THE COVENANT WITH ABIMELECH
After a sojourn of twenty-six years in the land of the Philistines, Abraham departed
thence, and he settled in the neighborhood of Hebron. There he was visited by Abimelech
with twenty of his grandees, who requested him to make an alliance with the
As long as Abraham was childless, the heathen did not believe in his piety, but when
Isaac was born, they said to him, "God is with thee." But again they entertained
doubt of his piety when he cast off Ishmael. They said, "Were he a righteous man, he
would not drive his first-born forth from his house." But when they observed the
impious deeds of Ishmael, they said, "God is with thee in all thou doest." That
Abraham was the favorite of God, they saw in this, too, that although Sodom was destroyed
and all traffic had come to a standstill in that region, yet Abraham's treasure chambers
were filled. For these reasons, the Philistines sought to form an alliance with him, to
remain in force for three generations to come, for it is to the third generation that the
love of a father extends.
Before Abraham concluded the covenant with Abimelech, king of the Philistines, he
reproved him on account of a well, for "Correction leads to love," and
"There is no peace without correction." The herdmen of Abraham and those of
Abimelech had left their dispute about the well to decision by ordeal: the well was to
belong to the party for whose sheep the waters would rise so that they could drink of
them. But the shepherds of Abimelech disregarded the agreement, and they wrested the well
for their own use. As a witness and a perpetual sign that the well belonged to him,
Abraham set aside seven sheep, corresponding to the seven Noachian laws binding upon all
men alike. But God said, "Thou didst give him seven sheep. As thou livest, the
Philistines shall one day slay seven righteous men, Samson, Hophni, Phinehas, and Saul
with his three sons, and they will destroy seven holy places, and they will keep the holy
Ark in their country as booty of war for a period of seven months, and furthermore only
the seventh generation of thy descendants will be able to rejoice in the possession of the
land promised to them." After concluding the alliance with Abimelech, who
acknowledged Abraham's right upon the well, Abraham called the place Beer-sheba, because
there they swore both of them unto a covenant of friendship.
In Beer-sheba Abraham dwelt many years, and thence he endeavored to spread the law of
God. He planted a large grove there, and he made four gates for it, facing the four sides
of the earth, east, west, north, and south, and he planted a vineyard therein. If a
traveller came that way, he entered by the gate that faced him, and he sat in the grove,
and ate, and drank, until he was satisfied, and then he departed. For the house of Abraham
was always open for all passers-by, and they came daily to eat and drink there. If one was
hungry, and he came to Abraham, he would give him what he needed, so that he might eat and
drink and be satisfied; and if one was naked, and he came to Abraham, he would clothe him
with the garments of the poor man's choice, and give him silver and gold, and make known
to him the Lord, who had created him and set him on earth. After the wayfarers had
eaten, they were in the habit of thanking Abraham for his kind entertainment of them,
whereto he would reply: "What, ye give thanks unto me! Rather return thanks to your
host, He who alone provides food and drink for all creatures." Then the people would
ask, "Where is He?" and Abraham would answer them, and say: "He is the
Ruler of heaven and earth. He woundeth and He healeth, He formeth the embryo in the womb
of the mother and bringeth it forth into the world, He causeth the plants and the trees to
grow, He killeth and He maketh alive, He bringeth down to Sheol and bringeth up."
When the people heard such words, they would ask, "How shall we return thanks to God
and manifest our gratitude unto Him?" And Abraham would instruct them in these words:
"Say, Blessed be the Lord who is blessed! Blessed be He that giveth bread and food
unto all flesh!" In this manner did Abraham teach those who had enjoyed his
hospitality how to praise and thank God. Abraham's house thus became not only a
lodging-place for the hungry and thirsty, but also a place of instruction where the
knowledge of God and His law were taught.
SATAN ACCUSES ABRAHAM
In spite of the lavish hospitality practiced in the house of Abraham, it happened once
that a poor man, or rather an alleged poor man, was turned away empty-handed, and this was
the immediate reason for the last of Abraham's temptations, the sacrifice of his favorite
son Isaac. It was the day on which Abraham celebrated the birth of Isaac with a great
banquet, to which all the magnates of the time were bidden with their wives. Satan, who
always appears at a feast in which no poor people participate, and keeps aloof from those
to which poor guests are invited, turned up at Abraham's banquet in the guise of a beggar
asking alms at the door. He had noticed that Abraham had invited no poor man, and he knew
that his house was the right place for him.
Abraham was occupied with the entertainment of his distinguished guests, and Sarah was
endeavoring to convince their wives, the matrons, that Isaac was her child in very truth,
and not a spurious child. No one concerned himself about the beggar at the door, who
thereupon accused Abraham before God.
Now, there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord,
and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, "From whence
comest thou?" and Satan answered the Lord, and said, "From going to and fro on
the earth, and from walking up and down in it." And the Lord said unto Satan,
"What hast thou to say concerning all the children of the earth?" and Satan
answered the Lord, and said: "I have seen all the children of the earth serving Thee
and remembering Thee, when they require aught from Thee. And when Thou givest them what
they require from Thee, then they forsake Thee, and they remember Thee no more. Hast Thou
seen Abraham, the son of Terah, who at first had no children, and he served Thee and
erected altars to Thee wherever he came, and he brought offerings upon them, and he
proclaimed Thy name continually to all the children of the earth? And now his son Isaac is
born to him, he has forsaken Thee. He made a great feast for all the inhabitants of the
land, and the Lord he has forgotten. For amidst all that he has done, he brought Thee no
offering, neither burnt offering nor peace offering, neither one lamb nor goat of all that
he had killed in the day that his son was weaned. Even from the time of his son's birth
till now, being thirty-seven years, he built no altar before Thee, nor brought up any
offering to Thee, for he saw that Thou didst give what he requested before Thee, and he
therefore forsook Thee." And the Lord said to Satan: "Hast thou considered My
servant Abraham? For there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man
before Me for a burnt offering, and that feareth God and escheweth evil. As I live, were I
to say unto him, Bring up Isaac thy son before Me, he would not withhold him from Me, much
less if I told him to bring up a burnt offering before Me from his flocks or herds."
And Satan answered the Lord, and said, "Speak now unto Abraham as Thou hast said, and
Thou wilt see whether he will not transgress and cast aside Thy words this day."
God wished to try Isaac also. Ishmael once boasted to Isaac, saying, "I was
thirteen years old when the Lord spoke to my father to circumcise us, and I did not
transgress His word, which He commanded my father." And Isaac answered Ishmael,
saying, "What dost thou boast to me about this, about a little bit of thy flesh which
thou didst take from thy body, concerning which the Lord commanded thee? As the Lord
liveth, the God of my father Abraham, if the Lord should say unto my father, Take now thy
son Isaac and bring him up as an offering before Me, I would not refrain, but I would
joyfully accede to it."
THE JOURNEY TO MORIAH
And the Lord thought to try Abraham and Isaac in this matter. And He said to
Abraham, "Take now thy son."
