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son of Levi." (93)


Among the many and various teachings dispensed by Elijah to his
friends, there are none so important as his theodicy, the teachings
vindicating God's justice in the administration of earthly affairs.
He used many an opportunity to demonstrate it by precept and
example. Once he granted his friend Rabbi Joshua ben Levi the
fulfilment of any wish he might express, and all the Rabbi asked
for was, that he might be permitted to accompany Elijah on his
wanderings through the world. Elijah was prepared to gratify this
wish. He only imposed the condition, that, however odd the Rabbi
might think Elijah's actions, he was not to ask any explanation of
them. If ever he demanded why, they would have to part company.
So Elijah and the Rabbi fared forth together, and they journeyed
on until they reached the house of a poor man, whose only earthly
possession was a cow. The man and his wife were thoroughly
good-hearted people, and they received the two wanderers with a
cordial welcome. They invited the strangers into their house, set
before them food and drink of the best they had, and made up a
comfortable couch for them for the night. When Elijah and the
Rabbi were ready to continue their journey on the following day,
Elijah prayed that the cow belonging to his host might die. Before
they left the house, the animal had expired. Rabbi Joshua was so
shocked by the misfortune that had befallen the good people, he
almost lost consciousness. He thought: "Is that to be the poor man's
reward for all his kind services to us?" And he could not refrain
from putting the question to Elijah. But Elijah reminded him of the
condition imposed and accepted at the beginning of their journey,
and they travelled on, the Rabbi's curiosity unappeased. That night
they reached the house of a wealthy man, who did not pay his
guest the courtesy of looking them in the face. Though they passed
the night under his roof, he did not offer them food or drink. This
rich man was desirous of having a wall repaired that had tumbled
down. There was no need for him to take any steps to have it
rebuilt, for, when Elijah left the house, he prayed that the wall
might erect itself, and, lo! it stood upright. Rabbi Joshua was
greatly amazed, but true to his promise he suppressed the question
that rose to his lips. So the two travelled on again, until they
reached an ornate synagogue, the seats in which were made of
silver and gold. But the worshippers did not correspond in
character to the magnificence of the building, for when it came to
the point of satisfying the needs of the way-worn pilgrims, one of
those present said: "There is not dearth of water and bread, and the
strange travellers can stay in the synagogue, whither these
refreshments can be brought to them." Early the next morning,
when they were departing, Elijah wished those present in the
synagogue in which they had lodged, that God might raise them all
to be "heads." Rabbi Joshua again had to exercise great
self-restraint, and not put into words the question that troubled him
profoundly. In the next town, they were received with great
affability, and served abundantly with all their tired bodies craved.
On these kind hosts Elijah, on leaving, bestowed the wish that God
might give them but a single head. Now the Rabbi could not hold
himself in check any longer, and he demanded an explanation of
Elijah's freakish actions. Elijah consented to clear up his conduct
for Joshua before they separated from each other. He spoke as
follows: "The poor man's cow was killed, because I knew that on
the same day the death of his wife had been ordained in heaven,
and I prayed to God to accept the loss of the poor man's property as
a substitute for the poor man's wife. As for the rich man, there was
a treasure hidden under the dilapidated wall, and, if he had rebuilt
it, he would have found the gold; hence I set up the wall
miraculously in order to deprive the curmudgeon of the valuable
find. I wished that the inhospitable people assembled in the
synagogue might have many heads, for a place of numerous
leaders is bound to be ruined by reason of multiplicity of counsel
and disputes. To the inhabitants of our last sojourning place, on the
other hand, I wished a 'single head,' for the one to guide a town,
success will attend all its undertakings. Know, then, that if thou
seest an evil-doer prosper, it is not always unto his advantage, and
if a righteous man suffers need and distress, think not God is
unjust." After these words Elijah and Rabbi Joshua separated from
each other, and each went his own way. (94)

How difficult it is to form a true judgment with nothing but
external appearances as a guide, Elijah proved to Rabbi Baroka.
They were once waling in a crowded street, and the Rabbi
requested Elijah to point out any in the throng destined to occupy
places in Paradise. Elijah answered that there was none, only to
contradict himself and point to a passer-by the very next minute.
His appearance was such that in him least of all the Rabbi would
have suspected a pious man. His garb did not even indicate that he
was a Jew. Later Rabbi Baroka discovered by questioning him that
he was a prison guard. In the fulfilment of his duties as such he
was particularly careful that the virtue of chastity should not be
violated in the prison, in which both men women were kept in
detention. Also, his position often brought him into relations with
the heathen authorities, and so he was enabled to keep the Jews
informed of the disposition entertained toward them by the powers
that be. The Rabbi was thus taught that no station in life precluded
its occupant from doing good and acting nobly.

Another time Elijah designated two men to whom a great future
was assigned in Paradise. Yet these men were nothing more than
clowns! They made it their purpose in life to dispel discontent and
sorrow by their jokes and their cheery humor, and they used the
opportunities granted by their profession to adjust the difficulties
and quarrels that disturb the harmony of people living in close
contact with each other. (95)


Among the many benevolent deeds of Elijah, special mention
ought to be made of his rescue of those doomed by a heavenly
decree to fall into the clutches of the Angel of Death. He brought
these rescues about by warning the designated victims of their
impending fate, and urging them to do good deeds, which would
prove protection against death.

There was once a pious and rich man with a beautiful and saintly
daughter. She had had the misfortune of losing three husbands in
succession, each on the day after the wedding. These sorrows
determined her never again to enter into the marriage state. A
cousin of hers, the nephew of her father, induced by the poverty of
his parents, journeyed from his distant home to apply for help to
his rich uncle. Scarcely had he laid eyes upon his lovely cousin
when he fell victim to her charms. In vain her father sought to
dissuade his nephew from marrying his daughter. But the fate of
his predecessors did not affright him, and the wedding took place.
While he was standing under the wedding canopy, Elijah came to
him in the guise of an old man, and said: "My son, I want to give
thee a piece of advice. While thou are seated at the wedding
dinner, thou wilt be approached by a ragged, dirty beggar, with
hair like nails. As soon as thou catchest sight of him, hasten to seat
him beside thee, set food and drink before him, and be ready to
grant whatever he may ask of thee. Do as I say, and thou wilt be
protected against harm. Now I shall leave thee and go my way." At
the wedding feast, a stranger as described by Elijah appeared, and
the bridegroom did according to Elijah's counsel. After the
wedding the stranger revealed his identity, introducing himself as
the messenger of the Lord sent to take the young husband's life.
The supplications of the bridegroom failed to move him; he
refused to grant a single day's respite. All he yielded was
permission to the young husband to bid farewell to his newly-wed
wife. When the bride saw that what she had feared was coming to
pass, she repaired to the Angel of Death and argued with him:
"The Torah distinctly exempts the newly-wed from all duties for a
whole year. If thou deprivest my husband of life, thou wilt give the
lie to the Torah." Thereupon God commanded the Angel of Death
to desist, and, when the relatives of the bride came to prepare the
grave of the groom, they found him well and unharmed. (96)

A similar thing befell the son of the great and extremely pious
scholar Rabbi Reuben. To him came the Angel of Death and
announced that his only son would have to die. The pious man was
resigned: "We mortals can do nothing to oppose a Divine decree,"
he said, "but I pray there, give him thirty days' respite, that I may
see him married." The Angel of Death acquiesced. The Rabbi told
no one of this encounter, waited until the appointed time was
drawing to a close, and, on the very last day, the thirtieth, he
arranged his son's wedding feast. On that day, the
bridegroom-to-be met Elijah, who told him of his approaching
death. A worthy son of his father, he said: "Who may oppose God?
And am I better than Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? They, too, had to
die." Elijah told him furthermore, that the Angel of Death would
appear to him in the guise of a ragged, dirty beggar, and he advised
him to receive him in the kindliest possible manner, and in
particular he was to insist upon his taking food and drink from
him. All happened as Elijah had predicted, and his advice, too,
proved efficacious, for the heart of the Angel of Death, who finally
revealed his identity with the beggar, was softened by the
entreaties of the father, combined with the tears of the young wife,
who resorted to the argument cited above, of the year of exemption
from duty granted to the newly-married. The Angel of Death,
disarmed by the amiable treatment accorded to him, himself went
before the throne of God and presented the young wife's petition.
The end was God added seventy years to the life of Rabbi Reuben's
son. (97)


The frequent meetings between Elijah and the teachers of the law
of the Talmudic time were invested with personal interest only.
Upon the development of the Torah they had no influence
whatsoever. His relation to the mystic science was of quite other
character. It is safe to say that what Moses was to the Torah, Elijah
was to the Kabbalah.

His earliest relation to it was established through Rabbi Simon ben
Yohai and his son Rabbi Eliezer. For thirteen years he visited them
twice daily in their subterranean hiding-place, and imparted the
secrets of the Torah to them. (98) A thousand years later, Elijah
again gave the impetus to the development of the Kabbalah, for it
was he that revealed mysteries, first to the Nazarite Rabbi Jacob,
then to his disciple of the latter, Abraham ben David. The
mysteries in the books "Peliah" and "Kanah," the author Elkanah
owed wholly to Elijah. He had appeared to him in the form of a
venerable old man, and had imparted to him the secret lore taught
in the heavenly academy. Besides, he led him to a fiery rock
whereon mysterious characters were engraved, which were
deciphered by Elkanah.

After his disciple had thus become thoroughly impregnated with
mystical teachings, Elijah took him to the tomb of the Patriarchs,
and thence to the heavenly academy. But the angels, little pleased
by the intrusion of one "born of woman," inspired him with such
terror that he besought Elijah to carry him back to earth. His
mentor allayed his fears, and long continued to instruct him in the
mystical science, according to the system his disciple has recorded
in his two works. (99)

The Kabbalists in general were possessed of the power to cite
Elijah, to conjure him up by means of certain formulas. (100) One
of them, Rabbi Joseph della Reyna, once called upon Elijah in this
way, but it proved his own undoing. He was a saintly scholar, and
he had conceived no less a purpose than to bring about the
redemption of man by the conquest of the angel Samael, the Prince
of Evil. After many prayers and vigils and long indulgence in
fasting, and other ascetic practices, Rabbi Joseph united himself
with his five disciples for the purpose of conjuring up Elijah.
When the prophet, obeying the summons, suddenly stood before
him, Rabbi Joseph spoke as follows: "Peace be with thee, our
master! True prophet, bearer of salvation, be not displeased with
me that I have troubled thee to come hither. God knows, I have not
done it for myself, and not for mine own honor. I am zealous for
the name and the honor of God, and I know thy desire is the same
as mine, for it is thy vocation to make the glory of God to prevail
on earth. I pray thee, therefore, to grant my petition, tell me with
what means I can conquer Satan." Elijah at first endeavored to
dissuade the Rabbi from his enterprise. He described the great
power of Satan, ever growing as it feeds upon the sins of mankind.
But Rabbi Joseph could not be made to desist. Elijah then
enumerated what measures and tactics he would have to observe in
his combat with the fallen angel. He enumerated the pious, saintly
deeds that would win the interest of the archangel Sandalphon in
his undertaking, and from this angel he would learn the method of
warfare to be pursued. The Rabbi followed out Elijah's directions
carefully, and succeeded in summoning Sandalphon to his
assistance. If he had continued to obey instructions implicitly, and
had carried out all Sandalphon advised, the Rabbi would have
triumphed over Satan and hastened the redemption of the world.
Unfortunately, at one point the Rabbi committed an indiscretion,
and he lost the great advantages he had gained over Satan, who
used his restored power to bring ruin upon him and his disciples.

