her words took
effect. The aged highwaymen laid hands neither on the girl nor on
the money.

"Now," Solomon continued to the three litigants, "I was asked to
decide which of the three persons concerned acted most nobly, the
girl, the youth, or the highwayman, and I should like to have your
views upon the question."

The first of the three said: "My praise is for the girl, who kept her
oath so faithfully." The second: "I should award the palm to the
youth, who kept himself in check, and did not permit his passion to
prevail." The third said: "Commend me to the brigand, who kept
his hands off the money, more especially as he would have been
doing all that could be expected of him if he had surrendered the
woman he might have taken the money."

The last answer sufficed to put Solomon on the right track. The
man who was inspired with admiration of the virtues of the robber,
probably was himself filled with greed of money. He had him
cross-examined, and finally extorted a confession. He had
committed the theft, and he designated the spot where he had
hidden the money. (30)

Even animals submitted their controversies to Solomon's wise
judgment. A man with a jug of milk came upon a serpent wailing
pitifully in a field. To the man's question, the serpent replied that it
was tortured with thirst. "And what art thou carrying in the jug?"
asked the serpent. When it heard what it was, it begged for the
milk, and promised to reward the man by showing him a hidden
treasure. The man gave the milk to the serpent, and was then led to
a great rock. "Under this rock," said the serpent, "lies the treasure."
The man rolled the rock aside, and was about to take the treasure,
when suddenly the serpent made a lunge at him, and coiled itself
about his neck. "What meanest thou by such conduct?" exclaimed
the man. "I am going to kill thee," replied the serpent, "because
thou art robbing me of all my money." The man proposed that they
put their case to King Solomon, and obtain his decision as to who
was in the wrong. So they did. Solomon asked the serpent to state
what it demanded of the man. "I want to kill him," answered the
serpent, "because the Scriptures command it, saying: 'Thou shalt
bruise the heel of man.'" Solomon said: "First release thy hold upon
the man's neck and descend; in court neither party to a lawsuit may
enjoy an advantage over the other." The serpent glided to the floor,
and Solomon repeated his question, and received the same answer
as before from the serpent. Then Solomon turned to the man and
said: "To thee God's command was to bruise the head of the
serpent do it!" And the man crushed the serpent's head. (31)

Sometimes Solomon's assertions and views, though they sprang
from profound wisdom, seemed strange to the common run of
men. In such cases, the wise king did not disdain to illustrate the
correctness of his opinions. For instance, both the learned and the
ignorant were stung into opposition by Solomon's saying: "One
man among a thousand have I found; but a virtuous woman among
all those have I not found." Solomon unhesitatingly pledged
himself to prove that he was right. He had his attendants seek out a
married couple enjoying a reputation for uprightness and virtue.
The husband was cited before him, and Solomon told him that he
had decided to appoint him to an exalted office. The king
demanded only, as an earnest of his loyalty, that he murder his
wife, so that he might be free to marry the king's daughter, a
spouse comporting with the dignity of his new station. With a
heavy heart the man went home. His despair grew at sight of his
fair wife and his little children. Though determined to do the king's
bidding, he still lacked courage to kill his wife while she was
awake. He waited until she was tight asleep, but then the child
enfolded in the mother's arms rekindled his parental and conjugal
affection, and he replaced his sword in its sheath, saying to
himself: "And if the king were to offer me his whole realm, I
would not murder my wife." Thereupon he went to Solomon, and
told him his final decision. A month later Solomon sent for the
wife, and declared his love for her. He told her that their happiness
could be consummated if she would but do away with her husband.
Then she should be made the first wife in his harem. Solomon
gave her a leaden sword which glittered as though fashioned of
steel. The woman returned home resolved to put the sword to its
appointed use. Not a quiver of her eyelids betrayed her sinister
purpose. On the contrary, by caresses and tender words she sought
to disarm any suspicion that might attack to her. In the night she
arose, drew forth the sword, and proceeded to kill her husband.
The leaden instrument naturally did no harm, except to awaken her
husband, to whom she had to confess her evil intent. The next day
both man and wife were summoned before the king, who thus
convinced his counsellors of the truth of his conviction, that no
dependence can be placed on woman. (32)

