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Chronicles of Jerahmeel, by M. Gaster [1899], at


LXII. (1) The Levites, the sons of Moses, made ten journeys and encamped on the other side of the river Sabbatyon. Our sages say that when the Israelites were exiled to Babylon, and came to the Euphrates, as it is said, 'We sat by the waters of Babylon,' etc., they said to them, 'O Levites, stand up before our gods, and sing a song just as you sang in the temple.' But they replied, 'O ye fools, if we had sung a song of thanksgiving for every miracle which God wrought for us, we should not have been exiled from our land, but would, on the contrary, have added honour upon honour; and shall we now sing a song to your idols?' Being angered at this reply, they immediately rose up and slew the Jews in heaps, and although the slaughter was so great, yet their joy had ceased, because the Jews did not worship idols. Therefore it is said, 'Their joy was turned into wailing.' The remaining Levites then cut off their fingers that they might avoid playing on their harps; so that when they were told to play and sing on their harps, just as they had done in the temple, they showed them their mutilated fingers.

(2) When night came on a cloud covered them, together with their wives, and sons, and daughters, and the Lord gave them light by a pillar of fire, which showed them the way the whole night until the dawn of day, and brought them to the seashore. When the sun rose the cloud departed as well as the pillar of fire. And the Lord extended the length of the river Sabbatianus, so that it surrounded them completely. It hems them in so that no one can cross over to them, and He extended it all round to a distance of nine months’ journey. The river surrounds them from three sides, and on the fourth is the sea. The

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depth of the river is 200 cubits, and it is full of sand and stones. The noise is that of an earthquake, and reaches the distance of half a day's journey, and causes the sand and stones to roll all the six days of the week.

(3) But on the Sabbath it rests, and immediately a fire bursts forth from the western side, which lasts from the eve of Sabbath until the end. Its flames shoot out in every direction, so that one can not approach nearer the river than a distance of thirty-four miles, and this fire burns all round and consumes everything. There is not seen among them any unclean animal or bird, and no creeping thing, but only their flocks and herds. There are six fountains, which gather together and form one pool. From these they water the land and obtain in abundance all kinds of clean fishes, and all kinds of birds and fruits. They sow one seed and reap a hundredfold. They are men of faith, students of the Law, the Scripture, Mishna and Agadah. They are pious and pure and never swear falsely. They attain the ripe old age of 120 years, nor does a son or daughter die in the lifetime of their father. (4) They see three successive generations and build for themselves houses; they sow and plough themselves, because they have no manservants or maidservants. They do not close their houses in the night-time, and a young child walks fearlessly with the cattle for many a day, without having any fear either of robbers or of any possible injury, because they are holy and remained in the holiness of Moses our teacher. Therefore God gave them all this and chose them. They do not see any man, nor does any of the sons of men see them, except the four tribes, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher, all of whom dwell on the other side of the rivers of Kush, with the Sabbatyon between them, and there they will remain until the end of the world. Concerning them it is said, 'To say to the captives "Go out,"' viz., referring to those behind the river Sabbatyon.

(5) There the tribes of Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher, were enclosed. The question as to how they arrived at that