The radical transformation in the character of Kabbalistic teaching
which is connected with the name of Rabbi Isaac Loria likewise is
an evidence of Elijah's activity. Elijah sought out this "father of the
Kabbalistic Renaissance," and revealed the mysteries of the
universe to him. Indeed, he had shown his interest in him long
before any one suspected the future greatness of Rabbi Isaac.
Immediately after his birth, Elijah appeared to the father of the
babe, and enjoined him not to have the rite of circumcision
performed until he should be told by Elijah to proceed. The eighth
day of the child's life arrived, the whole congregation was
assembled at the synagogue (102) to witness the solemn
ceremonial, but to the great astonishment of his fellow-townsmen
the father delayed it. The people naturally did not know he was
waiting for Elijah to appear, and he was called upon once and
again to have the ceremony take place. But he did not permit the
impatience of the company to turn him from his purpose.
Suddenly, Elijah, unseen, of course, by the others, appeared to
him, and bade him have the ceremony performed. Those present
were under the impression that the father was holding the child on
his knees during the circumcision; in reality, however it was
Elijah. After the rite was completed, Elijah handed the infant back
to the father with the words: "Here is thy child. Take good care of
it, for it will spread a brilliant light over the world." (103)

It was also Elijah who in a similar way informed Rabbit Eliezer,
the father of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tob, the father of him
whose name is unrivalled in the annals of the Hasidic Kabbalah
that a son would be born to him who should enlighten the eyes of
Israel. This Rabbi Eliezer was justly reputed to be very hospitable.
He was in the habit of stationing guards at the entrances to the
village in which he lived, and they were charged to bring all
strangers to his house. In heaven it was ordained that Rabbi
Eliezer's hospitable instincts should be put to a test. Elijah was
chosen for the experiment. On a Sabbath afternoon, arrayed in the
garb of a beggar, he entered the village with knapsack and staff.
Rabbi Eliezer, taking no notice of the fact that the beggar was
desecrating the Sabbath, received him kindly, attended to his
bodily wants, and the next morning, on parting with him, gave him
some money besides. Touched by his kind-heartedness, Elijah
revealed his identity and the purpose of his disguise, and told him
that, as he had borne the trial so well, he would be rewarded by the
birth of a son who should "enlighten the eyes of Israel." (104)


Many-sided though Elijah's participation in the course of historical
events is, it cannot be compared with what he is expected to do in
the days of the Messiah. He is charged with the mission of
ordering the coming time aright and restoring the tribes of Jacob.
(105) His Messianic activity thus is to be twofold: he is to be the
forerunner of the Messiah, yet in part he will himself realize the
promised scheme of salvation. His first task will be to induce
Israel to repent when the Messiah is about to come, (106) and to
establish peace and harmony in the world. (107) Hence he will
have to settle all legal difficulties, and solve all legal problems,
that have accumulated since days immemorial, (108) and decide
vexed questions of ritual concerning which authors entertain
contradictory views. In short, all difference of opinion must be
removed from the path of the Messiah. (109) This office of
expounder of the law Elijah will continue to occupy even after the
reign of peace has been established on earth, and his relation to
Moses will be the same Aaron once held. (110)

Elijah's preparatory work will be begun three days before the
advent of the Messiah. Then he will appear in Palestine, and will
utter a lament over the devastation of the Holy Land, and his wail
will be heard throughout the world. The last words of his elegy
will be: "Now peace will come upon earth!" When the evil-doers
hear this message, they will rejoice. On the second day, he will
appear again and proclaim: "Good will come upon earth!" And on
the third his promise will be heard: "Salvation will come upon
earth." (111) Then Michael will blow the trumpet, and once more
Elijah will make his appearance, this time to introduce the
Messiah. (112) To make sure of the identity of the Messiah, the
Jews will demand that he perform the miracle of resurrection
before their eyes, reviving such of the dead as they had known
personally. (113) But the Messiah will do the following seven
wonders: He will bring Moses and the generation of the desert to
life; Korah and his band he will raise from out of the earth; he will
revive the Ephraimitic Messiah, who was slain; he will show the
three holy vessels of the Temple, the Ark, the flask of manna, and
the cruse of sacred oil, all three of which disappeared
mysteriously; he will wave the sceptre given him by God; he will
grind the mountains of the Holy Land into powder like straw, and
he will reveal the secret of redemption. Then the Jews will believe
that Elijah is the Elijah promised to them, and the Messiah
introduced by him is the true Messiah. (114)

The Messiah (115) will have Elijah blow the trumpet, and, at the
first sound, the primal light, which shone before the week of
Creation, will reappear; at the second sound the dead will arise,
and with the swiftness of wind assemble around the Messiah from
all corners of the earth; at the third sound, the Shekinah will
become visible to all; the mountains will be razed at the fourth
sound, and the Temple will stand in complete perfection as
Ezekiel described it. (116)

During the reign of peace, Elijah will be one of the eight princes
forming the cabinet of the Messiah. (117) Even the coming of the
great judgment day will not end his activity. On that day the
children of the wicked who had to die in infancy on account of the
sins of their fathers will be found among the just, while their
fathers will be ranged on the other side. The babes will implore
their fathers to come to them, but God will not permit it. Then
Elijah will go to the little ones, and teach them how to plead in
behalf of their fathers. They will stand before God and say: "Is not
the measure of good, the mercy of God, larger than the measure of
chastisements? If, then, we died for the sins of our fathers, should
they not now for our sakes be granted the good, and be permitted
to join us in Paradise?" God will give assent to their pleadings, and
Elijah will have fulfilled the word of the prophet Malachi; he will
have brought back the fathers to the children. (118)

The last act of Elijah's brilliant career will be the execution of
God's command to slay Samael, and so banish evil forever. (119)


The voices of the thousands of prophets of his time were stilled
when Elijah was translated from earth to heaven. With him
vanished the prophetical spirit of those who in former times had in
no wise been his inferiors. (1) Elisha was the only one among them
whose prophetical powers were not diminished. On the contrary,
they were strengthened, as a reward for the unhesitating readiness
with which he obeyed Elijah's summons, and parted with the field
he was ploughing, and with all else he possessed, in favor of the
community. Thenceforward he remained Elijah's unwearying
companion. When the angel descended from heaven to take Elijah
from earth, he found the two so immersed in a learned discussion
that he could not attract their attention, and he had to return, his
errand unfulfilled. (2)

Elijah's promise to bestow a double portion of his wondrous spirit
upon his disciple was realized instantaneously. During his life
Elisha performed sixteen miracles, and eight was all his master
had performed. The first of them, the crossing of the Jordan, was
more remarkable than the corresponding wonder done by Elijah,
for Elisha traversed the river alone, and Elijah had been
accompanied by Elisha. Two saints always have more power than
one by himself. (3)

His second miracle, the "healing" of the waters of Jericho, so that
they became fit to drink, resulted in harm to himself, for the
people who had earned their livelihood by the sale of wholesome
water were very much incensed against the prophet for having
spoiled their trade. Elisha, whose prophetic powers enabled him to
read both the past and the future of these tradesmen, knew that
they , their ancestors, and their posterity had "not even the aroma
of good about them." Therefore he cursed them. Suddenly a forest
sprang up and the bears that infested it devoured the murmuring
traders. The wicked fellows were not undeserving of the
punishment they received, yet Elisha was made to undergo a very
serious sickness, by way of correction for having yielded to
passion. (4) In this he resembled his master Elijah; he allowed
wrath and zeal to gain the mastery over him. God desired that the
two great prophets might be purged of this fault. Accordingly,
when Elisha rebuked King Jehoram of Israel, the spirit of prophecy
forsook him, and he had to resort to artificial means to re-awaken
it within himself. (5)

Like his teacher, Elisha was always ready to help the poor and
needy, as witness his sympathy with the widow of one of the sons
of the prophets, and the effective aid he extended to her. Her
husband had been none other than Obadiah, who, though a
prophet, had at the same time been one of the highest officials at
the court of the sinful king Ahab. By birth an Edomite, Obadiah
had been inspired by God to utter the prophecy against Edom. In
his own person he embodied the accusation against Esau, who had
lived with his pious parents without following their example,
while Obadiah, on the contrary, lived in constant intercourse with
the iniquitous King Ahab and his still more iniquitous spouse
Jezebel without yielding to the baneful influence they exercised.
(6) This same Obadiah not only used his own fortune, but went to
the length of borrowing money on interest from the future king, in
order to have the wherewithal to support the prophets who were in
hiding. On his death, the king sought to hold the children
responsible for the debt of the father. In her despair the pious wife
of Obadiah (7) went to the graveyard, and there she cried out: "O
thou God-fearing man!" At once a heavenly voice was heard
questioning her: "There are four God-fearing men, Abraham,
Joseph, Job, and Obadiah. To which of them does thou desire to
speak?" "To him of whom it is said, "He feared the Lord greatly.'"

She was led to the grave of the prophet Obadiah, where she poured
out the tale of her sorrow. Obadiah told her to take the small
remnant of oil she still had to the prophet Elisha and request him
to intercede for him with God, "for God," he said, "is my debtor,
seeing that I provided a hundred prophets, not only with bread and
water, but also with oil to illuminate their hiding-place, for do not
the Scriptures say: 'He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto
the Lord'?" Forthwith the woman carried out his behest. She went
to Elisha, and he helped her by making her little cruse of oil fill
vessels upon vessels without number, and when the vessels gave
out, she fetched potsherds, saying, "May the will that made empty
vessels full, make broken vessels perfect." So it was. The oil
ceased to flow only when the supply of potsherds as well as vessels
gave out. In her piety the woman wanted to pay her tithe-offering,
but Elisha was of the opinion that, as the oil had been bestowed
upon her miraculously, she could keep it wholly and entirely for
her own use. Furthermore, Elisha reassured her as to the power of
the royal princes to do her harm: "The God who will close the jaws
of the lions set upon Daniel, and who did close the jaws of the
dogs in Egypt, the same God will blind the eyes of the sons of
Ahab, and deafen their ears, so that they can do thee no harm." (8)
Not only was the poor widow helped out of her difficulties, her
descendants unto all times were provided for. The oil rose in price,
and it yielded so much profit that they never suffered want. (9)


The great woman of Shunem, the sister of Abishag and wife of the
prophet Iddo, (10) also had cause to be deeply grateful to Elisha.
When Elisha came to Shunem on his journey through the land of
Israel, his holiness made a profound impression upon the
Shunammite. Indeed, the prophet's eye was so awe-inspiring that
now woman could look him in the face and live. (11) Contrary to
the habit of most women, who are intent upon diminishing their
expenses and their toil, the Shunammite took delight in the
privilege of welcoming the prophet to her house as a guest. She
observed that not even a fly dared approach close to the holy man,
and a grateful fragrance exhaled from his person. "If he were not
so great a saint," she said, "and the holiness of the Lord did not
invest him, there were no such pleasant fragrance about him." That
he might be undisturbed, she assigned the best chambers in the
house to the prophet. He on his part, desiring to show his
appreciation of her hospitality, knew no better return for her
kindness than to promise that she should be blessed with a child
within a year. (12) The woman protested: "O, my husband is an old
man, nor am I of an age to bear children; the promise cannot be
fulfilled." Yet it happened as the prophet had foretold. Before a
twelvemonth had passed, she was a mother.

A few years later her child died a sudden death. The mother
repaired to the prophet, and lamented before him: "O that the
vessel had remained empty, rather than it should be filled first, and
then be left void." The prophet admitted that, though as a rule he
was acquainted with all things that were to happen, God had left
him in the dark about the misfortune that had befallen her. With
trust in God, he gave his staff to his disciple Gehazi, and sent him
to bring the boy back to life. But Gehazi was unworthy of his
master. His conduct toward the Shunammite was not becoming a
disciple of the prophet, and, above all, he had no faith in the
possibility of accomplishing the mission entrusted to him. Instead
of obeying the behest of Elisha, not to speak a word on his way to
the child of the Shunammite, Gehazi made sport of the task laid
upon him. To whatever man he met he addressed the questions:
"Dost thou suppose this staff can bring the dead back to life?" The
result was that he forfeited the power of executing the errand with
which he had been charged. Elisha himself had to perform the
miracle. The prophet uttered the prayer: "O Lord of the world! As
Thou didst wonders through my master Elijah, and didst permit
him to bring the dead to life, so, I pray Thee, do Thou perform a
wonder through me, and let me restore life to this lad." (13) The
prayer was granted, and the child was revived. The act of the
prophet proves the duty of gratitude in return for hospitality. Elisha
did not attempt to resuscitate his own kith and kin who had been
claimed by death; he invoked a miracle for the sake of the woman
who had welcomed him kindly to her house. (14)


Gehazi, proved untrustworthy by his conduct on this occasion,
again aroused the ire of the prophet when he disregarded the order
not to accept money from Naaman, the Syrian captain. He did not
succeed in deceiving the prophet. On his return from Naaman he
found Elisha occupied with the study of the chapter in the Mishnah
Shabbat which deals with the eight reptiles. The prophet Elisha
greeted him with the rebuke: "Thou villain! the time has come for
me to be rewarded for the study of the Mishnah about the eight
reptiles. May my reward be that the disease of Naaman afflict thee
and thy descendants for evermore." Scarcely had these words
escaped his lips, when he saw the leprosy come out on Gehazi's
face. (15) Gehazi deserved the punishment on account of his base
character. He was sensual and envious, and did not believe in the
resurrection of the dead. His unworthy qualities were displayed in
his conduct toward the Shunammite and toward the disciples of
Elisha. When the pretty Shunammite came to the prophet in her
grief over the death of her child, Gehazi took her passionately in
his arms, under the pretext of forcing her away from the prophet,
on whom she had laid hold in her supplications.