Abraham: "I have two sons, and I do not know which of them Thou commandest me to
God: "Thine only son."
Abraham: "The one is the only son of his mother, and the other is the only son of
God: "Whom thou lovest."
Abraham: "I love this one and I love that one."
God: "Even Isaac."
Abraham: "And where shall I go?"
God: "To the land I will show thee, and offer Isaac there for a burnt
Abraham: "Am I fit to perform the sacrifice, am I a priest? Ought not rather the
high priest Shem to do it?"
God: "When thou wilt arrive at that place, I will consecrate thee and make thee a
And Abraham said within himself, "How shall I separate my son Isaac from Sarah his
mother?" And he came into the tent, and he sate before Sarah his wife, and he spake
these words to her: "My son Isaac is grown up, and he has not yet studied the service
of God. Now, to-morrow I will go and bring him to Shem and Eber his son, and there he will
learn the ways of the Lord, for they will teach him to know the Lord, and to know how to
pray unto the Lord that He may answer him, and to know the way of serving the Lord his
God." And Sarah said, "Thou hast spoken well. Go, my lord, and do unto him as
thou hast said, but remove him not far from me, neither let him remain there too long, for
my soul is bound within his soul." And Abraham said unto Sarah, "My daughter,
let us pray to the Lord our God that He may do good with us." And Sarah took her son
Isaac, and he abode with her all that night, and she kissed and embraced him, and she laid
injunctions upon him till morning, and she said to Abraham: "O my lord, I pray thee,
take heed of thy son, and place thine eyes over him, for I have no other son nor daughter
but him. O neglect him not. If he be hungry, give him bread, and if he be thirsty, give
him water to drink; do not let him go on foot, neither let him sit in the sun, neither let
him go by himself on the road, neither turn him from whatever he may desire, but do unto
him as he may say to thee."
After spending the whole night in weeping on account of Isaac, she got up in the
morning and selected a very fine and beautiful garment from those that Abimelech had given
to her. And she dressed Isaac therewith, and she put a turban upon his head, and she
fastened a precious stone in the top of the turban, and she gave them provisions for the
road. And Sarah went out with them, and she accompanied them upon the road to see them
off, and they said to her, "Return to the tent." And when Sarah heard the words
of her son Isaac, she wept bitterly, and Abraham wept with her, and their son wept with
them, a great weeping, also those of their servants who went with them wept greatly. And
Sarah caught hold of Isaac, and she held him in her arms, and she embraced him, and
continued to weep with him, and Sarah said, "Who knoweth if I shall ever see thee
again after this day?"
Abraham departed with Isaac amid great weeping, while Sarah and the servants returned
to the tent. He took two of his young men with him, Ishmael and Eliezer, and while
they were walking in the road, the young men spoke these words to each other. Said Ishmael
to Eliezer: "Now my father Abraham is going with Isaac to bring him up for a burnt
offering to the Lord, and when he returneth, he will give unto me all that he possesses,
to inherit after him, for I am his first-born." Eliezer answered: "Surely,
Abraham did cast thee off with thy mother, and swear that thou shouldst not inherit
anything of all he possesses. And to whom will he give all that he has, all his precious
things, but unto his servant, who has been faithful in his house, to me, who have served
him night and day, and have done all that he desired me?" The holy spirit answered,
"Neither this one nor that one will inherit Abraham."
And while Abraham and Isaac were proceeding along the road, Satan came and appeared to
Abraham in the figure of a very aged man, humble and of contrite spirit, and said to him:
"Art thou silly or foolish, that thou goest to do this thing to thine only son? God
gave thee a son in thy latter days, in thine old age, and wilt thou go and slaughter him,
who did not commit any violence, and wilt thou cause the soul of thine only son to perish
from the earth? Dost thou not know and understand that this thing cannot be from the Lord?
For the Lord would not do unto man such evil, to command him, Go and slaughter thy
son." Abraham, hearing these words, knew that it was Satan, who endeavored to turn
him astray from the way of the Lord, and he rebuked him that he went away. And Satan
returned and came to Isaac, and he appeared unto him in the figure of a young man, comely
and well-favored, saying unto him: "Dost thou not know that thy silly old father
bringeth thee to the slaughter this day for naught? Now, my son, do not listen to him, for
he is a silly old man, and let not thy precious soul and beautiful figure be lost from the
earth." And Isaac told these words to his father, but Abraham said to him, "Take
heed of him, and do not listen to his words, for he is Satan endeavoring to lead us astray
from the commands of our God." And Abraham rebuked Satan again, and Satan went from
them, and, seeing he could not prevail over them, he transformed himself into a large
brook of water in the road, and when Abraham, Isaac, and the two young men reached that
place, they saw a brook large and powerful as the mighty waters. And they entered the
brook, trying to pass it, but the further they went, the deeper the brook, so that the
water reached up to their necks, and they were all terrified on account of the water. But
Abraham recognized the place, and he knew that there had been no water there before, and
he said to his son: "I know this place, on which there was no brook nor water. Now,
surely, it is Satan who doth all this to us, to draw us aside this day from the commands
of God." And Abraham rebuked Satan, saying unto him: "The Lord rebuke thee, O
Satan. Begone from us, for we go by the command of God." And Satan was terri fied at
the voice of Abraham, and he went away from them, and the place became dry land again as
it was at first. And Abraham went with Isaac toward the place that God had told him.
Satan then appeared unto Sarah in the figure of an old man, and said unto her,
"Where did thine husband go?" She said, "To his work." "And where
did thy son Isaac go?" he inquired further, and she answered, "He went with his
father to a place of study of the Torah." Satan said: "O thou poor old woman,
thy teeth will be set on edge on account of thy son, as thou knowest not that Abraham took
his son with him on the road to sacrifice him." In this hour Sarah's loins trembled,
and all her limbs shook. She was no more of this world. Nevertheless she aroused herself,
and said, "All that God hath told Abraham, may he do it unto life and unto
On the third day of his journey, Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place at a
distance, which God had told him. He noticed upon the mountain a pillar of fire reaching
from the earth to heaven, and a heavy cloud in which the glory of God was seen. Abraham
said to Isaac, "My son, dost thou see on that mountain which we perceive at a
distance that which I see upon it?" And Isaac answered, and said unto his father,
"I see, and, lo, a pillar of fire and a cloud, and the glory of the Lord is seen upon
the cloud." Abraham knew then that Isaac was accepted before the Lord for an
offering. He asked Ishmael and Eliezer, "Do you also see that which we see upon the
mountain?" They answered, "We see nothing more than like the other
mountains," and Abraham knew that they were not accepted before the Lord to go with
them. Abraham said to them, "Abide ye here with the ass, you are like the
ass--as little as it sees, so little do you see. I and Isaac my son go to yonder
mount, and worship there before the Lord, and this eve we will return to you."