The fame of Solomon's wisdom spread far and wide. Many entered
the service of the king, in the hope of profiting by his wisdom.
Three brothers had served under him for thirteen years, and,
disappointed at not having learnt anything, they made up their
minds to quit his service. Solomon gave them the alternative of
receiving one hundred coins each, or being taught three wise saws.
They decided to take the money. They had scarcely left the town
when the youngest of the three, regardless of the protests of his
two brothers, hastened back to Solomon and said to him: "My lord,
I did not take service under thee to make money; I wanted to
acquire wisdom. Pray, take back thy money, and teach me wisdom
instead." Solomon thereupon imparted the following three rules of
conduct to him: "When thou travellest abroad, set out on thy
journey with the dawn and turn in for the night before darkness
falls; do not cross a river that is swollen; and never betray a secret
to a woman." The man quickly overtook his brothers, but he
confided nothing to them of what he had learned from Solomon.
They journeyed on together. At the approach of the ninth hour
three hours after noon they reached a suitable spot in which to
spend the night. The youngest brother, mindful of Solomon's
advice, proposed that they stop there. The others taunted him with
his stupidity, which, they said, he had begun to display when he
carried his money back to Solomon. The two proceeded on their
way, but the youngest arranged his quarters for the night. When
darkness came on, and with it nipping cold, he was snug and
comfortable, while his brothers were surprised by a snow storm, in
which they perished. The following day he continued his journey,
and on the road he found the dead bodies of his brothers. Having
appropriated their money, he buried them, and went on. When he
reached a river that was very much swollen, he bore Solomon's
advice in mind, and delayed to cross until the flood subsided.
While standing on the bank, he observed how some of the king's
servants were attempting to ford the stream with beasts laden with
gold, and how they were borne down by the flood. After the waters
had abated, he crossed and appropriated the gold strapped to the
drowned animals. When he returned home, wealthy and wise, he
told nothing of what he had experienced even to his wife, who was
very curious to find out where her husband had obtained his
wealth. Finally, she plied him so closely with questions that
Solomon's advice about confiding a secret to a woman was quite
forgotten. Once, when his wife was quarrelling with him, she cried
out: "Not enough that thou didst murder thy brothers, thou desirest
to kill me, too." Thereupon he was charged with the murder of
their husbands by his two sisters-in-law. He was tried, condemned
to death, and escaped the hangman only when he told the king the
story of his life, and was recognized as his former retainer. It was
with reference to this man's adventures that Solomon said:
"Acquire wisdom; she is better than gold and much fine gold." (33)

Another of his disciples had a similar experience. Annually a man
came from a great distance to pay a visit to the wise king, and
when he departed Solomon was in the habit of bestowing a gift
upon him. Once the guest refused the gift, and asked the king to
teach him the language of the birds and the animals instead. The
king was ready to grant his request, but he did not fail to warn him
first of the great danger connected with such knowledge. "If thou
tellest others a word of what thou hearest from an animal," he said,
"thou wilt surely suffer death; thy destruction is inevitable."
Nothing daunted, the visitor persisted in his wish, and the king
instructed him in the secret art.

Returned home, he overheard a conversation between his ox and
his ass. The ass said: "Brother, how farest thou with these people?"

The ox: "As thou livest, brother, I pass day and night in hard and
painful toil."

The ass: "I can give thee relief, brother. If thou wilt follow my
advice, thou shalt live in comfort, and shalt rid thyself of all hard

The ox: "O brother, may thy heart be inclined toward me, to take
pity on me and help me. I promise not to depart from thy advice to
the right or the left."

The ass: "God knows, I am speaking to thee in the uprightness of
my heart and the purity of my thoughts. My advice to thee is not to
eat either straw or fodder this night. When our master notices it, he
will suppose that thou art sick. He will put no burdensome work
upon thee, and thou canst take a good rest. That is the way I did

The ox followed the advice of his companion. He touched none of
the food thrown to him. The master, suspecting a ruse on the part
of the ass, arose during the night, went to the stable, and watched
the ass eat his fill from the manger belonging to the ox. He could
not help laughing out loud, which greatly amazed his wife, who, of
course, had noticed nothing out of the way. The master evaded her
questions. Something ludicrous had just occurred to him, he said
by way of explanation.