As for the other disciples of Elisha, he endeavored to keep them
away from the house of the prophet. He was in the habit of
standing without the door. This induced many to turn away and go
home, for they reasoned that, if the house were not full to
overflowing, Gehazi would not be standing outside. Only after
Gehazi's dismissal did the disciples of Elisha increase
marvellously. That Gehazi had no faith in the resurrection of the
dead, is shown by his incredulity with regard to the child of the
Shunammite. (16)

In spite of all these faults, Elisha regretted that he had cast off his
disciple, who was a great scholar in the law, especially as Gehazi
abandoned himself to a sinful life after leaving the prophet. By
means of magnetism he made the golden calves at Beth-el float in
the air, and many were brought to believe in the divinity of these
idols. Moreover, he engraved the great and awful Name of God in
their mouth. Thus they were enabled to speak, and they gave forth
the same words God had proclaimed from Sinai: "I am the Lord
thy God Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." Elisha
accordingly repaired to Damascus to lead Gehazi back to the paths
of righteousness. But he remained impenitent, for he said: "From
thyself I have learned that there is no return for him who not only
sins himself, but also induces others to sin." (17) So Gehazi died
without having done aught to atone for his transgressions, which
were so great that he is one of the few Jews who have no share in
Paradise. (18) His children inherited his leprosy. He and his three
sons are the four leprous men who informed the king of Israel of
the precipitate flight of the Syrian host. (19)

Elisha's excessive severity toward his servant Gehazi and toward
the mocking boys of Jericho did not go unpunished. He had to
endure two periods of disease, and the third sickness that befell
him cause his death. He is the first known to history who survived
a sickness. Before him death had been the inevitable companion of
disease. (20)

A great miracle marked the end of a life rich in miraculous deeds:
a dead man revived at the touch of Elisha's bier, and stood on his
feet. It was a worthy character for whom the wonder was
accomplished Shallum the son of Tikvah, the husband of Huldah
the prophetess, a man of noble descent, who had led a life of
lovingkindness. He was in the habit of going daily beyond the city
bearing the pitcher of water, from which he gave every traveller to
drink, a good deed that received a double reward. His wife became
a prophetess, and when he died and his funeral, attended by a large
concourse of people, was disturbed by the invasion of the
Arameans, he was given new life by contact with the bones of
Elisha. He lived to have a son, Hanamel by name. (21)

The death of Elisha was a great misfortune for the Israelites. So
long as he was alive, no Aramean troops entered Palestine. The
first invasion by them happened on the day of his burial. (22)


Among the many thousands (23) of disciples whom Elisha
gathered about him during the sixty years (24) and more of his
activity, the most prominent was the prophet Jonah. While the
master was still alive, Jonah was charged with the important
mission of anointing Jehu king. (25) The next task laid upon him
was to proclaim their destruction to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
(26) The doom did not come to pass, because they repented of
their wrong-doing, and God had mercy upon them. Among the
Israelites Jonah was, therefore, known as "the false prophet."
When he was sent to Nineveh to prophesy the downfall of the city,
he reflected: "I know to a certainly that the heathen will do
penance, the threatened punishment will not be executed, and
among the heathen, too, I shall gain the reputation of being a false
prophet." (27) To escape this disgrace, he determined to take up
his abode on the sea, where there were none to whom prophecies
never to be fulfilled would have to be delivered.

On his arrival at Joppa, there was no vessel in port. To try him,
God cause a storm to arise, and it carried a vessel back to Joppa,
which had made a two days' journey away from the harbor. The
prophet interpreted this chance to mean that God approved his
plan. He was so rejoiced at the favorable opportunity for leaving
land that he paid the whole amount for the entire cargo in advance,
no less a sum than four thousand gold denarii. After a day's sailing
out from shore, a terrific storm (28) broke loose. Wonderful to
relate, it injured no vessel but Jonah's. Thus he was taught the
lesson that God is Lord over heaven and earth and sea, and man
can hide himself nowhere from His face.

On the same vessel were representatives of the seventy nations of
the earth, each with his peculiar idols. They all resolved to entreat
their gods for succor, and the god from whom help would come
should be recognized and worshipped at the only one true God.
But help came from none. Then it was that the captain of the
vessel approached Jonah where he lay asleep, and said to him: "We
are suspended 'twixt life and death, and thou liest here asleep.
Pray, tell me, to what nation dost thou belong?" "I am a Hebrew,"
replied Jonah. "We have heard," said the captain, "that the God of
the Hebrews is the most powerful. Cry to Him for help. Perhaps He
will perform such miracles for us as He did in days of old for the
Jews at the Red Sea."

Jonah confessed to the captain that he was to blame for the whole
misfortune, and he besought him to cast him adrift, and appease
the storm. The other passengers refused to consent to so cruel an
act. Though the lot decided against Jonah, they first tried to save
the vessel by throwing the cargo overboard. Their efforts were in
vain. Then they placed Jonah at the side of the vessel and spoke:
"O Lord of the world, reckon this not up against us as innocent
blood, for we know not the case of this man, and he himself bids
us throw him into the sea." Even then they could not make up their
minds to let him drown. First they immersed him up to his knees in
the water of the sea, and the storm ceased; they drew him back
into the vessel, and forthwith the storm raged in its old fury. Two
more trials they made. They lowered him into the water up to his
navel, and raised him out of the depths when the storm was
assuaged. Again, when the storm broke out anew, they lowered
him to his neck, and a second time they took him back into the
vessel when the wind subsided. (29) But finally the renewed rage
of the storm convinced them that their danger was due to Jonah's
transgressions, and they abandoned him to his fate. He was thrown
into the water, and on the instant the sea grew calm. (30)


At the creation of the world, God made a fish intended to harbor
Jonah. He as so large that the prophet was as comfortable inside of
him as in a spacious synagogue. The eyes of the fish served Jonah
as windows, and, besides, there was a diamond, which shone as
brilliantly as the sun at midday, so that Jonah could see all things
in the sea down to its very bottom.

It is a law that when their time has come, all the fish of the sea
must betake themselves to leviathan, and let the monster devour
them. The life term of Jonah's fish was about to expire, and the
fish warned Jonah of what was to happen. When he, with Jonah in
his belly, came to leviathan, the prophet said to the monster: "For
thy sake I came hither. It was meet that I should know thine abode,
for it is my appointed task to capture thee in the life to come and
slaughter thee for the table of the just and pious." When leviathan
observed the sign of the covenant on Jonah's body, he fled
affrighted, and Jonah and the fish were saved. To show his
gratitude, the fish carried Jonah whithersoever there was a sight to
be seen. He showed him the river from which the ocean flows,
showed him the spot at which the Israelites crossed the Red Sea,
showed him Gehenna and Sheol, and many other mysterious and
wonderful place.

Three days Jonah had spent in the belly of the fish, and he still felt
so comfortable that he did not think of imploring God to change
his condition. But God sent a female fish big with three hundred
and sixty-five thousand little fish to Jonah's host, to demand the
surrender of the prophet, else she would swallow both him and the
guest he harbored. The message was received with incredulity, and
leviathan had to come and corroborate it; he himself had heard
God dispatch the female fish on her errand. So it came about that
Jonah was transferred to another abode. His new quarters, which
he had to share with all the little fish, were far from comfortable,
and from the bottom of his heart a prayer for deliverance arose to
God on high. (31) The last words of his long petition were, "I shall
redeem my vow," (32) whereupon God commanded the fish to
spew Jonah out. At a distance of nine hundred and sixty-five
parasangs from the fish he alighted on dry land. These miracles
induced the ship's crew to abandon idolatry, and they all became
pious proselytes in Jerusalem. (33)


Jonah went straightway to Nineveh, the monster city covering forty
square parasangs and containing a million and half of human
beings. He lost no time in proclaiming their destruction to the
inhabitants. The voice of the prophet was so sonorous that it
reached to every corner of the great city, and all who heard his
words resolved to turn aside from their ungodly ways. At the head
of the penitents was King Osnappar of Assyria. (34) He descended
from his throne, removed his crown, strewed ashes on his head
instead, took off his purple garments, and rolled about in the dust
of the highways. In all the streets royal heralds proclaimed the
king's decree bidding the inhabitants fast three days, wear
sackcloth, and supplicate God with tears and prayers to avert the
threatened doom. The people of Nineveh fairly compelled to God's
mercy to descend upon them. They held their infants heavenward,
and amid streaming tears they cried: "For the sake of these
innocent babes, hear our prayers." The young of their stalled cattle
they separated from the mother beasts, the young were left within
the stable, the old were put without. So parted from one another,
the young and the old began to bellow aloud. Then the Ninevites
cried: "If Thou wilt not have mercy upon us, we will not have
mercy upon these beasts."

The penance of the Ninevites did not stop at fasting and praying.
Their deeds showed that they had determined to lead a better life.
If a man had usurped another's property, he sought to make
amends for his iniquity; some went so far as to destroy their
palaces in order to be able to give back a single brick to the
rightful owner. Of their own accord others appeared before the
courts of justice, and confessed their secret crimes and sins, known
to none beside themselves, and declared themselves ready to
submit to well-merited punishment, though it be death that was
decreed against them.

One incident that happened at the time will illustrate the contrition
of the Ninevites. A man found a treasure in the building lot he had
acquired from his neighbor. Both buyer and seller refused to
assume possession of the treasure. The seller insisted that the sale
of the lot carried with it the sale of all it contained. The buyer held
that he had bought the ground, not the treasure hidden therein.
Neither rested satisfied until the judge succeeded in finding out
who had hidden the treasure and where were his heirs, and the joy
of the two was great when they could deliver the treasure up to its
legitimate owners. (35)

Seeing that the Ninevites had undergone a real change of heart,
God took mercy upon them, and pardoned them. Thereupon Jonah
likewise felt encouraged to plead for himself with God, that He
forgive him for his flight. God spoke to him: "Thou wast mindful
of Mine honor," the prophet had not wanted to appear a liar, so
that men's trust in God might not be shaken "and for this reason
thou didst take to sea. Therefore did I deal mercifully with thee,
and rescue thee from the bowels of Sheol."

His sojourn in the inside of the fish the prophet could not easily
dismiss from his mind, nor did it remain without visible
consequences. The intense heat in the belly of the fish had
consumed his garments, and made his hair fall out, (36) and he
was sore plagued by swarms of insects. To afford Jonah protection,
God caused the kikayon to grow up. When he opened his eyes one
morning, he saw a plant with two hundred and seventy-five leaves,
each leaf measuring more than a span, so that it afforded relief
from the heat of the sun. But the sun smote the gourd that it
withered, and Jonah was again annoyed by the insects. He began to
weep and wish for death to release him from his troubles. But
when God led him to the plant, and showed him what lesson he
might derive from it, how, though he had not labored for the
plant, he had pity on it, he realized his wrong in desiring God to
be relentless toward Nineveh, the great city, with its many
inhabitants, rather than have his reputation as a prophet suffer
taint. He prostrated himself and said: "O God, guide the world
according to Thy goodness."