An unconscious prophecy had come to Abraham, for he prophesied that he and Isaac would
both return from the mountain. Eliezer and Ishmael remained in that place, as Abraham
had commanded, while he and Isaac went further.
And while they were walking along, Isaac spake unto his father, "Behold, the fire
and the wood, but where then is the lamb for a burnt offering before the Lord?" And
Abraham answered Isaac, saying, "The Lord hath chosen thee, my son, for a perfect
burnt offering, instead of the lamb." And Isaac said unto his father, "I will do
all that the Lord hath spoken to thee with joy and cheerfulness of heart." And
Abraham again said unto Isaac his son, "Is there in thy heart any thought or counsel
concerning this which is not proper? Tell me, my son, I pray thee! O my son, conceal it
not from me." And Isaac answered, "As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth,
there is nothing in my heart to cause me to deviate either to the right or the left from
the word that He hath spoken unto thee. Neither limb nor muscle hath moved or stirred on
account of this, nor is there in my heart any thought or evil counsel concerning this. But
I am joyful and cheerful of heart in this matter, and I say, Blessed is the Lord who has
this day chosen me to be a burnt offering before Him."
Abraham greatly rejoiced at the words of Isaac, and they went on and came together to
that place that the Lord had spoken of. And Abraham approached to build the altar in
that place, and Abraham did build, while Isaac handed him stones and mortar, until they
finished erecting the altar. And Abraham took the wood and arranged it upon the altar, and
he bound Isaac, to place him upon the wood which was upon the altar, to slay him for a
burnt offering before the Lord. Isaac spake hereupon: "Father, make haste, bare
thine arm, and bind my hands and feet securely, for I am a young man, but thirty-seven
years of age, and thou art an old man. When I behold the slaughtering knife in thy hand, I
may perchance begin to tremble at the sight and push against thee, for the desire unto
life is bold. Also I may do myself an injury and make myself unfit to be sacrificed. I
adjure thee, therefore, my father, make haste, execute the will of thy Creator, delay not.
Turn up thy garment, gird thy loins, and after that thou hast slaughtered me, burn me unto
fine ashes. Then gather the ashes, and bring them to Sarah, my mother, and place them in a
casket in her chamber. At all hours, whenever she enters her chamber, she will remember
her son Isaac and weep for him."
And again Isaac spoke: "As soon as thou hast slaughtered me, and hast separated
thyself from me, and returnest to Sarah my mother, and she asketh thee, Where is my son
Isaac? what wilt thou answer her, and what will you two do in your old age?" Abraham
answered, and said, "We know we can survive thee by a few days only. He who was our
Comfort before thou wast born, will comfort us now and henceforth."
After he had laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac on the altar, upon the wood,
Abraham braced his arms, rolled up his garments, and leaned his knees upon Isaac with all
his strength. And God, sitting upon His throne, high and exalted, saw how the hearts of
the two were the same, and tears were rolling down from the eyes of Abraham upon Isaac,
and from Isaac down upon the wood, so that it was submerged in tears. When Abraham
stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son, God spoke to the angels:
"Do you see how Abraham my friend proclaims the unity of My Name in the world? Had I
hearkened unto you at the time of the creation of the world, when ye spake, What is man,
that Thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that Thou visitest him? who would there
have been to make known the unity of My Name in this world?" The angels then broke
into loud weeping, and they exclaimed: "The highways lie waste, the wayfaring man
ceaseth, he hath broken the covenant. Where is the reward of Abraham, he who took the
wayfarers into his house, gave them food and drink, and went with them to bring them on
the way? The covenant is broken, whereof Thou didst speak to him, saying, 'For in Isaac
shall thy seed be called,' and saying, 'My covenant will I establish with Isaac,' for the
slaughtering knife is set upon his throat."
The tears of the angels fell upon the knife, so that it could not cut Isaac's throat,
but from terror his soul escaped from him. Then God spoke to the archangel Michael, and
said: "Why standest thou here? Let him not be slaughtered." Without delay,
Michael, anguish in his voice, cried out: "Abraham! Abraham! Lay not thine hand upon
the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him!" Abraham made answer, and he said:
"God did command me to slaughter Isaac, and thou dost command me not to slaughter
him! The words of the Teacher and the words of the disciple- unto whose words doth one
hearken?" Then Abraham heard it said: "By Myself have I sworn, saith the
Lord, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son,
that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the
stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and thy seed shall
possess the gate of his enemies, and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be
blessed, because thou hast obeyed My voice."
At once Abraham left off from Isaac, who returned to life, revived by the heavenly
voice admonishing Abraham not to slaughter his son. Abraham loosed his bonds, and Isaac
stood upon his feet, and spoke the benediction, "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who
quickenest the dead."
Then spake Abraham to God, "Shall I go hence without having offered up a
sacrifice?" Whereunto God replied, and said, "Lift up thine eyes, and behold the
sacrifice behind thee." And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and, behold, behind him
a ram caught in the thicket, which God had created in the twilight of Sabbath eve in the
week of creation, and prepared since then as a burnt offering instead of Isaac. And the
ram had been running toward Abraham, when Satan caught hold of him and entangled his horns
in the thicket, that he might not advance to Abraham. And Abraham, seeing this, fetched
him from the thicket, and brought him upon the altar as an offering in the place of his
son Isaac. And Abraham sprinkled the blood of the ram upon the altar, and he exclaimed,
and said, "This is instead of my son, and may this be considered as the blood of my
son before the Lord." And whatsoever Abraham did by the altar, he exclaimed, and
said, "This is instead of my son, and may it be considered before the Lord in place
of my son." And God accepted the sacrifice of the ram, and it was accounted as though
it had been Isaac.
As the creation of this ram had been extraordinary, so also was the use to which all
parts of his carcass were put. Not one thing went to waste. The ashes of the parts burnt
upon the altar formed the foundation of the inner altar, whereon the expiatory sacrifice
was brought once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the day on which the offering of Isaac
took place. Of the sinews of the ram, David made ten strings for his harp upon which he
played. The skin served Elijah for his girdle, and of his two horns, the one was blown at
the end of the revelation on Mount Sinai, and the other will be used to proclaim the end
of the Exile, when the "great horn shall be blown, and they shall come which were
ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and they that were outcasts in the land of Egypt,
and they shall worship the Lord in the holy mountain at Jerusalem."
When God commanded the father to desist from sacrificing Isaac, Abraham said: "One
man tempts another, because he knoweth not what is in the heart of his neighbor. But Thou
surely didst know that I was ready to sacrifice my son!"
God: "It was manifest to Me, and I foreknew it, that thou wouldst withhold not
even thy soul from Me."
Abraham: "And why, then, didst Thou afflict me thus?"
God: "It was My wish that the world should become acquainted with thee, and should
know that it is not without good reason that I have chosen thee from all the nations. Now
it hath been witnessed unto men that thou fearest God."
Hereupon God opened the heavens, and Abraham heard the words, "By Myself I
Abraham: "Thou swearest, and also I swear, I will not leave this altar until I
have said what I have to say."
