Sacred Texts  Judaism  Index  Previous  Next 

Forty Thousand.

Sennacherib the wicked invaded Jewry with forty-five thousand princes in golden coronets, and they had with them their wives and odalisques; also eighty thousand mighty men clad in mail and sixty thousand swordsmen ran before him, and the rest were cavalry. With a similar army they came against Abraham, and a like force is to come up with Gog and Magog. A tradition teaches that the extent of his camp was four hundred parsaes or leagues, the extent of the horses' necks were forty parsaes. The total muster of his army was two hundred and sixty myriads of thousands, less one. Abaii asked, "Less one myriad, or one thousand, or one hundred? or more literally less one?"

Sanhedrin, fol. 95, col. 2.

In the immediate context of the above extract we have the following legend concerning Sennacherib:--As Rabbi Abhu. has said, "Were it not for this Scripture text it would be impossible to repeat what is written (Isa. vii. 20), 'In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head and the hair of the feet; and it shall also consume the beard.'" The story is this:--The Holy One--blessed be He!--once disguised Himself as an elderly man and came to Sennacherib, and said, "When thou comest to the kings of the East and of the West, to force their sons into thine army, what wilt thou say unto them?" He replied, "On that very account I am in fear. What shall I do?" God answered him, "Go and disguise thyself." "How can I disguise myself?" said he. God replied, "Go and fetch me a pair

{p. 223}

of scissors and I will cut thy hair." Sennacherib asked, "Whence shall I fetch them?" "Go to yonder house and bring them." He went accordingly and observed a pair, but there he met the ministering angels disguised as men, grinding date-stones. He asked them for the scissors, but they said "Grind thou first a measure of date-stones, and then thou shalt have the scissors." He did as he was told and so obtained the scissors. It was dark before he returned, and God said unto him, "Go and fetch some fire." This also he did, but while blowing the embers his beard was singed. Upon which God came and shaved his head and his beard, and said, "This is it which is written (Isa. vii. 20), "It shall also consume the beard." Rav Pappa says this is the proverb current among the people, "Singe the face of a Syrian, and, if it pleases him, also set his beard in fire, and thou wilt not be able to laugh enough."

Sanhedrin, fol. 95, col. 2, and fol. 96, col. 1.

Next: Eighty Thousand.