God was gracious to the people of Nineveh so long as they
continued worthy of His lovingkindness. But at the end of forty
days they departed from the path of piety, and they became more
sinful than ever. Then the punishment threatened by Jonah
overtook them, and they were swallowed up by the earth. (37)

Jonah's suffering in the watery abyss had been so severe that by
way of compensation of God exempted him from death: living he
was permitted to enter Paradise. (38) Like Jonah, his wife was
known far and wide for her piety. She had gained fame particularly
through her pilgrimage to Jerusalem, a duty which, by reason of
her sex, she was not obliged to fulfil. (39) On one of these
pilgrimages it was that the prophetical spirit first descended upon
Jonah. (40)


When the prophet Jonah, doing the behest of his master Elisha,
anointed Jehu king over Israel, (1) he poured the oil out of a
pitcher, not out of a horn, to indicate that the dynasty of Jehu
would not occupy the throne long. (2) At first Jehu, though a
somewhat foolish (3) king, was at least pious, but he abandoned
his God-fearing ways from the moment he saw the document
bearing the signature of the prophet Ahijah of Shilo, which bound
the signers to pay implicit obedience to Jeroboam. The king took
this as evidence that the prophet had approved the worship of the
golden calves. So it came to pass that Jehu, the destroyer of Baal
worship, did nothing to oppose the idolatrous service established
by Jeroboam at Beth-el. (4) The successors of Jehu were not
better; on the contrary, they were worse, and therefore in the fifth
generation (5) an end was put to the dynasty of Jehu by the hand of
the assassin.

The kings of Judah differed in no essential particular from their
colleagues in the north. Ahaziah, whom Jehu killed, was a
shameless sinner; he had the Name of God expurged from every
passage in which it occurred in the Holy Scriptures, and the names
of idols inserted in its place. (6)

Upon the death of Ahaziah followed the reign of terror under the
queen Athaliah, when God exacted payment from the house of
David for his trespass in connection with the extermination of the
priest at Nob. As Abiathar had been the only male descendant of
Abimelech to survive the persecution of Saul, so the sole
representative of the house of David to remain after the sword of
Athaliah had raged (7) was Joash, the child kept in hiding, in the
Holy of Holies in the Temple, by the high priest Jehoiada and his
wife Jehosheba. (8) Later Jehoiada vindicated the right of Joash
upon the throne, and installed him as king of Judah. The very
crown worn by the rulers of the house of David testified to the
legitimacy of the young prince, for it possessed the peculiarity of
fitting none but the rightful successors to David. (9)

At the instigation of Jehoiada, King Joash undertook the
restoration of the Temple. The work was completed so
expeditiously that one living at the time the Temple was erected by
Solomon was permitted to see the new structure shortly before his
death. (10) This good fortune befell Jehoiada (11) himself, the son
of Benaiah, commander-in-chief of the army under Solomon. So
long as Joash continued under the tutelage of Jehoiada, he was a
pious king. When Jehoiada departed this life, the courtiers came to
Joash and flattered him: "If thou wert not a god, thou hadst not
been able to abide for six years in the Holy of Holies, a spot which
even the high priest is permitted to enter but once a year." The
king lent ear to their blandishments, and permitted the people to
pay him Divine homage. (12) But when the folly of the king went
to the extreme of prompting him to set up an idol in the Temple,
Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, placed himself at the entrance, and
barring the way said: "Thou shalt not do it so long as I live." (13)
High priest, prophet, and judge though Zechariah was, and
son-in-law of Joash to boot, the king still did not shrink from
having him killed for his presumptuous words, not was he deterred
by the fact that it happened on a Day of Atonement which fell on
the Sabbath. (14) The innocent blood crimsoning the hall of the
priests did not remain unavenged. For two hundred and fifty-two
years it did not leave off seething and pulsating, until, finally,
Nebuzaradan, captain of Nebuchadnezzar's guard, ordered a great
carnage among the Judeans, to avenge the death of Zechariah. (15)

Joash himself, the murderer of Zechariah, met with an evil end. He
fell into the hands of the Syrians, and they abused him in their
barbarous, immoral way. Before he could recover from the
suffering inflicted upon him, his servants slew him. (16)

Amaziah, the son and successor of Joash, in many respects
resembled his father. At the beginning of his reign he was
God-fearing, but when, through the aid of God, he had gained a
brilliant victory over the Edomites, he knew no better way of
manifesting his gratitude than to establish in Jerusalem the cult of
the idol worshipped by his conquered enemies. To compass his
chastisement, God inspired Amaziah with the idea of provoking a
war with Joash, the ruler of the northern kingdom. Amaziah
demanded that Joash should either recognize the suzerainty of the
southern realm voluntarily, or let the fate of battle decide the
question. (17) At first Joash sought to turn Amaziah aside from his
purpose by a parable reminding him of the fate of Shechem, which
the sons of Jacob had visited upon him for having done violence to
their sister Dinah. (18) Amaziah refused to be warned. He
persisted in his challenge, and a war ensued. The fortune of battle
decided against Amaziah. He suffered defeat, and later he was
tortured to death by his own subjects. (19)


The reign of Uzziah, who for a little while occupied the throne
during his father Amaziah's lifetime, is notable particularly
because it marks the beginning of the activity of three of the
prophets, Hosea, Amos, and Isaiah. The oldest of the three was
Hosea, (20) the son of the prophet and prince Beeri, the Beeri who
later was carried away captive by Tiglath-pileser, the king of
Assyria. (21) Of Beeri's prophecies we have but two verses,
preserved for us by Isaiah. (22)

The peculiar marriage contracted by Hosea at the command of
God Himself was not without a good reason. When God spoke to
the prophet about the sins of Israel, expecting him to defend or
excuse his people, Hosea said severely: "O Lord of the world!
Thine is the universe. In place of Israel choose another as Thy
peculiar people from among the nations of the earth." To make the
true relation between God and Israel known to the prophet, he was
commanded to take to wife a woman with a dubious past. After
she had borne him several children, God suddenly put the question
to him: "Why followest thou not the example of thy teacher Moses,
who denied himself the joys of family life after his call to
prophecy?" Hosea replied: "I can neither send my wife away nor
divorce her, for she has borne me children." "If, now," said God to
him, "thou who hast a wife of whose honesty thou art so uncertain
that thou canst not even be sure that her children are thine, and yet
thou canst not separate from her, how, then can I separate Myself
from Israel, from My children, the children of My elect, Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob!" Hosea entreated God to pardon him. But God
said: "Better were it that thou shouldst pray for the welfare of
Israel, for thou art the cause that I issued three fateful decrees
against them." Hosea prayed as he was bidden, and his prayer
averted the impending threefold doom. (23)

Hosea died at Babylon at a time in which a journey thence to
Palestine was beset with many perils. Desirous of having his
earthly remains rest in sacred ground, he requested before his
death that his bier be loaded upon a camel, and the animal
permitted to make its way as it would. Wherever it stopped, there
his body was to be buried. As he commanded, so it was done.
Without a single mishap the camel arrived at Safed. In the Jewish
cemetery of the town it stood still, and there Hosea was buried in
the presence of a large concourse. (24)

The prophetical activity of Amos commenced after Hosea's had
closed, and before Isaiah's began. Though he had an impediment in
his speech, (25) he obeyed the call of God, and betook himself to
Beth-el to proclaim to the sinful inhabitants thereof the Divine
message with which he had been charged. The denunciation of the
priest Amaziah, of Beth-el, who informed against the prophet
before King Jeroboam of Israel, did him no harm, for the king,
idolater though he was, entertained profound respect for Amos. He
said to himself: "God forbid I should think the prophet guilty of
cherishing traitorous plans, and if he were, it would surely be at
the bidding of God." (26) For this pious disposition Jeroboam was
rewarded; never had the northern kingdom attained to such power
as under him. (27)

However, the fearlessness of Amos finally caused his death. King
Uzziah inflicted a mortal blow upon his forehead with a red-hot
iron. (28)

Two years after Amos ceased to prophesy, Isaiah was favored with
his first Divine communication. It was the day on which King
Uzziah, blinded by success and prosperity, arrogated to himself the
privileges of the priesthood. He tried to offer sacrifices upon the
altar, and when the high priest Azariah (29) ventured to restrain
him, he threatened to slay him and any priest sympathizing with
him unless they kept silent. Suddenly the earth quaked so violently
that a great breach was torn in the Temple, through which a
brilliant ray of sunlight pierced, falling upon the forehead of the
king and causing leprosy to break forth upon him. Nor was that all
the damage done by the earthquake. On the west side of Jerusalem,
half of the mountain was split off and hurled to the east, into a
road, at a distance of four stadia. (30) And not heaven and earth
alone were outraged by Uzziah's atrocity and sought to annihilate
him; even the angels of fire, the seraphim, were on the point of
descending and consuming him, when a voice from on high
proclaimed, that the punishment appointed for Uzziah was unlike
that meted out to Korah and his company despite the similarity of
their crimes. (31)

When Isaiah beheld the august throne of God on this memorable
day, (32) he was sorely affrighted, for he reproached himself with
not having tried to turn the king away from his impious desire.
(33) Enthralled he hearkened to the hymns of praise sung by the
angels, and lost in admiration he failed to join his voice with
theirs. "Woe is me," he cried out, "that I was silent! Woe is me that
I did not join the chorus of the angels praising God! Had I done it,
I, too, like the angels, would have become immortal, seeing I was
permitted to look upon sights to behold which had brought death
to other men." (34) Then he began to excuse himself: "I am a man
of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of people of unclean lips."
At once resounded the voice of God in rebuke: "Of thyself thou art
the master, and of thyself thou mayest say what thou choosest, but
who gave thee the right to calumniate My children of Israel and
call them 'a people of unclean lips'?" And Isaiah heard God bid one
of the seraphim touch his lips with a live coal as a punishment for
having slandered Israel. Though the coal was so hot that the seraph
needed tongs to hold the tongs with which he had taken the coal
from the altar, the prophet yet escaped unscathed, but he learned
the lesson, that it was his duty to defend Israel, not traduce him.
Thenceforth the championship of his people was the mainspring of
the prophet's activity, and he was rewarded by having more
revelations concerning Israel and the other nations vouchsafed him
than any other prophet before or after him. Moreover God
designated Isaiah to be "the prophet of consolation." Thus it
happened that the very Isaiah whose early prophecies foretold the
exile and the destruction of the Temple, (35) later described and
proclaimed, in plainer terms than any other prophet, (36) the
brilliant destiny in store for Israel.


Afflicted with leprosy, Uzziah was unfit to reign as king, and
Jotham administered the affairs of Judah for twenty-five years
before the death of his father. (37) Jotham possessed so much piety
that his virtues added to those of two other very pious men suffice
to atone for all the sins of the whole of mankind committed from
the hour of creation until the end of all time. (38)

Ahaz, the son of Jotham; was very unlike him. "From first to last
he was a sinner." (39) He abolished the true worship of God,
forbade the study of the Torah, set up an idol in the upper room of
the Temple, and disregarded the Jewish laws of marriage. (40) His
transgressions are the less pardonable, because he sinned against
God knowing His grandeur and power, as appears from his reply to
the prophet. Isaiah said to him: "Ask a sign of God, as, for
instance, that the dead should arise, Korah come up from Sheol, or
Elijah descend from heaven." The king's answer was: "I know thou
hast the power to do any of these, but I do not wish the Name of
God to be glorified through me." (41)

The only good quality possessed by Ahaz was respect for Isaiah.
(42) To avoid his reproaches, Ahaz would disguise himself when
he went abroad, so that the prophet might not recognize him. (43)
Only to this circumstance, joined to the fact he was the father of a
pious son and the son of an equally pious father, is it to be ascribed
that, in spite of his wickedness, Ahaz is not one of those who have
forfeited their portion in the world to come. But he did not escape
punishment; on the contrary, his chastisement was severe, not only
as king but also as man. In the ill-starred war against Pekah, the
king of the northern kingdom, he lost his first-born son, a great
hero. (44)

Pekah, however, was not permitted to enjoy the fruits of his
victory, for the king of Assyria invaded his empire, captured the
golden calf at Dan, and led the tribes on the east side of Jordan
away into exile. The dismemberment of the Israelitish kingdom
went on apace for some years. Then the Assyrians, in the reign of
Hoshea, carried off the second golden calf together with the tribes
of Asher, Issachar, Zebulon, and Naphtali, leaving but one-eighth
of the Israelites in their own land. The larger portion of the exiles
was taken to Damascus. After that Israel's doom overtook it with
giant strides, and the last ruler of Israel actually hastened the end
of his kingdom by a pious deed. After the golden calves were
removed by the Assyrians, Hoshea, the king of the north, abolished
the institution of stationing the guards on the frontier between
Judah and Israel to prevent pilgrimages to Jerusalem. But the
people made no use of the liberty granted them. They persisted in
their idolatrous cult, and this quickened their punishment. So long
as their kings had put obstacles in their path, they could excuse
themselves before God for not worshipping Him in the true way.
The action taken by their king Hoshea left them no defense. When
the Assyrians made their third incursion into Israel, the kingdom of
the north was destroyed forever, and the people, one and all, were
carried away into exile. (45)