God: "Speak whatsoever thou hast to speak!"
Abraham: "Didst Thou not promise me Thou wouldst let one come forth out of mine
own bowels, whose seed should fill the whole world?"
Abraham: "Whom didst Thou mean?"
Abraham: "Didst Thou not promise me to make my seed as numerous as the sand of the
Abraham: "Through which one of my children?"
God: "Through Isaac."
Abraham: "I might have reproached Thee, and said, O Lord of the world, yesterday
Thou didst tell me, In Isaac shall Thy seed be called, and now Thou sayest, Take thy son,
thine only son, even Isaac, and offer him for a burnt offering. But I refrained myself,
and I said nothing. Thus mayest Thou, when the children of Isaac commit trespasses and
because of them fall upon evil times, be mindful of the offering of their father Isaac,
and forgive their sins and deliver them from their suffering."
God: "Thou hast said what thou hadst to say, and I will now say what I have to
say. Thy children will sin before me in time to come, and I will sit in judgment upon them
on the New Year's Day. If they desire that I should grant them pardon, they shall blow the
ram's horn on that day, and I, mindful of the ram that was substituted for Isaac as a
sacrifice, will forgive them for their sins."
Furthermore, the Lord revealed unto Abraham that the Temple, to be erected on the spot
of Isaac's offering, would be destroyed, and as the ram substituted for Isaac
extricated himself from one tree but to be caught in another, so his children would pass
from kingdom to kingdom--delivered from Babylonia they would be subjugated by Media,
rescued from Media they would be enslaved by Greece, escaped from Greece they would serve
Rome--yet in the end they would be redeemed in a final redemption, at the sound of the
ram's horn, when "the Lord God shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds
of the south."
The place on which Abraham had erected the altar was the same whereon Adam had brought
the first sacrifice, and Cain and Abel had offered their gifts to God--the same whereon
Noah raised an altar to God after he left the ark; and Abraham, who knew that it was
the place appointed for the Temple, called it Yireh, for it would be the abiding place of
the fear and the service of God. But as Shem had given it the name Shalem, Place of
Peace, and God would not give offence to either Abraham or Shem, He united the two names,
and called the city by the name Jerusalem.
After the sacrifice on Mount Moriah, Abraham returned to Beer-sheba, the scene of so
many of his joys. Isaac was carried to Paradise by angels, and there he sojourned for
three years. Thus Abraham returned home alone, and when Sarah beheld him, she exclaimed,
"Satan spoke truth when he said that Isaac was sacrificed," and so grieved was
her soul that it fled from her body.
THE DEATH AND BURIAL OF SARAH
While Abraham was engaged in the sacrifice, Satan went to Sarah, and appeared to her in
the figure of an old man, very humble and meek, and said to her: "Dost thou not know
all that Abraham has done unto thine only son this day? He took Isaac, and built an altar,
slaughtered him, and brought him up as a sacrifice. Isaac cried and wept before his
father, but he looked not at him, neither did he have compassion upon him." After
saying these words to Sarah, Satan went away from her, and she thought him to be an old
man from amongst the sons of men who had been with her son. Sarah lifted up her voice, and
cried bitterly, saying: "O my son, Isaac, my son, O that I had this day died instead
of thee I It grieves me for thee! After that I have reared thee and have brought thee up,
my joy is turned into mourning over thee. In my longing for a child, I cried and prayed,
till I bore thee at ninety. Now hast thou served this day for the knife and the fire. But
I console myself, it being the word of God, and thou didst perform the command of thy God,
for who can transgress the word of our God, in whose hands is the soul of every living
creature? Thou art just, O Lord our God, for all Thy works are good and righteous, for I
also rejoice with the word which Thou didst command, and while mine eye weepeth bitterly,
my heart rejoiceth." And Sarah laid her head upon the bosom of one of her handmaids,
and she became as still as a stone.
She rose up afterward and went about making inquiries concerning her son, till she came
to Hebron, and no one could tell her what had happened to her son. Her servants went to
seek him in the house of Shem and Eber, and they could not find him, and they sought
throughout the land, and he was not there. And, behold, Satan came to Sarah in the shape
of an old man, and said unto her, "I spoke falsely unto thee, for Abraham did not
kill his son, and he is not dead," and when she heard the word, her joy was so
exceedingly violent that her soul went out through joy.
When Abraham with Isaac returned to Beer-sheba, they sought for Sarah and could not
find her, and when they made inquiries concerning her, they were told that she had gone as
far as Hebron to seek them. Abraham and Isaac went to her to Hebron, and when they found
that she was dead, they cried bitterly over her, and Isaac said: "O my mother, my
mother, how hast thou left me, and whither hast thou gone? O whither hast thou gone, and
how hast thou left me?" And Abraham and all his servants wept and mourned over her a
great and heavy mourning," even that Abraham did not pray, but spent his time in
mourning and weeping over Sarah. And, indeed, he had great reason to mourn his loss,
for even in her old age Sarah had retained the beauty of her youth and the innocence of
The death of Sarah was a loss not only for Abraham and his family, but for the whole
country. So long as she was alive, all went well in the land. After her death confusion
ensued. The weeping, lamenting, and wailing over her going hence was universal, and
Abraham, instead of receiving consolation, had to offer consolation to others. He spoke to
the mourning people, and said: "My children, take not the going hence of Sarah too
much to heart. There is one event unto all, to the pious and the impious alike. I pray you
now, give me a burying-place with you, not as a gift, but for money."
In these last few words Abraham's unassuming modesty was expressed. God had promised
him the whole land, yet when he came to bury his dead, he had to pay for the grave, and it
did not enter his heart to cast aspersions upon the ways of God. In all humility he spake
to the people of Hebron, saying, "I am a stranger and a sojourner with you."
Therefore spake God to him, and said, "Thou didst bear thyself modestly. As thou
livest, I will appoint thee lord and prince over them."
To the people themselves he appeared an angel, and they answered his words, saying:
"Thou art a prince of God among us. In the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead,
among the rich if thou wilt, or among the poor if thou wilt."
Abraham first of all gave thanks to God for the friendly feeling shown to him by the
children of Heth, and then he continued his negotiations for the Cave of Machpelah.
He had long known the peculiar value of this spot. Adam had chosen it as a burial-place
for himself. He had feared his body might be used for idolatrous purposes after his death;
he therefore designated the Cave of Machpelah as the place of his burial, and in the
depths his corpse was laid, so that none might find it. When he interred Eve there,
he wanted to dig deeper, because he scented the sweet fragrance of Paradise, near the
entrance to which it lay, but a heavenly voice called to him, Enough! Adam himself was
buried there by Seth, and until the time of Abraham the place was guarded by angels, who
kept a fire burning near it perpetually, so that none dared approach it and bury his dead
therein. Now, it happened on the day when Abraham received the angels in his house,
and he wanted to slaughter an ox for their entertainment, that the ox ran away, and in his
pursuit of him Abraham entered the Cave of Machpelah. There he saw Adam and Eve stretched
out upon couches, candles burning at the head of their resting-places, while a sweet scent
pervaded the cave.