For the sly trick played upon the ox, he determined to punish the
ass. He ordered the servant to let the ox rest for the day, and make
the ass do the work of both animals. At evening the ass trudged
into the stable tired and exhausted. The ox greeted him with the
words: "Brother, hast thou heard aught of what our heartless
masters purpose?" "Yes," replied the ass, "I heard them speak of
having thee slaughtered, if thou shouldst refuse to eat this night,
too. They want to make sure of thy flesh at least." Scarcely had the
ox heard the words of the ass when he threw himself upon his food
like a ravenous lion upon his prey. Not a speck did he leave
behind, and the master was suddenly moved to uproarious
laughter. This time his wife insisted upon knowing the cause. In
vain she entreated and supplicated. She swore not to live with him
any more if he did not tell her why he laughed. The man loved her
so devotedly that he was ready to sacrifice his life to satisfy her
whim, but before taking leave of this world he desired to see his
friends and relations once more, and he invited them all to his

Meantime his dog was made aware of the master's approaching
end, and such sadness took possession of the faithful beast that he
touched neither food nor drink. The cock, on the other hand, gaily
appropriated the food intended for the dog, and he and his wives
enjoyed a banquet. Outraged by such unfeeling behavior, the dog
said to the cock: "How great is thy impudence, and how
insignificant thy modesty! Thy master is but a step from the grave,
and thou eatest and makest merry." The cock's reply was: "Is it my
fault if our master is a fool and an idiot? I have ten wives, and I
rule them as I will. Not one dares oppose me and my commands.
Our master has a single wife, and this one he cannot control and
manage." "What ought our master to do?" asked the dog. "Let him
take a heavy stick and belabor his wife's back thoroughly," advised
the cock, "and I warrant thee, she won't plague him any more to
reveal his secrets."

The husband had overheard this conversation, too, and the cock's
advice seemed good. He followed it, and death was averted. (34)

On many occasions, Solomon brought his acumen and wisdom to
bear upon foreign rulers who attempted to concoct mischief
against him. Solomon needed help in building the Temple, and he
wrote to Pharaoh, asking him to send artists to Jerusalem. Pharaoh
complied with his request, but not honestly. He had his astrologers
determine which of his men were destined to die within the year.
These candidates for the grave he passed over to Solomon. The
Jewish king was not slow to discover the trick played upon him.
He immediately returned the men to Egypt, each provided with his
grave clothes, and wrote: "To Pharaoh! I suppose thou hadst no
shrouds for these people. Herewith I send thee the men, and what
they were in need of." (35)

Hiram, king of Tyre, the steadfast friend of the dynasty of David,
who had done Solomon such valuable services in connection with
the building of the Temple, was desirous of testing his wisdom. He
was in the habit of sending catch-questions and riddles to Solomon
with the request that he solve them and help him out of his
embarrassment about them. Solomon, of course, succeeded in
answering them all. Later on he made an agreement with Hiram,
that they were to exchange conundrums and riddles, and a money
fine was to be exacted from the one of them who failed to find the
proper answer to a question propounded by the other. Naturally it
was Hiram who was always the loser. The Tyrians maintain that
finally Solomon found more than his match in one of Hiram's
subjects, one Abdamon, who put many a riddle to Solomon that
baffled his wit. (36)

Of Solomon's subtlety in riddle guessing only a few instances have
come down to us, all of them connected with riddles put to him by
the Queen of Sheba. (37) The story of this queen, of her relation to
Solomon, and what induced her to leave her distant home and
journey to the court at Jerusalem forms an interesting chapter in
the eventful life of the wise king.


Solomon, it must be remembered, bore rule not only over men, but
also over the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, demons,
spirits, and the spectres of the night. He knew the language of all
of them and they understood his language. (38)

When Solomon was of good cheer by reason of wine, he
summoned the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the creeping
reptiles, the shades, the spectres, and the ghosts, to perform their
dances before the kings, his neighbors, whom he invited to witness
his power and greatness. The king's scribes called the animals and
the spirits by name, one by one, and they all assembled of their
own accord, without fetters or bonds, with no human hand to guide

