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Legends of the Jews

by Louis Ginzberg


Volume I: Title | Preface | Contents | Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | Volume II: Title | Preface | Contents | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | Volume III: Title | Preface | Contents | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | Volume IV: Title | Contents | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 |
Volume I

V. ABRAHAM--THE WICKED GENERATIONS--THE BIRTH OF ABRAHAM--THE BABE PROCLAIMS GOD--ABRAHAM'S FIRST APPEARANCE IN PUBLIC--THE PREACHER OF THE TRUE FAITH--IN THE FIERY FURNACE--ABRAHAM EMIGRATES TO HARAN--THE STAR IN THE EAST--THE TRUE BELIEVER--THE ICONOCLAST--ABRAHAM IN CANAAN--HIS SOJOURN IN EGYPT--THE FIRST PHARAOH--THE WAR OF THE KINGS--THE COVENANT OF THE PIECES--THE BIRTH OF ISHMAEL--THE VISIT OF THE ANGELS--THE CITIES OF SIN--ABRAHAM PLEADS FOR THE SINNERS--THE DESTRUCTION OF THE SINFUL CITIES--AMONG THE PHILISTINES--THE BIRTH OF ISAAC--ISHMAEL CAST OFF--THE TWO WIVES OF ISHMAEL--THE COVENANT WITH ABIMELECH--SATAN ACCUSES ABRAHAM--THE JOURNEY TO MORIAH--THE AKEDAH--THE DEATH AND BURIAL OF SARAH--ELIEZER'S MISSION--THE WOOING OF REBEKAH--THE LAST YEARS OF ABRAHAM--A HERALD OF DEATH--ABRAHAM VIEWS EARTH AND HEAVEN--THE PATRON OF HEBRON

ABRAHAM

THE BIRTH OF ABRAHAM

Terah married Emtelai, the daughter of Karnabo, and the offspring of their union was Abraham. His birth had been read in the stars by Nimrod, for this impious king was a cunning astrologer, and it was manifest to him that a man would be born in his day who would rise up against him and triumphantly give the lie to his religion. In his terror at the fate foretold him in the stars, he sent for his princes and governors, and asked them to advise him in the matter. They answered, and said: "Our unanimous advice is that thou shouldst build a great house, station a guard at the entrance thereof, and make known in the whole of thy realm that all pregnant women shall repair thither together with their midwives, who are to remain with them when they are delivered. When the days of a woman to be delivered are fulfilled, and the child is born, it shall be the duty of the midwife to kill it, if it be a boy. But if the child be a girl, it shall be kept alive, and the mother shall receive gifts and costly garments, and a herald shall proclaim, 'Thus is done unto the woman who bears a daughter!' "

The king was pleased with this counsel, and he had a proclamation published throughout his whole kingdom, summoning all the architects to build a great house for him, sixty ells high and eighty wide. After it was completed, he issued a second proclamation, summoning all pregnant women thither, and there they were to remain until their confinement. Officers were appointed to take the women to the house, and guards were stationed in it and about it, to prevent the women from escaping thence. He furthermore sent midwives to the house, and commanded them to slay the men children at their mothers' breasts. But if a woman bore a girl, she was to be arrayed in byssus, silk, and embroidered garments, and led forth from the house of detention amid great honors. No less than seventy thousand children were slaughtered thus. Then the angels appeared before God, and spoke, "Seest Thou not what he doth, yon sinner and blasphemer, Nimrod son of Canaarl, who slays so many innocent babes that have done no harm?" God answered, and said: "Ye holy angels, I know it and I see it, for I neither slumber nor sleep. I behold and I know the secret things and the things that are revealed, and ye shall witness what I will do unto this sinner and blasphemer, for I will turn My hand against him to chastise him."

It was about this time that Terah espoused the mother of Abraham, and she was with child. When her body grew large at the end of three months of pregnancy, and her countenance became pale, Terah said unto her, "What ails thee, my wife, that thy countenance is so pale and thy body so swollen?" She answered, and said, "Every year I suffer with this malady." But Terah would not be put off thus. He insisted: "Show me thy body. It seems to me thou art big with child. If that be so, it behooves us not to violate the command of our god Nimrod." When he passed his hand over her body, there happened a miracle. The child rose until it lay beneath her breasts, and Terah could feel nothing with his hands. He said to his wife, "Thou didst speak truly," and naught became visible until the day of her delivery.

When her time approached, she left the city in great terror and wandered toward the desert, walking along the edge of a valley, until she happened across a cave. She entered this refuge, and on the next day she was seized with throes, and she gave birth to a son. The whole cave was filled with the light of the child's countenance as with the splendor of the sun, and the mother rejoiced exceedingly. The babe she bore was our father Abraham.

His mother lamented, and said to her son: "Alas that I bore thee at a time when Nimrod is king. For thy sake seventy thousand men children were slaughtered, and I am seized with terror on account of thee, that he hear of thy existence, and slay thee. Better thou shouldst perish here in this cave than my eye should behold thee dead at my breast." She took the garment in which she was clothed, and wrapped it about the boy. Then she abandoned him in the cave, saying, "May the Lord be with thee, may He not fail thee nor forsake thee."


Volume I: Title | Preface | Contents | Chapters:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | Volume II: Title | Preface | Contents | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | Volume III: Title | Preface | Contents | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | Volume IV: Title | Contents | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 |


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