Therefore Abraham wished to acquire the Cave of Machpelah from the children of Heth,
the inhabitants of the city of Jebus. They said to him. "We know that in time to come
God will give these lands unto thy seed, and now do thou swear a covenant with us that
Israel shall not wrest the city of Jebus from its inhabitants without their consent."
Abraham agreed to the condition, and he acquired the field from Ephron, in whose
possession it lay.
This happened the very day on which Ephron had been made the chief of the children of
Heth, and he had been raised to the position so that Abraham might not have to have
dealings with a man of low rank. It was of advantage to Abraham, too, for Ephron at first
refused to sell his field, and only the threat of the children of Heth to depose him from
his office, unless he fulfilled the desire of Abraham, could induce him to change his
Dissembling deceitfully, Ephron then offered to give Abraham the field without
compensation, but when Abraham insisted upon paying for it, Ephron said: "My lord,
hearken unto me. A piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that
betwixt me and thee?" showing only too well that the money was of the greatest
consequence to him. Abraham understood his words, and when he came to pay for the field,
he weighed out the sum agreed upon between them in the best of current coin. A deed,
signed by four witnesses, was drawn up, and the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah,
the field, and the cave which was therein, were made sure unto Abraham and his descendants
for all times.
The burial of Sarah then took place, amid great magnificence and the sympathy of all.
Shem and his son Eber, Abimelech king of the Philistines, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, as well
as all the great of the land, followed her bier. A seven days' mourning was kept for her,
and all the inhabitants of the land came to condole with Abraham and Isaac.
When Abraham entered the cave to place the body of Sarah within, Adam and Eve refused
to remain there, "because," they said, "as it is, we are ashamed in the
presence of God on account of the sin we committed, and now we shall be even more ashamed
on account of your good deeds." Abraham soothed Adam. He promised to pray to God for
him, that the need for shame be removed from him. Adam resumed his place, and Abraham
entombed Sarah, and at the same time he carried Eve, resisting, back to her place.
One year after the death of Sarah, Abimelech king of the Philistines died, too, at the
age of one hundred and ninety-three years. His successor upon the throne was his
twelve-year old son Benmelek, who took the name of his father after his accession. Abraham
did not fail to pay a visit of condolence at the court of Abimelech.
Lot also died about this time, at the age of one hundred and forty-two. His sons, Moab
and Ammon, both married Canaanitish wives. Moab begot a son, and Ammon had six sons, and
the descendants of both were numerous exceedingly.
Abraham suffered a severe loss at the same time in the death of his brother Nahor,
whose days ended at Haran, when he had reached the age of one hundred and seventy two
The death of Sarah dealt Abraham a blow from which he did not recover. So long as she
was alive, he felt himself young and vigorous, but after she had passed away, old age
suddenly overtook him. It was he himself who made the plea that age be betrayed by
suitable signs and tokens. Before the time of Abraham an old man was not distinguishable
externally from a young man, and as Isaac was the image of his father, it happened
frequently that father and son were mistaken for each other, and a request meant for the
one was preferred to the other. Abraham prayed therefore that old age might have marks to
distinguish it from youth, and God granted his petition, and since the time of Abraham the
appearance of men changes in old age. This is one of the seven great wonders that have
occurred in the course of history.
The blessing of God did not forsake Abraham in old age, either. That it might not be
said it had been granted to him only for the sake of Sarah, God prospered him after her
death, too. Hagar bore him a daughter, and Ishmael repented of his evil ways and
subordinated himself to Isaac. And as Abraham enjoyed undisturbed happiness in his family,
so also outside, in the world. The kings of the east and the west eagerly besieged the
door of his house in order to derive benefit from his wisdom. From his neck a precious
stone was suspended, which possessed the power of healing the sick who looked upon it. On
the death of Abraham, God attached it to the wheel of the sun. The greatest blessing
enjoyed by him, and by none beside except his son Isaac and Jacob the son of Isaac, was
that the evil inclination had no power over him, so that in this life he had a foretaste
of the future world.
But all these Divine blessings showered upon Abraham were not undeserved. He was clean
of hand, and pure of heart, one that did not lift up his soul unto vanity.
He fulfilled all the commands that were revealed later, even the Rabbinical
injunctions, as, for instance, the one relating to the limits of a Sabbath day's journey,
wherefor his reward was that God disclosed to him the new teachings which He expounded
daily in the heavenly academy.
But one thing lacked to complete the happiness of Abraham, the marriage of Isaac. He
therefore called his old servant Eliezer unto himself. Eliezer resembled his master not
only externally, in his appearance, but also spiritually. Like Abraham he possessed full
power over the evil inclination, and like the master, the servant was an adept in the
law. Abraham spake the following words to Eliezer: "I am stricken in age, and I
know not the day of my death. Therefore prepare thyself, and go unto my country, and to my
kindred, and fetch hither a wife for my son." Thus he spake by reason of the
resolution he had taken immediately after the sacrifice of Isaac on Moriah, for he had
there said within himself, that if the sacrifice had been executed, Isaac would have gone
hence childless. He was even ready to choose a wife for his son from among the daughters
of his three friends, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, because he knew them to be pious, and he
did not attach much importance to aristocratic stock. Then spake God to him, and said:
"Concern thyself not about a wife for Isaac. One has already been provided for
him," and it was made known to Abraham that Milcah, the wife of his brother Nahor,
childless until the birth of Isaac, had then been remembered by God and made fruitful. She
bore Bethuel, and he in turn, at the time of Isaac's sacrifice, begot the daughter
destined to be the wife of Isaac.
Mindful of the proverb, "Even if the wheat of thine own place be darnel, use it
for seed," Abraham determined to take a wife for Isaac from his own family. He argued
that as any wife he chose would have to become a proselyte, it would be best to use his
own stock, which had the first claim upon him.
Eliezer now said to his master: "Peradventure no woman will be willing to follow
me unto this land. May I then marry my own daughter to Isaac?" "No,"
replied Abraham, "thou art of the accursed race, and my son is of the blessed race,
and curse and blessing cannot be united. But beware thou that thou bring not my son
again unto the land from whence I came, for if thou broughtest him thither again, it were
as though thou tookest him to hell. God who sets the heavens in motion, He will set this
matter right, too, and He that took me from my father's house, and that spake unto
me, and that swore unto me in Haran, and at the covenant of the pieces, that He would give
this land unto my seed, He shall send His excellent angel before thee, and thou shalt take
a wife for my son from thence." Eliezer then swore to his master concerning the
matter, and Abraham made him take the oath by the sign of the covenant.
THE WOOING OF REBEKAH
Attended by ten men, mounted upon ten camels laden with jewels and trinkets,
Eliezer betook himself to Haran under the convoy of two angels, the one appointed to keep
guard over Eliezer, the other over Rebekah.
