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Read the collected works of Louis Ginzberg.
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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 FIRST PHARAOH

The Egyptian ruler, whose meeting with Abraham had proved so untoward an event, was the first to bear the name Pharaoh. The succeeding kings were named thus after him. The origin of the name is connected with the life and adventures of Rakyon, Have-naught, a man wise, handsome, and poor, who lived in the land of Shinar. Finding himself unable to support himself in Shinar, he resolved to depart for Egypt, where he expected to display his wisdom before the king, Ashwerosh, the son of 'Anam. Perhaps he would find grace in the eyes of the king, who would give Rakyon the opportunity of supporting himself and rising to be a great man. When he reached Egypt, he learnt that it was the custom of the country for the king to remain in retirement in his palace, removed from the sight of the people. Only on one day of the year he showed himself in public, and received all who had a petition to submit to him. Richer by a disappointment, Rakyon knew not how he was to earn a livelihood in the strange country. He was forced to spend the night in a ruin, hungry as he was. The next day he decided to try to earn something by selling vegetables. By a lucky chance he fell in with some dealers in vegetables, but as he did not know the customs of the country, his new undertaking was not favored with good fortune. Ruffians assaulted him, snatched his wares from him, and made a laughing-stock of him. The second night, which he was compelled to spend in the ruin again, a sly plan ripened in his mind. He arose and gathered together a crew of thirty lusty fellows. He took them to the graveyard, and bade them, in the name of the king, charge two hundred pieces of silver for every body they buried. Otherwise interment was to be prevented. In this way he succeeded in amassing great wealth within eight months. Not only did he acquire silver, gold, and precious gems, but also he attached a considerable force, armed and mounted, to his person.

On the day on which the king appeared among the people, they began to complain of this tax upon the dead. They said: "What is this thou art inflicting upon thy servants- permitting none to be buried unless they pay thee silver and gold! Has a thing like this come to pass in the world since the days of Adam, that the dead should not be interred unless money be paid therefor! We know well that it is the privilege of the king to take an annual tax from the living. But thou takest tribute from the dead, too, and thou exactest it day by day. O king, we cannot endure this any longer, for the whole of the city is ruined thereby."

The king, who had had no suspicion of Rakyon's doings, fell into a great rage when the people gave him information about them. He ordered him and his armed force to appear before him. Rakyon did not come empty-handed. He was preceded by a thousand youths and maidens, mounted upon steeds and arrayed in state apparel. These were a present to the king. When he himself stepped before the king, he delivered gold, silver, and diamonds to him in great abundance, and a magnificent charger. These gifts and the display of splendor did not fail of taking effect upon the king, and when Rakyon, in well-considered words and with a pliant tongue, described the undertaking, he won not only the king to his side, but also the whole court, and the king said to him, "No longer shalt thou be called Rakyon, Have-naught, but Pharaoh, Paymaster, for thou didst collect taxes from the dead."

So profound was the impression made by Rakyon that the king, the grandees, and the people, all together resolved to put the guidance of the realm in the hands of Pharaoh. Under the suzerainty of Ashwerosh he administered law and justice throughout the year; only on the one day when he showed himself to the people did the king himself give judgment and decide cases. Through the power thus conferred upon him and through cunning practices, Pharaoh succeeded in usurping royal authority, and he collected taxes from all the inhabitants of Egypt. Nevertheless he was beloved of the people, and it was decreed that every ruler of Egypt should thenceforth bear the name Pharaoh.


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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