On one occasion the hoopoe (39) was missed from among the
birds. He could not be found anywhere. The king, full of wrath,
ordered him to be produced and chastised for his tardiness. The
hoopoe appeared and said: "O lord, king of the world, incline thine
ear and hearken to my words. Three months have gone by since I
began to take counsel with myself and resolve upon a course of
action. I have eaten no food and drunk no water, in order to fly
about in the whole world and see whether there is a domain
anywhere which is not subject to my lord the king. (40) and I
found a city, the city of Kitor, in the East. Dust is more valuable
than gold there, and silver is like the mud of the streets. Its trees
are from the beginning of all time, and they suck up water that
flows from the Garden of Eden. The city is crowded with men. On
their heads they wear garlands wreathed in Paradise. They know
not how to fight, nor how to shoot with bow and arrow. Their ruler
is a woman, she is called the Queen of Sheba. If, now, it please
thee, O lord and king, I shall gird my loins like a hero, and journey
to the city of Kitor in the land of Sheba. Its kings I shall fetter with
chains and its rulers with iron bands, and bring them all before my
lord the king."

The hoopoe's speech pleased the king. The clerks of his land were
summoned, and they wrote a letter and bound it to the hoopoe's
wing. The bird rose skyward, uttered his cry, and flew away,
followed by all the other birds.

And they came to Kitor in the land of Sheba. It was morning, and
the queen had gone forth to pay worship to the sun. Suddenly the
birds darkened his light. The queen raised her hand, and rent her
garment, and was sore astonished. Then the hoopoe alighted near
her. Seeing that a letter was tied to his wing, she loosed it and read
it. And what was written in the letter? "From me, King Solomon!
Peace be with thee, peace with the nobles of thy realm! Know that
God has appointed me king over the beasts of the field, the birds of
the air, the demons, the spirits, and the spectres. All the kings of
the East and the West come to bring me greetings. If thou wilt
come and salute me, I shall show thee great honor, more than to
any of the kings that attend me. But if thou wilt not pay homage to
me, I shall send out kings, legions, and riders against thee. Thou
askest, who are these kings, legions, and riders of King Solomon?
The beasts of the field are my kings, the birds my riders, the
demons, spirit, and shades of the night my legions. The demons
will throttle you in your beds at night, while the beasts will slay
you in the field, and the birds will consume your flesh."

When the Queen of Sheba had read the contents of the letter, she
again rent her garment, and sent word to her elders and her
princes: "Know you not what Solomon has written to me?" They
answered: "We know nothing of King Solomon, and his dominion
we regard as naught." But their words did not reassure the queen.
She assembled all the ships of the sea, and loaded them with the
finest kinds of wood, and with pearls and precious stones.
Together with these she sent Solomon six thousand youths and
maidens, born in the same year, in the same month, on the same
day, in the same hour all of equal stature and size, all clothed in
purple garments. They bore a letter to King Solomon as follows:
"From the city of Kitor to the land of Israel is a journey of seven
years. As it is thy wish and behest that I visit thee, I shall hasten
and be in Jerusalem at the end of three years."

When the time of her arrival drew nigh, Solomon sent Benaiah the
son of Jehoiada to meet her. Benaiah was like unto the flush in the
eastern sky at break of day, like unto the evening star that
outshines all other stars, like unto the lily growing by brooks of
water. When the queen caught sight of him, she descended from
her chariot to do him honor. Benaiah asked her why she left her
chariot. "Art thou not King Solomon?" she questioned in turn.
Benaiah replied: "Not King Solomon am I, only one of his servants
that stand in his presence." Thereupon the queen turned to her
nobles and said: "If you have not beheld the lion, at least you have
seen his lair, and if you have not beheld King Solomon, at least
you have seen the beauty of him that stands in his presence."

Benaiah conducted the queen to Solomon, who had gone to sit in a
house of glass to receive her. The queen was deceived by an
illusion. She thought the king was sitting in water, and as she
stepped across to him she raised her garment to keep it dry. On her
bared feet the king noticed hair, and he said to her: "Thy beauty is
the beauty of a woman, but thy hair is masculine; hair is an
ornament to a man, but it disfigures a woman." (41)

Then the queen began and said: (42) "I have heard of thee and thy
wisdom; if now I inquire of thee concerning a matter, wilt thou
answer me?" He replied: "The Lord giveth wisdom, out of His
mouth cometh knowledge and understanding." She then said to

1. "Seven there are that issue and nine that enter; two yield the
draught and one drinks." Said he to her: "Seven are the days of a
woman's defilement, and nine the months of pregnancy; two are
the breasts that yield the draught, and one the child that drinks it."
Whereupon she said to him: "Thou art wise."