The journey to Haran took but a few hours, at evening of the same day he reached there,
because the earth hastened to meet him in a wonderful way. He made a halt at the well
of water, and he prayed to God to permit him to distinguish the wife appointed for Isaac
among the damsels that came to draw water, by this token, that she alone, and not the
others, would give him drink. Strictly speaking, this wish of his was unseemly, for
suppose a bondwoman had given him water to drink! But God granted his request. All
the damsels said they could not give him of their water, because they had to take it home.
Then appeared Rebekah, coming to the well contrary to her wont, for she was the daughter
of a king, Bethuel her father being king of Haran. When Eliezer addressed his request for
water to drink to this young innocent child, not only was she ready to do his bidding, but
she rebuked the other maidens on account of their discourtesy to a stranger. Eliezer
noticed, too, how the water rose up to her of its own accord from the bottom of the well,
so that she needed not to exert herself to draw it. Having scrutinized her carefully, he
felt certain that she was the wife chosen for Isaac. He gave her a nose ring, wherein was
set a precious stone, half a shekel in weight, foreshadowing the half-shekel which her
descendants would once bring to the sanctuary year by year. He gave her also two bracelets
for her hands, of ten shekels weight in gold, in token of the two tables of stone and the
Ten Commandments upon them.
When Rebekah, bearing the jewels, came to her mother and to her brother Laban, this one
hastened to Eliezer in order to slay him and take possession of his goods. Laban soon
learnt that he would not be able to do much harm to a giant like Eliezer. He met him at
the moment when Eliezer seized two camels and bore them across the stream. Besides,
on account of Eliezer's close resemblance to Abraham, Laban thought he saw Abraham before
him, and he said: "Come in, thou blessed of the Lord! It is not becoming that thou
shouldst stand without, I have cleansed my house of idols."
But when Eliezer arrived at the house of Bethuel, they tried to kill him with cunning.
They set poisoned food before him. Luckily, he refused to eat before he had discharged
himself of his errand. While he was telling his story, it was ordained by God that the
dish intended for him should come to stand in front of Bethuel, who ate of it and
Eliezer showed the document he had in which Abraham deeded all his possessions to
Isaac, and he made it known to the kindred of Abraham, how deeply attached to them his
master was, in spite of the long years of separation. Yet he let them know at the
same time that Abraham was not dependent wholly upon them. He might seek a wife for his
son among the daughters of Ishmael or Lot. At first the kindred of Abraham consented to
let Rebekah go with Eliezer, but as Bethuel had died in the meantime, they did not want to
give Rebekah in marriage without consulting her. Besides, they deemed it proper that she
should remain at home at least during the week of mourning for her father. But
Eliezer, seeing the angel wait for him, would brook no delay, and he said, "The man
who came with me and prospered my way, waits for me without," and as Rebekah
professed herself ready to go at once with Eliezer, her mother and brother granted her
wish and dismissed her with their blessings. But their blessings did not come from
the bottom of their hearts. Indeed, as a rule, the blessing of the impious is a curse,
wherefore Rebekah remained barren for years.
Eliezer's return to Canaan was as wonderful as his going to Haran had been. A seventeen
days' journey he accomplished in three hours. He left Haran at noon, and he arrived at
Hebron at three o'clock in the afternoon, the time for the Minhah Prayer, which had
been introduced by Isaac. He was in the posture of praying when Rebekah first laid eyes
upon him, wherefore she asked Eliezer what man this was. She saw he was not an ordinary
individual. She noticed the unusual beauty of Isaac, and also that an angel accompanied
him. Thus her question was not dictated by mere curiosity. At this moment she learnt
through the holy spirit, that she was destined to be the mother of the godless Esau.
Terror seized her at the knowledge, and, trembling, she fell from the camel and inflicted
an injury upon herself.
After Isaac had heard the wonderful adventures of Eliezer, he took Rebekah to the tent
of his mother Sarah, and she showed herself worthy to be her successor. The cloud appeared
again that had been visible over the tent during the life of Sarah, and had vanished at
her death; the light shone again in the tent of Rebekah that Sarah had kindled at the
coming in of the Sabbath, and that had burnt miraculously throughout the week; the
blessing returned with Rebekah that had hovered over the dough kneaded by Sarah; and the
gates of the tent were opened for the needy, wide and spacious, as they had been during
the lifetime of Sarah.
For three years Isaac had mourned for his mother, and he could find no consolation in
the academy of Shem and Eber, his abiding-place during that period. But Rebekah comforted
him after his mother's death, for she was the counterpart of Sarah in person and in
As a reward for having executed to his full satisfaction the mission with which he had
charged him, Abraham set his bondman free. The curse resting upon Eliezer, as upon
all the descendants of Canaan, was transformed into a blessing, because he ministered unto
Abraham loyally. Greatest reward of all, God found him worthy of entering Paradise
alive, a distinction that fell to the lot of very few.
THE LAST YEARS OF ABRAHAM
Rebekah first saw Isaac as he was coming from the way of Beer-lahai-roi, the
dwelling-place of Hagar, whither he had gone after the death of his mother, for the
purpose of reuniting his father with Hagar, or, as she is also called, Keturah.
Hagar bore him six sons, who, however, did scant honor to their father, for they all
were idolaters. Abraham, therefore, during his own lifetime, sent them away from the
presence of Isaac, that they might not be singed by Isaac's flame, and gave them the
instruction to journey eastward as far as possible. There he built a city for them,
surrounded by an iron wall, so high that the sun could not shine into the city. But
Abraham provided them with huge gems and pearls, their lustre more brilliant than the
light of the sun, which will be used in the Messianic time when "the moon shall be
confounded and the sun ashamed." Also Abraham taught them the black art,
wherewith they held sway over demons and spirits. It is from this city in the east that
Laban, Balaam, and Balaam's father Beor derived their sorceries.
Epher, one of the grandsons of Abraham and Keturah, invaded Lybia with an armed force,
and took possession of the country. From this Epher the whole land of Africa has its
name. Aram is also a country made habitable by a kinsman of Abraham. In his old age
Terah contracted a new marriage with Pelilah, and from this union sprang a son Zoba, who
was the father in turn of three sons. The oldest of these, Aram, was exceedingly rich and
powerful, and the old home in Haran sufficed not for him and his kinsmen, the sons of
Nahor, the brother of Abraham. Aram and his brethren and all that belonged to him
therefore departed from Haran, and they settled in a vale, and they built themselves a
city there which they called Aram-Zoba, to perpetuate the name of the father and his
first-born son. Another Aram, Aram-naharaim, on the Euphrates, was built by Aram son of
Kemuel, a nephew of Abraham. Its real name was Petor, after the son of Aram, but it is
better known as Aram-naharaim. The descendants of Kesed, another nephew of Abraham, a son
of his brother Nahor, established themselves opposite to Shinar, where they founded the
city of Kesed, the city whence the Chaldees are called Kasdim.