The heathen nations settled in Samaria by the Assyrians instead of
the deported Ten Tribes were forced by God to accept the true
religion of the Jews. Nevertheless they continued to worship their
olden idols: the Babylonians paid devotion to a hen, the people of
Cuthah to a cock, those of Hamath to a ram, the dog and the ass
were the gods of the Avvites, and the mule and the horse the gods
of the Sepharvites. (46)


While the northern kingdom was rapidly descending into the pit of
destruction, a mighty upward impulse was given to Judah, both
spiritually and materially, by its king Hezekiah. In his infancy the
king had been destined as a sacrifice to Moloch. His mother had
saved him from death only by rubbing him with the blood of a
salamander, which made him fire-proof. (47) In every respect he
was the opposite of his father. As the latter is counted among the
worst of sinners, so Hezekiah is counted among the most pious of
Israel. His first act as king is evidence that he held the honor of
God to be his chief concern, important beyond all else. He refused
to accord his father regal obsequies; his remains were buried as
though he had been poor and of plebeian rank. Impious as he was,
Ahaz deserved nothing more dignified. (48) God had Himself
made it known to Hezekiah, by a sign, that his father was to have
no consideration paid him. On the day of the dead king's funeral
daylight lasted but two hours, and his body had to be interred when
the earth was enveloped in darkness. (49)

Throughout his reign, Hezekiah devoted himself mainly to the task
of dispelling the ignorance of the Torah which his father had
caused. While Ahaz had forbidden the study of the law, Hezekiah's
orders read: "Who does not occupy himself with the Torah, renders
himself subject to the death penalty." The academies closed under
Ahaz were kept open day and night under Hezekiah. The king
himself supplied the oil needed for illuminating purposes.
Gradually, under this system, a generation grew up so well trained
that one could search the land from Dan even to Beer-sheba and
not find a single ignoramus. The very women and the children,
both boys and girls, knew the laws of "clean and unclean." (50) By
way of rewarding his piety, God granted Hezekiah a brilliant
victory over Sennacherib.

This Assyrian king, who had conquered the whole world, (51)
equipped an army against Hezekiah like unto which there is none,
unless it be the army of the four kings whom Abraham routed, or
the army to be raised by God and Magog in the Messianic time.
Sennacherib's army consisted of more than two millions and a half
of horsemen, among them forty-five thousand princes sitting in
chariots and surrounded by their paramours, by eighty thousand
armor-clad soldiers, and sixty thousand swordsmen. The camp
extended over a space of four hundred parasangs, and the
saddle-beasts standing neck to neck formed a line forty parasangs
long. The host was divided into four divisions. After the first of
them had passed the Jordan, it was well nigh dry, for the soldiers
had all slaked their thirst with water of the river. The second
division found nothing to quench their thirst except the water
gathered under the hoofs of the horses. The third division was
forced to dig wells, and when the fourth division crossed the
Jordan, they kicked up great clouds of dust. (52)

With this vast army Sennacherib hastened onward, in accordance
with the disclosures of the astrologers, who warned him that he
would fail in his object of capturing Jerusalem, if he arrived there
later than the day set by them. His journey having lasted but one
day instead of ten, as he had expected, he rested at Nob. A raised
platform was there erected for Sennacherib, whence he could view
Jerusalem. On first beholding the Judean capital, the Assyrian king
exclaimed: "What! Is this Jerusalem, the city for whose sake I
gathered together my whole army, for whose sake I first conquered
all other lands? Is it not smaller and weaker than all the cities of
the nations I subdued with my strong hand?" He stretched himself
and shook his head, and waved his hand contemptuously toward
the Temple mount and the sanctuary crowning it. When his
warriors urged him to make his attack upon Jerusalem, he bade
them take their ease for one night, and be prepared to storm the
city the next day. It seemed no great undertaking. Each warrior
would but have to pick up as much mortar from the wall as is
needed to seal a letter and the whole city would disappear. But
Sennacherib made the mistake of not proceeding directly to the
attack upon the city. If he had made the assault at once, it would
have been successful, for the sin of Saul against the priest at Nob
had not yet been wholly expiated; on that very day it was fully
atoned for. (53) In the following night, which was the Passover
night, when Hezekiah and the people began to sing the Hallel
Psalms, (54) the giant host was annihilated. The archangel Gabriel
(55) sent by God to ripen the fruits of the field, was charged to
address himself to the task of making away with the Assyrians, and
he fulfilled his mission so well that of all the millions of the army,
Sennacherib alone was saved with his two sons, his son-in-law
(56) Nebuchadnezzar, and Nebuzaradan. (57) The death of the
Assyrians happened when the angel permitted them to hear the
"song of the celestials." (58) Their souls were burnt, though their
garments remained intact. (59) Such an end was too good for
Sennacherib. To him a disgraceful death was apportioned. On his
flight away from Jerusalem, he met a Divine apparition in the
guise of an old man. He questioned Sennacherib as to what he
would say to the kings allied with him, in reply to their inquiry
about the fate of their sons at Jerusalem. Sennacherib confessed
his dread of a meeting with those kings. The old man advised him
to have his hair cut off, which would change his appearance
beyond recognition. Sennacherib assented, and his advisor sent
him to a house in the vicinity to fetch a pair of shears. Here he
found some people angels in disguise busying themselves with a
hand-mill. They promised to give him the shears, provided he
ground a measure of grain for them. So it grew late and dark by the
time Sennacherib returned to the old man, and he had to procure a
light before his hair could be cut. As he fanned the fire into a
flame, a spark flew into his beard and singed it, and he had to
sacrifice his beard as well as his hair. On his return to Assyria,
Sennacherib found a plank, which he worshipped as an idol,
because it was part of the ark which had saved Noah from the
deluge. He vowed that he would sacrifice his sons to this idol if he
prospered in his next ventures. But his sons heard his vows, and
they killed their father, (60) and fled to Kardu where they released
the Jewish captives confined there in great numbers. With these
they marched to Jerusalem, and became proselytes there. The
famous scholars Shemaiah and Abtalion were the descendants of
these two sons of Sennacherib. (61)


The destruction of the Assyrian host delivered Hezekiah from an
inner as well as an outer enemy, for he had opponents in
Jerusalem, among them the high priest Shebnah. (62) Shebnah had
a more numerous following in the city than the king himself, (63)
and they and their leader had favored peace with Sennacherib.
Supported by Joah, another influential personage, Shebnah had
fastened a letter to a dart, and shot the dart into the Assyrian camp.
The contents of the letter were: "We and the whole people of Israel
wish to conclude peace with thee, but Hezekiah and Isaiah will not
permit it." (64) Shebnah's influence was so powerful that Hezekiah
began to show signs of yielding. Had it not been for the prophet
Isaiah, the king would have submitted to Sennacherib's demands.

Shebnah's treachery and his other sins did not go unpunished.
When he and his band of adherents left Jerusalem to join the
Assyrians, the angel Gabriel closed the gate as soon as Shebnah
had passed beyond it, and so he was separated from his followers.
To the inquiry of Sennacherib about the many sympathizers he had
written of, he could give no reply but that they had changed their
mind. The Assyrian king thought Shebnah had made sport of him.
He, therefore, ordered his attendants to bore a hole through his
heels, tie him to the tail of a horse by them, and spur the horse on
to run until Shebnah was dragged to death. (65)

The unexpected victory won by Hezekiah over the Assyrians, to
whom the kingdom of Samaria had fallen a prey but a short time
before, showed how wrong they had been who had mocked at
Hezekiah for his frugal ways. A king whose meal consisted of a
handful of vegetables could hardly be called a dignified ruler, they
had said. These critics would gladly have seen his kingdom pass
into the hands of Pekah, the king of Samaria, whose dessert, to
speak of nothing else, consisted of forty seim of young pigeons.

In view of all the wonders God had done for him, it was
unpardonable that Hezekiah did not feel himself prompted at least
to sing a song of praise to God. Indeed, when the prophet Isaiah
urged him to it, he refused, saying that the study of the Torah, to
which he devoted himself with assiduous zeal, was a substitute for
direct expressions of gratitude. Besides, he thought God's miracles
would become known to the world without action on his part, (67)
in such ways as these: After the destruction of the Assyrian army,
when the Jews searched the abandoned camps, they found Pharaoh
the king of Egypt and the Ethiopian king Tirhakah. These kings
had hastened to the aid of Hezekiah, and the Assyrians had taken
them captive and clapped them in irons, in which they were
languishing when the Jews came upon them. Liberated by
Hezekiah, the two rulers returned to their respective realms,
spreading the report of the greatness of God everywhere. And
again, all the vassal troops in Sennacherib's army, set free by
Hezekiah, accepted the Jewish faith, and on their way home they
proclaimed the kingdom of God in Egypt and in many other lands.

By failing in gratitude Hezekiah lost a great opportunity. The
Divine plan had been to make Hezekiah the Messiah, and
Sennacherib was to be God and Magog. Justice opposed this plan,
addressing God thus: "O Lord of the world! David, king of Israel,
who sang so many songs and hymns of praise to Thee, him Thou
didst not make the Messiah, and now Thou wouldst confer the
distinction upon Hezekiah, who has no word of praise for Thee in
spite of the manifold wonders Thou hast wrought for him?" Then
the earth appeared before God, and said: "Lord of the world! I will
song Thee a song in place of this righteous man; make him to be
the Messiah," and the earth forthwith intoned a song of praise.
Likewise spake the Prince of the World: (69) "Lord of the world!
Do the will of this righteous man." But a voice from heaven
announced: "This is my secret, this is my secret." And again, when
the prophet exclaimed sorrowfully, "Woe is me! How long, O
Lord, how long!" the voice replied: "The time of the Messiah will
arrive when the 'treacherous dealers and the treacherous dealers'
shall have come." (70)

The sin committed by Hezekiah asleep, he had to atone for awake.
If he refused to devote a song of praise to God for his escape from
the Assyrian peril, he could not refrain from doing it after his
recovery from the dangerous sickness that befell him. (71) This
sickness was a punishment for another sin beside ingratitude. He
had "peeled off" the gold from the Temple, and sent it to the king
of the Assyrians; therefore the disease that afflicted him caused his
skin to "peel off." (72) Moreover, this malady of Hezekiah's was
brought upon him by God, to afford an opportunity for the king
and the prophet Isaiah to come close to each other. The two had
had a dispute on a point of etiquette. (73) The king adduced as a
precedent the action of Elijah, who "went to show himself unto
Ahab," and demanded that Isaiah, too, should appear before him.
The prophet, on the other hand, modelled his conduct after
Elisha's, who permitted the kings of Israel, and Judah, and Edom,
to come to him. But God settled the dispute by afflicting Hezekiah
with sickness, and then He bade Isaiah go to the king and pay the
visit due to the sick. The prophet did the bidding of God. When he
appeared in the presence of the ailing king, he said: "Set thine
house in order, for thou wilt die in this world and not live in the
next" a fate which Hezekiah incurred because he had failed to
take unto himself a wife and bring forth posterity. The king's
defense, that he had preferred a celibate's life because he had seen
in the holy spirit that he was destined to have impious children, the
prophet did not consider valid. He rebutted it with the words:
"Why does thou concern thyself with the secrets of the
All-Merciful? Thou hast but to do thy duty. God will do
whatsoever it pleases Him." Thereupon Hezekiah asked the
daughter of the prophet in marriage, saying: "Perchance my merits
joined to thine will cause my children to be virtuous." But Isaiah
rejected the proposal of marriage, because he knew that the decree
of God ordaining the king's death was unalterable. Whereupon the
king: "Thou son of thus has it been transmitted to me from the
house of my ancestor: (74) Even if a sharp sword rests at the very
throat of a man, he may yet not refrain from uttering a prayer for
mercy." (75)

And the king was right. Though death had been decreed against
him, his prayer averted it. In his prayer he supplicated God to keep
him alive for the sake of the merits of his ancestors, who had built
the Temple and brought many proselytes into the Jewish fold, and
for the sake of his own merits, for, he said, "I searched out all the
two hundred and forty-eight members of my body which Thou
didst give me, and I found none which I had used in a manner
contrary to Thy will." (76)