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place our sages have thus answered: When Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, sinned, and caused Israel to sin, and the house of David became separated from the ten tribes of Israel, he said to the people, 'Go ye forth and fight with Rehoboam and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.' But they said, 'Wherefore should we go to war against our brethren, against the house of our master, David, King of Israel and Judah?' And the elders of Israel said to him, 'In all the land of Israel there do not exist such mighty warriors and men so trained to battle as those of the tribe of Dan.' Then, commanding them forthwith to wage war with Judah, they said, 'By the life of Dan, our forefather, we shall never go to battle with our brethren, and we shall not shed their blood without any cause.' And immediately afterwards the sons of Dan, taking up their swords and spears and bows, determined to fight unto death with Jeroboam, but God saved them from the crime of shedding the blood of their brethren. (6) They spread the news then throughout the whole tribe of Dan, and the sons of Dan took counsel together to depart from Canaan and to go down to Egypt to destroy it and kill all its inhabitants. But their princes asked, 'Why will you go to Egypt? Is it not written in the Torah, "Ye shall never again behold them"?' At this they gave way, but again took counsel concerning Edom, Moab, and the Ammonites. When, however, they heard that God had withheld Israel from fighting them they again gave up their intentions, until the Lord advised them better what to do. So they went to the brook of Pishon, and journeyed on their camels until they arrived at the other side of the river Pishon. There they discovered that the country was fruitful and extensive, containing fruitful fields and gardens. The sons of Dan therefore determined to dwell there, and made a covenant with the inhabitants, the sons of Kush, who paid them tribute, and also dwelt among them until they increased and multiplied exceedingly.

(7) On the death of Sennacherib the three tribes of Gad, Asher, and Naphtali left the country, and travelled until

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they arrived near the border of that tribe, when they slaughtered the Kushites, a distance of four days’ journey. They war with six Kushite kings, which every tribe continues to do for three months in the year until this very day, each tribe separately, but the descendants of Simeon go with those of Dan. (8) The Levites journeyed and encamped in Havila, which abounds in gold, that is as common as stones, also in sheep, cattle, camels, asses, and horses. There they sow and reap, and dwell in tents made of skin. They journey from one border to another, a distance of four days each way; and where they encamp there no man dares enter, and they only stay in the fields and vineyards, and punish in accordance with the different kinds of capital punishments meted out by the Jewish Law. Concerning them it is said, 'Those on the other side of the mountains of Kush,' etc.

(9) The tribe of Isaachar dwell on the mountains of the great deep in the nethermost parts of Media and Persia, and there they fulfil the commandment, 'the book of the Torah shall not depart from their mouth;' nor do they take upon themselves the yoke of any earthly kingdom, but only the yoke of Heaven and the yoke of the Law. They have many captains of the army, but never fight with man, but discuss the Torah. They dwell in peace and tranquillity, and no rebellious thought or evil of any kind enters their minds. They possess a country whose area covers land of ten days’ journey, and they have an abundance of cattle, camels, and servants, but do not breed horses, nor do they possess any warlike instruments, except knives for preparing food, and to kill the animals for that purpose. They are men of great faith, hating oppression or robbery. If even their servant finds money by the way they will not stretch forth their hand to take it. (10) But their wicked neighbours worship fire, and take their mothers and their sisters to wives. They neither till the ground, nor reap, nor gather in the harvest, but they purchase it for money. They have a judge and a chief who metes out the four capital punishments.

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[paragraph continues] They speak the Hebrew and Persian languages, and that of Kedar.

(11) The children of Zebulun encamp on the mountains of Paran, and pitch tents made of the hair of Armania (###) and stretch as far as the Euphrates. The tribe of Reuben dwells opposite them behind the mountains of Paran, and between them there is love, unity, and peace. They infest the roads leading to Mecoth (###) and the way to Babylon. All their spoil they divide equally between them, and food is so cheap that two camel-loads can be bought for two drachmas. They speak among themselves the language of Kedar, and possess the Bible, Mishna, Talmud, and Agadoth. But every Sabbath a lecture is given in Hebrew, and interpreted in the language of Kedar. (12) The tribe of Ephraim and half the tribe of Menasseh dwells opposite the city of Meyuqa (###). They have to toil for their living by the sweat of their brow, and are hard-hearted. They are riders of horses, infesting the roads, and having pity on no man. They possess no money, but only the spoil they acquire from their enemies. They are a distance of six months’ march from the temple, and their numbers are incalculable and without number. They exact tribute from twenty-five kingdoms, as well as from a portion of Ishmael, but the tribes of Judah and Benjamin are scattered over the whole world. May the Rock of Israel gather together our dispersed brethren. Amen.'

Next: LXIII. Elchanan the Merchant