Though Abraham knew full well that Isaac deserved his paternal blessing beyond all his
sons, yet he withheld it from him, that no hostile feelings be aroused among his
descendants. He spake, and said: "I am but flesh and blood, here to-day, to-morrow in
the grave. What I was able to do for my children I have done. Henceforth let come what God
desires to do in His world," and it happened that immediately after the death of
Abraham God Himself appeared unto Isaac, and gave him His blessing.
A HERALD OF DEATH
When the day of the death of Abraham drew near, the Lord said to Michael, "Arise
and go to Abraham and say to him, Thou shalt depart from life!" so that he might set
his house in order before he died. And Michael went and came to Abraham and found him
sitting before his oxen for ploughing. Abraham, seeing Michael, but not knowing who he
was, saluted him and said to him, "Sit down a little while, and I will order a beast
to be brought, and we will go to my house, that thou mayest rest with me, for it is toward
evening, and arise in the morning and go whithersoever thou wilt." And Abraham called
one of his servants, and said to him: "Go and bring me a beast, that the stranger may
sit upon it, for he is wearied with his journey." But Michael said, "I abstain
from ever sitting upon any fourfooted beast, let us walk therefore, till we reach the
On their way to the house they passed a huge tree, and Abraham heard a voice from its
branches, singing, "Holy art thou, because thou hast kept the purpose for which thou
wast sent." Abraham hid the mystery in his heart, thinking that the stranger did not
hear it. Arrived at his house, he ordered the servants to prepare a meal, and while they
were busy with their work, he called his son Isaac, and said to him, "Arise and put
water in the vessel, that we may wash the feet of the stranger." And he brought it as
he was commanded, and Abraham said, "I perceive that in this basin I shall never
again wash the feet of any man coming to us as a guest." Hearing this, Isaac began to
weep, and Abraham, seeing his son weep, also wept, and Michael, seeing them weep, wept
also, and the tears of Michael fell into the water, and became precious stones.
Before sitting down to the table, Michael arose, went out for a moment, as if to ease
nature, and ascended to heaven in the twinkling of an eye, and stood before the Lord, and
said to Him: "Lord and Master, let Thy power know that I am unable to remind that
righteous man of his death, for I have not seen upon the earth a man like him,
compassionate, hospitable, righteous, truthful, devout, refraining from every evil
deed." Then the Lord said to Michael, "Go down to My friend Abraham, and
whatever he may say to thee, that do thou also, and whatever he may eat, eat thou also
with him, and I will cast the thought of the death of Abraham into the heart of Isaac, his
son, in a dream, and Isaac will relate the dream, and thou shalt interpret it, and he
himself will know his end." And Michael said, "Lord, all the heavenly spirits
are incorporeal, and neither eat nor drink, and this man has set before me a table with an
abundance of all good things earthly and corruptible. Now, Lord, what shall I do?"
The Lord answered him, "Go down to him and take no thought for this, for when thou
sittest down with him, I will send upon thee a devouring spirit, and it will consume out
of thy hands and through thy mouth all that is on the table."
Then Michael went into the house of Abraham, and they ate and drank and were merry. And
when the supper was ended, Abraham prayed after his custom, and Michael prayed with him,
and each lay down to sleep upon his couch in one room, while Isaac went to his chamber,
lest he be troublesome to the guest. About the seventh hour of the night, Isaac awoke and
came to the door of his father's chamber, crying out and saying, "Open, father, that
I may touch thee before they take thee away from me." And Abraham wept together with
his son, and when Michael saw them weep, he wept likewise. And Sarah, hearing the weeping,
called forth from her bedchamber, saying: "My lord Abraham, why this weeping? Has the
stranger told thee of thy brother's son Lot, that he is dead? or has aught befallen
us?" Michael answered, and said to her, "Nay, my sister Sarah, it is not as thou
sayest, but thy son Isaac, methinks, beheld a dream, and came to us weeping, and we,
seeing him, were moved in our hearts and wept." Sarah, hearing Michael speak, knew
straightway that it was an angel of the Lord, one of the three angels whom they had
entertained in their house once before, and therefore she made a sign to Abraham to come
out toward the door, to inform him of what she knew. Abraham said: "Thou hast
perceived well, for I, too, when I washed his feet, knew in my heart that they were the
feet that I had washed at the oak of Mamre, and that went to save Lot." Abraham,
returning to his chamber, made Isaac relate his dream, which Michael interpreted to them,
saying: "Thy son Isaac has spoken truth, for thou shalt go and be taken up into the
heavens, but thy body shall remain on earth, until seven thousand ages are fulfilled, for
then all flesh shall arise. Now, therefore, Abraham, set thy house in order, for thou wast
heard what is decreed concerning thee." Abraham answered, "Now I know thou art
an angel of the Lord, and wast sent to take my soul, but I will not go with thee, but do
thou whatever thou art commanded." Michael returned to heaven and told God of
Abraham's refusal to obey his summons, and he was again commanded to go down and admonish
Abraham not to rebel against God, who had bestowed many blessings upon him, and he
reminded him that no one who has come from Adam and Eve can escape death, and that God in
His great kindness toward him did not permit the sickle of death to meet him, but sent His
chief captain, Michael, to him. "Wherefore, then," he ended, "hast thou
said to the chief captain, I will not go with thee?" When Michael delivered these
exhortations to Abraham, he saw that it was futile to oppose the will of God, and he
consented to die, but wished to have one desire of his fulfilled while still alive. He
said to Michael: "I beseech thee, lord, if I must depart from my body, I desire to be
taken up in my body, that I may see the creatures that the Lord has created in heaven and
on earth." Michael went up into heaven, and spake before the Lord concerning Abraham,
and the Lord answered Michael, "Go and take up Abraham in the body and show him all
things, and whatever he shall say to thee, do to him as to My friend."
ABRAHAM VIEWS EARTH AND HEAVEN
The archangel Michael went down, and took Abraham upon a chariot of the cherubim, and
lifted him up into the air of heaven, and led him upon the cloud, together with sixty
angels, and Abraham ascended upon the chariot over all the earth, and saw all things that
are below on the earth, both good and bad. Looking down upon the earth, he saw a man
committing adultery with a wedded woman, and turning to Michael he said, "Send fire
from heaven to consume them." Straightway there came down fire and consumed them, for
God had commanded Michael to do whatsoever Abraham should ask him to do. He looked again,
and he saw thieves digging through a house, and Abraham said, "Let wild beasts come
out of the desert, and tear them in pieces," and immediately wild beasts came out of
the desert and devoured them. Again he looked down, and he saw people preparing to commit
murder, and he said, "Let the earth open and swallow them," and, as he spoke,
the earth swallowed them alive. Then God spoke to Michael: "Turn away Abraham to his
own house and let him not go round the whole earth, because he has no compassion on
sinners, but I have compassion on sinners, that they may turn and live and repent of their
sins, and be saved."