His prayer was heard. God added fifteen years to his life, but He
made him understand very clearly, that he owed the mercy solely
to the merits of David, not at all to his own, as Hezekiah fondly
believed. (77) Before Isaiah left the court of the palace, God
instructed him to return to the king, and announce his recovery to
him. Isaiah feared lest Hezekiah should place little trust in his
words, as he had but a short while before predicted his swiftly
approaching end. But God reassured the prophet. In his modesty
and piety, the king would harbor no doubt derogatory to the
prophet's trustworthiness. (78) The remedy employed by Isaiah, a
cake of figs applied to the boil, increased the wonder of Hezekiah's
recovery, for it was apt to aggravate the malady rather than
alleviate it. (79)

A number of miracles besides were connected with the recovery of
Hezekiah. In itself it was remarkable, as being the first case of a
recovery on record. Previously illness had been inevitably
followed by death. Before he had fallen sick, Hezekiah himself
had implored God to change this order of nature. He held that
sickness followed by restoration to health would induce men to do
penance. God had replied: "Thou art right, and the new order shall
be begun with thee." (80) Furthermore, the day of Hezekiah's
recovery was marked by the great miracle that the sun shone ten
hours longer than its wonted time. The remotest lands were
amazed thereat, and Baladan, the ruler of Babylon, was prompted
by it to send an embassy to Hezekiah, which was to carry his
felicitations to the Jewish king upon his recovery. Baladan, it
should be said by the way, was not the real king of Babylon. The
throne was occupied by his father, whose face had changed into
that of a dog. Therefore the son had to administer the affairs of
state, and he was known by his father's name as well as his own.
(81) This Baladan was in the habit of dining at noon, and then he
took a nap until three o'clock of the afternoon. On the day of
Hezekiah's recovery, when he awoke from his sleep, and saw the
sun overhead, he was on the point of having his guards executed,
because he thought they had permitted him to sleep a whole
afternoon and the night following it. He desisted only when he was
informed of Hezekiah's miraculous recovery, and realised that the
God of Hezekiah was greater than his own god, the sun. (82) He at
once set about sending greetings to the Jewish king. His letter read
as follows: "Peace be with Hezekiah, peace with his great God, and
peace with Jerusalem." After the letter was dispatched, it occurred
to Baladan that it had not been composed properly. Mention of
Hezekiah had been made before mention of God. He had the
messengers called back, and ordered another letter to be written, in
which the oversight was made good. As a reward for his
punctiliousness, three of his descendants, Nebuchadnezzar,
Evil-merodach, and Belshazzar, were appointed by God to be
world monarchs. God said: "Thou didst arise from thy throne, and
didst take three steps to do Me honor, by having thy letter
re-written, therefore will I grant thee three descendants who shall
be known from one end of the world to the other." (83)

The embassy sent by the Babylonian monarch was an act of
homage to God for his miracle-working power. Hezekiah,
however, took it to be an act of homage toward himself, and it had
the effect of making him arrogant. Not only did he eat and drink
with the heathen who made up the embassy, but also, in his
haughtiness of mind, he displayed before them all the treasures
which he had captured from Sennacherib, and many other
curiosities besides, among them magnetic iron, a peculiar sort of
ivory, and honey as solid as stone.

What was worse, he had his wife partake of the meal in honor of
the embassy, and, most heinous crime of all, (84) he opened the
holy Ark, and pointing to the tables of law within it, said to the
heathen: "With the help of these we undertake wars and win
victories." (85) God sent Isaiah to reproach Hezekiah for these
acts. The king, instead of confessing his wrong at once, answered
the prophet haughtily. (86) Then Isaiah announced to him that the
treasures taken from Sennacherib (87) would revert to Babylon
some time in the future, and his descendants, Daniel and the three
companions of Daniel, would serve the Babylonia ruler as
eunuchs. (88)

Despite his pride in this case, Hezekiah was one of the most pious
kings of Judah. Especially he is deserving of praise for his efforts
to have Hebrew literature put into writing, for it was Hezekiah who
had copies made of the books of Isaiah, Ecclesiastes, Song of
Songs, and Proverbs. (89) On the other hand, he had concealed the
books containing medical remedies. (90)

Great was the mourning over him at his death. No less than
thirty-six thousand men with bared shoulders marched before his
bier, and, rarer distinction still, a scroll of the law was laid upon
his bier, for it was said: "He who rests in this bier, has fulfilled all
ordained in this book." (91) He was buried next to David and
Solomon. (92)


Hezekiah had finally yielded to the admonitions of Isaiah, and had
taken a wife unto himself, (93) the daughter of the prophet. But he
entered upon marriage with a heavy heart. His prophetic spirit
foretold to him that the impiousness of the sons he would beget
would make their death to be preferable to their life. These fears
were confirmed all too soon. His two sons, Rabshakeh and
Manasseh, showed their complete unlikeness to their parents in
early childhood. Once, when Hezekiah was carrying his two little
ones on his shoulders to the Bet ha-Midrash, he overheard their
conversation. The one said: "Our father's bald head might do for
frying fish." The other rejoined: "It would do well for offering
sacrifices to idols." Enraged by these words, Hezekiah let his sons
slip from his shoulders. Rabshakeh was killed by the fall, but
Manasseh escaped unhurt. (94) Better had it been if Manasseh had
shared his brother's untimely fate. He was spared for naught but
murder, idolatry, and other abominable atrocities. (95)

After Hezekiah had departed this life, Manasseh ceased to serve
the God of his father. He did whatever his evil imagination
prompted. The altar was destroyed, and in the inner space of the
Temple he set up an idol (96) with four faces, copied from the four
figures on the throne of God. It was so placed that from whatever
direction one entered the Temple, a face of the idol confronted
him. (97)

As Manasseh was sacrilegious toward God, he was malevolent
toward his fellows. He had fashioned an image so large that it
required a thousand men to carry it. Daily a new force was
employed on this task, because Manasseh had each set of porters
killed off at the end of the day's work. All his acts were calculated
to cast contempt upon Judaism and its tenets. It did not satisfy his
evil desire to obliterate the name of God from the Holy Scriptures;
(98) he went so far as to deliver public lectures whose burden was
to ridicule the Torah. (99) Isaiah and the other prophets, Micah,
Joel, and Habakkuk, (100) left Jerusalem and repaired to a
mountain in the desert, that they might be spared the sight of the
abominations practiced by the king. Their abiding-place was
disclosed to the king. A Samaritan, a descendant of the false
prophet Zedekiah, had taken refuge in Jerusalem after the
destruction of the Temple. But he did not remain there long;
charges were made against him before the pious king Hezekiah,
and he withdrew to Bethlehem, where he gathered hangers-on
about him. This Samaritan it was who traced the prophets to their
retreat, and lodged accusations against them before Manasseh.
(101) The impious king sat in judgment on Isaiah, and condemned
him to death. The indictment against him was that his prophecies
contained teachings in contradiction with the law of Moses. God
said unto Moses: "Thou canst not see My face; for man shall not
see Me and live"; while Isaiah said: "I saw the Lord sitting upon a
throne, high and lifted up." Again, Isaiah compared the princes of
Israel and the people with the impious inhabitants of Sodom and
Gomorrah, and he prophesied the downfall of Jerusalem and the
destruction of the Temple. (102) The prophet offered no
explanation. He was convinced of the uselessness of defending
himself, and he preferred Manasseh should act from ignorance
rather than from wickedness. However, he fled for safety. When he
heard the royal bailiffs in pursuit of him, he pronounced the Name
of God, and a cedar-tree swallowed him up. The king ordered the
tree to be sawn in pieces. When the saw was applied to the portion
of the bark under which the mouth of Isaiah lay concealed, he
died. His mouth was the only vulnerable part of his body, because
at the time when he was called to his prophetical mission, (103) it
had made use of the contemptuous words "a people of unclean
lips," regarding Israel. Isaiah died at the age of one hundred and
twenty years, (104) by the hands of his own grandchild. (105)

God is long-suffering, but in the end Manasseh received the
deserved punishment for his sins and crimes. In the twenty-second
year of his rulership, the Assyrians came and carried him off to
Babylon in fetters, him together with the old Danite idol, Micah's
image. (106) In Babylonia, the king was put into an oven which
was heated from below. Finding himself in this extremity,
Manasseh began to call upon god after god to help him out of his
straits. As this proved inefficacious, he resorted to other means. "I
remember," he said, "my father taught me the verse: 'When thou
art in tribulation, if in the latter days thou shalt return to the Lord
thy God, and hearken unto His voice, He will not fail thee.' Now I
cry to God. If He inclines His ear unto me, well and good; if not,
then all kinds of god are alike." The angels stopped up the
windows of heaven, that the prayer of Manasseh might not ascend
to God, and they said: "Lord of the world! Art Thou willing to give
gracious hearing to one who has paid worship to idols, and set up
an idol in the Temple?" "If I did not accept the penance of this
man," replied God, "I should be closing the door in the face of all
repentant sinners." God made a small opening under the Throne of
His Glory, and received the prayer of Manasseh through it.
Suddenly a wind arose, and carried Manasseh back to Jerusalem.
(107) His return to God not only helped him in his distress, but
also brought him pardon for all his sins, so that not even his share
in the future world was withdrawn from him. (108)

The people of this time were attracted to idolatry with so
irresistible a force that the vast learning of Manasseh, who knew
fifty-two different interpretations of the Book of Leviticus, (109)
did not give him enough moral strength to withstand its influence.
Rab Ashi, the famous compiler of the Talmud, once announced a
lecture on Manasseh with the words: "To-morrow I shall speak
about our colleague Manasseh." At night the king appeared to Ashi
in a dreams, and put a ritual question to him, which the Rabbi
could not answer. Manasseh told him the solution, and Ashi, in
amazement at the king's scholarship, asked why one so erudite had
served idols. Manasseh's reply was: "Hadst thou lived at my time,
thou wouldst have caught hold of the hem of my garment and run
after me." (110)

Amon, the son of Manasseh, surpassed his father in wickedness.
He was in the habit of saying: "My father was a sinner from early
childhood, and in his old age he did penance. I shall do the same.
First I shall satisfy the desires of my heart, and afterward I shall
return to God." (111) Indeed, he was guilty of more grievous sins
than his predecessor; he burned the Torah; under him the place of
the altar was covered with spiderwebs; and, as though of purpose
to set at naught the Jewish religion, he committed the worst sort of
incest, a degree more heinous than his father's crime of a similar
nature. (112) Thus he executed the first half of his maxim literally.
For repentance, however, he was given no time; death cut him off
in the fulness of his sinful ways.


That the full measure of punishment was not meted out to Amon
his evil deeds were such that he should have forfeited his share in
the world to come was due to the circumstance that he had a
pious and righteous son. (113) Josiah offers a shining model of
true, sincere repentance. (114) Though at first he followed in the
footsteps of his father Amon, he soon gave up the ways of
wickedness, and became one of the most pious kings of Israel,
whose chief undertaking was the effort to bring the whole people
back to the true faith. It dates from the time when a copy of the
Torah was found in the Temple, a copy that had escaped the
holocaust kindled by his father and predecessor Amon for the
purpose of exterminating the Holy Scriptures. (115) When he
opened the Scriptures, the first verse to strike his eye was the one
in Deuteronomy: "The Lord shall bring thee and thy king into
exile, unto a nation which thou hast not known." Josiah feared this
doom of exile was impending, and he sought to conciliate God
through the reform of his people. (116)

His first step was to enlist the intercession of the prophets in his
behalf. He addressed his request, not to Jeremiah, but to the
prophetess Huldah, knowing that women are more easily moved to
compassion. As Jeremiah was a kinsman of the prophetess their
common ancestors were Joshua and Rahab the king felt no
apprehension that the prophet take his preference for Huldah
amiss. The proud, dignified answer of the prophetess was, that the
misfortune could not be averted from Israel, but the destruction of
the Temple, she continued consolingly, would not happen until
after the death of Josiah. (117) In view of the imminent destruction
of the Temple, Josiah hid the holy Ark and all its appurtenances, in
order to guard them against desecration at the hands of the enemy.

The efforts of the king in behalf of God and His law found no echo
with the great majority of the people. Though the king was
successful in preventing the worship of idols in public, his subjects
knew how to deceive him. Josiah sent out his pious sympathizers
to inspect the houses of the people, and he was satisfied with their
report, that they had found no idols, not suspecting that the
recreant people has fastened half an image on each wing of the
doors, so that the inmates faced their household idols as they
closed the door upon Josiah's inspectors.

