Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends, by Aunt Naomi (pseud. Gertrude Landa), , at sacred-texts.com
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He crouched on his throne and imagined he saw angels and demons and fairies. (Page 241).
Hiram, king of Tyre, was a foolish old man. He lived so long and grew to such a venerable age that he absurdly imagined he would never die. The idea gained strength daily in his mind and thus he mused:
"David, king of the Jews, I knew, and afterward his son, the wise King Solomon. But wise as he was, Solomon had to appeal to me for assistance in building his wondrous Temple, and it was only with the aid of the skilled workmen I sent to him that he successfully accomplished the erection of that structure. David, the sweet singer in Israel, who, as a mere boy slew the giant Goliath, has passed away. I still live. It must be that I shall never die. Men die. Gods live for ever. I must be a god, and why not?"
He put that question to the chief of his counselors, who, however, was much too wise to answer it. Now the counselors of the king had never yet failed to answer his queries, and so
[paragraph continues] Hiram felt sure he had at last puzzled them by a question beyond the power of mortal man to answer. That was another proof, he told himself, that he was different from other men and kings--that, in short, he was a god.
"I must be, I must be," he muttered to himself, and he repeated this to himself so regularly that he came to the conclusion it was true.
"It is not I, but the voice of the Spirit of God that is in me that speaks," he said to himself, and he thought this remark so clever that he regarded it as still further proof. It is so easy to delude one's self.
Then he decided to make the great secret known to the people, and the doddering old man thought if he would do this in an unusual way, his subjects would have no doubts. He did not make a proclamation commanding everybody to believe in him as a god; he whispered the secret first to his chief counselor and instructed him to tell it to one person daily and to order all who were informed to do likewise. In this way the news soon spread to the remotest corners of the country, for if you work out a little sum you will discover that if you take the figure one and double it thus: two, four, eight, sixteen, and so on, it will run into millions.
In spite of this, nothing happened. Hiram, now quite idiotic, commanded the people to worship him. Some obeyed, fearing that if they refused they would be punished, or even put to death. Others declared there was no evidence that the king was a god. This came to the knowledge of Hiram and troubled him sorely.
"What proof do the unbelievers require?" he asked of his counselors.
They hesitated to reply, but presently the vizier, a shrewd old man with a long beard, said quietly, "I have heard people say a god must have a heaven from which to hurl lightning and thunderbolts, and a paradise in which to dwell."
"I shall have a heaven and a paradise," said Hiram, after a few moments' silence, adding to himself: "If Solomon could build a marvelous temple by the help of my workmen, surely I can devise a paradise."
He spent so much thought over this that it seemed to become easier each day. Besides, it would be so nice to live in a paradise all to himself. At first he decided to build a great big palace of gold, with windows of precious stones. There would be a high tower on which the throne would be placed so far above the people
that they must be impressed with the fact that he was God.
Then it occurred to him this would not do. A palace, however vast and beautiful, would only be a building, not a paradise. Day and night he pondered and worried until his head ached badly. Then one day, while watching a ship on the sea, an extraordinary idea came into his head.
"I will build a palace which will seem to hang above the water on nothing!" he said to himself, chuckling. "None but a god could conceive such a brilliant idea."
Hiram set about his ingenious plan at once. He sent trusted envoys far and wide for skilled divers. Only those who did not know the language of the country were selected. Hiram himself gave them their orders and they worked only at night, so that none should see or know of their work. Their task was to fasten four huge pillars to the bottom of the sea. Their work completed, the divers were well paid and sent away.
Next, a different gang of workmen was brought from a strange land. They constructed a platform on the pillars in the sea. Then a third lot of artisans began to erect a wonderful
edifice on the platform. They, too, only worked at night, but the building could no longer be concealed. It was showing itself above the sea. The people were therefore told, by royal proclamation, in these words:
I, Hiram of Tyre, the King, and of all the People,
Hereby make known to you that it has become my pleasure to reveal unto you my
which hitherto I have concealed in the clouds. Ye who are worthy shall behold it
Of all the clever things he had done, Hiram believed the composition of that proclamation the cleverest.
"Those who do not see, will think themselves unworthy," he said, "and will tremble in fear of my wrath. They will see a little more each day and will think themselves growing worthy. And they will believe; they must, when they see it all. Besides, they will look upward, toward the clouds, to see the paradise descending. They will never think of looking below to see it rising."
And so it happened. The people could not
help but be impressed when they saw the amazing structure. It grew daily, apparently of its own accord, for no workmen were seen; and most wonderful of all, it seemed to rest on nothing in the air!
This was because the first story was of clearest glass, so clear, indeed, that the people saw through it and thought they saw nothing. On this the other stories were erected, and, of course, they appeared to be suspended in space.
There were seven stories to represent seven heavens. The second, the one above the glass, was constructed of iron, the third was of lead, the fourth of shining brass, the fifth of burnished copper, the sixth of glistening silver, and the last story of all, of pure gold.
The whole building was lavishly studded with precious stones, gems and jewels of many hues. By day, when the sun shone and was reflected from the thousands of jewels and the polished metals, the appearance was dazzling; the people could not help but regard as a heaven that which they could scarcely look upon without being blinded. In the setting sun the uppermost story, with its huge golden dome, glowed like an expanse of fire; and by night, the myriad gems twinkled like additional stars.
Yet some people would not believe this was a paradise, and so Hiram had to set his wits to work again.
"Thunder and lightning I must produce," he said, and this part of his ambition he found not at all difficult.
In the second story he kept huge boulders and round heavy stones. When these were rolled about the people thought the noise was thunder. By means of many revolving windows and reflectors, Hiram could flash a light on the town and delude simple people, who were easily impressed and frightened, into the belief that they saw lightning.
"When I am seated here above the forces of the storm," said Hiram, "the people must surely accept me as God and extol me above all mortal kings."
He was foolishly happy on his throne in the clouds, but his counselors shook their heads. They knew that such folly would meet with its due punishment. They warned Hiram against remaining in his paradise during a storm, but he replied, in a rage: "I, the God of the storm, am not afraid."
But when the real thunder rolled and the lightning flashed all around his paradise, Hiram
lost his boastful courage. He saw visions. Trembling in every limb, he crouched on his throne and imagined he saw angels and demons and fairies dancing round him and jeering at his pretensions and his wonderful structure.
The storm grew fiercer, the lightning more vivid, the thunder-crashes louder, and Hiram screamed when there was a tremendous noise of crashing glass. The first story could not withstand the terrible buffeting of the waves. It cracked and crumbled. There was no support left for the six heavens above. They could no longer hang in space.
With a mighty crash, that struck terror into the hearts of the beholders, the whole structure collapsed in a thousand pieces in the sea.
Marvelous to relate, Hiram was not killed or drowned. It seemed a miracle that he should be saved, but such was the case; and some people thought that proved him to be a god more than his unfortunate paradise. But his life was only spared to end in greater misery and sorrow. He was dethroned by Nebuchadnezzar and ended his days a wretched captive. And all the people knew that Hiram, once the great king of Tyre, the friend of King David and King Solomon, was but a mortal and a foolish one.