So Michael turned the chariot, and brought Abraham to the place of judgment of all
souls. Here he saw two gates, the one broad and the other narrow, the narrow gate that of
the just, which leads to life, they that enter through it go into Paradise. The broad gate
is that of sinners, which leads to destruction and eternal punishment. Then Abraham wept,
saying, "Woe is me, what shall I do? for I am a man big of body, and how shall I be
able to enter by the narrow gate?" Michael answered, and said to Abraham, "Fear
not, nor grieve, for thou shalt enter by it unhindered, and all they who are like
thee." Abraham, perceiving that a soul was adjudged to be set in the midst, asked
Michael the reason for it, and Michael answered, "Because the judge found its sins
and its righteousness equal, he neither committed it to judgment nor to be saved."
Abraham said to Michael, "Let us pray for this soul, and see whether God will hear
us," and when they rose up from their prayer, Michael informed Abraham that the soul
was saved by the prayer, and was taken by an angel and carried up to Paradise. Abraham
said to Michael, "Let us yet call upon the Lord and supplicate His compassion and
entreat His mercy for the souls of the sinners whom I formerly, in my anger, cursed and
destroyed, whom the earth devoured, and the wild beasts tore in pieces, and the fire
consumed, through my words. Now I know that I have sinned before the Lord our God."
After the joint prayer of the archangel and Abraham, there came a voice from heaven,
saying, "Abraham, Abraham, I have hearkened to thy voice and thy prayer, and I
forgive thee thy sin, and those whom thou thinkest that I destroyed, I have called up and
brought them into life by My exceeding kindness, because for a season I have requited them
in judgment, and those whom I destroy living upon earth, I will not requite in
When Michael brought Abraham back to his house, they found Sarah dead. Not seeing what
had become of Abraham, she was consumed with grief and gave up her soul. Though Michael
had fulfilled Abraham's wish, and had shown him all the earth and the judgment and
recompense, he still refused to surrender his soul to Michael, and the archangel again
ascended to heaven, and said unto the Lord: "Thus speaks Abraham, I will not go with
thee, and I refrain from laying my hands on him, because from the beginning he was Thy
friend, and he has done all things pleasing in Thy sight. There is no man like him on
earth, not even Job, the wondrous man." But when the day of the death of Abraham drew
nigh, God commanded Michael to adorn Death with great beauty and send him thus to Abraham,
that he might see him with his eyes.
While sitting under the oak of Mamre, Abraham perceived a flashing of light and a smell
of sweet odor, and turning around he saw Death coming toward him in great glory and
beauty. And Death said unto Abraham: "Think not, Abraham, that this beauty is mine,
or that I come thus to every man. Nay, but if any one is righteous like thee, I thus take
a crown and come to him, but if he is a sinner, I come in great corruption, and out of
their sins I make a crown for my head, and I shake them with great fear, so that they are
dismayed." Abraham said to him, "And art thou, indeed, he that is called
Death?" He answered, and said, "I am the bitter name," but Abraham
answered, "I will not go with thee." And Abraham said to Death, "Show us
thy corruption." And Death revealed his corruption, showing two heads, the one had
the face of a serpent, the other head was like a sword. All the servants of Abraham,
looking at the fierce mien of Death, died, but Abraham prayed to the Lord, and he raised
them up. As the looks of Death were not able to cause Abraham's soul to depart from him,
God removed the soul of Abraham as in a dream, and the archangel Michael took it up into
heaven. After great praise and glory had been given to the Lord by the angels who brought
Abraham's soul, and after Abraham bowed down to worship, then came the voice of God,
saying thus: "Take My friend Abraham into Paradise, where are the tabernacles of My
righteous ones and the abodes of My saints Isaac and Jacob in his bosom, where there is no
trouble, nor grief, nor sighing, but peace and rejoicing and life unending."
Abraham's activity did not cease with his death, and as he interceded in this world for
the sinners, so will he intercede for them in the world to come. On the day of judgment he
will sit at the gate of hell, and he will not suffer those who kept the law of
circumcision to enter therein.
THE PATRON OF HEBRON
Once upon a time some Jews lived in Hebron, few in number, but pious and good, and
particularly hospitable. When strangers came to the Cave of Machpelah to pray there, the
inhabitants of the place fairly quarrelled with each other for the privilege of
entertaining the guests, and the one who carried off the victory rejoiced as though he had
found great spoil.
On the eve of the Day of Atonement, it appeared that, in spite of all their efforts,
the dwellers at Hebron could not secure the tenth man needed for public Divine service,
and they feared they would have none on the holy day. Toward evening, when the sun was
about to sink, they descried an old man with silver white beard, bearing a sack upon his
shoulder, his raiment tattered, and his feet badly swollen from much walking. They ran to
meet him, took him to one of the houses, gave him food and drink, and, after supplying him
with new white garments, they all together went to the synagogue for worship. Asked what
his name was, the stranger replied, Abraham.
At the end of the fast, the residents of Hebron cast lots for the privilege of
entertaining the guest. Fortune favored the beadle, who, the envy of the rest, bore his
guest away to his house. On the way, he suddenly disappeared, and the beadle could not
find him anywhere. In vain all the Jews of the place went on a quest for him. Their
sleepless night, spent in searching, had no result. The stranger could not be found. But
no sooner had the beadle lain down, toward morning, weary and anxious, to snatch some
sleep, than he saw the lost guest before him, his face luminous as lightning, and his
garments magnificent and studded with gems radiant as the sun. Before the beadle, stunned
by fright, could open his mouth, the stranger spake, and said: "I am Abraham the
Hebrew, your ancestor, who rests here in the Cave of Machpelah. When I saw how grieved you
were at not having the number of men prescribed for a public service, I came forth to you.
Have no fear! Rejoice and be merry of heart!"
On another occasion Abraham granted his assistance to the people of Hebron. The lord of
the city was a heartless man, who oppressed the Jews sorely. One day he commanded them to
pay a large sum of money into his coffers, the whole sum in uniform coins, all stamped
with the same year. It was but a pretext to kill the Jews. He knew that his demand was
impossible of fulfilment.
The Jews proclaimed a fast and day of public prayer, on which to supplicate God that He
turn aside the sword suspended above them. The night following, the beadle in a dream saw
an awe-inspiring old man, who addressed him in the following words: "Up, quickly!
Hasten to the gate of the court, where lies the money you need. I am your father Abraham.
I have beheld the affliction wherewith the Gentiles oppress you, but God has heard your
groans." In great terror the beadle arose, but he saw no one, yet he went to the spot
designated by the vision, and he found the money and took it to the congregation, telling
his dream at the same time. Amazed, they counted the gold, precisely the amount required
of them by the prince, no more and no less. They surrendered the sum to him, and he who
had considered compliance with his demand impossible, recognized now that God is with the
Jews, and thenceforth they found favor in his eyes.
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