This godless generation contemporaneous with Josiah was to
blame for his death. When King Pharaoh, in his campaign against
the Assyrians, wanted to travel through Palestine, Jeremiah
advised the king not to deny the Egyptians the passage through his
land. He cited a prophecy by his teacher Isaiah, who had foreseen
the war between Assyria and Egypt. But Josiah retorted: "Moses,
thy teacher's teacher, spake: 'I will give peace in the land, and no
sword shall go through your land,' not even the sword that is not
raised against Israel with hostile intent." The king, innocent of the
deception practiced by the people, knew not that they were idol
worshippers, to whom the promises of the Torah have no
application. In the engagement that ensued between the Jews and
the Egyptians, no less than three hundred darts struck the king. In
his death agony he uttered no word of complaint; he only said:
"The Lord is righteous, for I have rebelled against His
commandment," thus admitting his guilt in not having heeded the
advice of the prophet. (119)

So ended the days of this just king after a brilliant career, the only
king since Solomon to rule over both Judah and Israel, for
Jeremiah had brought back to Palestine the ten exiled tribes of the
north, and made them subject to Josiah. (120) The mourning for
him was profound. (121) Even Jeremiah perpetuated his memory
in his Lamentations. (122)

Pharaoh of Egypt was not permitted to enjoy the results of his
victory to the full, for it was soon after this that, in attempting to
ascend the wondrous throne of Solomon, he was stuck down by the
lions and rendered lame by the blow. (123)

The people put Jehoahaz on the throne of Judah to succeed Josiah,
though his brother Jehoiakim was the older by two years. To
silence the legitimate claims of Jehoiakim, the new king
underwent the ceremony of anointing. (124) But his reign was very
brief. At the end of three months Pharaoh carried him off into
exile in Egypt, and Jehoiakim ruled in his stead.

Jehoiakim was another of the sinful monarchs of the Jews,
uncharitable toward men and disobedient to God and the laws of
God. His garments were of two kinds of stuff mingled together, his
body was tattooed with the names of idols, and in order that he
might appear as a non-Jew, he performed the operation of an
epipost upon himself. Various forms of incest were committed by
him, and, besides, he was in the habit of putting men to death that
he might violate their wives, and confiscate their possessions.
(125) Blasphemous as he was, he spoke: "My predecessors did not
know how to provoke the wrath of God. As for me, I say frankly,
we have no need whatsoever of Him; the very light He gives us we
can dispense with, for the gold of Parvaim can well replace it."

Seeing such abominations, God desired to resolve the world into
its original chaos. If He desisted from His purpose, it was only
because the people led a God-fearing life during the time of
Jehoiakim. (127) After he had reigned eleven years,
Nebuchadnezzar put an end to his dominion. Advancing with his
army, the Babylonian king halted at Daphne, a suburb of Antioch.
Here he was met by the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem, who desired to
know whether he was coming with the purpose of destroying the
Temple. Nebuchadnezzar assured them, that all he wanted was the
surrender of Jehoiakim, who had rebelled against his authority.
Returned to Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin informed Jehoiakim of
Nebuchadnezzar's intention. The king asked the elders, whether it
was ethical to purchase their lives by sacrificing his. For answer
they referred him to the story of the way Joab dealt with the city of
Abel of Beth-maacah, which had saved itself by surrendering the
rebel Sheba, the son of Bichri. The king's objections did not deter
the Sanhedrin from following the example of Joab acting under the
direction of David. They made Jehoiakim glide down from the city
walls of Jerusalem by a chain. Below, the Babylonians stood ready
to receive him. Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiakim in fetters to all the
cities of Judah, then he slew him, and, his rage still unabated,
threw his corpse to the dogs after having stuck it into the carcass
of an ass. (128) The dogs left nothing of Jehoiakim's body over
except his skull, on which were written the words: "This and
something besides." Many centuries later it was found by a Rabbi
near the gates of Jerusalem. He tried in vain to give it burial; the
earth refused to retain it, and the Rabbi concluded therefrom that it
belonged to the corpse of Jehoiakim. He wrapped the skull in a
cloth, and laid it in a closet. One day the wife of the Rabbi
discovered it there, and she burnt it, thinking the skull belonged to
a former wife of her husband, so dear to him even after her death
that he could not separate himself from this relic. (129)

When Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylonia from his Palestinian
expedition, the people received him with great pomp and
solemnity. He announced to them that in place of Jehoiakim,
whom he had slain, he had installed Mattaniah, the rebel's son,
called Jehoiachin, as king over Judah, and the people uttered the
warning: "One cannot educate a well-behaved puppy whose dam
was ill-conditioned; let alone an ill-conditioned puppy whose dam
was ill-conditioned."

Nebuchadnezzar returned to Daphne, and informed the Sanhedrin,
who hastened from Jerusalem to meet him, that he desired the
surrender of Jehoiachin. If they refused to satisfy his demand, he
would destroy the Temple. When the Jewish king was told the
threat of his Babylonian adversary, he mounted upon the roof of
the Temple, and, holding all the keys of its chambers in his hand,
he spoke thus to God: "Until now Thou didst consider us worthy of
confidence, and Thou didst entrust Thy keys to us. Since Thou no
longer dost esteem us trustworthy, here, take back Thy keys." He
was held to his word: a hand was stretched forth from heaven, and
it received the keys. (130)

Jehoiachin, good and pious, did not desire the city of Jerusalem to
be exposed to peril for his sake. So he delivered himself to the
Babylonian leaders, after they swore that neither city nor people
should suffer harm. But the Babylonians did not keep their oath. A
short while thereafter they carried into exile, not only the king, but
also his mother, and ten thousand (131) of the Jewish nobility and
of the great scholars. (132) This was the second attempt made by
Nebuchadnezzar to deport the Jews. On taking the former king
Jehoiakim captive, he had exiled three hundred of the noblest of
the people, among them the prophet Ezekiel. (133)

The king Jehoiachin was incarcerated for life, a solitary prisoner,
separated from his wife and his family. The Sanhedrin, who were
among those deported with the king, feared that the house of
David die out. They therefore besought Nebuchadnezzar not to
separate Jehoiachin from his wife. They succeeded in enlisting the
sympathy of the queen's hairdresser, and through her of the queen
herself, Semiramis, the wife of Nebuchadnezzar, who in turn
prevailed upon the king to accord mild treatment to the
unfortunate prince exiled from Judea. Suffering had completely
changed the once sinful king, so that, in spite of his great joy over
his reunion with his wife, he still paid regard to the prescriptions
of the Jewish law regulating conjugal life. He was prepared to
deny himself every indulgence, when the purchase price was an
infringement of the word of God. Such steadfastness pleaded with
God to pardon the king for his sins, and the heavenly Sanhedrin
absolved God from His oath, to crush Jehoiachin and deprive his
house of sovereignty. (134) By way of reward for his continence he
was blessed with distinguished posterity. Not only was Zerubbabel,
the first governor of Palestine after the destruction of the Temple,
a grandson of Jehoiachin's, (135) but also the Messiah himself will
be a descendant of his. (136)


The execution of one king and the deportation of another were but
preludes to the great national catastrophe in the time of Zedekiah,
the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the whole people.
After Nebuchadnezzar had led Jehoiachin and a portion of the
people into banishment, his commiseration was aroused for the
Jews, and he inquired, whether any other sons of Josiah were still
living. Only Mattaniah was left. (1) He was re-named Zedekiah, in
the hope that he would be the father of pious sons. In reality the
name became the omen of the disasters to happen in the time of
this king.

Nebuchadnezzar, who invested Zedekiah with the royal office,
demanded that he swear fealty to him. Zedekiah was about to
swear by his own soul, but the Babylonian king, not satisfied,
brought a scroll of the law, and made his Jewish vassal take the
oath upon that. (2) Nevertheless he did not keep faith with
Nebuchadnezzar for long. Nor was this his only treachery toward
his suzerain. He had once surprised Nebuchadnezzar in the act of
cutting a piece from a living hare and eating it, as is the habit of
barbarians. Nebuchadnezzar was painfully embarrassed, and he
begged the Jewish king to promise under oath not to mention what
he had seen. Though Nebuchadnezzar treated him with great
friendliness, even making him sovereign lord over five vassal
kings, he did not justify the trust reposed in him. To flatter
Zedekiah, the five kings once said: "If all were as it should be,
thou wouldst occupy the throne of Nebuchadnezzar." Zedekiah
could not refrain from exclaiming: "O yes, Nebuchadnezzar, whom
I once saw eating a live hare!"

The five kings at once repaired to Nebuchadnezzar, and reported
what Zedekiah had said. Thereupon the king of Babylonia marched
to Daphne, near Antioch, with the purpose of chastising Zedekiah.
At Daphne he found the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem, who had hastened
thither to receive him. Nebuchadnezzar met the Sanhedrin
courteously, ordered his attendants to bring state chairs for all the
members, and requested them to read the Torah to him and explain
it. When they reached the passage in the Book of Numbers dealing
with the remission of vows, the king put the question: "If a man
desires to be released from a vow, what steps must he take?" The
Sanhedrin replied: "He must repair to a scholar, and he will
absolve him from his vow." Whereupon Nebuchadnezzar
exclaimed: "I verily believe it was you who released Zedekiah
from the vow he took concerning me." And he ordered the
members of the Sanhedrin to leave their state chairs and sit on the
ground. (3) They were forced to admit, that they had not acted in
accordance with the law, for Zedekiah's vow affected another
beside himself, and without the acquiescence of the other party,
namely, Nebuchadnezzar, the Sanhedrin had no authority to annul
the vow. (4)

Zedekiah was duly punished for the grievous crime of perjury.
When Jerusalem was captured, he tried to escape through a cave
extending from his house to Jericho. God sent a deer into the camp
of the Chaldeans, and in their pursuit of this game, the Babylonian
soldiers reached the farther opening of the cave at the very
moment when Zedekiah was leaving it. (5) The Jewish king
together with his ten sons was brought before Nebuchadnezzar,
who addressed Zedekiah thus: "Were I to judge thee according to
the law of thy God, thou wouldst deserve the death penalty, for
thou didst swear a false oath by the Name of God; no less wouldst
thou deserve death, if I were to judge thee according to the law of
the state, for thou didst fail in thy sworn duty to thy overlord."

Zedekiah requested the grace that his execution take place before
his children's, and he be spared the sight of their blood. His
children, on the other hand, besought Nebuchadnezzar to slay them
before he slew their father, that they might be spared the disgrace
of seeing their father executed. In his heartlessness
Nebuchadnezzar had resolved worse things than Zedekiah
anticipated. In the sight of their father, the children of Zedekiah
were killed, and then Zedekiah himself was deprived of sight; his
eyes were blinded. (6) He had been endowed with eyes of
superhuman strength, they were the eyes of Adam, and the iron
lances forced into them were powerless to destroy his sight. Vision
left him only because of the tears he shed over the fate of his
children. (7) Now he realized how true Jeremiah had spoken when
he had prophesied his exile to Babylonia. Though he should live
there until his death, he would never behold the land with his eyes.
On account of its seeming contradictoriness, Zedekiah had thought
the prophecy untrue. For this reason he had not heeded Jeremiah's
advice to make peace with Nebuchadnezzar. Now it had all been
verified; he was carried to Babylonia a captive, yet, blind as he
was, he did not see the land of his exile. (8)


Though Zedekiah besmirched his career by perjury, he was
nevertheless so good and just a king that for his sake God
relinquished his purpose of returning the world to its original
chaos, as a punishment for the evil-doing of a wicked generation.
(9) In this depraved time, it was first and foremost Jeremiah to
whom was delegated the task of proclaiming the word of God. He
was a descendant of Joshua and Rahab, and his father was the
prophet (10) Hilkiah. He was born while his father was fleeing
(11) from the persecution of Jezebel, the murderess of prophets. At
his very birth he showed signs that he was destined to play a great
part. He was born circumcised, (12) and scarcely had he left his
mother's womb when he broke into wailing, and his voice was the
voice, not of a babe, but of a youth. He cried: "My bowels, my
bowels tremble, the walls of my heart they are disquieted, my
limbs quake, destruction upon destruction I bring upon earth." In
this strain he continued to moan and groan, complaining of the
faithlessness of his mother, and when she expressed her
amazement at the unseemly speech of her new-born son, Jeremiah
said: "Not thee do I mean, my mother, not to thee doth my
prophecy refer; I speak of Zion, and against Jerusalem are my
words directed. She adorns her daughters, arrays them in purple,
and puts golden crowns upon their heads. Robbers will come and
strip them of their ornaments."