2. Then she questioned him further: "A woman said to her son, thy
father is my father, and thy grandfather my husband; thou art my
son, and I am thy sister." "Assuredly," said he, "it was the daughter
of Lot who spake thus to her son."

3. She placed a number of males and females of the same stature
and garb before him and said: "Distinguish between them."
Forthwith he made a sign to the eunuchs, who brought him a
quantity of nuts and roasted ears of corn. The males, who were not
bashful, seized them with bare hands; the females took them,
putting forth their gloved hands from beneath their garments.
Whereupon he exclaimed: "Those are the males, these the

4. She brought a number of men to him, some circumcised and
others uncircumcised, and asked him to distinguish between them.
He immediately made a sign to the high priest, who opened the
Ark of the covenant, whereupon those that were circumcised
bowed their bodies to half their height, while their countenances
were filled with the radiance of the Shekinah; the uncircumcised
fell prone upon their faces. "Those," said he, "are circumcised,
these uncircumcised." (43) "Thou art wise, indeed," she exclaimed.

5. She put other questions to him, to all of which he gave replies.
"Who is he who neither was born nor has died?" "It is the Lord of
the world, blessed be He."

6. "What land is that which has but once seen the sun?" "The land
upon which, after the creation, the waters were gathered, and the
bed of the Red Sea on the day when it was divided."

7. "There is an enclosure with ten doors, when one is open, nine
are shut; when nine are open, one is shut?" "That enclosure is the
womb; the ten doors are the ten orifices of man his eyes, ears,
nostrils, mouth, the apertures for the discharge of the excreta and
the urine, and the navel; when the child is in the embryonic state,
the navel is open and the other orifices are closed, but when it
issues from the womb, the navel is closed and the others are

8. "There is something which when living moves not, yet when its
head is cut off it moves?" "It is the ship in the sea." (44)

9. "Which are the three that neither ate, nor did they drink, nor did
they have bread put into them, yet they saved lives from death?"
"The signet, the cord, and the staff are those three."

10. "Three entered a cave and five came forth therefrom?" "Lot
and his two daughters and their two children."

11. "The dead lived, the grave moved, and the dead prayed: what is
that?" "The dead that lived and prayed, Jonah; and the fish, the
moving grave."

12. "Who were the three that ate and drank on the earth, and yet
were not born of male and female?" "The three angels who visited
Abraham." (45)

13. "Four entered a place of death and came forth alive, and two
entered a place of life and came forth dead?" "The four were
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, and the two were Nadab
and Abihu."

14. "Who was he that was born and died not?" "Elijah and the

15. "What was that which was not born, yet life was given to it?"
"The golden calf."

16. "What is that which is produced from the ground, yet man
produces it, while its food is the fruit of the ground?" "A wick."

17. "A woman was wedded to two, and bore two sons, yet these
four had one father?" "Tamar."

18. "A house full of dead; no dead one came among them, nor did
a living come forth from them?" "It is the story of Samson and the

19. The queen next ordered the sawn trunk of a cedar tree to be
brought, and she asked Solomon to point out at which end the root
had been and at which the branches. He bade her cast it into the
water, when one end sank and the other floated upon the surface of
the water. That part which sank was the root, and that which
remained uppermost was the branch end. Then she said to him:
"Thou exceedest in wisdom and goodness the fame which I heard,
blessed be thy God!" (46)

The last three riddles which the Queen of Sheba put to Solomon
were the following:

20. "What is this? A wooden well with iron buckets, which draw
stones and pour out water." The king replied: "A rouge-tube."

21. "What is this? It comes as dust from the earth, its food is dust,
it is poured out like water, and lights the house." "Naphtha."

22. "What is this? It walks ahead of all; it cries out loud and
bitterly; its head is like the reed; it is the glory of the noble, the
disgrace of the poor; the glory of the dead, the disgrace of the
living; the delight of birds, the distress of fishes." He answered:
"Flax." (47)

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