As a lad he received the call to be a prophet. But he refused to
obey, saying: "O Lord, I cannot go as a prophet to Israel, for when
lived there a prophet whom Israel did not desire to kill? Moses and
Aaron they sought to stone with stones; Elijah the Tishbite they
mocked at because his hair was grown long; and they called after
Elisha, 'Go up, thou bald head' no, I cannot go to Israel, for I am
still naught but a lad." God replied: "I love youth, for it is innocent.
When I carried Israel out of Egypt, I called him a lad, and when I
think of Israel lovingly, I speak of him as a lad. Say not, therefore,
thou art only a lad, but thou shalt go on whatsoever errand I shall
send thee. Now, then," God, continued, "take the 'cup of wrath,'
and let the nations drink of it." Jeremiah put the question which
land was to drink first from the "cup of wrath," and the answer of
God was: "First Jerusalem is to drink, the head of all earthly
nations, and then the cities of Judah." When the prophet heard this,
he began to curse the day of his birth. "I am like the high priest,"
he said, "who has to administer the 'water of bitterness' to a woman
who is held under the suspicion of adultery, and when he
approaches the woman with the cup, lo, he beholds his own
mother. And I, O Mother Zion, thought, when I was called to
prophesy, that I was appointed to proclaim prosperity and salvation
to thee, but now I see that my message forebodes thee evil."

Jeremiah's first appearance in public was during the reign of
Josiah, when he announced to the people in the streets: "If ye will
give up your wicked doings, God will raise you above all nations;
if not, He will deliver His house into the hands of the enemies, and
they will deal with it as seemeth best to them."

The prophets contemporary with Jeremiah in his early years were
Zechariah and Huldah. The province of the latter was among
women, while Zechariah was active in the synagogue. (13) Later,
under Jehoiakim, Jeremiah was supported by the prophets of his
relative Uriah of Kiriathjearim, a friend of the prophet Isaiah. (14)
But Uriah was put to death by the ungodly king, the same who had
the first chapter of Lamentations burnt after obliterating the Name
of God wherever it occurs in the whole book. But Jeremiah added
four chapters. (15)

The prophet fell upon evil times under Zedekiah. He had both the
people and the court against him. Nor was that surprising in a day
when not even the high priests in the Temple bore the sign of the
covenant upon their bodies. (16) Jeremiah had called forth general
hostility by condemning the alliance with Egypt against Babylonia,
and favoring peace with Nebuchadnezzar; and this though to all
appearances the help of the Egyptians would prove of good effect
for the Jews. The hosts of Pharaoh Necho had actually set forth
from Egypt to join the Jews against Babylon. But when they were
on the high seas, God commanded the waters to cover themselves
with corpses. Astonished, the Egyptians asked each other, whence
the dead bodies. Presently the answer occurred to them: they were
the bodies of their ancestors drowned in the Red Sea on account of
the Jews, who had shaken off Egyptian rule. "What," said the
Egyptians thereupon, "shall we bring help to those who drowned
our fathers?" So they returned to their own country, justifying the
warning of Jeremiah, that no dependence could be put upon
Egyptian promises. (17)

A little while after this occurrence, when Jeremiah wanted to leave
Jerusalem to go to Anathoth and partake of his priestly portion
there, the watchman at the gate accused him of desiring to desert
to the enemy. He was delivered to his adversaries at court, and
they confined him in prison. The watchman knew full well that it
was a trumped up charge he was bringing against Jeremiah, and
the intention attributed to him was as far as possible from the mind
of the prophet, but he took this opportunity to vent an old family
grudge. For this gateman was a grandson of the false prophet
Hananiah, the enemy of Jeremiah, the one who had prophesied
complete victory over Nebuchadnezzar within two years. It were
proper to say, he calculated the victory rather than prophesied it.
He reasoned: "If unto Elam, which is a mere ally of the
Babylonians against the Jews, destruction has been appointed by
God through Jeremiah, so much the more will the extreme penalty
fall upon the Babylonians themselves, who have inflicted vast evil
upon the Jews." (18) Jeremiah's prophecy had been the reverse: so
far from holding forth any hope that a victory would be won over
Nebuchadnezzar, the Jewish state, he said, would suffer
annihilation. Hananiah demanded a sign betokening the truth of
Jeremiah's prophecy. But Jeremiah contended there could be no
sign for such a prophecy as his, since the Divine determination to
do evil can be annulled. On the other hand, it was the duty of
Hananiah to give a sign, for he was prophesying pleasant things,
and the Divine resolution for good is executed without. (19)
Finally, Jeremiah advanced the clinching argument: "I, a priest,
may be well content with the prophecy; it is to my interest that the
Temple should continue to stand. As for thee, thou art a Gibeonite,
thou wilt have to do a slave's service in it so long as there is a
Temple. But instead of troubling thy mind with the future in store
for others, thou shouldst rather have thought of thine own future,
for this very year thou wilt die." Hananiah, in very truth, died on
the last day of the year set as his term of life, but before his death
he ordered that it should be kept secret for two days, so to give the
lie to Jeremiah's prophecy. With his last words, addressed to his
son Shelemiah, he charged him to seek every possible way of
taking revenge upon Jeremiah, to whose curse his death was to be
ascribed. Shelemiah had no opportunity of fulfilling his father's
last behest, but it did not pass from his mind, and when he, in turn,
lay upon his death-bed, he impressed the duty of revenge upon his
son Jeriah. It was the grandson of Hananiah who, when he saw
Jeremiah leaving the city, hastened to take the opportunity of
accusing the prophet of treason. His purpose prospered. The
aristocratic enemies of Jeremiah, enraged against him, welcomed
the chance to put him behind prison bars, and gave him in charge
of a jailer, Jonathan, who had been a friend of the false prophet
Hananiah. Jonathan pleased himself by mocking at his prisoner:
"See," he would say, "see what honor thy friend does thee, to put
thee in so fine a prison as this; verily, it is a royal palace."

Despite his suffering, Jeremiah did not hold back the truth. When
the king inquired of him, whether he had a revelation from God, he
replied: "Yes, the king of Babylonia will carry thee off into exile."
To avoid irritating the king, he went into no further detail. He only
prayed the king to liberate him from prison, saying: "Even wicked
men like Hananiah and his descendants at least cast about for a
pretext when they desire to take revenge, and their example ought
not to be lost upon thee who art called Zedekiah, 'just man.'" The
king granted his petition, but Jeremiah did not enjoy liberty for
long. Hardly out of prison, he again advised the people to
surrender, and the nobility seized him and cast him into a lime pit
filled with water, where they hoped he would drown. But a miracle
happened. The water sank to the bottom, and the mud rose to the
surface, and supported the prophet above the water. Help came to
him from Ebed-melech, a "white raven," the only pious man at
court. Ebed-melech hastened to the king and spoke: "Know, if
Jeremiah perishes in the lime pit, Jerusalem will surely be
captured." With the permission of the king, Ebed-melech went to
the pit, and cried out aloud several times, "O my lord Jeremiah,"
but no answer came. Jeremiah feared the words were spoken by
his former jailer Jonathan, who had not given up his practice of
mocking at the prophet. He would come to the edge of the pit and
call down jeeringly: "Do not rest thy head on the mud, and take a
little sleep, Jeremiah." To such sneers Jeremiah made no reply,
and hence it was that Ebed-melech was left unanswered. Thinking
the prophet dead, he began to lament and tear his clothes. Then
Jeremiah, realizing that it was a friend, and not Jonathan, asked:
"Who is it that is calling my name and weeps therewith?" and he
received the assurance that Ebed-melech had come to rescue him
from his perilous position. (20)


The suffering to which Jeremiah was exposed was finally ended by
the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. This Babylonian
king was a son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. (21) His
first contact with the Jews happened in the time of his
father-in-law Sennacherib, whom he accompanied on his
campaign against Hezekiah. The destruction of the Assyrian army
before the walls of Jerusalem, the great catastrophe from which
only Nebuchadnezzar and four others escaped with their life,
inspired him with fear of God. (22) Later, in his capacity as
secretary to the Babylonian king Merodach-baladan, it was he who
called his master's notice to the mention of the Jewish king's name
before the Name of God. "Thou callest Him 'the great God,' yet
thou dost name Him after the king," he said. Nebuchadnezzar
himself hastened after the messenger to bring back the letter and
have it changed. He had advanced scarce three steps when he was
restrained by the angel Gabriel, for even the few paces he had
walked for the glory of God earned him his great power over
Israel. A further step would have extended his ability to inflict
harm immeasurably. (23)

For eighteen years daily a heavenly voice resounded in the palace
of Nebuchadnezzar, saying: "O thou wicked slave, go and destroy
the house of thy Lord, for His children hearken not unto Him." But
Nebuchadnezzar was beset with fears lest God prepare a fate for
him similar to that of his ancestor Sennacherib. He practiced
belomancy and consulted other auguries, to assure himself that he
was against Jerusalem would result favorably. When he shook up
the arrows, and questioned whether he was to go to Rome or
Alexandria, not one arrow sprang up, but when he questioned
about Jerusalem, one sprang up. He sowed seeds and set out
planets; for Rome or Alexandria nothing came up; for Jerusalem
everything sprouted and grew. He lighted candles and lanterns; for
Rome or Alexandria they refused to burn, for Jerusalem they shed
their light. He floated vessels on the Euphrates; for Rome or
Alexandria they did not move, for Jerusalem they swam. (24)

Still the fears of Nebuchadnezzar were not allayed. His
determination to attack the Holy City ripened only after God
Himself had shown him how He had bound the hands of the
archangel Michael, the patron of the Jews, behind his back, in
order to render him powerless to bring to his wards. So the
campaign against Jerusalem was undertaken. (25)


If the Babylonians thought that the conquest of Jerusalem was an
easy task, they were greatly mistaken. For three years God endured
the inhabitants with strength to withstand the onslaughts of the
enemy, in the hope that the Jews would amend their evil ways and
abandon their godless conduct, so that the threatened punishment
might be annulled.

Among the many heroes in the beleaguered city that was bidding
defiance to the Babylonians, one by the name of Akiba was
particularly distinguished. The stones were hurled at the walls of
the city from the catapults wielded by the enemy without, he was
wont to catch on his feet, and throw them back upon the besiegers.
Once it happened that a stone was so cast as to drop, not upon the
wall, but in front of it. In his swift race toward it, Akiba was
precipitated into the space between the inner and the outer wall.
He quickly reassured his friends in the city, that his fall had in no
wise harmed him. He was only a little shaken up and weak; as
soon as he had his accustomed daily meal, a roasted ox, he would
be able to scale the wall and resume the struggle with the
Babylonians. But human strength and artifice avail naught against
God. A gust of wind arose, and Akiba was thrown from the wall,
and he died. Thereupon the Chaldeans made a breach in the wall,
and penetrated into the city. (26)

Equally fruitless were the endeavors of Hanamel, the uncle of
Jeremiah, to save the city. He conjured the angels up, armed them,
and had them occupy the walls. The Chaldeans retreated in terror
at the sight of the heavenly host. But God changed the names of
the angels, and brought them back to heaven. Hanamel's exorcisms
availed naught. When he called the Angel of the Water, for
instance, the response would come from the Angel of Fire, who
bore the former name of his companion. Then Hanamel resorted to
the extreme measure of summoning the Prince of the World, who
raised Jerusalem high up in the air. But God thrust the city down
again, and the enemy entered unhindered. (27)

Nevertheless, the capture of the city could not have been
accomplished if Jeremiah had been present. His deeds were as a
firm pillar for the city, and his prayers as a stony wall. Therefore
God sent the prophet (28) on an errand out of the city. He was
made to go to his native place, Anathoth, to take possession of a
field, his by right of inheritance. Jeremiah rejoiced; he took this as
a sign that God would be gracious to Judah, else He would not
have commanded him to take possession of a piece of land.
Scarcely had the prophet left Jerusalem when an angel descended
upon the wall of the city and caused a breach to appear, at the
same time crying out: "Let the enemy come and enter the house,

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